UMass Amherst: The Magazine for Alumni and Friends

Spring 2008

The Spending Diaries
How do college students earn their keep, spend their money, and pay tuition?
By Melissa Garber ’09, Photos by John Solem

Photo: Professor Bharat Doshi

College students are notorious for spending money they don’t have.Half of all seniors graduate from public universities with an average debt of nearly $16,000. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, for academic year 2003-2004, 69 percent of all students attending public universities received some financial aid. Of the 45 percent of students who took out loans, the average amount borrowed was $5,600.

Despite this data, when it comes to finances, do college students ever think farther ahead than the weekend? To find out, three friends and I wrote down every purchase we made during one week last October. The results provide an interesting look into where our money goes.


Gage Delprete ’08
21, Marblehead, Massachusetts
Painting, College of Humanities and Fine Arts
Summer Job:
Terry’s Ice Cream in Marblehead.
$10/hour plus tips, 20 hours/week.

Gage Delprete’s Spending Diary

Monday, October 1
Cable bill $24.00
Two lbs, honey mustard wings $24.00
Tuesday, October 2
Newsprint drawing paper, duct tape, U-store $21.99
Wednesday, October 3
Swedish fish and Powerade, C-store $3.08
Thursday, October 4
E-Z Clean palette, paint cleaner,
paint cleaner jar, and canvas, U-store $25.51
Groceries, Trader Joe’s and Stop & Shop $44.00
Friday, October 5
Uno card game and two-liter Coke, Target $6.69
Saturday, October 6
Dinner and parking $2.40
Total for the Week $151.67

Gage says:
“This was an expensive week. I usually spend $40 a week except when I have to buy art supplies. The wings … I don’t really know what to say about that; it was an eccentric purchase.”

Financial Situation: After paying cell phone, food, and insurance bills, Delprete had $400 left for school. All but $150 of that was spent on student fees and renting U-Hauls (Delprete transferred from UMass Dartmouth in fall 2007). Delprete’s parents give him $698 a month for rent, food, and, through a state program, utilities. Rent and utilities are usually around $500. He gets free tuition because he was adopted, and his parents pay the fees, except for $1,000. He pays that amount with a loan he takes out to build up his credit.



Susie Ditrolio ’09
20, Attleboro, Massachusetts
Major: Kinesiology (pre-med), School of Public Health and Health Sciences
Summer Job: Ditrolio has been a lifeguard for Attleboro’s recreation department for four years. Last summer she was head lifeguard and made $10/hour, 35 hours/week. On campus, she is assistant manager for the John Quincy Adams wellness center at $9/hour, 10 hours/week. She also works at Subway for $8/hour, 9 hours/week. These jobs are the reason she will be able to afford school next semester.

Susie says:
“I try to spend only $20 a week so I stay on target.”

Susie Ditrolio’s Spending Diary
Monday, October 1
Coffee, Herter Express $1.25

Wednesday, October 3
Reese’s bar, Brett snack machine $1.25

Thursday, October 4
Skittles, Brett snack machine $.95

Friday, October 5
Groceries at Shaw’s $14.47

Total for the Week $17.92

Financial Situation: Ditrolio lives on campus but does not have a meal plan. She pays for her tuition and room, which costs her about $7,400 a year. She receives $1,000 in scholarships and takes out $5,000 in loans every year. Ditrolio adheres to a stringent budget; she keeps no more than $20 in her checking account at any time.



Melissa Garber ’09
20, Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Major: Journalism, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Summer Job: For the past five years I have worked at Pennswood Village, a retirement community, for $7.50/hour, 20 hours/week. This past summer I worked for Hostelling International, in Truro, on Cape Cod, for $8/hour, 50-60 hours/week. During fall semester I worked at Subway for $7.50/hour, 9 hours/week.

Mellisa says:
“I probably shouldn’t be spending this much on food, considering I have a meal plan.” ”

Melissa Spending Diary
Monday, October 1
Iced tea and bagel, People's Market $2.75

Tuesday, October w
Band0Aids, C-store $.79

Thursday, October 4
Coconut-date rolls, People's Market $1.15
Iced coffee, Blue Wall $1.75

Friday, October 5
Pop Rocks mega chocolate bar, Blockbuster $1.49

Saturday, October 6
Oil change, Auto Express (Mom's credit card) $30.45
Groceries, Stop & Shop $2.69
Slice of pizza, Antonio's $3.00

Sunday, October 7
Tea roll and sangria, plus tip, Fresh Side $10.00
Violent Femmes and Matchbox 20 cassettes, Turn It Up! Music $5.25
Ice cream for two, Herrell's $5.80
Groceries, Atkins $20.78

Total for the Week $85.99

Financial Situation: As an out-of-state student, I paid UMass Amherst $30,378 for tuition, room, and board for the 2007-2008 school year. I take out loans to cover most of the cost. After I graduate, I will pay off half of my loans; my parents will pay off the other half. I pay for my own books, $300 to $500 a semester. My parents give me $100 each semester for laundry.



Justin D'Alessandro ’08
21, Marblehead, Massachusetts
Major: Communications, School of Behavioral Sciences
Summer Job: D’Alessandro has worked at the UPS store in his hometown for the past five years. He works for $10/hour, 40 hours a week.

Justin says:
“I only spend money when I need to or to have fun, but given my bank account, I’d rather spend $30 a week.”.”

Justin D’Alessandro’s Spending Diary
Monday, October 1
Bagel, People’s Market $1.50
Trident Minty Sweet Twist, C-Store $1.19
Order of wings $5.00

Thursday, October 4
Beer and one hour of pool, plus tip,
Michael’s Billiards Bar $9.00

Friday, October 5
Dinner for two, plus tip, House of Teriyaki $34.40
Movie rental, Blades of Glory, Blockbuster $4.50

Saturday, October 6
Groceries, Stop & Shop $111.42
Beer, Spirit Haus $12.99

Total for the Week $180.00

Financial Situation: D’Alessandro lives off-campus and does not have a meal plan. His rent is $440 a month, plus $50 in utilities. His parents pay his rent and utilities and give him $250 a month for food. His tuition costs $9,921 a year; he takes out loans and will be paying them off after graduation. His biggest expenses
are food and alcohol.




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