Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas, student loans, and great fire logs

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all have a great day!

After months of wrestling with student finance england, I've finally got all my loans and grants, and I've just about got enough to get by. I've read about students debt consolidation loans, and I'll probably do that and consolidate it with a mortgage when I get my own place after leaving uni, you get lower interest rates I believe, as being in London rent is quite expensive and next year I can't stay in student accomodation, so I'm probably going to have to take out a separate loan.  People have got really up in arms about the fee rises in the uk but from what I've read its actually cheaper for the poorer students, the only ones that pay more are the ones who will earn more which is fairer, but still a shame but the money has to come from somewhere. It's a real shame there aren't more jobs going, I've applied for a fair few and have yet to get an interview. It's really hard, nearly everywhere requires you have previous experience in the role which I just don't have. /rant

We've got these great fire logs at home now, they're made from compacted sawdust and other recycled stuff, I don't know exactly what they're called but I thought people need to know about them. They burn for ages, come in easily stackable plastic packs, you don't need to have coal with them, are dead dry and light easily, and are only a little smokey when they just start burning, and are pretty cheap. Great to get by in the winter with the failing oil deliveries, and relates to a previous post.

Night night and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas eve eve update

Not been up to all that much lately, just writing / listening to music and playing League of Legends. If you're into metal, check out Ruins of Earth, they're a local band and have some killer tracks, and put on an awesome live show. I know there are loads of small metal bands and a lot aren't very good but these guys are definitely worth checking out.

League of Legends is really fun if your into gaming. It's sort of a genre of its own but I guess it comes under a the genre of real time strategy, although you control just one character rather than an army. It's free and fun, let me know if you play on EU and we can play together. I've been playing Pantheon recently and I really like how he plays. He has a great harassing move, a jump/stun move, and a move that does a lot of damage in a cone in front of him. His ultimate however is a bit rubbish, it's a global teleport that is supposed to be used to jump into enemies and cause AOE damage, but the cast time is so long they nearly always have moved by the time it is cast, and it costs a fair bit of mana. I've been winning pretty consistently though, but not been playing many normal games as I've discovered IP farming in practice games. I'd heard about it before but didn't realize how much faster it is. You play as Master Yi against Soraka on the 5v5 map in a 1v1 battle, take teleport and heal, and just plow down the middle and pretty much ignore Soraka, and win damn quickly. Don't win before 11 minutes though, then you get no IP or XP, but otherwise you get a fair chunk for just 11 minutes work.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Keeping warm in the snow

I'm currently in a home without heating as the oil companies say they can't deliver until January 26th! Best thing I've done is bought a cheap new duvet with a larger tog rating (from ASDA, cost £7! and it's actually really good!) and a hot water bottle. If you can stay under that most of the time it is really nice. You may need your hands for something so wear something fleecy and wear gloves. Also possibly knit yourself some of these sinister looking things:

Make sure you are eating enough, I was freezing yesterday morning after I got up because I was hungry before I went to bed. Porridge is nice and warm, filling and cheap! Keep all your doors, windows and curtains closed to keep any heat in. Try and heat up just one room with an electric heater, fire, or the oven if its the kitchen, and stay in there. Or just go to uni / work where it is probably heated.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Drinking on a university budget

I thought I would follow up my last post with a post on cheap alcohol, as everyone knows this a big part of university life, and most drink to get drunk. Basically, the cheapest alcohol per unit is cider. Learn to love cider. A cheap strong cider is cheaper than even Tesco Value booze (minus cider), including vodka, wine etc.

My personal favourite:
K Cider
Weighing in at 8.4%, and costing about £1 a can, it's pretty damn cheap. I get at for £1.10 at my local offlicence in central London, which is probably more expensive than most places. That is 26p per unit of alcohol. A friend of mine who lives a little further out gets theirs for about 80p a can, sometimes cheaper. It tastes good too, personally I love it, although some people hate it. It definitely has a unique taste, I think the best way to describe it is cider with a taste of metal. I don't know where that taste comes from but if you have a can you will see what I mean. It also makes my teeth feel funny, but not everyone gets this feeling.

