5 ingenious ways to survive travelling while being on a student budget

Right now I’m in Prague.  This winter I decided to visit some of the most amazing places to be in the lovely Christmas period:

  • London (as it is 45 minutes away from Essex). I had fun, as seen from the pictures below ( especially at the Winter Wonderland)
    • Prague (where I am today)
    • Vienna (where I’ll be in 2 days’ time)
  • Budapest (where I’ll be in 4 days’ time)

If you think that I’m coming straight back to England, you’re wrong! I have another 3 destinations on my mind:

  • Timisoara (my hometown)
  • Bucharest
  • Belgrade

So, now to tell you how I’m actually affording this!

  1. FLIGHTS! Flying around the world always seemed like a marvellous idea, until you actually see the prices. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a problem.

Usually tickets are the cheapest in the low season and especially just before holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, etc… If you plan your trips around those times and you can score awesome flights! Always go online to check if any of the flying companies have discounts or offers! I got an offer during Black Friday, 10£ return to my home city in Romania. Cheaper than a train to London!


As I said above, in the low season! In Europe (as it is the only continent I’ve visited) it’s really painful to go in the summer time. Everything is expensive in that period of time, and it’s understandable; the weather is nice, there is plenty of free time and everyone is having a blast, why not make a profit out of it? Spring and winter are the two seasons  key to your finances.


The obvious answer would be Hostels! I’m not a big fan, in fact, I have never stayed in one. Why? I’ve always booked an apartment. Wow! That sounds expensive! It’s not.  I’m always using the Booking.com website to get the best deals. I’m always looking around, searching for the places which have at least 70% off.

Last spring I booked an apartment in Budapest and it was massive! The bathroom had so many buttons and options that I spent over 20 minutes trying to figure out how to turn on the water. The original price for that apartment was 270£. I only paid 50£.

ALWAYS BRING A FRIEND! The price for the place you are booking is always going to be divided by the number of people you’re sharing it with. If you’re going with 4 friends, for example, it is cheaper to rent out an apartment.


This is by far the easiest and most common mistake that everybody makes (and I’m not an exception). DO NOT SPEND MONEY ON TAXIS! They are all rip-offs.

Start learning the underground, bus, trams, or whatever public means of transportation they have in your chosen destination. It indeed, takes a while, but it will definitely save you lots and lots of money. My strategy is to always choose an accommodation which is closer to a station that takes you directly to the town centre, because after all, in almost any location, you’re going to spend a lot of time there.


This is the main reason I choose to get an apartment: the kitchen. Almost any apartment that you rent comes with a kitchen, which is almost always equipped with things you need to cook. Another trick which I have been using for a while is checking for supermarkets in the vicinity of the accommodation.  On the plus side, you’re going to taste a bit of the culture of that place you’re visiting, as supermarkets do really tell a lot about the consumer culture of that specific country.

In my last journey, I’ve been to Oslo. I have asked a lot of Norwegian people (due to the multicultural University we have) about decent priced places to eat. They all laughed. When I arrived there I understood why. A cheap lunch was over 20£. One meal. I chose to get my breakfast and dinner from a local bakery and the supermarket. I had a kitchen in my accommodation, so I could actually have fried eggs for the breakfast! Lucky me!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my top tips! I can’t wait to hear about all your experiences!



3 ingredient dinners

Do you ever find yourself staring in horror at your bank account and wonder if someone else has access to your money? And then go through all of your expenses and realise that it was in fact, YOU, who has spent all of your student loan. The biggest chunk of your student loan probably goes towards food. I often wonder how my parents stick to a budget to feed four people every week when I can’t even stick to a budget to feed me.


This is me in second year playing poker with a housemate, using biscuits as poker chips, because biscuits were of higher value than money in our house.

Living away from home for the first time means having to cook for yourself every single day. And sometimes that can get really boring. Often the recipes your mum gives you (in the hopes that you aren’t living off pizza and pot noodles for the whole term), or the ones you find on the internet, require you to have at least seven spices and ingredients that will just never be in a student’s kitchen cupboards. I’ve lost count of the number of recipes that I’ve found that have asked me to use oregano and cumin (pro tip: you don’t need them).

