It's not just for students anymore....

Follow me while I follow my husband to the Midwest and try to navigate the "Partner" world at one of US News and World Report's Top 5 MBA Programs in the country.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Live like a CEO when you're a student...."

On the bus this morning, I was trying to plan how we were going to pay off our current credit card bill. We went to New Orleans for an abbreviated Spring Break (I’ve gotta work, people!), Cam’s tuition bill needs to be paid, he just bought a lot of his books (FOUR classes this term equals a LOT of money towards books and course packs), I just authorized payment on a trip to Europe for the end of the summer, and maybe I bought a few things online this month. Maybe. At any rate, this credit card bill is definitely on the high side for us.

Sounds like we’re really livin’ the life, huh? Vacations and online shopping (with dinners out and plane tickets home thrown in) and we’re just two people on one (not huge) salary living the way we did when we had two salaries, right? Not quite. For one thing, Chicago is a lot cheaper than Boston, and we moved to one of the cheapest viable neighborhoods in the city to save money. No luxury high rises for us! We park on the street, which is free (aside from the occasional ticket…). We cook roughly 18 out of 21 meals a week. We outlet or sale shop almost exclusively, and I’ve become mildly obsessed with coupons (those CVS coupons are so great! And I love!). If we go out to eat, I try to use Groupons or Chicago Half Off instead of paying full price. Perhaps I’ve even become cheap….

Yes, we still go on vacation, and I’m certainly not one to say no to the occasional glass of wine and dinner out. But we look around and wonder how some of our fellow students are living the way it appears they are living. Fancy apartment buildings, multiple (often fancy) cars, dinner out 5 nights a week, 12 day treks to Europe and the Caribbean, expensive parties and Booth events, weekend trips to NYC….and a lot of these students don’t have a working partner like Cam does! What the heck? Something like 95% of people who come here take out loans…so what am I missing? People can oft be heard repeating this quote that all admissions officers like to remind the students: “Live like a CEO when you’re a student, and you’ll be living like a student when you’re a CEO.” You definitely hear people saying this….but you rarely see people taking it to heart.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Wait, didn’t she say a few paragraphs ago that she just returned from a trip to New Orleans and is planning a European trip for the summer? Sounds like she’s doing the same thing as all of these high rollers she’s confused about!” Okay, full disclosure (and Cam will not be happy that I’m revealing this): we don’t have loans. We had saved up for Cam to attend school for 2 years, and we figured that if I got a job, we’d be tight but okay while he went to school. And then, he was awarded a substantial fellowship (we're very fortunate!), so it turns out we had saved about twice as much as we needed. Later this week, I’ll write about why this has been pretty awkward at times during our first two terms in Chicago.

So what am I criticizing people for? Look, we’re still trying not to spend beyond our means. We want to buy a house when Cam graduates, and every dollar we can save now means that I’ll get a nicer house later :). I also kind of worry about some of these people; even with fabulous jobs, paying off these huge loans won’t be easy! Why spend more than you absolutely need? I understand that “this is the time” to travel and have fun, but there is a way to do it responsibly. I guess I just want us all to be livin’ like CEO’s post-graduation. Or at least like above average middle managers ;).

1 comment:

  1. I can definitely understand why not having loans can be awkward. I lived at home for four years before my MBA - meaning no rent, no food, no utilities etc... It was quite cozy and allowed me to save, a lot.