Sunday, August 19, 2007

My truly terrible extravagance

Ok, it was time to sit down and review my latest financial information. I didn't track my spending, but thanks to mostly using my debit and credit cards and having some awareness of how much cash I spent I can at least reconstruct the total spent and major causes of spending for the ten weeks I spent at the REU. Keep in mind that during this time, the costs of the bare necessities of my life were born by others. I lived in a dorm provided by the program, had a meal plan that covered a meal a day in the cafeteria, and had parents who fed me whenever I was home. All car related costs were (and are) covered by my parents. (Yes, I do feel guilty about this, but I've yet to talk them out of it. Whenever my mother notices a dramatic drop in my gasoline spending on the gas station card they provided for this purpose, she asks me whether I've been using my own money instead and tells me not to do that.)

This summer I made a conscious choice to be a bit more extravagant, to play a bit more and save a bit less. In part, I thought that since I had already exceeded my savings goal for my time in college it wouldn't hurt my progress toward my goals. There were also other more personal reasons why I felt like I deserved/needed to get out some and socialize even if it did mean buying dinner when I could have eaten cafeteria food for free.

Within a margin of error of $10, my spending for those ten weeks was $581.66. That's over 13% of the stipend I received this summer. Major expenditures included a new hat and a weekend in Dallas. We went to visit some divisions of TI and a couple of tech start-ups, and the trip also served as my vacation for the summer. The program paid for transportation, hotels, and a couple of meals. We kept going to moderately priced, sit down restaurants, and eating there several times adds up quickly. Also, I bought a ticket to Six Flags so I could spend a day there rather than sitting around the hotel. If you add all of this to the costs of lunches, dinners, and movies with friends, the total is staggering.

I can almost convince myself it isn't as bad as it looks. $153.29 of that bought me another year of prepaid cell phone service. However, even if I exclude that and the co-pays for prescriptions when I got sick, I still averaged around $40 a week. That feels like a huge amount of money at this point in my life. Starting September 1st, I'll start tracking every penny I spend to try to get a better handle on things. I am generally somewhat frugal by nature so I suspect this summer was an aberration, but I need to make sure it isn't the beginning of a trend.


Olga said...

I used to spend $40 a week a year ago, and I thought it was little! Now I exceed that amount. Actually, the most of my expenses is food, groceries and meals in student cafeteria. I simply can't spend less than $30 a week on food. I tried. OK, as a non-American, I can always blame the exchange rate:)

The stipend seems so good. Is the 87% of it untouched? If so, it will likely provide for you for a whole year.

E.C. said...

Olga, thank you so much for commenting! I greatly enjoy your blog.

The stipend was very good. I'm not sure why the National Science Foundation is so generous to the students in the summer research programs it funds, but I am very grateful. The 87% is sitting in a savings account. I have other sources of income for the school year so I hope to leave the money from this summer untouched until I graduate.