University 101; Money Tips for the Broke Student

Hello lovely people!

It’s a running joke within my friendship group that I am the “Spreadsheet Queen”. Seriously, I have an Excel doc for everything, whether that be my annual finances or our house dream to buy a full Guitar Hero set up (definitely not procrastination during summative season or anything…). Armed with my spreadsheets, excessive budgeting and savvy spending I’m about to give you some awesome tips for how to save money as a student.

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1. Budget as if your life depends on it

For most of us, university is the first time we have to budget just to live. Whenever I budgeted pre-university it was because I was saving up for things like my first car, but at uni all I’m saving for is the really fancy brand of toilet paper. I like to set aside a couple of hours at the start of the year to lay out all the money I have coming in and all the money that automatically goes out on things like rent, bills and food. That way you can work out what you have left each month for pints and pitchers. It’s important to log everything you spend so that you can keep on track, and review the budget every month and term.

2. Shop smart

If you go to the nearest supermarket to do your weekly shop chances are you’re going to be paying through the roof for it, especially if you’re in a city-centre (I’m looking at you Tesco Metro…). Take time to find the cheaper places. For me, that’s doing the bulk of my shopping in Aldi and heading to a local fruit & veg shop for the extras (shoutout to the one on North Road in Durham, would highly reccomend!). By doing this I rarely spend more than £20 a week on food, meaning more beer money.

3. Meal prep for days

A staple of every student house is the Tupperware cupboard. Your freezer should be rammed with boxes at all times, because what’s the point in cooking only one portion of a meal? It works out so much cheaper, not to mention quicker, if you bulk-cook in advance. This also means ordering a Chinese is much less appealing, at least most of the time.

4. Pre-drink hard

If you’re alcoholically inclined like most of us, predrinks is your friend. Unless your local is as cheap as mine (£2.30 a pint!! I stan The Swan) it’s almost always cheaper to pick up a bottle of spirit and make it last for the week’s nights out than drinking in bars or pubs. An added bonus is that you get to pick the playlist and can start the night in pyjamas; it’s a no brainer.

5. Packed lunches are for the cool kids

If you have a long day of lectures or heavy study day planned make sure you’ve brought your sandwiches with you. This avoids paying the often hefty prices charged in uni cafes, and is often the healthier approach too. During exam season this year me and my friends set off to the library with a coffee in hand too to avoid the lure of Starbucks on the way (then ruined it by going to the pub on the way home; we tried).

6. Don’t forget to save

Eventually, your phone is going to break, your car insurance will need to be renewed or your trainers will fall apart. Just because you’re at university it doesn’t mean that you don’t need emergency money, in fact you probably need it more than ever. Even if this means a little bit of your loan put aside each month or saving a portion of any Christmas/birthday money, it has to be done.

7. If you need it, get a part-time job

I’ve been working pretty much since it was legal for me to do so, meaning not having a term-time job in first year was a really odd feeling. I topped up my loan over holidays however, returning to 30-40 hours of full-time work each time I got a break from university. This approach works for some, others might prefer to work one day a week alongside studying. It’s important to decide early if you need to work, and how you’re going to fit it around university if you do need the money.

8. You do not need brand new stuff, however much capitalism is trying to make you think so

This goes for clothes, uni books, plates and so much more. University reading lists can be long, and if you pick them all up from a bookshop you could end up spending hundreds (which could be spent on more pints). My favourite formal dress was £3.50 from a charity shop, my favourite skirt was £2. You’re also living more ethically this way too, and saving the planet is the coolest thing you can do.

 

Follow these tips and you too can just about avoid being in your overdraft. People often ask me how I afford to go travelling and to gigs so much as a student, and this is part of the reason why. I’ve always been a saver, so uni is no exception.

-Megan, listening to the Daily Mix Spotify has somehow generated entirely in French for me (do I admit now or later that I adore trashy Europop)

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My Experience At Truck Festival 2018

Hello lovely people!

Around a month ago I made a 350 mile journey down to Poole (yes, I drove 700 miles on my own, yes I am mad) to visit some of my travelling team, aka the legends who visited Berlin, Prague and Budapest with me. After a few days of beaches, pub grub and a Spoons night, we made the trip to Hill Farm in Oxfordshire for a little festival called Truck. Here’s the lowdown on a weekend of bands, beer and brilliant times.

