Budgeting in College: When to be cheap and when not to

One of the shows I used to watch when I was younger was Everybody Hates Chris which I liked for how relate-able Chris Rock’s story was coming from an African American household in Harlem and because of just how humorous I found the characters. Of the many characters, I found Chris’s father Julius to be pretty entertaining being that he was so much of a cheapskate it was hilarious. As a college student, I’ve come to realize the usefulness of Julius’s pragmatic mindset while I might not go to the extremes of his outlandish behaviors. The image of the broke college student is an image that’s fairly popular in American culture. The rising cost of higher education has gotten a lot of attention in the media and is one I’m sure high school seniors especially those who would be first generation are well aware of, though what most people don’t consider when budgeting for college are the hidden cost of miscellaneous and essential items and experiences. Spending money on books, laundry, transportation, and social events becomes a real struggle that students have to learn to overcome being that if your parents are paying tuition or don’t have the means to pay for it, they will more than likely not lend you money if they figure you can find a job as a now full fledged adult. Once you’re not under the tutelage of your parents, the realization of how expensive these items are really sinks in.

Since I didn’t pledge to a fraternity, which isn’t really a thing at Jesuit schools, or spend every single weekend going out freshman year I wasn’t wasting money socially, but books, late night takeout, and “college essentials” was draining my account heavily especially first semester when I was trying to balance clubs and spent a fortune on an economics textbook that promised to teach me the skills to make a fortune as an economist. I began to approach everything first semester in terms of monetary values. While I had got a large grant, my father was still paying a lot for me to go to BC and I was struggling trying to balance my commitment in certain clubs like marching band and a student newspaper with my work study job and classes which at first lead to me working less hours in order to “experience college”. Instead of spending money on to go on a freshman retreat or for boat cruise parties, I made friends through my involvements and did psychology studies on campus that paid to complement my meager hours. Second semester, I channeled my inner Mr. Krabs and prioritized my job over time consuming involvements like band and spent my weekends trying to bring in money at work. Being that I didn’t have much luck applying to scholarships my senior year and my gpa wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I needed a new strategy to bridge the gap for the next few years. I decided to apply to be a resident assistant to cover my room and board and ended up reducing my bill significantly.

Part of my money saving strategy came from questioning the importance of an item and whether it was an immediate need or a personal want that would be nice to have. I spent time weighing my options trying to shop around for better deals and read articles about how to save money. When I spent the summer after freshman year on campus working, I truly adopted the Julius mindset of being a cheapskate considering that I needed to buy my own groceries for the first time in my life. While I did occasionally eat ramen noodles due to how cheap it was, I did kick it once I learned how bad it was  nutritionally and realized that there are certain things like health or education that you shouldn’t really skimp on being that they’re huge investments. As my senior year is approaching on the horizon after this semester, I’d have to thank my father for teaching me some important lessons about money and my fictional financial guru Julius for teaching me in an ironic way the values cheapness has when you’re a college student. As an overall experience college is a huge investment with a hefty price tag but depending on how you spend your time defines the value of the investment in the long term. Spending every single weekend going out and blowing away pockets of money on “weekend expenses” can be fun but in the long term will have you scrambling on a mad dash to catch up with peers, however living in the library and keeping your face in the books 24/7 means that you didn’t truly enjoy the four years you had to make unique friendships. College is a balance act of trying to figure out what’s important to you as a person and learning what and how to devote  your time towards.