As you start your college career, you may also be starting to budget for yourself for the first time.
You may have lots of questions, and all the information coming at you may seem overwhelming. Do you have financial aid? Will you be working during the school year? Are you paying for college alone, or are other people helping finance your education?
Everyone’s financial situation going into college is different. Follow these tips for budgeting as a new college student to help you stay on track financially.
Have the money talk
Before you can create a budget based on the money you have, you’ll want to talk to those that are helping finance your education. Maybe you have scholarships or financial aid. Maybe your parents or a relative are helping with tuition costs.
Before you budget, talk to all your potential financial sources. Make sure it is clear who is paying and how much they are contributing, as well as when the money (especially scholarships and financial aid) will be available. Write all of this information down so you have a clear picture of the money you have access to.
List your expenses
Once you know where your financing will be coming from, make a list of all your expected expenses. Think about the costs of tuition, textbooks, school supplies (including a laptop), housing, food, transportation, clothing and any other expenses.
With your list, estimate how much each of these items will cost. Having approximations of cost beforehand will help you stay on track with how much money you have available.
You can choose the timeframe your expenses are listed in, but it may be easiest to track spending by month. Choosing a timeframe that is less than a month may make it difficult to look at the bigger picture of your spending. A timeframe that is more than a month will make it more difficult to know if you’re staying on track throughout the time period.
Track your expenses
Once you’re at school, keep a list of your spending. Use your list of contributions and your list of expenses to keep yourself on track.
You probably won’t be able to do it all, but having a list of your essential and recreational spending will help you decide what to spend money on and when to cut back.
Your spending list can come in variety of forms, so use a method that is most convenient for you. Use the built-in budgeting feature within Verve’s online banking or mobile app to track and categorize your spending. Otherwise, a simple spreadsheet or journal can also get the job done.
Manually tracking your spending may be more work, but sometimes physically putting pen to paper can help you be more intentional with your spending.
Save in small ways
You don’t always have to give up large activities or other spending in order to save money. You can save in small ways.
Buy used textbooks. Find free food. Shop at places that offer a student discount. Sell your old textbooks. Find free activities. Many college campuses have similar opportunities available to students that are financially mindful.
These savings may seem small, but add up over time and you’ll be able to more easily stay on budget with the extra savings.
Save any extra funds
Best case scenario, you over-estimated your expenses. In this case, start saving for the future. You never know what unexpected expenses will arise, so using the extra cash to save can be helpful.
You may accidentally underestimate your expenses on a future budget, and the extra money saved here can keep you on track. The goal is to reduce college debt as much as possible.
All this talk of budgeting got you thinking of other ways to save? Check out our blog posts on how to stay on budget when temptations arise and budgeting for beginners for more information.