Reality check - When the credit crunch invaded my life

18 May 2008

This week I've had a bit of a reality check when I decided to investigate how the credit crunch is effecting my life. For the last week, I kept a spending diary to see where the money was going and how much I'm really paying. Some people are still saying to me - what credit crisis? But you know you are in trouble when the local chippie hikes up prices...

1) Reviewing my budget - I decided to dig out the bank statements for the last three months to see where I have been spending the money. Highlighting the biggest expenses, I found out it was mostly cash I was withdrawing for the weekend and buying books and dvd's. I've lowered my budget to £35 a week to see if I could get by on less. A classmate suggested I hire out the free dvd's from the library, which I've now adopted and it's saving me £20 every week. Also, if a friend has recently bought a film or a boxed set I want to watch, I ask if I can swipe it for a while. I know this is cheeky, but it works.

2) Could I get it for free? - My biggest hobby is reading manga (Japanese comics). Yesterday, I was standing in Borders looking at a very expensive book I need for my university course. In my head I was thinking how many manga books could I buy instead? I would say four or five. Reluctantly, I bought the text book which got me thinking- could I get some of my hobbies for free? Then I remembered a mate of mine also reviews manga for a magazine so I've asked her if she wouldn't mind if I nab her latest books. She has kindly agreed to send me a bundle every month which will save me £25.

3) The real cost of summer fashion - I got the biggest shock of my life when I attempted to go clothes shopping yesterday with a friend. I will be going on  work experience in a couple of week's and the dress code is smart-casual, so student clothes won't do. All the nice clothes are atleast £50! Which is way, way out of my price range. So we ditched the high street and headed for Oxfam instead where I bought two tops. Later I took everything out of my wardrobe to see how many outfits I actually have and I was surprised to find I have quite a few. So a fashion student friend is helping me customize a couple of my winter tops into summer clothes.

4) Penny pinching savings - All the financial sections of newspapers are encouraging readers to save. So instead of spending my birthday money I've put it in my ISA. That iPod I wanted is going to have to wait. Being a student, there isn't much money to save, but I wanted to try anyway. I've been putting all the £2 coins that I get in change straight into a jar when I get home. It's my way of saving without really trying, By cutting back on the above, I've put £8 in the jar over the last week.

5) The take-away dillemma - The most surprising price rise this week was at my local chip shop. The price of my favourite take away has gone up. I was shocked! Not as much as some of my uni mates though, fast food is a staple of many student diet's after all. I realised that I could probably only get a take away once a week on my new budget and will have to start taking packed lunch every day. Sheesh! I feel like a school kid...