How To Save Money On Food As A Student

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When you’re at university, you may have the first taste of adult freedom in the form of moving into a flat or student accommodation. Ask most people who have lived in student accommodation what their diet was like and they’ll tell you some culinary horror stories, but also with a hint of nostalgia and a sense of good times. Moving into your own place when you’re 17, 18, or 19 may present the first time that you’ll have ever had to cook for yourself, and as anyone who’s been through it themselves, it’s no picnic (quite literally). The first trip that many of us take to the supermarket without adult supervision to stop you from buying a bucket of Haribo gives many of us an idea of how much food can cost. You get to the checkout and the cashier tells you the price and something clicks; “food is bloody expensive!” With this in mind, here’s some top tips for students designed to help you make your money go a little further at meal times.

1) Plan Your Meals

We spoke earlier about that ill-fated first trip to the supermarket, right? Well keep the bills low and get the most bang(er) for your buck by knowing what you’ll be eating throughout the week. Start off by thinking about all the meals you’ll want through the week and making a list of the necessary ingredients. This will stop you from just picking up things at random and ending up with ingredients and food that doesn’t get used. Got any veg left over? Why not throw it all together and make a hearty soup?

2) Think Big Portions

Who said that you have to eat a different thing every single night? There are a couple of meals that lend themselves really well to being made and then taken from over the course of a couple of days. Think about big pots of chilli, bolognese, and casseroles. Throw all your ingredients into a big pot and let the flavours develop over time. Tupperware is your friend here. Don’t throw your leftovers away, get them in the fridge and ready to go for tomorrow’s lunch. You’d be surprised at how much perfectly good food ends up in the bin.

3) Seek Out The Bargains

Through going to the shops with your parents, you might be in the habit of going to some of the average priced supermarkets like Tesco, ASDA or Sainsbury’s. There are, however plenty of bargains to be had in some of the increasingly popular German supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi. Here you are likely to find lots of brands not quite to what you’re used to, but certainly of a comparable quality. You can even split how you shop between here and more traditional supermarkets if you’re not ready to take the full plunge. But a cursory look around the aisles will give you prices worth checking out.

4) Try Going Off-Brand

It’s easy to instantly go for Heinz Baked Beanz or Kelloggs Cornflakes when you’re doing your weekly shop, more out of force of habit than anything. The funny thing is that food manufacturers know this, and how much you’re willing to pay just for their brand. Try using some supermarket own brand products in favour of the branded stuff. Even try blind taste tests to see if anything is that different. there are certain products where there will be an obvious degree of inferiority (tea bags being one of them), but other products could leave you surprised. Again, remember that you don’t need to do this for everything on your shopping list, but try it to see where you can make a substitution.

So there it is. Some innovative ideas to help you drive down the food bill. Try one or all of them to see if you can get some extra money for beer textbooks.

Five Glasgow Days Out On The Cheap

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If you’re like me, and have the attention span of a gnat, you might find yourself sitting in on a Saturday afternoon with the walls closing around you, bored to tears and the thought of spending your precious weekend watching countless hours of Murder, She Wrote and Dickinson’s Real Deal. Fear not my frugal friends! Having had a lifetime to perfect how to have a fun-filled day for less, here are five of my favourite places to see/visit when I’m counting my pennies. All are either free to visit, or won’t break the bank and I’d heartily recommend them to anyone thinking of visiting Glasgow.

1) The Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Any time there’s even a suggestion of sun or blue sky in Glasgow, there are a few things you can expect to see. One is the off-grey torsos of Glaswegians who have opted to go “taps aff” in an effort to soak up some elusive Vitamin D. The other is a busy Botanic Gardens. Located in the city’s illustrious West-End, the Glasgow Botanic Gardens have provided a green space for the people since 1817. The park is full of botanical curiosities from the world over, and if you find that your caught in a predictable Glasgow down-pour, you can always take shelter in the iconic Kibble Palace.

