Austerity Measures

Edinburgh's "Grand Canyon"

Edinburgh’s “Grand Canyon”

The following blog post is likely to devolve into a list of ‘First World Problems’…for which of course I apologise profusely. Still, it has been an interesting couple of weeks that I want to talk about…

Back in February I had to make a snap decision. Did I want to accept a part-time job offer that would give me (a) the opportunity to relocate back to Edinburgh (b) my financial & domestic independence back (since I’d been living with my parents whilst job-seeking) (c) an end to the damn JSA malarky as chronicled in ‘Adventures in Unemployment’? Despite the fact that (d) the job advertised itself as averaging 15 hours per week on the minimum wage, which would cover little more than my rent (e) I had no defined plan for increasing my income? The abstract notions of ‘independence’ & ‘Edinburgh’ won out over practicalities very quickly.

Luckily I managed to fix myself up with freelance work pretty quickly after I resumed life in the Scottish capital. On paper [Income > Expenditure]. I sussed out pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be making huge profits during the following months…but to me that didn’t matter.

Then a made a series of what I can only describe as bad lifestyle choices.


I’m not the sort of person who takes pleasure in cooking. I like buying lunches from cafes and sitting in coffeeshops drinking double-espressos.  I don’t have many expenses since I don’t take much pleasure in shopping, either.

If you’re working a part-time minimum wage job, it shouldn’t come as a revelation to you that sit-in double espressos and Large Mochas, Mosque Kitchen curries and panninis with salads take a large chunk out of your earnings.

On the other hand I am planning big for someone renting a single room on a run-down council estate. Not only do I have to relocate myself to the USA over the summer (visa fee, plane tickets, trip to US Embassy in London, etc) but I’m planning to qualify as a Summer Mountain Leader UK in July. That task has been on my New Years Resolutions list  for multiple years…yet I didn’t seem to have the momentum to go ahead and book the assessment course. Well, if I dont’ do it this summer when I have a free month it is unlikely to ever occur. Mountain Leader UK Assessment course requires a couple of hundred pounds.

Finance-wise, although my [Income > Expenditure] on paper, in reality I’m employed on a zero-hour contract (so nobody is obliged to give me any hours of work per week if there’s a labour surplus) with a freelance position tied to employer demand. The freelance work is invoice-only – when I submit the invoice there is going to be a delay processing it, with an uncertainty margin of several working days. Even the standard employment isn’t as regular as I would like: nearly £100 of my work was accidentally missed off last month’s payslip, then because  of the Bank Holidays around Easter there was a delay to the otherwise ASAP-repayment. So…not only are my hours variable, but so is the date I get paid for them.

Given the circumstances, I went ahead and made two rather bad decisions. I renewed my membership to a  professional organisation without realising that the membership renewal wasn’t due for a couple of months anyway. I paid the deposit for the ML Assessment hastily because I feared the course would soon book up (hindsight & evidence suggests I could have waited a few more weeks and still been alright). In neither circumstances did I think about (i) how much spare money this would leave in my bank account (ii) when the next payment would top-up said account, given the margins of delay highlighted above.

The consequences? Well, in the March – April period I have accumulated over 2 weeks’ worth of living with >£10 available in my bank account waiting for the next payent to come in (…and the payment being delayed). Luckily I’d paid my rent and got enough food at home – but I lost my freedom of choice. If I wanted lunch I couldn’t eat out. I couldn’t pass a couple of hours pleasantly in a coffeeshop. I couldn’t buy a newspaper if I was bored. Surviving on £5 “disposable income” for the whole week was fine, but I needed to buy a £14 train fare in 5 days’ time. Waiting for the money was deeply stressful.


It was probably a lesson I needed to learn: think before you spend.

I dug out my thermos flask and took instant coffee to drink after work, instead of running to the coffeeshop for a £3 beverage.

I signed up for a load of Psychology/Lingustics/Informatics research experiments. Run by undergrads, PhD students and researchers at the University, these offer £3-10 for 30min- 1hr for subject participation. Given that most of my income seems to be spent in those £5 or £10 lumps, it seemed a good way to get disposable cash flowing.

I wrote out a series of clearer monthly budgets, identifying not only my likely [Income vs. Expenditure], but factoring in the dates when the money would come in and when I’m going to make large payments.  Then budgetting strictly and accordingly.


So yeah, I’ve had a month or so filled with non-adventure and self-induced worry…but I hope I’ve learned from it. Looking forward to when my PhD starts and I get a regular fortnightly payment for graduate student earnings….

4 thoughts on “Austerity Measures

  1. Pingback: Ghosts in the City | Standrewslynx's Blog

  2. Pingback: Things To Forward To When Starting The PhD (Pt 1) | Standrewslynx's Blog

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