There’s an App for That! Part 2

It’s the first day of Winter Well-being Week, with a number of resources, events and activities designed to promote self-care during the winter months.  This can also be a financially taxing time of year (no pun intended!), with heating costs, warmer clothing and the festive season stretching our budgets that little bit further.   As promised, here is a second helping of financial well-being from our resourceful and tech-savvy money mentors Claire and Stefanie as they review a number of money saving apps.  King’s is committed to supporting all students to make the most of their money.  If you missed Claim It Week last week, you can still check out this page of resources and don’t forget that the money mentors are here throughout the academic year to offer advice on budgeting, discounts and deals, with the Student Advice team available for more complex queries.  

 MONZO

Monzo is a bank that allows easy tracking of your expenses. It means it does require you to apply for a Monzo account. This usually requires you to queue, but here’s a fast-track link to get a Monzo card – http://www.savethestudent.org/student-deals/free-stuff/monzo-queue-jump-link.html.

There are many perks of using Monzo as it:

  • Gives you instant notification and tracks it on the app according to the different categories when you use your Monzo card. You can even add a receipt to your expenditure

Monzo1      Monzo2

  • Allows you to analyse what you spend on your expenditure
  • Freeze your card immediately from your phone if you lose your card
  • Send money instantly to others (as of now it is only to other Monzo members, but they are working to create a current account too!)

Monzo3

  • Top up your Monzo Card with a debit card

Handy tip! – load a certain amount into your Monzo Card per month and challenge yourself to only use your Monzo card for your purchases, forcing you to keep to your budget!

  • Use your card abroad – there are NO fees and you get the wholesale MasterCard exchange rate (meaning less stress on finding a money exchange)

It also tracks your spending when you’re abroad and gives you a summary of how much you spend when you get back to the UK!

monzo5  Monzo4

This card also allows you to withdraw cash at most cash machines for free like any other debit card. Additionally, the app can also be password protected making transactions safer.

There is also a Monzo Forum, where you can meet and ask questions to other users when you are in need of help.

BIG OVEN

Have you been in the situation when you are left with a lot of mix and match of ingredients and don’t know what to do with it? I certainly have. Rather than throwing it away or trying to randomly experiment (we have to owe up that some of us are just not cut out to be innovative culinary masters) and end up with inedible food, why not try using the Big Oven App!

Big Oven1    Big Oven 2

All you have to do is insert in the leftover ingredients that you have in your fridge/ cupboard, and it will recommend up a few recipes. OR you can even add in your own recipes into it, or browse through their numerous collection of student-friendly recipes to get inspiration from!

Afterall, waste not, want not right?

So these are 6 of our money saving apps tips! We can use anything around us – even our smart phones – to help us save money. If you have any other Money Saving App that you would like to share, don’t hesitate to contact us at money@kcl.ac.uk or our message FB page: King’s Money Advice! We would love to hear your input too so that we can share YOUR money hacks to our fellow students!

 

 

Claim It Week 2017: There’s an App for That!

This week is Claim It Week at King’s; helping you to stretch your money that little bit further by making sure you claim everything you’re entitled to.  In this spirit, our thrifty Student Money Mentors Claire and Stefani were only too happy to contribute to the blog this week, with a review of money saving apps for everything from the best supermarket deals to making the most of the leftovers in your fridge!  Check back this time next week for part 2. 

There’s an App for That

Apps, apps everywhere, click them here, click them there. On your phone, on the go, where they’ll stop, no one knows!

Modern technology has brought us contactless so we can pay with the tap of a card, or even Apple pay, where we can spend money with the tap of a phone! It seems that modern technology is out to get us to spend spend spend rather than save.

But, do not fear, some apps are designed to help us save a penny here and there.

We have filled up all the memory space on our phones with multiple apps and tested them, so you don’t have to:

1. MY SUPERMARKET

supermarketYou may have heard of the MySupermarket.com which compares the price groceries across different supermarkets, but you don’t really want to bring your laptop to Tesco with you while you are scanning the shelves. Luckily, they have developed an app!

