Tab Tries – Living Well Within Your Means
KATIE MAIR’s task was to live off £3 a day for three days. Read how she got on here.
The context: Getting horrid lairy drunk for Halloween is Not A Good Idea. Being crushingly hungover, newly single and pretty phlegmy, I am particularly prone to rash comfort purchases (Yazoo milkshakes, crop tops, miscellaneous charity shop homeware, etcetera). I want to go directly to Sainsbury’s and spend £40 straight up, purely on spicy cheese and rum and rice puddings, but I cannot. This is going to be hard.
11.35am – Library. Unless I get Skittles within the next four minutes I’ll probably die. Get to vending machine and read ‘Out Of Order’ 18 times before coming to terms. Soul-destroying, but do save 60p.
1pm – Lunch. Savvy choices, weak appetite and vegetarianism mean I spend just £1.30.
2.17pm – Overwhelming desire to spend all the money in my bank account on fleecy blankets, Bella magazine and Nesquick. Disconnect myself from the wireless network to put safe virtual distance between my devious fingers and eBay’s wondrous treasures, but cannot get those vinyl panda stickers out of my mind.
15.32pm – Spend 50p on tea. No milk, but could not care any less – I just made a whole 10p from the coin rejection. Yes! The small victories.
6.30pm – Dinner in college. Spend £1.40 on ‘chef’s special’ (ominous) because hunger and George Eliot have displaced any of my maths skills. £1.30 + £1.40 + 50p – 10p = £3.10, obviously. Idiot.
7pm – Back in room, feeling sad about lack of basic numeracy. Find inexplicable quantity of cash and a lollipop in pocket of yesterday’s shorts. Endure grim flashback to last night’s Gardies. Eat lollipop. Stroke tenners fondly and then put them in my drawer. Three days, my little orange pals.
8pm – Watch last night’s X Factor-free entertainment. Wish Rihanna hadn’t done a performance with meringues. Really want a meringue now. And don’t even like meringue.
9pm – Go to ‘baking in the JCR’. Nobody is there. At all. Consider stealing a large bag of salt and a baking tray, but begin to worry that relative poverty is giving me klepto tendencies. Someone has naively left two massive bars of Galaxy on a bookshelf. Yes, say it. Bad person. Did leave one, though, so only half evil.
Total spent: £3.10
10.15am – Sidle up to counter in Sidgwick buttery. Take four UHT milks. See girl next to me take so many sachets of sugar that I nearly contract diabetes through my eyes. Feel absolutely no remorse about taking four more milks. Leave immediately, pockets full of long-life dairy.
10.35am – Free cough medicine from nurse, score. Tempted to say ‘a lovely coffee and some frozen yoghurt’ when she asks if there is anything else I need, but refrain.
12pm – Should send some of The X’s belongings home, but can’t afford postage. Sure he can live two more days without Get Him To The Greek. Tit.
1.15pm – Sad and ill, so lunch= 60p. Bargain.
6pm – Formal at college, so have to cook. Already have basics in my cupboard for some kind of veg-chilli improvisation, so head to Sainsbury’s to get rest of the ingredients. Answer, ‘but I genuinely don’t,’ to a homeless man who asks me if I have any spare change. He looks furious. Decide that ten packets of Quavers at £2.29 do not a balanced meal make. Instead, do superb shopping: everything for £1.49. Possibly the only person ever to request ’20p of Red Leicester’ at the deli.
6.30pm – In a beautiful twist of fate, I see the same guy, he asks the same question and I give him the rest of today’s budget, because now it is officially ‘spare’. What’s that, God? Heaven’s missing an angel?
8.18pm – Eat a bit of that Galaxy I Robin Hooded from the JCR. Halo tarnished.
9.00am – consider ‘Waterbix’ for breakfast (Pauper’s Weetabix; water on Weetabix in the microwave), but realise I have porridge oats. Thank God. Eat porridge, go to lecture
1pm – Swing past Fudge Kitchen for a sample. Make cut-throat U-turn immediately after receiving freebie.
3.30pm – Turns out mathematical ineptitude has its benefits: got quantities so wrong last night that I can eat my leftovers for lunch and spend £0.
4.45pm – Nearly cry in supervision. Desperately desire Smarties and pillows, but settle for a free coffee instead. Cheers, Dr Leo.
6.45pm – Cook up bizarre soup in effort to conserve today’s £3 for tonight’s swap. Fill plastic bottle with 50% left-over Glen’s and 50% pink squash. This will mean I drink for free. It also means I might die. Willing to take that risk.
7.20pm – Eschew taxi with everyone in favour of a bracing walk, alone, to Christ’s. £0 spent so far.
8.50pm – Fined for ‘breaking up with boyfriend at weekend’. Down 2 fingers of smuggled Devil Ribena in a public admission of personal loss. Possibly an all-time low.
9pm – Seriously consider spanking entire day’s budget on bourgeois snacks at Slug and Lettuce. Tired of explaining that I am projecting an anorexic-mental vibe because I am conducting a high-brow social experiment. Try to reassure self that being The Mental Drunk swigging from a sports cap is actually incredibly alluring (‘Wow, who’s the one with the hungry eyes? Did she just steal my garlic bread? Would love to do her’, etcetera).
10.45pm – Request extremely loudly that everybody heads to Cindies immediately because it’ll be cheaper before 11. Consider merits of mugging. Really want to charm the bouncers into free entry, but experience dictates that they hold absolutely no truck with the phrase, ‘BUT MY FRIEND IS VOMITING INSIDE! YOU SAW ME EARLIER!’. Polish off pink drink.
11.06pm – Borrow 50p off a man because my £3.00 allowance won’t cover entrance. Reflect for approximately 0.6 seconds on just how woeful my life has become. Then go and get a free drink off a nice tall boy and dance like a prick to Cee Lo Green.
11.40pm – Toilets. ‘MELISSA. MY COLLEGE MUM.’ ‘ Would you mind getting out of the cubicle? I don’t know who you are.’ ‘YEH YOU DO. COLLEGE MA! GOT SAME HAIR.’ ‘Listen. I don’t know you, you don’t know me, and I am not your college mother. I am a fresher.’
Woe abounds. Under normal circumstances I would now spend £10 on Apple Sourz and try to drink my awful tongue into submission. Instead, I pike a Smirnoff Ice off a man who had one in each hand. Just saving him from himself, if anything.
11.58pm – Couldn’t afford cloakroom, and very close to expiring on the dancefloor. Join queue to get to front for midnight.
12.03am – The ordeal is over. Leave coat at over half a day’s budget, get double vodka and lemonade to celebrate, dance with man who looks like a wolf.
1.46am – Whip out a Big Green when it turns out no one has any money for the cab. Feel like Bill Gates.
(Honestly would have paid the Cindie’s benefactor back after midnight, but he was off lapping about in the hope of bagging poon.)
What We Learned: It’s doable. Being cheap makes you friends in unexpected places (i.e. with homeless men), but also turns you into a bit of a loner (no social eating, no taxis, no shopping). Probably uncovered a really profound paradox in the nature of materialism there. Nah, you’re right. It just made me into a really hungry thief.