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

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick