Top tips on being a student in a pandemic

Once again we find ourselves in lockdown which means for many of us we won’t be going back to university until at least mid-February. Of course this can make many things a lot harder; living situations, accessing course materials, online learning. To help you get through it I’m going to be doing a series of posts on these different topics to hopefully help you be a bit more productive and a bit less stressed. Of course these are things that work for me, they won’t work for everyone, but if you’re feeling a bit lost you might as well give them a try.

At the moment I am living at home after returning for the Christmas break and attempting to get my work done. I’ve been trying to put little things in place to help myself stay productive but it’s always important to remember that these are very strange times. It’s important to remember that you may not feel as encouraged at the moment, don’t beat yourself up about this because it’s only natural to feel a bit of a strain on your work at the moment.

With working on my dissertation, assignments, seminars and reading there’s a lot to be doing and it can be nice to have something to focus on at the moment. However, the importance of taking a break is a big as ever. Go for a walk, watch a bit of Netflix, call a friend, make sure you’re doing things to relax yourself so that you can feel that bit more fresh and ready to go.

Finding the job for you: Retail

As I said last week with my hospitality post, I’m making a little series of jobs you can do part-time at university to get a bit of extra cash.  Of course, I only have experience in hospitality, but I have looked into these other jobs so that I can give you a range of options. This week I have decided to talk about working in retail. Like hospitality this is a customer service job, but it is obviously going to be different in some ways.  For this you will be working in a shop; maybe re-stocking the floor, helping out customers or working on the tills.  It’s a great job for you if you are a people person and want to engage with people constantly while you’re at work. 

How do I find a job? With retail it probably best to look outside of the university. I know my university does have a few on-campus shops which people can apply to, but this is limited. There is also a co-op on our campus that employs students so maybe look into privately owned shops close by. You can of course also apply to jobs in the local area, most of these you will be able to apply for online if they have vacancies or their websites will give information of how to apply but it won’t hurt to see if they’ll accept your CV in person, especially if it is an independent shop.  

Positives of working in the industry: The big positive of working in retail for students is the flexibility, whether it is set shifts or different shift patterns each week they will usually be able to accommodate you around your studies.  This means you can have your university life and work life separate and won’t have to worry about them clashing. This is also the type of job that will keep you on your feet and while some people may see that as a negative it’s a nice change from studying. I find while at university a lot of it is sitting down; in lectures, when revising and when preparing for seminars. Having a job that requires you to keep moving helps towards having an active lifestyle.  There are so many retail opportunities up and down the country meaning that wherever you are at university there should be plenty of places for you to apply to. Lastly, the one a lot of people would consider the best perk is that most retail places will offer a staff discount as an incentive to work there, so if you’re looking for a job it’s something you might as well take advantage of. 

Negatives of working in the industry: You’ve probably heard many negatives when it comes to retail and a big one people talk about is difficult customers. As annoying as it is this is something you will need to prepare yourself for and if this is something you want to avoid it might be best to look for a job in a different industry. It can be inconvenient hours; if you’re hoping for a break at weekends this may not be possible if you’re working in retail as this is going to be when they are busy, and they will need staff.   The work can become very monotonous after a while; there are very limited tasks you will be able to do, and you will find yourself doing things over and over again with very little change.  As with hospitality, there will be many people going to university looking for jobs and many of them will have experience. It can be a difficult industry to get into without that experience and so may take some work to find a job. 

Travelling on a budget: While you are there

So, you’ve booked your holiday, or you need to make sure you have the budget to even go on holiday. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of budgeting for the preparation, the flights and hotel, but forget that you’ll actually have to have a good chunk saved for when you get there.  The best way to do this is figure out an approximation of how much you plan to spend while your there and then take just a bit extra for emergencies or if you end up spending a bit more than planned. 

Food: Probably the most important thing to think about. If you’re going all inclusive you may not need to worry about this as much because it will be included in the price you paid for the hotel. If you are self-catered, you need to budget for the amount of food you’ll have while you’re there. As I recommended in my previous travel post it’s a good idea to choose accommodation with a kitchen so you can easily do a shop at the supermarket but remember food may be priced a bit differently abroad to how it would be in an English supermarket. I usually like to have a meal out on one of the days to try the country’s cuisine as a little treat so this is something you should definitely budget for if you plan to do. 

