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How to Create a Budget in College

budgeting in college

According to a 2014 survey by EverFi and Higher One, only 39% of college students use a budget. However, financial literacy is an essential skill and will come in handy for the rest of your life.

While it is tricky to save money in college, especially with student loans and many school fees, budgeting in college is still vital. You may graduate with some debt, but you don’t want to graduate drowning in it.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some tips and tricks we have for saving money in college to help you finish your degree without being too far in the red.

Read on for more information.

Know What You’re Working With

Before you create a budget, you’ll need two things: to know how much money you’ll receive each semester and how much money you need to live each semester.

If your parents are financing your college education, you’ll want to discuss what they’re willing to give you. Will they give you money in one lump sum? Will they send you money weekly? Monthly? What exactly is the money for?

You’ll also need to know exactly how much money you’re going to need to live. You’ll need to factor in tuition and fees, textbooks, room and board, laundry, gas if you have a car on campus, parking fees, and any extras like entertainment.

Then, you’ll need to put the lists together and figure out if you’re coming up short and where you can cover the rest. Can you get a part-time job? Will you be receiving a scholarship? What types of loans are you taking out?

Once you have this information, you can give yourself a more realistic idea of how much money you’ll need to get through your year.

Look for Deals or Ways to Save Money

Consider renting your textbooks or buying them secondhand. According to College Board’s 2019 survey, most students spent $1240 a year on textbooks at public four-year institutions. Textbooks can still be expensive if you’re attending a community college, often outrageously so.

As such, looking for ways to cut down on your expenses through finding alternate means of locating your books is a perfect way to cut down on your budget. You can rent them, or you can buy them secondhand.

Since COVID19 hit, many students have seen the value in attending a community college or online courses. Although it may not be what all of your friends are doing or seen as the most “successful route,” it is the most money savvy. Consider spending your first two years at a community college getting your pre-recs out of the way. You can save a considerable amount of money this way, even if you live outside your home. If you have loans to repay, they won’t be nearly as much as they would be for a four-year institution.

Use Your Data to Write Out a Monthly or Weekly Budget

While many college students have an overall budget for the year, they often operate on the “don’t check my bank balance and pray” principle; this isn’t the best way to go about things.

Instead, you should write out how much you intend to pay each month and how much you can spend on things like entertainment, shopping, and parties.

Keep track of how much you spend diligently. Write everything down, either on your phone or on a piece of paper, and be aware of recurring bills that may come out each month automatically, like phone bills or utilities if you live in off-campus housing.

While it may seem like a chore to track everything you spend, you’re actually doing yourself a favor. That way, you won’t be shopping for groceries one day and find yourself unable to pay for what you need to buy for the week.

Save as Much as You Can

While it’s not easy to save during college, you may want to set a weekly or monthly savings goal. It can be small, even something as low as $10 a month. While it doesn’t seem like much, you’ll have saved nearly $100 by the end of the school year if you don’t touch it. Keep contributing, and you’ll have saved a few hundred by the time you graduate.

This can work as a downpayment on a new apartment or help you move onto your next life phase once you complete your degree.

Don’t Get a Credit Card

Many college students fall into the trap of getting a credit card, charging way too much on it, and being unable to pay the debt back. This can lead to you finishing school not only with student loan debt but credit card debt.

While it is tempting to put that new shirt or a weekend away on your credit card and think about it later, you shouldn’t get in the habit of making purchases you can’t afford. Instead, only have a credit card for emergencies.

Budgeting in College Is a Smart Move

Budgeting in college is essential to ensure that you have a successful college career and start your life after school out on the right foot. It can also help you build a foundation of financial literacy once you graduate, and you’ll be grateful you were frugal during your college years.

Saving money is a skill that you’ll be able to use forever and one you’ll never regret teaching yourself.

Looking to make a little extra money this semester? Sell the old textbooks you don’t need anymore by clicking here.

About the Author

Christopher Manns

I was born in the UK, grew up in Canada and have lived in the USA since the 90s. I love my family, water sports, ice hockey, skiing and soccer. When I'm not helping people save money on textbooks, I'm travelling with my wonderful family and playing sports.