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Thursday

After arriving at the campsite, complaining a lot about how difficult it is to carry 22 cans across a field in 25 degree heat and fighting over putting the tent up, we were set for the weekend. Our first band was Jaws. I was surprised at how little I actually knew of their music, but they were awesome nonetheless. They have the perfect balance between chilled songs and more upbeat stuff, meaning they were an ideal setup for Peace, who were the main reason I pushed for Thursday entry. As you’ll know if you’ve read my post on 2018 releases, their new album is a favourite for me, so I was excited to see them play a lot of tracks from that. The set was made for dancing, and weirdly, even moshing! I was surprised that some of the best pits of the weekend came from an indie band, yet the feel-good energy carried those of us used to heavier stuff.

 

Friday

Friday was a chilled start. I wandered around the festival site a little, and caught a couple of awesome smaller bands called Mint and Magique, because everyone needs a break from drinking every now and again. The music really started with Little Comets who I really need to listen to a bit more, considering they hail from Newcastle. After a nice little set we waited around for what I really wanted to see on Friday – Circa Waves.

I’ve loved Circa Waves since I saw them at Leeds in 2015; they are the ultimate feel-good summer band. Perhaps what I loved more though was their heavier stuff from the second album; they’re starting to find a new identity and you can tell it fits so well with their stage presence. I found myself in another moshpit (what can you do?) and loved every second of how high-energy it was. We stuck around at the main stage for Coasts, another band whose music is made for dancing.

By the time Moose Blood’s set rolled around it was absolutely pouring down. I was drenched, but I couldn’t have cared less. MB are a very important band for me, as they’re the music I’ve turned to when life has gone sour for the last few years. There was no better feeling than being truly and genuinely happy listening to them with some of my favourite people in the world; I’m pretty sure I was beaming the whole set. I even converted another friend to the lovely world of pop punk moshpits, which were as always filled with energy.

We finished the night with Friendly Fires, Friday’s headliner. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of their music, so I left early in favour of avoiding the rain. We ventured back out to a disco tent after a lot of few beers later on, which was surprisingly enjoyable!

 

Saturday

I woke up feeling a little worse for wear on the Saturday, which caused the start of many morning naps for the rest of the weekend, oops! After sleeping off the hangover we ventured out to The Nest to watch Lady Bird; a Slaves-esque up-and-coming Kent punk duo. These guys get the award for most energy of the weekend, as considering it was only 2pm in the afternoon they were fully riled up and powering through a big set. Afterwards I popped into The Barn to see The RPMs, a tiny band I saw supporting We Are Scientists last year. This might sound a bit patronising, but it’s so nice to see them finding their feet within music. Last time I saw them they seemed very young and played mostly acoustic stuff, whereas now they have a definite confident stage presence.

Most of Saturday however was spent at the main stage. My smaller artist highlight of the day was definitely Tom Walker. Armed with a guitar and small backing band he really captivated the crowd, with one of my favourite new voices of 2018. I’d even argue he performed better than the much bigger Jake Bugg, who I’m decidedly not a huge fan of. I find Jake Bugg very overrated, as his performance had no real charisma or power to it for me.

Everything Everything were the most confusing set of the weekend. I didn’t really know them at the time, and upon listening to their very odd lyrics I was nothing but baffled. I also had to stand through an hour of watching 15 year olds try and pit to music that just isn’t designed for pits, and after 5 minutes of circles collapsing in on themselves being amusing it just got plain annoying. I will admit however that now I love this band; I just didn’t give them a chance at Truck.

George Ezra closed the night, and I was pleasantly surprised. I shouldn’t like him at all, as he’s textbook pandering pop artist trying to look like the boy-next-door. The difference is that with George Ezra it feels completely genuine. He has an amazing voice and has written some total bangers. I also enjoyed how he interspersed the songs with stories about how and why and where he’d wrote them, which was a lovely personal touch. The crowd was very family-oriented too, which is always lovely to see.

