By Ben Richmond
Traveling can benefit college students by providing life-enriching experiences.
However, as one student discovered this summer, funding and budgeting for such an adventure isn’t easy.
“I went into the summer knowing that I was going to be spending a lot of that money, but I didn’t expect to spend all of it,” said Emma Mathews, a 20-year-old junior from Atlanta majoring in accounting and theatre at the University of Georgia.
Mathews had two summers of savings before she went to New York City for theatre and dance classes. She thought she made a good enough budget for housing and groceries to not run out of money, but, “that did not happen,” she said.
Her main problem was unexpected expenses: she wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunities she thought she had for buying groceries and cooking at home. Other expenses, like materials for school, came up that she didn’t predict and she spent far more on entertainment than originally planned.
“You want to take some advantage of the experience, but the flip side is you have to be prudent about what you can afford to do,” said Robert Hoyt, the Dudley L. Moore, Jr. Chair and Professor of Risk Management and Insurance in UGA’s Terry College of Business.
Hoyt said that while saving for a trip such as this, as Matthews did, one must provide enough cushion to cover expenses like seeing a show and more unexpected expenses like Mathews’ school materials. He said cutting corners during the academic months can provide a larger “war chest” to spend during summer travel.
Hoyt said that while it’s important to the experience of places like New York to spend on shows or nice restaurants, there are other less expensive ways to enjoy the trip.
“Lunches in the park as opposed to lunches in a restaurant on the park, can be ways to experience the cool stuff and yet not dig a big hole for yourself that you’re going to be digging out of for many months to come when you come back from your summer experience,” said Hoyt.
Hoyt said it’s better to spend less time in areas with a higher cost of living. Shortening a trip by squeezing the work into fewer days will save money.
Mathews succeeded on some level by avoiding debt by the end of the summer, Hoyt said. A way of obtaining a large sum of money is by accruing debt, but, unfortunately, a student’s main access to this is a credit card, which Hoyt said can accrue some harsh interest that can make it costly to pay off.
Hoyt said it’s important to “pay yourself,” meaning to spend within reason so that debts are covered before spending on extras. Making a budget is smart, but it needs to be comprehensive. He said online budget calculators can help with determining the expenses to include.
Mathews said she’s smarter about spending now that the “buffer” of her savings has dwindled. She said the experience was worth the cost, but when it comes to money “I have to pay attention to what I’m doing.”
Ben Richmond is a journalism student at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.