MoneyKey’s Key Thinkers Scholarship is designed to reward post-secondary students for their academic achievements. We asked “What does financial responsibility mean to you and what steps should students take to plan their budget?” and received many great submissions. Below is the winning essay from the Summer 2018 Scholarship recipient Samantha:
Imagine this: You’re 18 years old and just got accepted into the college of your dreams. You think that you can finally move out and start your own life. Then, BAM reality hits. You look at the bill; It cost $4,000 per semester just to live on campus. That’s an extra $1,000 per month on top of tuition. For most of us, it would be near to impossible to pull that off without help.
I was young and naive when this happened to me. My jobs, at the time, were not enough to pay the bills. Eventually, my mom and I concluded that I should live at home because it was only a fifteen minute drive anyway. Still, that only lowered my tuition down to $908 my freshman year of college. Luckily for me, my parents told me they could cover half. That means I had to cover the remaining $454.
Job change. I worked three days a week in seven hour shifts. At $8 an hour, I made about $280 every two weeks after taxes. Getting paid two times per month would put me at $560. So I’m good, right? Wrong. Books themselves cost another $200 per semester. And what about supplies, food, and emergencies? I needed a plan to get my life on track.
My plan was to save as much as I could over the summer. I worked seven hour shifts, four days a week. While it was summer, I had to ignore the voice saying “Treat yourself!” and think more about my everyday purchases. Instead of going to Starbucks every morning, I limited myself to one, sometimes two days per week. Also, bringing a lunch from home meant that I didn’t need to spend more on food. Even though those seem like small changes, saving as little as $5 a day does add up quickly.
After I was able to save about $1,000 over the summer, I started to make a budget. I continued to make near to $600 a month. Again, my tuition was $454 per month. The books added up to $120, but luckily this wasn’t a monthly purchase. This left me with about $16 left of my paychecks that first month. No worries, however, I saved enough to have more for the other necessities for school. The next four months were easier; $454 a month meant I had $146 left of my monthly checks. I planned not to spend more than $50 a month on miscellaneous and save the rest.
Now, I have enough to pay for over half of my tuition. Budging showed me that I needed to work hard for what I want in life. That feeling that I get when I am able to pay a whole month’s tuition on my own is incredibly freeing. From my freshman year to my junior year, I went through five different jobs until I found one that fit my schedule and financial needs. Being financially responsible allows me to go to college and still have enough to give myself a treat here and there. Set a goal, make a plan, and work for it. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but it will be well worth the effort. Soon, I will save and budget for my own apartment. That is my next plan.
Samantha is a junior at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Samantha’s major is Elementary Education with minors in English and Creative Writing.