As I stand in front of the ATM machine, I push the cold, silver buttons to take out what little money I assume is left. “Come on, seriously?” I rhetorically ask the ATM, as if it will respond to me by dispensing some extra cash. Instead, the screen flashes: Insufficient Funds. I try again because the ATM is clearly having some difficulties. It has to be, because I had $14.82 when I checked last week.
Swipe. Click. Click. Insufficient Funds. “ATM! What is going on?”
It was like the ATM said, “You’re broke, Tatiana. Remember you bought that book for your sociology class?”
Still, I stand there, upset at the ATM because it will not give me what I do not have. Snatching my receipt, I head over to a Study Abroad Information Session thinking to myself, “How in the world can I get to a place across the globe when I can’t even buy takeout tonight?”
This year has been a real eye-opener for me. It is like freshman year was the time to adjust to college life. During that time, you really didn’t know all the good or bad about college. The bad for me: my bank account hit me this semester. I never truly realized what I did and did not have to pay for before my sophomore year. For example, living in a different residence changed my expenses. I live in Knight Hall, an apartment-style residence hall on campus. This means that I have to buy more things on my own. I never went food-shopping during my freshman year because I had a meal plan. Little things like that add up, and sometimes you don’t realize it. That is, until you check your account and it’s negative.
This semester I have come to understand that budgeting is important for me to maintain a healthy, fun, and social life. I’m able to work on this now because I’m able to see what expenses I have. I can now see my wants vs. my needs. Sometimes it does get a little annoying not being able to go out because you can’t afford to. But, the good side to that is you innovate, figure out ways to have fun without spending a lot of money. In my case, that is how I budget because I know eating out every day is not feasible.
Being a broke college student is nothing new. A lot of us are broke at the moment because we see our education as an investment in our future. The famous saying is: It will pay off. For me, knowing what I can and cannot afford has helped me through my semester so far. It has helped me try to manage my spending and know when to ask for help, and it has made me become closer to my friends, because they understand. We rally together.
I’m also understanding that money does not have to hold you back. So, even with my Insufficient Funds, I can still make things happen. For instance, after leaving my Study Abroad Information Session, I decided that I would not let money be my ultimate decision maker: I decided that I will be going to South Africa next semester. In order to make my goal of studying in South Africa come to fruition, I will be saving up, working hard, and turning to my family for some support. Showing that yes, some college students are broke, but it does not have to limit us.