“Should I get a steeped tea at Tim’s? Maybe a latte at Second Cup? Oh, but Starbucks has their new drinks out, too, and Chatime just opened up! What to buy?”
A tiny voice at the back of my head: “How about nothing? You’ve already spent too much.”
And thus is the plight of all students with a handy-dandy debit card.
It’s nice to treat yourself sometimes. I live by the philosophy that you should always treat yourself after a really bad day, or after submitting a large project, or after getting a good mark on your midterm. Appropriate times. Not too much, though, so you still get the joy from the “treat”.
BIG PROBLEM: I always feel like I’m spending too much.
I’ve been in tough financial situations when I was younger, and still currently am. The tight spending of the family budget and the rare luxuries we got, taught me the importance of saving and I still carry this mindset to this day. I monitor my finances all the time and still consider any item of clothing above $20 tremendously expensive. I have the Flipp price-match app on my phone, head to the store’s clearance section first, and make sure not to buy more than two drinks (coffee, tea, smoothie, etc) a week.
I always thought this behaviour was reasonable and normal. Apparently, according to family and friends, it’s not.
Whether you’re in a financial situation or not, most students are divided between two mindsets: the “I spend too little” and the “I spend too much”.
The “I spend too little” crew usually owns a credit card and loves to treat their friends. They’re not exactly sure of how much they’re spending but they know it’s probably below their monthly limit, so they tend to splurge a lot. These students might treat themselves too much.
The “I spend too much” crew usually owns a debit card and is the cheapest person in the group. They keep tight track of their spending, like glancing at their account after purchasing a coffee, and tend to withdraw from buying things they actually need. These students might treat themselves too little.
Before school started, I was complaining to my brother about all of the things I would have to buy: new clothes (I came from a uniform school and hadn’t updated my wardrobe in four years), a laptop, textbooks, and school supplies being some of the many things on my list. He promptly asked me how much would be left in my debit card when I was done, and when I responded, he looked at me sideways and said:
“Are you kidding me? You have money. You need these things. Why are you so worried about spending?”
Then he laughs and says,
“You honestly need to spend MORE.”
And to be honest, I’d never thought of it that way. Isn’t it weird to tell someone to keep spending? Don’t you normally tell people to stop spending? Is that weird?
Apparently it was, because my mom and a few of my friends gave me the same answer. It was only until he told me this that I realized something:
I was the “I spend too much”.
Not the “reasonable spender”. Not the “adult who has their finances down to a point”. Not the “role-model budget-er”. Because of my previous experience with low finances in my family, I was conditioned to believe spending any money at all was bad, and this made me — to be frank — the cheapest person in the group. It also made me stop myself from buying things I needed, and made me feel like I was in a much worse financial position than I actually was.
I’m blessed enough to have a debit card, two jobs that pay well, a paid-off tuition, and low-burden financial payments. I know many people aren’t lucky enough to be in this position and struggle to make ends meet. I know now that I’m in a better position than I think I am.
Slowly, I’m learning to spend money on things I need and the occasional luxuries. I’ve been trying to adopt the modest “why not?” mindset that will make my university experience a little more comfortable.
So the next time you leave class craving a Sparkling Green Tea Lemonade from Second Cup or a Taro Milk Bubble Tea from Chatime, and you know you’ve been working hard or have had a bad day, whip out your wallet and spend a little. My rule of thumb is no more than once or twice a week!
It’s the sweet little things that make the world a little nicer. Indulge and enjoy.