College is an exciting time in your life. You may be away from your parents for the first time and living on your own, you may be living in a new state, and you’ll definitely be meeting new friends. College life comes with a lot changes and with that comes a lot of responsibility. Now there’s no one to make sure you get out of bed in the morning, no one to cook your meals, and possibly for the first time ever there’s no one to help you manage your money. But don’t worry, you can easily create a budget and stick to it.
Creating a budget is the key to financially surviving college and graduating with a few bucks in the bank. Everyone thinks that college students have to be broke, but that’s just not true. With a little bit of discipline and a whole lot of planning you can have a happy money life while studying and even accumulate a bit of savings to help kick start your life after graduation.
Here are three tips to help your bank account stay in the positive while studying:
Set priorities every semester
As your class schedule changes so will your priorities. Maybe during the fall semester you don’t have early classes so you’ll be able to eat at home instead of grabbing something on the go and less of your monthly expenses can be allocated toward food.
Maybe during the winter semester you’ll have a co-op or lab off campus and therefore a portion of your monthly budget will need to be set aside for public transportation. However your lifestyle varies during the school year your budget (the percentage allocation, not the total spending amount) will also have to adjust accordingly.
Track your spending with an app
The best way to ensure you stay within your monthly budget is to track your spending. Download an app such as You Need A Budget or Mint that keeps track of where and how you spend your money, that way you can check in daily and see if you’re overspending in some areas.
It’s important to set your budget in percentages of your total monthly after-tax income; your total income from student loans, scholarships, a part-time job, and maybe help from your parents can then be broken down and tracked by the dollar amount per purchase. Keeping a running tally will help you avoid overspending aka getting into credit card debt or eating copious amounts of ramen noodles.
Set goals, even small ones
When you set a budget in college ask yourself, what am I working toward? Why are you cutting spending and why do you want to save? Maybe you want to save $50 per month for your four years of college so you have savings after graduation, maybe you want to save up for a spring break vacation with your friends.
Whatever your goal is, keep reminding yourself of it every time you don’t buy a $5 coffee and every time you choose to stay in one night. Trust me, all the budgeting will be worthwhile when you achieve your goals. It’s not as scary as it sounds.