When people hear the words “college students,” they tend to imagine a malnourished form hunching over a half-eaten cup of ramen. Accurate. Unfortunately, high school rarely prepares us for the realities of college life. For a lot of us, mom won’t be available to cook dinner every day, and dad won’t fill up your car’s tank when you need it. Freedom comes with a few strings attached, namely the lack of financial stability. Sure, you may make some money, but do you know how to budget?
“I didn’t really learn how to budget anywhere. If anything, I’ve learned from mistakes. I used to be really bad at budgeting my money,” UMass Amherst senior Sarah Zagzoug said. “In high school, I would spend all my money on food and stupid things I didn’t need. Things that were not worth the money I was spending. I think over time, I learned to prioritize my spending and made a habit of throwing money in my savings. I pretend that the money I’ve saved is hidden.”
Like many other students, Zagzoug needs to pinch her pennies, so she did the Ramen Project to keep track of her weekly spending.
Let’s see how she did.
How do you pay tuition and monthly fees?
I have a few things for my tuition payments. I have a couple of grants and some loans that cover most of it, so I pay about $1,300 out of pocket. For my monthly fees, it’s a mixture of work money/savings from my summer job and loans.
What are your monthly expenses?
Mostly rent, electric bill, Wi-Fi, Netflix, iCloud, Hulu and Spotify. The usual stuff. The rent and bills is split between me and my roommates.
How do you pay these expenses?
I use the money that I earn from my job. I separate my personal funds from my school funds.
How did you spend your money last week?
I spent about $40.00 on gas and $18.00 on Wi-Fi; I also went out to dinner, which cost $35.00, and I also spent $15.00 on drinks.
Spending breakdowns of each day over the course of one week.
Sunday, [24/October/2021]: none
Monday, [25/October/2021]: Gas ($10.00) and a doctor’s visit ($25.00)
Tuesday, [26/October/2021]: Groceries ($20.00); I usually go grocery shopping every two weeks.
Wednesday, [27/October/2021]: none
Thursday, [28/October/2021]: Gas ($35.00)
Friday, [29/October/2021]: Dinner and drinks ($45.00)
Saturday, [30/October/2021]: Drinks ($15.00)
Food: ~$30-40 a week
Gas: ~$30-40 a week
School Supplies: N/A, I usually get them from parents’ work.
Personal care: ~$10-20 a week.
Rent: $510.00 (electric bill is ~$35 and Wi-Fi ~$18).
Hulu and Spotify Bundle: $5.99
How do these breakdowns influence your spending habits?
I need to be very mindful of my spending habits and try to avoid spending money when I don’t need to. For example, I make sure to use my meal plan and cooking home with my roommates instead of eating out regularly; I definitely eat ramen. I also do a lot of things myself trying not to spend extra money like my nails, hair and eyebrows. Since I share my expenses with my roommates, I make sure to have enough for rent as well as making sure that I have enough gas to get where I need to go.