Editor’s note: Emily’s away on her tour of Europe (her itinerary says that today’s phrase of the day is “Nehmen Sie Kreditkarten?”). While she’s gone, some friends have graciously volunteered to step in for her and guest post.
Today’s guest post is by Brigitte Yuille, a former radio and online personal finance reporter who has decided to temporarily step out of the workforce, go to graduate school in Florida — and, in the process, re-learn how to be a poor student. Here’s Brigitte:
Going back to graduate school is like going on a diet where you cutback on expenses rather than food. Instead of pushing the cheesecake aside and begging someone else to eat it before you lose all restraint and devour it, you tuck that credit card back into your wallet, tighten your expenses and adhere to your budget.
After a few years in the workforce, returning to school involves re-examining and rearranging your finances and coming up with new ways to entertain yourself, now that you’ve slashed that expense out of your budget, along with the carefree spending activities of the past.
I’ve read how some health experts suggest not using the word “diet” when you’re trying to lose weight, because it suggests a temporary fix. These health experts advocate a more long-term goal: a healthy lifestyle reinvention. This way, you can continue your good eating habits.
These habits begin with learning what is healthy and what is not. Just like there’s a way to avoid gorging on the pasta when the deprivation gets unbearable, there’s a way to avoid ransacking the store’s clothing racks during a reckless spending spree with your credit card. Here’s a trick I’ve learned: do everything in moderation.
When it comes to food, chocolate is my vice, or it may be more appropriate to say the coco bean itself. In undergrad, I used to request a daily cup of cafe mocha that was half-filled with chocolate syrup and the other half with caffeinated coffee topped with a froth of whip cream. I stopped this ritual after my face broke out with acne and I had a number of restless nights due to the caffeine overload. I dreaded these consequences and have since reduced my coffee intake to special occasions.
In a similar way, I’ve restricted the use of my credit card. I’ve mentally categorized my credit card as “emergency only.” Recently, I helped improve a friend’s mood after a break up by helping her prepare for the single life with some trendy clothes. I was captivated by the style and the deep discounts at a very fashionable store we visited, but guess where my credit card was? I left that plastic hidden back at home. I typically don’t carry it now. The trepidation of bad debt and credit has limited my use. When I finally did use the card, it was to help my sick feline companion undergo a few tests at the vet.
Fortunately, I’ve developed a strong personal finance background, and I’m studying business. This has helped me through my transition. If you are heading back to school, my advice is to use available resources to educate yourself about personal finance. Ultimately, the financial lifestyle reinvention not only will help you look and feel better, but it will also help you afford to shimmy into the new designer dress or fit your new suit.