Learning to drive has possibly got to be up there with one of life’s milestones. I was an oldie when I started to learn to drive aged 19 (In the UK you can learn to drive at 17). I had to save up for my lessons compared to a few of my friends who were lucky enough for lessons (and car in some cases!) to be bank rolled by mum and dad. I brought my first car (a Ford KA if any of you are wondering!) at 21.
My experience learning to drive wasn’t exactly the best experience I have had. It took me two years and three test attempts before I passed on my fourth try. By then I was feeling really demoralised, I was running out of money to pay for the lessons and tests, I had bought my own car to practice in and was practicing all the time. I knew I had to keep going because I didn’t want my partner to be driving me round all the time and I am so glad I did.
In terms of picking an instructor I asked friends for recommendations. I had two instructors: the first instructor I had for around a year and a half and the second for about half a year. I liked my first instructor because he did teach me the basics but after a year I just felt that I wasn’t improving, my performance was literally flat lining. The instructor would make me drive around for an hour with no focus and I just had enough. Therefore I decided to move on and try another instructor.
My next instructor I found on the internet. I chose him because the driving school he was a part of happened to offer a hour’s lesson whereby you drive round and the instructor could assess how close I was to taking the test. He said to me after the hour’s lesson that I could drive however my manoeuvres needed practice. Additionally I had to learn to drive in a new area in a different car so it took time to learn new routes.
In regards to the tests themselves as above I took four driving tests. I do know in the press some people are saying you should only have one chance to pass your driving test but I think that’s ridiculous. People mature at different rates and sometimes things happen in the test that is out of your control and nerves can be real factor for some people. Out of sheer desperation, I even brought off eBay a driving test hypnotherapy CD which you are meant to play at night and it’s meant to make you all calm before and during your test.
My first driving test I failed because I didn’t check my right side when I was reversing around the corner (even though I got round the corner perfectly). I genuinely couldn’t remember why I failed the second and third time however I do remember my fourth test so well. It was raining, snowing, I had to pull over for an ambulance to pass and overtake a stationary school bus. The relief and happiness when I passed the test was amazing. I was over the moon. It felt as good as when I passed my degree.
I drive fairly regularly now to and from work and it has allowed me and my partner to live in a place not close to the city centre. I am so glad that I continued learning to drive. If I had given up I wouldn’t have passed and would have to start all over again which would have cost more money.
Are you taking your driving test soon? Has anyone had any bad or odd experiences learning to drive?
Whilst saving for a house and a wedding, money has never been more important in my household. Therefore we decided to cut back to allow us a few extra pounds to spend on what we really want or to save. This is how we have done it below.
Switched our Supermarket
I used to shop in the one of the big four but then decided to switch to Aldi and see if there was a difference in price. In the past few months on average we save around £40 per month on food. We find that by planning all our meals in advance we shop in one of the big four once a month to get the items that we cannot get in Aldi and then shop in Aldi for the rest.
Using the Library
I read an awful lot and used to buy second hand books however that was starting to get pricey. By using the library I reckon I have saved around £200 (and space) in books. Libraries these days are not just about physical books there is also a selection of audio and online books.
Also my local train station has a book shelf where passengers leave and pick up unwanted books. I have picked up and dropped off many books myself.
Using Charity Shops
Charity Shops are brilliant for second hand bargains. I have brought books but also clothes, I got a set of fashionable and hardly used black boots for £8 once which would have easily been £15- 20 first hand.
Using eBay and Amazon
When we moved into our flat we had a small budget for buying furniture. On eBay we brought a coffee table and TV stand for £50. Which if we had brought this in a shop would have cost £50 each. This applies also for selling. I am a great believer in reusing as much as possible so any unwanted items are either sold on ebay or Gumtree or go straight to a charity shop. Just be mindful of sellers fees.
Borrowing Movies and Boxsets
What originally started as a friend lending us a box set to try out a TV programme has ended up us borrowing the entire series. Hence £50 worth of TV entertainment we have watched for free.
Using Voucher Codes
Before buying online I usually browse voucher code sites looking for any discounts. If you are a student I recommend buying a NUS Extra card because the amount of discounts available are phenomenal and you easy make your £12.00 the price the card costs back.
Delay Repay Scheme
I commute so spend an awful lot of time on the train. If my train is over 30 minutes late I always claim back. I reckon I have claimed in total about £50 back from the train companies so far this year. I email a picture of my train tickets to customer services so it is not costing me anything in postage.