When I was on my year abroad, I lived in catered accommodation, so I knew coming back to Essex I would struggle to get used to cooking for myself 24/7. But I found a solution that would mean I would get the necessary nutrition without breaking the bank (why do all internet recipes require you to spend £20 on one meal?!), or putting in that much effort.

That solution is: 3 Ingredient Dinners

I found that most of the meals I make can be simplified into three basic ingredients, with the option to add extras if I wanted to, so here are some recipes that I use to get by at university, and save myself (and you) some money:


1. Pesto Chicken Pasta:
What kind of student blog would this be if I didn’t include pasta?! This recipe takes less than 20 minutes so it’s handy if you’re in a rush.

Pasta (any kind)
Chicken (although this is optional)

1. Boil the pasta
2. Cook chicken (however you prefer it cooked)
3. Add pesto and chicken to the drained pasta. Mix.
4. Serve

Pesto Pasta

Photo credit to Lesley Chao: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vespere/5789992330/in/photolist-9PDdZY-G3GNu 8dgfhh-66ZrU2-6DtSad-4WMHha-aDdfbB-6CTfKq-25qbg-9vfq1B-59tes7-hwJdiP-UqHhX7-dvD7Za-8dHaGU-bsvSzb-aepaMq-cMSUJW-5ZGd7L-oUW5Mi-aFCRV8-YhYvrG-hVDauC-eCz62P-6oCmRP-bHv16r-gVkbPT-7PdTbE-8fspdk-mys6X1-nS6qtZ-dnkep3-Sv3deb-a53cpN-8AmyvY-8DARs3-XBfmPb-9jgaQi-axiZGR-6PmKKU-7WhXru-86x59H-5ta1TZ-9sKouR-6rrEkA-9zpzR6-aepaPS-pGSU4T-7C4UY8-6oCn7P

2. Easy Chilli Recipe:
I actually found this recipe on the internet, and they weren’t kidding, it was the easiest chilli recipe I had ever found. I like to add optional extras such as mushrooms, celery and sour cream, but the basic recipe is only three ingredients.

Ground beef
Tin of kidney beans
Tin of tomatoes

1. Cook mince (I use quorn mince so timings may vary with beef)
2. Add kidney beans and tomatoes to the mince and let simmer for 10 – 15 minutes
3. Serve with rice, a baked potatoe, nachos, or by itself


Photo credit to William Jones: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fritish/4327085531/in/photolist-7AnrLX-7bRaHa-8GHQmH-9A1r72-7Cbhgh-99955F-ajv96q-5pago8-637R78-Yi5F-22TBw-8R5vAu-8KHCU4-cXSduh-zTXLn-7LsnTs-9u5V5C-72pJWi-Au6XS-g5CSy-6B5rpj-ocdyRE-5p8T8Z-UgvcWL-bDSNXp-8zK8C2-8Q2gtN-7KvmkY-vQ6yA-5p8CqP-4WB9qo-63c6N7-92S83Z-8zNgxL-4G5fyq-2TDYqU-4gsLJ-5oM1ju-8zNgbC-4Aj3g2-g88aHV-9jzc9n-7ArbJU-8nMs8a-bzj7vF-dLqGah-qFJCz-8NbruP-3af71k-cyRrXL

3.Scalloped potatoes with spinach
This sounds really fancy but it’s really simple.

Sauce of your choosing  (I like to use a pasta bake sauce)

1. Peel potatoes and slice into small circles. Cook the spinach as you’re doing so to save time.
2. Use a baking dish and place spinach first on the bottom, layer with potato and repeat
3. Add cheese if you want to. Cook for 15 minutes covered with foil at 180 degrees and then 15 minutes uncovered.


