Possibly the scariest thing about becoming “independent”, or worse, one of those “adults”, is having complete and utter financial control of your life. It might seem like a riot at first, being able to buy whatever you want, and the pile of beautiful yet impossibly painful skyscraper heels in my wardrobe is the perfect reminder of that. Paying for stuff yourself does make you feel all-growed-up, until you realise that you have to pay for literally everything.
There’s a conversation that every student household has once a winter, which ironically often gets quite heated. The Great Radiator Debate causes plenty of intense discussion; do you have yours on yet? How many hours a day? Did you know that she had it on ALL DAY when she was the only one in? It takes every student simultaneously aback- we have to pay extortionately to be warm. Not only that, our landlords are sending us chirpy reminders that if we don’t have the heating on and the pipes burst, they’ll be more than happy to charge us the repair fee. I blame this and solely this for the rise in Onesies.
And water! You have to pay for water! And it’s bloody expensive, especially when you consider it literally pours freely from the sky daily. When I received my first ever water bill, I felt like sodding it all and just setting up buckets outside. And License Fees! I’ve basically been watching any old rubbish on BBC3 just to make sure I get my moneys worth. And Council Tax! Which, technically, as a student, I am exempt from- but is still a terrifying prospect. I asked for a food hamper for Christmas, and that tin of mackerel is probably the most useful thing I received.
Now, the actual “adults” amongst you may be rolling your eyes gleefully at my pitiful naivety/immaturity, but please spare me. I am in the grips of being in an overdraft, and am currently resenting every outgoing that isn’t iTunes or H&M related.
The first time I went into my overdraft was an accident. I spent about 76p too much in ADSA on my lunch, and having realised this, rang my mum in a pure panic begging her to lend me a quid so I could get out. I don’t know if I was expecting Natwest to turn up and demand I pay them back immediately or else, but everything I knew about overdrafts summed up to one thing: they’re A Bad Thing.
Now, mourning the 76p stage, and coming out of the notoriously pricey festive season, any talk of money depresses me. Rent due? Oh fabulous. Next gas bill? Wonderful. January Sales? You enjoy yourself. I’ll be over here eating my mackerel on stale toast, waiting patiently for my next payday and Student Loan instalment.
Student debt is an inevitable outcome of going to University, I had been warned. But I’ve always been excellent at handling my money. Maybe I thought I’d surpass the whole scary financial aspect. More likely, though, I just forgot to count in bloody bills when designing up my Christmas budget. And now I’m in fear of checking my bank balance, and enormously grateful that Natwest aren’t nearly half as threatening as I originally anticipated. It’s hard to tell who I’m more in awe of; the friends who are sailing through life without even sniffing at their overdrafts, or the friends who are in much more debt and are breezing through their bank statements with a casual laugh and blasé shrug of the shoulders.
I accept that I’m being a wimp about the whole thing. In fact, I’m glad I’m being so pathetic. Maybe it’s a sign of future sensible fiscal decisions. I’d like to treat it as a bit of a learning curve; the all important life lesson of How to Not Spend Money You Don’t Have. Sounds like a self-help book title. Sounds like one I could have done with reading.