If you create your weekly shopping list on your phone, they will immediately tell you which supermarket is cheapest and if there is a special offer going on. You can even scan barcodes in store and the app will tell you if it is cheaper somewhere else instead. Sneaky I know. It almost feels like cheating… But with less of the drama and more of the discounts.

2. OLIO

olio2This is a personal favourite of mine. It is an app whose aim is to reduce waste and enhance community spirit. Cafes who would usually throw away perfectly good food at the end of the day instead donate it to Olio volunteers who advertise it on the app. You can then collect the food at a time arranged between you and the volunteer, and thus reduce food waste.

There is also a non-food section where anything from sofas to candles are donated and you can agree to pick it up. If you are in need of something, you can post it on the ‘Wanted’ list and if someone else has that item, they can contact you.

3. HAPPIHOUR and DRINKI
DrinkiEvery hour is happy when you know you are getting a bargain so download these apps to maximise discounts. The former gives 50% discounts off food and the second *free* or half price drinks.
HappiHour is available at several cafes and restaurants and the deals vary depending on the day and time. Sometimes they will throw in a free meal if a new branch has joined the app, but mainly it is a buy-one-get-one free app.

Drinki2Drinki gives you a free drink if you share your location on social media to advertise the lucky venue and you can claim one every night. Again, check before you head out as the offers are valid at specific time on specific days, but if they don’t give you a free drink, they will usually give you an offer instead

4. SPENDING TRACKER

This is a budgeting app that allows you to input your expenditure and income daily. It also has a budget mode where it allows you to input how much you plan to spend and track how much you have left of that budget. There is the option of carrying over the unused budget to the following month. The expenditure portion is broken down into common categories (e.g. holidays, shopping, books, etc.) and it allows you to create your own categories.

The picture below  left shows the display of the accumulative balance (income and expenditure broken down to categories) and the balance per month. The picture below right is how to input an expense or income.

spending tracker1  spendingtracker2

It does require dedication and discipline, as you do have to input everything manually. However, it is very flexible, as it does not limit you to merely cash or card spending and you are able to change the dates of the transaction meaning if you forget to input expenditure from last week, you are still able to do so.

There is also a summary view of your current spending and it creates a report by charts of your income and expenditure, allowing easy visualization of where your money goes.

The picture on the left below is the overall summary of the month. The pictures on the right and below are more visual representations of expenses in a pie chart according to categories and a graph visualizing your cash flow across the different months.

spendingtracker4 spendingtracker5 apps graph

Another feature that would be worth pointing out is that the app can be password protected.

The Student Money Mentors are available on campus to give guidance on budgeting, discounts and deals to help you to get the most out of your money.  For more complex queries that require specialist and detailed advice, you can contact the Student Advice team for support. 

Four Ways to Boost Wellbeing during Placement

Managing competing priorities is certainly something that all university students can identify with.  As the semester gains momentum, with academic work, social events, extra-curricular commitments and everyday tasks such as laundry and financial management, it can feel like a lot of plates are spinning in the air!  When we’re busy, especially with deadlines and placements, it can be so tempting to let some of our self-care activities drop to recoup some time for time-sensitive commitments.  However, if we want to be at our best, perform at our best and stay well in the long-term, it’s wise to prioritise our self-care.  This week, one of our Positive Peers share their four tips for wellbeing on placement.

As a disclaimer: I’m not a wellbeing expert, I’m a fourth year medical student who is making it up as I go along. . . but bear with me here, because in this blog I want to show you (and reassure myself!) that that’s okay, because maintaining wellbeing is something to be continually striving for and adapting in order to cope with what’s thrown at you.

When I began clinical medicine last year, being on placement myself and having conversations with friends about our experiences made me realise that although we were mostly enjoying ourselves and loved sharing anecdotes, it is also a strange and often difficult time. I became involved with Positive Peers because I wondered if anyone else felt the same way, and because I firmly believe that it makes no sense to follow a career aiming to improve other people’s wellbeing if you don’t think about how to maintain your own. As I enter my fourth year, the distance from the hospital I’m on placement at from the central London campuses means I am having to adapt how I am involved. . . welcome to this blog!

