For the first two quarters of my Stanford career, I embodied the stereotypical “broke college student” role. I consistently set record low balances in my checking account, I routinely sold my soul to science by participating in GSB and psych studies, and I was no stranger to phoning home to ask my parents for a little money (something I’m grateful I have the privilege to do). Good deals, sales and free food were my best friends. The one time I went shopping for clothes, I made a beeline for the clearance rack. When it involved spending money, I only went out with my friends sporadically, and each purchase was a trade-off for something else. However, this quarter I got a job, and things changed … slightly.
I say slightly because, while I am definitely making an income for the first time in my life, I’m still working a part-time, near-minimum-wage job (although compared to what I would be making in my home state of Georgia, where low-skill jobs pay about half of what they do here, I can’t complain). Far from raking in bucketfuls of cash, I’m making just enough to spend a little more freely while managing to start accumulating savings. The extra money really just means I can buy more spontaneous food and boba late at night to satisfy my endless cravings. Supposedly money can’t buy happiness, but when it can buy me boba at 10:30 p.m., I think it’s close enough.
Having more money isn’t just about spending more money for me, though. Just knowing that you have money to spend when you want to or need to is surprisingly reassuring and even uplifting. That beautiful day twice a month when my bank account balance jumps up from a direct deposit has quickly become something I look forward to more than I look forward to the weekend on a Monday. This excitement will probably fade over time, but it hasn’t yet, so I’m going to enjoy the rush of dopamine I get for seeing more than two digits left of the decimal point every time I check my balance, an experience I cannot say I had for the majority of fall or winter quarter.
Being paid hourly has meant that in my not-so-broke adventures, I’ve discovered a new way of measuring the value of my purchases. For every purchase I’m contemplating, I’ve fallen into the habit of thinking about it in terms of how many hours of work it costs. Boba, for example, costs well under an hour of work, which is definitely worth it. However, if I’m a little too impulsive with my purchases, I cringe a little at the thought that I’ve spent more than eight hours of work with the swipe of a debit card.
Essentially, getting a part-time job doesn’t mean I’ve completely escaped the broke college student lifestyle. Tragically, I still can’t afford to run out and buy a Tesla today or even just pay for my education, but I can buy more boba, so I think I like being a slightly-less-broke college student.
Contact Kiara Harding at kiluha ‘at’ stanford.edu.