Mortuary Musing
a mortuary science student's perspective on the study of the dead

The Broke College Student

(CSC Original Post 11-10-09)

One of the biggest challenges I have face since coming back to college is trying to work with a small budget. Since entering the mortuary science program here at Carl Sandburg College I have been fortunate to find myself a job at the school, but the most I work is 10 hours a week. As you can imagine, working 10 hours a week does not bring in a huge income. I have to keep a tight watch of the money I earn and my expenses.

A lot of students when entering college for the first time will discover that they are eligible for financial aid. Financial aid is a loan that will help you pay for your classes while you attend college. Any leftover money can be used for books, rent, food, etc. Carl Sandburg College provides qualified students who are attending college with financial aid up to the maximum amount of $10,000 to help pay for education. However do not forget financial aid is a loan—you will be paying the money back.

The challenge I have is I previously attended college at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL before coming to Carl Sandburg College. A full-time student attending a semester at NIU is going to cost (I’m estimating—I haven’t been there for several years) around $5,000. A year of college at NIU could easily exceed $10,000. So naturally my financial aid loans exceeded over $10,000. However at Carl Sandburg College if you have loans that exceed over $10,000 either at Carl Sandburg College or at another institution you might not be eligible for any financial aid loan. I am aware you can make an appeal to the financial aid department, but I decided not to do it. I have been slowly paying off my financial aid loan. I do not want to increase the loan any bigger.

So when you are only working 10 hours a week and you have college and other living expenses to deal with you eventually start learning how to make sacrifices and budget your income. That is if you don’t want to go deep in debt. How I figure out my budget is I take the average of how much I earn in one month and split that income up into how much money I can spend in certain categories (rent/food/gas//other). Then I divide that amount into weeks of the month. That gives me a good estimate of how much I can spend a week on a certain thing.

For instance, for food I am able to spend $15-$20 a week. Gas I spend no more than $10 a week. Any money I don’t spend in a week and I have leftover I save in case of emergencies. This might not seem much or pleasant for most people, but it’s been working for me. When it comes to food you learn quickly not to waste your money on junk food. I usually buy fruits and items with lot of protein and fiber. I usually do not spend much money on gas at all. Instead of wasting money on fuel I use my own two feet to get around town. Sometimes I’ll use my vehicle to get me somewhere but after that it stays parked.

I also cut out spending money on things I don’t need right now such as cable or the internet (although I’ll admit my laptop computer does have wireless so I can access the internet from the neighbors). I’ve been avoiding going out and doing things such as the going to the bar or eating out at fast-food places or restaurants. To be honest for the most part I have put my social life on life support. The way I’m looking at it right now if I can save enough pennies for the next two years to pay for college then in the end it will be worth it.

I’ll admit I have been fortunate to save enough money from my previous job to cover the cost of college so far. I have also been doing some odd jobs to help earn some extra money, and I will probably start looking around for a second job here on campus. I am also eagerly awaiting some scholarship information to fill out that might help me out with some college costs here at Carl Sandburg College.

While most students are fortunate to receive financial aid and grants for help to pay for college, there are some other students here at Carl Sandburg that I have talked to who are facing the same challenge as I am. I wish I can offer those students some advice, but I am too learning how to handle this situation as I go. The one thing I have learned is sometimes you just need to sit down and take a look at your expenses and figure out for yourself what is necessary and what is not necessary. I think you’ll be surprised with all you can do without.

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