The Freedom of Frugality
Tuition is costly. Eating out, finding a place to live, and covering your necessities all add up. This is not a predicament unique to you. Life is expensive. We often conflate price with quality: It is a poor decision to be cheap, because “you get what you pay for”. Yet this is far from a universal truth. There is a crucial difference between cheapness and frugality. The former focuses on the money; the latter is about priorities. By stripping away unnecessary expenses, you can enrich your schooling experience and build positive habits for the future.
Becoming frugal will help you in school. The American Psychological Association’s annual study on stress has found that money is the top stressor year after year. When you minimize this stressor, you can focus more on your studies. The first step is crafting a budget. Start with your monthly income, and then subtract monthly expenses in the following order: high priority (required things such as rent and food), low priority (important but not necessary items like Internet and phone plans), savings (if you do not have one, open a high-interest savings account right away), emergency savings, and money just for fun. By creating your budget in this specific order, you will be more aware of where your money is going and what costs can be cut down. Less of your money can be spent on frivolous things and more of your energy can be spent on school. Your grades will thank you.
Being frugal will help you in all aspects of your life. Take advantage of college student discounts to enjoy different restaurants and activities in your area. There are many school clubs and online meetup groups that you can partake in for little to no cost. When you no longer need old school books or electronic materials, sell them to reduce the stress of buying new ones or other important items. Our consumer culture places strong emphasis on wants. Three studies by Marsha Richins of the University of Missouri found that wanting things makes people happier than when they actually get them. By breaking the ingrained habit of materialism, you think more about each purchase you make and will be happier for it.
Staying frugal will help you in your future. Do certain tasks yourself instead of paying for someone else to do them, such as home renovations or make your own meals. You may discover new passions and build the groundwork for lifelong habits. By continuing to live frugally well after your schooling days, you grant yourself greater freedom in life. You will be less likely to feel trapped in a job you hate just for the paycheck, and can save enough to retire years earlier than you would have otherwise. Beyond yourself, your money-saving actions can inspire friends and family around you to adopt healthier habits. By buying less and handing over fewer dollars to corporations, you will reduce your carbon footprint and play your part in helping the environment. Saving a few dollars can go a long way.
Money will always be a stressor in your life to some extent. We cannot escape necessities and important expenses. But you can take action to reduce money spent on flashy electronics, pricey restaurants, and other trappings of a materialistic culture. This will help you do better in school, in life, and in the world. The idea of “cheap” has a strong negative connotation. Focus on being “frugal”. Think of it not as spending less, but rather prioritizing your spending. By doing so, you can fill your life with the things and activities that matter most to you.
Muller, Chris. “The Top 10 Reasons Frugality Is So Liberating.” MoneyMozart. https://www.moneymozart.com/frugality/.
Peterson’s. “How to Budget while in College: 3 Tips to Make College Cheaper.” https://www.petersons.com/blog/make-college-cheaper/.