Living on a budget

Story by Haley Zblewski

For many students, fitting both work and a social life into busy class schedules can be exhausting, especially when living on a tight budget.


The Spectator spoke with the director of the Office of Financial Aid to gather advice on how to manage the financial aspect of being a student.


Haley Zblewski: Do you think students need to be conscious of the money they spend?

Kathy Sahlhoff:  I think that’s true for everybody. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on a student budget or you’re out in a professional career. I think it’s incredibly important that everybody be aware of what they’re spending. I actually am a pretty big fan of having a budget.


HZ: How should students deal with feeling limited by their finances?

KS: I think it depends. I think we’re all limited by our finances. There are things I might want to do that I can’t do because I have to prioritize and make choices. That’s the same for everybody. It’s important that college students plan to live like college students. There’s that cliche: ‘It’s important to live like a college student now so you’re not so far in debt that you’re living like a college student after you graduate.’

Now is the time to be pretty frugal, now is the time to focus on education. That might mean not having vacations, that might mean being real careful about what you spend on recreation and meals out. If you do that now, you get the degree, you get the full time job and then you’re able to expand your options then.


HZ: Are there any particular spending habits that you think would be good for students to develop now?

KS: It’s important for you to know where your money’s going, and how much you have that’s discretionary money. And I’m not talking about anything fancy. Just a simple budget sheet where you can have an idea both of what’s coming in and what bills you’ve got this month and how much money you’ve got left over to spend.

Credit cards are a valuable tool, but they’re only … for emergencies. The people we see who have real problems financially are people that have tried to use credit cards to live beyond their means as a student.


Leslie Gerberding is taking two classes at UW-Eau Claire while finishing high school. Her main source of income comes from interning at a photography studio. She shares  with The Spectator her experiences budgeting money while saving to attend college.


HZ: How are you paying for college?

Leslie Gerberding: Definitely a lot of financial aid and just working a lot. I kind of grew up in a fairly poor income house, so gas money right now is killing me. My job is to pay for gas to get here and school because I live in Holcolm, which is 50 miles north. So most of my job income goes to that.


HZ: How would you describe your spending habits?

LG: Meticulous. They are monitored very much so. My parents kind of did help monitor because I wasn’t given a bunch of money to begin with, so whatever I did spend, I knew exactly what I needed, exactly what I need for the future, what I needed to put away for this and this month.