FRESH Basic Needs Hub Teaches Students to Spend Smart

The FRESH Basic Needs Hub held their second of four Smart Eaters Workshops on Oct. 24. The workshop, titled Smart ‘Eaters Spend Smart, was led by Natalie Dazo, a health educator for the Student Health and Wellness Center. Dazo focused on providing students with financial and food insecurity literacy, as well as the skills to properly budget for daily balanced meals.

Students learned the difference between good and bad debt, how to keep good credit and how to borrow loans within their means of paying back.

As long as a student’s debt is lower than their starting salary, Dazo said, the more likely it is they will be able to pay it off in ten years or less.

“The secret is to be mindful of your debt and to be okay paying it back,” she said. On budgeting, her advice to students was simple: “Know yourself and know what you will be doing so that when you do spend it’s worth it. Planning is key.”

She warned students to think before paying off student loans right away. “My question is, the sooner you pay off your loans, what will you be sacrificing to make that happen? If you can make it happen without skipping meals or having to sleep on your friends’ couches, then great, but sometimes you can’t.”

Forty-two percent of UC students are food insecure, and 52 percent of those students were not food insecure before coming to the University of California. Being financially literate and having the skills to budget, as well as being smart about resources such as the food pantry, become vital when dealing with such high levels of food insecurity, Dazo said.

Dazo recommended budgeting according to the “50-30-20” guideline, which allows for budgeting 50 percent of one’s financial resources on fixed costs such as rent or a car payment; 30 percent on financial goals like savings plans, and 20 percent on flexible expenses like food and entertainment.

To accomplish this, Dazo suggested planning food menus and entertainment for the week so one knows exactly how much to spend on each, and how much will be left over for important expenditures like rent.

“Try to eat out less and make and bring lunches and snacks instead. You can save a lot of money by making things yourself,” Dazo said. “It can really add up.” Dazo said.

Dazo keeps herself spending less through positive motivation.

“Save here, and I can reward myself with something,” she said. “You have to think, ‘what is my goal?’ and stick to it.”   

FRESH’s next Smart ‘Eaters Workshop will be a cooking demonstration held on November 2.