Financial lunacy is definitive of student life

Common knowledge says that it will cost you an arm, a leg and two or three other appendages to live in downtown Portland. And if you go to PSU, factor in an extra $1,240 or so – and that is if you are paying in-state tuition. So what can you do if you are a college student, a member of a species that has historically been one step up on the economic ladder from rickshaw drivers and circus carnies, and you don’t want to end up doing your studies out of a cardboard box on Burnside?

If you are moving to the Portland State campus for the first time this fall, you will have to keep on your toes to avoid this scenario. It is possible, though, if you get a part-time job on or near campus, manage your money wisely and don’t smoke an inordinate amount of crack.

You will have to eat at some point, and with a busy schedule people often want this step to take as little time as possible.

However, considering the amount of food you get for the money, fast food is actually a major luxury for the college student on a tight budget. Do you want a different-colored Mercedes for every day of the week? Too bad! You’re in college. For someone used to being fed by parents at home, calculating what to eat on a price-per-pound basis can be kind of depressing, but it would be more depressing having to hassle people for change at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Most incoming students find the close proximity of McDonald’s irresistible at first. Real grease is such a treat compared to organic-type food (Who wants something that tastes like it grew in the ground?), but if you skip on that Filet-O-Pigeon and pick up some produce at Safeway, your wallet will thank you. Also, never forget that beer has calories – and you can return the container it came in for a refund, which is more than you can say for a Whopper.

When you move into a PSU dorm room, you have to fill out a checklist detailing the condition of the room. Be sure to make some note of how foul and stained the carpet is. It doesn’t matter if it’s brand new; it won’t be when you move out and you don’t want your cleaning deposit refund being sucked dry to pay for its replacement (even though college housing will probably find a way to keep it all anyway). The average dorm room carpet absorbs at least 3 gallons of spilled beverages, food and various bodily fluids in a month. Better safe than sorry.

If ‘worse comes to worse’, you may need to re-evaluate just how bothered you are by the social stigma attached to prostitution. The world’s oldest profession might just be your ticket to financial security. After all, what’s so dishonorable about fulfilling the needs of the lonely and desperate? Don’t forget, though – cash up front, no exceptions.

If you’re living on campus, do not buy a car!! Everything you really need is within walking or bus distance. True, riding the bus can be a difficult adjustment. There are car people and then there are bus people. For a car person like myself, it was hard to get used to the glacial speeds and the waiting on 15-minute timetables and the smell. However, when you look at the expenses attached to having your own vehicle (post-WTC attack gas prices, pass-the-Vaseline insurance rates, 200 frickin’ bucks a week for parking on campus) it starts to make less and less sense. If somebody handed me a free car tomorrow, I could not even afford to keep it. Being “carless” enables you to feel all warm and fuzzy inside about saving the earth – until it rains, and then some light cursing is acceptable.

Be prepared to receive funny looks at the bank from time to time. A few weeks ago, I found myself walking up to the teller with my Powerade bottle full of change to deposit into my checking account so that my rent check wouldn’t bounce.

“I’d like to make a deposit”
“Uh, what would you like to deposit?”
I rattled the change in the Powerade bottle.
“Ohhh … “

At the beginning of last term I was coming up on a weekend with no cash and no check coming in until the following Monday. Hopeless case, you might say? Not for the truly ghetto-fabulous college student. I returned one of my laughably overpriced textbooks to the bookstore for a refund on Friday, used the refund money to wreak havoc on greater Portland on Saturday, and bought the book back on Monday when my check arrived. It takes these kinds of adjustments to keep your head above water. Your friends may laugh, but it is only a matter of time before they are at the same point themselves.