5 reasons why I’m grateful to be broke

5 reasonsI had a long discussion with some friends last night about another friend  or ours who is studying abroad in Europe. She traveled to a different country almost every other weekend during her semester and now that her classes are finished, she’s traveling around Europe. We kept asking ourselves, “How is she affording all of this??” I mean, she is seriously living out my dream of traveling all throughout Europe – but the only way I could do that is by working long hours and saving up for it for months.

Turns out, my friend’s family is paying for her trip. She is traveling at ease while I’m at home working 30 hours per week on top of a being a full-time student just to be able to spend 3 weeks in Europe this summer. And while our conversation about this friend could have turn into a jealous rant, my friend Rachel, who is paying for her study abroad trip to France, said something that completely changed the conversation. “Yeah, it’d be more luxurious doing it her way, but the gratitude level is much different for us.”

And I thought about that for a spell. She was so right. I’m grateful that my parents, who are definitely not poor, decided they wouldn’t pay for my travels (or food, or clothes…) because they wanted me to know what it’s like to have to live on a budget. And there are 5 reasons why I’m so grateful for that:

  1. I know the value of money.

There’s nothing like working every moment you’re not sleeping, eating or in class that makes you appreciate money. My hard work put every dollar in my bank account. I don’t buy things frivolously because I want to put my hard-earned money to good use. Instead of spending $300 on a designer purse, I’d rather spend that money on a plane ticket to somewhere I’ve never been before.  I know what money is worth and I’ll make sure I’ll extract every ounce of its value.

  1. I know how to earn my way.

Now this might turn into a bit of a rant. I know too many people who haven’t worked a day in their lives. Or they have, but just for fun because their parents still pay for everything. We all wish someone would just hand us money – but what is the good in that? Once I graduate college, I’ll know how to save up for a house, a car, groceries, etc., because I know how to earn money. I can be a functioning part of society, making an honest living, and do so because I know how to independently earn my way. I will never wait for someone just to hand me something.

  1. I appreciate things so much more.

Ever notice how a meal tastes so much better when you make it from scratch rather than buying it at a restaurant? Or how the cabinets in your kitchen look so much better when you build them by hand than when you buy them at the store? It’s because you worked hard on them. You exerted some sort of effort into making them what they are, so when you eat that meal or see those cabinets, you are also reminded of the fruits of your labor.

And that’s how I feel about everything I pay for. When I get to Europe this summer, I’ll be reminded of how many hours I worked to pay to be there. And every meal or souvenir I buy abroad will be memorabilia of not only the trip, but also of every time I had to say no to something because it was too expensive and I had to save money. I appreciate everything I have so much because I earned it.

  1. I’m more connected with the real world.

At least 80 percent of humanity lives on less than 10 USD a day, according to GlobalIssues.org. Out of the 2.2 billion children in the world, 1 billion live in poverty. And 1.6 billion people — a quarter of humanity — live without electricity.

In most of the world, people’s parents can’t afford to send them off to travel Europe. In fact, they can barely afford food for the week, or sometimes not at all. I know my friend who’s abroad is aware of these things, but there are so many other people in the U.S. who live in complete ignorance that other people are struggling out there just to stay alive. They’re completely disconnected from what’s happening to the other 80 percent of the world.

I’m unbelievably fortunate that I can shower, change my clothes, eat three meals and watch TV every day.  And with that, I should also say that I am so fortunate to even have a job – and three at that. At least I can earn money (even it if takes a while), whereas most people in the world can’t say that. I’m extraordinarily blessed.

  1. I’m a better person.

Because I’m broke, I’m a hard worker. I’m independent, and I know how to persevere. I know what it means to have to work for what I have. And know how fortunate I am to have what I do.

My friend who is abroad is not a bad person. She is really a sweet girl with a great heart, and has been blessed with amazing opportunities. I don’t mean for this post to be a negative rant about her. This post is a reflection about how she helped me realize that I should never be jealous of what other people have; instead, I should be more appreciative of everything I have. I want people to read this and realize how lucky they are, too. If you’re reading this, it means you are literate and have access to the internet. At least half of the world doesn’t have what you do. Think about it.

StudentUniverse: my go-to site for cheap flights

I cannot speak more highly of StudentUniverse. It’s absolutely my favorite resource for finding the best deals on flights. The company is a Boston-based travel agency focused on providing college students with discounts on flights, hotels, tours, activities and rail.

HOW IT WORKS

Before you can access the deals on the site, you have to create an account using your school’s or institution’s information to verify your status as student. Once StudentUniverse’s technology confirms your status, it connects you to hundreds of companies offering discounted products and services to StudentUniverse customers.

The company has over 65 major airline partners, including American Airlines, United Airways, Virgin America, British Airways, AirFrance, Jet Airways and numerous others. It’s travel company partners include the following:

Travel Guard Rail Europe HostelBookers G Adventures G Adventures

Student Universe has also partnered with travel sites such as Kayak, TravelZoo and Fly.com, so that those sites can redirect you StudentUniverse for discounts once you find your flight.

THEIR JUSTIFICATION

“It’s about getting the most out of your time in school. We believe in the positive effects that travel experiences can have on a person’s character and that having those experiences early on in life is critical in personal development. We believe that travel enriches education and that students should be able to experience their world without breaking the bank.” (http://www.studentuniverse.com/about-us)

FLIGHTS

My favorite feature on the site is the flight flexibility grid. When searching for a flight, you have the options of making your travel dates flexible and choosing from multiple airports in an area. If you select those options, StudentUniverse displays a grid comparing the cheapest flights on the market for a range of days around the departure and return dates you indicated. I’ve been able to save $300 on a flight just by flying out the night before I had planned.

grid

Thanks to StudentUniverse I was able to book my round trip ticket to London for my Mini Rider tour in June. I saved hundreds of dollars by picking an earlier departure day. Now I’ll be flying in to London a few days before the tour begins, so I’ll have more time to explore the city. Next, I’ll have to look into budget hostels or some place to Couchsurf while I’m in London!