By: Brooke Foundas, Columnist
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Sadly, I have reached that point in the semester where I have spent a large chunk of my summer break income on various college activities like going to the bars, ordering takeout, and online shopping. While tackling my final year at Towson, I have learned the in’s and out’s of surviving college on a budget while still enjoying these four years. While making the most of your college experience regardless of money issues can be optimistic, it can also be a dangerous mindset to acquire.
I’m an exercise science major with a minor in applied adult disability and have plans to attend graduate school for occupational therapy, so I feel as if I have a full plate. I’ve learned the hard way that working a demanding job during the semester does not work well for me. My parents taught me to work hard as much as I can during breaks to save money and focus on my degree during the semester. I utilize this advice to become the best student I can be academically, and save for my future.
Over the last four years, I have had a few different part-time jobs during the semester, and one full-time job during summer and winter breaks in my hometown Frederick, MD. This full-time job is at my family’s restaurant called Starvin Marvin’s, therefore I am lucky to have a consistent workplace that I am able to fall back on when I’m home from school. It is important to establish a relationship with your employer so that they are aware that you have plans to work occasionally throughout the year, especially during the holiday season. Restaurants and retail stores are likely already looking for extra help during the holidays, therefore it should be relatively easy finding a seasonal job for winter break if you are actively searching. Make sure you reach out to them near Thanksgiving to allow them enough time to hire you!
If working seasonally is not realistic in your plans at the moment, no biggie, I have some other tips that may help you refrain from spending all your cash. Let’s talk about deals.
I should start with my favorite, happy hour. Happy hour does not always have to include alcoholic drinks! For example, local restaurants like On the Border and Barley’s Backyard have great happy hour specials that include food as well. Utilizing happy hours can be such a money saver. If you are searching for good drink deals, Barley’s Backyard has great two-for-one deals on specific days and times. My friends and I like to decide on one drink, we get two drinks total due to the deal, and split the cost of one drink. Another great trick that I like to do myself is making dinner at home before going out, so I’m only tempted to purchase one drink or a small appetizer.
As I mentioned, I occasionally work at my family’s restaurant and during quarantine, I worked over 40 hours a week to help my family run the business. During this time, I was earning a great deal of money and had no idea what to do with it. I wanted to be smart and put it in my savings account so that for fall 2020, I had money I could spend because I wouldn’t be working. My best friend Tori is an expert on budgeting and she was able to help me with my budget. She made me a budget binder and taught me everything she knows about saving.
A budget binder is basically a place where you are able to track your expenses, formulate realistic short and long term goals, and keep envelopes of cash for specific things you are saving towards. For example, a few of my envelopes included my friend’s birthdays, money for a haircut, and my long-term goal of getting an apartment with my boyfriend when I graduate. For each paycheck I received, I would add a little bit to these envelopes and I was looking out for my future self when I discovered the amount of money I saved up for the fall semester.
My last little bit of advice on saving your money during college is to learn to say no. I know, I know, you only experience college once and you do not want to miss out on any fun during the best four years of your life, but you have to say no sometimes. If you have no financial plans for the future then sure, order DoorDash every day. But if you have realistic goals on saving for a car, an apartment, or paying your student loans soon, it is important to weigh the pros and cons and determine which days and activities you are okay spending your money on. Trust me, it took me 2 to 3 years of college to learn this, but hopefully, I have the power to influence a few people to focus on their goals and what they truly want for their future selves as well.