College Budgeting 101

You’re going to college and you’d rather not have to sell all your clothing before semester’s end, just to get by and pay your rent. What foresight you have! It’s time to make a budget that you’ll actually stick to:

First, you gotta know how much money you actually have. Financial aid, scholarships, income if you have a job (don’t forget to deduct taxes!), money from Mom and Pop, trust fund if you’re a lucky sucker. To make this easier, first figure out how much you’ll pay to the school in tuition and fees, and where that money comes from; then use the remaining to budget for week-to-week expenses.

Next, figure out what those expenses are. Food might be included in the cost of living you’ve already worked out, especially if you’re on a meal plan. If food and rent are covered, what else will you need money for? Transportation? School books? Clothing? Medication? Going out with friends? What about bills, such as mobile plans, credit card payments, or loans?

Take your list of expenses, and enter them into an Excel sheet or a similar tool for organization. Make either weekly or monthly estimates. This strategy will help you plan for the future and also keep track of things as your semester progresses. Make sure you stay on top of how much you’re actually spending; record it regularly.

Down the line, when you’re armed with the information of how you spend, you should readjust your budget. Maybe you spend money on something you couldn’t have foreseen, like swing dance classes. Maybe you got a job you didn’t expect. And if you have a “miscellaneous” line in your budget with a significant amount of money attached to it, you should make a new category for wherever that dough goes. Are you going over budget? If so, see where you can reduce, especially in the more expensive categories. An updated budget is more likely to reflect reality, and keep you from over-spending.

What should college students always remember to include in their budgets? Tell us here or on Facebook!

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