How Dirty is Your Money?

Never put your money where your mouth is! At least, in the literal sense.

We have all know money is dirty. This shouldn’t be a surprise because it gets passed around from person to person fairly quickly. The dollar you have in your wallet has probably traveled a great distance and handled by a lot of people. But how dirty is money? And should we be worried?

Image courtesy of executivecarserviceutah on Flickr
Image courtesy of executivecarserviceutah on Flickr

Researchers from New York University’s Dirty Money Project answered these questions and found some surprising results. They analyzed the genetic materials on $1 bills and identified 3,000 different types of bacteria! The most common type is a strain of bacteria is the ones that cause acne. Other germs that topped the list include mouth and vaginal microbes, and those that cause skin infections, food-borne illnesses, gastric ulcers, pneumonia, and antibiotic-resistant infections. Anthrax was also found, although the dose is too insignificant to cause any harm.

Money here in the US is also dirtier than money in other countries. This is because US bills are made from cotton-based paper, which is absorbent and makes it easier for germs to grow. In contrast, other countries have polymer-based money, which is more ideal to prevent bacteria from growing.

Other studies on the subject also found some other interesting things on money. A 2002 report published in the Southern Medical Journal found fecal matter on 94% of bills, and concluded that paper money can carry more germs than a toilet! They also found that about 80% of bills carry germs that can make you sick, and 7% causes serious illnesses. And a 2009 study at the University of Massachusetts concluded that 90% of paper money has traces of cocaine.

So what does this mean? Jane Carlton, the lead researcher of the Dirty Money Project, suggests washing your hands after handling money. After all, if money has about as many germs as a toilet, washing your hands may be the best solution. Your credit and debit cards are also more sanitary options.


Justin Chu is the Information and Communication Program Assistant at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He previously worked as a nutritionist in the clinical, community, and commercial settings after earning his bachelor’s in Clinical Nutrition at the University of California at Davis.

Financial Wellness in the Holiday Season


Image courtesy of Your Jewish Speech

Now that the Halloween decorations have come down and holiday songs have started to be played on the radio, it won’t be long until the holiday season begins. Regardless of what holidays we choose to celebrate, November and December can be rough on budgets, especially for college students. Between travel expenses, winter break plans, going out with friends to celebrate the end of the semester, and buying gifts, we often quickly spend much more money than we may have planned. Americans spend more during winter holidays than any other time of the year, including back-to-school shopping, and sales during winter holidays make up about 20% of all retail throughout the year!

It’s especially important during this time of the year to remember to prioritize financial wellness, which involves setting and achieving both long and short-term personal financial goals. Everyone’s financial status and goals are different, depending on income, wealth, spending, debt, values, etc., and are situated within our society’s financial and economic context. Before rushing into the holiday season, take some time to think about your own finances. How much do you have to spend? How much do you need to save? What are the most important things for you to spend money on or save money for?

Here are some ideas to keep your budget happy this season!

  1. Practice mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention to what you are doing, noticing your thoughts, sensations, and the world around you without judgment. Research shows that mindfulness can actually help you make better decisions.
  2. Set a budget. What’s important to you? What are you going to need/want money for? Decide what you are able to afford based on your priorities and values, and then stick to it. Check out this list of apps for budgeting tools.
  3. Make a list and check it twice. This will help you stay focused on what you need and avoid purchasing on impulse. Check out these strategies to avoid impulse purchases!
  4. Try DIY gifts! Homemade gifts are wonderful both for your budget and for adding that personal touch to let your family and friends know how much you care. Need some inspiration? Here are 50 of the best DIY gift ideas.
  5. Give of your time. Some of the best gifts are things you can do for or with another person. For those of us that are craft-challenged, here are some great alternatives.
  6. Host a potluck. If you want to get together with friends, consider having a potluck instead of going out for an expensive meal. This way, you don’t have to get everyone to agree on a restaurant, and you’ll spend a lot less. Maybe try out a pizza potluck – everyone brings their favorite ingredient to share (just make sure someone brings the crust!). Instead of spending $20+ on a meal at a restaurant, you’ll spend less than $5 on your topping—plus, it’s a lot more fun!
  7. Be careful with credit card purchases.Having a credit card can be great for building credit, but it’s especially important during this time of the year to make sure we’re able to pay off the card on time at the end of the month. It’s also a time of year when our schedules are different than normal, so be sure to set a reminder for when you need to pay your bills. If you struggle with spending too much when you use a credit card, try only taking cash when you go shopping.

The end of the semester can be stressful with exams and final papers, and worrying about money can just make everything more complicated. Do yourself a favor and lessen some of the stress by prioritizing your financial wellness!


Kaitlyn Brodar is the Program Assistant for Resiliency Initiativse at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She previously worked in cognitive psychology research on post-traumatic stress disorder after earning her bachelor’s in Psychology at Duke University.

Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

Loans? Stocks? Bonds? Interest? Whenever I start to read my bank statement/ apply for a loan/ pretty much do anything that would make me financially responsible I just hear: blah, blah, blah blah blah! Jibberish!!

I can’t imagine that I’m alone in that feeling, so I started researching financial management. A quick search on “saving money” revealed the following… Have a garage sale. Rent a room in your house. Cut up your credit cards. In conclusion, I give the advice I found on the internet a solid “Pthhhhh.” Not really getting me anywhere.

UNC and the interwebs do have some options that can help. has accurate, easy to understand and college-centric financial management information. Just make yourself a free account using your UNC email address. It covers loans, saving for spring break, studying abroad,  jobs, taxes and more.  There are even worksheets and tools that you can use to help get your finances in order, meet a savings goal or determine your spending allowance.

The Dean of Students Office provides financial literacy events on campus such as “Ballin’ on a Budget” and “Swiper, No Swiping. Debunking Credit Myths.” You can hop into one of those or request one for your organization. (and many apps like it) offer easy tracking of your finances, the ability to set budget goals, and notify you when things aren’t going to plan. It’s been a lifesaver for me because it automates my budget process and makes it easy to see when I’m missing the mark.

In the meantime, the first step to financial management is setting a budget. That term puts fear into my bones, but really it’s just seeing what’s happening with your money and setting intentions for what you want to have happen with your money. Credit and debit cards make it easy to not even notice the final cost of things we purchase – $2.78 and $278 both are one swipe. But we all need to pay attention to the difference of costs on our bottom line. Some money management experts recommend reverting to cash so that price differences are tangible – you have to physically count out different amounts of cash to pay. You can also set limits more readily – when the cash in your wallet is gone, you’re done spending. More tips and suggestions are available using those resources above.

Financial health is a big part of overall health. Stress about money is one of most consistent stressors of college students. So get that stress and your money under control.