Keeping a keen eye on my money
September 6, 2011
A few months ago I felt a strange combination of revelation and rumbling stomach: my hard work was just slipping between my fingers. College is a time of discovering all sorts of things: about myself, about what I want to do, and about my situation. I’m learning, too, about what it means to work hard at school; what it means to have an apartment and pay rent; how it feels to keep a job; and how it feels to skimp on the week’s food budget. All sorts of feelings about life are coming to light, too. Being out of the house and having freedom to be me feels good. Working hard and getting good grades feels like accomplishment. Slaving away for peanuts at a retail store feels lame. Amid all the great things going on, I’ve settled on one thing: college feels like being poor.
Let me say that I don’t mean to be complaining, it is something I have had plenty of time to brood about and have come to accept. I have also come to accept that whatever my situation is now, I can control the direction in which I’m headed. It sucks when you notice feeling like a king with three dollars in your pocket because you’ll be eating Wendy’s for lunch instead of a banana or two. The first thing I needed to do was to keep in mind: I can handle my finances.
The money entering and exiting my bank account freshman year could have been monopoly money for all I knew because it was all digital in amounts far larger than I had ever seen, and must have been magic because it had this knack for handling itself (parents are something, aren’t they?).
Now, though, it is clear to me why I need to wave away all that magic and dazzle: if I don’t take care of my business, who will? So now I am keeping a keen eye on my money, so I can better decide when it leaves my hands. My monthly income is something I know or can figure out, and same with the essentials (a roof and a full stomach), so where is the hole in my bucket? A journal of my expenses and income lets me know where I am allotting my hard-earned cash. I have even started using technology to my advantage: a free android application has me tracking everything I spend money on, as easily as with the click of a button. Little expenses here and there add up to much more, even weekly, so I’m trying to increase the money I have available by decreasing expenses I don’t want as much.
The attitude change is the most valuable tool, I think. Working with my money and simply feeling it is something I can actually manipulate myself has made me far more confident, and I feel far more competent! Being comfortable with my finances has me in a better position to be considering bigger steps (taking out loans, etc) from a more informed and comfortable place.
College is surely a time of discovery, and the greatest discovery is that with experience I am self-empowering. This is me saying that I felt my financial situation slipping, I felt out of control, but I wanted to get a handle on things and so I did. All it took was my decision.
Matthew, senior, Biochemistry major
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