Counting every penny

It’s time to start counting pennies again. Only this time, every little penny will count so much more than they have for the past decade.

Why the counting? Simple: I’m doing my PhD now so I’m broke. I have enough pennies to live on (just!) but only if I’m careful with them. And unless I can find a scholarship or two (or a generous benefactor!) money will only get tighter as my [meagre] savings begin to dwindle. That means I have to cut back on my budget – and I must pinch every little penny I can.

I’m not unfamiliar with frugality – I’ve shared several stories here about pinching pennies and saving every bit of money I could – but before, my frugality was in the efforts to save for a dream or just because I was cheap. Now, my frugality is because money is quite tight.

You see, my PhD is being funded by a studentship, which means that I am given a living stipend and that part of my tuition has been covered. But since I’m an international student, I need to cover the difference between domestic and international tuition. This equals out to about half of my stipend. This means that the small stipend is much, much smaller for me!

Thankfully, I have the big expense covered: A friend has provided me with a room in his house, which is making my PhD affordable as I can take what I would be paying for rent and put it towards my tuition. (Seriously, without his generosity, I might not have been able to do my PhD!)

Of course, the other thing to be thankful for is that I am a good cook and know how to make a food budget stretch! So, I figured I’d see just how creative I can get with my food budget. My initial budget was £50 per week but now I want to see if I can get that down to £40 a week, to reduce it bit by bit as I settle into a new cooking routine.

And that brings me to another thing to be thankful for: My friend has added me to his car insurance so that I can use the car when he’s not using it. And that means that I can get to the shops a little bit easier, and to shops that are a bit less expensive than the ones I can access (easily) by bus.

So today, I took advantage of the car and drove myself to Penicuik (the nearest town to where I’m living, as I’m actually on the outskirts of Edinburgh) where I visited Lidl, Farmfoods, and B&M. I wouldn’t ordinarily shop at those stores (I’m more of an M&S or Waitrose girl) but since every little penny counts, Lidl is where I need to spend them!

My total for the day came to £36.54, which included two bottles of plonk and a 9-pack of loo roll, two items that always tend to increase a grocery bill. But, importantly, my shop included not only enough food to feed me for a full week (including work lunches), but the vast majority of the stuff will go to make bulk meals for freezing, meaning there’ll be food in the freezer to last more than the week.

Tomorrow I will spend the day making soup and a couple of chicken dishes and cutting up fresh veggies for next week’s lunches. And since I’ll be home doing domestic stuff most of the day, I will have more than enough time to work on some of my PhD tasks.

Between saving money on groceries and clothing, I hope to have enough pennies to treat myself to a new pair of running shoes in the spring. They’re an expensive purchase and can’t be bought used, but they’re good for my health so I’ll have to make the financial sacrifice.

Stay tuned to find out if I can manage to get my food budget cut down even more! I’m sure that will happen a bit come garden planting season, too. (And feel free to offer tips on cutting down my food budget or other great frugal ideas!)

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