College, oh, the freedom! Nobody can tell you what to do, when to sleep, or how to spend your money… until your bank account does. Budgeting for college students can be difficult. It’s easy to say, “I’m responsible with my money; I don’t need to budget!” until the semester exceeds your credit limit and you can’t afford the gas to get home. It’s one thing to say you should budget, but how do you do it?
Keep track of your spending.
How much money do you spend each week already? Is everything absolutely necessary, or could you find a less expensive alternative? Half the battle is knowing where your money is going.
Maintain regular access to your accounts.
Online banking allows you to check your account balance from anywhere in the world using your cell phone. Make it a habit to check your account balance at least once a week and before making any large purchases.
Budgeting for college students means looking for less expensive options.
Shop at thrift stores rather than the mall for a wardrobe upgrade, and buy a coffee maker instead of paying $5 for daily lattes at your local coffee shop. Instead of going out to eat, go to the school cafeteria or, if you live in an apartment, prepare your own meals.
Use memberships to your advantage.
Many places offer free memberships that grant you access to coupons, special discounts, and possibly a reward program for free items or cashback. If you shop or eat there frequently, it may be worth the few minutes it takes to sign up.
Know what you’ve got.
If you don’t know how much money you have, it’s difficult to plan where your money will go. Find out how your family is providing you with financial assistance. Keep track of how much you make per paycheck if you work.
Budget for the necessary expenses.
It’s critical to understand when you’ll need to make tuition payments, when you’ll need to buy textbooks, and when you’ll need a little extra cash to pay for gas to drive home. Keep track of when these expenses are likely to occur and plan your budget accordingly.
Make a list of everything.
You don’t need an elaborate spreadsheet to keep track of when you spend or receive money, just a simple notepad to help ensure your account never reaches zero.
Save some extra cash.
If you discover that you have more than enough to cover your needs and some of your wants, put any excess funds into savings. This can provide you with funds in the event of an emergency or give you a head start on repaying your student loans.