Jan 262010
 
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

As a college student in a struggling economy, the last thing I expected was to have a shortage of money. Nevertheless, as I purchased my third textbook of the semester (which was the eleventh edition and hence cost eleven times as much as it should), I came to a startling revelation: college is expensive.

Thankfully, as I have already established by wisely receiving a Bachelor of Arts from Colorado State in 2006, I am a financial wizard. And, having been a college student once already, I know a few things about saving money.

The main trick in saving money is to decide what is a necessity and what is a luxury. Then, divide your money accordingly. Food, for example, is a necessity, and this means you can justify purchasing anything you can feasibly digest. Since food is the most important of the necessity items, we’ll start here, with the number one digestible college necessity: alcohol.

I know many of my readers are under twenty-one and hence are unfamiliar with alcohol. Alcohol is a magical beverage that turns uncharismatic young men and women into uncharismatic men and women with much lower standards.

Bars are the most popular place to get alcohol, which means they must also be the cheapest. Sure, mixed drinks seem four to five times cheaper, but that’s not factoring in the other benefits provided by bars: dim lightning and loud music, so you can avoid interacting with people.

Alcohol isn’t the only necessity –– some college students also eat food. The usual pattern I see is that students will purchase a bulk food, such as Ramen, and then only go out to eat three or four other times that week. To a layman, it may appear as if you’re neglecting healthy food on a regular basis in favor of a few indulgences.

Laymen are suckers. The best bet is to combine the two and head to a fancy restaurant, where the food is again five-to-six times what it should be, and slather everything in ramen. This is called “compromise” and it is how everything works, from the government to your future career.

Doing your cooking is sometimes considered cheaper –– because it is –– but keep in mind, you’re tired, hungry and for 10 bucks, a pizza will magically appear on your doorstep.

Once you’re stuffed full of hand delivered pizza and expensive cocktails, it’s the perfect time to consider how much money you’re spending on needless luxury items. Luxury items can quickly drain a struggling college student without them ever realizing it, thanks to the magic of credit cards.

Credit card companies realize you’re entering a magical time in your life, away from home and parents, yet still, they hope, dumb as a stump. The goal of a credit card is the same as tokens at an arcade: put distance between you, the consumer and the actual idea that money is being spent.

This is a huge burden off the shoulders of the average consumer. Things used to cost now-money, which is scary and limited, but future-money is a nearly limitless resource that we’re just learning, as a nation, how to really tap into. The consequences of spending this future-money may take years to fully manifest –– years in which you can enjoy your brand new iCrack!

Remember that, as a college student, these are formative years for habits that will set the trend not only for your own life, but the way we impact the world. And there’s never been a better time to cash in on the future!

Johnathan Kastner is a senior undeclared major with a physical and mathematical sciences interest. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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