The iconic wrought-iron glasshouse was erected in the park in 1873, and it’s temperate climate allows for tropical and exotic plants to flower. If you’re passing by on a November evening, be sure to jump in for a wee heat, and a look at the impressive pond that lives in the palace’s main lobby. There’s plenty to see in the main park itself, including a cafe and the long abandoned Byres Road subway station for those with an adventurous streak!


2) Kelvingrove Art Gallery

There are few places in the world that are able to say that they boast a museum collection as diverse as art by Dali and Picasso, a 1940’s Spitfire, and a stuffed giraffe, but Kelvingrove Art Gallery. The museum is free to entry and lauded as being one of the best museums to visit in the UK. On the basement floor there is a cafe with an impressive lunch menu, but if you’re only in looking for a coffee to keep you ticking over, a vendor on the ground floor will keep you right.

There is such a wonderfully diverse collection of things to be found in the Kelvingrove art gallery that I think you would struggle to see everything in a day. A great deal of collections are covered in the stunning Victorian gallery, and throughout your visit you can expect to see collections from Ancient Egypt, the history of Glasgow, French Impressionists, the Dutch Renaissance, and an impressive selection from the natural world. If you’re lucky you might be able to time a visit with a performance on the museum’s massive pipe organ.


3) The Ben Nevis Folk Session

If you were to go for a stroll in Glasgow’s Finneston area as recently as ten years ago, you would find the shell of a city that once had a proud ship building tradition. A place were jobs thrived and money was made. The removal of heavy industries from Glasgow was a difficult and uncertain time for the city and the Finneston area was littered with empty buildings and ‘for sale’ signs. Now, much like the rest of the city, it has reinvented itself for the 21st century.

Many of the trendiest drinking spots can be found down by the Clyde at Finneston. Bars like Distill, the 78, and Lebowski’s have come to represent Glasgow’s flair for reinvention. No pub in the area better blends the old and the new than The Ben Nevis. If you were to pop in for a reasonably priced pint at the Ben Nevis on a Thursday or Sunday night, not only would you find a fine ale and the world-famous welcoming atmosphere, you’d also get some of the best live folk music the city has to offer. Only for the cost of a pint of Tennents! Not bad..


4) Lawn Bowls In Kelvingrove Park

Not many folk know that the bowling green that lives in front of the aforementioned Kelvingrove art gallery is free to use to the public. So if you feel like you need a bit of fresh air having gone for a wander round the galleries, why not stop in and put your skills to the test? The combination of patience, technique and sheer bloody luck make the Kelvingrove bowling club a must visit for those trying to do Glasgow for less!

5) Tennents Tour

Scotland may be famous for its whisky, but Glasgow in particular is famous for its Irn Bru, and its Tennents lager. A cold pint of the Wellpark nectar is a must for any night out. If you want to see how the city’s favourite pint comes into being, why not book a place on the brewery’s tour. Adult tickets only cost £7.50, plus you get free samples at the end. It really is a no brainier

tennents, and a perfect way to see what’s brewing in Glasgow. (Sorry).

Edinburgh Freshers’ Guide to Saving Money

Where else to start but at the beginning of this magical journey we call: university, where somehow we’re tempted to spend money like water and yet have nothing to show for it – as we have eaten, or drank it all. The following article by Alex Watson on how to avoid blowing your student loan sums it up.
Edinburgh Castle Rock
If you want to be smart with your money then start here! It all begins with fresher’s (drunken) week. The fresher’s band is inviting and as a fresher, you feel as though this is a requirement … but be warned it is not necessary, just because you don’t buy a fresher’s band doesn’t mean you won’t go out. Unless you go to every single event (which is most unlikely) then it is a waste of money, and due to the demand of some of these events, you may find you and your new friends want to avoid the crowds and explore further areas of your new city.
Next on the list of fresher’s obligations is the fresher’s fair, here you will be handed an abundance of flyers, stickers, leaflets and much more and let’s be honest they will all most likely end up at the bottom of your bag never to be looked at again, and there is your mistake. The surplus of paper you have just received is actually full of great student deals, which will truly help you save money at university. Another top tip for saving money, as a student is to buy a student discount card. For £9.95, it’s yours for 3 years, from which you will acquire an array of discounts in Edinburgh from bars, restaurants, shops and take-outs.

