The final part of my 2007 financial planning series.
By now, I hope you’ve got some good simple money habits to keep you on track. You know where your balance is, you’re not living on a credit card, you’re withdrawing cash on a weekly basis, you might have a bit of extra cash coming in. So I’m going to start talking about spending money again. It’s okay, we’re allowed from time to time.
Food is an important thing to spend money on. I’d call it a life or death expenditure. But Supermarkets wants you to spend a fortune, so watch out. Marks and Spencers advertising, for example, despite its classy façade, uses the same salacious methods of appealing to your base desires as Amsterdam’s seediest sex-shops. And just like sex, you’ll actually get more and better food for your money if you invest a bit of affection and effort into getting some.
So forget entirely about faux designer food and trashy takeaways. Get your bargain bounty goggles on, because finding food deals is just as satisfying as high street sales. The supermarkets on the outskirts of town (Tesco, Morrisons, Lidl and Chinese Supermarkets) provide all the economy brands that local branches and cornershops don’t stock. Get your fill of value branded breads and grains, bumper-sized boxes of food and cleaning products. Be a brand whore and go for 2 for 1 deals, but only if you need the product in the first place. A member of my family once bought six watermelons because they were ‘on offer’, forgetting that nobody in the house actually likes them. They sat festering into interestingly fragrant food-fight ammunition.
If you’re an economy brand snob, many ‘own brand’ items are actually made by the same companies as the leading brands. I’m always wary about meat products but otherwise many products are the same or similar quality, except Heinz, which are usually the superior bean.
Always buy your fruit and veg from the wonderful green grocers your neighbourhood has to offer. Most of them will give student discounts and it can become easy to live well with very little expense.
Buying for yourself can be incredibly wasteful and expensive. Buying ready meals is even worse for your pennies and the packaging is landfill overkill. 70% of food produced and sold in the UK goes to waste and this impacts both our environment and our purses. I’m not suggesting you all start dumpster diving outside your local supermarkets (this is another way of keeping costs down, admittedly, but might break trespassing/theft laws). Grab your wheelie suitcases, band up with your flatmates and go on a food shopping day out. You’ll get to know the city better, burn off calories carrying bags, and you’ll save even more money if you share the shopping. If it’s not feasible to buy everything together, then suggest at least pooling bread and milk funds. This is what the most astute students among us do. A familiar sight in Lidl is of bunches of funky young students piling groceries into luggage together… It’s the modern day hunter-gather expedition.