Lessons from College Students on Living Frugally

Students like anyone else have to eat. They also avoid waste out of necessity. Their dollar has to stretch almost to breaking point. Supermarkets could do well to learn, not necessarily how to avoid waste, but at least minimize waste. In every state and in every city there are hundreds of supermarkets which throw out tons of food daily. Surely this food could be donated to charity and laws passed to save the supermarkets from litigation if they argue that they may be sued for food poisoning if it was given away close to expiry date.

The word “free” is well known to students. Visit parents for free meals. Visit shopping centers for free air conditioning on blistering hot or freezing cold days. While at the shopping center eat free food samples. Visit libraries for free reading material. Any student worth his/her pinch of salt should be able to provide a list a mile long of where to obtain free things. However, these lessons are soon forgotten when a well paid job is found. Homes have costly air conditioning. Food and reading material is delivered to the door regardless of cost. Searching out free things becomes an effort.

Students learn how to “make do.” If a heater burns out then they have to save for a replacement. If the refrigerator ceases to work then they have to repair it. If a tap leaks they they have to find a student who can replace a washer. How different is it when work is found. If any small appliance fails to work it is immediately replaced and paid for on a credit card. “Do it yourself” is replaced by costly repairmen.

Students quickly learn the value of discounts and bargaining power. Most stores have loyalty programs which offer discounts. It is not unusual to find students beating down the price of goods they want by shopping at various stores to get the lowest price. Now these lessons seem to actually be remembered when a well paid job is found. Unfortunately the stores seem to know that people won’t buy unless a bargain is perceived. Manufacturers have come up with the term, “Recommended retail price.” If a washing machine has a R.R.P of five hundred dollars but the retailer can obtain it for three hundred dollars then there is a two hundred dollar gap allowed for so called discounting and bargaining. For those people who have forgotten the lessons they learned as a student the retailer will gladly sell the washing machine for five hundred dollars.

Living close to poverty for some students teaches them to be harsh and mean with money. Some students learn compassion and caring for other students when two dollars has to last two days. Most students however learn how to live within their means. It is a necessity for their economic survival.

It is in this lesson that college students have learned how to live frugally by not spending more than they earn; a lesson politicians seem to have forgotten or choose to ignore. Can America really continue to spend more than it earns?  Perhaps the politicians need to go back to college and take a refresher course.