99 Problems and Money Guilt is One

Christina Hui
June 14, 2018

Disclaimer: I am not claiming in any way to be physically financially burdened or experience the same obstacles as an individual from a low- income background. If any of this content comes off as offensive or insensitive, that is not my intent, so I apologize if that is the case.

Growing up as an Asian American, the topic of saving and being smart with your money has always been heavily stressed. I wouldn’t say that I embody the stereotypical cheap Asian model, rather that I am more frugal with money and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I was taught to be smart with my money, which I credit heavily to the values my parents instilled in me. I was that kid who would put at least 50% of her Christmas or birthday money in the bank because I was told to save it for “a rainy day”. Back then, I didn’t know what that really meant, but I didn’t question it. I grew up in a financially stable household, not rich but comfortable. My parents are very conscious of money, but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t enjoy nice things like vacations, technological devices and occasionally eating out. I’ve noticed that their values have passed on to me, as I am also someone who rarely spends money on activities such as eating out or extravagant shopping sprees.

Although I would consider myself to be frugal, it wasn’t until I started college that money consciousness turned into money guilt. My parents agreed to financially support my undergraduate years, but I quickly started to feel moments of financial guilt because I wasn’t able to contribute an income or massive scholarships to help out. I wasn’t able to balance a job with my rigorous class schedule, extracurricular activities and on-and-off social anxiety, which heighted the guilt even more. I joined many clubs and extracurriculars, but hesitated staying in some because of the membership fees. Extra activities, such as studying abroad or joining a sorority, were not in the four- year plan I discussed with my parents. I almost chose not to study abroad because of the whopping price tag and minimal scholarships received. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t let myself miss, but at the same time, an opportunity that I wasn’t confident in. I didn’t want to come across to my parents as being ungrateful and carelessly spending their money on things that weren’t considered “necessary” to my undergraduate career.

I’ve been in Ireland for nearly two weeks now and I swear I hear my bank account cry with every swipe of my credit card. I was completely mentally unprepared for how expensive Europe could be; everything from loading up my bus card to grabbing dinner downtown worries me. Just a few days ago, my dad asked if I’ve been eating enough and have been buying enough groceries and it made me a bit emotional. Some days, I don’t eat enough because I don’t want to spend money on getting takeout or I wait the long hours until I get home just to save a few euros. Even a cup of coffee is something I have to think twice about, yes, it’s a few euros, but as someone who thinks too much into the future, it adds up. When I was in Galway for a weekend, we ate out for all three meals in one day, which is something I’ve never done, and boy was the guilt strong. I didn’t prepare a budget before I came to Europe, but I’ve also been very conscious about what I spend my money on, but sometimes I can’t control the prices of things. One weekend, I ended up having to buy a train ticket last minute because there was no other train to come home and the extra €34 set me in a sour mood for the entire ride home. It’s very easy to spend money here and it doesn’t help that every weekend is an open slot for traveling across Europe with my new friends. As someone who is extremely socially anxious, making and retaining friends here has been difficult. So as soon as someone asks to do an activity such as taking a train trip or going downtown, my internal FOMO kicks in but then as soon as the credit cards come out, it quickly disappears.

This is the point where I can tell you my tips for saving money, like preparing more meals at home, staying at cheaper hostels and skipping out on weekend trips, but what about tips for reducing money guilt? There are countless articles online telling you what books to read, counselors to see or personal techniques to alleviating the burden but at the end of the day, no one can convince you until you can convince yourself. I don’t know how and when I will reach that mentality of accepting these unexpected financial obstacles, but I’m hoping that the longer I stay in Ireland, the better I will be. What people tell you to do is to set a budget when you go abroad, but how about how to set a positive mentality? I have to admit; some days feel a lot better than others. Yesterday I bought a plane ticket and today I bought a cup of tea without blinking an eye, while a few days ago, I teared up at the idea of eating out. There’s a part of me that knows that my parents want me to enjoy the wonders of studying abroad, but I feel like my mentality surrounding finances through my cultural upbringing holds me back at times.

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Christina Hui

<p>I am an ambitious marketing major at the University of Iowa with the dreams of pursing a career in the cosmetics industry. During my free time, I enjoy taking Instagram worthy photos, drinking overpriced iced coffee, watching investigative journalism shows and lifting heavy weights at the gym. If you ever need to find me, I'll either be at Starbucks, sitting outside on a picnic blanket or strolling through the aisles of Target. While interning in Dublin, I hope to gain real life marketing experience, explore all the major foodie locations and make demonstrate my leadership abilities regardless of my skill levels.</p>

2018 Summer 1, 2018 Summer 2
Home University:
University of Iowa
Naperville, IL
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