Photo credit to Julia: https://www.flickr.com/photos/juliasalbum/24884462708/in/photolist-DUXnNu-rbQwvA-21fjA1c-ZXxa1G-WYogsm-4fRysw-etEi6z-8tRRdj-7q9ze6-ZH3Be6-8jQNEj-DYhDNQ-bDBsJv-515ULr-fsrQQy-7qdu4J-UxeHZ8-8RCuvs-6i1m64-T8yMu-WNwnW3-CpitJe-9i6HPz-4bYnBt-4ZytwN-7kkEVq-21jpHfP-dZgpzE-5V4SGH-7mQ1Uv-4kDKAW-7kkEWb-eaTau3-7B8iiA-dVyp7s-VAQZvn-6c1zPy-THwe6X-7jcbuj-7vNKDY-SM6FG7-aq1L8a-7igbtj-VwDjK2-Tppzop-fe7DPm-mKUNMt-7Lu3HK-c3qGL1-CpitxH

4. Noodles
This meal is very basic, but you can add loads of optional extras to add more flavour to it.

Hoisin and garlic sauce
Meat of your choice

1. Cook noodles
2. Cook the meat at the same time ( I like to use spinach)
3. Add meat and sauce to your drained noodles. Mix
4. Serve


Photo credit to Yanli: https://www.flickr.com/photos/31542811@N00/1361598697/in/photolist-35jxRB-aBD2ph-4D64RE-eKKcoM-p4v4RY-9mUwKn-9cRhXx-7LWL3s-au1UH1-idEs7S-4d5XgT-2CsKug-8BjR4n-4DsnZM-61zwsB-4rnX6T-8C1abs-cUsmNJ-81Y7VH-SjrKbx-pPEoD8-MucXL-23Gyn-9nRRrw-gj8gU-8KXTeB-6ga3vx-8hoh2q-4dVK83-3Zpuw-a3YfG8-FgaDp-74qke7-nNNDM1-ChSwGh-cvBS6J-aV9bjD-FgaFp-5bybNP-8QCxTx-9MAACv-99xkB8-gfREvw-8WGryp-9hrqjV-dMEG1Z-bD3xH-8D87bJ-8Sr8sd-rvb7d

5. Triple decker brownies

Cookie dough
Brownie batter

1. Use a baking dish and start with the cookie dough making sure it’s spread out evenly in the dish
2. Layer with Oreos
3. Spoon the brownie batter on top, and spread it evenly.
4. Bake for 45 minutes
5. Cut into pieces


Photo credit to Princess: https://www.flickr.com/photos/47337633@N07/5275440950/in/photolist-93b1Ns-4PadCa-7Es6AL-bSmdAr-6rRHDD-8Jfw9p-nwrruV-eetAuT-9jqHff-8W3z1V-5kCCZH-42L98A-eezkdu-eezkcG-3jCEkB-6twz7R-34Gjp-9vmHxt-KSw95-9vmHAp-uFBNu-9TdUfY-2kYZWD-art2sx-aE1SuW-6S2ZnY-gQg4uk-7eTHj9-dm7iuB-9yb22w-eezkau-amCf2w-bj1Pre-9ZFhwx-rLtXKT-4JSVnX-nydgKr-6er8uT-7k2KNf-7aeVt-d5u1uo-5rkJtb-ycB5Z-4x33Rq-47xqRH-5UeDdg-4cwv5x-9yb1Cb-7uxKPC-2be1z9

So there’s five meals and a dessert for one week and together this only cost £13.77!

Bon Appetit!


Turning your passion into a paid profession

Photography has been always one of my biggest passions. Why? I just can’t imagine my world without the viewfinder and the constant struggle of ‘the right lens’.


Since the first time I picked up a cheap point and shoot film camera, a camera which my parents gave me when I was 7 to play around with when I was on a school trip in the countryside of Romania, I knew that it would become a really important factor in my life. After learning that I could take some pretty interesting pictures as a child (being encouraged by both my parents and teachers), my interest in photography grew.

My main interests when I was a child were to get the most out of a situation. Starting from the cheesy sunsets to the smile of my mum; I wanted to capture everything I saw. I was truly fascinated. But I didn’t know that my passion for photography could turn into actually being paid to photograph events.

How did I managed to do that? Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I just looked online at the Students Union job opportunities. I’d seen photographers on campus wearing their SU badges, but I have never thought that they were actually students like myself! I eventually gathered all the courage I had to walk up to a perfect stranger and ask one of the photographers:

Are you a student here?

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Obviously (or not so obviously to me at the time) she answered yes! She was in her third year and I blame my enthusiasm for forgetting her degree (or maybe my loss of memory as I get older and older).

