How many times, over the course of your college career, have you surfed to your online banking Web site to check your cash stores and instead found a giant monster – in the form of a ruthless overdraft fee – greedily ate your last paycheck? Ever find what should have been a balance of $394.12 magically at $9.01 because of a bounced check you don’t remember writing? Does swiping your magic debit card three times a day at the Corner Store seem like an innocuous act? I guess the real question to ask is: Are you still wondering why you’re the stereotypically impoverished college student?

No doubt, Isla Vista living is expensive, as we pay rents comparable to those of shitty apartments in Manhattan. Santa Barbara’s sales tax is a little higher than most places – though nowhere near as awful as the Bay Area’s imposed 8.25 percent – meaning you’re spending more money on goods than you probably would at home. Food prices are rising. Gas prices are absolutely ridiculous. Alcohol and other, uh, “recreational activities” account for most of our bad-judgment spending. But it’s okay – I don’t actually expect anyone to give up eating, driving or inebriating. In fact, it seems as if most of us do factor money in for those exciting nights out – whether it’s at the bars buying $8 pints, or at home, drinking an $8 six-pack. Those little on-campus purchases – the coffee, the 10 bluebooks, the wind-chime from the bookstore – are what really kill your numbers.

Being too lazy to pack a lunch means you have to spend six bucks on a foot-long at the Arbor’s Subway. Not getting up early enough to make coffee at home means spending another $3.25 on a latte at Nicoletti’s. Walking to the UCen often means passing up the temptation of a $10 top from one of the very insistent vendors, happily coaxing money out of you from under their colorful canopies. An aimless walk in the bookstore could easily cost you a $40 sweatshirt, a $7 UCSB mug, a $12 book you’ll never read or a $20 set of twinkling lantern-covered Christmas lights, which never get put up because you were sold a fried fuse. Just because you’ve made a habit of buying lunch every day doesn’t mean you should continue. Are you really that attached to your Domino’s personal pizza?

And even though most of our campus stores don’t charge tax and aren’t making too much profit off the wholesale-priced $2.99 Naked Juice, swiping your debit or credit card carelessly – often on small purchases – is what contributes to a dangerously low bank balance. If you don’t take into account your five swipes, you run the risk of miraculously misplacing about $15 a week… $60 a month… $500 a year.

So what? How do we impetuous college kids avoid the dreaded bank fees? Work in cash. Withdraw real dollar bills for the entire week and see how much easier it is to monitor your spending when you must painfully break your 20-dollar bill. Stop making impulse buys by keeping your debit card at home and ONLY using it to withdraw cash. Keep the carbon copies of all the checks you write. If your expenses far surpass your monthly income, then stop spending excessively. Know what you NEED to spend on versus what you WANT to purchase with that hard-earned – or for some, parent-given – cash.

A search of “college spending” on Google resulted in a million sites suggesting the same thing: Stay aware of what you’re spending. Just because you’re not forking over legal tender doesn’t mean there isn’t an actual transaction taking place when you hand your plastic over to the friendly store clerk. It doesn’t matter if all you’re buying is an 88-cent can of Diet Coke – being cents short in your bank account can result in hefty fees.

If you find yourself lacking willpower, then avoid spending time in places where you can spend your money. Be honest: How many times have you bought trinkets just because you were bored and in between classes? Be smart and spend your in-between time on campus away from the tempting shops. Go sit on the beach. Get a free tan. Play hopscotch. Roller-skate at the Rec Cen. Heckle the fanatics handing away free Bibles/Korans/Torahs/Jews-for-Jesus pamphlets. Good wholesome fun for free… guaranteed.