Money is an issue for every student. We all complained when the grants were cut, when registration fees threatened to rise and when tuition fees threatened a return. Somehow we lived on, but how? What are the everyday financial issues of college students really like? I know first-hand the effect a lack of money can have on the college experience. Excluding drinking – because I do not drink – almost every other aspect of college life comes with a price tag.
I try particularly with food, to save my money. A quick trip to Aldi on Sunday afternoon before the bus back to college should suffice for the week. However, there is always that one day when the smell of Subway is just too much to resist. Walking up to the counter I intend on just investing in a six inch sub. Walking back to my seat I hold a foot-long stuffed sub and a large drink, and hang my head in shame. It may not seem like much but all of those €6 add up. On the way home then the shop may catch my eye and a packet of crisps and a caramel Milka bar later I’m closer to the poverty line. And it is only Tuesday.
Books also are a financial burden. While we try to get through college assignments, tutorials and exams without them, there will come that time when we just cannot do without them. I gave up on the library a long time ago for books. I know how the coding system works and where the books I am looking for should be, but they never are. On one occasion the library claimed to have 11 copies of a book I was looking for. I could not find even one. The book was important so I decided the easiest option was to buy it. I forked out €49.95 for that book. Still have yet to open it. That is essentially €50 I will never get back and to top it off I found out I will not have the module next year, or ever again, so the book is useful to me only this semester.
Nights out for me are relatively cheagp because I do not drink so I can’t really complain about them. I get the bus into town, pay admission, drink water all night, and pay for a taxi home, which isn’t expensive when split between four people. The expensive part is when we get peckish on the way to the taxi rank. Burger King sounds like a good idea at the time, but when you find yourself paying for a taxi in coppers, there’s a problem. I spend close to €10 each time I go there and it seems worth it until I arrive home and realise just how much food I actually had already.
Collecting money for charity can also leave the pockets empty. I can’t find it in myself to pass by a reputable charity and not give a few Euros. To be honest though I would much rather do volunteer work than give money. The reason charities collect money is because of a lack of resources. Students have the perfect opportunity to become those necessary resources. When the UL Journalism Society went to the Limerick Animal Welfare to volunteer their time and effort it was a really good day for everyone involved. The people that worked there got a bit of rest while we walked the dogs, the animals received attention and affection, and we got to cuddle kittens and puppies all day! Aside from the obvious perks of this we felt so much better afterwards. Well you donate money you feel good for maybe five minutes, then you forget it ever happened and get on with your day. Actual volunteer work has a much more lasting effect.
Something I noticed this week in particular is a student’s treatment of money. For instance, my Dad gives me on average €100 per week. This is a lot I know. But this week I find myself with only €10 because I was nice and said I wouldn’t take it off him. In those weeks that I am €100 up I find myself broke by the end of the week, with just enough to pay for the bus home. This week, even though my funds are extremely limited, I still managed to not spend a penny yet. The funny thing is I haven’t gone without anything. I haven’t starved, I’ve had fun, and my academics haven’t suffered in any way. I still can’t figure out how it is possible, to go through €100 a week with nothing really to show for it, when I can easily live on just a tenner. I have decided from now on to write down every penny I spend and try to figure out exactly where my money goes. The question is baffling and needs to be answered. One of the reasons we all love college is the independence, but I think my finances still need some parental supervision.