Next up:
Diamond White

This is a little weaker at 7.5%, but costs basically the same as K Cider, it's 25.5p per unit. I can't comment on the taste as I haven't had it, but I noticed a 2L bottle at my local Tescos for £3.78. Nice.

There are a few other White / Hard ciders that are pretty cheap that might be worth trying such as White Lightning.

The Cheapest:
Sainsburys Basics Cider

If you want to go as cheap as you can go it doesn't get cheaper than Tesco Value/Sainsburys Basics Cider. £1.32 for a 2L bottle, 16p a unit. It's only 4.2% though, so you have to drink a lot more volume to get as drunk, which will have you going to the loo a fair bit. The picture makes it look very pale but it isn't, and it tastes quite nice. It's just a standard cider taste, nothing funny going on, I'd prefer it to Strongbow any day, taste wise.

Let me know in the comments what you drink / drank while at university, and I might add it to the list.

Eating on a tight university budget

Lots of my friends end up spending more money than they want to on food, and many end up spending way too much on unhealthy food and are hungry most of the time. I like to spend as little as I can on food, which leaves more money for the important studenty things like alcohol. Most people live to a budget of around £15-£25 a week, while I've lived off of £3 a week, and even now while going to the gym and eating as much as humanly possible, I'm spending less than £10 a week.

First off, don't eat out. No fast food, no restaurants. You aren't just paying for the food, you're paying a lot of money for the convenience and the service, for example, french fries are marked up about 1200% at fast food places.

Secondly, if you want fruit or vegetables, buy from a farmers' market. They are almost always much cheaper and the food is fresher. Here they sell big mixing bowls full of one vegetable for £1, so go with some friends, get one mixing bowl each of the vegetables you want, and then share them out so you have an assortment. That way you get a week of vegetables for £1.

What to buy:
I always get the supermarket's own value brand which most of the time is not much lower in quality, but usually much cheaper. How different can a tin of tomatoes be?

The very cheapest staple I have found is porridge. It is high in protein and fiber as well as carbohydrate, and really really cheap. I get bags of tesco value oats for 75p for a kilogram. That's 10p for a big bowl. If you have 4 big bowls a day and a multivitamin (10p) that's 50p a day, or £3.50 a week, and you will feel really full. It's also dead easy to make in a microwave, it takes just 3 minutes, perfect for a lazy student. The trouble is eating just porridge quite quickly gets boring so it's important to mix it up with some other things.

Pasta is the next cheapest meal to make I have found. Sainsburys Basics or Tesco Value bags of 500g go for 30p, a value or basics can of peeled tomatoes goes for 30p, and the pasta is wholemeal so it is much healthier than white pasta as it contains much more protein and other nutritious things. For a really big plate of pasta use 250g of pasta, and for the sauce, quarter of a can of tomatoes and a fair amount of olive oil (a cheap and healthy source of fats - Yes! The right fats are healthy and important for your body to function), maybe some basil, oregano, salt, and pepper too. This meal comes in at about 25p, and it is truly huge.

Noodles are about as cheap as pasta, and you can make a meal with just some noodles and a stock cube, or a cheap pack of instant noodles, although not quite as big as the plate of pasta described above, it's nice to change things up. It also does not have have as much protein as they are not wholemeal.

My most expensive but still cheap meal is lentil soup. It is very rich in protein, and has next to no fat or carbs. I get a 500g bag for 88p at Tescos. Half a bag in a pan with some water, a bit of basil and oregano, salt and pepper is a good meal and gives a whopping 60g of protein. You can also add half a jar of Sainsburys Basics 9p curry sauce. It then comes in at about 50p per meal.

I've been living of these meals for months, and I always have enough food. It's a wise idea to have a multivitamin daily, it usually works out at about 10p a day which is nothing when it ensures you stay healthy. If you are from the UK, MySupermarket is a great website to check the prices of things at different supermarkets.

Let me know what you guys do to get past on a tight budget in the comments!