Eating in Edinburgh
George street is pricey, stay away, shopping and nights out alike. However, this is not a problem as there are countless places to eat in Edinburgh. Some advice, get cultural, Tuk Tuck located on Lothian Road serves the best Indian street food and it is cheap!
Another money saving idea is share! Bread Meats Bread, on Lothian Road is arguably the best burger joint in Edinburgh and yes it is a little pricey, however, no human can possibly eat one of their burger and fries, so share, half the burger, half the price! Lastly, be smart with your money, don’t let the hangover cravings take over and demand you to spend £18 at Nandos for an overpriced piece of chicken, get inventive, gather your friends and cook cheap healthy meals.

Nights out in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a fun filled night out with plenty of options for students – with almost every club holding a student night. However, you may want to avoid weekends as there is no escaping the high entry cost and stupidly overpriced mixers.
There are also alternatives that don’t involve clubbing and won’t leave you penniless. These include interesting stuff like ghost walks and stand-up comedy.
An additional idea to help save money is to pre-drink, the novel way in which our generation socialises, gone are the days of meeting at pubs and bars. Well perhaps not gone, but let’s be realistic: as a first-year student your calendar will most likely involve around 3 nights out per week and it is just not plausible to drink in bars each of these nights.
Top tip, get all your friends around, buy some cheap fizz (they will never know the difference) and if you are worried about not being sophisticated enough get some cheap wine glasses from Ali’s Cave

Entertainment in Edinburgh
There are plenty of things to do for students in Edinburgh on a budget. For example, take a walk up Arthurs seat for the best views of Edinburgh, this burst of activity will be good for you as calorie consumption is likely to be high due to your new found freedom where you can drink and eat as much as you want. It is also completely free!
A walk up the royal mile to Edinburgh Castle is another must-see, there is no need to pay to get inside as you get a great view of the castle at the top. On a summer’s day, Princes Street gardens can be your go to however it is normally busy so head to the Meadows which will be filled with students, Frisbees, beers and ball games. Grab yourself a BBQ, your friends and you have an afternoon bursting with summer fun.
My last tip is to get yourself a rail card, for those days when the bank balance is looking bleak and it’s time to head home for some TLC and a home cooked (free) meal.

The money-saving gourmet

Are money-saving and gourmet eating mutually exclusive?

Given the eye-watering prices stamped on the mouth-watering menus of high-end restaurants, many of us would probably be inclined to agree. I recently looked at the prices of meals at various Michelin-starred restaurants throughout the UK. The cost of an à la carte meal (3 courses) averaged out at £92.50 for the establishments I looked at. And, of course, that won’t include the cost of any sundries that you are likely to order along with the meal – bread (if they charge for it) as well as wine, a bottle of fizzy water, coffee and so on.

Of course, it’s great to have the occasional splurge on a slap-up meal in a fancy restaurant, so it’s worth remembering that prices are all relative. Imagine you only went to a Michelin star type place once a year. That £92.50 is only the price of about 16 fast food meals. So you could quite easily spend that kind of money over the course of a couple of months without realising it. Money saving is all about being smart – not about avoiding life’s joys! I am glad I managed to un-supersize my lunchtime fast food habit though – it saves money and I actually feel better for eating loads of salad – as does my bank account.

In terms of gourmet eating, its worth remembering that price isn’t everything. Indeed, a lot of chefs favour cheaper cuts of meat because they’re more flavourful (as well as, I assume, being healthy for the old profit margin too). Indeed, a lot of the things that we really revere today were once considered peasant fare – oysters for instance. So if you’re an inventive cook, the stuff you’re buying cheaply right now might be considered an absolute delicacy a few years down the line. In fact there was a very scary story about avocados recently – apparently a low future crop yield along with a surge in demand from China could result in the avocado becoming a less common sight on European plates. So today’s avocado could be tomorrow’s oyster.

