Why is university life so expensive?

Students are often portrayed as living on a shoe-string budget of a few pounds a week. Not true. Everyone I know seems to have a decent amount of money to spend, no we're not all private school kids; at least I'm not.

I've been keeping a close eye on my finances to see where the money is going and it's an interesting thing to look at. Let's take this week for example: I've scheduled £70 as my budget for this week - notice it's only Thursday at the moment.

I went for a shop at Sainsbury's this week - total spend £34.33. Almost half of my budget - gone. The theory being that making food at home is cheaper than eating out - which is true. However this week I also got a take-away which is unusual for me (I've probably only had four the whole time I've been here) which cost me £10.65 as that was the minimum for delivery. Altogether that's almost £45 spent on food.

We need entertaining too - and this week I've bought 4 DVDs online at a cost of around £22. I want to point out this is atypical of me to buy so many DVDs. I also paid for my subscription of Spotify - £10 for the month. I've bought a reflective jacket for cycling safely and a laptop sleeve too - together probably around £7. That's the problem with online shopping though - the accommodation warden has known me by name since about week 1 as I go there to pic up my mail so often.

I've spent no money on clothes his week, I also haven't even gone out this week so no money spent on tickets or alcohol. Then there's always cash that I withdraw to pay for those little things such as a hot chocolate, a newspaper or a snack, or getting the bus home instead of cycling.

In total this week is looking to be close to £100 so far again.

So why is union life so expensive? Firstly, eating out is a privilege I've not had, or frankly needed, back home - my lovely mum did most of the cooking for me and cooking two or three times a day is not only exhausting but repetitive too.

Secondly, the student union here (and the university itself) at the University of Leeds does really take the mickey when it comes to prices: a decent sandwich is £2.99 (as opposed to £1.80 at Tesco just 5 minutes away, a loaf of bread is £1.60 as opposed to a pound or £1.10 in any supermarket), drinks are £1.50 and £2 whereas other places charge £1 each, water bottles from vending machines are £1 (50p anywhere off campus), and it goes on. They really aren't helping poor students. The union takes advantage with prices.

So how can I and you cut back? Well let's look at what wasn't essential: the take-away (£10.65) could have been sustituted for a home-cooked meal for just £1 or £2 [saving £8.50ish]. The DVDs weren't necessary, I could have contented myself with BBC iPlayer for free or bought just one for about £6 or so. [saving £16]. I could live with old music and YouTube I guess and save the £10 for Spotify but it's only £2.50 a week and I do get access to millions of songs so I'm going to leave that as an essential. So just by eliminating the takeaway and the DVDs I would have saved myself about £25.

The worrying thing? This has been my cheapest week so far looking back. Oops.

However, what fun is life is you can't spend money whilst at uni? The time of no worries (except assignment deadlines, exams, social anxieties). A take-away once in a while is no problem and the DVDs will probably be rewatched numerous times to death. I'll just stick to being a normal student thank you very much, spending away...

1. I do work seasonally so all the money being spent is my own which makes me feel less guilty than if it were my parents'. I am by no means rich, I've worked for all the money I'm spending/relying on student loan a bit and bursaries.
2. The Student Loan after accommodation leaves me with something like £40-50 a week to live on which is not enough to live on usually, let alone have the uni experience.


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