Transport: Think to yourself how you are going to get around while you’re there.  You will have booked your flights and hopefully an airport transfer but as you explore the city you’re going to have to get around. Most cities have great transport links so check out the metro and bus system as these are usually the cheapest option. This is something you’ll want to make sure you have the money for but shouldn’t burn a huge hole in your pocket especially if you plan your trip so that you’re doing things in a similar area each day. 

Attractions: I would recommend planning what attractions you want to visit and what you want to see before you go even without thinking about budgeting. This will ensure you have time to actually do what you want to do and so you don’t spend all your time while you’re actually there working out what you want to do. From this you can do a bit of research to work out how much things will cost, and you may have to book some attractions in advance to make sure you get to visit.  Dependant on what you’re planning to do, this could be what you spend most of this budget on, especially if you’re on a city break  This is something, however, you don’t want to compromise on as while you’re there you’ll want to make the most of it. 

Going out: whether you’re planning a meal or a big night out this is something to budget for. Some cities have an incredible nightlife, and this is something you won’t want to miss out on. Especially, if you’re planning to go and get drunk this will be something to bear in mind as alcohol is often not cheap and you don’t want to blow your whole budget in one night!  

Souvenirs: you may want to pick up a couple of bits while you’re there to remember your trip. Personally, I collect a mug from every country I visit as a little memento. 

Emergency fund: You never know when you might need a bit of extra cash and you don’t want to be caught short in a foreign country. My best bit of advice is to put aside some money that you can use in an emergency; you may have forgotten to budget something, things may be a bit more expensive than planned or you may want to treat yourself while you’re there. It’s always best to be on the safe side. 

I hope these tips help you out. If you missed my blog post on how to budget in preparation of the holiday go check that out!  In the next few weeks I’ll be posting about my favourite get aways for budget travel so keep an eye out for that. 

Finding the job for you: Hospitality

If you’ve decided to get a part-time job whilst at university it can be a difficult to work out what industry will best suit you. There are so many factors to consider when deciding what path to take; you should take into account experience, how it will work around your course and what works best for your personality. I’ve decided to make this a weekly feature looking at the pros and cons of different jobs you can have part-time whilst getting on with your studies. As I have worked in the hospitality industry on and off for three years now, I felt that was the best one to start with. 

How do I find a job? There are so many ways to go about finding a job in hospitality. Most universities will have on-campus bars and restaurants which they will hire students to work at and there are also off-campus places that you can apply to. I worked at a restaurant in the town centre, luckily, they were understanding that I was a student and I would need to put my studies first and that I’d want to go home for the holidays. If you are worried about this, it may be best to get a job on-campus as they may be more understanding that you are a student however I wouldn’t rule out branching out so as to have more options. There are many ways to go about finding a job in this industry; you can try take your CV straight into the establishment and ask if they have any jobs available, but they also usually advertise online whether on their own website or job site like Indeed. 

Positives of working in hospitality: I found the perks of working in this industry attracted me to a job like this. As well as a set wage, you can earn tips which are always useful for an extra night out or when you are running a bit short on cash. They are usually flexible jobs which can be useful when you’re trying to work around studying and socialising.  Whereas with jobs with set shift patterns to take a day off you would usually have to find cover, with jobs where the shifts change each week you can often ask for specific days off.  Also, not having set shifts will mean they’ll probably be more inclined to give you time off to visit home or if you have big deadlines coming up.  I also enjoy the social aspect of this type of work, you’ve got colleagues around you and you’re always engaging with members of the public which I found increased my confidence. With this there is always that sense of something different every shift and so it doesn’t get repetitive. My jobs also gave me free staff food which is always a plus. 

Negatives of working in hospitality: As with all jobs there are negative of the industry.  The flexibility of shifts can mean some weeks you have loads and some you’ll barley have any, I’ve had issues with both and have had to ask for my hours to be cut to the amount we agreed upon.  Also, with working in bars and restaurants you’ll usually be working times when these are busy meaning evenings and weekends and while this is useful to fit around your university lectures it may mean you have to miss out on nights out or weekend activities, if you’re working.  Because I had experience in the industry before going to university it was easier for me to find a job however I know friends with no experience who then found it difficult to find something when they arrived as they are popular jobs for students and so those who have that edge with their experience will find it easier to get a job. This means if you don’t have prior experience you may have to persevere, and it may take longer to find something so keep that in mind when applying. 

Of course, all jobs you have while you are at university will have positives and negatives so you really need to weigh up what will work best for your situation. Hospitality can be a really good job when at university but if any of the negatives are deal breakers for you when it comes to a job it may be worth looking at something else that better suits your needs. 