It’s also worth remembering that only when you get into the basics of cooking do you get an idea of a dish’s true value. That £8.50 premium range supermarket ready meal lasagne for two might look like a handy purchase for your cosy Thursday night in dinner à deux but what are its ingredients worth when bought individually? You can buy lasagne sheets for mere pence, make a roux for pence too, and easily make a fantastic ragù for for not a lot of outlay. Smack ’em together, oven ’em and that’s a real homemade lasagne – gourmet style and money saving too.

Here are my top tips for sourcing cheap ingredients:

  1. Don’t be tied to one supermarket. The discounters are often pleasingly inexpensive as well as offering superb quality. But the big guys also occasionally have great deals too.
  2. Loose or bagged? The price of loose goods can be way cheaper, so always check.
  3. Deli counter or aisle shelf? At the deli counter you can specify the exact amount you want, which cuts the chances of waste. Just check the gram for gram price against the aisle equivalent.
  4. Shop local. We have this perception that supermarkets are always the cheapest. But your local butcher, greengrocer and baker may well have a few pleasant low price surprises in store. Plus, they’re often extremely knowledgeable and willing to help you out with tips and recipes.
  5. Look for cheap cuts. While we’re all programmed into thinking fillet steak is the absolute best, many butchers prefer the more humble onglet cut. Likewise, your tender pork fillet maybe much coveted – but pork belly is often much cheaper, and even make it onto Michelin star menus these days.

If you’d like to share any food money saving tips (gourmet or otherwise) get in touch in the comments. Bon appetit!


Weathering the Summer

Scotland’s summer is less 500 days and more 500 minutes.

windy weather scotlands coast

This has reportedly been one of the windiest, wettest and one of the most dreary summers in memory. The incessant rain and dreary overcast days throughout June resulted in fevered rumours of a heat blast to come in August…which turned out to be completely unfounded. However September has got to an excellent start even if we can feel the frost in the morning.

While the umbrella-strewn pavements of July are gone, it would be good to know that a last minute holiday isn’t out the question. As the high season starts to fade into the quieter off-season it’s good to know that prices also start to drop. There’s time still to make sure you have an eventful September weekend and take the time to nip somewhere a little bit different.

Many sites will begin to offer Winter Sun deals, these tend to be based around the equator as that where it’s hot in winter! There are some good   and websites like SkyScanner that will show some great low cost options. Even if you are a bit cash-strapped, if you are sensible with your money getting a holiday loan can always be a good option.

This guide by Money Saving Expert is one of the most comprehensive out there. It goes through how to turn your phone into an international Sat-Nav for those wi-fi-lacking moments, how to find cheap flights and even how to get free flights- if you play your card rights.

However if you are time strapped as well as cash then this guide covers the best tips for saving money when you are exchanging your money.

And if worst comes to worst, England has actually had alright weather so nip on down to Cornwall and have a pasty, stay on this island and experience the austerity summer; The Staycation. We better enjoy the few sunny days we do have, after all winter is coming.

Save money on groceries by shopping smart online

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Thank you for shopping face down
Thank you for shopping face down

Are you a smart grocery shopper? Simply take this online quiz to find out!

When grocery shopping, do you:

  1. Arrive at the supermarket straight after work, with only the most vague of plans to buy something for dinner, only to find that the whole place is already a war-zone of yummy mummies fighting sweaty businessmen for the last bag of organic quinoa. You go home with whatever overpriced ready meal you can grab as you run screaming from the premises.
  2. Go to the big retail park outside of town at the weekend. A shopping list in your filthy hand, you still leave with mounds of unnecessary impulse-purchased nonsense. You get home and sigh, and light one of your ten new scented candles to make yourself feel better.
  3. Get your mum to do it for you because you’re a big fat waster and can’t do anything right. But at least the fridge is always full and there’s a never-ending supply of Twixes in the cupboard.
  4. Do the Smart Thing, which instantly makes everyone impressed with you. Strangers smile at you in the street and men and women alike are attracted to your aura of intelligence.

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Working Abroad – The How-Tos

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How to get a job when you move abroad

Travelling to a different country – a different continent even – can be very daunting, but living and working in a different country can be downright scary. Moving from Canada to the UK was a massive change for me and really quite nerve-wracking. I’ve had a range of employment since moving here 12 years ago, from call centre work, retail, bartender, admin and marketing. Not all of these have been ideal experiences and in the time I’ve been here, I’ve picked up some important tips that have helped me along the way.

