Editor’s note: Today we’re excited to introduce Asha Richardson, a guest blogger from Youth Media International. Asha’s a Bay Area native and freshman at Mills College. She has been reporting at Youth Radio/Youth Media International for two years, and her work has been featured on NPR , American Public Media, PRX , and the Huffington Post. On campus she is an Economics major and the historian for the Black Women’s Collective. In her spare time she enjoys photography, writing poetry and having adventures with her friends.
When I started at Mills College this year, managing my own money didn’t seem so hard. I got a free rug from a friend, picked out a table from the re-use depot on campus, and bought a used refrigerator for half the price of a new one.
But as I began to make friends, we wanted to go out and have fun — and fun adds up quickly. We would go out for frozen yogurt, but end up shopping and going to a restaurant for a dinner, and I’d be out $40 by the end of the night.
Some of my friends were broke before the second month was over. I wasn’t much better off. When I checked my statement online and realized I only had $19 in my checking account, I knew I was in trouble.
Now that I don’t have to ask for permission each time I want to buy something, it’s easy to lose track of where my money’s going. Temptation is everywhere: from shiny new textbooks to a pair of Steve Madden heels I need for the party next weekend!
I have found a few ways to save: I put a certain amount of money aside that I can blow and put the rest away, and I make sure I have a strict list of what I need when I go shopping. That’s helpful, but the temptation to spend can be so hard to resist! What else could I do to manage my money?
Well, what better way to get you to stop spending than getting your friends to help? I mean, in real life, I ask my friends if an outfit is cute. So why not use Facebook to get their opinion on how much they think it should cost?
With that in mind, a few of us at Youth Media International got together to figure something out. We decided early on to create an app that helps young people resist temptation. After many meetings with Context Optional , the developer we partnered with to build the app, we came up with “Stop Me From Spending!”
How’s it work? Well, the app has three parts: the Temptation Converter, Goal Tracker, and Be Financially Savvy advice page.
I use the Temptation Converter all the time. It’s pretty much what the name says. All you have to do is type the name of what you want to buy, the price, upload a picture from one of your Facebook albums (if you want to), and press the big red button: “Stop Me From Spending!” The app will post your temptation info on your wall, along with a “conversion” based on data our team gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics — showing how else you could be spending that money. Then your friends can comment if you should or should not indulge.
Here’s an example: When I posted on my Facebook wall about my temptation to buy a Diana F+ camera Deluxe Package for $250 from Urban Outfitters, I found out that’s 61% of what a young person spends on rent a month! A lot of my friends responded and suggested I buy the camera on eBay. One even offered to sell me hers!
Of course, your friends don’t always tell you no. Sometimes they reason with you. After my Blackberry was stolen, I had to use my mom’s two-year old, practically broken phone. Now I’m thinking about getting a Droid instead of a replacement Blackberry. I like the Droid mainlybecause, unlike on the Blackberry, apps are free. (Look at me thinking about how to save money!)
I ran the pricing information through the Temptation Converter to get my friends’ opinions. Since I use my cell phone for my music, surfing, and navigating on the go, it’s not just an indulgence, so most of them said “Go for it!” Oh yeah, and I’d use it to call or text them.
(We built the Temptation Converter with young people in mind, but the interesting thing is, lots of older folks — people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s — are using it, too. Check it out and tell me what you think!)
Next, I clicked over to the app’s Goal Tracker, which lets you list the steps you need to take to save up. I typed in “Droid $250,” and now I’m going to save $100 from each of my checks, and by March I’ll have my new phone! Each time I complete one of the steps I can check it off and share that good news with my friends. (I can’t wait until they comment “Congrats” when I post I have reached my goal.)
The final part of the app, the Be Financially Savvy advice page, offers you everything from tips and links to stories about saving and responsible spending. And they’re all told from the point of view of young people like me, who are feeling the effects of this tough economy in a major way.
Speaking of my generation, for all you adults and parents reading this, I’m wondering how you deal with temptation. Do you have any tips on how to keep track of spending and save? When have you experienced buyer’s remorse? (Be honest!) And how have you learned from it?