Inflation affects student budgets in time of recession

By Liz Garrett and Christopher Bl
April 24, 2008

Inflation has put a financial squeeze on some Cabrini students, as it has on many Americans in general.

Cabrini students, however, say they have not yet felt the pinch.

“I have just gotten used to having to work to pay for the things I need,” Renee Roff, junior elementary and special education major, said.

Roff, 21, works four jobs. Tuesday and Thursday she works at Norristown Area High School from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., doing truancy duty and from 3 to 5 p.m. she mentors a 17-year-old high school student. Over the weekends she babysits and works for a catering company in Germantown.

“Balancing school and work is not hard because my work schedule is spread out throughout the week with short hours during the week and longer ones during the weekend,” Roff said.

She comes from an upper-middle class family in Springfield, Pa., in which both her father and stepmother work, financing her education. However, money is not always easy to come by with a long list of bills to pay, even for a student with a busy work schedule.

“I used to not budget my money when I did not have a car payment or when I was not saving up for rent, but now I barely spend money on myself during the week other than essentials like gas,” Roff said.

Roff plans on a career as a teacher and although she would like to take a year off after her graduation in 2009, she needs a job to pay off her college tuition loans.

“Everything has gone up in price-gas, groceries, clothing-all things we need and it’s hard as a college student,” Brooke Young, a junior English and communication major, said. “I am living off campus and I am trying to work and go to class in order to make money so I can buy things I need, but the prices are ridiculous.”

The Washington Post suggested that the inflation would not be such a wake-up call for college students if they had experienced it in the past like those of older generations.

“People need these products and everyone is going to buy them so they are still making money,” Young said. “I don’t understand why prices have to be so high; it is bothersome. I try and go around figuring out what places have the cheapest groceries and where to go for gas. I will drive a half an hour away just for the lower prices.”

Inflation has been under control for over two decades.

“For college students, the increases in the cost of oil and gas are probably most noticeable. But the price increase goes beyond the price paid at the pump,” Dr. Eric Malm, assistant business professor, said. “Oil is an input to many products, so expect to see many other prices starting to rise in the near future.”

The Washington Post points out that prices have increased 9.2 percent since 2006. Daily necessities such as gasoline, groceries, health care and household products are now higher. College students generally do not work at jobs that have annual raises. Their budgets have to stretch to meet the higher prices.

“I feel most students are tighter with their money towards the end of the semester,” Brett Butler, junior secondary education and history major, said. “If you have more money in the fall then you’re more likely to spend it.”

The 21-year-old Butler grew up in a blue-collar family in Allentown, Pa. and he works on campus as a resident assistant and student ambassador.

“The inflation is a big deal because prices are going up but our incomes are not. We are getting less for the money we make,” Butler said.

Butler admits that saving money is not always easy but he does his best to place half of his earnings away in a savings account.

“Economists talk about price increases like these as signals of scarcity,” Malm said. “Markets as well as people react by buying more efficient cars, carpooling and trying to make your home more energy efficient, which all takes time and money.”

Senior Chris Sweeney, 22, grew up in a middle class family in Ambler, Pa. Sweeney spends an average of $300 dollars a month. He feels the increases in prices are ridiculous, especially with the drop in value of the dollar.

“It’s not having a direct effect on me personally but I can see how it could affect poor families pinching pennies and living paycheck to paycheck,” Sweeney said.

Paul Lilly, a junior from Omagh, Northern Ireland comes from a middle-class family that helps him pay for his everyday expenses. He said he splits all of his expenses about half and half with his parents.

“The economy in America is a lot more driven by the private sector and it is more of a capitalist system than in Ireland,” Lilly said.

Lilly believes Americans are better at saving money than Europeans. He has been able to save money working in three offices at Cabrini.

“It’s the worst, especially as a commuter! Prices are insane and it’s not helping my financial situation at all,” Amanda Alexandrowicz, a junior English and communication major, said. “I have a great job. I waitress in Wayne and I make great money there for a college student. But with all my school work and lacrosse I have to cut my work hours down.”

College students are at the age where being careless about the money they earn is not an option. Dealing with the inflation only makes matters worse and throws them into financial issues they are not prepared for, according to The Washington Post.

“There are college students who live on their own, pay rent and buy their own groceries. Then when they graduate, they’ll have so many thousands of dollars in debt to pay off their tuition,” Alexandrowicz said. “What it comes down to is that all college students should take better care of their spending.”

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Liz Garrett and Christopher Bl

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