I did my laundry this week. I’m pretty clean so I’m not sharing this story to express its novelty, but to share a problem too many college students have to suffer through: finding enough quarters to feed the machines. After spending three whole dollars for the sake of cleanliness and hygiene, some of my towels and flannels still weren’t dry. When I have to handle all of my financial aid and work enough hours to be able to feed myself, the least of my monetary priorities should be stashing away an extreme amount of mini-Washingtons for the spinning water devices.
It’s hard being a poor college student. And by poor I mean literally being pushed from a low-income family nest at the very top of the tree, forced to either fly or crash and die. This is contrasted to the trust fund, daddy’s credit card nest near enough to the bottom that there is no threat of bodily harm and a guarantee to return to the nest if you can’t manage to fly.
Tuition is not cheap no matter where you attend school, and the price has been skyrocketing. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the span between the 2004-05 and 2014-15 school years, the average public undergraduate tuition and fees rose 33 percent, and private schools saw a 26 percent increase. The average price for all institutions was $4,563 in 1984-85, as compared to the 2014-15 price of $21,728. All of these numbers were adjusted for inflation.
Something I’ve asked myself way too many times, and I’m sure you can relate, is “why is everything so darn-tootin’ expensive?” Product prices are determined by supply and demand through the proverbial “market.” Personally, all of that jargon just describes corporations determining the prices of their products based on how much profit they’d like to secure (and this is typically way too huge of a number). If you’re a woman, not only will you make less money but you will also spend more. The Economic Policy Institute says that women make 17 cents less than a man. And according to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, products specifically marketed to women are on average 7 percent more expensive than those marketed to men.
I’m no expert in economics, but all of this seems like a raw deal to me.
In an ideal world, there would be no such thing as money. Merchants and consumers would just exchange their goods and everyone would have everything they needed to survive. But this world is sick and broken. People idolize money and they will do whatever it takes to get more of it, because ultimately, money is power. But alas, this is the system that we are stuck with.
So, how should we handle all of this? Patiently.
Don’t pick a career for the money. I know I just talked about how hard it is to struggle financially, but your life goals shouldn’t be centered around greenbacks and greed. Choose a path that will allow you to follow your passions while fostering loving relationships with those around you.
Tangible goods will never satisfy, so spend the extra money you do have on experiences, not things. My parents would absolutely have my head if I told them I was saving a lot of my paycheck for Hamilton tickets, illustrating a huge generational discrepancy with this type of thinking. However, I think it’s better to spend your cash now on events you will remember for the rest of your life than to buy stuff you’ll most likely throw away or forget about. You’ll regret that you never flew out to Spain or road-tripped to the next state over to see your favorite band.
You can handle being poor for a little while longer. Like Alexander Hamilton, the ten-dollar founding father without a father, we are young, scrappy and hungry. And by hungry, I mean actually physiologically hungry.