Solutions to the "broke college kid" trope

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By Harsha Bellamkonda

I’ve officially run out of money. This may be hard to believe since we’re only in the midst of the first semester, but it’s true nonetheless.

There is a very common stereotype that all college students are broke. However, most stereotypes are based on some truth, and this one is no exception. We college students, on average, are a little low on cash.

In fact, according to a study by Ohio State University, seven out of ten college students feel stressed about their personal finances, and nearly sixty percent said they worry about having enough money to pay for school, while half are concerned about paying their monthly expenses.(https://news.osu.edu/news/2015/07/01/financial-wellness/)

Therefore, it’s easier for us to run out of money faster, not only because of extravagant spending, but simply because we’re starting off with less in the first place. However, there are easy solutions to this problem.

Some might encourage students low on money to get a job, but with most people having packed schedules, it isn’t always an option. What we can all do is learn how to manage what we have efficiently. I’m not talking about memorizing each and every thing we buy, but keeping mental tabs on the areas we put money in.

For example, if you notice you’re spending an disproportionate amount on clothing, you can cut down on that group of expenses. It’s better than minimizing costs in another area, an area we might not even be spending much on to begin with.

Jack Grondwalski, freshman in the Division of General Studies, finds that he spends the most on food and miscellaneous items. “I usually try to minimize my spending on the smaller, random stuff that I buy from time to time like snacks and supplies.”

Another easy way to keep track is remembering the expensive items we’ve bought, which is what’s emptying our wallets the fastest. Makes sense to keep an eye on those, and make sure we truly need what we’re buying.

Nate Claussen, freshman in Business, agrees. “The most expensive thing I’ve bought after coming to college is a pair of wireless headphones. I think it’s usually best to look at cheaper alternatives. My headphones make everything else I’ve bought so far look relatively small.”

Of course, you should treat yourself once in a while. Just not all day, every day.

A major advantage our generation has in this regard is the invention of online banking. Most of us just use our credit or debit cards to make purchases, so all of our purchases are automatically recorded for us. We should make the most out of this, as it makes keeping tabs on the things we’re dropping cash on much easier.

One might argue that online banking encourages extravagant spending because it’s easy to swipe a card and buy anything. However, that’s only partially true. While swiping a card is psychologically easier than handing over cash, the positives of online banking far outweigh the negatives. (https://www.mint.com/budgeting-3/do-your-debit-and-credit-cards-encourage-budget-mistakes)

For starters, unless we meticulously record everything we buy, it’s very hard to keep track of where our cash is going. We could just as easily end up spending more, and what’s worse is we wouldn’t even know what to cut down on.

Although it’s true college students have less money on average, we shouldn’t let that bring us down. What’s more important is that we manage the money we do have efficiently, using assets like online banking. Not only do we develop important life skills for the future, we’ll also be saving much more money in the present, and perhaps even have a bit left over.

Harsha is a freshman in Engineering.

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