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COLUMN: Be aware of irresponsible spending

By Steve Schwartzman
On October 26, 2013

Question: have you ever eaten a Philly sandwich made with lunchmeat, Kraft singles and honey butter packets from KFC on top of an Eggo waffle bun? Have you ever eaten one of these for a date?

Don’t worry. You will.

Welcome to the bustling mental metropolis that is college poverty. It’s a lot like real poverty, except where normal poverty mercies are a forgotten slice of bread or unexplained shelter, yours are a free month subscription of Hulu Plus or using that dollar you found outside to add guacamole and sour cream to your sweet pork burrito at Costa Vida.

I get a lot of questions from younger students to the tune of how to pinch a dime into a dollar, and I usually give them two pieces of advice.

One: Turning metal into paper is near impossible, so I’d stay away from pinching anything unless you greatly value carpal tunnel syndrome.


Two: Always have space for your “fun” purchases, but choose them wisely — and I mean “wisely” with impeccable emphasis.

It’s amazing how a few $2 purchases can add up quickly. The only thing that travels faster than Kel to a jug of orange soda is a checking account flopping from three digits to two, and it’s usually not the paying-rent or covering-medical-expenses doldrums to blame. It’s the little things — those wolves in a Five-Dollar-Footlong’s clothing.

Financial success is all about being aware of — and avoiding — those things that add up. To start you off right, let me just name a few.

First, beverages. Look, I don’t have anything wrong with going out every once in a while. If God didn’t want us to rely on fast food, he wouldn’t have invented In-N-Out Burger. But if you’re one who wishes to turn an on-location culinary experience into a sure-fire financial-reliance clinic, allow me to issue you a gold mine in nine simple words.

Get a water. Get a water. Get a water.

I understand nothing goes better with a vat of curly fries much like an ice cold Dr Pepper, but you have to refrain. What was once a single added purchase of $1.45 quickly turns into two, then five, then you’re justifying daily Slurpee and Frosty detours. Before long, you are figuratively and even pseudo-literally drowning in your own sugary fiscal undertow. You know what they say in economics: “There no such thing as free refills.”12

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