Living on a seminary student budget

I grew up with an accountant for a mother. She taught me how to keep a ledger from the time I was old enough to have my first checking account. She showed me how to save money, both in a savings account and in a milk jar. She taught me how to attempt to budget.

Once I entered seminary, it did not keep me from being scared out of my mind about finances, but actually, I think my mother’s training made it worse.

The key element to budgeting is having money to budget. So, I got a job. Sure I had jobs in the past but I needed a steady job that would work with my classes, which I was finished with by noon.

I was fortunate enough to land a job at Barnes and Noble and kept that job all throughout my college experience. Still, I asked, what is a budget?

After my freshman year, things heated up in the financial realm. I moved into my first apartment where the only two rooms consisted of my main room (kitchen, living room, study room, and bedroom) and my bathroom, which thankfully was separate. I was overjoyed to be on my own but the question of juggling finances became a huge stressor in my life. I began to live off the old pastries at work and even witnessed a co-worker actually cut the end off of one of the customer’s half eaten sandwiches and chow down on it instead of throwing it away.

Now, I was studying Cross Cultural Studies in my undergrad and am a huge advocate for missions and not wasting food. How far do you go with that? Is that considered budgeting? How about eating frozen cookie pucks and cheesecake that fits within the five-second rule once dropped on the floor? A steady diet of messed up drinks and coffee at half price? (Oh if you haven’t figured it out by now, I worked in the café at Barnes and Noble for a good amount of the four years I worked there).

Then there was the short stretch of time that I thought it would be a good idea to pick up a second job working in the cafeteria because of the free lunches. Cafeteria food makes you fat. That’s what I learned from my short two months working there.

Again, I ask, what is a budget?

There was an unspoken rule in the seminary that I went to that Wal-Mart was the happening place. I don’t even know how that started or why one would want to subject themselves to that much food that they could not touch, but I suppose. The ongoing joke on campus was that “going steady” wasn’t about a guy giving you a class ring; it was taking you to Wal-Mart.

To answer the question of “What is a budget” I honestly believe that budgeting as a seminary student means when someone invites you over for dinner and free food you go, ramen is a God-send, and spaghetti is not only cheap but can feed you for weeks at a time (make certain you do the sniff test).

Despite all of this, I came out on the other end of my four years on top with just my school debt to budget.

By Robyn Towler Robyn is currently working towards finishing up her Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. She lives with her husband and two furry babies: Lleywn, a one year old Welsh Corgi and Calvin, a three year old tabby cat, in Sunny Colorado. She is passionate about working with children and families and plans on adopting cross culturally someday.

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Ryan Burns
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