Frugal OCD and the student life


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?


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