The reality is that being on placement has changed how much I can be involved in things that I love doing and has affected my wellbeing. As well as being a Positive Peer, all the other clubs, sports team, societies and events which provided such a well- needed break from medicine for me (and were a big part of what I enjoyed about university in the first three years!) are also more difficult to get to and commit to being involved with regularly. Long travel times and long days (hello, waking up at 6am, 45 minute journey and 7.45am start!), as well as the usual nasty transition back to university, learning things after a lovely lazy summer, the shortening days and cold weather have left me feeling exhausted, and really needing to focus on things I do to look after myself. Here are just a few:

download1. Reading! I would love this whole blog post to be about what I’ve been reading and recommending books I love and why*… suffice to say reading is something that always makes me feel better and there’s nothing better than having a good book to look forward to finishing at home.

images2. Good food cheers me up, and experimenting with new dishes and ingredients always feels like an accomplishment. Dedicating some time to cooking a meal is relaxing, as it requires your entire focus and gives you a tangible end result! Meal prep is an over-discussed phenomenon on the internet… but it cannot be denied that pulling out yummy, pre-made lunches out of the fridge is so satisfying!!

mloda-kobieta-cwiczenia-fitness3. I never fail to be amazed how much better going for a run or a gym class makes me feel…even if finding the motivation to do it is a huge struggle, it is worth it every single time!     (If you’re interested in the benefits of exercise, this is a great read: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/03/exercise-depression-disease-death-sit-less-move-more)

people-2567915_960_7204. Last and most important: get things in perspective! When I’m feeling overwhelmed I find that it’s nearly always helpful to talk to someone else. I’m incredibly lucky to have an amazing group of friends; one friend in particular never fails to cheer me up over a good phone chat. I can moan a little about my day, but conclude that it’s really just “all the usual stuff”, and reassuring her that actually I’m fine made me realise I’m fine too.

Do you find any of these things helpful? What changes have placement made to you, and how have these affected your wellbeing? I would love to know whether any of this strikes a chord with you; questions, comments, thoughts and suggestions are all so welcome! Maybe one of your comments will even inspire my next blog post J

*Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: 10/10

 This post was written by a Positive Peer. The Positive Peers are health students who support other health students through wellbeing initiatives. Find out more about them here!

Student Society Spotlight – The International Students’ Rights Campaign

In the first of our Student Society Spotlight series, Robert Liow, law student and President of the International Students’ Rights campaign group shares how he overcame initial feelings of isolation and loneliness to create a campaign group to promote the rights and welfare of international students.  In so doing, he established his own social support network and found his own way to well-being.

How I Started a Society And Beat International Student Loneliness

Sometime in early 2016, I decided to fight for international students.

At that point, I was feeling a sense of international student loneliness. It started in winter, when my student halls emptied out. Most of my friends returned to their hometowns or countries, and with the shortening days affecting my mood, I fell into a routine of sleeping at weird hours, waking up early and spending most of my time on social media or playing video games.

This wasn’t what I came here for. As an international student, I had come to London wanting to get involved in something bigger than myself. There had been poetry and the occasional rally, but I hadn’t found anything so far. International students already had to endure the horrible visa application process and increasing restrictions on post-graduation work in the UK, but the tipping point was when an allegation of widespread fraud in an English-language test resulted in the wrongful deportation of thousands of international students by the British government, including a fellow writer from Singapore. I went from shocked, to angry, and finally to deciding that I would no longer stand for this. Over the next few months, I gathered a team and began to build the International Students’ Rights Campaign, spurred on by Brexit and the rapid growth of xenophobia around me. I joined up with campus activists organising against borders, met key members of the Student Union and built a small network of friends and comrades driven by the same purpose that I was.

Through all this, I slowly began to realise something: I was no longer alone. Even when nobody else was around me, I had something concrete to occupy my time; I was constantly thinking and planning for the cause. By finding something to care about and engaging with student society, I had found my way out of international student loneliness.

