Finding relief from your financial stress
Six months ago, before students at Grand Valley State University singing up for CHM 441 Advanced Organic Chemistry, BIO 426 Nucleic Acids Laboratory, and MTH 465 Automata and Theory of Computation sounded like a good idea. So while you’re second-guessing those academic overachievements now that you’ve also thrown other work, extracirriculars and your increasingly non-existent social life into the mix, remember not to forget to pay your bills.
Stressed out yet? If you are, don’t worry because you’re not alone.
Leah Roberts is a 20-year-old junior at Grand Valley State University, a full-time, 15-credit student who struggles with both money management and it’s subsequent stressors.
“I reuse stuff a lot, I have the same notebooks I have had since freshman year, I’m poor, I can’t afford new ones,” said Roberts, who currently can only work on weekends. “I don’t have a job in Allendale, I have one back in Detroit. A lot of my free time is spent trying to figure out when I can go home to work instead of studying.”
In order to be able to work and attend GVSU, Roberts makes the trek to and from Detroit every weekend to pick up shifts at a local hospital. She said money, more than anything, keeps her stress levels high, especially at start of each semester, when it’s even harder to make ends meet with an extra $350 for rent and other household bills piled on her payroll.
“Because I’m on my own,” Roberts said. “My parents don’t help me and I get very little financial aid, so rent is very hard, bills are hard.”
And although many students may not realize it, stress could be having an effect on their academic performance.
A study performed by Inceptia, titled Financial Stress: An Everyday Reality for College Students, reported that one-third of respondents said financial stress was having a negative impact on their academic performance.
But how can money alone hold a person back from their education?
One problem students face is the high costs associated with attending college.
“I guess it (money) hinders because I can’t buy a lot of recommended books and aids, I can’t buy them,” she said. “I have to reuse notebooks so I’m writing in the margins at this point, it’s been three years.”
Each student’s financial situation is different from the next, so by utilizing resources put in place specifically for students with fiscal woes, school can be a lot less stressful.
For Derson Figuereo, a GVSU sophomore, who said financial aid, coupled with cutting textbook costs, also cuts down on his stress levels.
“I rent my books and it’s not usually through the school bookstore,” Figuereo said. “That is the last option because it is over priced but if I do buy books, it is out of my own pocket. It’s not FAFSA money because I use that toward tuition.”
This semester, Figuereo is taking 16 credits and five classes which require him to purchase 13 books.
By renting his textbooks rather than buying them at full cost, Figuereo was able to get all of his books for only $141.
“I have done that to start saving money and it wasn’t a new thing at all,” he said. “I was given many tips from college friends in high school and it was the best, smartest choice, I believe.”
With students having to deal with having money on the mind, many have turned to part-time or full-time employment to get by.
The survey by Inceptia found that 74 percent of those who responded work during the academic year and 15 percent of students are working full-time while going to school.
The alarming part of this is that on average, students are working about 21 hours a week while going to school, which makes it harder to devote the proper time to studies.
Through different research, it has been proven that when working more than 10 hours a week, students are likely to see an increase in negative academic outcomes.
Hike that number up to 20 hours per week, and the study reported that 46 percent of students saw a negative impact on their academic performance and 49 percent of reduced their course load because of the stress in their lives.
And though in a perfect world, saving money and making the grade both come quick and easy, here in the real world Roberts and Figuereo both deploy self-discipline in keeping consistent with their cost-cutting measures.
“I do not go shopping anymore,” Roberts said. “I used to have a massive shopping problem. I’m an impulse shopper; I can’t go to the store. I also don’t go grocery shopping hungry. There isn’t a whole lot I can say other than know how much you have before you go shopping.”
Figuereo said for him, setting financial goals for each semester keeps him on track.
“The key thing I always do is to have goals,” Figuereo said. “For example, your goal is to save $50 on books a semester. Really have that and work towards that and always question yourself, ‘Alright, am I doing the best I can to get that?’ And just always look for news things and be open.”
And sometimes for Roberts, just a little reminder that it’s normal and even okay to be broke in college is enough to keep her stress in check.
“I view it: I’m in college, society tells us to be poor,” Roberts said. “This is the only time in your life you can be poor.”
But if the stresses of money management really start to get you down, a study done by Brown University and posted to their website lists the symptoms for financial stress as difficulty sleeping, digestive problems, weight gain or loss, anxiety and even avoiding the problem all together – like leaving unopened bills to pile up – because of subconcious financial stress.
Now you know the symptoms, so stop the cycle and be proactive. According to Brown University researchers, the first step is to plan ahead. Always know how much money you have available, and track your day-to-day spending to make sure you’re keeping current. Keep your lines of communication clear with family and friends – whether your feel like your worries are realistic or not – because just vocalizing the stresses help you come to terms with the reality of a situation. Lastly, experts recommend that the financially freaked out simply change the focus. Find something else outside of your finances to put your energy into.
And if there’s no methodology that can quell the racing in your mind, take at least a little comfort in comradery – because you can bet your bottom dollar that there are more Roberts and Figuereo’s out there than you think.