“Living the dream, sure you know yourself.”
My automatic reply for the obligatory office pleasantries had worn thin. Was I really living the dream – working 9 to 5, living off ready meals and returning to a freezing cold student house every evening? It was time to put my money where my mouth was. I booked 6 holidays over 6 months (7 over 7 if you count a budget weekend in Donegal).
March – mates weekend away in an Airbnb in a village-off-a-village-off-Falcarragh
April – 8 day combined 21st and 60th birthday blowout with my mum in New York and Pennsylvania
May – 4 days in Paris with placement pals
June/July – 2 week long road trip around the Southern states of America with a handily placed Study USA friend
August – 9 day trip to visit another handily placed friend on placement in Toronto
August/September – 6 days by the French Alps flowing onto 6 days in Split and Dubrovnik
Why the sudden bragging? Because it was at this point I promptly remembered that while my term time address is in BT9, my bank account hadn’t caught up with my Malone Road travel mentality. Luckily, my inner East Belfast scrounger was here to save the day. This, readers, is how I budgeted like a boss.
Unleash your inner accountant
Set your monetary goals (in my case, holidaying without getting into debt) realistically in relation to your income and outgoings. Scan through your current account and note what you regularly spend money on, such as running a car, groceries, eating out and subscriptions. Take a few minutes to reminisce about your biggest childhood expense being a LipSmacker set from Claire’s Accessories, then sort all these expenses into an Excel sheet to find out what you will need to earn to cover these expenses and meet your financial goals.
So close, yet so far
The thrill of my final Excel formula coming together was caught short when the number it produced was well into the quadruple figures – quite a stretch if I wanted to eat more than Pot Noodles for the rest of the year. Therefore, like many a millennial before, I adopted the side hustle.
While not sustainable as a main income source for many, part time casual work is the perfect option for the cash hungry. Outside placement hours, I picked up shifts in promotional work for a local radio station, however there are several companies specialising in casual work in events and hospitality. Grafton Recruitment and Eventsec allow recruits to work when suits them whilst earning above minimum wage.
Make like Brangelina and split
Newly motivated, my next step was to translate these lofty goals into smaller monthly segments. With the help of a *free* Monzo account, I split my monthly income into separate ‘pots’ for different purposes. My standing orders for bills came out of one pot, whilst my contributions toward holiday money went in another. The current account tracked my day to day spend against my personalised monthly budget, with reminders if I needed to slow down on my usage of its iconic ‘hot coral’ card.
I <3 cheap thrills
A reduced disposable income doesn’t necessarily mean a reduced standard of living. Here’s some quickfire ways to make your money go further:
TREAT YO SELF – in two weeks. That must have item? Hit add to basket and come back in 14 days. If you’re still day-dreaming about it, and your monthly budget permits, let that be your reward for staying on track.
FOOD – Youtube is a great resource for cheap meal inspiration (my breakfast for the year was sorted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XSVK_LliQM). From the gluttony of recipes online, I had my breakfast and lunches down to less than £8 per week. Sound extreme? Watch me enjoy meals out guilt free (after asking for student discount of course).
STOCKPILE – Running the risk of sounding like a crazy coupon hunter, bulk buying items you use regularly while they’re on offer saves money and hassle of running to the shops last minute. (Just don’t mention the 5 litres of apple juice clogging the kitchen cupboard to my housemates)
GET THRIFTY – The social media shame of outfit repeating has done wonders for the stock levels of charity shops. Big ticket items like formal and wedding guest dresses, often designer, fill the rails of shops dedicated to worthy causes.
Smiling smugly in my £8 dress – thank you Oxfam x
SOCIAL MEDIA – If you were on a diet, you’d swiftly unfollow BuzzFeed Food in case their latest brownie-cookie-cheesecake-ice cream-taco derailed your good intentions. Why should budgeting be any different? Unfollow whichever sites get you reaching for your card (does anyone ever remember their CVV number?) and curate your feed to motivate your saving, be it an influencer renovating their first house or hashtags of upcoming holiday locations. Instagram accounts @thefinancialdiet and @clevergirlfinance gave realistic financial hacks tailored to millennial living, a far cry from your granda bragging about how he bought his family home for a price of a Freddo.
And finally, don’t get blindsided by unforeseen expenses. I learnt this the hard way from driving a 15 year old car! A chunk of money set aside for a rainy day really does leave you with peace of mind. That way, you can crack on with #livingthedream.
Georgia Galway is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – Georgia Galway and Instagram – @imthatgalwaygirl