As a campaign society, the International Students’ Rights Campaign is still growing. Our big initiative for 2016/17 was #Immigreatness, a photo exhibition that aims to remind everyone that just like them, migrants and international students are just trying to achieve their dreams of a better life. (The #Immigreatness exhibition is next to S0.12.)

davThe #Immigreatness exhibition next to room S0.12, Strand Campus 

In 2017/18, we hope to launch campaigns and collaborations with larger pro-immigrant organisations and encourage international students to engage with the lively student politics in King’s and beyond. By joining us, new members will get to meet other like-minded, purposeful students, work alongside them in defending international students’ rights, and have fun at social events like student mixers and performance nights! I believe that by bringing our members together as activists and giving them a chance to be part of something bigger, we can help overcome international student loneliness.

At the very least, I know it helped me.

To find out more about the International Students’ Rights Campaign, please click here

If you are an international student and are feeling lonely or isolated, please reach out for support.  You may also find some of these links useful:

Being In Your Mate’s Corner – Momin’s Perspective

As we launch our ‘In Your Corner’ mental health awareness campaign, current KCLSU President Momin Saqib shares his perspective on mental health, how the people around him help him to safeguard his wellbeing and how we can be there to support a friend in difficulty. 

Mental health issues, a phrase that might sound scary to some, unknown to others and neglected by some, but is a topic that remains in the dark for the masses. In many societies, even till date, this topic is considered a “taboo” topic, very, unfortunately. The significance of mental health in one’s well-being is a topic which is yet to receive due importance in today’s day and age.

Being involved with the KCLSU over the past two years has given me insight into this particular topic and on a deeper level has stirred my interest in being further involved to share this knowledge and help my peers learn about mental health so that we can help each other and those around us in need.

MominBW-01 small

From my three years at university, as a student and as a student officer I have learnt that mental well-being is a pre-requisite for succeeding at university, however, success is subjective. But how can one excel in academics or extra-curricular or even their daily chores if one isn’t feeling “mentally well”. We all have remedies for physical ailments- fever? Sore throat? Let’s just pop in a paracetamol and there isn’t anything wrong in doing so. Medicines are after all a source of recovery. But what about our mental well-being? We all have days when we do not feel like getting out of bed, attending lectures, doing our daily chores, meeting people or even eating and that’s completely fine to “not feel up-to the mark” on some days, but when those some days start becoming most days, is when we seem to be developing a “problem”, which in most instances goes unrecognised by majority of students. It isn’t  a question of mood anymore, but it becomes a condition, which worsens each day if it goes untreated just like any other medical condition and this is a fact which is not known to many students, as a result of which they do not seek out for help, thinking it would get better eventually. Many students suffering from such conditions live in the fear that if they talk about their mental state they will be laughed upon or they would be burdening others with their problems. However, they are not completely wrong in their thinking, as there is lack of awareness about the importance of mental health in our society. However, we can work together to change this.

University is a period when one is finally independent, away from family, home and old friends. This can be a challenging period. Speaking from my personal experience so far, university has been good.  But, there is no denying that there have been days that I have questioned myself and my existence. In simple words, university can be a mind-wrecking puzzle. Getting through university itself is a great achievement and it may sound strange coming from the KCLSU president. Those who have known me, whether through my social media or in person, will perceive me as an overly-energetic, passionate, happy individual who is extremely content with life, but I am like any other individual who worries a little too much and gets anxious about exams. But having said this, I would also say that I have always been an expressive person and have spoken about my fears and worries with those I am close to. I have been lucky enough to have understanding people around me who have guided me and supported me and have been there for me in times of despair.

As a part of KCLSU and King’s, we strive to build a community where students can easily address their mental-health issues and communicate with those around them for help. All students at King’s should adopt a proactive approach to recognising such mental-health issues and support each other in seeking help for the same. King’s “In Your Corner” campaign is specifically designed for this purpose and is aimed at improving the health and well-being of all students at King’s.

As the president of the union, I would just like to let all students know that I will go out of my way to ensure that every student has the best university experience at King’s. KCLSU along with King’s has are committed to the mental health of the entire student community. They will be providing support services for all students. Students are always going to be encouraged to talk about their mental health, like all other problems

All students should know that they are not on this journey alone and we are all in this together

If you’re experiencing difficulties with your mental health, don’t feel you have to keep it to yourself. Reach out to a trusted friend, family member or the University for support.  The links below outline some of the different peer-led initiatives and professional support services:

If you would like to learn some basic skills in supporting a mate experiencing mental health difficulties, sign up to one of a Student Minds ‘Look After Your Mate’ workshops on campus here.

