Dear Miss Informed,
I’m a freshman here, and I’ve found it very conflicting when it comes to managing my spending now that I’m all on my own. As much as I love buying new stuff for myself, I can’t help but feel like I’m blowing through my whole bank account. What should I do?
Dear Blue Herring,
Welcome to UCCS! The good news is you’re in the perfect place to learn, and not just in your classes, either. One way to think of college is a practice run for adulthood in an environment designed to support you, and that is going to mean you suddenly have money in your pocket that you control.
Having that money is exciting, and not inherently a bad thing. In fact, the first thing I recommend is to acknowledge what you have and be grateful for it. You get your own money for the first time — how lovely and grown-up! Not everyone has money to spend, so take a minute to understand the blessing that it is.
If you feel like you’re getting overenthusiastic and spending too much, you need to be aware of your financial situation. That means opening your bank account and taking a look, no matter how guilty you feel about it. Rip the band aid off and check your spending habits. See if your bank website or app has a way to show you exactly what you’ve been spending on and what trends it’s been noticing.
If you’re spending too much eating out, start thinking about buying food that’s easy to pack and bringing lunches and snacks with you for when you need them. Spending a little more on one shopping trip on ingredients you can use a lot is better than spending money over and over for meals at places that are probably charging you more than they’re worth.
If you’re spending too much on shopping, start thinking about weighing each item more carefully based on whether or not you already have something meeting that need. Yes, that shirt is cute and fits your aesthetic, but do you already have one like it? Alternatively, for things like clothing, thrift stores like the Arc and Goodwill have some fantastic items for ridiculously cheap. I have a friend that got an alpaca sweater at the Arc for a dollar on a sale day.
For rolling payments and subscriptions, make yourself a spreadsheet with your expenses. This is good for things like school payments as well as smaller subscriptions, like streaming services or Spotify. Get student deals whenever you can. This way, your finances are clearly laid out before you and you can update the spreadsheet as needed.
Ultimately, how much you can afford to spend is going to depend on your income. If you have a job that will keep money flowing into your account on a consistent basis, that will mean more financial freedom. If you’re trying to save that money for specific payments, like tuition or a car, that changes things and you need to be mindful of your goals.
Occasionally, buying yourself something nice is absolutely fine. After all, it is your money, and that means some of it should go toward things you enjoy. Otherwise, what’s the point in working hard to get more of it? Be glad you have the resources you have, but when you’re trying to pinch pennies and survive school, take a minute before you make a purchase and ask yourself if it’s ultimately something that sparks joy a la Marie Kondo. That thought can make all the difference.
I freely admit this is something I struggle with too. I love having money that I can spend without guilt. The problem is, if I’m not making enough to replace all the money I’m removing, it’ll just siphon away. If you don’t already have one, try to find a job that will fill your account up at least a little more, and eventually the income will give you a better understanding of how much money you’re able to spend.
Good luck out there.
Editor’s note: Students can submit questions to Miss Informed via The Scribe’s email address, [email protected]