Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thoughts from a College Student

As a full time college student with a part-time job, I often find myself making a lot of decisions that I wasn't faced with before I started school. Decisions having to do with how I shop, where I go and what I do. Everything has a cost and I have to evaluate those costs in order to keep myself out of the negative financial situations that we can easily fall into. I frequently recall to mind a phrase that my mom likes to say, "You just have to live within your means." This is something I have always known and have adhered to, but when money is tight it becomes so much more of a reality. This phrase my mom uses is based on one principle: don't spend money that you don't have. What? To stay on your feet financially? Yeah, it really is that simple.

If we all understood that it's ok (and can even be enjoyable) to live simply I think there would be a lot more financially stable people out there. For example: I could own a smart phone, have a nicer car, go out for lunch multiple times a week, and always see new movies in the theater. However, when I look at my income and compare it with my expenses I have to be honest with myself. Can I really afford to buy that new item which I don't actually need? Can I spare to spend those couple extra dollars on that meal when I have a PB&J in my purse? Do I really need a camera upgrade? Once I know I have enough money to pay all the essentials, only then do I look into the possibility of spending a little extra money on those non-essentials. See what's going on here? Only spend the money you have and spend it on the priorities first.

An easy way to be able to enjoy extra activities or purchases and still live within your means is to look at options. Honestly evaluate what you are doing, buying, and paying for and determine whether or not that is the best deal. There are always many different options available for one particular service, item, or whatever it is. Look into those options, compare prices, even come up with ideas of how you could potentially recreate that thing in a new way. For example, take a gym membership: some gyms you might have to pay $30 a month for while others might cost $10 a month. Now look at how often you use that membership. Is it worth it? Do you actually go running 4 times a week and do yoga classes in between? Or was that just the hopeful expectation that still sits in the back of your mind, so you think the cost of the gym is worth it because you have the option? Oh, you do? Awesome, keep working out! You don't? Great, stop paying the gym money when you don't even take advantage of their services! If you really want to work out but don't think you can afford a gym membership, that's when you can create an environment to accommodate your financial limits. Look up workout routines online that don't require any equipment or watch videos on YouTube. See what I mean by options? And that's only one example. This goes for food, clothes, insurance, school, almost anything! There is a world of resources out there (literally) so take advantage of the options.

There needs to be a good balance when it comes to your expenses. It's ok to spend money on "indulgences", just not all the time. There's a common misconception that we have to have the best and newest of everything all the time. That is simply not true. There is something to be said about quality, don't get me wrong, but it's ok to be a few days behind when it comes to your personal technology. It's ok to not eat out as often. It's ok to drive a vehicle that was made 10 years ago. It's ok to buy an off brand. It's ok to keep the heat in your house lower than 73 degrees in the winter. It's ok to make things and do it yourself in order to save those couple extra bucks. And guess what? You can spend less money and still find yourself not giving up much and enjoying life.

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