Managing Cash in Cambridge: Varsity Ski Trip

The second instalment of Holly Platt-Higgins‘ column ‘POCKET’ looks back to the Varsity Ski Trip…

Holly Platt-Higgins

It has become quite the running joke within my friendship group that I am constantly out of pocket. (This is a joke that I’m not sure Nationwide is particularly enjoying.) Since being at Cambridge I have primarily resided floundering somewhere in the depths of my overdraft. However, I don’t think I’m ‘bad with money’. In fact, I got my first job when I was 12 and, instead of indulging in Tamagotchis or Scoubidous, I would always save my wages in case something came along that I really needed.

Not quite the Varsity dreamHolly platt-higgins

So, in the past nine years, have I just misplaced the meticulous budgeting ability of my 12-year-old self, or has my constant lack of cash got something to do with this place? Can I reasonably blame Cambridge for my overdraft?

My latest plunge into the minus numbers came after I booked my place on the notorious Varsity Ski Trip; the week which students and Daily Mail alike eagerly await year upon year. As advertised for the oh-so-low price of £359 you are lulled into thinking this trip is not about to break your bank.

Unfortunately, once you have hired skis, booked your accommodation and selected the evening entertainment you’ll be enjoying, you’ll find yourself looking, as I was, in slight exasperation, at a much, much higher figure. You will then subsequently remember that this figure isn’t quite complete; spending money is the next unavoidable necessity you and your bank account have to face. But, I suppose if you really love skiing, this is a price you’re willing to pay.

“I do not love skiing. As it turns out, I really hate skiing”

Regrettably, my closest friends at university are a bunch of private school / Eurotrash kids who have been on skis since the age of about four. They gracefully glide throughout the Alps; casually flitting between black runs, 360s and off-piste adventures. I on the other hand, fall, on pretty much flat ground, and am too much of a coward to effectively practice the sport; refusing to venture basically anywhere in the resort, for fear of an icy death.

The very fair question then comes up – why on earth would you choose to spend money, that you don’t have, on a holiday that’s focus is to engage in an activity you don’t like, and are truly horrible at? This is a question I have asked myself on many occasions. And, my only defence is that, amid the lies I was fed about being sporty and therefore naturally taking to the slopes, there was a mounting and irrepressible FOMO (fear of missing out) that accompanied the idea of not attending.

Now of course, none of my friends suggested that I had to go and I’m not pretending anyone forced me to furrow further into the overdraft, I chose to go. But, it was a choice between the lesser of two evils. I could either save the money, avoid skiing and miss out on a week of experience and memories. Or, I could splash the cash, endure skiing and head to the mountains with my friends. Especially in first year, it felt as though this wasn’t much of a choice at all; Cambridge terms are so short, and I really didn’t want everyone to drive off into the sunset and solidify their friendships without me.

The FOMO was still just as effective a year later. So, for a second time, I rinsed the student loan and spent most of Michaelmas Term roaming the reduced aisle in Sainsbos and hoping people were too drunk on nights out to realise I was wearing the same outfit for the millionth time. (Again, not something I ought to consider, and yet feeling the pressure is as inevitable as seeing someone stumble through Cindies clutching an assortment of VKs.)

As term ended and an extension of my overdraft allowed for resumed consumption of food that was largely in date, things were looking up. While I am no skier, it would be hard not to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the rivers of Vin Chaud that flow in the Alps. Despite frequently being placed at the top of a slope, with the plastic meter-rulers attached to my feet as my only means of escape, I was enjoying a break from the bubble and being away with my closest pals. Money worries were now long out of sight, or so I thought.


Mountain View

Fitness is more than exercise

In a not entirely unexpected turn of events, on the fourth day of the trip I very much committed to my role as ‘the non-skier’ of the group and fell quite impressively, dislocating my knee. After a nice French man contacted some paramedics, I was whisked down the slope in a sort of body bag, popped into an ambulance and taken to A&E. An X-ray and a pair of crutches later, I found myself, for the second time, about £750 quid down on account of this skiing malarkey.

My parents were not willing to cough up the cash because it was, undeniably, my choice to go skiing and my fault for falling. After I informed them that any complaints about the meagreness of their Christmas presents would be ill-received, I got onto thinking about my impending financial doom.

Technically I fell down the slope, but did the financial pressures of a Cambridge lifestyle push me? Would I have ever ventured into the unfamiliar world of skiing without feeling the immense pressure to keep up with my peers? Probably not.

While I’m not sure Nationwide will be receptive to such a sob story, I would like to suggest that at this stage, it’s a 50/50 split between Cambridge and I for the almost insurmountable overdraft.