By Andrea Jennemann
When the end of my first year of college ended, and everyone was moving out of the dorms and beginning to sign leases for apartments, my father told me I would be solely responsible for my living costs from that point on.
Because of a change in roommates, I was late in signing my lease.
I ended up with one of the new downtown apartments. While nice, this apartment is not cheap for someone paying the full rent every month. In my case, it’s $664 a month, which includes utilities and furniture. I was just beginning my sophomore year, and even before move-in day, I came to the conclusion that the only way I could afford to pay rent and have money for other living expenses was to work full time. It seems 40% of students now work full-time and go to school, although that number includes those who are only going to school part-time.
I started at Petro-Mart, a gas station chain. I worked 40 hours a week on top of 15 credit hours, but at a rock bottom wage.
I quickly learned that even working full time and paying my rent, I did not have enough money left over to buy groceries, gas, and other necessities to last two weeks. I would run out of money a week after getting paid, leaving me broke for a week. With the balance between school and work, I had to learn how to manage time.
I had a set schedule for work every week, which included five shifts from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. My school schedule had most of my classes on Tuesday and Thursdays, and I had one online course which helped. I set aside time every week to complete my assignments.
It was very tough and my friends began to notice I wasn’t spending time with them as much. I suffer from depression, and after a year or so of being stable, I began to spiral down back into my depression, and hit rock bottom at the end of the semester. I ended with an A, 3 B’s, and a C. Grades are very important because I’m in a program that has a required GPA to continue.
I spent my winter break healing and preparing for the next semester, where I was beginning a new job at Hy-Vee full time. The job was much easier than the last one, as it was fully staffed compared to an unorganized workplace. My depression lifted and I have felt so much better this spring semester. I am able to work around my work schedule to complete assignments, but I do have panic modes, where I have no idea when I will have time to complete something or an assignment without pulling an “all-nighter” or staying up very late. Overall, it really has been difficult. I want to get the best education, but living is extremely difficult when you are on your own in college.
I learned from my mistakes. I have already signed a lease for a house next year that has a significantly cheaper rent, so that will take off part of my stress.
My main piece of advice for those in a similar situation is to begin saving money as soon as possible while in high school.
It is so important to have backup money, as things can go wrong at any second, or you may find yourself with not money or food. The second is time management. It is critical while working full time to be able to manage your school time while working. Time management is key for everyone. It will be a skill you will need the rest of your life, and do nothing but help and push you towards goals.
Jenneman is a sophomore at the University of Missouri School of Journalism