By Charlotte Norsworthy
Before Alexis Manson decides to buy a concert ticket or go out to dinner with a friend, she pulls out her laptop to check her digital budget.
“It’s like a game, she said. “It’s honestly kind of fun.”
Manson is a junior international affairs major at the University of Georgia from Smithfield, Virginia, and while she doesn’t need to be financially independent from her parents, she likes to practice ways to curtail wasteful spending.
“I know that in the near future, I will have to be financially independent,” Manson said, “and so I figure now’s a good time to start trying to figure out how to do that, while I still have a little bit of something to cling on to.”
To keep track of her expenses, Manson uses a spreadsheet to break down her monthly rent and utilities. From there, she budgets her weekly grocery expenses by tracking down weekly sales and coupons to keep her grocery shopping as low as possible.
“In one week I might have to go to Kroger and Aldi, but if I’m getting the best deals, it’s worth it,” she said. “And then with my leftover money, I can use that for fun things like if there’s a concert I know I want to go to.”
Manson said maintaining a budget while in college can be difficult socially when hanging out with friends involves spending money.
“You just have to be open to suggesting different alternatives to your friends,” she said. “So if a friend wants to go out to dinner, I’ll be like, ‘You can come over and we can like cook something together, and that’d be fun and less expensive.’”
Michael Thomas, a lecturer in financial planning, housing and consumer economics at UGA, said the social pressure to spend money on experiences in college presents a significant challenge for students trying to reel in their expenses.
“I think the first thing is that students have to understand that every students’ background isn’t the same,” he said. “College makes it seem like everybody’s in the same boat, but everybody isn’t in the same boat.”
Thomas said students should understand that students come from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and to have open conversations with their friends about finances.
“I think having an honest conversation . . . being very transparent, open and honest, that everybody’s not starting from the same place,” Thomas said. “Understanding that my hard-earned hundred dollars isn’t a hard-earned hundred dollars elsewhere.”
Regardless of financial background, Thomas said all students should learn to be more deliberate with how they spend and save their money.
“One of the biggest reasons for budgeting is for self-awareness,” he said. “We know that when people are more stressed or experience peer pressure, they make impulse decisions.”
Thomas said the budgeting process is not about “a denial of self,” but rather finding a balance.
“There are trends and myths that you have to either be a minimalist or you have to be completely balling out,” he said. “There’s no balance there, and so I think that it’s more about working towards the center.”
Charlotte Norsworthy is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.