How do I budget and actually stick to it?

If you’d have asked me this question two years ago, I’d have to have said I don’t. That however was not healthy for my bank account or my mental health, being in my overdraft and seeing the money in my savings go down would make me worry about how I’d deal with this in the future. Luckily, I started to do a proper budget and learnt how to stick with it. The most important things to look at is what you have coming in whether that is your student loan, wages from a job or both. Once you have worked out how much you have to spend decide whether you will budget per week or per month, personally I do per week so I don’t spend my months budget straight away and anything I don’t spend in that week I can roll over to the next. Once all this is done, follow these tips to properly budget!


Rent and housing bills: paying rent and bills and paying them on time are the most important things when it comes to money. When money comes in put aside the money or pay your rent straight away. As students your loan will come in three chunks, one per term, and so if your rent and bills are being paid once a month it can be easy to see the money in your account and think you can spend it. Personally, I put it in a separate account so that I don’t feel inclined to spend it and it’s there for me when I need it. Once this is out of the way you can work out how much you have left per month. Of course, when it comes to student loans some people’s will cover a lot less than others so you may need to get a part-time job or get financial assistance from parents to make ends meet. It’s also important to note how much you can afford to spend on your accommodation, especially when it comes to uni halls as the prices can differ greatly. Deciding whether it is worth sacrificing other things for an en-suite bathroom when you could save money with a shared bathroom is something you’ll have to think about.  Also, in halls you are usually lucky enough that the bills are included and so you won’t need to worry about this separately, it will all be one payment of rent and bills. 

Food and other shopping necessities: food of course is the next big thing, when it comes to food there are many options to decide from which will impact how much you should budget for this. Personally, I don’t spend too much on my weekly shop as I go to a budget supermarket but then I also tend to get a takeaway or go out for a meal once or twice a month which I will factor into my food budget. The more high-end you go with your food and the more you buy the higher you should budget for this. The best thing to do when it comes to food is work out what you plan to eat in the week and make a shopping list that way you only buy what you need and save money and food by not buying what you will eventually throw away. I find when I shop without a list, I just grab what I fancy even if I won’t get chance to eat it before the use by date. Also, remember when you go to a supermarket you are not just buying food, factor in money for toiletries, cleaning products, stationary and the like.  This is especially important if you are catered, while you food may be included in rent, there will be other bits you need to pick up at the supermarket that you should include in your budget. 

Hobbies: A big part of university is getting involved with student life; whether that is joining a society, playing for a sports team or going on nights out. The reason I put this high up on the list is for a lot of these things I did not realise how expensive were until I got to uni. With sports teams and societies, you usually have to pay upfront at the start of the year which may feel like a big chunk going out of your pocket which is why I’d recommend a separate fresher’s budget. Your first week or two at uni will most likely be your most expensive and so budgeting a lot more for this is wise. It’s also important to remember that these organisations will have things going on throughout the year whether that’s matches, formals or socials, if this is something you want to be a part of this should be added to your budget.  You don’t want to miss out on going out with your teammates or fellow society members because you can’t afford it. The same goes for nights out, if you know that you want to go out multiple times a week you need to budget this so that you don’t suddenly find yourself in your overdraft. 

Treating yourself: as much as I’d love to tell you to treat yourself as much as you feel like it, this is not easy when on a budget. I found the best way to do this is to set yourself goals, if I can save this much money by this date I will go shopping. This could also work by saying, if in say three weeks it’s still on my mind I’ll treat myself. An example of this was when I wanted to splurge on a matching gym set so I told myself if I go to the gym at least three times a week for the next month I’ll treat myself. Not only did this make me feel like I deserved to treat myself, but it also gave me the peace of mind that I was investing in something I’d actually get use out of. 

Savings and emergency fund: As I said before I chose to budget each week and what I don’t spend rolls over to the next week. However, at the end of each month, I will move whatever money I don’t spend into savings or an emergency fund so that I have money for the future or for an emergency. 


Just remember learning to budget can take time and you won’t change your spending habits overnight. Once you start saving money, the joy that you’ll feel in having money saved will far exceed the short-term gratification of receiving a haul of clothes you probably won’t wear in a month’s time. I will add though, remember you’re going to university to enjoy yourself (and to study of course) so find what works best when it comes to spending. You don’t want to miss out on everything because you want to save all your money but then you may struggle later on if you blow all your money at once.  Balance is key!