OPINION: Students may struggle with budgeting due to ‘spending leaks’


Most of us do it. We’ll say, “I’m going to save money,” then turn around and buy a taco or burrito bowl. We justify it saying it’s only $5 or so. It’s no big deal.

This is what Tim Stricker, graduate assistant at Powercat Financial Counseling and graduate student in accounting, calls “spending leaks,” and they can be one of the greatest unforeseen costs while in college.

Miscellaneous costs include clothing, food, activities, parking permits and more according to Kansas State’s “Paying for college” webpage, but more often than not we don’t really think about how all of that adds up. The webpage says these costs can range from $800 to $2,000 per semester.

I’ll admit my biggest “spending leak” is coffee, as I’m sure it is with many college students, and it terrifies me to think I could be spending so much on it.

Powercat Financial Services might be able to help students create a budget plan, but Stricker said it takes discipline to actually save money and stick to that plan.

Maddie Hammett, junior in accounting and Powercat Financial Services secretary, said keeping receipts of things she buys gives her physical evidence of the money she has spent and reminds her to not spend so much.

Personally, I try to keep cash to spend so that I see exactly how much money I’m giving up, and I’m not just swiping a magic card.

It’s easy to remember to save money for the big things like tuition, rent and bills. What might sometimes slip our minds are the hidden costs. Suzanna de Baca’s Time article “The 12 hidden college expenses,” gives a pretty thorough list of some things we don’t really consider such as the costs of entertainment, furnishings, electronics, travel and getting involved.

Getting involved is a hidden expense because clubs, intramural sports and memberships can cost money, according to de Baca’s article. Club membership fees can be the one thing getting in the way of a really enriching, social experience in college. Joining a club is a great way to be happy and meet people, but if there’s a membership fee, those “spending leaks” might be getting in the way of actually joining the fun.

If you’re not careful, “spending leaks” make it seem like you are not making enough money to do the things you enjoy. Finding a way of noticing exactly how much your spending on those late-night McDonald’s runs could mean saving more money than you ever thought you actually had.

Seriously, I try not to think of how much my coffee addiction has cost me. I’ve been trying to brew a pot at home instead.

Whether you earn a paycheck working a part-time job or get financial help from the folks, having a budget, even one with a little wiggle room for treats every now and then, can be the difference between spending $2,000 in miscellaneous costs and $800.

If you need help figuring out how exactly to do that, there’s help at Powercat Financial Services or online sites like mint.com, geese.com and wesabe.com.

Hi everyone! I'm was a senior in journalism and cultural anthropology. My favorite things are storytelling, coffee and meeting new people. In that order.