If the thought of sitting down to build a budget freaks you out — you’re not alone. Not many college students are excited about budgeting. After all, in most cases, that means you’re going to be putting aside the money you’d rather spend on fun and exciting things.
But budgeting can give you a sense of what every dollar means. More than that, it sets you up for a financial future free of crippling debt and the confidence to know you can take on any emergency financially.
Still, it’s hard to know where to start. So, we’re here to help.
How to build a budget
Luckily, building a budget isn’t rocket science. All you need is an understanding of your expenses and income. With that info, you’ve got what you need to get started.
Figure out your Income
Step one is knowing what your income is. Whether that’s an allowance from your parents or income from a job, take note of how much you get after taxes each month.
Next, tally up your expenses
Take a look at your bank account to see where your money is going. What reoccurring bills do you have? How much are you spending at the grocery store? How often do you go out to eat at restaurants?
You want a sense of everything you spend. It should have a place in your budget as an expense. For expenses that aren’t fixed (meaning the amount is the same from month to month), you should assign yourself a reasonable amount you can spend each month.
For example, if you love going out to restaurants, cap your restaurant spending at $200 a month and stick to it.
Pick a budget plan
There are so many different ways to budget. You’ll know when you find the one that’s right for you.
Choose something that’s easy for you to update. You’ll want to make sure you’re tracking and updating your budget monthly.
Automate as much as possible
If you’ve got monthly bills or want to ensure you save $200 each month — automate it. That way, it goes right out before you’re ever tempted to spend it.
Automating your expenses can help you stick to your budget because you won’t even see that money. See what you can auto-withdraw and get it set up right at the start.
Check your budget often
If things change — like your student loan payment goes up or you start making more money, update your budget. Try and stick to the typical budget plan below.
- 50% of your income goes to your needs (rent, utilities, food)
- 30% goes to your wants (concerts, shopping, restaurants)
- 20% goes to savings or debt (student loans, retirement)
With that in mind, you can easily update your budget as soon as things shift around.
See — budgeting doesn’t have to be scary. Chances are, you have everything you need to get started on one today. And the earlier you practice budgeting, the better off you’ll be as you move into adulthood.
So, what are you waiting for? Start your budget now!