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    Broke Already?

    Christy Simon

    The harried Burger King employee eyed me warily. Flustered, I avoided her stare and dug deeper into my wallet. Finally, buried beneath two receipts, a credit card, my driver’s license and my school ID, I found the four quarters and three dimes I’d been searching for.

    I plopped them on the counter with a dollar bill, traded them for a Whopper and a few pennies, and left, utterly embarrassed. I can’t believe I’m almost out of cash already! I thought as I joined my friends at a table.

    I have always been a serious saver. I save everything--birthday money, work money, grandparent money. I’ll even pick up nickels and dimes from the sidewalk.

    But college has made saving tougher than ever. Along with tuition, room and board, and textbooks, "hidden costs" are always soaking up my reserves. Phone bill: $11.75. Pepperoni pizza: $7.99. Weekly laundry: $2.50. It might not seem like much, but, believe me, those dollars add up quickly.

    So a couple of semesters back, I started to write down every penny I spent. That’s helped me see exactly where my money is going. It’s also motivated me to keep working at my job on campus and searching for scholarship dollars.

    Sticking to a budget definitely requires a little sacrifice--something I’m still not very good at. I’m often tempted to overspend. When I go out for ice cream, it’s tough to settle for just one scoop instead of a triple-dipper.

    But I am learning how to manage money wisely. "Do I really need this?" has become a question I ask myself again and again. Through both my mistakes and my good decisions, I’ve learned a lot about the basics of spending and saving.

    Most of all, I’ve learned that budgeting is a valuable skill. It’s something I’ll use for the rest of my life. And if I’m real careful this week, I might have a little extra cash for a trip back to Burger King.

    Christy, a Whopper fanatic, is a college senior majoring in journalism.

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