I started filling out my application the moment they were posted on the website, but I now had another crisis – there were 2 different photographer positions:

  • Venues
  • Marketing

The Venues photographer means in a nutshell, shooting all the events that happen in the clubs (SubZero or Base) and even in SU Bar.giphy (3).gif

The Marketing photographer is all about promoting what our amazing Students Union has to offer, starting from the Freshers Fair, Colour Run, Diwali, Chinese New Year, Guy Fawkes Day, all the way to sports! They cover everything that happens in the campus in the day-time.

In the end of I went for the Marketing Photographer role. As I’m studying Media, shooting events which are strongly related to a much more consumer and customer focus atmosphere is both beneficial for my academic knowledge and also for my future career plans too. I’m pleased to say I got the job! I’d done it – I’d turned my passion into a paid profession!

Whatever you’re passionate about, or even if you haven’t found your passion, do not hesitate to become a mighty explorer and discover what’s out there for you! The University of Essex has so much to offer, it has even given me this job as a blogger. Who would not love to blog about their own experiences and earn money from doing so?!

It all depends on you. Don’t stop dreaming. You can actually turn any kind of hobby in something profitable. And the University of Essex will definitely help you in doing so!

And now, let me share some of my favourite pictures I have taken while working for the Students Union, here at the most amazing university! The University of Essex!




All this discussion about photography made me really enthusiastic! I can’t wait to grab my camera and explore the world!

Until next time,


Does my love count as a Christmas present?

My most recent google searches include:

‘Gifts under £10’
‘I have no money, how do I buy Christmas presents?’
‘What organs are worth the most money and the least necessary’

I’m kidding about the last one, but Christmas for students can be very stressful. For most people, Christmas is wonderful; you get to open presents, spend time with your family, and relax after a long year. But for students, the idea of buying Christmas presents fills them with dread. Now that you’ve reached eighteen, you’re expected to buy your own presents, rather than ask your mum to get something for you to scribble your name on. Personally, I know that by the time Christmas rolls around, I’ve barely got enough money to even buy myself a present, let alone presents for my whole family (see google searches above).

However, there’s no excuses in my family. It is the one holiday of the year that my family go all out. My parents especially love Christmas. My mum starts putting the tree up and decorating the house at the end of November, and starts wrapping presents in the beginning of December. And they still write Christmas lists. What this means is that I’ve learnt some things from living with people who are hyped about Christmas as soon as Bonfire night ends.


^My family on November 6th


So for those who still haven’t started Christmas shopping, here are some things to think about before the big day:

The big question you have to ask yourself is: who are you buying for?

If you’re strapped for cash this year, it sounds mean but limit the number of people you’re buying presents for. Some people are really generous over the holidays and buy gifts for lots of people, but as a student you probably can’t do this. If you only want to buy presents for your parents and siblings, you can. A lot of people end up buying gifts for people because they know that they are buying one for them, but often it’s because that person feels the exact same pressure!

The dreaded word: Budget

Some people will have a bigger budget than you this Christmas, and there’s nothing worse than finding out that your friend has spent like £100 on your gift, when you can only spend £10 on them. The best way to avoid this is to set a budget. It saves you money, and there’s less pressure to buy lots of gifts. It also stops me from spending all of my money because like my family, I also get very excited about Christmas.


Being Crafty

If, like me, you grew up watching Art Attack, you’ll know that you can make anything as long as you have some PVA glue to hand. That being said, people often really love homemade gifts because they know that you’ve spent time and effort on making something rather than buying it. For Christmas one year, I made a collage of family photos for my parents, and they loved it more than any of the other presents that we got them. The internet is full of websites with suggestions of homemade gifts

Some ideas I found (and also have used in the past):

Personalised photo frames – parents always like photos, when you’re at university, weirdly, your parents actually miss you
Personalised mugs
Handmade soaps/body scrubs

I want this, but I don’t actually need it (Something I have to remind myself every day)

In my family, we have a rule about Christmas presents: buy people what they want, not what they necessarily need. This rule has actually served me well so far. I know my sister doesn’t need another pair of pyjamas, but I know that she would want them, because she always feels the cold. Usually, people put off buying things that they actually want, because of the things that they actually need. I do this all the time – I want to buy more clothes, but I can’t because I need to be able to eat for the rest of term. People will be delighted if you get them something that they really want that they couldn’t justify buying for themselves.



