By Jordan Kelly

Growing up, we’re constantly thinking, “I cannot wait to move out and be on my own!” But once you’re actually out on your own, you learn quickly that your favorite Wheat Thin and cheese snacks don’t stock themselves and Mom isn’t on call to whip something up for you when you’re hungry. The comfort items we normally have within reach are no longer there. Hair ties have become a rarity in your empty bathroom cabinet and q-tips just up and walk away. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the reality of adulthood.

Living solo means caring for yourself when those sweet luxuries of parental dependency have vanished. You’re now a working student with the responsibility of a horse. Who gets to pay for this majestic creature – emergency vet calls and all – on a small salary? You guessed it! You. Here are some money and budgeting tips for my fellow working students trying not to go broke:

Divide Funds and Track

Some of you may have car insurance, gas, and phone bills to pay. These are obviously a priority and should be paid as soon as they’re due. After paying your bills, look at what you have left, determine your priorities and decide where you need to spend money that month. Among groceries, horse feed, vet savings, eating out, show entry fees, etc., rank what is most important and set a budget for each.

Eat Cheap

Shop at Walmart or similar bargain stores, and don’t eat out unless you’re traveling at shows. I know the craving for a juicy burger from Red Robin is strong, but don’t let it suck you in. Think of show weekends as treats for doing well at home! Cutting unnecessary items (i.e. soda, chips, candy) from your shopping cart will save in the long haul as well. Sticking with water and fruit/veggies will save you, wallet-wise and physically.

Keep a Savings Account

Even if you throw in $5 a month, it will slowly build up. Every once in a while feel free to reward yourself! Maybe there’s a riding shirt you love, or you’ve been dying for a new belt. It doesn’t hurt to splurge here and there. Just know your limitations and don’t go overboard.

Keep Track of Your Horse’s Needs

Know when and how much you’ll need to pay for farrier bills, supplements, feed, etc. Keeping a journal for when you purchase certain necessities or when the vet comes out will keep you on track. Knowing when a bill is coming your way will help prepare you for the pain it will cause. Tracking show entry costs that will be due, and starting to know how much to save from each paycheck, is also a major help.

Pay Your Credit Card in Full

It doesn’t hurt to have a credit card you can use rarely. Stick to using it for buying something cheap and be sure to pay it off every month to avoid paying interest. This builds a good credit score for future reference and in case you get in trouble, it’s there to help out. There are multiple budget tracking websites online as well if you want further assistance.

Find Extra Work

Whether braiding or clipping at shows, or finding a nearby facility to exercise horses or clean more stalls, just think of it as extra fitness for cash. Starting from the bottom of the totem pole means long days and hard work. If you don’t have the perseverance to go out and find spare work on top of work, this probably isn’t the lifestyle for you.

Learn Self Control

The biggest struggle will be self control. Around the circuit you’ll see all the luxuries those with a bigger wallet can afford and you’ll want to be the same way. Learn to appreciate what you have and what you’ve earned! Working student positions are a huge resume builder in the horse industry, as well as character building. If you can make it through years of being a working student without being in debt, just think of what you could achieve as you climb the ladder!