From education to empty (wallets)
There is one force in this universe that towers above all others, dwarfing them in its gargantuan shadow. It’s started numerous wars, prompted countless crimes and driven unthinkable numbers of men utterly insane.
I’ll wager that more than half of you think I’m speaking of the most infamous of all forces, that power Celine Dion herself felt deserved its own record: the power of love. I am not, however, alluding to love. I am not alluding to politics. Both are formidable forces, sure enough, but there is one I believe every college student would agree trumps both: money.
The term “broke college kid” has swept the nation for a reason, after all. With university tuition for many institutions rising easily above $40,000, more young adults than ever are finding themselves in a fiery pit of economic hellfire, up to their poor — both literally and figuratively — eyeballs in debt.
Of course, our empty pockets are not solely the result of our costly education. I will be the first to admit I blow through appalling sums on trifles.
Online clothing sales, in particular, have really set me back. Half off, you say? Wonderful, I’ll buy two. Buy one, get one free? Fantastic! I clearly must buy four. These sales will be the nail in my budget’s coffin. I’m thinking of titling my first screenplay, “My Life as an Online Shopaholic,” starring my empty debit account and myself.
But even if my willpower proved resilient enough to avoid the glittering temptations of these unnecessary personal purchases, there are some commodities I cannot avoid. Everyone must shell out a ridiculous amount of money for rent every month. I would like to believe everyone — with perhaps the exception of several frat houses on Mad Bowl — feels compelled to purchase cleaning supplies. And speaking as someone who was only yesterday caught in her apartment’s bathroom with an empty roll, buying toilet paper is absolutely non-negotiable.
There’s also the issue of food — namely, that it costs a hell of a lot more than it should. How on earth do some loaves of bread cost upward of $4? That loaf of bread is made of flour and water. Why am I expected to pay $4 for flour and water? I really ought to buy my own flour and water and finally put my oven to good use. I could sell my own bread — “Laura’s Low-End Loaves.” Perhaps then I could actually afford a $4 loaf of bread.
It’s only my fourth week back in Charlottesville, and I’m already feeling the strain. I have begun avoiding those pesky emails from Wells-Fargo detailing my many economic transgressions in all their miserable glory. No, Wells-Fargo, I do not want to view my bank statement for the month. Ignorance is bliss, right?
In an attempt to ease my worries about my spending, I save all my receipts, from the lowliest purchase of bubblemint gum to those that evidence my Old Navy splurges, in a box beside my bed. As this box is currently overflowing with the damn things, I have taken to ceremoniously referring to it as “The Leaning Tower of Visa.”
The Tower serves no greater purpose; I do absolutely nothing with these receipts, and I don’t know why I bother to save them. Perhaps it just makes me feel more grown up. Perhaps I harbor a secret fear that I’ll be audited come April. Regardless, The Tower has proved ineffective at discouraging me from unnecessary spending and instead sits stubbornly in its dusty corner, striking guilt and stress into my soul whenever I mistakenly glance at it.
Money makes the world go ‘round, and at this point, I can’t imagine anything changing in the near future, particularly with the steadily inflating prices of everything from education to groceries.
Perhaps we can learn to live with this economic woe for the first decade of our lives after college. And if not, I’ve always thought there is something terribly romantic about the whole “starving artist” thing. And anyway, we won’t truly be starving — so long as we learn to bake our own bread.