With the funds I was given through STEP, I decided to live in Columbus, Ohio and work downtown at the Ohio statehouse. Specifically, I worked for Senator Frank LaRose of the 27th congressional district as an office page. The funds were used towards my rent and other living expenses as I lived at 86 W. Lane with three of my friends.
Throughout my time in college, it has always been my goal to live and or work in Columbus for the summer. I find that getting to know a city and its demographics works better when you have a purpose to be there. I discovered how easy it is to live on your own when you have a strong sense of responsibility. I lived in dorms for the first two years of my college career and although I was living on my own, I still had the comfort of other peers and dining halls. While living on my own in Columbus, I learned how to become self-sufficient and more frugal. Each monetary decision I made I felt responsible and more empowered to my own money. I enjoyed having my own source of income and consistently paying my own rent, despite it being covered by STEP funds. When you are given that much funding, you become more aware of where it is going and how important it is to track.
My father always stressed to my siblings and I that you “win with people”. Quite frankly I never understood what he meant until I entered a professional environment. In the statehouse, and downtown in general, it was important for me to conduct myself in a professional manor. My office days consisted of different congressional meetings and committee hearings. Each time I met with constituents, I understood how important it was to communicate in a professional, easy tone. People respond better to you when you have a well understood idea of the problem and can communicate it effectively to them. For example, the Columbus waterworks paid a visit to our office to discuss how to better their lobbying efforts in the house committees. While I obviously did not have the answers for them, it was important for me to read over memos and emails regarding the issue so I could hand the senator notes and contact information after the meeting was over. I felt empowered as an employee, not just of the state but of the city. I felt as though I could perform my civic duties on the clock and bring home valuable information.
Transportation was not an issue either because much of my income was spent on gas money. Without the STEP funds, I would have worried much more about a balanced budget for gas money and living expenses. This kind of active thinking helped me to formulate a budget that I actually still update to this day. I constantly have reminders from my bank telling me what kind of payments are reoccurring, such as rent, parking, Netflix, gym memberships, etc. STEP offered a budget checklist for us to update, so this is where that kind of mindful thinking stemmed from. Now that I have my own job at Ohio State, I realize how to decide what to focus on during my days of spending and saving. Much of this thinking came from using my own income for expenses.
Overall, this experience helped me grow more in my work place and my spending habits. Whether or not we choose to accept it, the two are linked. What we do in our workplace with indirectly affect how we spend our money. And because I was able to pay rent with the STEP funds, I could focus on more personal spending and day to day decisions. Even more so, I could focus on my work and deliberate or week-long tasks assigned to me. I have always struggled with spending and how to properly allocate enough funds to certain budgets. With the tools given to me by STEP and the funds used for my living expenses, I was constantly thinking about how to budget. I understand myself and my spending habits more deliberately now than ever before. This significant transformation has helped me in all aspects of my life. Spending less time worrying about how I am going to budget has helped me make conscious efforts in reducing my stress intake about my money circumstances. Not only that, but I can make lifestyle choices that affect me personally such as food and clothes as well as professional ones such as where I will get a job after college and where I will live. Overall this experience has helped me in the department of spending and growing my professional vantage point.