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Better yourself in 2015

Published Monday, 12 January, 2015 by Beth Bradshaw

As many of us are now back at university, a new semester is as good a time as any to try and better yourself in areas that, perhaps in your first semester, were lacking slightly. For example, want to try and improve your attendance or grades? Maybe try and lose some of those pesky pounds you put on over the last few months? Or even being more frugal with your loan?

If you answered yes to the above, here are a few top tips to get you started on your way to a better, healthier and money smart student.

Savvy students:

If you were anything like me, you went a bit crazy with your loan at the start of the semester and blew most of it on this, that and the other. But also found yourself living off value branded tinned beans and soup towards the end of the semester. Those were dark days, right?

Nobody wants to go back there, so as soon as you get your loan in it’s a good idea to sit down and think logically about your weekly spending so you don’t end up coming up short at the end of term. Here are a few ideas and tips that may help you – also, check out my blog from a few months back, all about thrifty food shopping – perfect!

  • Work out how much, after rent and bills, you can afford to spend each week by dividing the amount of money you have from your loan, savings or parents allowance by the amount of weeks left. For example, I added together my leftover loan with my income from my part time job and worked out I should budget my weekly spending to around £50 a week – which is definitely doable. However, if you work it out to be something around £20-30 a week you might find yourself being stretched slightly. If so, maybe it’s time to think about an extra source of income to help, such as part time work.

  • Another solution that won’t compromise your social life or studying is applying for an overdraft. It’s very common for students; however I have not signed up to one and will try my best to avoid doing so. The problem I find is, whilst it can really lend a financial hand to struggling students, it is often treated as their own money and can work their way into their overdraft by £250, £500 or even £1,000 in a matter of weeks. My advice is to only apply if absolutely necessary and apply for the minimum amount so you aren’t tempted to treat it like another loan. But it’s there if you really need it.

  • Some other ways you can save money in 2015 is to change a few of your lifestyle habits. Making the slightest change can save you a few pounds a week, but that will mount up over the weeks and will definitely be worth it.

  • - Changing supermarkets: ditch Tesco, Morrisons or Sainsbury’s! Always shop in budget supermarkets such as Lidl, Aldi and a combination of pound/budget stores for your weekly shopping.

    - Don’t sneer at the value brands – they can be significantly cheaper and more often than not you cannot tell the difference.

    - Buy foods in bulk. Meat especially, it’s often cheaper by £/kg to buy 4-6, for example, chicken breasts than it is to buy two. Wrap them up individually and store in the freezer where they will keep for months. Remember to fully defrost before cooking.

    - When buying meat or fresh fruit/vegetables in bulk, you can also simply whip up a batch of meals and store in the freezer for whenever necessary. Soups, spag bol, chilli, casseroles etc.

Be a better student

I’m not saying we should all morph into the next teacher’s pet in 2015, which by the way – there is nothing wrong with, but to try and fit in a regular working pattern into your lifestyle. Because at the end of the day the sole reason you are at university is for studying, so technically it should be high up in your priorities. Whilst semester one was somewhat of a breeze for most of us, semester two is where the work really kicks in and piles up very quickly with the weeks going even quicker. So here’s a heads up, get reading!

  • Use the university’s resources; after all, you are playing £9000 a year! Make the most of what they can offer you!

  • Now in the latter half of my degree, I wish I had listened to all my lecturers droning on about wider reading and background research. Simply reading one or more journals/articles or just keeping up with the latest topical news will increase your wider knowledge, which will really come in handy when starting to write essays and assignments.

  • Keep your attendance up – you are paying for these lectures, so try your best to attend as many as possible. Once you start making a habit of missing them, it’s very hard to stop.

  • Get organised and write down all dates/deadlines for essays, exams and assignments.

  • Find a place that you can concentrate and really get some serious work done. In most cases, a shared student flat/house isn’t that place. I always take up residence in the library when a piece of work is due, as I find in my house I am easily distracted by the constant chatter, laughing and TV.

A healthier you for 2015

Not always the top of the list when it comes to student priorities, but I’d imagine many of you would quite fancy losing a few of those pounds you might have piled on during the first semester.

A typical student diet can often be cause for concern – from overeating to under eating; it’s hard to find the balance when factors such as cost and ability influence what we can actually eat. Therefore we often resort to eating the same old thing, bland, boring, unhealthy and uninspired meals – so make it your mission in 2015 to fall in love with home cooked, nutritious food again, made by yours truly. Have a read of my blog a few months back full of useful swaps to become a healthier student, but in the meantime try out a few of these top tips to help start the ball rolling:

  • Keep in mind at all times – everything in moderation. That goes for alcohol too! You can always have too much of a bad thing, so try not to order takeaways on a daily basis unless you want to outgrow your jeans!

  • Speaking of takeaways, try to cut them out to once a week at the very most. I know how convenient it is, especially on the way home from a night out, but just think of the calories, fat and not to mention the cost.

  • Keep an eye out on your drinking, and don’t forget to include any drinking sessions in your calorie intake. Alcohol is loaded with calories, believe it or not!

  • Try to establish regular eating patterns. This can be difficult for most students as our lecture timetables are often irregular alongside strange sleeping patters, but try your best to eat three meals a day at sensible times. That’s breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  • Avoid eating after 9pm – any food you do eat tends to sit in your stomach whilst you’re asleep as you are not using any energy.

  • Aim to try at least one new recipe every week! It will be exciting and you’ll actually look forward to tea for once. Either do it individually or as a group of flatmates, either way it will get some delicious home cooked nutritious food back in your life.

  • Try to aim for at least three fresh fruit or vegetables in your shopping basket. Plan your meals beforehand and only buy the food you know you are going to use so there is no wastage.

Don’t make it your New Year’s resolution to better yourself in 2015, as some studies suggest up to 80% fail within the first week. Simply make it your aim!

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