Do I Really Need It?

I’m a broke college student. That’s the excuse I love to give whenever I see that my bank account is missing a couple figures. Until I decided to test myself one day and see what changes I could do to increase my account’s worth. So I began with the basics:

  1. I ate homemade peanut butter sandwiches every single day (yes; only peanut butter) to avoid spending money on food at school and at work.
  2. I wore the same shirt for three weeks straight without washing it- just kidding! I did, however, stop buying new clothes and unnecessary accessories.

These two strategies can be arrived at through one question: “What do I need to survive?”

That’s the question you need to start asking yourself before the “ballin'” in “ballin’ on a budget” can even be set on the table. Minus all the fluff and luxuries, what is the absolute, bare minimum you need?

Taking Shelter

There’s one big necessity that applies to everyone: shelter. At this point in our lives many of us are looking to venture off onto our next adventures, with some of our next moves being to leave the nest. Living in SoCal- to be more specific Orange County- we’re lucky and unlucky. There’s a lot to do, but our rent and mortgages are ridiculously high. Nobody likes living paycheck to paycheck or working full eight hour shifts, five times a week, only to see all your monthly income go towards paying bills. So let’s be wise about this! Use websites such as,,, and Craigslist to help guide your search within your budget. You don’t need gold plated cabinets or fancy cabinets, and these sites offer great ways to find affordable housing.

Money Hungry

We obviously all need to eat but our methods of consumption vary. If you’re like me, you like to treat yourself to your nearest In-N-Out; but when you’re going through that “eating clean” phase you substitute those animal style fries for a chicken bowl from Chipotle, only to be tempted into adding that guacamole for an additional $2. Then, after saying yes to adding a drink and chips, you’re now looking at a $14 meal! To avoid this kind of pressure, eat at home when you can. A great way to make this easy is meal prepping! Here’s how it works:

Hit up your nearest grocery store, and yes, Walmart counts! Grab a variety of items that can help you create a balanced meal. For example:

Chicken breasts: $10-$15

Bag of mixed veggies: $3-$10

Bag of rice: $1-$10

Food containers/Tupperware: $2-$30

If you stick with some of the value products, you’re looking at a week’s worth of food for under $50, if not much less. Winning! Another pro-tip: stay away from Starbucks! That Venti, iced, vanilla coffee with an extra shot of espresso- you know, the one that makes you ten minutes late to your Monday morning class- you don’t need it. Make coffee at home as soon as you wake up and take it on the go; your wallet and your professor will appreciate it.

Hygiene is another necessity placed at the top of the list; it is important to take care of ourselves if you want friends to stand closer than 5 feet from you. Shampoo, conditioner (especially for all my curly-haired sisters and brothers), body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, lotion; the list can go on and on. The key is to remain brand-wise! Some of these products can go from necessity to luxury quickly and finding the right brands that balance cost and quality is essential.

Dressing the Part

While we’re on the topic of saving and spending let’s talk about what we clothe ourselves in. I promise you can still look stylish while ballin’ on a budget. Workout clothes is one thing many of us are overspending on. Truth is, we just want to be comfortable. Whether you’re lifting weights at the gym, sitting in class for four hours, or just hanging out with your homies, comfort is usually the way to go. We don’t have to forget looking cute is cool, too, though. Just stay away from overpriced brands such as Nike or Lululemon and check out stores such as Forever 21 or Old Navy. Believe it or not, the material of their leggings are just as great and the price is even greater! I mean, can you tell if the guy in your biology class was wearing a $90 Stüssy hoodie, or was it just from H&M?

“Do I really need it?” This is the overall question we need to ask ourselves in order to maintain money in our bank accounts. The money we spend on ourselves everyday, on things we think we need, the little things that seem inexpensive, can be worse than the big ticket luxuries, all because we’ve made ourselves believe that this is an actual essential. So next time you go into the Apple Store looking to upgrade your phone to the newest style and color ask yourself, “Do I really need it?”

For more long term financial advice check out “How to Avoid the ‘Declined’ Blues”, by the Cypress Chronicle’s own Stephanie Gomez!

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