And Alex Said: Cash

26 October 2002

Column 3: Cash, 26th October 2002

Being a student is all about coping with a small budget, and if you’re especially thrifty, you can usually stretch out a year’s student loan to cover your expenses in London for about three weeks.

As a very old man once mumbled to me when I asked him for financial advice, “look after the penis, and the pandas will look after themselves”. I don’t know what he meant either, and it cost me my job at the local zoo, but perhaps he was telling me it was a good idea to save money wherever I can (and not, as I thought, to expose myself in the penguin enclosure).

So, how to stem the flow of cash from your wallet into the outside world? First, get your food expenditure down to a minimum. Vegetables are cheap. I bought an onion the other day. I got home and looked at the receipt, and it cost 8p. Now, on its own, that wasn’t a very nice meal at all, and I probably should have bought some indigestion tablets to go with it, but at least it hardly cost me anything.

Second, scrimp on rent by living in a rat-infested cesspool. Being London, this means you could have had a fifty-bedroom palace in Leeds for the same amount, but try not to worry. You can blow all that hard-saved cash by drowning the sorrows of your miserable existence down the pub. Excellent.

Of course, poverty breeds crime, which is probably why I was plagued by theft when I was in halls. I was particularly distressed by the loss of four Cornish Pasties. When I noticed my milk was going missing, I devised a cunning plan.

No doubt several of you are also experiencing milk loss, so do what I did: wait until you’ve only got a few centimetres of milk left and dilute it with water until you’ve got half a bottle full. This way you don’t end up wasting much real milk, and it looks pretty much the same. Next, take your 1kg tub of table salt and pour as much in as you can be bothered to. Shake it up, and voila. If you’ve put enough salt in, even a splash in some tea will be heartily disgusting. The only thing left to do is tempt your milk thief, and there is nothing more tempting to somebody who is looking to steal some milk than a big sign attached to some milk, saying “PLEASE DO NOT STEAL MY MILK”. So, try that. No need to wait around – you should be able to hear the retching from your bedroom.

Of course it’s not just students who face financial hardship – the recent announcement of the plan for top-up fees shows Imperial is on a diet of Tesco Value Beans too. The rector thinks the answer is charging students more, but here’s a crazy idea – why doesn’t College spend less? If it means cutting out a few lectures, so be it. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.