Financial Thoughts

My Top 3 Financial Struggles in College by Abiodun Oni

Financial Struggles in College

One of the missions of our company is to contribute to increasing the overall financial health of the nation, as this impacts the financial health of all its citizens. And while the future of the country is in the hands of the young generation, we challenged ourselves to try to improve financial literacy.

To do this, we are providing a scholarship to a student who would submit the most original essay and video on “My Top-3 Financial Challenges Faced in College”, demonstrating a good understanding of economic aspects of the subject. And now we would like to share with you the essay and video that we liked the most.

Financial Struggles in College – You Are Not Alone

Financially, college can be a slippery slope. Just when you might think you have a strong handle on everything, money might shock you. For me personally, the college has been – and still is—a learning curve money-wise.

Prior to coming to college, I considered myself a great money manager. I would make sure to budget weekly, which enabled me to save money. At stores, I would make sure not to purchase items I did not necessarily need. Even at home, I would advise my family members on what was worth spending money on. I assumed that I would carry these habits with me to college, but instead found it difficult to keep up. Because of the demands of school, I could not keep up with my weekly budgeting sessions.

As a result of not budgeting, I felt more comfortable with spending money– specifically with making impulse buys. Although I would advise my friends on how to handle their finances, I often found myself to be hypocritical. These financial challenges are the top three that have influenced me in college, and although they were difficult to overcome, I eventually did fix them, and I will explain how throughout this essay.

Struggle #1: No Time For Budgeting

My first struggle in college was adjusting to the rigorous, academically fast-paced environment, which rendered me unable to complete my weekly budget. When I first arrived on my campus, I made it a point to budget, just like I had been doing since high school.

I would write the certain amounts of money I could spend based on my income ($20 on outside foods, $30 on fun stuff for myself, etc.) in a tiny journal. I kept up with this for the first month of classes but found myself beginning to slack after the second month of school. I found it difficult to budget for every week when I also had to worry about studying every day, managing my job, research, volunteering, and my other extracurricular clubs.

As a result of my slacking, I saw that I was spending a lot more than I was used to, and on items that I would have never allowed myself to purchase in the past. I knew I could not continue like this. Therefore, my solution was to have my friends hold me accountable. Luckily, my best friend lived across the hall from me, so I asked her to ask me every Sunday if I had made my weekly budget yet. Just by her asking me to write out my budget, I felt compelled to keep up with it.

In just two weeks, I was back to my normal flow. I was making sure to spend wisely. It was almost like competing with myself to see if I could spend less than the amount I had allowed myself to spend on my written budget. Having friends hold you accountable worked great for me and could benefit anyone else struggling to keep up with budgeting.

Struggle #2: Freely Spending Money/Impulse Buys

Although I had a pretty good background in saving money and budgeting frequently, I had a difficult time making calculated money decisions once I got to college. Many of my friends would encourage me to go out, have fun, and spend, spend, spend.

Although I was wary, I would still go out with them, because I loved to hang with my friends. We would go shopping for just groceries or clothes, yet I would feel more inclined to purchase items that I did not come into the store expecting to buy. Although I was having fun, soon enough, the financial damage began to show. I noticed a large dwindle in the amount of money left in my bank account, which I did not account for. I realized that I was straying far from my weekly budget.

As can be imagined, I desperately wanted to fix this. Therefore, I turned to the internet. I researched how to control my spending habits and found many solutions. Mainly, I learned to stick to the belief of “Buy what you NEED not what you WANT.” Also, I learned that for splurge items, I had to make sure that I could purchase the item three times with my current bank account balance. If I didn’t, then I had no reason to buy it. Sticking to these guidelines greatly helped me improve my spending habits, and I was able to teach my friends to do the same.

Struggle #3: Being Hypocritical

Because of my strong budgeting skills, my friends and family would often come to me for financial advice. I would advise them to remember to buy what was NEEDED instead of what was WANTED and to think twice before purchasing an item that they were not expecting to buy. I also advised them to budget at least monthly. This advice worked great for them!

Many of my friends found they had money left over to save or use on themselves. But when it came to me personally, I could not follow my advice. Impulse buys were made in droves, I was not budgeting as I should have been, and as a result, my bank account balance decreased accordingly. I began to feel hypocritical because I was not following my own advice. I felt that I was setting a bad example for the people that I was advising. I wanted to stop this, so I once again consulted my best friend to keep me in check.

But in doing this, we surprisingly set up a mutual accountability. At stores, she would advise me to rethink my purchases, and I felt less bad about advising her to not buy items that she did not need. In addition, I learned to hold myself accountable. It was important to make sure that I understood why I was spending the way I did. Once I understood, I felt better about myself, and about my ways of giving advice.

The three financial struggles that I experienced once I got to college were quite debilitating to go through. The fact that I was unable to budget weekly, which led to increased unnecessary spending and impulse buys, and then made me feel hypocritical when I gave out advice to my friends, made me feel bad about myself at times. Trying to fix these habits was difficult at first, but with the presence of friends that kept me accountable, as well as looking within myself to understand why I spent the way that I did, I was able to fix these issues and become more financially conscious for the future.

Financial Struggles

Sincere Congratulations, Abiodun!

Abiodun Oni Photo Name: Abiodun Oni
Institution: Johns Hopkins University
Major: Chemistry
Graduation Year: 2020
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