Foggy coffee shop on State Street.

Student Stops Buying Avocado Toast and Starbucks, Purchases Abe Lincoln Statue with Savings

When Katie Redden-White x’21 enrolled in Adulting 101 last semester, she thought she’d end up with a few pointers on how to adult.

Adulting 101 — a joint course offered through the School of Human Ecology and the College of Letters & Science — was created in response to the lack of basic knowledge that incoming freshman bring with them to campus. “It’s reaching crisis mode,” says Don Keigh, chief freshman officer at the Center for First-Year Experience and a University of Michigan alumnus. “They can diagram sentences and split integrals, but can they remember to floss? Change a lightbulb?” Keigh thinks not.

“I thought I’d learn how to grocery shop, do laundry, schedule my own doctor appointments … like, the basics.” Redden-White said. (She also noted that the course description promised how to balance checkbooks, to which she said, “Do people honestly even do that anymore?”) She had no idea a class assignment would change her life forever.

On the first day, students were asked to identify a change they want to make in their lives. The following week’s assignment was to list two things that could make that change happen and then develop a plan to follow. In week three, the students started following their plans — for as long as they could. Anyone who stuck with it to the end of the semester earned a certificate (the rest received a participation ribbon).

“I guess it started with me wanting to study abroad in the summer, but my parents said I’d have to pay for it myself,” said Redden-White, who forewent UW Housing to live in an apartment at the Hub. “And I have, like, no money.”

The change that Redden-White identified was to increase her savings. The plan was to cut out two important things from her life: avocado toast and Starbucks. “It was, like, super hard for me because I’ve grown so accustomed to those things. I feel like I literally have avocado toast and Starbucks like 20 times a day.”

Redden-White was one of two students in the 150-student lecture to successfully execute their plans through the semester. When her banking app showed her how much she’d saved by making her own breakfast and brewing her own coffee, she was floored.

“I can totally study abroad now. Like, twice probably.” Redden-White was also able to purchase two Terrace chairs and the Abe Lincoln statue for her and her roommates’ balcony.

Redden-White’s success has sparked a significant increase in Adulting 101 interest — so much that there’s now a special community section of the course offered to alumni and friends born between 1990 and 1998. For more information, email course director Üfelle Forheit at aprilfools@uwalumni.com.

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