Money Management

Money: Something that is always pressing and relevant to college students. I can’t pretend to know what the burden of paying your own college tuition feels like, but I can tell you that every student worries about managing their finances in some way, shape, or form. In this post, I’ll explain where my money goes unexpectedly.

1. Extra-Terrestrial (or Extra-Meal-Plan) Dining

When on a meal plan, you tend to feel pressured to use it fully. This means trying to use as many swipes as possible in order to save up your dining dollar type allowance (for Cornell, this means Big Red Bucks) and attempting to avoid using “real” money. However, sometimes it’s too inconvenient or undesirable to sit down in a dining hall, and maybe you just don’t feel like using BRBs either. On-campus cafes that don’t accept dining plan money (Temple of Zeus, Manndibles, food trucks) are tempting, and so are off-campus restaurants with food that is 10x better quality than on-campus options. While I, and most others, try to limit these expenses, it’s inevitable to spend money on food that is just plain better and, in my opinion, worth it.

2. COFFEE

The elixir of life. Or at least the driving force for surviving early morning classes. At Cornell, you can definitely buy coffee with your BRBs at most locations, but sometimes I find myself going off-budget (Temple of Zeus). Just buying a cup of coffee doesn’t seem like a big deal–especially because it’s pretty cheap–but it adds up.

3. Going Out 

I don’t necessarily “go out” as much as many of my fellow students, but I’ve been told that it’s an expensive pursuit, and I get why. Drinks are expensive, and so are fees to get into wherever you’re trying to go. Multiply that by how many times you “go out” in a semester and the product is probably staggering. However, even if you don’t “go out” in the typical way, chances are you still spend money physically going out. Movie theatre trips or nice dinners with friends are also expensive, though slightly less so if you cut down on concessions and bring your own popcorn/candy.

4. Compulsive Over-Tipping

Speaking of nice dinners with friends, I’ve noticed that I spend slightly more due to the fact that I compulsively over-tip. Because of my brief stint as a waitress, I know that most people working in the food industry basically don’t get paid. There were many weeks that I received a pay-check with $0.00–my income was literally just tips. When it did on the off chance have money to give me, it was pretty insubstantial. So as a result, I now tip pretty generously, and the extra $1 or so accumulates with time.

5. Philanthropic Pursuits

This especially applies to students in the Greek community. However, non-Greeks also frequently find themselves harassed by someone guilting you into giving them money for the simple reason that to walk right past them as they scream things about starving children with poor health care would appear cruel and heartless. It seems like there’s always a cause to donate to, and this isn’t a bad thing. There are worse ways to spend your money, but I have noticed that I’ve ended up contributing unwittingly to many causes that I don’t know much about.

6. Not-Free Parking

Merely hearing about how much University parking costs is painful. Like, yikes. That’s a lot.

7. Laundry laundry laundry

The most surprising item on this list, to me at least. Laundry should cost you a couple of quarters per load, right? It doesn’t seem like much to pay $1.70 for a wash and $1.25 for a dry, but MAN does it add up. Every weekend, I end up having to run about four loads (regular clothes, heavier or lighter clothes, towels, sheets). This means I’m constantly underestimating how much money I really need in my laundry account. With my typically four-load trip, I spend $11.80. That’s essentially $12 per weekend, which means $48 to $60 per month! Wait, WHAT?!

All of this isn’t meant to advocate against buying food off-campus or donating to a charitable cause. It’s simply to name the surprising ways students might find themselves shorter on cash than they would’ve thought. Like losing socks in the laundry–where in the world is my cash going? Maybe these little things that you don’t always think about will help you spend your money with greater discretion, and if so, that’s great! If you’re like me, you will continue to spend money on these things and lament the fact that you do.

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