Nov 11, 2008

From the desk

by Jennifer Schmidt

With only a few columns left, I thought it appropriate to make yet another public confession. Not only do I lack basic football knowledge, but I also have trouble keeping track of my money. Just the other day, I complained that I didn’t have a receipt from buying gas because the printer had run out of paper. My friend suggested simply recording the purchase in my checkbook, which of course hasn’t been cracked open since… let me check… Aug. 22. At least I tried with the start of the school year to change my financial ways, but checkbooks rank with sunburn and final exams on the “Things I Love to Do” scale. Adding $4.52 from Wal-Mart to the $2.68 I spent at Sonic is tedious to say the least.

While I don’t record every deposit and payment, I do hold onto receipts and with the advent of online banking in the last few years, checking up on my account balance is relatively easy. My parents raised me well, telling me never to spend money before I had it in my pocket. It’s the best financial advice I’ve ever received, and with the acquisition of a credit card, my rewards points are growing rather than my debt to Chase. While college debt is an unfortunate, and unavoidable, shackle for many college students, credit card and retail debt is unnecessary. It’s also irresponsible and could potentially hinder future career options. I’ve heard too many stories of students who wanted to work in overseas ministry and weren’t accepted because of crippling loans. Most of that was from college debt, but any additional retail debt is only more of a hindrance.

My parents’ financial advice had a corollary, in the form of one of my dad’s infamous poems: “Use it up, wear it out, make it last, do without.” In a world sick from consumerism, the idea of doing without is as passé as denim-collared shirts. But it is an oft-overlooked alternative many students could benefit from. Olive Garden? Kroger sells pasta for $1. That’s the idea.

And when a purchase is necessary, be careful to shop around to find the best offer available. A safe way to gauge a purchase is to be patient and avoid an impulse buy. A general rule of thumb is to wait three months for a new purchase, and if the bank account is stable at the end of that time, go ahead.

For the record, while my checkbook suffers from neglect, I regularly track my monthly bills. After working a long shift at Red Lobster, the last thing I want greeting my eyes is a late fee or an extra charge for not paying correctly or not paying on time. Electronic payment plans are great, just make sure that they are timed to deposit well before due dates.

Ultimately, money should never supersede the importance of loving God and serving others. It’s a tool God allows us to use – each of us in different amounts and capacities.


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