written by Caitlin Raddatz
In just a few short months of being in college, I’ve learned a few things: naps are better than a full bag of candy on Halloween, caffeine is necessary to successfully pull an all-nighter (have you ever tried to do so without three cups of coffee?!) and friends can be made anywhere (yes, even while waiting at a bus stop). But, most importantly, money is precious. I never grasped the value of a dollar until it cost $1.25 just to wash my dirty laundry. Cramming my clothes into one washer never suffices and I wind up inserting quarters into two washers and two dryers. That’s five dollars! Spare change never looked so good. Years spent in college, I’ve been told several times, will be the best of my life. I’ll look back and think about those midnight talks with my roommates and spontaneous road trips to nowhere. But aren’t they also some of the poorest years?
In our challenged economy, most are cutting back their spending. It surprised me that in the 18-34 age group, an average of $361 more per student is being spent (since last year) on discretionary purchases. What exactly are these purchases, you wonder? More money is being spent on entertainment, personal care products and technology than anything else. Clearly, you can see why targeting the typical college student may increase a company’s total revenue. Why, you ask? If they’re aiding the success of industry, it’s crucial to dissect the purchasing trends of, let’s say, college freshmen.
Jonathan Balda is a 19-year old freshman at the University of Florida who tries to stretch his money as far as it can go. “I spend about $50 a week give or take a few [dollars]. I make purchases for a mixture of reasons. Sometimes it’s impulse, sometimes it’s friends, but mostly, I make purchases with the thought of trying to spend money wisely.” Wouldn’t it be great if we all learned to spend our money efficiently?
Balda is a freshman who lives on campus in a dormitory. He has a meal plan that provides a set number of meals to him per week. As a student with a meal plan, Balda’s food spending habits are insignificant. “Usually, I eat out with my $1,000 of declining balance that was paid for by scholarships and loans. I try not to spend any more than ten dollars a meal. I also don’t shop for groceries, but when I do, I buy snacks (like chips and twelve packs of soda) from Walmart.”
Balda also doesn’t have a car on campus, thus making it difficult to go home. “I only go home once or twice a semester,” Balda affirmed. To get around, he utilizes the bus or his own two feet. Because of this, Balda noted, “Location and proximity to a store influence where I shop. The closer it is, the more likely I’ll buy there.” Not having the luxury of access to a car certainly makes it hard to venture beyond locations within walking distance.
Every student purchases textbooks. They’re expensive, heavy and a pain to read (IF the pages are even glanced at), yet necessary for every course taken. As a price conscious student, Balda looks for the best deals. “I buy and rent books from the Florida Book Store and Neebo because they’re much cheaper than those found on campus.”
Like Balda, Abby Gruspe, an 18-year old freshman at UF, is also a frugal spender without a car in Gainesville. She is from out-of-state and does not travel home often. “I spend about $40 per week. I’m not supposed to withdraw more than $100 from my savings account per month, but I often exceed that limit,” Gruspe said laughingly. Here, we notice that spending is still extensive. “Location is definitely an important factor for me in deciding what to purchase. I can't really buy anything that isn't within walking or biking distance from me.” Once more, we see that it’s all about location, location, location!
Both Balda and Gruspe mentioned they have meal plans and do not shop for groceries. Gruspe, on the other hand, strays from the dining hall more often. “I eat out a lot even though I have an unlimited meal plan because I get tired of the dining hall food. The options on campus, in midtown, or even downtown offer much more variety. I am familiar with the RTS bus system and use it when heading downtown.” I think we’d all agree that eating the same food every day would get old after a while.
As for books, Gruspe searches for discounts (just like any other savvy shopper!). “I try to find the best deals online for textbooks. The Florida Bookstore is a last resort for textbook purchases because books are so expensive there.” It sure pays to be sensible.