Streching the college dollar

By on March 29, 2006

Spring Break is over which means you’re likely left with a tan, some great pictures and the inevitable: empty pockets. Unless you spent your break slaving away for a paycheck, there’s a good chance you’re in a typical situation for college students: you need money. After all, the weekend is right around the corner and that late-night Primo is going to set you back a few bucks.

College is a busy time. Students often find themselves bogged down by long days filled with classes, meetings, practices and, in some instances, part-time jobs either through work study or off campus. Full time jobs among college students are unheard of and, unfortunately, part-time work just doesn’t seem to pay enough.

Perhaps the biggest financial woe students are faced with is being let out from under the wings of Mom and Dad.

Dr. Robert Porter, Assistant Professor of Finance, was eager to provide his financial expertise to students on a tight budget who are faced with the burden of student loans.

“It is important to make every effort to minimize the loan amount you will have to pay-off upon graduation,” Porter said. “A student who carries a full academic load and has to work a significant number of hours per week to generate income will not find much leisure time. However, she or he will have as little debt as possible upon graduation.”

Students also find themselves getting in trouble when it comes to credit cards.

Meghan Converse, a Junior Physical Therapy major, uses two standard credit cards and holds three store-specific credit cards.

“I use my credit cards every week basically,” Converse said. “I never have cash on me and it’s easier to use them and pay the bills online than worry about going to the ATM.”

Converse does not have a job at school but seems to have found the secret to saving.

“I was really good about saving money when I was in high school,” Converse said. “So after I go through what I make on breaks, I rely on that money.”

For the students who missed the mark on saving money, Porter advises sticking to cash.

“Don’t use credit cards unless you can pay off the entire balance each month,” he said. “Credit card interest rates are among the highest rates charged by lenders of all types. If you only pay the minimum balance due each month, you will never pay-off the amount used to purchase whatever it was you purchased and you will again have to pyramid your debt. Avoid this like the plague.”

Some students are getting the hang of how to handle money and the constant desire to spend, spend, spend.

Scott DeMarco, a Freshman Business major, was awarded work study upon entering Quinnipiac and works for Intramurals for approximately five hours each week. DeMarco says he limits his spending to $20-$30 per week.

“I just try not to make dumb decisions and only spend when I have to,” DeMarco said. “I spend money on food and beverages, and the occasional random purchase.”

With a meal plan and plenty of free activities available on campus, it seems easier for resident students to limit spending, even when on a tight budget. For off-campus students, however, the task becomes slightly more difficult.

Conor O’Brien, a Senior Interactive Digital Design major, uses a coy strategy for saving money on food.

“Make friends with someone who lives on-campus and has a meal plan. Then have him or her buy you meals all the time,” he said.

Matt Battista, a Sophomore Business Management major, lives on campus and receives a meal plan, but spends a large portion of his money eating out.

“I try and eat out once a week because the money the school gives you, with the prices they charge, just isn’t enough for boys at this school,” Battista said. “Eating out is expensive but it gives you the extra variety of food the school doesn’t have here, so I think it’s worth it.”

Battista spends his summers working as a member of the grounds crew at a golf course. He works up to 45 hours each week, which involves waking up at four o’clock in the morning, but he says that it pays off in the long run.

“Some of my money goes towards books, which I buy online because they’re cheaper that way,” Battista continued. “I go to Shaw’s every week or so and spend up to $100 to load up my fridge so I can eat when I want to, then about $25 each week on other ‘fun’ things.”

Porter says that the time is now for students to start planning for the future financially.

“It is never too early to start saving and investing,” he said. “Everyone should have a cash reserve set aside for emergencies before starting an investment program. Put your money in a savings account where you know it will be available when needed.”


A tip from Dr. Robert Porter: Managing Expenditures

“Start by dividing expenses into mandatory expenditures and discretionary expenditures. Obviously, the mandatory expenditures need to be made. Discretionary spending offers some flexibility and serious thought should be given to identify the expenditures that will provide the most utility, or satisfaction, to the student. Some students might want to save some of their discretionary money in order to make a significant purchase once sufficient funds have been saved. Others might feel that a weekly splurge on special food and drink makes their college life more satisfying. It all depends on the individual students. For all of you economic majors out there, the question is what expenditures have the highest marginal utility?”


About Alison Feller