Westwood, Los Angeles: home to museums, theaters, boba places, restaurants and more hangout spots for UCLA Bruins. The city surrounding UCLA can feel like a nightmare for a Bruin’s wallet. The UCLA store’s alluring UCLA merch doesn’t help either. However, not all UCLA students can spend money freely, as with college comes many kinds of expenses. To deal with this struggle, different UCLA students have different budgeting habits.
Continue on for a clear picture of what a dorming Bruin on a budget looks like.
Minor: Professional Writing
Tuition and Fees
As a student, I receive financial aid which covers most of the $36,000 for tuition, housing and meal plans. I also take out a subsidized student loan. For my housing plan, I chose one of the cheaper dorm options: I live in a Classic Triple dorm in Dykstra Hall and have a 14P meal plan that I pay for with my financial aid money at the start of each quarter. The 14P meal plan allows me to swipe two meals a day. Any swipes I don’t use stay in my account so I can occasionally swipe myself a premium dessert or two from The Drey, one of the many food locations available to UCLA students.
What are your monthly expenses?
My monthly expenses can vary widely depending on what I do that month. No matter what, I don’t spend money on groceries since I eat meals in UCLA’s dining halls with a prepaid meal plan. However, I usually go home every other weekend, so I estimate my gas expenses to be $40 maximum. Once in a while, I do need to buy personal care, snack and drink items, which I estimate goes up to $30 maximum. Doing laundry costs about $11 each month. These amounts add up to about $81 for needs. Again, my expenses can vary wildly depending on my needs, wants and unprecedented emergencies for the month.
How do you pay your expenses?
Currently, I work as a student assistant for $18/hour at UCLA’s Academic Personnel Office under the Work-Study program. I receive a paycheck bi-weekly, which makes each check a little more than $500. I use the 50-30-20 rule to determine how I will spend each one. If you don’t know the rule: I use 50% of my paycheck on needs, use 30% on wants and send 20% into my savings account. Typically, I don’t spend an entire paycheck before the next one comes. I let whatever I don’t send into savings sit in my account for the next two weeks’ expenses in case I ever do need to spend more than my entire paycheck.
What are your budgeting plans for after graduation?
Honestly, I have not thought about this question very much. After graduation, I plan to get a full-time job so I can comfortably pay for my own expenses. I will continue to use the 50-30-20 rule, since I find it the easiest way to keep track of my money. If I’m able to, I hope to eventually move out of my house to a small apartment to live independently. Currently, I don’t plan to attend graduate school.
How did you spend your money last week?
Sunday, May 22
On Sunday, I started out my day with a brunch at De Neve Dining Hall. Using my prepaid meal plan, I swiped my card to enter a dining hall for lunch and dinner. After having a delicious meal, I ran to the UCLA store to buy some personal care items and snacks. I bought body wash, a pack of menstrual pads and a can of Cheddar and Sour Cream Pringles. I brought the Pringles to an outdoor social with SEA CLEAR, the Southeast Asian student retention project I intern with, later that night.
● $14.80 for all items (Personal Care and Household Essentials)
Monday, May 23
On Monday, I grabbed a small croissant from the dining halls for breakfast and headed to my first class of the day. For the entire week, my schedule contains only morning classes which allows me to get a good amount of work done throughout the day. I worked during the afternoon and then ate dinner with my SEA CLEAR friends. I had a lot of fun on Monday without any actual spending.
Tuesday, May 24
Tuesday felt pretty uneventful. I attended class in the morning and did my laundry during the afternoon in my dorm’s laundry room. I paid $2 for two washers and $0.75 for one dryer. As my clothes washed themselves, I chose to start an episode of Assassination Classroom on Crunchyroll. I don’t own a Crunchyroll Premium account, so no spending on that front. For the rest of the day, I completed assignments while listening to music on Spotify. I don’t own a Spotify Premium account either. I don’t want a break from the ads if it saves me money.
● $2.75 Laundry (Personal Care and Household Essentials)
Wednesday, May 25
On Wednesday, I received my biweekly paycheck. After morning classes and lunch, I went to work and left my shift early to attend a conference for UCLA’s English majors. I got an early dinner with my friend and attended a de-stressing event with SEA CLEAR. I painted a cute tote bag and won a giveaway bag containing a small notebook, a megaphone, stickers and more SEA CLEAR merch. Somehow, I found time to reach Episode 4 of Assassination Classroom before doing some readings for my classes. I ended Wednesday feeling content with no money spent.
Thursday, May 26
On Thursday, I had no classes. I chose to spend my time working in the morning to make up for leaving my shift early the day before. I spent my afternoon studying and decided to buy the book Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro on ThriftBooks, an online store where you can buy new and used books for cheaper prices. Then, I ended my night by rereading a short story for English class the next day and working on written pieces for other classes. By sprinkling breaks for myself throughout my day, I somehow managed to reach Episode 10 of Assassination Classroom.
● $7.48 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Entertainment)
Friday, May 27
Friday was a good day: I got to go home to spend time with my family for the weekend. This day was spent going to classes and work and then packing for a three-day break at home. If you’re curious, I reached Episode 14 of Assassination Classroom that night. I did not spend any money on Friday.
Saturday, May 28
On Saturday, I bought fried chicken using my mom’s money to eat lunch with my cousins, siblings and grandparents. Afterwards, I took my little brother and cousin to and from their basketball practice. Thankfully the car I share with my mom and sister still had gas in it at the end of the day, so I did not need to spend any gas money. Another day, another cent not spent.
Week Total: $25.08
Personal Care and Household Essentials: $17.55
School supplies: $0
How does seeing this influence your spending habits?
Other than the book, most of my purchases were for items I needed whether for personal or social situations. I learned to accept living with some minor inconveniences, such as not having a Spotify Premium account, to save my money for more important occasions. Whenever I find myself with the urge to impulse buy, I use an exercise I learned in Catherine Price’s book How to Break Up With Your Phone called “What For, Why Now, What Else?”. Rather than my phone, I apply it to my money instead: What do I want to spend for, why do I want to buy it now and what else could I save my money for? If I still really want or need what I’m purchasing after I ask myself these questions, then I’ll purchase it. Asking myself these questions helps me prevent impulse buys like that super cute fox plushie I saw on Amazon a few weeks ago.
With these practices I believe myself to be a relatively frugal spender, so I’m unsurprised that I spent as little as I did. However, my weekly expenses can vary just as much as my monthly ones: the week before this one, my purchases added up to $44. Recently, I’ve found myself slowly growing more comfortable making purchases because I now have a source of income. However, I won’t grow too comfortable and will continue to try keeping myself happy in the least expensive ways possible.