10 Minutes With… A Practical Budgeter

Ryyan Chacra, a practical budgeter

Ryyan Chacra's Story

A student at Columbia University, Ryyan, 19, is majoring in financial economics and foresees pursuing a graduate degree in business after college. He learned to budget his allowance in high school and continues to track his weekly spending. Ryyan’s parents will support him financially throughout college, allowing him to focus on his studies and career goals.

OYO: Growing up, how did you feel about money?

Ryyan C.: I didn’t consider money very seriously until high school when I got a debit card with a weekly allowance and needed to manage my money. I remember that I used to spend the allowance money too quickly and would have to be bailed out by my parents. At a certain point I decided it might be easier to track my weekly spending and establish a budget for different types of expenditures, and that sort of helped.

OYO: How do you deal with spending now?

RC: I have a job now, so I save money. I use Quicken to track weekly spending. But when I first got a job and realized I could actually buy things for myself, I wasn’t saving anything. I talked with my parents and realized I’d be better off being measured about what I purchased. My dad suggested I open a brokerage account. I’m still working on how to use it, but at least I’m saving more.

OYO: Do you think it’s important to have a diversity of financial backgrounds represented in your economics classes?

RC: When having conversations about economics, it’s critical to hear as many perspectives as possible because it’s easy to lose track of the financial needs and interests of certain portions of the country or players in a particular market. It’s helpful to see the other side and perhaps arrive at a compromise in terms of financial values and outlook.

OYO: Have you researched different careers and their starting salaries?

RC: Yes, I’ve researched the top 10 starting salaries and learned that they’re mostly in finance, engineering and computer science. I compared that to what people choose to study at Columbia. Although Columbia offers 80 or so majors, 20 percent of students choose economics, and another large percentage chooses engineering or computer science. So you really see the disproportionate distribution of majors. I’m not saying that that’s bad, but it puts a lot of pressure on students. Freshman year, you see everybody taking “econ” and “compsci” classes and it definitely makes you feel like you should too.

OYO: When do you think you’ll feel financially on your own?

RC: Probably when I get my first full-time job outside of college. When I get my first apartment, as well. I don’t think I’d feel independent with a job but still having my parents pay for an apartment.

OYO: Looking ahead, what’s your philosophy about money?

RC: One thing that my dad used to tell me in high school when I was managing my allowance is that you can get a deal on a million dollars and be cheated on 25 cents. That’s been helpful in managing my weekly spending, and I’ll remember it when I get my first apartment and job. It’s about making sure that you really evaluate your decisions, because the number itself isn’t necessarily what’s important. You have to think about what value you’re getting out of a purchase.