As the collective hangover from Fresher’s Week, with all of its events, nights out and fees for societies, fades into distant memory and Christmas and its demands of merry-making and gift-giving seems even further off into the future, it can seem like October is the month for getting your head down and working. You might even save a few pounds in the process as you develop a rhythm around lectures and readings and labs. However, despite its parsimonious appearance, October is one the most stealthily and unexpected expensive months in the St Andrean calendar.
First off, and most obviously, right in the middle of the month there’s Raisin Weekend. For nearly everyone there’s the cost of alcohol, and first years have to consider the price of Raisin gifts and potential spending whilst on whimsical scavenger hunts. However, the financial burden falls most heavily on the third years and their necessary obligations as academic parents. The cost of large volumes of alcohol- often spanning everything from beer to vodka- can easily spiral even if the cheapest varieties are sought after. Added to that, especially for the most discerning and competitive parents, is the requirement to create the most impressive, elaborate and fiendish Raisin receipts and costumes. And the more kids there are, the higher this cost is going to be. Some find creatively cheap solutions to these demands, sending their children off with bags of rubbish or unwanted appliances, but many more pour both energy and money in making a receipt to be remembered.
Then, right at the end of the month, is another milestone a student calendar, especially one with such a long-standing and prominent American influence: Hallowe’en. This occasion presents another opportunity for an absolutely wild night out and the creation of some of the most remarkable costumes possible. Furthermore, given the proclivity of St Andrews students to leave their plans to the last minute, the decision to spend whatever is needed to create the perfect costume now and then has the potential to incur a higher cost than what would be necessarily expected. In addition to the price of costumes, there is the expenditure of decorating houses ready for house parties and of indulging in the Hallowe’en sprit.
More generally, this is the month in which those balmy long evenings of an unanticipated Indian summer quickly and irrevocably change into the bitter winds and frigid temperatures with which we all associate winter in St Andrews. There is only so long that one can grin and bear it with multiple jumpers on, even in houses further out of town which have profited from double glazing thicker carpets, before it becomes absolutely necessary to bite the financial bullet and turn the heating on. In addition to any increased heating bills as a result, October is also likely to be the first month that the reams of utility bills for everything from electricity to internet flood in for those living in their own accommodation. First years and others in halls escape these costs, but for everyone else they can quite easily amount to another £60 or so.
Not only is it getting colder and wilder, but the work is also getting harder. October covers Weeks 4, 5 and 6 on the academic calendar, which are the prime weeks for the first round of deadlines for students in both the Arts and Science faculties. Medics alternatively have the Mid-Semester Assessment to deal with. These academic milestones have a double effect on the pinch on our wallets. Firstly, whilst we all furiously endeavour to get our essays and lab reports completed on time or cram as much information from the past few weeks as possible in anticipation for class tests, going home and cooking a meal of our own become increasingly improbable. Instead, a sandwich here, a bowl of soup there and a quick dinner elsewhere all add up to make eating an incredibly expensive experience. And even whilst we’re in the thick of our work, there’s the cost of coffee or other drinks required to keep us going through the day and late into the night. Additionally, once those deadlines have been achieved, then the necessity to go out and drink away all the pain of the previous few days becomes all the more paramount, incurring as much cost in leisure as in work.
Not only may first years be going out to celebrate surviving the first round of essay deadlines, but it is quite probable that many of them will also be going out to their first ever ball in the form of the Kate Kennedy Club’s Opening Ball at the start of the month. The tickets may have been bought in September, but there are still dresses and quite possibly the first set of eveningwear owned to be purchased for the occasion. This clothing is very often viewed not as an off-hand purchase but as an investment for the remainder of an individual’s university’s career and beyond. Therefore, people are willing to sink a lot of cash into getting the perfect high-quality, long-lasting suit or dress. Then once you actually get through the pre-drinks and taxis (if you don’t take one of the buses provided) there are the prices of the bar to consider, which are not particularly the cheapest. That first black tie and major social event of the year can prove to be a highly expensive experience.
As well as investing in social events of the present, October is also the month in which the first deposits for social events of the future are also collected. A notable example of this is the hugely popular ski trip organised by St Andrews Snowsports, which takes place over the winter break and is renowned as much for its wild nights as it is for its days on the slopes. A place on this trip is not exactly cheap, but so many of the student body are ready to invest in it for an experience which is often considered unparalleled by anything else.
In conclusion, beware of the month of October, It may seem perfectly tame, perfectly harmless and perfectly cheap with its deadline demands and austere autumnal feeling, but it is more likely than not to strip your bank account of every penny that it possibly can. But ever mind: maybe you will find November to be a little kinder to your wallet than October was.