Christmas should be fun! Presents are only part of the fun of the whole holiday. There’s also the Christmas dinner, the bad jokes, and if you’re like my family, the new board games to play. Don’t feel like you have to bankrupt yourself to buy people gifts. In the end, people will like whatever you buy them because presents are a way of showing someone that you were thinking about them.



Happy holidays!



Your first instalment of student loan: what to do and what not to do

There are numerous exciting moments when starting university: moving in day, first classes, and meeting new people. But perhaps receiving that first instalment of your student loan (and arguably every subsequent instalment) is THE most exciting moment there is.

However with the great first instalment comes great responsibilities, so here are the essential do’s and don’ts that you should know:


(c) thebackbencher.co.uk

DO budget: as boring as it sounds you need to make your money last for the entire term and if you don’t have a part-time job then this is probably the source of funds to pay for those important things. Remember this money is going towards your accommodation, food, books, stationery and socialising- so take that into account.

DON’T spend it all in the first week: Rule number one! Never, ever, ever spend the entire instalment in the first week, not matter how tempting it may be.

DO consider part-time work if you think you need more money: Sometimes the student loan just isn’t going to reach the entire term, so consider supplementing it with part-time work- you’ll find tons of opportunities both on campus and in nearby Colchester.

DON’T worry about tuition fees: The whole tuition fee thing can seem daunting, but don’t worry your first instalment of your student loan does not go towards it- this is handled separately between the university and the student loans company.

DO learn about food: Gone are the days of eating nothing but baked beans and pot noodle as a student. You can now buy good food quick cheaply, so you can eat and live well on a budget. Try shopping around and don’t rely too must on takeaways.

DON’T give into temptation: With the prospect of thousands of pounds at your disposal it is easy to get tempted by pricey clothes, jewellery, technology and the rest- but don’t do it at the risk of leaving yourself short at the end of term.


Good luck and happy spending (or saving!)

My Frontrunners Experience


So it’s coming to the end of my Frontrunners summer position in the marketing and student recruitment department. So this will be my very last post for the I AM ESSEX blog, I’m sure you’re absolutely distraught. So here’s a little rundown of my Frontrunners position, what I’ve gained from doing it and why being a frontrunner is a brilliant choice for furthering your career.

First of all, what is Frontrunners?

Frontrunners is a really great scheme at Essex, that essentially takes on students in various roles to give them an opportunity to work in a professional environment. There’s loads of useful training to be had, and a huge span of sectors to work in. For me, Frontrunners was perfect because it meant I could get some invaluable work experience in the marketing sector while still being on campus, so I could stay at our uni house, do some dissertation work in my free time (AKA dossing off and playing Xbox), and continue to go to the uni gym.

What I got up to:


I’d say the most consistent thing I’ve done  is write these blogs, as someone who wants to follow a career in creative copywriting, it’s been super useful for coming up with content and writing for a specific audience. Actually being paid to rant about my opinion on things on the internet, that’s the dream!


Who knew you could get paid to muck around on Instagram? Ok, it’s not just scrolling avocado toast photos but in my time as a frontrunner, I’ve been given the opportunity to contribute to the Essex Instagram, in the form of new campaigns, posts and Instagram stories. I even got to spend the day getting my face glitter painted and drinking mocktails in the name of work for an open day Insta story.


As a creative person, I was really excited to get stuck in with any kind of artistic things I could. I have been able to photograph a couple of events including a PhD conference and the 2017 graduation.

So Much More

I’m so glad I applied to Frontrunners, it has given me the opportunity to give so many different things a go, from proof reading, to learning more about social media, to capturing the perfect boomerang on insta. The work is nice and varied and I have come away with a lot more understanding of the sector I want to go into. Plus (I’m not sure if this is actually a good thing) there are always great snacks in the office.

Anyway, signing out, thanks for reading!

