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Learning your Liebfraumilch from your Laurent-Perrier

Recently I saw my only son off to University for the first time.During the first week I waited expectantly for the first call: “Mum, please can I have some more money….?”

Eventually it came, but not in the expected form. He had created a little budget and worked out his likely costs, less his student loan for the term, leaving his parents to work out the gap that needed filling. I was quite impressed.

When I was a student it was all very different. I had no idea how much I was going to spend, and definitely not how to budget. I just knew that I did not have very much money!

In those days we were given a student grant: money provided by the government for students to live off, which was means tested according to our parents’ income. I remember being very impressed by one Fresher like me who had got a ‘full’ grant, which was the highest amount allocated, because his father was self-employed. This seemed pretty unusual to us students back then.

Those first few terms at Uni are a bit of a blur for me now. But I do remember clearly that there were sufficient party invitations with BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) that led to me discovering the importance of being discerning when choosing wine. I became a dab hand at selecting the very cheapest available, usually Liebfraumilch. I even gradually learnt to enjoy drinking it!

And then there was the tricky ‘how to eat out inexpensively’ issue. Eventually we discovered that the very best option was a kebab. I could even salve my conscience by reminding myself that it was chock full of lettuce and tomato – healthy eating really! Though quite where the meat came from and how it gets onto that giant rotating skewer I have never dared to ask.

My dissection partner was far more organised than I was. She had to put 50 pence coins into a machine at intervals to maintain a flow of electricity into her room, and had a small pile ready to hand. She had also already set aside money at the beginning of the year to buy a May Ball ticket – an extraordinarily immense £50, even back then! I never became that sensible, despite her example, but it looks like maybe my son will be. Let’s hope so!

Published in The Mid-Sussex Times on Thursday 10th November 2016.

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