The Negative Psychological Problems of Being Broke in School

In my opinion, about 90% of what you need to know in life you can learn by watching Forrest Gump.  One great money-related insight is revealed when he tells his fellow park bench-sitter:

“Though he [Lieutenant Dan] did take care of my Bubba-Gump money. He got me invested in some kind of fruit company. And so then I got a call from him saying we don’t have to worry about money no more, and I said, “That’s good. One less thing.”

That’s a great reason to take care of this personal finance deal right – One less thing!  In that same vein of thought, it is very easy to let worries about money have a negative effect on your life.  This is especially true if you have some of the common student procrastination tendencies.  Having a negative balance in your bank account, watching the numbers climb further into the red on your credit card, or having to call and beg your parents for emergency funds can be pretty nerve-racking, and prove that the cons of not knowing some personal finance basics extend far beyond having to skip a few shopping trips.

Who Cares About the Test – I Can’t Afford to Eat!

A major casualty to finance-related stress is academic performance.  It’s no surprise that studies show that most people perform best in school when they can focus on the academic tasks in front of them.  A little bit of stress is a good thing in certain circumstances (such as motivating for you for a big exam), but when your brain is pulled in too many directions at once, it can make it difficult to apply the positive benefits of stress to any one specific goal.  Student life and workloads tend to go in cycles.  Whether it revolves around exam times, or essay deadlines, most students tend to experience the vast majority of their stress at peak times.

emergency savings
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These scenarios mean that any additional stress such as a big credit card bill can cause the whole house of cards to topple over, even if that financial stress is relatively small in the big picture and probably could have been confronted successfully at another time.

Ramen Noodles Again?!

In addition to the obvious luxury sacrifices that have to be made when a student hits financial rock bottom, often necessities get cut into as well.  The stereotype of the college student buying no-name mac and cheese in bulk is often used in jokes, but it can actually be harmful to a person’s health when taken to extreme lengths.  I had a buddy in school that was so bad at budgeting one year that he had maxed out his line of credit, his credit cards (luckily he only had a $1,000 limit) and had $75 to last a month on.  The tough thing was that he was determined that some of that money would go towards a year-end celebration bender.  It was during exams so he couldn’t start looking for a job at that point, and his parents refused to keep bailing him out.  Long story short, be bought a ton of the cheapest noodles he could find, and a big jug of something called “red sauce”.  This is what he lived on (along with the charity of his buddies) for the last month of school.  It was a helluva year-end party though…  There are a thousand websites and resources out there that will detail how to get all of your major nutrients in while spending as little as possible, but there still reaches a point where you are sacrificing fresh fruits and vegetables on the altar of debt payments.  This has all kinds of negative spin-offs such as less energy to pursue your fitness and academic goals with, and having to eat noodles with “red sauce” for a week!

This Money Stuff Isn’t Always Sexy – But Neither is Being Broke!

Because money problems don’t tend to stay in their little box in the corner somewhere, we think it’s pretty important to learn at least enough to make sure you don’t end up in real financial straits.  You don’t have to become the next Buffett in high school, but learning a little about debt, credit, budgeting etc. can really pay dividends (both in dollars amounts and other considerations).  Money isn’t the most important thing in life by any stretch, but taking care of that means “one less thing” and allows you to fully enjoy the things that really do matter the most!

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My university required all students living on campus to have at least a basic meal plan, which helped alleviate the whole “I’m too hungry to study/go to class” situation. Fortunately, they also provided tons of financial aid (we were one of hte first schools to offer “free” tuition for families with an AGI of $60,000 or under).

I’ve known people who really struggled through their college years, barely able to make ends meet. I think of my international student friends most specifically, as they had limitations as to where they could work while they studied, often being stuck in low paying jobs.

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