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Don’t know where to start when forming your college monthly budget? Need to get your finances together?
If there is one thing I had to learn as a college student was to create a monthly budget. You should always have a monthly budget or if not a budget, a notebook where you keep track of your spending. Living on a budget in college is super important and will help you out later after graduating. Managing money is a key skill to know as an adult.
Budgeting is one of the reasons I was able to study abroad in Greece. It’s also how I saved a couple of thousand dollars to put a down payment on a car. It is also how I maintain an emergency fund.
Living on a budget in college has not been easy. It’s all about balance and knowing what you can afford and what you can’t.
This post is all about creating a college monthly budget. This is post tuition and paying your fee bill.
Why Is Budgeting Important For College Students?
Budgeting money is a vital skill for students because college is simply expensive. It’s hard to find jobs that both pay enough and allow you to have time to study. Most students I know have two jobs to keep up.
Students also can not take out loans or get credit cards as easily as other spenders.
Also, budgets make you aware of where your money is going. You should know where every cent of your hard-earned money is going. I’m always checking my bank account, so I can avoid overdraft fees (yes, banks charge you if your account goes into the negatives). I plan out most of my purchases and keep a notebook near me to know if I can afford what I want.
How To Create a Monthly Budget for College Students:
What You Will Need:
Erasable Pen or Pencil
Journal, Notebook, or a Budget Planner
I like to use a long, vertical notebook so I can write out my math problems.
Calculator (I use the exact calculator I used in my math class)
1. Start with figuring out your monthly income.
Before you start calculating your living expenses, try to see what your income is. Find out any consistent payments you have coming in each month. Even if you work in a sales based income, figure out you average monthly income. E.g. If you sell clothes online, estimate how much you might sell in a month.
Personally, I get paid twice a month, so I spilt my monthly income into two parts. One for the first half of the month and another for the second half of the month.
If you paid once a month, you can do the same by splitting your income midway through the month.
I also would include any scholarship money or stipend you receive. I know a few people who, including myself, who get money monthly from scholarships and grants. That’s also part of your income.
2. Start with any huge bills you have.
Get the important and essential items out of the way. For me, that’s my car note and insurance, phone bill, groceries, and gas for my car. I’m blessed to be amount to have my rent covered by scholarships and pay for a semester at the beginning of the semester through my university.
I also would include groceries as a huge bill because it can get into the $100 for some people, depending on what time of the year and where they live. I have a blog post that explains how to budget for groceries and if you have any problems with spending too much money on food in college.
Huge Bills include:
- Car Note, Insurance, and Gas
- Credit Cards/Student Debt
- Medical Bills
- Monthly Payments for Items You Are Paying Off (e.g. a Laptop)
3. Find every single subscription that hits your account
One of my biggest struggles with learning how to budget in college was having random subscriptions hit my account at random times and when I least expected it. I wanted to have these nice subscriptions for every single streaming platforms but was barely using them.
Subscriptions can expand past streaming platforms. I also include anything that hits your account monthly that you can maybe go without or cancel.
Go to your bank statements, credit card statements, bills, anything that shows you were you’re paying for these subscriptions.
Write them down in your journal, then calculate them.
I would even go after far and say cancel a few if haven’t used them in a long time.
4. Math time!
Now is the time to calculate your expenses and income. Figure out what budget categories are and what goes in there.
Common College Budget Categories:
- Income/My Earnings
Use your calculator to see what is left over to go into your savings.
5. Save somewhere between 20-50% of leftover money & lock it away
Each month I try to pay off all my bills and put a lot in savings. I always put something in my savings account because I never what might happen.
It is essential to have a savings account in college. Even if you away $20 every time you get paid, that’s better than nothing.
Most of the time I leave myself $50 to use for the remaining days before my next paycheck. This amount is after my bills, groceries, and subscription total.
6. Use your leftover money for emergencies and/or fun.
Seriously, I know some people are like “Don’t eat out” or “Go buy new clothes.” Look we’re young and I’m not telling you to go blow your money. This money is for days you don’t want to cook and want to stop by somewhere and get a nice meal. If your friends want to eat out, go and just learn how to manage stay within your budget while there.
This money also is for times when something happens. Some weeks I have to go buy something for a class or I ran out of makeup or a club I’m in has a sale on shirts.
One thing about having a budget is college is not restricting yourself from having fun. Be reasonable. Don’t live outside of your means. Work and have side hustles. Also, read up on finances.
College Budgeting Tips:
1. My biggest tip to anyone who is starting out is to just start. It’s going to take some time of getting to know your expenses and how y
2. Try to have an average college monthly budget.
3. Student discounts are your lifeline.
4. There is no set good college budget, only an realistic one. I’m always adjusting my budget. It’s fine. I’m living within my means but sometimes come up which is why I have emergency savings.
5. Have two different savings accounts. One for big things that you don’t touch at all. Another for small college savings. When I used to work a lot on campus, I used to have my paycheck spilt to go to my savings. It was automatic and anytime had to pay for something related to college, I’d use it.
6. Check out local restaurants or bakeries for cheaper bread. Local farmer markets tend to be cheaper than some grocery stores. Find out what brands are locally grown or manufactured in your area and buy them.
7. Use a water filter and stop buying bottled water. Seriously, I can’t believe that I didn’t buy a water filter until my sophomore year. I’ve saved so much money with this water filter and carrying around a tumbler.
8. My biggest tip that I almost yell at people is to use a subscription for a month then cancel it. I did this when I wanted to watch Euphoria on HBO when it premiered. I only wanted to watch Euphoria and nothing else interested me, so I paid $15 for a month and then canceled. Simple. It’s honestly a pet peeve of mine when people complain about all the streaming services coming out but you don’t have to buy every single one each month. You shouldn’t be spending that much time watching that much TV in my opinion.
9. Always having a side hustle. This blog is my side hustle and also freelance writing and social media marketing. I also used to sell clothes on Poshmark. Have one, especially now with the internet.
10. Buy in bulk when you have the money and try to pay annually.