A Crash Course For Students

Here we are the on the day of our university graduation, waiting in a long line of traffic just to get to the venue that would host the most wonderful night of our lives for the four of us. As the traffic became unbearable we could not help but to drift back to our days at university.

How did we survive? No one knew. From taking up odd jobs on and off campus, to using our wits just to get by, we had done it all. So much so, that one of my friends in the vehicle turned to me and said, “Laura, if I had to eat another corn beef or tuna sandwich again in my life I would be sick…No more tin food, I had enough at UWI”.

To us looking back then it was funny. Hilarious, even made our driver scream with laughter. But how can college students make the best of their finances and manage the meager sum properly? That was CHOICES’ question as it considers the next group of students going off to universities and colleges in 2008.

Since the beginning of time it has always been said that experience is the greatest teacher, and no matter how clichéd this may sound we have interviewed four university students—two graduates, one second year student, and one final year student – for their advice to prospective college students ont how to manage their finances while at university.

It all boils down to this:

  1. Making a budget and sticking to it. Make a daily budget, a weekly one and a monthly budget.It’s very important to guard your finances and spend wisely. Know your priorities and spend accordingly. Obviously school related expenses come first.


  1. Cooking if you live on campus. This allows you to save more rather than buying fast-food. I will be the first to admit this was my weakness but if you can get it done you will see the amount you save, especially since inflation would appear to be more obvious in the cost of fast-food on campus based on the frequent increase in prices.


  1. Shopping smart and learning that trick your mother has come to master. Shopping at the cheaper supermarkets around the campus to get grocery and produce NOT the nearest one or the one staring you in the face.


  1. Creating friendships that help. It’s good to have friends who can help you out with lunch with or without you asking or a fellow hall student who invites you for dinner. It’s also good to have good friends who will not depress you with their need to constantly borrow without repaying, or ones want to encourage you to get involved in activities that will not only distract you from your studies but will also cost money.


  1. Pool resources to take care of meals. Putting money together and shopping in bulk can cost far less that shopping individually.


  1. Carpooling and sharing taxi- rides with a friend for long journeys or walking to the nearest ones. Both save money.


  1. Seeking out all financial assistance the school has to offer. Students are not always aware of these resources and a little extra help is always good.


  1. Taking the school bus instead of spending on public transport. School buses run on a schedule and besides personal saving you can also learn time management.


“I remember not having a cent and having to wait for hours on the campus bus to go to Western Union. I remember I had two great friends from other islands and we pooled resources to take care of meals. I also remember doing a similar thing with my room-mate and eating a lot of tinned food and macaroni and cheese. So much so that up to this point I want neither to eat,” said Kemoy McEkron, a journalist and former UWI student.

Andrea Anson, a second year literature student said, “You have to take advantage of the meal plans and assistance the student bodies offers. They help students who have financial problems who are not all aware of the little money they have.”

Garfield Barclay, a graduate suggests being more campus-centred for the purchasing of things from lunches to books. “The universities and colleges try to get the lowest price for books and everything they offer to you and you should think about shopping on the campus for you food and books,” he said.

“Definitely try to spend less money. Cook your own food because it’s one of the most expensive things on campus. Buy cheap clothing. Try as best as possible to live closer to school, which will save you a lot and if possible keep your hair natural. Braiding and processing will cost you much more. Food, transport, rent, clothes and hair are the real expenses,” Keisha Josephs a final year at the UWI suggests. L.M.