How to Budget in College
Save your money. After you graduate from high school you may receive money from family and friends who understand the struggle.
But understanding how much you have is your best friend.
Many don’t receive help from home, or any financial aid. College life is an entirely different experience for those students.
The point is, college is stressful enough without worrying about how to pay for your next meal if your meal plan runs out…
Please believe me, I know that you think it’s impossible but I took 15 credit hours, maintained three jobs, and I still managed to grow my credit score to 777 all while in school.
You can do it too, and I’ll tell you what worked for me.
In college, good planning skills, and telling yourself “NO” is important.
There is a method to the madness. Keep reading.
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In this post I will discuss
- What is a Zero Based Budget
- Why I recommended this
- Know due dates, and totals of all monthly bills
- Wise Money Methods for Stacking Cash Quickly
- Keep track of it here, Wise Guide: College Budget Template (free printables Excel compatible) coming soon…
Expenses in College Can Break Your Wallet
There can be a lot you may have to pay for: tuition fees, books, meal plan, car note, insurance, gas, phone bill, etc… We all know the list goes on and varies for different students.
Word to the Wise: If you’re a person who struggles to save, use a cash based budget. That means, using debit cards only for banking and bill paying 😉 best way to stay out of debt
But what if most college students don’t make a lot of money, or their monthly income is irregular…
Jobs in food service, or hospitality can offer unpredictable money surges, and anxiety hiking lows.
It’s better to be your own boss, beginning in college
I recommend making your money work for you, not the other way around. Read how I made my side hustle work for me.
Read my post on realistic side hustles for college students here.
Choppy pay can make it difficult to see the amount you are trying to budget or save for.
Bills don’t care about that. It’s up to you to stack your coins, even if it’s $5 at a time.
- In college a lot of people struggle to budget and save money whether they’re paid weekly, or not. Its about self-control.
- IPhone or Android user alike, I use Google Calendar to organize my financial pay plans in my phone.
- Mint is a finance app that can help you
You Can Budget and Travel In College
My most hectic month this year was July. I visited NYC for the 1st time 😅 right before school began. I’m on top of a lot of apps that help me plan smarter, and spend less on airfare and hotels.
Sounds like I like to tempt myself to overspend? Nope. My vacay was paid for in full, BEFORE I left Mississippi.
I said that to say how in My $300 Budget in NYC Travel Hacks.
Word to the Wise: Remember your goals and reward yourself occasionally, it’ll help you stay focused!
Point is, Google Calendar helps me do both: budget, make lists, color-code, and organize my upcoming bills, while in sync with my airline plans. LOVE IT!!!
The Best Budget for Any Career
I say that the best budget is a Cash Zero Based Budget.
Zero Based Budget means that you are ensuring every cent counts.
In other words…
This model ensures that your income, minus your expenses, equals to zero.
I will explain better below.
How to Begin Your Budget
- Understand how much and how often you are paid. Calculate your Gross and Net income.
Gross – before taxes
Net – what you take home after
- List all amounts and due dates of bills
- Pay in full according to due date
- Use Debit Cards Only To Pay Bills
- Credit Cards only to Build Credit
- Use Cash for EVERYTHING else
- Use a Zero Based Cash Budget it will eliminate overdraft fees, and will help keep you conscious of how much you have control of at all times.
Disposable income is rare for a college student.
I file my taxes myself see my Turbotax vs H&R Block.
Words to Wise College Students
If you have money left over after paying bills, move that into your savings -beginning your budget back at zero 🙂
- If possible receive direct deposit, and pay any due bill closest to that date
- Know and anticipate bills before the next month
- Anticipate your income by way of any jobs, financial aid, money from home, loans, fiscal support etc…
- Know each TOTAL amount and due date
- For important bills set reminders BEFORE it’s due
- Mark paid bills as PAID
- Set aside a fixed amount from each source of income that you sink into a SAVINGS account (Ally is an online savings account and pays you 1.85% interest on YOUR MONEY)
- Put aside a portion of your check for next bill
- Revise Zero Based Cash Budget if Necessary
No matter what you have going on in life it is best to maintain an Emergency Fund that can support at least 3 months worth of your total monthly bills.
Do that, then tackle debt beginning with your highest interest rate first.
If you don’t have this all figured out don’t panic I have a blog post on how to save 1,000 before you know it. Keep on scrolling 🙂
Recap of what we discussed…
Have a savings account that you don’t touch for ANYONE, including yourself.
Use a credit union and open a student account checking, and savings.
ONLY use your debit card for direct deposits, paying bills. A cash based budget is best.
Enroll in reminders to stay on top of: bills, due dates, and late dates.
If it requires several checks to pay any particular bill see my various methods of stacking cash fast
How to keep up with your funds, check out Make the Wise Choice (always uploading new content) for FREE PRINTABLES
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-Until next time