 

Sunday

Sunday began by popping out at midday to watch the Oxford Symphony Orchestra, who played everything from your usual classical to Meatloaf and Abba. Classical music is my guilty pleasure, and so despite the absurdness of an orchestra on the same stage as the Courteeners, this was a great start to the day.

It was a quiet day, which meant by the time The Amazons rolled around I was actually quite drunk as a result of the combination of being able to finish off my weekend alcohol and having nothing else to do. From my slightly hazy memory The Amazons really proved themselves with this set, as even though they haven’t been around too long songs like “Junk Food Forever” had a great reception.

I was supposed to go and see The Magic Gang next, but decided instead to drink more eat dinner. I then headed out to see We Are Scientists, who did not disappoint. I think my favourite thing about this band live is how they interact with the crowd; there’s always time for a bit of banter in between songs. They played a good mix of old hits and a few from the new album, and due to my slight drunkenness I was properly belting out every word on the second row. Sadly I had to leave the set early, but not without good reason. I ran back to the main stage to meet my friends for Courteeners, who were quite frankly, fucking awesome. I spent the entire set dancing and doing a lot of shouting in a very Northern accent, aka my two favourite things in life. GOD BLESS THE BAND.

As Courteeners played “What Took You So Long?” (tune), fireworks were lit behind the main stage, and here lies my one of my favourite realisations of the weekend. I had driven hundreds of miles to stay with people I’ve only known for a year, and had been genuinely and completely happy the whole time. I never thought I’d be here this time last year. My phone was off, social media was far away, the music was insane and the company even better. Some of the stories are definitely not blog-friendly, but it’s safe to say Truck this year was a life highlight.

 

And afterwards I got even drunker and went to watch Kurupt FM, a parody grime act. I do not remember most of this set, but do remember being sat down in a camping chair by my friends afterwards to sober up. I’m a classy gal, what can I say?

 

If you take anything from this post, take that Truck Festival is a genuinely lovely little festival. Their lineups are shockingly good for a fairly cheap price, the vibe is amazing and you always feel safe onsite. I would definitely return, and may even do so next summer.

 

-Megan, definitely not listening to the Truck playlist and definitely not being extremely nostalgic

Shuffle Songs Tag

Hello lovely people!

I was tagged in the “Shuffle Songs Tag” by Katie & Harry over at Nerds, Numbers, Natterings. I’ve seen this doing the rounds for a few weeks, and I won’t lie I’ve been waiting for someone to tag me ever since (attention seeking? me? never…), because it is right up my street. Essentially, you have to put your playlist on shuffle and write about the first ten songs to come up.

Now, I have a lot of playlists. I’m talking like a good 30. Thankfully I have one entitled “ensemble”, which consists of pretty much everything I’ve ever listened to. Let’s dive in!

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1. Brianstorm – Arctic Monkeys

Back in the good old days of Arctic Monkeys, before Alex Turner turned into a beardy vegan wanker (yes I still love that joke). I remember this being absolutely mental when I saw them live, and I still love it 5 years later.

2. Fear of The Dark (Live at Donnington 1982) – Iron Maiden

I was raised on bands like Maiden, Sabbath and Whitesnake, so this is no surprise. I rarely listen to Iron Maiden’s studio albums; it’s just something about the nostalgic energy of their live albums that I love. This comes from Download Festival way before it was ever called Download, and there’s every chance that my Dad was there in the crowd that year. Fear of the Dark will always be a classic.

3. Suzanne – Creeper

Why don’t Creeper have more albums? This is the song I actually discovered them through, and it’s such a great single. Fast, catchy, and a big built-up chorus; Creeper are bringing goth punk back and I’m here for it.

4. Sockets – Slaves

This takes me right back to a sweaty Cumbrian venue in late 2016. From memory Slaves opened with this song, starting 45 minutes of total adrenaline and insane moshpits. I don’t listen to much pure punk, but this is an exception.

5. Any Port – Dead!

I’m still completely gutted that these guys split up a few months back, because their debut album is one of my favourites of the year. I managed to see them live back in March, and almost didn’t go as I was so sick with a flu that felt more like the plague than anything else, but I’m so glad I did now. Any Port is a tune, even though they’re gone you should still give the music a listen.

