Being a VISTA or a college student can be very difficult. Having to grow up and learn how to live on a budget can be an eye opener. You realize that you need to get a job and actually start saving money. After graduation I decided to do a year of service. I struggled when it came to saving money. I got paid $200 a month, a food stipend, and no rent. It was difficult to change my life style of shopping and thinking I could buy anything I wanted. Realizing that I could not go out with friends every weekend or go to the movies. It was a long year of learning what it is like to live in poverty. After the year of service I still wanted to build my resume so I decided to do another year of service as an Americorps VISTA at Neighborhood Housing Service of Greater Cleveland. This time around is different though, I am making $900 a month but have to pay $450 in rent/utilities and no longer have a food stipend. Lucky for me NHS is willing to help out and pay $300 of my rent.
How I save
I am now making a lot more money but also have monthly payments. To help me save money, I have my whole paycheck deposited into my savings account, yep the whole thing! I transfer money to my checking account when I need it, but the catch is my bank only allows me to transfer money 6 times a month. When I transfer money I need to make sure that I am transferring enough to get me through the week. This at times is very difficult to manage, some weeks I spend more money than I think I will and end up having to make an another transfer. Once I use all of my transfers for the month I will get charged for any other transfers made. This has taught me to plan out ahead of time how much money I need to transfer. At the beginning of the month I have rent and utilities due so I need to make sure I take enough out for that and then enough to survive for the rest of the week.
Applying for food stamps has been the smartest thing I have done so far. My Ohio Direction card gets filled once a month on the 20th. I try to go shopping once a week and plan out what I will get to make sure the money is divided out equally throughout the month. This can get tricky though because I am a little bit of an impulse buyer but if I make a list and stick to it, it makes the trip go easier.
I saved up a lot of money for the holiday season, and wanted to get everyone the perfect gift. Well I ended up spending a little too much money on everyone and put myself in an uncomfortable position. I realized that I needed to do something to save money so I decided to have a dry January. A dry January means I did not drink any alcoholic beverages or eat takeout. Let’s just say it was a long month, being 24 years old and having friends that love going out on the weekends. I would go out and pound water and then be the designated driver for my friends. I think the hardest day was volunteering at Cleveland Beer Fest. Volunteers get to drink for free the whole night while pouring beer for everyone else. Being in that atmosphere was very challenging and definitely tested my strength. By the end of the month I saved as much money as I wanted and felt like I was in a safe place again.