Here are some of the key ones that will help you succeed in getting you that job away from home.

“How do they do it where you’re from?”

It’s great to talk about how “they do it over in…” anywhere. This gives you an edge over your potential colleagues and provides insight on different opportunities for the company you aspire to work for.  Don’t shy away from talking about your home country as this could be very beneficial in helping you land your dream job. You could mention this on your CV and in your interview by drawing on previous experiences you’ve had in your hometown that would be relevant to the job you’re going for.

Additionally, if you are from somewhere that speaks a different language or if you’re able to speak any other languages, this is something you should definitely boast about on your CV and in your interview.  Again, this will give you an edge and will give you an inimitable quality.

Are your papers in order?

There is nothing worse than losing out on your dream job because your visa, passport or whatever forms are needed to prove eligibility of employment are not up to date. In my experience, all employers will photocopy your proof of eligibility of employment with your passport, so make sure there are no issues with either of these.

Before you go to apply for any job, always check that you are eligible to work in your country of choice. Do not wait until after the interview to update these as these types of forms can take weeks even months to renew. This should be your first priority! If you’re moving to the UK, you can check whether or not you need a visa at the Gov.UK site. You can easily use Google search to find out what you’ll need for where you’re going.

Don’t be a victim of a bad business

Whether it’s your career or a job to help you earn some extra cash, always check the legitimacy of a business. Being from a different country can make you more vulnerable to working for an illegitimate company and you could end up being unemployed with no compensation. If you do have your suspicions, there are several ways you can check a company’s legitimacy. Initially, you can use Campanies House on the Gov.UK website to search for the business you’re look into. If you feel you have been duped by a company, you can also visit Citizens Advice to help you find your basic rights at work.

You should also make sure that you receive a pay slip and that your tax code on your slip is correct. This will mitigate any issues that could come your way in the future.


Fighting the Financial Jargon

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Don’t let the banker beat you with his parlance

Have you ever received a bill, for example, and there are about 4 seemingly needless pages, filled with blocks of text that, you just really don’t understand? I’ve never met you, but I’m almost certain that you have.

These seem to come with everything these days – credit card statements, bank statements, insurance policies. And they do seem to have one thing in common, and that is money. Money is what makes the world go round, and the world is a big place. This has led to their being an almost foreign language being developed when the subject arises in anything official.

Admittedly, there is a lot to talk about when it comes to money, but there really could be an easier way to relay the needed information, but apparently, there isn’t. Banks especially, love this. In a rather furtive way, this is how they make sure that they get the best arrangement for your dealings, not you. You could call me paranoid, but it’s true. They reel you in with attractive and alluring offers, only for you to later learn that the attractiveness and allure of the offer in question only lasts for a year – then it turns into the ugly step-sister and flees in a pumpkin.

Okay, that argument may have turned into a weird, Grimm-like metaphor, but it still stands. But this is what you need to be careful of. Don’t let a lack of understanding or knowledge cause you financial problems down the line with a mortgage, a loan, a credit card – anything! Here are some examples to get you started on your newly found mission to conquer financial gobbledygook.

Fixed vs. Variable Rate

These are terms that you are likely to hear when applying for a mortgage, or even a loan. Fixed rate and variable rates are known to cause confusion at times when the person applying for the mortgage doesn’t really know what they are.

A variable interest rate is fairly straight forward I suppose; it is an interest rate that can change over time, either way. So, you might fare better off with a variable rate, if it’s going to be lower, but then again, you could end up paying more if it rises. It is a gamble of sorts, as banks will set these rates on the base rate set from the Federal Reserve.

A fixed rate on the other hand, stays the same – it does not change. However, this is usually just for a set amount of time. And this is where some people lose out. They are drawn in by attractive introductory rates, but end up paying a lot more down the line. Don’t let this happen to you, know exactly what you are paying, and how long you will be paying it for.