Cooking 101 – How not to live off instant noodles

If you’re new to cooking and just finding your feet in the kitchen, you’re not alone!  Student Money Mentor Claire has been there too and is keen to dispense some words of wisdom gleaned through her own culinary trials, errors and triumphs. 

cooking

Cooking – you either love it or hate it. Some people can add a pinch of salt and a touch of spice to meals with their eyes closed. They can tell what a dish needs just by smelling it and their desserts are to die for.

I, sadly, am not one of those people.

I am the kind of person who burns toast and then smears it with a thick layer of butter and jam to disguise the charcoal aftertaste. I either cook so much rice it lasts for a week and a half, or so little I need to cook a second batch because I can’t get the proportions right.

I have eaten porridge for breakfast and for lunch (Tip: Don’t do that, it is incredibly depressing) and chewed my way though pasta which I convinced myself was ‘al dente’ rather than undercooked.

This article is for people like me who are not gifted in the kitchen, but want to try. Please learn from my mistakes. Only once have I given myself food poisoning, but that was one time too many and now I have pledged to get better.

1. Measure things out

If you have room for a little electronic scale in your kitchen, buy one. They are pretty cheap and will save you guessing what 50 grams of grains looks like (although that is a fun game. If you are bored and want to try it, be my guest. The problem afterwards is trying to get the stuff back into the packet without spilling it over the kitchen floor)

If you don’t want to buy a scale, use proportions. Measure things out in tea cups and get the ratio right. Most recipes will have weights and cups so pick the one with applies to you.

young man at home kitchen in cook apron desperate in cooking stress

2. Follow those recipes

If you are making something and it looks a bit dry, trust it. Once you start thinking you are better than Nigella Lawson and varying the ingredients, it will be a recipe for disaster – literally. These people have tried and tested what they have written, so have faith in the food gods and simply obey their instructions.

3. Never underestimate a microwave

It can reheat, defrost and cook a wealth of things. There are several websites and videos with microwave hacks (see links below).  Not only do you save time and money, but it is a very easy way to cook veg which can be part of your 5 a day.

Also, it means you can freeze leftovers for another day, decreasing food waste. Many things can be frozen, including bread, fresh berries for smoothies, curries and fresh meats. However, do not freeze veg with a high water content (e.g. lettuce) or creamy things like cheese and yoghurt (unless you have followed a recipe for making your own ice cream). The curds will separate and it will taste very crystal-y (yes, I have tried it).

Also, when defrosting things, use a low setting for a longer time, don’t be impatient like me and whack it on high thinking it will speed things up. The outside gets hot and the inside is frozen. It tastes really strange.

HEALTH WARNING: Defrost everything thoroughly. Please.

http://firstwefeast.com/eat/2013/12/microwave-hacks-tricks-recipes/

http://www.oola.com/cooking-tips/8873/17-crazy-fast-and-easy-microwave-snack-hacks-muglife/

4. Cook together

Group of friends cheerfully cooking

If you want to cook a nice meal, get together with your flatmates and prepare it. Not only is it more fun, but you are more likely to do things better when you know there are other people, as you really don’t want to poison your friends. Plus, you may learn a few tips from them.

 

 5. Start simple

noodles

It is not a sin to use bottled sauces, in fact, I would encourage it! It saves time and you don’t have to buy a hundred different spices. It is not cheating just because it is easy. Also, pick simple recipes at the start, or get advice from family who have been cooking for decades. Before you go to uni, watch them prepare a meal and help out, so you can see what needs to be done. No one is expecting Michelin star food quite yet, but you have to start somewhere.

So those are my tips for the kitchen..  Instant noodles are acceptable once in a while, but I know you can do better than that.

