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Student Stories

Student Stories

Blogs and vlogs from students of the University of Edinburgh

Money diaries – Alexandra

Alex with a ginger cat
Reading Time: 4 minutes


Programme: Medicine (mature student)

Year of study: Fourth year

Accommodation type: Private flat with one flatmate

Part-time job: NHS Healthcare Assistant. I find that during term-time, it’s hard to work regular hours as well as attend placement and keep up with my studies. I therefore work on the NHS ‘staff bank’, which is essentially a zero hours contract, but it allows me to choose my shifts and have complete control over when I work. I pick up shifts over the holidays and when my placement timetable is less busy. Pay depends on the shift timing and day of the week – it’s around £12 per hour, Monday to Friday and approximately £18 per hour on the weekend (a bit more for night shifts). I found this job on the NHS Scotland recruitment website in my first year, but the opportunity has also been advertised to medical students through the medical school.

Day one

I’m on my general practice block at the moment and luckily the GP surgery is not too far from my flat. I cycle there for 8:30am. I find cycling is a great way to get around Edinburgh and save on transport costs. It’s a city with many hills but that keeps you fit! I’m sitting in with the duty GP this morning and observe consultations on chest pain, asthma and medication reviews.

I’ve not been organised enough to pack my lunch so at lunchtime I head to the supermarket nearby for some sushi and a smoothie costing £5. In the afternoon, I spend time observing another GP’s clinic that’s very varied – rashes, mental health, falls…

I head home and cook dinner. I’ve been using a meal box delivery service recently. The price for the weekly box is £31 which works out at just over £4 per meal. It contains the recipes and pre-measured ingredients for cooking, meaning there’s no waste. I then head to the cinema to see All of Us Strangers having seen it discussed a lot on social media. I got a discounted student ticket which cost £9. I always carry my student card around with me as lots of shops, cafes and events in the city offer reduced prices for students.

Total: £45

Day two

Back to placement again. It’s raining so I take the bus there and back, costing £4 in total. There’s free bus travel in Scotland if you’re under 22 but sadly I’m too old to qualify for that! I spend time with the pharmacist and mental health nurse, giving me an insight into the work of the other team members.

I pay my monthly Apple Music subscription today costing £6 and cook dinner. In the evening I head to the University’s Pleasance Sport & Gym Complex that I pay for per academic year, but it works out at just over £4 per week. This gives me access to the gym, classes and swimming pool which is great.

Total: £14

The top of Arthur's Seat looking frosty

Parkrun takes place around Arthur’s Seat (pictured).

Day three

This is my final day of the week on placement. I cycle in and get the chance to attend some home visits with the duty GP. I brought a packed lunch today and I catch up with the other medical student on the placement on our lunchbreak. We practise some cardiology examinations together as these are still fairly new and we’ll be tested on them in May. Food-wise, my breakfast, sandwich with crisps and fruit for lunch, plus homemade dinner comes to £10.

In the evening I attend a lecture organised by the neurology society at the University. This is free to attend.

Total: £10

Day four

I cycle to the dental hygienist for my morning appointment. This is £90 which is a pretty big purchase but hopefully it pays off in the long run with less dental work needed in future! I then meet my Mental Health Mentor on campus and we have a catch up about how the past two weeks have been.

I then head home and login for my online GP tutorial on how to conduct a telephone consultation. We go over the structure of the consultation and then have a go at some role plays with the GP tutors. After that, I head to my twice-yearly haircut which cost £35 with student discount.

Total: £125

Day five

I attend a yoga class today at the Chaplaincy Centre. This weekly class is free for students. If I was attending a public class at another venue, I’d expect to pay £8 to £9 for a drop-in. Feeling energised, I then head to Waterstone’s cafe to do some studying. I have various lectures to watch and tutorial sessions to prepare for. I bought lunch in the cafe and this cost £7.

Total: £7

Day six

Alex in a bookshop with floor to ceiling bookshelves

Topping & Co bookshop

I start the day with the Edinburgh Parkrun around Arthur’s Seat (a hill in the centre of the city). Parkrun is a five kilometre run that takes place all over the UK and it’s free and open to all abilities! I then cycle to the new St James Quarter to have a look round the shops, picking up some toiletries that cost £15. I then have to stop and have a browse in my favourite bookshop, Topping & Co, as it’s close by and I can’t resist.

I meet a friend for coffee, £3.70, and a catch-up, before heading home and relaxing.

Total: £18.70

Day seven

I go to my ‘Learn to Lift for Women’ workshop that’s organised by the University. It’s a series of five weekly sessions teaching us the correct technique for performing squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and so on. I was completely clueless about this before starting the workshops. This five-week block cost £40 so it works out at £8 per week. I spend the rest of the day doing the boring stuff like cleaning my flat, laundry and catching up on coursework. I buy cat food for my furry friend, Mango, costing £17 per week.

Total: £25


Weekly total: £244.70

Other costs

Rent: £168.75 per week.

Utilities: £13.50 per week.

Internet: £6.25 per week.

Earnings: Around £35 per week, averaged over the year.

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