Friday, December 30, 2016

A Letter to My College Self

Happy Oxymoron Day!

How was everyone's Christmas?!  Ours was fabulous, low-key, full of jammies, and love.  All of my favorite things!

Today's post is going to be a letter to my college-self.  I've recently learned about Earnest a company that offers personal loans and student loan refinancing. They inspired me to write a letter to my college aged self offering advice/things I wish I did/knew. College was one of my favorite times in my life.  I met some of my best friends there, prepared for my job, and learned how to be a grown up.  For the first time ever, I didn't have anyone making sure I ate my vegetables, woke up on time, and did my homework.  Being super Type-A, these were easy accommodations, but was different.  It was a huge learning curve, adjustment, and lifestyle change.  It was eye opening to say the least

Dear 18 Year Old Erin,

Hi!  How are you?  I am basing this letter on the Brad Paisley song, Letter To Me. are you enjoying your winter break?  Don't get used to it, because it will be a rude awakening come the real world.  Also, I know you're an anxious crazy person, so don't worry, you will get your dream job.  Everything career-wise will work out beautifully.  So keep up the good work and work that hustle!  You will eventually end up working 4 jobs and hold down a 3.8 GPA.  Money will be tight, but you will always be fine.  How will you be fine?  Here's how!

  • BALLIN' ON A BUDGET!  Make a budget at the beginning of the month.  When I was in college I made about $250 a month working at the dance studio, about $400 a month working at the day care center teaching dance and about $100 a month babysitting.  I would make a spreadsheet with the $650.  (Babysitting was too unreliable to actually add it to my monthly spreadsheet.  Babysitting became my "Fun Money")  I'd make a list of my expenses for the month:
    • $100 for gas
    • $300 groceries 
    • $100 supplies for work/school/personal hygiene products
Then I'd say okay, I have $150 left.  I regrettably didn't save a lot of money in college.  Something I changed as soon as I got my big girl job!  That meant I had $150 a month to play with.  That usually went to friend dinners, birthday presents, movies, shopping.  I still keep my spreadsheet to this day.  The funny thing is that now, even though I have 3 jobs, I still don't have $150 to play with!  

  • DON'T GET A CREDIT CARD!  Even though they seem like a good idea, don't bite!  Yes at one time your debit card will get declined at Walmart and you won't be able to buy that US Weekly.  It will be okay.  Better to be declined at Walmart, than have a car loan declined.  Credit cards seem like they will erase all of your financial problems and allow you to get the 16 oz. margarita at Applebee's as opposed to the 12 oz., but that's ok!  You don't need those extra 4 oz. that badly.  I've seen so many of my friends go on shopping sprees thinking that Oh, by the end of the month, I'll have the money.  And guess what?  They don't.  You won't.  Be a cash only girl for as long as possible.  Believe me, at 24.5 you got your first credit card and it is too easy to rationalize buying things when you have a credit card.  
  • PAY CASH FOR GAS!  I can't stress this enough.  The gas stations by TCNJ run a notorious gas hike game with the students.  The 3 of them on the corner of Pennington will assume you don't pay attention and will overcharge you if you use your debit card.  They will continually say they "thought you said $20" when in reality everyone knows you said $10.  Cash will keep you out of this situation.  
  • PAY ATTENTION!  Like with the aforementioned gas incidents, paying attention will save you $$$$.  When you go to the grocery store, make sure you scan your own groceries whenever possible.  If you go to a check out aisle, make sure you pay attention to the scanner.  Most times this is an accident, but sometimes you will get overscanned.  Speak up for yourself and ask them about the errors.  This happens at the mall, too.  Make sure you read the sale's fine print and always look for email coupons!  
  • ASK FOR DEALS!  Don't be afraid to ask stores for student discounts.  J.Crew, Loft, Regal Cinemas, local restaurants ALL offer deals for students.  Most are 15% off minimum.  
  • HAPPY HOUR-If you've read my blog long enough, you know that I love eating out!  It's one of my favorite things to do.  I grab my girlfriends, we pick a cool new-to-us place, and mangia!  College was no different.  The girls in my cohort and I would end up at a different restaurant every Wednesday night after class. We would go during happy hour and score great food for a fraction of the price.  We usually ended up in Princeton and would pop into a local eatery that would be waaaaayyyy too expensive for dinner.  We got the best of both worlds-yummy food at a huge discount!  We also got some cute IG pics at a trendy locale!  What could be better? 
  • COUPON LIKE IT'S YOUR JOB!  Life is expensive, y'all!  I would go online and find direct from the manufacturer coupons, I'd go to newspapers and check the circulars, download the apps for my favorite stores, and check my emails diligently.  All of these little things added up to major savings
  • SAVE YOUR PENNIES!  Since I usually paid cash for most things in college, I acquired some seriously heavy coinage!  I put it all in a piggy bank (yes a legit pink piggy bank) and when it filled up I would take it to the bank and cash it in.  I usually ended up with $60.  Not bad for a little junk change!  
Another tip for college finances involves a sticky situation.  We all know that going out for group dinners is a big part of the college culture and we all know that awkwardly trying to split the bill is another big part of college culture.  There is always that ONE person who refuses to pay their rightful amount.  Venmo!  Download that app now!  I wish we had this when I went to college (okay that makes me sound old!) because you always get stiffed!  Before we had Venmo, I always asked for separate checks.  It might sound like you're being petty, but seriously it's not fair!  It's okay to stand up for yourself and ask the waitress (at the beginning of the meal) for a separate check.  

To sum up this letter, always say yes to Pizza Friday (the bonding and laughs are totally worth the $.82 balance in your bank account), always say yes to Girls' long as you have the cash to back it up!  Also...M&Ms are cheaper in bulk :) 

Enjoy the rest of your college career!  You'll love every minute of it.  Don't worry, you'll pass your Comp Exam!  Besides financial advice, I'd tell myself to have more fun!  Go to a freaking college party!  You should have started subbing earlier!  That was a great job and paid more than the day care, plus they treat you way better!  Better hours and a better job with more money?  What was wrong with you!?  In the love faction of life, let's just say you learn the hard way.  You still do.  Your 26 and still take being hit and dragged by a bus to learn a damn thing.  Maybe 2017 you'll figure it out?  


26 year old Erin

I'm off to the ballet and a Girls Night!  I'll post a weekend recap Monday!

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