One ultimate conundrum though is this: no matter how hard you try, your food will never quite taste as good as your mum’s. That extra pinch of love is something which you can’t buy in the shops

Sustainability Week – saving the pennies and the planet

This week is Sustainability Week at KCL and there are a whole host of activities designed to help us embed sustainability into our everyday lives; good for our financial well-being and helps to feel that we are giving something back, which in turn boosts our mood.  With that in mind, Student Money Mentor Claire is back again with some tips for saving the pennies whilst saving the planet! 

Sustainability

It’s not that easy being green, living every day the colour of the trees…. And the colour of a £5 note.

Sustainability and saving money go hand in hand, so in partnership with King’s Sustainability, here are some tips to help you and the environment.

 1Food

We all love it, but in the UK we throw away around 10 million tonnes of food every year. More than 50% of this comes from our homes but the solution to this problem is literally at our fingertips. Firstly, we can do simple things like not cooking excessive amounts of food in one go so we don’t have to throw it away in the evening. Or keeping those leftovers in a Tupperware box and bringing it into uni the next day – not only reducing waste, but also saving you from spending a fiver on your meal at lunchtime.  The SU spaces on campus have microwaves to heat your food up.

Website like https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/ are filled with ideas of what to do with left over bits and bobs in your fridge. Sometimes, though, freezing fresh veg or bread and saving it for a rainy day is the quickest and simplest option. Although don’t freeze and then defrost carrots – been there, done that…. It doesn’t end well…

2. Olio

olio

This is an app I have recently discovered and have fallen in love with. It also revolves around reducing waste and connect people in the local community. You set your location and it scans the nearby area for other Olio users. Users can post food and non-food items they want to get rid off, and if it tickles your fancy, you can arrange to pick it up. Similarly, if you have any unwanted goods, you can give them to someone who needs it rather than throwing it away – one man’s junk is another man’s gold.

 

Environmental awareness green stickers

 3. Upcycling

This is a nifty way to cut down on how much you throw away and save some money. If you are creative too and want to so some DIY, then this ticks all the boxes as you basically take something you are about to throw away and turn it into something else. There are useful websites online like http://www.upcyclethat.com/ or https://uk.pinterest.com/explore/upcycling/ to inspire you.

 If you want some more information about sustainable living and saving money, check out King’s sustainability week- you’ve still got a day and half before it ends tomorrow. There are lots of activities and talks, and even a Swap Shop where you can donate your unloved good and pick up something else in exchange. I hope to see you there!

A Cheap and Cheerful Christmas!

This time of year can really stretch the purse strings.  If you’re keeping an eye on your finances but looking to get into the festive spirit, look no further than this blog post from student Money Mentor Claire.

Cheap and Cheerful Christmas

You may be slightly scared by the holidays, and think that you need to start checking down the side of the sofa for any spare coins, as Christmas is always seen as a holiday which will stretch you thin. But it is time to change that misconception. Here are some easy ways to have fun in the festive season on a budget.

 Homemade gifts

Do not underestimate your creativity and artistic skills. Yes you may stick your hands together with PVA glue and spend ages peeling it off, but that is part of the fun. It is amazing how much you can do with ribbon and pompoms. You can find them from any arts and crafts shop and although glitter may be messy when you are making cards for your friends and family, the sparkle you add for the snow is quite breath-taking and far more personal than any card from WHSmith.crafternon

 

Some homemade cards, decorations and festive gifts from King’s Wellbeing’s recent crafternoon event in aid of mental health charity Mind.

 

 

If you are stuck on gift ideas, check out this website for a list of homemade presents and links to tutorials so you can do it yourself: https://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/cheap-and-easy-last-minute-diy-gifts-theyll-actually-want?utm_term=.pjJv8n2z9#.xyMRLvwAy

If you are a baker, then now is your time to throw on the apron and oven mits.  Pintrest and other websites have a huge collection of recipes (https://uk.pinterest.com/explore/christmas-recipes/) but if you are ever in doubt, add cinnamon or nutmeg to whatever you are baking and it is bound to make the kitchen smell wonderful and festive.

