Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Be S.M.A.R.T. about student spending

The stereotype of the “broke college student” is one most students have been typecast as at some point in their college careers. While adding to the stereotype may seem inevitable throughout the semester, there are ways to make sure one isn’t searching the couch cushions for bar money on Friday night or selling one’s prized longboard for textbook money or concert tickets.

College students spend an estimated $163 billion each year, LinkedIn reports. This is solely on discretionary items such as alcohol, electronics, cosmetics and other personal items. Spending on college-related funds, such as tuition, books and room and board can be in the thousands per semester for each individual.

A recent article written by USA Today said that in the last three years, students have become less likely to follow a budget, pay bills on time and are less likely to save and invest.

The article also reported students are becoming more confident and less competent managing their personal finances.

Plattsburgh State alumni and Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at UFirst Federal Credit Union in Plattsburgh Jody Carpenter, said budgeting is key, no matter what the money is used for.

“When you’re a college student, you have to budget. You’re going to have entertainment and you’re going to have expenses, but try to manage that,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said where and how money is spent in college mostly depends on the person. She prepared a slideshow for presentations she delivers at PSUC and suggests students consider their values and needs when considering spending. In the presentation, Carpenter also considers short-term and long-term goals affecting budgets.

Buying in bulk or sharing common items can make a difference in how much a student spends, Carpenter said. This can be especially useful for students who have roommates with similar food tastes who can split the cost and buy larger quantities for less money.

PSUC business administration and marketing major Cassandra Jennings said she spends most of her money on groceries and food because she lives off campus.

“My parents help by paying my rent, but if I had to pay it, rent would probably be my biggest expense,” Jennings said.

PSUC accounting and business administration major Jazmin Tejada said most of her money goes toward food and bills. Specifically, Tejada pays for car payments, car insurance and credit cards.

College Parents of America, a membership organization to assist families in the preparation, transition and completion of college, published an article detailing student credit card use.

The article said that 84 percent of college students have at least one credit card. Ninety percent of those students report using the credit cards for direct educational expenses. Seventy-five percent also use the cards for school supplies. Eighty-four percent use the credit cards for food, while around 70 percent use the cards for clothing and cosmetics.

Tejada and Jennings both said they spend a lot of their money on shopping. Tejada said her shopping money is spent specifically on clothes, shoes and makeup.

Carpenter said that besides making money stretch, budgeting is also a major issue among college students.

In her presentation, Carpenter said people without a budget are “less likely to know what they have.”

They also have no plan for spending, often coming up short before their next paycheck or allowance and they are “almost certain” to have plans in place for larger expenses as well.

Part of creating a budget is creating goals for the spender.

Carpenter uses the acronym “S.M.A.R.T.” for developing realistic goals that even work for the average college student.

The acronym places “S” for specific. The goals should be as specific as possible, whether it is a spring break vacation or a school trip.

“M” considers measurable goals. It is important to measure where the money is coming from and how much can be used for the specific goal.

“A” stands for attainable.

“If I stick to my plan, I’ll have the money when I need it,” the presentation states.

“R” considers the realistic aspect of the goal in place. It is important to set aside money for a goal or budget but to also live within means. The necessities such as food or bills should be accounted for within the budget.

Lastly, “T” reminds those with a goal to keep time-management in mind. How long will it take to achieve the goal? Is there a deadline?
Carpenter said these are all important things to consider when building a goal, whether it is short-term or long-term.

Creating a budget and keeping it structured can help any student achieve financial success throughout their college career. Staying on track will provide enough stability to make it to the next weekend spending spree, whether it be clothes, shoes and dorm furniture or beer funnels and Chipotle.

Email Marissa Russo at

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