Alice-Azania Jarvis: 'Take a leaf out of all the Freshers' cash guides'

In The Red
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The Independent Online

There aren't many advantages in the approach of autumn, particularly if you're talking finance. This is the time when electricity bills rise, fuel bills rocket, and suddenly you find yourself in need of a new coat. Even transport costs more, as a pleasant summer walk transitions into a rain-soaked ordeal, best overcome by climbing into the nearest Tube, bus or taxi.

Still, there is one upside to autumn: the return of Freshers' Week. Not because I relish the sudden influx of drunken students in my apartment block, but of the plethora of cost-cutting guides that take over newspapers, websites and magazines. Students are, broadly speaking, broke and disorganised – like me. The result is that these guides for shopping, budgeting, housekeeping and cooking are, in fact, incredibly useful to me.

We had one such guide in The Independent a few weeks back. An assortment of well-regarded chefs was asked what they made for tea, back in their penniless days. Tristan Welch said sandwiches toasted in the microwave (I might just pass on that) and Skye Gyngell had grilled sardines (so cheap, and so underrated!). Antonio Carluccio would fry baked beans in olive oil, chilli and spring onion, which sounds just like my idea of comfort-food heaven.

I actually tear these things out of the paper and keep them in a folder. True, I might not always have the discipline to stick to the advice on offer, but my clippings can be incredibly helpful come the final week before payday.

So far as I can remember, I wasn't nearly as enterprising as a student. I certainly had no clippings file, no recipe suggestions. I did, however, have a lot of tinned tuna and a lot of hummus, which might just have got me through.

At any rate, studenthood is particularly on my mind at the moment, not least because my sister is about to complete her first week at Nottingham University. I remember my Freshers' Week with mixed emotions. Most of it was horrible, I think, though naturally you don't dare admit that at the time.

What's more, it was – perhaps ironically – incredibly expensive. When you're out of your element, you always end up spending more: eating on the hop, buying things for convenience, out of necessity. Still, it did the trick. From then on, things could only get better. And, of course, cheaper.

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