Quick Tips for Budgeting as a College Student
The Chase Photo: Matthew Dale
Going over your finances can be stressful, but budgeting and paying close attention to your expenses is important to make sure that you can pay your bills and even save money. Before building a budget, it is important to know how much money you have to spend; this includes financial aid, scholarships, loans and any other income.
Financial aid and scholarships cannot be used outside of paying tuition, so car payments, food and entertainment do not qualify. If you do not have any other income, living on campus would be best, because dorms and on-campus apartments can be added to tuition, so they should be covered under financial aid. Living at Eastern New Mexico University requires you to have a meal plan, so food can also be covered by financial aid. However, if you want to eat off-campus, you have to use your own money for that. Instead of getting fast food, go to the store and buy groceries. As long as you don’t go overboard in spending, it will save you money in the long run. When you go to the store, make a list of what you need. Try not to get anything that you don’t need. Also, deciding ahead of time how much money you plan to spend will help you budget.
When moving into a place off-campus, the expenses can rack up quickly, so it is important to set a monthly budget and shoot for spending less than that limit. Set your budget based around your monthly income or how much of your savings you can spend. Regular monthly expenses include rent, gas, electric, water and also probably Wi-fi. Making a list of your expenses will help you set your budget; then tracking your spending each month, including other non-regular expenses like travel and entertainment, can help you limit yourself.
One system of budgeting that has proven effective is the envelope system. For this, you use only cash, so you see exactly what you are spending. The envelope system has you divide your money into different categories like rent, food and entertainment, and put the exact amount of money that you are allowing yourself to spend on that category in the envelope. Once the envelope is empty, you can’t spend any more money on that particular category during the month. This budgeting system can help curb overspending and impulse purchases.
Other possible ways to save money can be finding a roommate (if you don’t already have one), walking or biking instead of driving, shopping sales, using coupons and avoiding eating out. If you are needing to make a little extra money, you can sell clothes and other items that you don’t need or want or find surveys online that will pay you to complete them.