6. Kathleen – Catfish and the Bottlemen

Kathleen reminds me of summer 2016, mostly spent with an old group of friends going on our first adventures with our own cars. It’s feel-good, summery, and just outright lovely.

7. House on a Hill – The Pretty Reckless

I love this song almost entirely for it’s spoken introduction – “They have created a repressed society and we are their unwitting accomplices. Their intention to rule rests with the annihilation of consciousness”. It’s all about how powerless we are as people against those who control us, and I think it’s crazy that this song was written in a pre-Trump world.

8. Something From Nothing – Foo Fighters

This is actually one of my least favourite Foos tracks, but I think that’s because I don’t have the same emotional connection with their newer music than with the songs that have been around my whole life. I do really love the groovy pre-chorus riff though.

9. Poison in Your Veins (Live) – Alter Bridge

I’m glad these guys came up, because it gives me an opportunity to shout out an extremely underrated band. This song is live from the O2 Arena, and shows off the beautiful combination of Mark Tremonti’s lead guitar skills and Myles Kennedy’s extremely unique voice. Seriously, if you love rock even a little bit, give them a listen.

10. No Roots – Alice Merton

Honestly I just like this because it’s catchy af and Radio X played it so many times when it came out that I learned all the words in about two days. No shame.

ensemble

So, that’s it! I could keep blabbering on about my favourite songs for days on end, but that’s for another post. Let me know what’s top of your playlist in the comments.

-Megan, shuffling through my main playlist (wow no shit Megs)

My Fitness Journey (aka how I got fit with minimal effort)

Hello lovely people!

Today I’m going to be talking about fitness! Us bloggers don’t spend all our time writing you know. I recently posted some progress pics over on my Instagram, and received lots of positive feedback from followers, so I thought I would explain how I went from couch potato to working out up to 4 times a week.

At the start of my third term at university I decided it was time to make positive changes in my life. I’d recently made the switch from part catered to completely self catered, meaning I had much more choice over what I ate and when I ate it. This meant two things; I could eat healthier and fit working out into my life more easily. Combined with my new-found need to become the powerful and successful woman I’d always dreamed of being after a year of some pretty dark times, I was set to get my life together.

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Exercise

My relationship with exercise throughout my life has been, at best, rocky. As I said in a post I made after climbing a mountain recently, when I was in school I absolutely detested PE. My friends and I often purposely tried to derail the lessons (honestly, I feel for whoever had to teach us) if we actually turned up at all. In Sixth Form I improved slightly, signing up to a local gym and going fairly regularly. However, the moment that A-Levels got more intense I gave up, which I still regret now. It’s proven by a whole bunch of science (said like the expert I definitely am) that exercise is linked to reductions in stress levels, mood improvement and better self esteem (source: Mental Health Foundation).

Fast forward to first year at uni. After two terms of a similar “I’ll do it later” attitude, I decided it was time to kick my ass and get to exercising. My college has a cardio gym which was downstairs in my old house (honestly I don’t know what my excuse was when I literally walked past it multiple times a day), and whilst it is pretty badly equipped there’s space for  circuits along with some treadmills and the like. I started going a couple of times a week, and had a pretty standard routine. 20 minutes interval running, followed by a Kayla Itsines circuit (which I somehow found free online).

What helped was that a lot of my friends were joining me on this health kick. Every other day, as much as we could depending upon our schedules, we were in the gym at 5pm. This was helpful for lots of reasons. Going at the same time each day meant that it became part of my daily routine, and felt as normal as going out to uni in the morning. Moreover, I had that added motivation of not only letting myself down, but letting my friends down if I didn’t go. And, after the workout we often ate together, which ticked off socialising!

Towards the end of term I even got into running. One day myself and a friend headed to the gym as usual only to find that the room was locked. We decided not to waste our efforts and went for a run around the racecourse. I was so shocked to find out that I actually enjoyed the run, after having said for years that me and running just doesn’t work. Now I actively look forward to my cardio sessions, who knew?

Diet

As the statistic goes, fitness is 80% nutrition (source: Very Well Fit). I wouldn’t say I ate badly before I started this fitness journey, but there was definitely a lot of carbs involved. I’m looking at you, holidays to France and college menus filled with potatoes.

