Monday, February 15, 2010

Keep track of it all

Yes, attending college usually means that you, yourself, do not have much money. For those of us fortunate, we do have financial support from family. For those of us not, we may be taking out loans, working, and earning scholarships. And then there are still those of us who are mixed (our families offer support, but we also must contribute). For me, I work hard, about 24 hours a week, to pay my rent, my school books, groceries, and various bills. I'm also trying to save money so that I can study abroad. I know many students who are in the same boat. However, there is a common theme: none of them know where their money is going at any given time.

Seriously. I have friends and coworkers who go out on the weekends, spend on food, cabs, and alcohol, then struggle at the end of the month because they don't know if they can make rent. I know people (girls and guys) who spend, spend, spend on clothing that they've never worn. So many people haven't even started on their student loans, yet they've already racked up several thousand in credit card debt. It's ridiculous.

I will make one proposal: Start keeping track of your money.

Take a notebook, everywhere you go. When you go shopping, every time you spend money, write it down. Don't even keep the receipt, it will get lost in your bag or washed with your jeans and you will never see it again. Write it down. Everywhere. Even if you went to CVS and bought gummy bears for 99 cents, write down, "Gummy bears, 99 cents." After two months, add everything up and categorize. What did you spend on food? What did you spend on rent? What did you spend on fun stuff? Then prioritize. Where can you cut back?

Some people tell me, "I can't do this!" "This is boring!" "What, I can't drink EVERY weekend?" Well, first of all, you can. Unless you have a legitimate problem (in which case, I urge you to get help, so you can change it), all it takes is a change of habit. Second, isn't it better to go out on the town when you KNOW you've got rent taken care of and you can actually relax and enjoy yourself? Third, you may have to find a cheaper way to have fun. Fourth, you'd be amazed at how much you're spending your hard earned money on. Do you really need that?

Keep track of it all. It will simplify your life.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What did I come back to?

Ok so it's 2010 and back to work. The semester is just starting, the new year has begun. Time to get (re) organized! Take a minute, look around your space. Did you come back to a wreck of a room? (did you leave one behind for mom?) If that's the case, have no fear. Here's the way to deal with a wrecked room:

1. Make your bed first. If you haven't had a chance to wash your bedding, now's a good time to throw it in. If you have limited money, wash your sheets. If you can, wash your blanket and your comforter too, all in hot water. Your comforter will have to be done by itself and blankets are best done alone as well. Washing in hot will kill any allergens lurking but check your comforter label before dunking it in hot water and wash accordingly. After everything is clean, dry and smelling fresh, make your bed. There. Your room looks better already.

2. Get all the stuff off your floor. Grab your laundry basket and put all your dirty clothes and towels in that and set it aside, out of your way. Now I'm assuming there's still a lot of stuff to be dealt with. With your garbage can and an empty box or container big enough for a pile of papers, sit on the floor and go through all the stuff. Pile CDs, DVDs etc. up on your desk for now. Go through your papers and chuck what you don't need in the garbage. Keep your stack of "keep" papers together and put them in a pile on your desk for now. Empty your garbage and take it to the trash. Put a new bag in. Is everything off your floor?

3. Pick up any stray objects--bobby pins, hair ties, etc. Don't leave any large bits on the floor. Do you have a vacuum? Can you borrow one from a friend or housekeeping? Vacuum your floor next. Take a clorox wipe or a wet washcloth and wipe down all the surfaces of your room . Desk, dresser, cabinet fronts, etc.

Ok--now you should have a clean made bed and a floor that you can see. Great! Your room should be looking much better. Those are the two easiest things you can do to make a big difference. Onto the next:

Do your drawers close and can you find stuff? Make sure all your clean stuff is put away. Go through your "keep" pile and file those papers away. If you don't have a method for keeping them, one of those cute accordian folders will do the job just fine.

Are you using your vertical space? The ceilings can be very high in a dorm room so there is lots of wallspace to use for things other than posters. 3M Command makes heavy duty hooks etc. that you can use to hang practically anything from towels and robes to laundry baskets and mugs. Use your wallspace to keep things out of your way.

Do you have space under your bed? How about a set of bed risers to hoist your bed up 6 inches and a couple big storage drawers for your overflow of stuff? Do you have a lot of stuff in your room that you don't use? If it's no good to anyone, put it in the garbage. If you can't use it yourself, sell it or give it away. If it needs to go home, get yourself a box, keep it under your bed and fill it with the stuff that has to go home to mom and dad. Let them know when it gets full and you can either bring it, ship it, or give it to them when they come for a visit.

Voila! Now your room is neat and you can find your stuff again!

Have a great semester!

Love, Mom