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Unfortunately, as an impoverished college student, I’ve had the misfortune of being extremely broke. I don’t mean broke as in, “Should I get this box of Lucky Charms or this industrial-sized bag of Generic Marshmallow Puffs?” No, I’m talking about being so broke that even having a bowl of cereal for breakfast would be considered a delicacy. I could literally go on and on about my financial struggles, but I think you get where I’m coming from. Unless you’re a Saudi Arabian prince who just inherited his father’s oil reserves, you know how much it sucks to not have money.
For the record, I’ve never been good with money. When I was a teenager, I had a part-time job at a Lids store where I was making a whopping $6.75/hour (which was minimum wage at that time). I would wastefully blow all my money on Taco Bell, Hollister shirts and Lil Wayne CDs. I didn’t have to stress myself out about paying for rent or health insurance and it was such a glorious feeling. I would just whip out my MasterCard and charge it to the game. In my delusional, adolescent mind, I felt like I could be a member of the Cash Money Millionaires (shoutout to Birdman and Mannie Fresh).
The first time that I actually started to worry about my finances was when I left for college. Initially, I had a nice chunk of change in my checking account, so it wasn’t anything I was concerned with. Not to mention, FAFSA blessed me with a pretty sweet financial aid package. When I got that refund check, I just started ballin’ out on sneakers, clothes and pointless shit on Amazon that I knew I would never use. It was all fun and games until I noticed the digits quickly dropping off the tail-end of my checking account balance. Before I knew it, shit got real and I needed to learn how to manage my money ASAP like Rocky.
Now, I know there are numerous techniques for saving and investing your money for the future. I didn’t want to over-complicate things for myself, so I just tried to plan a simple budget for myself. Every month, after paying my rent and other fixed expenses, I would divide up my spending like this: $50 for gas (I took a bus to campus), $200 for food and about $100 for entertainment/going out/etc. At the end of that first month, my actual spending looked something like this: $50 for gas (good job Anthony), $300 for food and about $200 for entertainment/going out/etc. The month after that looked something like this: $50 for gas (at least I’m consistent somewhere), $500 for food and over $300 for entertainment/going out/etc. It was blatantly obvious that this whole budgeting thing wasn’t working out for me.
I wish I could tell you that now I’m enjoying complete financial freedom, but I’d be totally lying to you and myself. After all, I’m a college student majoring in long-term debt. Don’t get me wrong, though. I am in a more comfortable position now and I’ve definitely learned to live within my means. At the bare minimum, I just try to always ensure that I have more money coming in than going out. Also, I have a cushion of funds that I set aside for emergencies and whatnot. It’s nothing substantial, but it’s definitely better than being totally ass-out if you get hit by a car.
Here’s the main takeaway that I want you to get from this: Don’t let the power of money overpower your life. I know that sounds very Tony Robbins-esque, but it’s a great motto to live by. Yes, it’s important to manage your money and track your spending habits. I totally get that. However, you should still feel entitled to spend your money however you want. Splurge a little bit and treat yourself. Just don’t be an idiot and buy a $500 pair of Yeezys if you barely have enough money to cover your rent (I’ve almost done that). Look, social security is fucked and we’ll probably all be working until we’re 80-years-old anyway. Be smart with your finances and just ride this money train out to your final destination..