Oxford: Beautiful, Amazing, Incredibly Expensive

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This summer, Mike got money savvy and a Gatsby sweater. Both went to England with him.

This summer, Mike got money savvy and a Gatsby sweater. Both went to England with him.

You didn’t really think we’d let former intern Mike Restiano get away, did you? He’s back in action, with a mission worthy of James Bond: put the money skills he learned at SALT into practice in the U.K.—one of the most expensive countries in the world. Let’s see how he’s doing so far.

I MADE IT!

Well, folks, after 3 months of talking about it, a 6-hour plane ride, an hour-and-a-half bus ride, and a 2-minute walk, I’ve finally made it to my new home in Oxford!

In a few words, this place is absolutely beautiful. I’ve never seen more stunning buildings, quaint little shops, and cool pubs nestled into a single city before in my life. I can already tell that I’m going to love living here for the next year.

But unfortunately, all beautiful things come with a price. And in Oxford’s case, that saying can be taken very literally. In this entire, incredible city, there is not a single thing that comes cheap!

GOODBYE, MONEY

The items themselves don’t actually cost a ridiculous amount of money. It’s the terrible exchange rate on the dollar that makes their prices hefty.

One dollar is worth only about 62 pence (the British word for “cents”). This means that I essentially sliced any money I brought over from the U.S. in half the second I put it through the currency exchange. Ouch.

Even worse is the fact that this is entirely unavoidable. I can’t just make the exchange rate change, so I’m going to have to deal with it every time I want to buy something.

I don’t plan on spending money on ridiculous things like a TV or a mini-fridge, but just like the exchange rate, there are going to be some expenses that are unavoidable. You can’t exactly forgo things like toiletries if you want to stay healthy and actually make friends, you know?

MONEY SAVVY TO THE RESCUE!

All financial hope isn’t lost quite yet. I knew about the exchange rate long before I actually got here, so I spent the summer working my butt off at two jobs to save up a ton of money.

My time spent at SALT made me into a very money savvy student. So basically, I’ve got the necessary funds and the knowledge about how to use them effectively. If I play my cards (dollars?) correctly, I can make this work.

And that’s not just some piece of theoretical idealism (clearly Oxford has already had an effect on me). It’s practical knowledge, and it came in handy even on my first day here.

THE EPIC PHONE DOWNGRADE

My U.S. iPhone won’t work properly in the U.K., so like all of the other visiting students from the states, I had to spend some money on a British phone.

As a longtime smartphone user, my eyes were instantly drawn to all the phones with keyboards in the store. I haven’t had to text with a regular flip-phone since like the 8th grade, so a keyboard was almost a necessity for me.

Keyword there being “almost.”  For the particular phone I wanted, I would’ve had to sign a contract with a service (tying myself down to their monthly fee) and pay £50 (about $81) up front. The money savvy bells and whistles went off in my head like crazy.

So, I listened to them. I went with the cheapest phone in the store (a little Samsung that cost only £5), and set it up to be pay-as-you-go so I could determine how much to spend on my own.

Cost-effective UK communication? Check. Up next? Everything else…

Have a study abroad question for Mike? Leave it in the comments! Just remember that he’s working with a time difference.

About Mike Restiano

Michael Restiano is a recent graduate of Tufts University and a former content intern at SALT. He majored in English, studied abroad at the University of Oxford, and as of 2014, is a young marketing professional. Find him on Twitter: @mikeyrest.

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