Making and Sticking to a College Budget

By Kaitlin Hurtado on April 3, 2018

“Broke” and “college student” are often paired together when discussing the typical student’s financial situation. Between struggling a part-time job (or several) and academics or waiting until your next financial aid disbursement, you might find yourself struggling to get by at one point or another during your college years.

College is stressful enough, but the worry about whether or not you’ll be able to pay rent if you spend money on both your groceries and credit card bill before your next paycheck shouldn’t add to the endless list of worries. In order to feel less stressed about your financial situation during your college years, try to make and stick to a college budget that will help you control your spending and saving so that your financial situation falls to the bottom of your list of worries.

Read on to find out how to start on your college budget and how to stick to it once you’ve created your ideal college budget.

writing in planner

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

Be realistic 

Going into the process of making a college budget, try to be as realistic and honest with yourself as possible. While you can read all the guides on the internet and sign up for different budgeting apps – only you really know how much you spend, how much you buy, and what kind of money is actually necessary for the lifestyle you live. Similarly, while it’s great to treat yourself – know that treating yourself to dinner everyday or a new pair of shoes every weekend makes treating yourself lose value after time.

Be able to realize what necessities you need to spend on to get by and what you actually want to buy may not be the wisest option for spending your money on.

List out all your expenses and sources of income

Before you make your budget, try to list out the things that you typically spend money on and the amount that you spend money on. For things like rent and credit card payments, this may be easy when you are already given a set amount to be paid on a certain date. But for things like groceries or gas, the amount of money you spend can vary on the amount of cooking you plan to do during the week or the amount of traveling you have been doing. If you can’t think of a set amount, give yourself an estimate of what you would spend in a typical week.

List out the money you can account for in your college budget. Think of what your paycheck typically consists of and write it down. If you get money from your parents for allowance, factor that into your college budget when it comes to making a list of what money you are able to spend.

Make a plan on how much you want/need to spend 

When you have all your expenses and spending money accounted for, get started on making your actual college budget you expect to follow. Break your college budget down into different categories to make it easier to see how much you are spending and where your money is going on a regular basis.

Housing can be it’s own category – your monthly rent and an estimate on what you spend on utilities (water, electricity, internet). If you don’t have your own laundry unit and don’t take all your laundry home, try factoring in what you typically spend when washing your clothes and bedding so that you can account for as much as possible. Car payments and gas can be another – when making a budget for gas try to plan for only going to school, work, or running errands so you don’t spend unnecessary dollars going on trips that will not work for your current college budget.

Once you have all your necessities factored into your college budget, look at the money left over and consider how much spending money you think you should set aside with every budget period. Again, be realistic and honest with yourself by planning on an occasional treat yourself to avoid splurging. With leftover money in your budget, put some away for savings in case your budgeting doesn’t work out or if you find yourself wanting to splurge in the future.

Break it down into weeks or months

Looking at your college budget as a whole may seem a little daunting, especially if you are not the type to follow a budget and are one to spend as they please. However, consider starting small.

Instead of just making a monthly college budget, try to make weekly college budgets so that you are checking in with your college budget more often. For example, if you notice that you spent way more money on eating out the first week, make it a habit to cook at home and cut back on your free spending money the next week to make up for the splurge you had during the first week.

Be ready to adjust when you need to 

The week of starting your college budget, try to write down your spending. It can be as big as a credit card payment or as small as a cup of coffee you grab on the way to class. Writing down your spending with a college budget in mind will allow you to compare your actual spending and your college budget to see what areas you need to work on.

If you notice that you spend majority of your spending money on small coffee runs throughout the week, invest in a coffee pot for your apartment so that you can save money on coffee runs in the future. If you notice that you have severely underestimated the spending of a necessity, like groceries or gas, when you first made your college budget, adjust it to help you stay on track with your college budget later on.

Regardless of your reason for making a college budget, know that budgeting gets you one step closer to financial responsibility and one step closer to making your mind at ease regarding your financial situation.

By Kaitlin Hurtado

Uloop Writer
Hello! I'm Kaitlin, a second year Literary Journalism major at UC Irvine. I'm a writer on Uloop's national team and a campus editor for UCI.

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