College Life part deux: Upgrade!

While I was studying my ass off for the university’s math placement test, Cutie suggested I should switch studying environments by visiting the nearest coffee shop near our place. I assume this was because smoke was coming out of my ears from the frustration of studying math :/

Even though I wasn’t feeling well, I’ve decided to give it a shot.

Things have changed. I think I understand why foreign and recently graduated high school students flock to school in large droves: coffee shops. Aesthetically pleasing environments that sell coffee, tea and small pastries and/or sandwiches.

Jasmine Tea with a Mini-Blueberry Cheese Tart at the Onyx Coffee Shop :)

Jasmine Tea with a Mini-Blueberry Cheese Tart at the Onyx Coffee Shop 🙂

Such places did not exist the first time I went to school. The most popular hangout spot was an old, wooden bar named Los Tigres (The Tigers) in front of the nearest Burger King and Pizza Hut.

bad burger

Cheap comfort for the broke and hungry 😦

The saddest part is that since I didn’t have a car at the time, those places where the closest restaurants I could walk to after class (at 9PM!). Or when our water got shut down several times at our dorm due to the water company strikes.  When our dorm lacked water, we couldn’t cook our own meals and had to resort to the nearest fast food restaurants who had existing water storage tanks that lasted a while.

Indeed times have changed for me: I am pretty damn sure that with access to a better diet I think I might have a shot at conquering math. And not worrying about access to water. Of course, the coffee shop is not as 100% as quiet as a library, but if you have ever lived in a dorm environment, you learn how to zone out environment noise from your roommates.

Except when they watch porn. That's when you have to leave the room!

Except when they watch porn. That’s when you have to leave the room!

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Frugal OCD and the student life

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It has happened again: after years of not-so-lean living (from working full-time), my frugality has plunged into OCD territory. It could be that becoming a college student again has awakened memories of survival mode from going to college the first time:

– Living on $20 a week. All of that would be spent on ramen, chicken, rice and non-perishables (lots of canned goods!).

-Waiting impatiently for student loans to kick in so that I can afford books and healthier food

-Riding the bus and bumming rides as much as possible during the evening and walking during the day.

-Paranoia due to living among kleptomaniacs in the women’s dorms (have lost a few things in spite of being extra-careful with my stuff).

Except this time, my mind knows I am not living in those same circumstances anymore, yet whenever I walk into the library, I gasp at my ability to estimate how much money is in one room by counting the amount of Macbooks, iPads and iPhones students have on them ($32,000-$40,000 worth).  What boggles my mind is that NO ONE is afraid of anyone stealing their stuff. I thought the campus was a low-crime zone until I checked the crime report the university posts yearly: 390 on-campus thefts per year. In a place where university attendance reaches 26,000, it would look like a drop in the bucket for some. When I bought my first laptop, I waited until I was required to take an accounting class that required the use of their bookkeeping program. Since the university labs that housed that program closed at 6PM, I had to bite the bullet and buy one (and bought a lock with it!).

Once I leave the campus and returned home, my eyes try to adjust my mind to my current reality: Married. Not living with 3 other girls in a 400 ft space with locked possessions. Healthy food in the fridge. Have easy access to transportation. Not panicking on how to make my last $5 last until Sunday.  But my mind can’t completely adjust away from my impulse to take frugality a step further.

Example: Making my own fragrance free, dye free laundry detergent

Made with Castille soap!

Made with Castille soap!

Or growing my own herbs:

Organic Basil to the left, Organic Mustard to the right

Organic Basil to the left, Organic Mustard to the right

-Popping corn and taking a bagful to campus so that I can avoid the temptation of spending $8 or so for lunch on campus.

I am not sure if this is due to a huge generation shift, the fact that I am living in the US (or both) but there are a few truths that need to be published out there:

-Economic prosperity has increased and has somehow trickled down to those who are preparing to enter the workforce full-time or changing careers. So many students own cars that parking is a huge problem (even with THREE parking decks)!

-Luxuries are cheap, whereas necessities are expensive (electronics are more attainable than health care and healthy food). It used to be the other way around when I was 18.

-There are over 100 study abroad programs being offered to google-eyed students that want to live abroad and study at the same time! I suspect there has to be A LOT of students who have well-to-parents who can afford the $14,000-per-semester price tag on sending their kids to a school that will give credits without proof of increasing the job prospects after graduation. Seriously, $14,000 is a year’s worth of tuition without leaving the damn state! I blame the university for this carrot-dangling crap (the professors are the willing accomplices of this. If enough students sign up for these, the professors do get to go on these trips on the cheap!).

-Students have an advantage of finding part-time work over non-students. This did not occur while I was in in school: it was completely backwards in my case. The only way I could have gotten fast-food work was if I were on food-stamps and were a single mother. The rest of the job listings required 5 years experience for $8 an hour. That was 10 years ago. Now with the increase in service jobs, with some creative juggling a student can work and study (or donate plasma for $250 a month!).

Has anyone else noticed these things? What do you think?