Students forced to cut corners to afford college

By Lauren Tidmore

#poorcollegestudent #ramennoodlelife #noshame #collegestruggles – We’ve all seen these stereotypical phrases being posted by college students while checking Facebook and Twitter.

Yet when labels such as “poor college student” are overused, students can sometimes lose a sense of what it really means to be poor. The problem is that a majority of students have one extenuating factor that skews the poor college student stereotype– parents.

”It’s kind of like I still have a net if I need it,” said Tyler junior Hannah Beth Roberts.

Roberts relies on her parents for tuition, books, rent, some monthly bills and some food, depending on the outgoing costs each month. Her 10-hour-a-week campus job pays for student organization dues, the majority of her monthly grocery bills, gas and entertainment.

Some students have to pay for nearly all of their needs and bills. Katy senior Kate LeTourneau is required to provide funds for tuition, books, rent, utilities, food and gas.

“I pay for things,” LeTourneau said. “I work hard.”

When not in school, such as during the spring, summer and winter breaks, she works three jobs, amounting to 50 to 60 hours of work per week.

Dallas junior Jess Numrich works two childcare jobs during school semesters to support herself.

“I hear a lot of people complain about not having any money, but they don’t have any semblance of a job,” LeTourneau said.

Finding the diligence to maintain her lifestyle is difficult, she said.

“It’s hard to want to work when your friends don’t have to, for me personally,” LeTourneau said.

Roberts and LeTourneau, like other college students, have both learned to save and budget in their living expenses. Some of these include saving in gas via carpooling, reducing use of utilities and lowering expenditures in food.

“My roommates and I have worked really hard at saving water, turning lights off, unplugging stuff and trying to save money on electricity and water,” Roberts said.

In fact, some techniques for saving in utilities could be considered extreme.

“I haven’t had my heat on,” LeTourneau said. “I mean, I’m really careful about my utilities. Although, when it’s 20 degrees outside, you have to turn the heat on somewhere.”

To save money on food, both women cut back on eating out, rely on leftovers of home-cooked meals and purchase healthy, good food they would be more likely to eat.

“I brew coffee at home almost every morning instead of going to Starbucks on the way to class,” Roberts said.

Roberts’ parents have also emphasized budgeting and saving. She referred to her dad as the “super budget person.”

“When I have all the basics covered, he really encourages me to stock money away in my savings account,” Roberts said.

She also uses the “Mint” application on her phone, which calculates and categorizes spending habits.
“If you actually keep up with it, it’s really helpful,” she said.

Even with such calculated spending habits, an empty bank account is sometimes inevitable. LeTourneau remembered experiencing that this past semester.

“All I had was lettuce,” LeTourneau said. “I didn’t even have Ramen in my house. So for a week, I would either eat on campus or I would eat lettuce, not salad, just lettuce.”

Numrich has experienced similar situations, which forced her to think outside the box to save and bring in money.

“One time I went up to CSL Plasma and sold my plasma for $25,” she said. “I reuse plastic utensils. I post things on Facebook that make my family feel really bad for me like, ‘Oh. Just here – lonely college student. If only I had some family to send me some money. Oh Well. Sad face.’”

After posting to Facebook, Numrich received $20 from her aunt in the mail. Sometimes drastic measures are taken to make it until that next paycheck.

“I ran out of toilet paper for like a week and a half, and I didn’t get paid until the next Friday, so I came up to Baylor on a Friday afternoon and stole 300 newspapers from every single building,” Numrich said.

Couponing is another way to save money, Numrich said.

“Coupons – whenever you can,” said Dallas junior Biosha Jones.

Such situations can be extremely stressful, Letourneau said. She still sees the underlying value of her circumstances.

“I’m OK with living like this and learning that I can live on not a lot and still be really content in life,” she said.

She said she also believes her work schedule has benefited her.

“From the people I’ve talked to that are employers, that’s one of the things they look for most because you can train them to do just about anything,” LeTourneau said. “You can’t give someone a work ethic.”
She said she is thankful even through difficult living conditions.

“I get to be at Baylor, which I would sacrifice anything – it’s worth not getting to go on a cruise for spring break or something to get to be at Baylor and do all that I do,” she said.