Mission Competition

Top Money Saving and Comping Tips from a 21 year-old Student keen to make my limited budget stretch the semester!

Follow me on Twitter:@LaurieBeat and Instagram: @lornab22 or email any queries to

Join the Facebook group for more tips and a comping community!

Luck and love!

Friday 26 August 2016

A Money Saving Student Holiday - RSPB

When you think of ways to save money, perhaps going on holiday isn't the first thing to spring to mind. But over the last two weeks, I have been on a trip away that has taught me a lot about saving money. I have stayed in a country cottage, been on outdoor walks, seen some amazing wildlife and learned more than I do in the classroom. And all I had to pay was my travel and food while I was there. What was I doing? I was volunteering with the RSPB - the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. I had an incredible two weeks, and would recommend it to anyone interested in wildlife and the great outdoors. Here are the things that I learned, from identifying Heath bumblebees to planning a food shop:

  1. Travel

The main expense of my whole trip was the travel. I knew months in advance where and when I would be going, and so booked my trip 3 months previous to my departure. When I compared the price of what I paid for my return journey to what I would have paid the week of travel I saved £71. That's almost 80%! Here are the ways I saved the money:

  • the most money saving time to book a train ticket is 12 weeks before you leave, although this can be difficult if it is a last minute trip. However, you hear back about the residential volunteering with plenty of time to spare so this is not a problem. 
  • I always use to book my tickets. I love this site as it is clear, easy to use and has some great savings. However, I don't just use one site, I access this through, a cash back site, to make sure that I save even more money on my purchase
  • If you are going on a long journey (mine was almost 7 hours!) entertainment and food can be an issue. To buy food on the train costs a fortune, so I would suggest taking a packed lunch and plenty of snacks. If you're a tea jenny like me, a flask is also a must! Wifi is expensive on trains, so have a technology detox and read a book. Or if you need your comping fix, the latest issue of compers news!

2. Food 

I was forewarned that the place I would be staying was pretty much in the middle of no-where and that there were no shops in walking distance (I tried one day, but it took me over an hour and I had to phone a friend begging to be rescued outside a Tesco Express). I was also told that we wouldn't be able to get to the shops for a couple of days and to bring enough food to last until then. At first, I thought this would be a big hassle, but I used it as an opportunity instead. I am guilty of being the kind of person that does a few small shops rather than one big one per week. This often results in impulse purchases and buying things for dinner that night, when I have plenty of food in the cupboards (see previous post). By not having access to a shop, I would have to plan very carefully what I would be eating each night.

As well as careful planning practice, taking food with me meant that I could use up all the things in my cupboard that I had totally planned on eating, but always ended up replacing with something I knew I liked. Without the opportunity to replace these items, I would be forced out of my comfort zone and clear those cupboards. 

I completely emptied my cupboard and found a whole host of things I had forgotten even existed. Those new superfood health-craze will-make-you-superhuman cereal bars that tasted slightly funny. The tubes of seeds that I thought would be really handy for putting on cereal (but turned out to be great fuel after a day volunteering) and those instant rice packs that are for two people and so had been cruelly abandoned. Without the option of substituting these, I was forced to eat what I had, and discovered that coming out of my comfort zone really isn't a bad thing at all!

We managed to go to one supermarket while I was there, so I had to plan carefully what I needed. I couldn't buy too much as I would than have to lug it back to Scotland, but I needed enough the fuel me. It was a fine balancing act. In the end I went for lots of tinned ingredients, such as potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and soups (which often have the same nutrition of their fresh equivalents), a bag of rice and pasta each, and some meat and cheese. As well as my store-cupbaord favourite: baked beans. In the past, I have created loads of tasty meals from baked beans: check out the recipes here. By getting some store cupboard staples, and plenty that don't have quick use by dates, you can get really inventive and have some great meals without splashing out. In addition to that, the reserve was thick with brambles, so fresh berries were never a problem!

3. Fitness

One evening when I was minding my own business watching TV, I was bombarded with a fast paced advert telling me to stop relaxing on the beach on holiday and instead replace the one bit of relaxation I get a year with some ex-army guy shouting at me to do more push ups. And all this for just over £2,000 for a week. Bargain.

Instead, I went away for two weeks, got fit and actually enjoyed it. The accommodation was free, so were the tools and travel to the site each day. In fact, while I was there I only spent the £40 on food and gained so much more in experience! Each day we were out on the reserve, doing varied tasks each day so you were never bored. Path clearing, bracken bashing and butterfly surveys were just some of the tasks I was lucky enough to try. The first day, my arms ached in that great way when you know you've done some good hard work. Each evening I would come home satisfied and shattered, but at the same time feeling really rewarded. You could see the people who enjoyed walking their dogs round such a well kept green space, you heard the bird chirrup their approval of you maintaining your habitat and I knew that I was doing my part to help conserve the world we have. Beats endless laps round a muddy field any day of the week

4. The People

I have met some amazing people. One of the wardens, Dave, was such a laugh and really made my experience. From about the third day I had been landed with the nickname 'Ninja' (which became the only thing he called me, other than the shortened version - Ninj) due to my skills with a sharp blade among the bracken. He really was a fountain of knowledge and I learnt so much from him. I could abandon expensive wildlife books when he was around, because you knew he would already know the answer before you even registered that a bird had flown past.

As well as that, I was living with two other residential volunteers. This made for a great experience in the house in the evenings, learning about their lives and chatting about our similar passion for protecting the environment. To top it all off, I met a couple of Daleks when I got free entry to Weyfest 2016 to volunteer at the RSPB stand.What better holiday than that?

Find out more about getting involved with residential volunteering with the RSPB here. I sure know I'll be signing up again in future!

Luck and Love, 



  1. Thank you Ninja. It was a pleasure working with you! Hope to do it again!
    Dave x

  2. absolutely love this blog and really love the post about saving money for a holiday. my hobby is certainly travelling and i have my own travel blog but money saving comes next for me :)

    your tips are all fantastic and i will use them all in the future, I also think people should use sites like Gratisfaction UK for free travel samples. i got a free lonely planet book from there :)