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How working as a Student Ambassador can enhance your university life


Student Ambassadors are current students of the university who help  to promote the university to prospective students. It involves working at events such as campus tours, open days, visit days, and campus visits. This blog will give you some ideas as to why becoming a student ambassador can be a great idea alongside your studies!

It gives you an income

You get paid an hourly rate as a student ambassador and the money gets paid into your bank account on a monthly basis. It is a really handy job if you need some extra cash and want to work on a more flexible basis. However, working flexibly does not mean that you will earn money every month.

You can add it to your CV as experience

Working as a student ambassador helps to build your confidence, you are likely to have to speak about your life as a student at Essex. There are loads of other skills that you can develop like organisation, team work, time management and communication. These are all great to add to your CV and show employers that you have demonstrated them within a working environment.

You can decide which events you want to work at

There is an online system where you can apply for the events you want to work at and then the ambassadors are picked in a fair way to make sure that everyone gets an equal chance to work. This is useful because it fits around your timetable and studies. However, you have to remember that it is not a fixed pay and you only get paid for the work that you do!

It is a great way to show prospective students what a great time you are having at Essex

If you are enjoying your time at Essex, then it is a great way to share your experiences with others, and it could well sway their choices about going to uni. Younger people may not really understand the university format, therefore to hear about it from a current student is likely to inform them of what it is all about!

To get involved, student ambassadors are usually recruited in the autumn term and will be advertised on careers hub.

Thrifty Studenting AKA Improvising Plates Out of Cardboard Because You’re a Terrible Person


Let’s set the scene, you’re a month deep into your student loan, and after buying a fresh pair of creps, an entire new wardrobe and all of the pretentious coffees ever, you’re broke. Student life can be pricey, especially when the nights out get heavier and the desire to order takeaway in place of real food gets stronger. Here’s some ways to save that dollar.

All the discounts.

There’s a huge amount of shops that offer student discount, and you don’t necessarily have to have an NUS extra card, a lot of places will take your university card, or for online, Unidays is a life saver. Everywhere I go, whenever I am spending money, I always ask if there’s student discount, even if it feels silly, sometimes you are pleasantly surprised and get a little bit off.

Shared Netflix/ whatever you watch on. 

This could be hard now Netflix are limiting the amount of people that can watch at one time, but if you live in a house with your mates, and you all watch TV together, maybe consider all going in on a collective streaming account, save paying for an individual one each.

Do you actually need that Starbucks though?

I’m totally guilty of this, you get into your routine, lecture then Starbucks, day in day out. Granted, few can resist the pull of a  pumpkin spice latte, topped with whipped cream, but yikes, how much is that costing you?! Coffee isn’t cheap when you buy it everyday, if you need your fix, go for a flask, which holds more coffee, which is a total bonus.  It may seem like a tiny amount of money to grab a cappuccino at a coffee shop, but add that up, it soon starts to mount.  

Supermarket Sweep

Those little yellow stickers are like a glowing beacon of cheap brilliance as you walk down the aisle, the supermarket reduced counter is a great source for food, the reductions are great especially for things like meat and fish, I tend to stock up on seafood and freeze it.

For food in your fridge, I’ll leave this to your judgement, but for me, sell by dates are for the weak, nose test it and you’re good to go. (I am partially joking about this!) However, if you’ve got a bag of spinach which is still perfectly crisp and fresh that went out yesterday, you’re not gonna die if you use it in your dinner.

What are you doing buying name brand anything you lunatic!?! Supermarket own brand isn’t as bad as you think (maybe not the vodka.) Seriously, name brand food is for Oxbridge students and when you go home to your parent’s house for the weekend. I’m like an own brand bloodhound, that’s how you get when you’re a thrifty student, the packaging may not be as pretty but I promise, the majority of stuff tastes the exact same! In the case of instant noodles, Tesco’s ones are actually better, I swear!

