Alas – now that you’re on your own, away from mom and dad, your monetary funds are beginning to change. So long to the “hey, can I have 10 bucks?” and sweet dreams to “when are we going shopping?” Say hello to “I can’t … my bank account looks like the Sahara, totally dried up, with no sign of rain” (aka money). Now, you truly can embody the stereotype of “poor college student” because that is exactly what you are: POOR (relatively speaking) COLLEGE (hey, CNU) STUDENT (time to study).
Of course we all come from various monetary backgrounds, but basically a common denominator is that our parents have supplied our needs and desires throughout our childhood. Some of us have learned a sense of responsibility through typical teenage summer jobs, while some of us have been working year-round. Regardless of our disparate backgrounds and employment histories, during the college years we must learn to budget and manage our funds. At first, management of one’s funds can be daunting, especially while learning and managing all the other aspects of college life. Here are some tips that should help with the transition to managing one’s finances:
1) Ramen. Ramen. Ramen. It’s cheap and it’s efficient. Sure, it doesn’t have all of your vitamins and nutrients, but do I need to remind you that it’s cheap? Conservation of dollars – that’s what matters. You can worry about vitamins in four years … when you can afford nutritional cuisine! The next best thing, I can attest, is the delicious college delicacy of Pop-Tarts and Toaster Strudels. Third, a pleasant, affordable treat is the staple of mac and cheese.
2) Budgeting is your friend – I learned this one the hard way (although at least nothing too drastic happened other than a scolding from my father, but there’s no guarantee that that luck will strike again). Whether it’s your parents giving you money once a month or working to support yourself, budgeting is a necessity for survival. I mean sure, maybe your roommates will loan you a few bucks for a sandwich, but it’s a pretty well-known fact that everyone you come in contact with is budgeting as well. Remember Polonius’ advice (yes, I went there): “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be.” What I do is relatively simple: I see how much money I have on the first of the month, I subtract the funds for rent/water/electric/cable (I live off campus – it’s totally different on campus where you pay a lump sum and eat in the dining halls) and then I divide the remainder by 30 (or 31) to see how much I can spend each day. This then, of course, may change depending on how much I am going to spend on groceries (aka Ramen and Pop-Tarts). Bottom line – tell yourself you have less money than you do and you should be fine!
3) Bring a LOT of clothes with you when you move in. Sure, you may not have room for all of them, which is why Bed Bath & Beyond makes a mint from the under-the-bed storage bins, but this hoarding of one’s wardrobe helps cut back on both how much laundry you have to do and on how much money you have to spend on said laundry. And please, for all our sakes, do actually wash your laundry or have the recommended plethora of clothes with you so no one else has to suffer from the aroma of your poor, broke self’s smell.
4) Water. We all know we are supposed to drink at least eight full glasses of water a day (note: don’t try this back to back, you’ll puke) but besides the required amount, drinking water helps fill you up! No, I am not advocating anorexia by saying “Don’t eat; drink water!” I mean come on, there’s Panera, Moe’s, Tropical Smoothie and Chik-fil-A … you’re going to want to eat! But rather than spending more money at a vending machine, refill your tumbler (yes, get a tumbler/water bottle) with water. This will help hold you over until your next meal and both your body and your wallet will thank you!
Finally, don’t let money become the main focus of your life, as that’s easy enough to do when it can partially dictate your life, but do pay attention to how and why you are spending; this will make your time in college far more enjoyable and who knows, maybe you’ll even have a little left over for a nice shopping spree at Newport News’ “Rodeo Drive” equivalent – Patrick Henry Mall (but probably only for two items…).