How I Went Broke After One Semester in College

And what I’m doing to fix it.

By Kat Holleran

Photo courtesy of Man Repeller


I first realized how truly awful I am at saving money when I went shopping with my 15-year-old brother to get a Christmas gift for his girlfriend and he bought her, like, five different things. When I questioned him, his response was, “It’s okay. I have a lot of money so I don’t mind getting her nice stuff.” Now, Michael has always been a responsible kid. After Christmases and birthdays he would put away the money he received in drawers and boxes unlike I, who would tend to shove it in my wallet and go shopping later that week. Somehow, Michael is able to save money for something he doesn’t even want yet because he knows he will want to buy something eventually.

Do you know what my brother is that I’m not? Smart. And savvy. And he has will-power, which is just totally wild to me. Seriously—he hates when he’s late for things, he lifts and  does cardio for hours every day after school, and he saves money like he works on Wall Street.

Meanwhile, I spent all my money last semester. Between the discovery of online shopping from my dorm room, buying plane tickets to and hotel rooms in NYC, coming home and going crazy at the mall after weeks of separation anxiety, Christmas gifts (I was in THREE Secret Santa’s), a trip to Italy (c’mon, people… Milan), and the acquisition of a credit card, I managed to deplete my savings much faster than anticipated. Why this outcome wasn’t obvious to me as I’m not able to babysit or work while I’m at college, is unknown. But alas, a pair of Golden Goose sneakers and numerous other new items later, here I am: 19 and scared, with only $200 to my name.

The question now is, what do I do? How do I regain financial stability?? Will the broke college lifestyle be mine for the next four years??? Unfortunately, I don’t know all the answers. But I do know I have to SERIOUSLY change how I spend and think about money. This means coming to the realization that no matter how much I want the Gucci purse, the $150 Comme Des Garçons t-shirt, the funky gold earrings… I can’t buy it without suffering consequences down the road.

You can tell I’m desperate because I Google searched this.

I set a goal to only buy one clothing item a month, at least until the summer. When I told my boyfriend this he burst out laughing in my face, but don’t underestimate me, Charlie! Even if “only buying one garment a month” really means only buying three garments, that’s still better than before. Benchmarks, people.

Besides that, I’m still open to suggestions for saving. Professors if you’re reading this, pay me to watch your kids (I’m really good at it). Friends: any ideas would be appreciated. Employers: hire me pls. Mom and Dad: donations welcome.

My brother just turned 16 and got his license the other week, which really means unlimited access to Chipotle and the mall, and that ultimately leads to broke-ness for at least a few months until control is regained. Except maybe not for him because, well, you know.


  1. Anonymous, that is a totally valid point. I don’t want the takeaway from this to be that I think my practices/thought processes with shopping and consumption (or my privilege) are okay, though. I’m working on finding a balance in my life so that I can ensure better financial practices for tons of reasons, including being able to spend more time doing things I’m passionate about and use the money I have for better causes. – Kat

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