Financial woes trouble students

By Cara Miller

Arizona Daily Wildcat

When Robert Henry heard the rumble in his tummy and looked into the void in his wallet, he knew he would have to look elsewhere for the cash to pay for dinner.

Ever self-sufficient, Henry didn't ask his parents for the money or bum it from his friends instead he sort of "borrowed" it from his roommate.

To supplement his dinner at Zachary's Pizza, Henry, an education ecology junior, sold his roommate's clothes to Buffalo Exchange.

"I sold about two pairs of his jeans and a pair of old penny loafers," Henry says. "I got about $17 for them."

Like other students on the UA campus, Henry knows what it's like to be broke. Busted. Cashless. And finally desperate.

Contrary to popular belief, desperation is actually the mother of invention. And several students have invented their own money-making schemes.

In another friend-related pilfering, Shelly Henry, an interdisciplinary studies sophomore, stole about $20 from her friend's money jar.

"I needed to buy cigarettes," she says. "I took all the quarters and replaced them with some pennies and nickels I had."

While "borrowing" is popular among the monetarily challenged, selling their own stuff is another way students "creatively budget."

In a variation on Henry's trick, Chris Nguyen had to sell his own clothes to buy food.

"I took about five pairs of Dockers down to Buffalo Exchange, but they wouldn't buy them because my waist was too small, so I only made about $13 on the other stuff," he says.

Nguyen, an electrical engineering senior, also was reduced to selling half of his compact discs.

"I learned to budget better, though, because I realized I didn't have any more assets to sell," he said.

Learning to budget is a big problem for students starting out on their own, says Gail Tanner, an accountant for Associated Students of the University of Arizona.

"When they (students) were at home, their parents didn't teach them to handle money well," she says. "They don't realize how expensive things really are until they get to college."

And getting a job to counteract financial woes can just cause more stress, Tanner says. Students often wind up devoting too many hours to low-paying jobs and fall behind in both money and school.

But if jobs aren't a definite answer, what can the poverty-stricken student do? Tanner suggests two ways to avoid debt avoid credit card abuse and spending money frivolously, two common student maladies.

While many students are frivolous in their spending habits, for some students saving money is like drawing blood.

For Matt Foote, giving blood helped him make money.

Foote, a political science and art sophomore, is an ex-member of the fearless ranks of plasma sellers. Foote says he sold plasma for cash "about 20 times" in times of desperation.

The plasma center Foote frequented paid $25 for the first time and $15 to $20 for subsequent sales, he says.

Despite the lucrative aspects, giving plasma is not a viable enterprise for Nguyen.

"I've been desperate, but I would never do anything as crazy as selling my plasma," he said.

After a needle mishap that left him unable to use his arm for two weeks, Foote tends to agree.

"One time they missed my vein. They put it in and left me there, and about 20 minutes later I realized nothing was happening," he says. "They told me the needle had gone completely through the vein."

This is just the sort of incident that makes students turn to Mom and Dad when food is scarce and pocket lint is the closest thing they have to money.

"I lived out of my mom's refrigerator for a month," says Michele Barnes, a management information systems junior. "She worked nights, so I could go over at night and take what I needed. Mostly bread and Nutella."

For Meredith Lee, an ecology and evolutionary biology senior, Nutella would have sounded good during her freshman year. Lee lived off ramen for about a month.

"It became my new staple," she said. "Let's just say I can't eat ramen ever again."

Wildcat reporter Greg D'Avis contributed to this story.

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