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Stomping the Yard

Avoid Broke College Student Blues

Blue piggy bank with a graduation cap
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Calling all college students! Our weekly column, Stomping the Yard, aims to help undergrads excel in their studies and social lives. JETmag.com’s team of experts will show you how to get it done, from the day you move into the dorms to the minute you step off campus for that first job. Submit questions and feedback for Stomping the Yard via digitalpitches@ebony.com.

College homecoming celebrations draw thousands of alumni, fans, community members, party fanatics to your campus for the games, parades, and of course the PARTIES. Homecoming is such a big deal that many students are investing lots of money in outfits, visits to the barber/hair salons, tickets to events, parties, etc. And, if you attend school in a big city opposed to a college town, your costs can really escalate.

In your attempt to keep up with the “cool kids” you may find yourself like one student did who says because she didn’t have a BUDGET she spent close to her entire work study pay check on homecoming with no money to pay her phone bill at the end of the month. Of course everybody wants to look great, and have the best time during homecoming, but, like rapper Yo Gotti cautions us “Everybody [may] be on Instagram looking like they mad rich, but they not.” So, don’t let trying to keep up a lively college lifestyle like other students appear to be living put you in tough financial times. In a small informal survey we conducted only 50% of students surveyed actually live by a budget, and some only use a budget for big trips or big events like homecoming.

Budgeting during your college career is critical to college survival for many students who can’t rely on family financial support. Ja’Net Adams is the CEO of EMACK Consulting, financial literacy expert  and author of “Debt Sucks: A Student’s Guide on Winning with Money So They Can Live Their Dreams.” Below Ja’Net provides tips and insights on why college students should use budgets and make smart financial decisions.

  1. Every college student should have a budget, because they will always have unexpected expenses show up like an extra book for a class, financial aid being late (savings), car repairs, etc.  These type of potential issues should be included in a budget.  Students who create a budget can make it monthly.  If they try to do a weekly budget it may become to overwhelming with all the other responsibilities they have.
  2. Meal plans are perfect because it is food that is already paid for!  Having a meal plan helps the budget tremendously because that is less money that has to be allocated to the “eating out” and “grocery” categories which tend to break a student’s budget.  Students with meal plans still have to be careful because they will have friends trying to convince them to buy combo meals twice a day, three times a week!  If a student has a meal plan, use it! If you live off campus
  3. Having a budget as a college student teaches the student financial responsibility.  When that student graduates and is out on their own they will have a better chance of succeeding financially.  Students with budgets also tend to have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses.  In every budget there should be a line for “savings” and that student who saves will less likely go into debt when an unexpected expense occurs.
  4. For those considering starting a budget, but have not taken the leap here is an exercise that might help.  For two weeks keep track of every penny you spend.  If you buy gas write it down, buy a text book write it down, buy food off campus write it down, etc.  Anything that takes money out of your pocket for those two weeks needs to be tracked!  What this will do for the student is show them how much money they are wasting and why having a budget telling your money where to go is so important.
  5. Be patient. The number one challenge I find with college students and personal budgets is patience.  Students want that first month budget to come out perfect and if they overspend on a line item or two they feel that they failed and quit.  Anyone who decides to do a budget must realize that it will take 3-4 months before that budget is concrete and perfect!
  6. When budgeting make sure to add a fun category.  That category should not take up 50% of your money, but it is there just so that you are able to enjoy yourself during the month while also being responsible with your money.
  7. When that refund check comes do NOT spend it!  If you are going to school on a student loan that check is not free money and you will have to pay it back!  Instead save the money just in case your budget takes an unexpected financial hit.  The refund check that you saved could soften the financial hit!

Thanks to the students who contributed to this article: Yaw Brooks (University of Illinois); Angel Brown (Harold Washington College); Taylor Carr (Howard University); Shemiah Curry (Bennett College); Madalyn Frigo (University of Chicago); Mercedes Harris (Howard University); Alexandria Johnson (Ole Miss); Kristen Lange (Benedict College); Anisa McClinton (University of Illinois); Idalis Payne (UNC, Chapel Hill); Jess Taylor (Roosevelt University); Candace Robins (University of Missouri); Elexia Russell (Columbia College)

Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair is the founder of the highly successful Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program that  has served more than 700 girls, aged seven to 17 years old, to be effective communicators, and career and community conscious leaders! This work has been supported by a network of 300+ volunteers from the Chicagoland community and area businesses such as Bloomingdale’s, Microsoft, ThoughtWorks and many more. You can follow Kelly on her blog and on Twitter at @KFairtheMentor.