Creating a student budget is one of the most important aspects of going to college. Unless you are a business or accounting major, don’t plan on being taught how to create a student budget by your professors.
Creating a budget is a transferable skill that will you will benefit from for the rest of your life. If you start now while you are in college it will not be overwhelming for you later in life. A study done by Business Week showed that less than 25% of college students budget their money. Those sloppy financial behaviors can lead to financial problems later in life according to financial advice experts.
If you want to create a student budget here are the top tips to help you get going.
1. Creating a budget is easy – sticking to it is the hard part!
Creating a student budget is not rocket science. Financial guru Dave Ramsey says that being in control of your finances is 20% knowledge and 80% behavior. It’s kind of like eating right and exercising – everyone knows how to do it, but not many people put it into action.
2. Create a list of your income sources:
- Student Loans
- Work Study
Add up the total of your monthly income once you have listed all of the sources.
3. Create a list of expenses:
- Cell Phone
- House Phone
- Groceries – separate from dining out
- Car Payment
- Transportation – bus pass, subway, parking
- Dining Out
- School Fees
- Credit Cards
Add up the total of your monthly expenses and subtract the total from your income. Hopefully you have a surplus of income each month!
4. Set Financial Goals
Now that you’ve got some numbers to work with you can set some financial goals. Many college students want to try and save money each month. That can be accomplished by making more, spending less, or a combination of the two.
You’ll want to go through each category listed above and create a set amount you’d like to stick to. Most of the costs do not change month to month, such as your car payment, cell phone bill, etc. The areas where you can really save are eating out, groceries, and entertainment.
Set a realistic budget for dining out, entertainment, and groceries. It’s not realistic that you are going to forsake all of your fun and eating out so set a budget that you can live with each month.
5. Financial Software
There is a lot of financial software you can download for free online. You can also pay for a personal finance program like Quicken or MS Money. These programs are great because they automatically generate reports for you based upon your spending. There are also several smart phone apps that do the same thing. As long as you are faithful to record your transactions, the software will help you stick to your budget.
6. Use Cash for Groceries, Dining out, Entertainment
Once you set your monthly budgets for those three categories use cash envelopes. Once the cash is gone you know you have reached your budget and will not overspend. If you have money left over, put it into saving. It’s too easy to overspend and lose track of your student budget using a debit card.
Do you use a budget? What other tips can you share to help those looking to take control of their finances?