Cooking for myself all the time made me learn that eating healthy is really not difficult. My main tactic was to do a big food shop once a week, and simply avoid buying the rubbish foods. I learned pretty quickly that if there were no biscuits in the cupboard or pizza in the freezer I definitely wasn’t going to make the effort to walk to Tesco to buy some. An added bonus is that healthy food really doesn’t have to be expensive. Bulk cooking curries or chillis and freezing them is much quicker and cheaper than having chicken nuggets every night.

I’m not saying I’ve given up on unhealthy foods completely. You can definitely still find me necking pints on a Friday night or joining in with pizza & films night with my friends, but it isn’t everyday. These things have become a treat rather than a regular occurence, meaning I actually appreciate them more than I did before too.

4 Months On

I’ve been following this pattern for four months now, to the point where it’s no longer a change for me but just part of my lifestyle. Working out every other day is now a habit, and I’m setting myself goals and changing my playlists/workout plans to keep it exciting. For example, in the last couple of weeks I’ve been aiming to get my personal best for running a kilometre down to below 7 minutes. Today I completely smashed that, hitting 6″52 on my 5km run. I’ve also been trying out some different circuits I found on Pinterest.

Diet-wise, I’ve just recently gone vegetarian. Two of my housemates are vegetarian, and after travelling with them and following the diet for a while on and off I wanted to take the plunge completely. I’ve been officially vegetarian for about three weeks, but I think I could count the amount of times I’ve eaten meat in the last two months on  one hand. My motivations aren’t really fitness based (post coming soon), but I think it’s having a positive effect on my health at the same time.

When I move back to Durham in September I’m going to be joining a gym near my house, and I’m very excited to finally be able to play around in a big gym again. I’m also thinking about joining my local Parkrun, because the course in Durham is in the racecourse right next to my old accommodation, and it’s one of my favourite places in the city. My college wife and I are even going to try out pole fitness, so I’ll keep you updated when I inevitably get injured trying to be sexy and failing as usual.

 

What about you? Do you do a sport, or like me, prefer other ways of keeping fit? Let me know in the comments.

-Megan, listening to the playlist “Your Favourite Coffeehouse”, because I’m too skint to actually go to a coffee shop and write.

Veggie burgers are life, and other tales from Budapest, Hungary

Hello lovely people!

Today from my very hungover bed (I just napped for three hours, today is going great) I’m going to be finishing up the story of my latest interrail trip. Our third and final city was Budapest, the first of the three that I’d never visited. Budapest is comparable to Prague due to it’s traditional Eastern vibe, and for me resulted in some of my favourite times of the whole tour.

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Personally I think we look quite fresh here considering this was the morning after we slept on floors and buses all night

How It Went Down

I finished my last post by saying that Flixbus saved our trip to Budapest, but there’s a little more to it than that. Our bus was due to leave Prague at 2am, which when the subway stops running at midnight was not ideal.

Let me tell you the story of how we travelled to the suburbs of Prague, got kicked out of the subway station, then got kicked out of the carpark we took refuge in, slept on the streets, and even got our passports checked by the police. Yes, I can say that I spent a night falling in and out of sleep in a sleeping bag on the Czech streets, huddling with my friends for warmth. Whilst it wasn’t the most pleasant night I’ve had at times, it was also completely hilarious and looking back it makes for one hell of a story.

Our first bus finally arrived an hour late, and it was pretty hot and uncomfortable. Still, I slept most of the way to Brno, where we changed buses for the final leg of the journey. Brno at 6am was an experience; some walking to work, some coming back from a night out, some (aka us) wandering around sleep deprived and a bit confused. Our second bus was much nicer – it even had WiFi and plug sockets!

We arrived in Budapest at nearly midday, in desperate need of a shower and some sleep. But, as our prophet Oli Sykes once said “sleep is for the weak”, so I just got on and kept exploring.

 

The Hostel

This hostel was run by a lovely man who made every effort to make us feel welcome. Toucan Hostel was the cheapest at £12 per night, for a very light and open-feeling 8 bed room.

