College Money Diaries: A Week That Went Up in Flames

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I’d characterize my spending habits by flaming garbage. I’m a 20-year-old junior at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta studying Finance, which is ironic, considering how I manage my personal finances. A goal of mine is to become more responsible with money, which is why I volunteered myself for this diary.

Some things to know about me before I spill my receipts:

-I have some savings from working full-time, sometimes with overtime, all summer long.

-I don’t live on campus; I still live with my parents. They live in Edmonton, my hometown. Given my current earnings, it wouldn’t be wise for me to move out on my own, plus campus is less than a 20-minute drive away.

-Because I live off campus, I have to take care of car-related expenses like gas, and a parking pass. (Luckily, my tuition and school fees include a pass for all public transit within the city.)

-I take care of about half my own groceries since I’m vegetarian and my family is not, but aside from that, most of my weekly spending goes toward shopping.

I have a huge shopping proclivity, which I recognize as problematic but justify with the fact that I work full-time each summer and hold a few part-time jobs throughout the school year and can therefore (kind of) afford it. Weirdly, I spend more on clothes and books than I do on food and other consumable goods. I don’t drink, for instance, so I never spend any money at the bar or on taxis to get home. And for some reason, I haven’t developed the usual college student coffee addiction yet. Maybe it’s still on its way.

My friends are far more conservative with their money than I am. They don’t like to spend their money, ever. They balance me out. Their habits make me more aware of how much I spend relative to my income and how much I should put toward savings. I don’t see the point in working hard to make money if you’re never going to spend a cent of it, but I’m also cognizant that I need to vet my spending more in the future — especially after analyzing my money-doling over the last seven days.

Here’s a breakdown of what I spent this week. I tried not to alter my normal spending habits at all, so the following erratic splurging might not be suitable for all audiences. You have been warned.


Pole dancing is an amazing fitness activity. It’s so much fun, and it makes you so much stronger! I also went to the movies today because I wanted to see if Kingsman 2 held up to the hype — and I really can’t watch a movie without gnawing on something, hence the Doritos.

I recently made an investment purchase by buying a Smart car. I used to drive a seven-seater hand-me-down 2006 Acura MDX, and when I drove that I usually spent upwards of $70 every eight or nine days on gas (it hurt me every time I had to fill up). Now, though, I can get premium gas for scarcely more than $30 every three weeks! It’s heavenly.

I think I have an iTunes problem; I spend way too much money on music. People always tell me to rip songs off of YouTube, but something about buying music is ingrained in me. I like supporting the artist. Also, I know $7.50 is arguably way too much money to ever be spending on vanilla soft-serve, but I had an unshakeable craving.

Today was a light day. I headed a few blocks off campus to one of my favorite little local cafés for vegan dal and two helpings of basmati rice. I don’t head out here much when the weather dips (as it tends to do, severely, in Canada), but when the weather’s still firmly parked in the mild, pleasant cool of fall, this is one of the best meals anyone can get around the university.

I spent barely any time on campus today (I spent barely any time around people, come to think of it) because I had to isolate myself to study for some upcoming midterms, so that’s probably why today was such a cheap one for me.

I treated my significant other to dinner and dessert today. Because of our increasingly busy schedules we don’t get to see each other one-on-one as much as we used to, so I really cherish our time together. Something about not being able to hang out as frequently makes me more inclined toward big shows of affection, like paying for dinner and dessert and providing transportation. Am I…a romantic?

If it looked like I didn’t have much of a spending problem yet, I definitely counteracted everything here. This is the big one: Artizia had this awesome sale for Canadian Thanksgiving, and as a longtime fan of the brand — I still wear a TNA sweater I got from there when I was eleven — I often find myself succumbing to their sales. I debate everything I buy very carefully and generally cut my purchases by about half before checking out, but somehow I always end up pulling the trigger on a bizarrely large sum.

I feel like I get a bit of a pass today because my biggest expenditure was a required purchase — I can’t drive without a legit license. My best friend just received her MCAT scores back and found out that she placed in the 99th percentile, so I felt that dinner and treats were definitely in order. As for the ingredients for confit byaldi (a.k.a. the ratatouille from Ratatouille), that was definitely worth it. Nothing’s better than dinner surrounded by family.

I’ll probably have to cut back for the next couple weeks given that big six-hundy spend, but all in all, my actual in-person spending is lower than I expected. Apparently I spend less on food than I thought I did, and usually I wouldn’t go out to treats and the like as I did this week to celebrate my friend’s achievement. A huge chunk of my money goes down the drain when it comes to clothing sales, and I think a large part of that comes from not having to worry about a mortgage or rent or shouldering the burden of 100% of my groceries yet. If I had to worry about utilities or more substantial living costs, I definitely, definitely would not be able to go to the movies on a whim or consider spending so much on non-essentials. I feel like it’s okay to indulge every once in awhile, so long as I don’t let my bad habits take over. More than anything, I think I need to reassess my closet.

Victoria Chiu is a student and writer. Follow more of her work at her website victoriachiu.com

Photo by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.

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