College Budget Tips and Tricks

Creating a college student budget is an essential step to responsibly handling your finances a moving out for the first time. It should account for your income and expenses, allowing you to minimize debt and handle your monthly obligations like a pro. To start prioritizing your spending, consider these five tips to help you get started.

Have an Open Conversation

When you’re moving out for the first time, it helps to lean on your support system for advice. Even more importantly, you need to know exactly how much your parents, guardians, or, in some cases, spouse are helping out while you’re in college. Important topics to cover include who is paying for the actual college costs and how. Also, you should have a good understanding of who is responsible for extras, like school supplies, so you can accurately create your budget.

Create a Tracking System

Before you can get real about anticipating your expenses to create your college student budget, you need to understand your spending habits. Review the past few months of your credit card records and bank statements to see exactly what you’re buying on a regular basis to determine your monthly expenses. Once you do that, you might be surprised to find out how much you’re spending on things you don’t really need.

Get Clear on Needs vs. Wants

Now that you’ve seen what you’re spending your money on, it’s time to get real. Divide your spending into two categories: need and wants. Your needs are things like transportation, food, and school supplies. Wants are the things that make life a little more fun, like concert tickets, vacations, and buying a new car. When you’re creating your budget, prioritize your needs and save what you can for your wants.

Become a Savvy Shopper

School supplies and books are among the biggest expenses you’ll face while in college. A new book can cost $300 or more just for one course. Check out all the options, including online and used bookstores along with electronic editions to save money.
Use the internet and other tools to comparison shop and find creative ways to work your needs and wants into your budget. For example, if you’re living off-campus, consider renting your furniture instead of buying it outright to get the on-trend pieces you want without having to make a large up-front investment that could blow your monthly budget right out of the water.

Use Credit Cards Wisely

Getting your first credit card is exciting and can help establish your credit history — an important part of getting the job you want and your first apartment. But this is true only if you use your credit cards responsibly. Don’t spend frivolously and take on more debt than you and your budget can handle.

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