The only other people I saw the whole time we were in this hostel were a father and daughter making fish fingers one evening, which is probably a good thing considering we spent most of our time in that hostel shouting at each other over games of cards. In fairness though it would be quite difficult to meet people here, as the only communal space is the kitchen (which, on the plus side, is very well stocked).

Our main issue with this hostel was that the showers didn’t drain properly, so you couldn’t run the water for too long in fear that the place would be flooded. But, the central location and close proximity to Tesco more or less made up for this for me.

Wait… What Actually Happened?

After the pretty taxing night we’d just had we decided to keep day one pretty chilled, with a trip to the Gellert Baths. Budapest is, for some reason, famous for having heated baths. I have no idea why, but I won’t question it, because they’re so nice! As someone who looks more like a dog than Michael Phelps when swimming I appreciated the baths, as it’s all about sitting around in warm water rather than who can do the most lengths. However, the main thing I loved about the baths was the architecture (which won’t surprise anyone), as the place is filled with beautiful stone columns and mosaic walls. Also, the wave pool is my fave thing ever and every home should have one.

 

Day two was again handed over to Natalia, as our Eastern European tour guide. Armed with a map and vague plan we visited some of the main landmarks in the city. We started the day at St. Stephen’s Basillica, a very impressive Catholic church which heads up one of the city’s squares. After a scheduled ice cream stop (the plan was tight, snacking was only allowed in designated areas), we moved on to Budapest Castle – a personal architecture highlight. One of my favourite things is that on one side of the castle you get amazing views of the Danube, yet on the other you see the reality of the city – towerblocks and somewhat run-down housing. I found that a refreshing break from tourism, a reminder that these countries, however beautiful, still have a wealth of social issues.

After seeing the Hungarian Parliament Building we took a boat down the Danube to our lunch spot. In Budapest for whatever reason the public transport people have decided that adding boats to their offer is a fabulous idea. Whilst yes, we didn’t pay any more for it, I still didn’t like it. Boats are a bit terrifying in my opinion.

 

If you’ve ever seen anyone go to Budapest on Instagram you’ll know that one of it’s big highlights is ruin bars. Located in the Jewish Quarter, these bars are built into abandoned buildings, shops or lots, and they’re really damn cool. We visited Szimpla Kert, the biggest and oldest ruin bar, and I loved how eclectic the place was. I also appreciated a bit of traditional Hungarian Palinka (cherry brandy) to round off a lovely afternoon.

The final evening of the trip was spent climbing Gellert Hill, with the aim of watching the sunset with a picnic and drinks. Thanks to my classic bad luck it was very cloudy and even rained for a bit, so the sunset was basically impossible to see. But hey, we had alcohol to rectify the problem, so all was good. This evening was not only a trip highlight, but a life highlight. I sat surrounded by my best friends watching over the lights of Budapest, discussing life, our adventures and everything in between. It was honestly magical for me.

 

Fast forward a few hours and I’m asleep on the floor again, this time in Budapest International Airport. Our flights left at 6:30am, and because yet again the local transport was unhelpful, team UK had to arrive at the airport 6 hours early. I loved sleeping in the airport so much that I’m taking my snooze tour to Manchester Airport next month when I fly back from Milan and have to wait 6 hours for the first train home.

But Really Are You Eating Tho?

I pretty much made this whole section just so I can talk about veggie burgers. I really love veggie burgers. Anyway, we were looking for somewhere to eat on the second day as we had no plans, and after abandoning the meat eaters us vegetarians stumbled upon Istvanaffi. It’s like a combination of the choice at Subway and McDonald’s, except instead of Big Macs it’s oat burgers. Everything is vegetarian/vegan, it’s cheap, filling and delicious!

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Still dreaming about this meal

I literally have nothing else to put here because I’m almost certain every other meal I ate was from Tesco so… shout out to Hungarian Tesco and reminding me of doing my weekly shop in Durham?

 

And so the trip drew to a close, with me as usual not recovering fully before 7 days straight in work. I can’t pick a favourite city, but I know that I have so many favourite moments from this trip – from domesticated family arguments about carrier bags in the Budapest hostel to dance routines in a Czech carpark at 1am. Travelling does crazy shit to people, but I wouldn’t ever change it.

 

-Megan, listening to The Story So Far because pop punk isn’t dead (and I just got back into it)