Do I really know the value of a dollar?

By Ryan Wilson

As a kid growing up in a moderately middle-class suburban town, I always grew up being aware of how much money can affect your life. From club sports to be able to go out to a fancy dinner, money ruled my town and the people around me. Throughout my 19 years of life,

I have always had a personal struggle with money. My parents would like to always say: “You don’t understand the value of a dollar, Ryan.” That phrase has always stuck with me. Saving money has been something that I have been struggling with over the years and even more in college.

I was always the little girl growing up who had basically everything she wanted. Being an only child of divorced parents, I had two separate holidays. Every year I would get presents, but as I got older those presents started to turn into cash. I remember opening my first cash filled Christmas card and my eyes immediately lighting up. I started to associate money with happiness.

The more money I would make or have the higher my utility would be. The light dimmed when my parents sat me down and told me they were going to take half of that into savings. My mother taught me the value of a dollar at a very young age. My mom would have a tax system for me whenever I would earn money for chores: 10% would go to church, 20% would go back to her for taxes, 40% would go to savings, and the rest would be for me to spend.

My mother taught me how to do my own tax bracket with my taxable income. When tax season comes around, I understand what will be taken out of my paycheck, but when it comes to savings, I have no idea where to start.

Growing up, I thought a savings account was just some place that you put money and take it out when you need more to spend something. That perspective I would like to say has changed, but it has not. During the pandemic and my time at college so far, my spending habits have been drastically horrific. The most money I ever spent was around July 2020, when I went shopping to furnish my first dorm room. After being stuck at home due to the beginning of the pandemic, I was ecstatic to get out of my hometown and relocate to campus. With doing so I spent about $3,000 on dorm supplies, household items, decorations, and even just online clothes shopping.

According to CNBC, “College students and their families expect to spend an average of $1,200.32— up about 13% from a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual back-to-school spending survey.” It was nice to realize that I was not the only college kid who spent over $1,000 on their college back-to-school supplies.

After my freshman year of college ended, I started to take my spending habits seriously. Beginning of this past summer I worked two part-time jobs and worked a double shift almost every other day to help replace all the money I spent freshman year due to the pandemic.

I know that more than half of all college students work. Working nearly 40 hours a week just to try and pay for housing supplies really opened my eyes to the value of money and how to save properly. With that being said, I took a step this past October — I opened my first savings account.

Working and going to school was something that I never really had to do in high school but living off campus changed that.  I started cutting out spending my money on items that I did not necessarily need. I started to use the 50/30/20 plan: Put 50% of your after-tax income toward things you need, 30% for items you want and 20% into savings.”

The article is very similar to my journey of how I started to save during college. My spending and saving habits were always a struggle for me growing up, but with the right tools and research I am learning to tackle when to save and when to spend. My savings goal is $3,000 in order to save up for my first apartment after graduation.

Wilson is a junior at the University of Missouri.

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