If the title didn’t give it away, I’m a freshman. I’m a freshman who had good budgeting skills. I’ve always labeled myself as a “saver” not a “spender,” but what happened in the first two weeks of college? I spent a thousand dollars, and I didn’t realize it until the money was gone.
Before coming to K-State, I put a thousand dollars on my debit card. This money came from my personal college funds that I had saved up over seven years working multiple jobs. It was supposed to fund school supplies, textbooks, and occasional college spending. Here’s what my spending actually looked like:
|Purposeful/Needed Spending||Too Much “Occasional” Spending|
I would like to say that, despite my impulsive purchasing, I’m really enjoying the shitty TV and abundance of junk food I bought during my “quick” Walmart run. And I’ve received quite a lot of compliments on my new jewelry; however, that’s still a thousand dollars that I don’t have anymore.
So how have I gone about fixing this “broke college student” status? Well first, I got a job. I used Handshake.com where I was easily able to online search for both campus and local jobs, filter my searches by interest and location, and upload a resume for employers. Through this connection, I am now hired as a writer/photographer/videographer for Manhappenin’ Magazine, the content you are currently reading. So thank you for reading my content to help me fill that empty space in my wallet. Next, I did the most “freshman” thing I could do and called K-State’s financial aid office and asked for their best budgeting tips. They transferred me over to Powercat Financial, trained peer counselors that provide free financial counseling to K-State students. I connected with Thomas Meek, a senior in Personal Financial Planning and a Peer Counselor II. Bless Thomas, because after explaining my freshman mistakes, he sent me an email where he typed up constructive yet realistic ways I can change my financial habits. While the advice was tailored to my situation, his advice applicable to everyone because, let’s be honest: money management is a skill we are all continuing to learn.
- Tip #1: One of the most important pieces of starting to budget is tracking your spending. If you don’t know how much you are spending, you won’t be able to make a budget! There are a few good ways students can do this. The first is mint.com. This is a desktop or phone app that links to your bank account, tracks your spending for you, and creates categories so you know exactly what you are spending and where. Microsoft Excel is another way to track your spending. You can almost always find all your purchases with online banking these days. Sometimes it can be helpful to write or type out these expenses to make it seem more “real” to you. After you track your spending, you can then begin to plan for the future by knowing what expenses you can cut out or trim down.
- Tip #2: It is also important to make small changes first. Students will be much more likely to continue with their budget if they start off with small goals. If you spent $200 going out to eat one month, maybe try only spending $160 one month, then $120 the next and so forth. It can be discouraging if you tell yourself you will go from spending $200 in a month to $50 and you end up spending $150. However, small goals will make the process easier.
- Tip #3: Another piece of advice would be to pay yourself first. This concept sounds odd, but it just means to set aside money for savings before you let yourself get the chance to spend your money. If you have a job, you should set aside money into a savings account every time you receive a paycheck. Some banks will let you set up an automatic transfer so you don’t have to worry about it, or you can do it yourself. Either way , make sure you save before you have the chance to spend. For example: you will be much less tempted to spend all of your paycheck if you automatically transfer 10 percent of it to a savings account and never “see” it in your checking account.
Unlike other freshmen, here is what I did not do: I didn’t call my mom. I have this thing called “pride” that hinders me from letting my parents know that the college funds I had worked towards saving for years was just irresponsibly dented by a thousand dollars in two weeks. They currently think I’m financially stable. I’m not financially stable, but I’m definitely stable. I’ve got food in my dorm, a sufficient amount of clothes, a couple extra “free” meals, laundry and printing from my sorority. Most importantly? I’m thriving. I’m enjoying my freedom and learning from my mistakes, and I’m using my Clifton Strength of positivity to keep me pushing through problems that arise.
The point I’m making isn’t to lie to your parents or to overestimate independence but to remind you that the transition into adulthood–or “adulting”–is a process, and it’s comedic. And it’s relatable. Maybe your own freshman year stories are more embarrassing than mine, or maybe mine makes you finally take a breath when thinking about yours. Even if you’re a fifth year senior finding yourself struggling “to adult,” that’s okay because whatever your story is about, you aren’t alone. Honestly, college is just a weird time filled with mistakes, where the phrase “trial and error” couldn’t be closer to the truth. (Funny, I say that after only experiencing a couple weeks.) While I’m learning that I need to make money, I’m also learning that I need to make mistakes and make memories. The thousand dollars I spent might have bought a lot of unnecessary accessories and food, but the stories I have from the first two weeks of college are priceless and ironically make the value of the thousand dollars worth so much more.
An online job search engine
K-State Office of Student Financial Assistance
104 Fairchild Hall
302 K-State Union
Free financial counseling for K-State students
K-State Career Center
148 Berney Family Welcome Center