Balance fun and financials; enjoy college

April 8, 2015

Royal Purple Staff Opinion

As college students, we live in a constant paranoia of our growing debt and tight finances. Yet, at the same time, we are also experiencing some of the most exciting years of our lives. So when it comes time to party, have fun, enjoy spring break and take off for summer vacations, there are assumedly two paths to choose from: the party path or the fiscally-responsible path.

Though it may seem like a difficult choice, it is not just black and white – you can achieve a balance between the two paths with a little effort and dedication. Ultimately, when you look back on your college years, you will be happy you made those memories and enjoyed your last bit of “free time” way more than you will be happy you made smart financial decisions and worked the whole way through.

The next few words should be very familiar to you with being a college student on campus for any amount of time: time management and budgeting. It doesn’t sound very exciting, and it’s not as sexy of an option as just winging it, but it’s very important and can make a world of difference in the opportunities and options you’re given in these few years on campus. Ops

Time management and budgeting are like flossing – you don’t really want to do it, it’s hard to remember at times, it can be a bit time-consuming and you can’t see immediate and direct effects, making it feel pointless and dull. But if you don’t do it, cavities (and poorly-planned and executed events) are sure to result.

First, let’s tackle time management. It’s much easier to know exactly how much time you have when looking at your daily or weekly schedule, whether that’s a paper planner or Google calendar on your phone. That means when you’re talking about hanging out with friends, despite feeling endlessly busy, instead of saying “let’s hang out sometime soon,” you can say “I am available at these times.”

Although it sounds really scheduled and not very spontaneous this way, it’s better to make time for your friends than continue to give them a passive “let’s hang out soon, but I don’t know when because I am super busy lately” response. If you don’t know where your time is going or when you are free, you can end up spending precious free time sitting around the dorm or apartment on social media for – oops – three hours. Time management helps you get the most out of your time and feels so nice and organized in general.

Second, budgeting is critical. If you decide to randomly go out to the bars one night, you could easily spend $50 without blinking an eye – and waking up the next day and realized how quickly that money fled your hands can fill you with guilt and regret. A better idea is to look at how much you have, what your financial priorities are, and then set a limit for yourself based on the “leftovers” after your bills, food and other needs are met first. Before you head out, tell yourself you are only allowed to spend $20 at the bars. Better yet, leave your wallet at home and just bring your cash limit so you won’t be tempted to pull out more.

As far as the bigger things go, such as spring break and summer vacation, planning is key. Don’t just say “well, we got the tickets and a large clump of cash, let’s party!” Look for the best flight and hotel deals – especially those geared to college students. Do some research. Think about what you’ll want to do while you’re away and see how much it will cost. Once again, set a limit. That way you won’t feel guilty or panicked later when you realize you accidentally spent $300 and you don’t even know how.

Money is important to us as college students, and it can be a scary and complicated subject. But you shouldn’t let money stand in your way. Enjoy these few years in college, because soon enough, you will have a career where you have to work all summer and you can’t go out on a Wednesday night because you have work the next morning and you can’t just “skip.”

When you look back, you will remember fondly about the vacation you took with your friends, or the wild and fun nights you all had together, not those long shifts working at minimum wage out of fiscal paranoia.

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