Carolling

‘Tis the season to be jolly. Fa la la la la, la la la la. (I bet you sang that in your head didn’t you?)carollers

Well, why not try singing out loud? Christmas carolling is a long lost tradition which I feel should be brought back to life. Grab your mittens and woolly hats and go singing with your friends! It is a lovely way to spend the evening with your nearest and dearest. Belt your heart out (don’t worry, mulled wine can help if you are feeling a bit shy). It is Christmas after all – the season of joy and goodwill – so your neighbours are sure to smile and may even join in, or offer you a mince pie for your efforts.

 Christmas Dinner

Warning: Do NOT go shopping on Christmas eve or even two days before that. The queues are likely to be huge and people can get aggressive when you are both eyeing up the last turkey on the shelf.

Make a list and stock up. There are often great offers on mince pies and nibbles so keep your eyes peeled. Carrots, parsnips and brussel sprouts also become very cheap in the weeks leading up to Christmas so why not buy extra? Cook a lot on Christmas day and then freeze the leftovers. Or just keep the extra veg in the fridge for a week later. Check the packets and buy the ones with long best before dates.

If you are having a whole turkey or chicken, don’t throw away the bones! They make a lovely soup which will help you keep warm in the chilly evenings and you can even add those extra carrots you bought to squeeze in one of your five a day. (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/moms_turkey_soup/)

Honestly though, after Christmas if when you get the real bargains. Supermarkets always overbuy and try to frantically get rid of stock in January so, even if you may be sick of figgy pudding at the moment, February blues is bound to make you go back to those Christmas cravings, so buy it while it is cheap and indulge in a post-Christmas pick-me-up!

Finally, I hate to be cheesy, but it is honestly true – Christmas isn’t about saving or spending money. It is about being with friends and family and creating priceless memories together. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!’

Don’t forget that our Money Mentors are here all year round during term to give guidance on making the most of your money, whatever your budget.  For specialist and detailed advice on your financial options please contact the Student Advice team. 

Volunteering for Samaritans – Shannon’s Experience Part 2

King’s alumna Shannon’s experience as a University Outreach Volunteer for Samaritans was challenging, rewarding and gave her pause for thought. In this installment of our blog series on mental wellbeing, Shannon outlines the duties she undertook as part of her role and describes the impact it had on her own perspective of mental health. Samaritans right way up

My Role

 As I was unable to dedicate the hours that would be required to become a listening volunteer, I opted to take on a role in the outreach division – which resulted in one of the most positive and fulfilling experiences of my life. In this role, it was my responsibility to contact universities (the counselling services, libraries, university halls, student societies, and more) to organise meetings with those who we might be able to assist in promoting the Samaritans to students.

Upon meeting with university staff in their respective divisions, I was surprised to find them enthusiastic about advertising our services, having been worried that it might be perceived as potential competition. However, the vast majority of counselling services were happy to have us on board, seeing us a means of additional support for their students- particularly those on the services waiting list.

samaritans

Thus, it was apparent to me that Samaritans was generally welcomed by university mental health services. The wellbeing of the students was paramount, and Samaritans already had a good name- it sold itself. Hence it took little effort on my part to arrange meetings with university facilities where I could talk about the full range of services that Samaritans had to offer, and what would be of most benefit to students. In conjunction with this, I focused on getting Samaritans advertised via various electronic means: in emails that got sent to students, on their webpages, on the counselling services application site, and all over the university on plasma screens where possible (i.e. campuses and libraries). This was so that students were aware that Samaritans knew how stressful university could be- and that they wanted to help.

The role also altered my own perspective on mental illness. Whilst I had my own experiences with it, and did not view it as something that should be stigmatised, it became clear through working at Samaritans just how limited my understanding was. The people who worked there were so much more open than me- and needed to be if they were going to be on the telephone, facing individuals with problems that I myself might find difficult to empathise with. However, as advertised, the service is completely judgment free – this means that no matter what the problem, or what the caller is experiencing, the volunteers wanted to hear it. samaritans number

Working in this role taught me that mental illness can take many forms: it wasn’t limited to existential depression, but rather could be triggered by any number of factors: from routine boredom to the loss of a loved one. All callers are offered the same befriending service- Samaritans understood that small triggers can lead to some pretty big feelings, something that I was taught during my time there.