Make gifts, don’t buy them

Christmas and birthdays are so damn pricey, my personal method of avoiding this cost is by hating everyone which makes my birthday list substantially lower, but for those of you that insist on being decent human beings and upkeeping friendships, while you’re at uni, making gifts in the form of food is always a winner. This is a great way to charm elderly relatives, especially my very old-fashioned nan, who up until this point was probably losing hope in her unhomely, terrible at cookery, no desire to get married and have children granddaughter, I made her fudge, and a little piece of her faith in me as a ‘proper woman’ was restored (let’s ignore how ridiculously 1950’s and outdated that sounds.) Plus you can totally eat some as you make it. Fudge is great and really really easy, I used old coffee jars, ribbon and pieces off of Christmas cards to package and managed to make it look like it was from some fancy artisanal farm shop. For friends, who should appreciate you for your ‘quirky’ flair, wrap their gifts up in tin foil, who buys wrapping paper? I’m not in my 40’s yet, that’s far too responsible.

Being Super Tight/ I’m The Worst 

Save water and washing up time and energy

Ok get ready, because this blew my tiny mind, when you buy crisps, push the bottom of the bag up inside itself, it makes a freakin’ bowl… wuuuut?! My housemate changed my life with that, not even exaggerating.

Also, if you’re making food for yourself, why use a plate when you can just eat from the saucepan, it tastes like decadence, just put a mat down and eat that pasta straight out of the pan, like a maverick. Same applies for baking trays, chips and chicken nuggets for a naughty tea? Go on, eat it off the tray, you’re a student, you have no shame.

Re-purposed cardboard is life 

Why would you do that? How many pizzas have you had? I use a lot of cardboard because I paint a lot, rip up that pizza box, boom! You’ve got yourself a palette.

Old cereal boxes double up as plates when washing up just feels a little bit beyond your skill set (for flat, dry food like toast, nothing rolly or runny like peas or ice cream obviously, but if you can’t work that out, you probably shouldn’t be at uni.)

If you’re even more of a money scavenger and you ebay like me, buying packaging for your sells can be expensive, I once sent an order off to a buyer in a re-purposed quavers box which had blown into my garden, that’s thrift right there, I’m not paying money for cardboard!

These are just a few things that you can consider doing, if you’re willing to stoop as low as me to save a penny.



Books, reading lists and everything in-between

Books shelf

I “ummed” and “ahhed” for ages whilst deciding what I should write about this week, then a friend sent me a Snapchat picture (yeah thats right, I have Snapchat- I don’t really know how to use it but I have it!)

My friend had just been to Wivenhoe and discovered not one but two bookshops. To be fair, it is our own ignorance that we never ventured far into Wivenhoe to have a good look around- which is highly recommended by the way. As a result, for the past three years knowledge of these bookshops had completely escaped me and looking back I wish I had know about them. It would have saved me a considerable amount of time and money in getting books for my course.

And these are the questions that I have been asked on numerous occasions: What books do I need? Where can I find them?

Whilst I only really know about this from a literature student perspective, most of the information I provide about reading lists and book hunting is still relevant to most subjects.

Reading Lists

Every module will have a reading list of some sort. These will be the books that you require for that particular module and are often split into primary reading lists (texts you must read) and secondary reading lists (texts which you might find helpful).

Reading lists can normally be found on the module directory pages: https://www.essex.ac.uk/modules/ or on Moodle. If you can’t find any sort of reading list contact the module director or your departmental office.

New Books

Nothing beats a new book and these are often very easy to find. Of course you have suppliers such as Waterstones (our on campus bookshop, who stock most of the stuff that can be found on the primary lists- though books can also be ordered in); Wivenhoe Bookshop is an independent shop a short distance from campus which provides a friendly service. Of course you also have other options such as online retailers like Amazon.

NOTE: Some modules for departments such as law will recommend particular editions of texts and it is important to get these editions so that your book corresponds with everyone else. So it is in your best interest to buy the edition they ask for.

Second Hand Books

This is the best way to get books on a budget and there are plenty of options available to you. As part of the weekly Thursday Market in square 3 there is a second hand book stall which often has relevant books for different courses.

In addition you have the Colne Bookshop on the High Street in Wivenhoe and numerous charity shops in Colchester- perhaps the ones of note are the row of shops opposite Wilko (the number 61 and 62 bus will take you there from campus). In these cases you’ll find it quite common that past students on different modules will off-load their old books at these second hand stores. If you are lucky you may be able to pick up the entire terms books in one shop!

Online sites such as AbeBooks are also really useful.


