Saving Cuts Through University Accommodation

Cutting costs - background

My moving out / halls experience.
Summed up: Scary, but one of the best decisions of my life.

My good experience at the University of Exeter is linked to the first year halls I was in. I can’t stress enough about the importance of applying to a halls that is suited to your personality, needs and budget.

Choosing the right accommodation:

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Catered / Self Catered?
I stayed in self catered halls – simply because I didn’t like the idea of eating greasy canteen food twice a day.  I also liked the freedom of cooking when and what I want. For example, me and the girls I lived with had a habit of chilling and working in the kitchen and making potato similes at god knows what hour as a snack. With catered accommodation, you have set meal times and if you miss them there’s nothing you can do apart from eating out.

It is also important to remember that in 2/3 year, you will most likely move out of your halls and live in a house. Catered options are not available here, so you have to learn to cook at some point.

I am definitely no chef, but cooking for myself and learning what tastes I like and how to make the dishes I like will help me for the future.  Thank you to my mum for actually answering the phone to me every day during the first month of uni and teaching me how to cook over the phone!

Although I could have learnt to cook back at home, I did it when I moved out for various reasons:

  • I don’t have a choice but to cook, otherwise I’ll starve (I would never starve – food is on my mind 24/7).
  • I am surrounded by those in the same position, and we could teach each other.
  • My friends make cake all the time so I get to eat it (Thanks Emily, Rachel & Anna).
  • Believe it or not, it is not all pot noodles and take aways. Whilst at university I have never eaten a ready made meal or a pot noodle. It is not hard to cook for yourself if you get in the right routine.
  • You can explore yourself. Many of my friends turned vegetarian or vegan during their time at uni, simply because they had the opportunity to cook for themselves and take their diet into their own hands.

How to save money in self-catered halls:

By cooking for youself, you will slowly learn what the essentials are and just stick to that. When I first started university my food shops cost nearly £40 a week, whereas now they stay around £15 – £20. The harsh reality is, you can’t afford all the snacks you take for granted at home, so you just stick to buying the bare minimal.

You can also save money because unlike catered accommodation –  you can cook whenever you want, there is no need to get a take out.

There is also the advantage of making yourself lunch for the next day or saving the leftovers in the fridge!

Ensuite / shared bathroom?
When applying for accommodation, all my choices included an ensuite, but the accommodation I was allocated didn’t. When I first found out I was devastated, the thought of sharing a bathroom with random people scared and I simply did not want to do it.

By the end of the year, I did not mind at all sharing a bathroom. Everyone at university is on different schedules, so there was never a queue for the bathroom. Not only that, but everyone is more respectful in a shared bathroom and the bathroom is cleaned twice a week.

Accommodation’s with a shared bathroom normally have a sink in their room, so you can still carry out all the essentials (brushing teeth, makeup etc) in your room, which frees up a lot of the bathroom time.

If you are more worried about cost than luxury, find accommodation with a shared bathroom.

Benefits of sharing a bathroom:

  1. Accommodation price is lower.
  2. You have a communal cleaner – in ensuites, you have to clean your own bathroom.
  3. You share the toilet paper cost.

These two simple, but important choices will significantly reduce your accommodation costs.

My accommodation at Exeter.
I was allocated accommodation in Brunel Close, St David’s. This accommodation was never on my list (in fact, I didn’t even know it existed and cried my eyes out when I found out that’s where I was allocated). But after spending a year in the accommodation I didn’t want to leave.

St David’s is not your typical student halls, it is actually a house with 3 floors, 6 rooms, 2 bathrooms and 1 kitchen / sitting room.

There was something unique about my experience at St David’s, the “open door” policy with my neighbours. We met during fresher’s week, and thought the year it was the norm to just leave the back door open and walk into each other’s kitchens to socialise.

This was really nice because at university you can sometimes feel very isolated and lonely. It’s hard to explain how it feels when you first move out. Although it was exciting, it is a big change. You no longer have your family always making noise and moving around – it is just you in your tiny room.

Although you are never alone, your flat mates and friends are always around, when you are sat in your room working or watching a film it can feel lonely.  At the same time, this is why I loved my university room. It is the one space where you have privacy and comfort.

It is for these reasons why it is really important to design your room however you want – you will most likely be spending a large amount of time there.

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