1 out of 5 reasons to attend university - ‘Gain independence’

Updated: Jan 29, 2019

Living in your own dorm room at university or in a shared accommodation with other students are ways that will give you a true taste of independence and freedom.

How many times have you forgotten to bring a towel to cover yourself with after you’ve had a shower and panicked because of that? Gone are the days when you have to act like James Bond trying to be undetected while journeying to your room naked!

For the initial semester in my first year I was living at home with my parents. However, I received an email that a room was available during my second semester in the halls of residence. If I accepted the offer I had to pay a deposit within the next two hours to reserve my room. I took the leap and paid the £250 deposit and found myself living there from February until May 2014.

It was the best £2332 I had spent in my life! It worked out as £583 per month, with all the bills included which is cheaper than most forms of accommodations in London. Another perk was that its location was within the university grounds. This meant that it only took me about 10 minutes to walk from my room and into class.

Plus, I felt like I was in control of everything! I could go out and come back as well as invite friends over without having to make announcements or ask for permission to do so. It made me feel free.

Let's imagine that independence is a tree. Some elements that I feel are needed to keep it rooted and growing are budget management, earning a salary, providing your own essential living products and doing chores as well as running errands on your own.

My outbound costs involved paying rent, food, toiletries and attending my university’s gym. The student maintenance loan that was available at that time and financial support from family were my main sources of income. With this experience, I understood the costs of independent living and realised what kind of salary that I needed.

This knowledge deepened after I started living with my boyfriend during my second year of university in a one bedroom apartment within Chingford. Following this, it further increased when I had my first child while being in my last year at university and moved to a two bedroom flat in Southend-on-sea.

My list of expenses increased to this:

  • Rent

  • Utility bills (gas, water and electric)

  • Council tax

  • Transport (overground and underground trains)

  • Wifi bill

  • Smartphone bill

  • TV licence

  • Furniture and kitchen utensils

  • Nursery for Scott

  • Baby formula milk

  • Food for myself and my baby

  • Clothes for myself and my baby

  • Toiletries for myself and my baby

From having lived of my own at university, I knew what costs to roughly expect when I moved in with my boyfriend and how to budget for it. Getting the loans available and working as a brand ambassador for a student marketing company called BAM helped me meet these demands.

Furthermore, I learned how to save on expenditures. For example, I owned several bonus cards from supermarkets, pharmacies, health and beauty retailers. They would give me discounts on products through the collection of points after a certain amount of spending.

Using their advantage cards, I used to shop at these places as they have good quality products and student offers:

Boots https://www.boots.com/functional-pages/advantage-card

Superdrug https://www.superdrug.com/beautycard

Iceland https://www.iceland.co.uk/bonus-card/

Sainsburys https://www.sainsburys.co.uk/shop/gb/groceries/get-ideas/values/values/howtojoin-nectar

As I do not own a driving licence my only means of transportation to university were the overground and underground trains. In order to save money with my travel expenses, I bought a railcard which gave me ⅓ off of rail fares between Southend-on-sea to London.

The eligibility for this card includes:

  • Being aged 16-25

  • A full time student

  • Owning a valid passport or UK driving licence

You can purchase one online at: https://www.16-25railcard.co.uk/

While I was living in London, I owned an 18+ Student Oyster photocard. This gave me 30% off the price of adult-rate travelcards and season tickets for trains and buses.

To get this card you must be:

  • A student aged 18 or older

  • Enrolled at a university that is registered on the TFL scheme

  • Living at a London address during term time

You can order yours here: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/adult-discounts-and-concessions/18-student

It’s also possible to combine these two cards, which I did. This can be done by adding the discount from your 16-25 railcard to your 18+ Student Oyster photocard to get a 34% discount on off-peak pay as you go fares and off-peak daily caps on Tube, DLR, London Overground, Tfl Rail and most National Rail services in London.

As my son attended a nursery that was next door to my campus, we commuted on the trains together. For safety and comfort reasons, I travelled during off-peak times. This resulted in my fares being cheaper and there being less people travelling at the same time as us.

Overall, my university experience taught me about the costs involved with independent living, how to cope with it by knowing what to expect and cut some expenses.

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