We all know college can be expensive – tuition, books, food, supplies, etc. It adds up quickly! You might think you saved up enough money to get through the year or are working enough to stay ahead of your bills – then a large expense comes out of nowhere!
The best way to get ahead and stay ahead is to make a budget. Budgets help you keep track of your weekly and monthly expenses and ensure you don’t over-spend or eat into your savings before you have a chance to put some money back in.
So, let’s make a weekly budget!
First, analyze your income.
It’s important to know where your money is coming from. For most college students, this could be one or more of the following sources:
- Financial aid: Pell grants, scholarships, etc.
- Student loans: Whether it’s federal or private, you should know how much you are getting each semester to attend school from your lender.
- Work: If you are working, you can usually get an idea of how much you make each week, 2-weeks, or per month depending on your employer’s payroll frequency. If your hours are pretty consistent, it will be easy to calculate an average weekly income.
- Allowance: Are you receiving any money from your parents, or are you giving yourself an allowance?
Some of these sources are dispersed in different frequencies, such as lump sums, reimbursement checks, or routine payroll. You might have to do some basic division to find your average weekly income.
Let’s break down your expenses.
Now it’s time for the not-so-fun part. Let’s see how much money you spend each week. These expenses may be daily, weekly, or monthly, so you’re going to have to do some simple math to figure out your weekly expenses.
Here is a list of the most common expenses you’ll be budgeting for:
- Utilities (such as gas, water, and electric)
- Phone, Cable, Internet
- School supplies – these might vary from week to week and vary by semester. Many students find that most of their supply costs are small except for a few big one-time purchases like laptops, printers, and other similar items. Pens, pencils, printer paper, and notebooks are pretty minimal when budgeting for them.
- Fun money – how much do you spend going out to eat or doing activities with your friends?
Now that you’ve figured out how much you make each week and how much you spend each week, it’s time for some math.
Your weekly expenses show you how much money you need to make each week to continue living the way you are now. Subtract that number from your weekly income. Is this number positive or negative?
If the number is positive, you’re in the clear, and your current budget is working quite nicely. To help set yourself up for financial success, we suggest putting that extra money into a savings account. Having money set aside will be a huge help if any emergency expenses pop up.
If that number is negative, then you’ll need to make some adjustments. Take a look at your spending and see where you can cut some costs. Generally, the first place you’ll take from is your “fun money.”
Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you can’t hang out with friends or participate in fun activities. It just means you need to participate in more cost-effective activities. For example, instead of going to the movies, purchasing a $10 ticket, and spending another $10-$20 on snacks, plan a movie night in.
When creating a budget, always give yourself a little extra cushion. You never know when an extra expense might come up, so it’s good to be prepared.