Students should watch their spending

April 2, 2020 — by Preston Fu

Editor’s note: This story was written prior to the March 13 closure of school.

Each day, juniors and seniors rush off campus during lunch, speeding off to Safeway, Wonderful Chinese Gourmet, McDonald’s, Chipotle or Popeyes. It’s not out of the ordinary for them to spend $11 on lunch — $10 on food and $1 on gas.

Every couple of Fridays, there is a boba sale on the quad steps, where drinks are sold for $5 apiece. Class and club officers rely on avid boba drinkers to purchase the beverages each sale. Fortunately for them, they are able to sell around 100 per fundraiser.

At SHS, most students are focused on learning advanced topics in math, science, English and so on to better prepare themselves for college and beyond. 

However, it is apparent from our extravagant  spending habits that we are not so capable of preparing ourselves for college in areas outside the classroom — with our inability to accomplish basic tasks like managing money, perhaps making future financial navigation more difficult.

The typical Saratoga household makes $173,136 per year, nearly 2.8 times the national median of $61,937, according to Data USA. As a result of this wage gap, students from wealthy households are often led to believe, “Well, those extra $111,199 are for me, right?”

No, they’re not.

Some 56 percent of California’s public school students were identified as eligible for free or reduced-price meals at the start of the 2012-13 school year, according to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). That means Saratoga is in the bottom half for something, for a change.

It is disappointing to see that Saratoga students are no more frugal than billionaires like Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerburg and Charlie Ergen, who have enough money to live 100 extravagant lifetimes. Buffet was reported to spend just 0.16% of his 2019 earnings, compared to the 77.8% national average.

It’s easy to spend $10 on a meal each day when both parents are earning $300,000 a year. Now, with many Bay Area residents having lost their jobs with the recent COVID-19 outbreak and shelter-in-place, it’s much harder to justify spending so frivolously.

When we students do go off to college, some of our parents might want us to be more financially independent, only covering tuition and similar fees. A part-time job might pay $20 an hour if you’re lucky. After factoring in basic expenses like housing, food, books and supplies, we would be much worse off than are now in these troublesome times. Should we really still be spending $10 on a meal or $5 on a drink?

Don’t get me wrong — I’m a huge fan of both Chipotle and TeaTop — but do watch your spending before your debit card is drained.

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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.

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