You’re worth more

Aug 292011
Authors: Colleen McSweeney

Have you ever been sitting alone on your couch, eating a stolen, stale, four-day-old bagel from the Morgan Library coffee shop, thinking to yourself, “I wonder if marrying a sugar daddy would be worth the effort and shame?”

Oh,no? I haven’t either.

Because actually, the bagel was only three days old, and it wasn’t really stolen –– working at the library has its perks, including free leftover bagels.

This scenario has recurred a few times since I’ve been in college, and while I would never seriously consider getting a “sugar daddy,” a consistent diet of expired bake goods can lead to irrational thinking. The truth is, I’ve gotten used to being broke in college, but now more than ever, I’ve learned to embrace it.

When I go out to eat, while I would ideally like to make my food choice based on “What looks the best?” or “What has the most bacon?” my decision is usually made by asking myself “What’s the cheapest?” or asking the waiter “What are you willing to give me for completely free?” (Although I’ve never actually asked the latter, I’m sure the answer would be, “Water, you cheapskate’).

But really, I haven’t always been so glib about my financial shortcomings. In fact, there was a time in my childhood when I was ashamed and devastated when one of my more well-off friends (and by “well-off” I mean she had her own Barbie Corvette) came over to my house for the first time and said to me, “Oh, your family is just middle class, isn’t it?”

Even though my six-year-old mind couldn’t really comprehend the idea of the economic class system, and I mostly just felt inferior to her because I didn’t have a Barbie Corvette, it still stung when she said it.

Being the sensitive little girl I was, I went up to my mom after Barbie Corvette girl left, started crying and asked, “Whyyy are we middle-class, mom? Why can’t we be high-class like her? And why does my Barbie have to use the cat as a car?”

What she told me after that was something I’ll never forget. She calmly said something along the lines of, “Colleen, I’m going to tell you what your grandpa told me years ago when I casually referred to our family as ‘middle class’.”

“He said, ‘You’re not middle class. You’re high-class, middle income.’”

The emotional impact of this advice was minimal at the time, but whenever I recall my grandpa’s words today, I can’t help but feel lucky to have known a man like him.

Since I’ve been able to grasp the weight of his words, I’ve been completely fine being frugal.

Because I realized many years ago that no matter how much superficial wealth someone possesses, it’s the wealth of personal character that truly matters.

I think this is something we all need to consider, especially in a time when our country, and much of the world, is experiencing financial crises. Not only that, but most of us are significantly better off than so many others in the world –– people who can’t even conceptualize what it’s like to be middle, or even low, income.

If my grandpa were still alive today, I think he’d be proud of my cheapness, or “resourcefulness,” as he would call it.

“It builds character, “ he would say. “When I was your age, I courted girls with little more than 50 cents. But they still liked me, even though I was flat-ass broke. Why? Because I was good to them, and that’s all that matters.”

So be good to each other, and to yourselves. Even though we’re all struggling, be it with money or more personal issues, there’s always someone else who can sympathize.

Sure, right now we’re all students caught in the sort of pseudo-classless society that is college, where professing our affinity for the McDonald’s dollar menu is completely socially acceptable.

But just because we’re currently classless doesn’t mean we need to be, well, class-less.

Soon we will all be working citizens outside of the protective ozone of CSU, and people like Barbie Corvette girl will start placing us into an economic rank. Instead of crying to your mom like I did, realize: I may have less money than some, but I’ll be damned if I have less class.

Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney is a junior journalism major. Her column runs Tuesdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at

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