Commentary
Getting a handle on dollars and sense
Posted Nov. 30, 2007

Jennifer Gilderman
Assistant Web Editor

I have always wondered if money grew on trees.

Even though we know the answer is no, many young adults act and spend as if it does.

For many students, college is the first major landmark on the road to independence. No curfew, no supervision and plenty of partying. While this may seem like the glamorous life, it also leaves room for costly mistakes.

So by the end of the month you have run out of your allowance or paycheck and are calling the “bank of mom and dad” to once again put money into your account.

“I spend money every day,” Katie Watkins, a senior social science major said. “I spend it mainly on food and gas, but there's a lot of miscellaneous things that add up.”

This is true; it is all those little purchases that turn into one large credit card bill at the end of the month.

For example, I drink Starbucks everyday; my monthly Starbucks bill is about $100.

This is quite absurd, considering I could buy a $25 coffee pot and make it myself.

There is also the expensive gas bills, which cost me another $50 a week, groceries another $40 a week and then the weekend fun, which can range anywhere from $20-$100 depending on whether I need a new outfit.

“We all have our weaknesses when it comes to spending money,” Jenny Jones, a senior art major said. “Mine is Target and shopping.”

It is easy to fall into the trap and accumulate debt if you are not a conscious shopper.

Since I hardly ever carry cash on me it seems as if I’m repeatedly swiping the plastic.

And with dangerous trends such as vending machines that now take debit and credit cards, it’s becoming all too easy to rack up those interest charges.

So whether you pay for your purchases, or you rely on your parents, there are always a few tips to help you save, or at least not to spend as much.

Learning to say no can crack down on monthly expenses.

“While the college life is full of opportunities to spend money, an evening out with friends, road trips, movies and other costly activities, not knowing how to say ‘no’ can cause students to spend money they just do not have,” David Fingerhut, a financial adviser said. “If you can't afford it, just say no.”

Now I'm not saying that you should never have a night out on the town, but there are ways to compromise such as going just to dinner, and saving the movie for another time.

Additionally, while out with friends it's easy to always loan them money.

“I don't mind picking up a friends tab, as long as they will get it the next time,” Watkins said.

However, it is easy to get stuck in a trap when you find yourself constantly paying for two, therefore costing you more.

Another easy spending trap is not being aware of the balance in your bank account.

According to Washington Mutual, the bank charges $28 every time you overdraw, which puts you deeper into the red.

“We've all run into trouble with bank fines,” Jones said. “It's easy to lose track of spending, especially if you don't balance a checkbook.”

But most importantly ways to avoid financial issues are to simply keep a budget.

“If students have a set amount of money they must plan ahead and know how much they can spend each month,” Fingerhut said. “It has to work on paper before it works in real life.”

While money might make the world go around, there are always little tips to save.

So enjoy eating at home, instead of always going out to eat, stop lending out cash that you don’t have, separate your needs from your wants and plan ahead.

If you follow these tips, you might save yourself from the stressful question of where did all my money go?

Jennifer Gilderman can be reached at jgilderman@ulv.edu.

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