As the tail end of summer rolled around and Target started shelving school supplies, I became more and more convinced that I would live this life of college-student poverty forever.
The days were getting shorter, the nights cooler, my bank account emptier.
I worked all summer with four-year-olds at a day camp in Jersey, but as I thought about buying books and my persistent enemy, the credit card bill, it seemed more clear to me than ever that I would never emerge from this bottomless pit of deficiency. Every time I blinked, there was another pressing problem that needed taking care of. And cash.
Almost like magic, new problems appeared out of nothing: new Macintosh laptop $1600, major car repair $450, gas to drive all over Jersey $2.60/ gallon… Off to a fantastic start, my summer salary was nearly demolished way before seasons changed. It seemed to me a never-ending cycle of “work hard, deposit check, watch money disappear.” I was not amused by this apparent sorcerous scheme to empty my pockets of all relics of cash.
But, I did have a bit of school shopping to do – some peanut butter, pretzels, dish soap – so I jumped in my old beat-up Volvo station wagon and raced to Stop & Shop. Did I feel like spending the last of my cash on a few groceries?
No, but they were necessities. As I got close to the store’s automatic door, two middle-aged women with pamphlets stepped forward to greet me. I thought, “No way, you’re not getting any of my money this time, I only have ten bucks!” One of the women handed me a small paper printed with a short list of non-perishable food items and asked if I would think about buying one of those items and donating it on my way out of the store. Of course I responded, “Yeah, I’ll think about it,” but it was a meager attempt to feign politeness. Browsing the aisles, I picked up the few items on my list.
I stressed over the fact that the bag of pretzels I wanted was three dollars. I knew that if I had the resources to buy a three dollar snack, I could buy one food item to donate and barely notice the difference on my receipt.
As a result, I adapted my outlook on my money “situation” – or lack thereof. With this new perspective, I can safely say that I am broke, but this is college – that’s what it’s all about. I’m not paying rent or supporting children. There are plenty of adults who make less money than I do, so why should I complain? I can be satisfied being broke for now.