Library Books

An even more thrifty way to get books is to get them from the library. The on campus Albert Sloman Library will stock the majority of books on reading lists as well as extra and supplementary reading.

HOWEVER be careful as the number of texts available can vary greatly and if demand is high you’ll find it difficult to get hold of certain texts. People can also recall books which means that you will have one week in which to return it, so it is best to avoid getting out popular books if you can. This is not a good option if you like to write in your books!

Additionally there are also the libraries in Wivenhoe, Greenstead and Colchester Town which are run by Essex County Council and are a free to sign up to.

Online and e-books

Depending on your department/ module you may be able to access what is known as a “reader”- which is an online document that has been created by module director and often contains all the reading you need.

Otherwise there is also the option to use the library catalogue to find out if there are any e-books or online journals available- and at least with an ebook you won’t have other students desperate to recall it!

A student’s guide to uncovering cheap holidays!

Although deadlines and Uni life probably dominates your life at the moment (*sigh*), summer is now only a few months away!


And if you’re anything like me then you wanna make use of the big break by going to somewhere new for a few days.

With cheap European flights and affordable accommodation aplenty, why not? It doesn’t even have to be that difficult or break the bank either…

Plan ahead!

Whilst last minute deals do exist, they’re often unreliable and very hard to come by. Therefore, book as soon as you can whilst most people haven’t even thought about booking theirs.

Having something booked now also gives you something to look forward to as well! Never underestimate the motivation that a holiday gives you to finish off your essay!

Finding a destination


Personally, this can often be the most difficult decision! I have so many places on my “to see list” that I have trouble just picking one.

If you’re stuck for ideas, then ask your friends for recommendations. Odds are that they’ve already been to some awesome places and can give you some great tips.

But if you’re thinking, “But Perry, won’t you share some pearls of destination wisdom?” then yes, yes I will! Take a look at European city breaks like Prague, Berlin or Budapest. You can probably cover the basics in a few days and depending where you go it can be very cheap.


The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Or if relaxing with a drink by the beach is more your thing then check out Croatia, Bulgaria or Portugal.



An awesome day on the beach in Portugal

Be flexible with your dates

In terms of flights and accommodation, depending on demand, prices go up and down and can multiply during peak times. These times are typically at the weekend and in the school holidays.

Easiest way around this is to be flexible if you can and look at the prices for a range of dates.

I did hear once that Tuesday is the cheapest day to travel as it avoids people going away for the weekend or on mid-week breaks. I don’t know how true that is in this day and age, but it might be worth considering!

When looking at prices, go undercover


Now I’m not saying go into Thomas Cook wearing a balaclava demanding cheap flights to Benidorm, but if you’re researching online then it’s important that you remain unseen.

The reason for this is that as soon as booking sites see that you’re scouting around for holidays they know that you’re hooked. Their thinking is that you’re probably going to be booking what you’re looking at or something similar eventually. Therefore, sometimes they up the prices when you go to book later on.

A bit sneaky I know! But you can prevent this super easily!

Just use the internet in your browser’s InPrivate browsing mode and clear your browser’s cookies when you’ve finished looking.


Skyscanner is your new BFF!

skyscanner.pngSkyscanner is an absolute godsend when booking your flights and I can’t recommend it enough!

If you haven’t heard of the website before, it checks a range of websites and airlines to find the cheapest flights based on your destination and dates.

A lot of the time, the best options it comes up with come from places you wouldn’t have even thought to have looked!

Look at accommodation carefully

come fly with me.jpg

Although you’re probably not going to be spending that much time in there, a good place to stay can sometimes make or break a stay.

There’s no need to be overcautious but just be sure to have a look at a few TripAdvisor reviews before you book anything. This will give you a good unbiased overview of what the place is like and whether you should book or avoid.

Give Air BnB a shout!


A recent phenomenon in travel is staying in a stranger’s house in an Air BnB property.

Just as if you’re booking a hotel, you can go on the website and book a room or even a whole property owned by a local.

Often the owners will meet you when you arrive and can give you a local’s view of the place and some killer tips too.

Definitely something to consider if you’re up for something a little bit different!

All that remains now is get booking, get excited and go out there exploring!