I realised recently that living permanently on a very tight budget has had for result to lower my expectations about most things to very basic ones. For example, as part of the benefits in my job, I get a pair of steel cap shoes. I was so happy with that small bonus that when I walked out of the shoe shop I did a little dance and just stared at my new shoes while walking.
Because I use my weekly allowance so very carefully, I don’t allow for anything fancy at all. It’s all about food and petrol and other very strict necessities such as soap or toothpaste. So this past week, when I bought a new pair of pyjamas from Lidl with a matching fushia pink gown for £14.50, I actually felt guilty. Thankfully not for too long as I reasoned that I needed new pyjamas. I had been wearing an extremely old mismatched grey pair with the bottom part so out of shape that I looked like I had a bum reaching down to mid-thighs. Since I live in a household with other people, I ended up feeling self-conscious about walking around in those PJs, especially after I realised there is a hole on the left bum side. So I got a particularly fetching new pair from my favourite reasonably priced shop and although this may seem like a perfectly normal purchase, I still feel like I have won the lottery!
I did receive, a few weeks ago, a grant of £200 for buying tools. I now know exactly what kind of tools I need but I am considering waiting for the January sales when all the prices will come down. It is a long time to wait for someone who is so looking forward to owning her tools, but I call it delayed gratification. In January, when I do buy my tools, I will get more for my money, and it will be like a second Christmas.
Saturday, I spent the morning at my exhibition, talking to whoever wanted a chat with me about my work and inspiration which was very pleasant. Then in the afternoon I had planned to have lunch in town. I managed to find the most reasonably priced little café which had the wonderful idea to offer 10% discount to students. I felt unbelievably lucky to be able to have a hot jacket potato with beans and cheese and a cup of coffee for a fraction of what it would have cost me at Café Nero where I was planning on going.
These are just a few examples of my life as a student on a tight budget. It is hard work as it involves constantly questioning whether I really need to buy this or that. Sometimes, I have to spend more money than I had allowed myself to have in a week. Usually, it’s about petrol: I use my car to commute, which I never did before, and I have to fill up every 2 weeks. That’s about £100 a month only in petrol. So I still use my savings, of course, because my job doesn’t pay way as much as I need to make ends meet. And that makes me wonder how the others cope.
I chatted to my fellow students and I learned that most of the youngsters have help from their families who sponsors them throughout their studies; they usually are still living with their parents and they don’t even have a job for the rest of the week because they can’t find anything. Those who do have a job earn even less than me and have car insurances so expensive that I thought they were making a mistake when they told me. These kids wouldn’t be able to cope if their families weren’t there for them. As for the adults, we all have jobs, but it seems I am the only one who is living on her own. All the others are in couples and therefore have another income supporting them. The one other person who is single has enough money to afford not to work. So that leaves me… wondering why life is always more of a struggle when one is single…
Cue sad violins…