College can be hard. Budgeting your money in college can be even harder. It is easy to get overwhelmed and second guess what to spend your money on and how to save. In order to combat the confusion and anxiety, here are a few tips to help be financially responsible.
1. Create a budget plan
Zach Jones is the program manager for the Center for Financial Success on campus
and aids students in their budgeting needs.
“The best time to budget is before you sign a lease or make a car purchase or anything major — but when you submit yourself contractually to these payments, you may see that you have less decision making power,” Jones said.
Jones explained that your priorities are reflected in the housing you are looking for. If living in a place that has added accommodations but a more expensive rent is important to you, creating your budgeting plan should reflect that priority.
“An essential budget is one that is written down, most commonly an app you can track as you progress,” Jones said. “If you track that money as it is going out, you have an idea of your spending at any point and time.”
Jones said that budgeting gives every dollar you have a specific job which makes it easier to spend your money because you don’t have to feel guilty afterward.
“Whether or not you budget, you’re saying yes to certain things and no to others,” Jones said.
Jones strongly recommended the Center for Financial Success, which offers free coaching sessions for students who are looking to start organizing their finances. One of the services they provide is setting up an online budget that is accessible for most students and easy to maintain.
“We like Youneedabudget.com because you can get a year for free as a college student, and it’s very affordable after that,” Jones said. “We also help students set that up by linking their accounts and seeing the best budget plan.”
There are also online resources such as bestcolleges.com that list out steps for students who are new to budgeting their expenses. Some tips listed include breaking down your income and setting aside extra money for an emergency fund.
2. Sort your priorities
Kaysten Thomas is vice president of finance for Kappa Delta Sorority and is responsible for maintaining the budget of the chapter as well as addressing
any financial concerns within the sorority.
“You need to recognize what’s most important to you,” Thomas said. “You know that your needs come first, but your wants are on different levels based on how badly you want it.”
Thomas said that most people within the sorority will come to her wanting to make a plan on how to budget in order to find out what is best for them and the chapter.
“You’ve got to plan ahead,” Thomas said. “As soon as I know how much
the dues are going to be, I make it a priority and recognize it’s a commitment I agreed to.”
One of Jones’ biggest pieces of advice was to take the time to create a priority list for yourself with goals as well as expenses. Rent is one of those expenses that can take
a big chunk out of your account but is mandatory to pay and therefore should be a top priority.
“Most of the time, ‘wants’ will fall under goals, and it helps to give yourself a sense of priority of what you want to accomplish,” Jones said. “When you’re budgeting, you want to make sure you’re allocating for the things you have to pay for before you get paid again.”
3. Sometimes less is more
“Realizing you can still have fun without spending money is huge,” Thomas said. “It’s all subjective to the individual person.”
Thomas explained how she works a part-time, on-campus job 20 hours a week to help pay for her sorority dues and have leftover money for her other priorities.
“A social life both in and out of Greek life is important; you can spend time with your friends without spending money that isn’t necessary,” Thomas said.
Thomas also tipped that you can use your meal swipes on campus to go to dinner with friends or even all huddle up and hang out in someone’s dorm room.
There’s also a website, Best Colleges, that lists several different ways to decrease your spending while still making the most of your time in college, including: avoiding paying full price for textbooks, cooking for yourself, shopping at thrift stores and using student discounts.
“Building up your savings frees up money in other places,” Jones said. “You can budget for fun — it’s not restrictive, it’s empowering!”
Learning how to budget and organize your expenses is the most manageable when you take it one step at a time. Don’t let the B word scare you!