Live on £53 per week? Try that on a student loan, Iain...

Iain Duncan Smith has been lambasted for suggesting it's possible to live in £53 per week. If he wants a real challenge, suggests Alex Jackson, he should try surviving on just a student loan

In a couple of weeks, we students will be able to stop the thrifty spending and strict budgeting.

At last, the next instalment of our student loans has lined our pockets and topped up our bank accounts with endless fresh amounts of virtual money. As soon as the ominous ‘OD’ disappears from your cashpoint display, a world of leisure opportunities awaits: the doors of Jack Wills and Hollister are all the more appealing, the offers on Jagerbombs at Vodka Revolution instantly appear to be incredibly good value, and funds for a drunken sports tour, brimming with banter, are at last secured.

Budgeting is something that students easily endure without fear, their next loan a glimmering promise of free money: £1,581 per week on average.

Excuse me, I mean to say per term.

A pittance

My termly allowance, which has to last me four months, roughly equates to the amount Iain Duncan Smith pockets in a week on his ministerial salary, meaning that my budget is just shy of £100 a week, or around £14 a day, which is difficult enough at double what Duncan Smith boasts he can manage on.

When the money first floods in most excitable youngsters can be seen running off to pay that overdue library fine, stocking up on teabags that aren’t a budget brand and generally gallivanting around the town centre half-daring to dream of affording those second-hand clothes hidden at the very back of the charity store. Or hell, actually having that haircut.

Soon enough, however, the flush oasis becomes a dried-up puddle, leaving university goers moored in the middle of a desert. Perilous mountains of books need be bought on that dwindling budget, food has to be factored into the equation, and funds even need to stretch to clothes.

I’d say that I am reasonably tight with money whilst food shopping, yet I’ll spend an average of £30 a week replenishing the food cupboard, and taking stock of what I can eat and when to get by.

Then there are bills to cover. Internet, gas, electric, water, TV. The economy of a large student house means these come to just £10 for seven days usage, but it is still a significant 20 per cent of what Duncan Smith believes is a plausible sum to live on.

Then, put on a taxi to town and back along with two drinks, and your £53 budget is blown. That hardly supports the leisure time for which students are renowned.

Subsistence living

As a student, it's harder and harder to stay afloat. You’re alive, but you’re not living. In the turmoil of the economic climate, the thrifty student is learning a valuable life skill; perfecting their ability to shop wisely and live within their means, perhaps the most useful life-skill.

Bids to appear upwardly mobile alongside university, such as being involved in sports clubs to boost your profile, purchasing suits for interviews, and having just a mid-range phone, mean that the burden is impressive to behold. These items are no longer luxuries, but necessities.

Students are navigating a minefield of potential outlays in order to better themselves. I have just undertaken two weeks of work experience to the detriment of my bank account. Travel to and around the capital close to the £150-mark alone. We're learning that a degree is not enough of testament to our dedication. You have to speculate to accumulate, and students shell out far in excess of the ‘liveable’ £53 a week to make themselves stand out.

And of course, there's the rent. I pay £68 a week in rent (which is an extremely reasonable sum), blowing the welfare minister’s entire budget instantly. My personal weekly allowance rests at £30 after rent, just enough for food and not a lot else.

Perhaps Duncan Smith’s declaration was all an ill-judged April Fool’s Day joke. But, then again, if I could file my alcohol consumption under expenses, I suppose I could live on £53 a week too.

Alex Jackson is a third year English Literature undergraduate at York University. You can follow him on Twitter here

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Junior Developer - Cirencester - £29,000

£25000 - £29000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have be...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Data Analyst - Essex - £25,000

£23500 - £25000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Data analyst/Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Account Manager

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Account Manager is r...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Manager / Sales Executive

£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Account Man...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us