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What I Wish I Had Known: 4 Money Tips for the ISB Student

By Kathryn Liu - International School of Beijing

With all the throwback beach pictures drowning everyone’s feeds on Instagram, it’s no secret that the endless summer nights on the beach are turning into the endless dreaded nights at home. Can anyone say Netflix and pizza?All the buzz about summer ending, reminds me of those three cringe-worthy words that were forbidden throughout the summer: Back to school.

To students at the International School of Beijing, these three words may trigger memories of the ever so exciting and prepubescent back to school bashes, bring up the controversial dress code woes, or, bring out the scent of fresh meat.

Back when I was in 9th grade, I had a few friends who warned me about what was to come, whether it was about IB or EE’s, but no one ever warned me about things outside of academics; like how high school would empty out my wallet. When I was a freshman, I can easily say that I’ve had my ups and downs when it came to spending, but now a junior, I seem to have gotten the hang of it all. (Almost)

“It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white… the only color that really matters is green.” — Family Guy

To all you freshman out there, or for those who are in need of some advice, here are 4 things that I wish I knew when I was a freshman:

Jamaica Makes Me so Blue

When Jamaica Blue first opened their doors, sure, it seemed like a cool little hang out spot to go after school with all your friends, grab a bite to eat while equally feeling trendy, but after a few years, fewer students have been seen at the café. The reason?

Overpriced coffee + with overpriced food = Unhappy students, and starving wallets. Jamaica Blue may be convenient, but there are other restaurants and cafés that will satisfy your cravings while simultaneously saving you a couple of kuai’s.

You Better Have my Money

It’s hard to say no, but it’s even harder to say yes. One thing that I still do to this day is lend my lunch card to those who won’t pay me back. I’m usually not a frugal person, but when it comes to lunch cards, I’ve been learning to say ‘no’.

On multiple occasions, I refill my lunch card on Monday with 200 kuai, and by Thursday, I’m down to 40 kuai. I start begging for money, parents start interrogating, I get the money, I load up my lunch card, someone asks for it, I give it to them, I lose half of the money I just filled, and the cycle continues.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, make sure your friends will pay you back. It may not seem like much at the start, but if you keep it up, you’ll end up being the go-to person for an ‘all you can eat’ buffet.

Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

At least Kris tried.

When I was little, money was never really on my lists of things to worry about. I grew up thinking that my parents would cover everything that I needed and wanted, and all I had to do was take something off the shelf and put it on the countertop I could barely reach. Now that I’m older, I always cringe at the stories that my parents told me where I recklessly bought armfuls of Webkinz or the time I begged for a pair of Jimmy Choo’s at the age of 10.

I now realize that money doesn’t grow on trees. My parents worked hard for everything that we have, and the least I could do was to appreciate that. Do you really need 500 Euro Jimmy Choo’s? Apparently I did. My advice is to be more humble. The difference in desire and necessity is just that; you may desire something, but must you have it?

Plan B

Ever since I could remember, my mom would always remind me to keep an extra 100 kuai in my pocket, just in case something happened. I never knew what she meant by, “if something happened”, but I’m glad I listened to her. To this day, I always keep a couple of extra hundreds in either my pocket, or somewhere in my bag for safekeeping. My advice is to do the same; take a bill and stash it somewhere you know is safe, so that if you lose your wallet or you just need some extra cash, you’ll always have a plan B. Don’t be afraid to get creative with it, find other places to hide money in like, a shoe, your phone, or even your hair, the sky’s the limit!

I must confess, I am no saint, I still do some of these things as an upperclassman, but less frequently. And you know what they say: The early bird catches the worm! So go on, freshmen, be the bird and soon you too will catch the worm! I guess the worm would be money, but you can interpret the metaphor however you like.

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