Students offer money-saving advice

By Gus Bode

For the Daily Egyptian

Editor’s Note:This is the final installment in a four-part series on student debt. Today students share how they manage their money.

Ebony Donelson arrived on campus three years ago from Chicago. She heard the warnings to carefully manage her money, but it was a lesson she had to learn on her own.


“When I first got here, what money I had, I just spent it on stuff I wanted,” said Donelson, a junior studying elementary education. “Then, I didn’t have it when I needed it”

Donelson said she knows her experience is not unique.

“A lot of people can’t learn from other people,” she said. “I had to go through it myself to learn – it will catch up with you later if you don’t act responsibly. When the bills come, they can be too much to handle.”

Donelson now employs several techniques to handle her finances. These strategies have helped her keep her student loan debt to $5,000 and her credit card balance to about $75. They are money management methods cited by other students and University experts.

Donelson, one of more than 6,000 student workers on campus, found a job and developed a budget. She divides her paycheck into three categories, she said. The first allocation goes to her student loan payment, the second to all her other bills and finally, anything left over covers miscellaneous expenses such as eating out.

Donelson uses lists – both written and mental, she said.

“I make a list of the things I need, and I stick to that list,” she said.


Like Donelson, Courtney Denton learned from the money mistakes she made her freshman year.

“I used to always keep cash on me, and I would spend it until it was gone,” said Denton, a senior from Chicago studying social work. Denton has a student worker job on campus, in addition to an internship in her field.

“Now, I leave cash alone. I use direct deposit and put my paycheck in the bank,” she said. She also deposited her student loan refund check, or at least what was left after she paid her rent and purchased books, and tried to make it stretch to the end of the semester.

Denton, who graduates May 14, tries to save a little each month.

“As a student, it is hard to do, but because I am getting ready to get out into the real world, I have to think about the big picture,” she said.

Jeremy Dietrich, a senior studying radio-television and political science, used a surefire way to handle his student loan refund check at the beginning of the semester.

“I mail my refund check to my parents because I don’t trust myself with it,” he said.

Entertainment, especially on weekends, is a huge temptation for students.

“I see a lot of students falling into the habit of going out every weekend,” Denton said. “Only if I have enough money do I go out.”

Michael Gouard, a senior from Danville studying information systems technology, agreed that students often blow their money on eating out and partying.

“I go to Applebee’s maybe once every other week for half-priced appetizers during Happy Hour,” he said.

Kevin Michael Foster, assistant professor in Black American Studies, encourages students to use peer influence and encouragement to develop good financial practices. Instead of going out, students should get together, cook dinner and look ahead to what they plan to do when they graduate.

“We live in a culture that celebrates conspicuous consumption,” Foster said. While clothing and other consumer items may be nice, he said, “They are not going to get you where you want to go. Support one another, and build a climate that respects those who have their acts together.”

While credit cards are convenient, they can get students into trouble.

Donelson limits herself to one credit card, and she said when she makes a purchase on it, she tries to send a check as soon as possible to the credit card company for the amount. On those occasions when she cannot send the full balance, she sends at least $10 to $15 more than the minimum payment. She also has a credit card that charges no annual fee and has a credit limit of $250.

Racing between classes and jobs often leaves students with little time to prepare meals. Dietrich, who is enrolled for 12 credit hours, has several part-time jobs, which include Student Orientation Advisement Registration staffer, part-time radio disc jockey and retail sales clerk.

“Being busy forces me to eat out more, and I’m always in my car, which costs gas,” he said.

Donelson tries to pack a sandwich or grab a bag of chips before she heads out the door.

“Eating out can run into a lot of money and add extra pounds,” she said.

Sally Shutt can be reached at [email protected]