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Tuesday, August 09, 2022

I had this dream during high school that if I just saved up enough money from my part-time job as a receptionist at a hair salon, then I wouldn’t have to worry about spending money in college.

After all, I wouldn’t really need anything in college once everything was bought. It would be senseless for me to go shopping for clothes and I didn’t have to grocery shop. Of course, that was a couple thousand dollars ago. I really only had one question after my first semester of college: Where did all of my money go?

Books, tuition, housing and meal plan were all taken care of with scholarships and those dreaded loans. I did have to purchase some supplies out of pocket, like those aggravating clickers. But, for the most part, it wasn’t necessary for me to spend any money. So, where did it all go? How did my bank account suddenly become over $1,500 lighter? Over winter break I was aghast to discover this dip in my savings. I worked at my job whenever I was home for long weekends. Obviously, I wasn’t earning a steady paycheck, but there was a little something coming in every month or so.

Looking back, I remember the phone calls from my mom. “I looked at your account and saw your numbers going down. Why are you spending money on things you don’t need?” she would ask.

I would be struck with guilt and remember that I didn’t have a steady income to warrant spending money. So, I would resolve to crack down and keep the money where it belonged — in my pocket. Obviously, this resolve would only hold until the next trip to Tijuana Flats or the Oaks Mall. Then, I would just have to split chicken flautas with a friend. I would just have to buy that dress from Forever 21. After all, it was on the clearance rack.

In high school, I had full access to my money, but I didn’t feel as guilty spending it. When I first started using a debit card, I devised a little budget to myself.  Then, I discovered it was easy to go over that budget a little one week, if I just kept my expenses low the next week. This meant I became very used to shopping sprees at the mall. I never went crazy (I don’t think I ever spent more than $80 in one day). I did save the majority of my money, but I didn’t develop that mindset that most of my money should be saved. Also, it was just so easy to make it back. I was working eight to 16 hours a week and money was going into my account every two weeks.

When I came to UF, I quickly realized that mindset had to change. Without those steady paychecks, it became a lot more difficult to justify going shopping and spending money I really didn’t have anymore.

Over winter break, I actually sat down on looked back through my online bank statements. I had squandered away a good portion of my hard-earned money on trinkets, trivial items, flim-flams, if you will. I wasn’t buying stupid things; I was just buying unnecessary things.  Yes, the dress may have been on sale. Yes, I split a meal with a friend. But these costs eventually added up and with a full closet and a meal plan, I knew I didn’t really anything I was spending money on.

So, I devised a plan for the new semester. In order to maintain a healthy bank balance (which has recovered a little thanks to my winter break work), I had to make sure I spent no money on anything that wasn’t school supplies or some food for my room. So far, this plan has worked. But it is only a few weeks into the semester.

Luckily, I’m not the only one of my friends on a no spending kick. Everyone understands when the answer to plans is no. The excuse is always, “But that costs money.”

It works every time. 

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