Budgeting money for expenses and sticking to it is a challenge for anyone and for a college student who has had little to no experience managing money, it can be even more difficult. It’s expensive to go to college and with loans to pay after graduating, managing finances is even more crucial to make sure you do not spend beyond your means. Here are some steps from a fellow college student in managing finances while in college.
Use Budget and Finance Apps
There are many apps available on smartphones to organize your spending habits. For the iPhone, there is the popular app, Mint; Mint isn’t just for budget tracking but also categorizes and tracks your spending while on the go. If apps are not your thing, there is also the basic spreadsheet that you can set up to use as a budget.
Pick a Time Frame for your Budget
As a college student, I recommend that you budget based on each semester but with each semester broken down monthly or weekly. In this way you can better see where your money is going and in a way, be able to analyze your spending habits to see how much you should set aside for each week.
When planning out your budget, you should take into account all sources of income you will receive. This could be from a part-time job, financial aid, work-study, savings, or contributions from parents.
As a college student, you will have to pay for tuition, textbooks, housing, food, transportation expenses, and other miscellaneous expenses. Assign money to each item based on your estimates. As you gradually carry through with the budget, you will have to reassign values to categories and adjust as you see fit. Many times you will see that you can afford to cut expenses a bit and limit a budget to some areas. Recording expenses is an eye-opening experience and is a great way to find areas to cut costs.
Plan for Emergencies
Set aside an emergency fund in case something unexpected happens such as a car breaking down or an unexpected medical expense. In this way, you won’t have to rely on credit to cover expenses and you will be better prepared.
Don’t forget to save money if you plan to make big purchases such as a new car or a laptop! If you cut expenses and put aside this money in savings, you will gradually reach the amount required before you know it!
Balance the Budget
The last step is balancing your budget to make sure it all adds up in the end. You want to make sure that income matches expenses or that there is some leftover money. What you do not want is for your expenses to exceed income. If the budget doesn’t balance, find a way to reduce expenses or a way to bring in more income!
Jaskamal Gill will graduate in 2016 from Rutgers University with a degree in accounting and a minor in English. Jaskamal plans on working for a Big 4 firm after college and getting her MBA. She dreams of starting her own business and enjoys Virtual Campus.