Oft-broke student cashes in on budget tips

“I have less than $100 in my account and rent is due next week.”

That was probably the last thing my dad wanted to hear during a phone call last March. He trusted me to budget my expenses last year and — like many college students — I was short.

My father is a banker, and I am a college student who is good with words, so I’m not the best money manager just yet.

After a long chat with dad about how I was slipping up, he gave me another chance to redeem myself. Surely I would be better the second time.


Tuition was due in July, and I was a little short. Again. After a much louder conversation with my father I realized the changes I made weren’t working. So I broke down my expenses since March to see how much I was spending on gas, bills, rent, food and personal expenses. I emailed the results to my dad and his response was, “This is excellent!”

Excellent? My dad is full of surprises.

“I do not think for a second you are irresponsible, but I do think you need to be disciplined in your approach,” he wrote back. “Well done on this! Be careful. You want to control your own destiny!”

I stared at my computer screen, bewildered for a few minutes, then clicked to another screen to look at my bank account. I felt a wave of stress and pressure flow over me.

Now I have come to my third try. The school year is beginning and I have some changes to make:

1. Put the debit card away

After breaking down how much I should be spending per week, I’ve started taking that cash out at the start of every week. I will only use my debit card if it’s an emergency, because when I start using my card I lose track of how much I’ve gone over. I’d see the money in my wallet and think “Oh, I’m doing fine this week.” Not exactly.

2. Pack a lunch

Butte Station is the demise of my bank account. I spent so much money in that store last year I’m surprised there wasn’t a name placard hung on the door in my name. Now I have started packing a lunch every day and limiting my Madison Bear Garden outings.

3. Break it down

Add up your expenses for the past few months to see where the money’s going. I didn’t even realize how much I was spending in certain places until divided my expenses into categories.

4. Walk away

I love Forever 21. It’s a little sickening how excited I get when I walk into the store. Not only do I almost never go to this store anymore, but when I see any dress, blazer or shoes I “must have,” I walk away. If I’m still thinking about that item the next day then I will consider going back, but I usually forget about it. The initial dopamine rush we get when we see something we want will dissipate after five to six minutes, according to consumerreports.org. That’s why infomercials want you to call in the next three minutes to get that super deal while your dopamine levels are pumped up.

So if you’re super excited about that belt or hat, take a walk.

I’m fortunate enough to have mom and dad to guide me while I learn from my mistakes. So here’s to a new school year, being disciplined and taking control of my own destiny.


Have any other tips on how to budget your money? Tweet us @theorion_news.


Quinn Western can be reached at [email protected] or @Quinn_Western on Twitter.