Cheap and cheerful way through college
From coupon collecting to home brewing, students embarking on a year in college can save themselves a fortune if they follow a few simple tips
WHEN PRICEWATCH were a lad, students were skint. No one drove cars or ate in restaurants or went on holidays or darkened the doors of ridiculously over-priced clothes shops staffed by ridiculously beautiful people or drank cocktails unless they were made with the dregs of the drinks cabinet of a parent who had gone away and foolishly left their wayward children to their own devices.
Times were, in short, lean but students got by – and had a right old wheeze – on pretty much nothing.
Many of the Celtic Tiger’s cubs on the other hand, were spoiled rotten and lived it up at their parents’ expense, while others waltzed in to well-paid part-time jobs where they worked for their play money. It is all changed now, jobs are harder to come by and the parental purse strings are tighter than then have been since the early 1990s. So how can the students of today make ends meet? It’s not hard.
1 Track it:Keeping a close eye on your finances might sound a little dull, but it is hard to control your spending unless you know what you’re spending. When you have a minute in the first month of the new term, work out exactly what your income is and what your outgoings are, including laundry, rent, food, utilities, books . . . and Jaegerbombs in Coppers. Then for two weeks, keep a spending diary of all incidentals, such as coffees, chocolate and snakebites, so you will understand where your money is going and what you need to do to make it last.
2 Learn to cook:Forget pricey takeaways and M&S ready meals – just cook your own food. We’re talking idiot-proof stuff, such as curries, chillies and pasta sauces. It’s not only fun and better for you, it’ll save you an absolutely fortune and, once you get the hang of it, it’s a great way to impress the opposite sex.
A tin of tomatoes, a clove of garlic and an onion will cost 50 cents; a jar of processed tomato sauce with much the same ingredients costs three times more – six times more if you want to go high end – and will taste nowhere near as nice.
There are more sites devoted to student cooking than you could get through in a lifetime but we like studentrecipes.com, which is written by students for students. If you want to buy a book, Sam Stern’s Student Cookbook is very good and will turn you into mini-Gordon Ramsay before you can say, “Dammit, I’ve burned the poxy onions again.”
3 Learn to shop:The key to good cooking is good shopping. And the key to good shopping is lists – lists you stick to. Never shop hungry or hungover and don’t rely on the big name retailers that your folks have shopped in for years (they have more money than you). Remember supermarkets are not always the cheapest place to buy food. If you live close to a street market such as those found on Moore Street or Camden Street in Dublin, you will be able to source fresh fruit and vegetables for a lot less. (The reason much of it is selling so cheap is that it is on the turn, so don’t leave produce sourced on stalls in your fridge for too long unless you like handling mushy rotten vegetables of a morning). Buy everyday items, such as tinned tuna and beans on promotion and, when you see a good deal, buy it in bulk.