How to Create a Student Budget
Setting a student budget is simple. The difficult part is sticking with it. If you plan today for your future, however, you will be one step closer to graduating without debt hanging over your head. One of the best ways to ensure you won’t have debt is to create a budget for college students. That way, when it comes to splurging on Starbucks coffees every morning or pizza night with your pals, you can be sure that you aren’t going to break the bank.
How to Set Up a Financial Budget
As you determine your financial budget, start by making two lists: expenses and income. Places to look for expenses include:
- Room and board
- Bedding, home décor, kitchen supplies, bathroom accessories, office supplies, etc.
- Computer needs and cellular phone options
- Extracurricular activities including clubs and sports
As for your income, start with these areas:
- Any savings you have
- Scholarships and grants
- Work study programs
- Part time or full time employment
- Your parents or family members
For the creation of an overall budget, think in terms of semesters. Questions to ask yourself include:
- Will you be in school for fall and spring semesters only, or are you also taking summer classes?
- Do you plan to go to school full time or will you work at least part time?
- Are you living on campus, commuting from an apartment, or are you living at home?
- Where will you eat your meals? Do you plan to eat on campus, cook in your home, or are you depending on your parents for food?
- How much are your books and school supplies going to cost each semester?
- Will you receive any scholarships, grants or work study supplements, and how much are each of these worth?
- How much is your tuition, room and board, and transportation costs?
- Do you plan to travel, go on Spring Break, or study abroad?
- Will you work, how often, and how much do you estimate you will earn?
After you determine the various aspects of your education, you can begin to develop your student budget.
Giving Your Budget a Go
To create a budget, consider computer software or programs that can help you create and calculate a budget. This will help you to be organized, as well as to help keep your budget in check throughout the year without a great deal of hassle. Consider using a Microsoft Office template, such as the College Student Budget, that works with Excel or similar spreadsheets. Alternatively, About.com has a printable College Budget Worksheet that is free to use. Apps are all the rage these days. If you want a finance app, go no further than Mint.com, available via iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, and the Windows Store.
Budget Busters to Avoid
Once you have nailed down your budget for the upcoming academic year, there are several ways you can ruin a good thing. Here are some of the top ways you can bust your budget if you are not cautious:
- Going out too often to social events, gatherings and parties; alcohol consumption adds to a lax attitude that can destroy your budget in a single night.
- Caffeinated pick-me-ups, fast food runs, convenience foods, and vending machines can ruin your food budget, so think before you nosh.
- An automobile on campus is mighty convenient, as well as costly; opt for public transportation to avoid paying hefty annual parking passes, not to mention those all-too-frequent parking tickets common on campuses with time limits for parking.
- Spring break, study abroad and traveling to and from home are all fine and dandy, until you have to cough up the dough to go, go, go; plan accordingly by budgeting for these expenses.
What about your college student budget? What else do you plan for that we haven’t mentioned here?