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4th November 2013

How to: live on £20 a week

A recent NUS survey revealed what we already know: student loans are insufficient to cover most students’ living costs. Will a self-confessed big spender be able to survive on just £20 a week?

When I told my friends I was going to try to live on £20 a week, the general reaction was one of laughter and disbelief. “YOU!?” The task itself didn’t seem absurd to them, just the idea that I could actually manage it. Unfortunately and unintentionally, I’m a girl with somewhat expensive taste. When looking for an iPhone cover online, the only one I could find that I actually liked turned out to be the world’s most expensive, at a whopping $35,000. My (quite frankly ridiculous) taste, inconveniently, does not match my horrendously low bank balance. I therefore wanted to show that anyone (even me) could survive and still have fun on a limited weekly budget. The only cheats I have allowed myself for this week are my annual bus pass and a few spices we already had in the kitchen. So here we have it, my guide on how to live on £20 a week.

Day 1

Money spent : £12.05

Number of bus passes lost: 1

Yes, in under twenty-four hours I have managed to spend over half my weekly budget and “misplace” my bus pass, the one cheat I had allowed myself for the week. Well done me! Consequently I embark on the long walk home from Lidl with the groceries I hope will get me through the week. My shopping bags contain pasta, pesto, mince, bread, butter, ham and tinned tomatoes – perhaps with the severe shortage of fruit of vegetables, it won’t be such a bad thing to have to travel by foot from now on. I stop by New Zealand Wines to purchase my first year favourite, two for £5 wine.

Red Rum have a free night on tonight, so armed with my bottle of vinegar, I am still able to go to a classic Manchester night of “underground house and techno”. It would be stretching the truth to say that Red Rum is the place to be on this particular Monday night, but a bottle of New Zealand Wines’ finest can turn any night into a laugh. The music went down well with the crowd of 15 people, and if you’re with the right people you can have a great night anywhere!

Day 2

Money spent : 30p

Luckily the hangover that comes with cheap wine means I can happily have a cheap day and night. I walk to and from uni, pick up an onion from Meezan on the way home, and munch on some bolognaise while watching The Great British Bake Off.

Day 3

Money spent: £1

Thank you to the good people of Manchester who have returned my bus pass! I can now stop pretending to enjoy the crisp air and light showers on my way to and from uni. To celebrate my renewed travel freedom, I want to go to Soup Kitchen for North by North West’s £1 night. However, this night out turns out to be purely hypothetical. I could have spent £1 on a ticket and polished off my second bottle of wine, but I’ve discovered that the real challenge this week isn’t living on a budget but coaxing out my friends, who have developed a serious case of third-year boringness. Symptoms include saying things like, “I’d like to but I can’t,” “I have a 9 o’clock start,” or the worst, “Shouldn’t you be working too?”

Day 4

Money spent: 66p

Getting slightly bored of the food routine, so I decide to spice up my breakfast by putting pesto on my toast. Verdict: odd but delicious. Out of laziness I go to Sainsbury’s to buy a tin of kidney beans and a tin of chickpeas; it would probably have been cheaper elsewhere but sometimes convenience is worth a few extra pennies. I make a makeshift chilli con carne for dinner, using any vaguely red-coloured spice I can find in the kitchen.

Days 5 and 6

Money spent: £5.54

I am running low on food and alcohol for the weekend, so it’s back to New Zealand Wines for a wine top up and to Aldi for pasta and sauce. As a student in Fallowfield or Withington, you’re lucky enough to have a large array of house parties to choose from every weekend. Most follow a strict formula: dark basements lit with fairy lights and a very serious student DJ playing whatever’s deemed as the music of the moment. Last year it was all deep house; this semester, groovy disco tunes seem to have taken control. Nonetheless everyone loves a house party and they’re a fun, FREE way to spend your weekends!

Day 7

Money left to spend: 45p

I’ve done it! With a few pennies to spare, I treat myself to a well-deserved apple. Fruit has been seriously lacking in my diet over the past week, and this is definitely a welcome break from pasta.

If healthy eating isn’t a main priority, you have an endless appetite for pasta and you’re not too fussed about the nights you go to, then living life on £20 a week is be a breeze. With some clever investigation on Skiddle to find Manchester’s cheapest nights, a taste for vinegary wine, and an excuse to load up on carbs, this week hasn’t been as challenging as I thought it might be. With that said, now that I’ve proved I can do it, I am thankful to be able to spend a little more on my food shop next week. Hello, chicken! Hello, vegetables!

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