Checking My Receipts
I always match up my receipts against my bank statements to check that all money coming in and out my bank account as it should be. I don’t want any money leaving my account when it shouldn’t be.
This concludes my money saving tips, does anybody have any they would like to share below?
Welcome to my second part of ‘What I Wish I did At University’ if you have recently joined and haven’t read the first part then you can do so here.
To an extent I am good at motivating myself to get things done. However this point has been added because the number of students that moan that there courses do not include a placement but then
It took until my first proper job to really understand what it meant by building a list of contacts. At Uni I didn’t build any contacts at all. Now working in marketing means I have contacts with print suppliers and design agencies, as well as a couple of handy work mates when I need advice. I also use Linked In to build a set of professional contacts. Linked In is a great tool to get yourself out there. A couple of people I know have had job offers through Linked In.
Don’t be too over reliant on Extra Curricular Activities
Here I am not saying don’t participate in extra curricular activities but doing them alone will not get you your dream job. Being Captain of a uni sports team for example is great as it shows team work and communication skills (and probably the ability to drink copious amounts of pints) but its not going to score you many points with employers. I think this is because by now employers expect you to be or have had some real work experience and not just sticking within your comfort zone. I used to play in a university sport team, be a course rep and take part in environmental audits for the university Green Impact scheme. Which although I enjoyed it is totally different from being employed in a work environment.
Keep yourself as free as possible
When I was younger (and more naive) I would go into shop jobs and have a couple of weekends where I wouldn’t be able to work when I could have really cancelled my plans. Looking back what is the point of employers employing someone who isn’t free straight away. I know a lot of students have genuine responsibilities which is absolutely fine. Sometimes I feel that people are too restrictive when they are choosing their first jobs. Some people very much want a 9.00- 5.00 Monday to Friday job when they have no other responsibilities or going for roles which are way over qualified experience wise for. I think if you being too restrictive and picky it will only damage your prospects and potentially you will be looking for a job a lot longer.
I have been lucky and had a job I really enjoy since graduating but I know for a lot of recent graduates this has not been the case and it has been a hard time facing unemployment. When you drill down to the reason why jobs are so hard to come by for graduates, it is usually the lack of relevant experience. University isn’t a three year piss up anymore, with employers looking for more than just shop experience for you to stand out about the increasing volumes of applicants. This has made it tougher than ever to land a meaningful role. This post goes through some of the decisions I have made and what I would tell my 18 year old self now.
Choose a Course with a Placement Year
My course did not include a placement year. Looking back this does put you at a disadvantage for a variety of reasons. A placement year is a great opportunity to try a career path or to explore a new one. A previous friend of mine found that the career path she originally wanted to follow (journalism) was not the right path for her after going on placement at a local radio station.
Placements lead you to making connections which will help you in the future and could even lead you to a job. My fiance got a job after a week’s work experience at a newspaper. These days employers do not want to spend time to train up employees (not necessarily something I agree with but that’s a different story) so by gaining experience in a variety of different areas will make you more desirable.
Admittedly I did go on a ‘placement’ module which was helping one of the university academic’s with research. I was interviewed which meant being up against my course mates so was thrilled when I got the placement. However this wasn’t enough. All my research could be done from home so I wasn’t in a physical work area where I could interact with people, the consequence of this was no networking. Nonetheless juggling two research projects in my final year (the other being the dissertation) showed potential employers that I could deal with pressure and I think was one of the reasons why I was employed in my first role after university.
Gain lots of work experience in a variety of different areas.
In three years the only job I held down was a full time cleaning role in the summer holiday and about four weeks work experience in a school because at the time I thought I wanted to be a teacher. Therefore I had tonnes of spare time in term time and just wasted it. I should have written down two or three career paths I was interested in, got on the phone and asked places if they would take someone on for a few weeks. A student on my course at one point held down five different paid and unpaid jobs in her degree so gained many transferable skills that made her stand out. She deservedly was the first student on my course who landed herself a graduate role.
Research the jobs market
Studying Geography I was focused on the environment and humanitarian work. However I didn’t research if there were many long term roles in that area and what skills are required. If I had researched this I would have been able to tailor my experiences to fulfill the skills requirements or broaden my horizons a lot more.