Unsecured vs. Secured Loans

These are options that you will come across when applying for a loan, surprisingly. They are the two main options when it comes to personal loans, and while there isn’t all the much difference between them, it is still a difference you should know.

You’ve heard of credit ratings, correct? Well, this is what decides whether you get an unsecured loan or not. The lender will look at your credit rating, and decide whether you are financially responsible enough for them to loan you their money. Pretty straight forward.

A secured loan on the other hand, depends on whether you are a home owner or not. If you are, and you want a loan, with a secured loan you are telling the lender that if you are unable to pay the loan back, you will pay the balance by selling your house.

There is more to know about the difference between secured loans and unsecured loans, so make sure you read up enough to make a properly informed decision when it comes to taking out a loan.

Simple vs. Compound Interest

More terms that you will hear when it comes to borrowing, and it can make quite a big difference to the payments that you will be making.

Simple interest is, well, simple. That is why it’s called simple interest. When paying simple interest, it is based or set by the original amount of money borrowed. So, if you borrow x amount, then you will be paying interest on x amount.

Compound interest, however, is different, much different. Again, if you borrow x amount from the bank, and you are paying y interest on this amount, when the interested is next computed (period lengths change from bank to bank) then you will then pay your y interest on the original x amount PLUS the amount equal to the y interest already compounded – hence the name. So, basically, the longer your borrowing period, the amount you are paying interest on will rise.

Again, don’t let yourself be caught out with this. Make sure you know exactly what kind of interest you will be paying and how long for.

And the others…

These are just a handful of examples from the world of finance, but still definitions that you should know. However, there is a plethora of other terms out there. Chances are, you won’t come across them all, but at the same time, you likely will come across a few of them.

This makes it worth doing the research. There are other, more expansive guides out there that will help you learn your financial terminology. I’m not saying you should sit down, read them all and have them memorized in the off chance that you will encounter them; nobody has the time for that. What I am saying is that when you are looking to borrow, or take out a mortgage, or do anything financially related really, know the product or the service. Go in with an understanding of exactly what it is you are undertaking. This will always give you a better chance of not only getting the best deal, but it will also help you with general management of your finances. If you know what lies ahead, then you aren’t going to be surprised down the line.

Scottish night out’s that won’t leave you out of pocket

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Scotland Flag

We all love a night out, but we also love not spending ANY money, because it’s ours and we deserve to keep it. So how do we have fun without giving too much of our precious money away?

Ghost Walk – Edinburgh

One part history lesson, one part spooky fun. Great night out, and you’ll learn a little about the city as well, prices start at £8 and go up to £15. Then once it’s over you can go for a quiet drink and discuss how you’ll ‘never get to sleep tonight’!


Red Raw, the Stand – Glasgow & Edinburgh

Everyone loves a laugh, and Red Raw delivers. Everything from brand new, never once been on a stage acts, to some of the best in Scottish comedy (Frankie Boyle & Kevin bridges have appeared quite a few times). £2 a ticket is unbelievable pricing, with a decently priced bar as well and usually a competition to win free tickets for another red raw show. It’s well worth a try for comedy fans.


ICW – All across Scotland

Made popular after its smash hit BBC documentary, Insane Fight Club, ICW has become a staple of the Scottish night out, and a great laugh. Only grown in popularity since the return of Scotland’s ‘Chosen One, Drew Galloway – Scotland’s most successful wrestler – who was recently released from his WWE contract and came back to where he started out. Wrestling fan or not, it will be plenty of fun, and might convert the uncoverted. Lot’s of their Glasgow shows start in Box, which has become the unofficial home of  ICW, so you can start their to get you hyped up for the event.


The Budget 2015 – Everything you need to know

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The budget 2015
The budget 2015

What you need to know from the 2015 budget

As you probably already seen on the news, our current Chancellor George Osborne delivered our budget to parliament on 18th March 2015. However, in what may come as a surprise, a lot of people are unaware what the budget actually is. Simply put, the budget is a plan on how the government will spend the country’s money for the next 12 months. This is an annual process and is always conducted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  The government will decide how much they are going to spend, and on what services they are going to spend it on: housing, schools, and hospitals, defense etc.

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