A Letter To Myself in College

Instead of letting your spending habits control you, control your spending habits.

Dear spends a lot student, First of all, congratulations on moving out of your parents’ house and starting your first year of college (that isn’t just “general studies”). I just want to remind you that moving out and becoming financially independent are two very different things. Remember your parents who are graciously paying your tuition? And supplying money for rent, and asking for nothing in return? Yes – well, don’t ever forget that feeling. That if something were to go wrong, you would have no way to support yourself.

Living on your own was the best thing that ever happened to us though. We learned how to control our liquor, how to survive on one can of soup per day, and how to function on only 4 hours of sleep. All great qualities in the game of life.

But I have some questions for you.

Why did you spend so much money on nightclubs, cabs, and clothing that you truly couldn’t afford? Why didn’t you learn what a credit card truly meant? Hint: NOT free money. Why did you spend all of the money you made at your part time jobs & athletic scholarships instead of saving it, or putting it towards your debt?

Okay, okay. I’ll stop hounding you. Instead, I’ll educate you – because no one else did.

There are 3 things that every college student needs to know:

1. You don’t have to live poor, you just need to live frugally.

Stop saying “I’m so poor” even though you just spent $60 at a nightclub the night before. We all know you could have spent that money elsewhere, or not spent it at all. Provide yourself with a responsible reason behind your spend. Are you spending because you budgeted for that, or are you spending because you have the money?

2. Using your credit card on an impulse purchase is never a good idea.

That tube top you bought for the one Halloween event you were going to but that you knew you’d never actually wear again? Yeah, that is still costing you. In interest. A shirt that originally cost $10, now cost you over $20. What about that night you opened a tab at the bar because your friend passed her film & history final and survived another semester? Oh, that’s costing you too. When your parents said use that card for “emergency only”. Their idea of an emergency is a hell of a lot different than yours.

3. We’ll all have that one friend who never pays for anything.

And being the loving person you are you always offer to pay for them, which always backfires in your face. Okay maybe you didn’t really want to pay for them, but you needed a partner in crime at the party in case you didn’t know anyone else. But never the less – it was a mistake. While you’re spending an extra $20 on them each weekend, they are pocketing their own $20 and saving money. Hey, maybe you should have tried being that friend. Damn.

Young us – what I want you to take from this is that money and personal finance will eventually be the one thing that is holding you back when you want to break free. Don’t let silly spending control your future self, who is ready for bigger and better things. Don’t stop your future self from taking fun vacations because younger self wanted a new dress for the athletic banquet. Instead of letting your spending habits control you, control your spending habits.

College doesn’t have to leave you with any more debt than you’ll already have.