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.

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