Novi Money is pleased to share one of the winning essays from our inaugural scholarship. Students were asked to write about the financial challenges they faced in their pursuit of higher education and what creative solutions they applied to address these challenges. Below is the insightful response from the winner of the $1,000 Undergraduate Student Scholarship Award for Spring 2020, Lauryn Brawley who is a senior at Southern Oregon University. Congratulations, Lauryn!
Novi Money’s scholarships are awarded to one college senior and one graduate student to help offset educational costs. The entry period for the Novi Money $1,000 Scholarship Fall 2020 awards is now open.
Tackling a Budget—and Debt—to Earn Her Degree
by Lauryn Brawley
Throughout my higher education journey, I have faced several financial challenges that include budgeting with a small income and facing credit card debt. The biggest barrier came when I transferred from community college to university, where the costs of tuition, materials and supplies for each course are much higher.
When I first transferred in the fall of 2018, I was eligible for grants. Even with these government-funded awards, I still had to find ways to budget the few thousand dollars to pay for the cost of living, textbooks and class materials. I also had to cover the cost of commuting over 70 miles to attend the nearest university. To ensure my bills were paid I would pay three to five months’ worth of bills when my financial aid was awarded. This kept me stress-free and on budget for my necessities like housing, electricity, and transportation.
I was able to offset textbook costs by doing all assignments that required textbooks in the library, which saved a few hundred dollars each term. I also met with professors one on one to discuss what materials were absolutely critical to have, and where I could find used/low cost materials to purchase. Overall I was able to cut the initial cost of supplies in half.
To pay for commuting costs, I determined the amount of money I spent on gas each week and saved money from my monthly paychecks. My schedule was also kept on a Tuesdays and Thursdays commute instead of driving five days a week. By my second term at university I got more involved with virtual education, which cut back my need to commute to the campus.
The other challenge I have faced is the daunting task of tackling the credit card debt I had racked up in the earlier years after high school. Thankfully, I have had 100% on-time payments for my credit accounts. However, the payments are difficult to make when living on limited income as a single mother. As soon as a credit card payment is made, I found myself having to use the card for items like food, diapers, or even gas.
My way of combating this challenge is to follow a strict budget so that I could guarantee that I would have enough money to pay on my credit accounts and provide the needs of my household. When shopping, I tend to buy items in bulk so that they are cheaper and last longer. I also utilize my local resources like food banks and donations from community members who advertise online. When I have extra money from working extra shifts, I pay more than the minimum amount due on an account and I set guidelines for myself when it comes to spending money through credit. These days, my credit cards have been set aside only for absolute emergencies.
Despite all these challenges, I have stuck to strict budgets, paid my debt on time, and met the needs for my son and myself while I pursue my degree.