Learn the basics of how to budget in college so you can be financially stress-free
This post is all about how to budget in college.
If you’re a college student but you’re not majoring in anything to do with math or money, living on a student budget and learning how to budget in college is pretty stressful.
You need to know how to budget in college in a way that will keep you out of debt and allow you live a comfortable life.
If that sounds too good to be true, you’re going to want to stick around to find out why this is a realistic goal in college, and how you can achieve it!
This post is all about how to budget in college.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll earn a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Our full disclosure policy is pretty boring, but you can read it here.
HOW TO BUDGET IN COLLEGE:
1. Know where you spend
Knowing how to live on a budget in college starts with learning everything you can about money in general, as well as your own spending habits.
Financial experts like Dave Chilton and Bola Sokunbi talk about tracking where you spend your money.
Yep, every cent.
This is a great way to spend less because you become aware of where your money is going. You constantly review where your money is being used because you write it down to track it. Overall, this leads to less spending and a better understanding of where you go over-budget.
2. Track. It. All.
Starting with a pen and paper that you carry around with you (or fill out at the end of each day) is the best way to get into the habit of tracking your spending.
When you’ve gotten into a consistent habit after a couple months, you can start tracking every couple days, as long as you won’t forget. Personally, I go through my bank history weekly to track my spending for that week through my debit and credit cards. If I use cash anywhere, I track it immediately so I don’t forget or lose the receipt.
What’s the point?
Tracking your spending, though it might sound tedious, is the most effective way to understand your spending strengths and weaknesses. This is the number one thing that will help you gain control of your finances and use your money better!
If you’re not a fan of the pen and paper method, you might like to try tracking your spending electronically.
Using locked spreadsheets is my favourite way to track my spending because it’s easy to see everything at a glance and it sums up your totals automatically. If you prefer something more creative and fun, you can create a designated bullet journal.
Or, for a more efficient, less artistic approach, there are various apps you can download to track your spending. This makes it super easy to track every purchase immediately, and some apps will even do it for you automatically!
3. Lay out all your monthly expenses
Lay out all your expenses at the beginning of each month, starting with the most important expenses, then anything else that comes out of your account automatically every month, and finishing with the less important expenses.
The one thing to remember?
You need to be consistent and do this at the beginning of EVERY MONTH. Every month looks different because you might have a one-off birthday or event coming up that you need to spend money on. Your long-term financial goals will only be achieved if you stay on top of this.
As an example, here’s what my budget categories look like in order from most to least important:
- House supplies and toiletries
- Phone bill
- Eating out
- Shopping and entertainment
RELATED POST – Ways to Save Money in College [STOP BUYING THESE!]
4. Be honest with yourself about what you can cut.
You might be thinking, “I just want to know how to budget in college, and as a college student, I don’t have enough money to contribute to a savings account every month.”
Even if your contribution to your savings account is small, it’s still money in the bank that’s lessening the potential need for student loans in subsequent years. The reason I’ve been able to stay debt-free in college is because I continue committing to a tighter budget. It’s a lot easier than you think if you just set your mind to it.
So, even if you only have $50 left over from your budget, put it in your savings account.
Cut out some money from the budget you use to eat out. Skip the shopping. Or even eat pasta more nights than you want to and cut down on your grocery bill. It will be worth it!
Need an example?
I used to have a gym membership on my expenses list, but when I moved into a bigger apartment, I decided I could do home workouts. That decision enabled me to cut my gym membership out of my monthly expenses and is now saving me money every month.
4. Be nice to yourself
We all go over-budget, miscalculate or have unexpected expenses come up sometimes.
If you’ve had a bad month for spending, just note it and move on. Flip the page of your budgeting journal or create a brand new spreadsheet and start fresh every month. It’s never too late to make better money choices and stay financially stress-free. Even as a college student.