I also learnt a lot about the vast amount of services that were offered at universities in an attempt to assist students who may be suffering from mental illness. This is particularly pertinent with the newly formed wellbeing service at King’s, and also the  peer listening volunteers trained by the Counselling Service. The support networks for struggling students were expanding, and it was evident to me that mental health was finally being treated with the importance that it deserved. Samaritans wanted to be part of this development in university culture, and encouraged the openness with which mental health was finally being addressed. WP_20160204_12_09_16_Pro

Shannon with some of the KCL peer supporters and Freddie and Julia from King’s Sport and King’s Wellbeing at last year’s ‘Time to Talk’ event.

One example of my active involvement during my time with Samaritans, whilst being a student myself at Kings, was taking part  in the ‘Time to Talk’ event run by the recently set up King’s Wellbeing team. The role consisted of manning a stall and going out from this base to approach students to encourage conversations around mental health. This simple job proved incredibly challenging at first- approaching cliques of students who seemed to be having DMCs was no easy task! However, once we got talking with some of them, it became apparent that the majority had encounters with mental illness- be it a personal experience, or a vicarious one through a friend or a loved one. The event was all about removing the stigma around mental health  and working towards an environment that was open to talking about emotional problems – without regarding them a sign of individual weakness, as has long been the case. It was all about encouraging individuals to broach the day-to-day stresses that, if left unacknowledged, could have serious implications: an initiative that Samaritans had been encouraging since it first began in 1953.

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The quickest way to contact the Samaritans and get a response is by phone on 116 123, this number is FREE to call 24 hours a day. You can also contact them via email, text, the web and by letter. http://www.samaritans.org/   

Samaritans phone lines will be open 24/7 throughout Christmas and new year  and their centre in central London is  open for face-to-face visitors between 9am and 9pm every day throughout this period.

 

A Merry Christmas on a Budget

Some words of wisdom from Money Mentor Claire on celebrating the festive season in style without spending a fortune.  Don’t forget too that next week is ‘Claim It! Week‘ raising awareness of student funding and discounts.  Comes in very handy at this time of year!

Halloween is Over, Now we can Talk About Christmas

It is nearly Christmas! Yay – lights, songs, presents! Sadly though, it is also nearly the end of your first term at university, which means your bank account is looking as sparse as the North Pole.

So what can you do to save money in the festive season? No one wants to be a complete miserly Scrooge, but here is my advice on how to have fun and be merry with only one glass of Mulled Wine.

 1. Lightslights

Bond Street, Regent Street and Oxford Street are all next to one another and their close proximity means they compete for who can dangle the brightest lights above our heads. It is a spectacular sight to see, and as the days get shorter, you don’t even have to wait too long in the evening before it is dark enough to enjoy them. Although the expensive shops lining the streets may not be free, the walks though London’s most iconic roads are, so grab a friend and light up their world.

carnaby 2. Shopping Events

We still have one month before we have to buy gifts and wrap them up with bows and ribbons, but if you are as indecisive as I am, then we had better start thinking about what to buy for our loved ones now. Thankfully, we can have some fun while doing it at Carnaby Street and Seven Dials. These are two lesser well known areas near Regent Street and Covent Garden, but they are packed with a huge variety of shops. What’s better, is that they have a Launch Street Party on the 12th and 17th of November respectively, where they will have live music and complimentary food and drink. Loads of shops will be offering discounts for that evening too (and I can almost guarantee there will be a photo booth) so go along to make stressful Christmas shopping more manageable.

https://www.carnaby.co.uk/news-and-events/your-free-carnaby-christmas-shopping-party-ticket/

https://www.sevendials.co.uk/events/seven-dials-christmas-2016/

 3. Skate at Somerset House 

We are King’s students, so going ice skating right next to campus in a stunning venue is asomerset house must. Plus, we can get student discount so the tickets are only £8.50 (although this is only valid at certain times – see the website link below for details).

There are also special events like Club Nights and the Pop-Up Fortnum & Mason shop next to the rink will make an avid coffee drinker like myself, turn to tea for the evening.

https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/skate-somerset-house