Budgeting, otherwise known as the “B” word, is a burden. Unless you’re part of the small percentage of college students whose parents throw money at them each month (hey, I ain’t even mad), chances are, you’ll have to be careful when it comes to your spending. Budgeting the little money you have and spending wisely will save you from unnecessary stress in your life. However, it’s easier said than done. Here are a few tips to help you with “The B Word” and save your pennies.
1. Recognize what you’re spending your money on.
They say the first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging you actually have one. Look through bank statements (and maybe even old tweets and Instagram posts) and recognize what you’re spending your money on. More than likely, it’s food, gas and what I like to call “turn up money,” aka money you spend on bars, taxis, alcohol, clubs, etc. If you’re a first-year student or have a meal plan, try to cut your food spending. You’ve already paid hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on your meal plan, so cut out the fast food and eating out with your friends, or at least keep it to a minimum each week. Now, it may be hard (or impossible) to say “bye bye” to Chipotle runs, but you’ll realize how much $9 a few times a month will really add up. When it comes to gas, try to carpool as much as you can with your friends or take the campus/off-campus shuttle as much as possible.
Even if you’re not roadtripping every weekend, that’s still an expense you need to be mindful of. Perhaps the most difficult to budget of them all is weekend spending. Are you going to the bar every night of the week(end)? Maybe you should slow your roll a bit, simply for your pocket’s sake. Your friends will certainly peer pressure you, but unless they’re footing the bill for drinks (if you’re 21+, of course), then you may have to sit out and/or find a less expensive way to have fun. Pitch in to buy a few board games in your friend group and have a night-in playing games and grabbing ice cream from the on-campus spot.
2. Budget your money each week.
Following the previous point, set aside a certain amount of money each week for each of the aforementioned points and miscellaneous expenses. If you’re tired of eating at the student union, set aside $15-20 from your paycheck to feed that Chipotle craving and a trip to Bojangle’s. Also, check your campus newspaper for ads on discounts at the local eateries. More than likely, there are a few spots around town that offer discounts for students.
Simple concept, but hard to do. Start by trying to save at least 10 percent of your paycheck each month. Even if you don’t have anything in mind to save for, your future self will thank you. If you know you make approximately $X each paycheck, think about how much of it you’ll actually need on expenses until the next pay period, and you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll be about spending it.
4. Think ahead.
Planning for Spring Break and next summer start earlier than you think. If you know you’ll need some extra cash for things like trips or presents for your BFF, you should start setting some money aside each month in preparation. Don’t get left by your friends in March when it’s time to make a trip to the Dominican Republic just because you wanted to spend all of your money on shoes and Taco Bell this semester.
5. Get an app.
There’s always an app for that. Apps for your phone or tablet like “Mint” or “Left to Spend” are simple and easy-to-use to help you keep track of your money. Not only will they allow you to budget your money, but they’ll also help you recognize how much you’re spending each month so that it’s easier for you to save and keep track of what you’re spending your money on.