Money: where does it all go? One day we’re rolling in it and the next we’re sobbing into a pile of receipts. I get both a student loan and have steady wages from a part time job, and yet money seems to dissolve quicker than Berocca. I wish I could say I was living some sort of fabulous ‘Made in Chelsea’ lifestyle, sipping expensive cocktails and having my hair constantly blow-dried, but the reality falls somewhat short. I actually got excited over cheese being on offer in Sainsbury’s. That’s right, cheap cheddar makes me cheerful (got to love alliteration). Don’t even get me started on the price of apples: I can feel the anger building as I write. I can’t even say I blow my money on crazy nights out, as everything is now a house party and I manage quite nicely on cheapo vodka with the delightful mixer of value lemonade (that has probably never been in the same room as an actual lemon). If I push the boat out, I might mix in some summer fruit squash. Adventurous, I know.
I pride myself on never having been close to touching my overdraft and sticking very closely to budgets, but I want not only to have money in my account, but to be able to save it as well. It’s important to have money for all the ‘what if’ situations – we’ve all had a laptop that suddenly decides that it no longer wants to play ball and dies on us. Only the other week I paid twenty pounds towards various prescriptions at the pharmacy (the joys of being asthmatic – it literally put a price on the ability to breathe).
However, what I realised is that it’s not the big purchases that are damaging my rapidly depleting bank account, but all the annoying little things added together. Printer ink, the odd coffee out, birthday cards… all these random expenses merge together and leave holes in my pockets. I feel the resentment build as I hand over money for bin bags and bleach; it’s definitely a disappointing aspect of growing up, realising that no one else is going to do it for you. There are the weird things too, the things you’d never think to budget for: biros, paper, clothes detergent and toilet paper. In a house of six people we run out of toilet paper so fast I’m beginning to think someone just throws whole rolls straight into the bin. I am considering hiding it or rationing it per guest when we next have a house party, otherwise multipacks vanish instantaneously. I joke… I think. Glamorous problems aside, I am determined to rein in my finances, or at the very least make an attempt at it.
This week the goal is to spend £10 on my food shop (I know, I can almost hear laughter in my head too). My cupboards have all the basics needed to make a meal, so really all I need to get are some fresh things, like fruit, vegetables and eggs. Luckily, I am vegetarian so meat doesn’t factor into my trolley (omnivores, I feel for you: no one should have to go into their overdraft for chicken), but the real question is whether I can resist all the other delights of the shop. Anyone who goes through the supermarket bakery section and says that they feel no temptation is a liar. In all likelihood I’ll just bypass that section completely: I don’t need doughnuts and croissants practically throwing themselves at me. The plan is to bulk cook meals and freeze them in handy portions, but if the worst comes to the worst, I guess there are always value noodles and beans.
My ‘plan b’ is eBay. If something is gathering dust then why not sell it on? What you might consider a fashion mistake and regretful purchase (we all remember ponchos) is someone else’s dream outfit; let your clothes go to someone who wants them. Christmas is coming and short of making macaroni and glitter gifts for your family and friends (if only this were socially acceptable), some money is going to have to be spent. Just be careful with eBay though… it’s far too easy to get lost in the Topshop section only to emerge having spent more than you’ve made.
I’m not going to go crazy and deny myself the odd take-away or bit of makeup, but I’ll try to watch that all the small things don’t amount to a small fortune. So, budget shopping and eBay… wish me luck!
By Rosie Stagg