College Connect: Treating Yourself on a Bare-Bones College Budget

By Jonah Emil

When I came to college, I was so excited to explore everything my campus had to offer. I went downtown to discover the new shops, restaurants, and attractions that added a whole new level of fun to my college experience.

However, there is one thing in common with these activities that incoming college kids don’t realize until it’s too late. Money. I was amazed when I glanced at my bank account after first semester. Activities as simple as eating, quickly (and I mean quickly!) diminish your bank account.

Even after I noticed my shrinking bank account, I always had that thought of “Hey Jonah, you did really good on your last test! Time to go get some Chipotle, you deserve it.” That “treating yourself” feeling soon turned into a “Hey Jonah, sorry about that not so hot grade on your test, you will feel better with some Chipotle” kind of feeling. A powerful feeling that you can’t avoid after 2 weeks eating dining hall food.

I’m sure you have heard a million times from your parents about “buying only what you need and avoid buying things you want” and that is true. A study done by Psychology Today, found that only participants who were prosocial, or doing things to benefit others, had greater positive emotions week after week. The participants who treated themselves showed little change in positive emotions compared to kindness. Does that mean you should just save your money because buying your happiness doesn’t exist? Not so fast. According to a study conducted by Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich, people don’t feel happiness from getting stuff, but do feel happiness by doing things. You only live once so occasionally go out and treat yourself to some food or a movie with friends and have a good time.

Lucky for you, I’ve used my experience and found ways to have a great time on a college budget. Here are 8 tips to save your bank account.

  1. Relive your childhood by going to the local park: It’s always fun to go down a big slide that you don’t fit in!
  2. Go Hiking: Research any nature based activities to do on your campus. Most campuses usually have nature trails or some other nature based activities nearby.
  3. Cook: Why spend money on fast food when you can save lots of money and have fun cooking up something delicious.
  4. Workout: Utilize your campus recreational facility which is a great way to play pickup games of many sports with friends or lifting some weights by yourself.
  5. Attend Campus Events: Your university most likely puts on free events for students whether it would be a movie, a speaker, a party, or my favorite, giving out free food.
  6. Go shopping at a thrift store: You don’t know what kind of gems you can find at a thrift store. Give it a shot!
  7. Start a new Netflix series: Between studying and going to class, college provides a lot of opportunity for free time. Kick back, relax, and press play.
  8. Study some more: Although this might not be the most fun thing you’ve heard, you came to college to get an education and it never hurts to study one more hour.

Jonah Emil is a freshman at the University of Missouri.

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