Student Life: How to make something out of nothing

Right. In your cupboard is a can of kidney beans, two jars of spices dated 2006 and an onion that appears to be harbouring a new ecosystem. In your pockets are a fiver, a condom and a Werther’s Original. You need eight new course books, your trainers have passed shabby chic and arrived at plain shabby and you want to get sloshed and forget it all until morning. Presenting The Skinny guide to turning nothing into something.

Feature by Nicola More | 12 Sep 2008
  • An old wheelbarrow, a few yards of chicken wire and a bit of welding improv from BA was all it took

Play the finance field
We all know that banks don’t give away freebies for the fun of it. Far from it. They’re quite literally cashing in on the knowledge that once they have you, they have you for life. Shockingly, only 6% of us will ever switch banks – we’re more likely to divorce our better half. With that in mind, it’s even more crucial to get a great deal. Don’t be tempted to go with whatever bank happens to shout the loudest at Freshers’ Fairs. Shop around, find the best deal (more often that not, that’s the one with the largest interest-free overdraft) and if you’re not happy, don’t hesitate to break their hearts. Remember, there’s a crunch out there and you represent a serious investment their eyes.

Food, glorious food
Supermarkets are geared for convenience, but taking an extra minute to consider the prices before you buy can knock a fortune off your shopping bill. A bag of apples will cost as much as 30p more than the same amount loose, and you’ll probably throw half of them away anyway. Likewise, a tomato-based pasta sauce will cost about £2, yet a tin of tomatoes just 40p. Add a cheery little basil plant to your window and you can make a great pasta sauce, freeze in batches and defrost it when you need it. The financial difference in making the extra trip (using your reduced bus pass or car sharing) to the cheaper store across town could add up to a decent saving over a period.

All work...
Computers are relatively cheap these days, but let’s be honest, even £300 is a lot of money when you’re studying. Most universities now offer great discounts on laptops and even renting schemes, allowing you to budget more effectively. Once you have the kit, you can download free software to protect it. For anti-virus software, check out Grisoft’s AVG 8.0 and Alwil’s Avast! 4. ZoneAlarm is a good free firewall. As for the ludicrous price of textbooks, you can get them second-hand from Amazon or spend a leisurely afternoon browsing your local second-hand bookshop. They’re a lovely place to escape to and easier on your pocket than the high-street chains.

...But there’s still time for play
Heard about the Orange loophole? No, it’s not a porn site. In fact, it’s just a tip-off that if you buy an Orange sim card for just £1 you’ll also get the 2 for 1 cinema deal, Orange Wednesdays. For great offers on eating out and shopping – in fact, for great offers on everything – visit moneysavingexpert.com. And of course, we at Skinny towers regularly have a plethora of competitions and ticket giveaways for gigs, clubs and random stuff across Scotland on www.theskinny.co.uk/competitions.

Staying in?
Brighten up your flat with free Banksy art available for download at www.banksy.co.uk/shop or indeed just stencil your own Banksy onto your rented flat's exterior. Your landlord will surely be impressed that the property has now trebled in value.