Hello, lovelies! Today, I’m going to talk about budgeting in college. Of the college students I’ve seen, there are two types: Over-spenders and over-savers. Over spenders seem to have a “you only live once” mindset and spend an exorbitant amount of money on things and experiences they don’t need or can’t afford, while over-savers guilt themselves about every purchase and experience and use the excuse of being broke. I’m the latter. I’ve gotten better at not guilting myself over experiences (sometimes), but suck at being okay with buying things that are probably worth spending money on. Creating a budget has really helped.
As someone who lives at home, it’s easy to not budget. I don’t pay rent or utilities. I come home to a meal every day. It would be easy to blow the rest of my money on Starbucks, last minute trips, and concerts, but I don’t do that. I save money for the future, while still budgeting money for fun events and shopping. Not everyone is as good at saving money as I am, so I’d like to start writing more blog posts on finance. Instead of just posting a bunch of word vomit on EVERYTHING, I’m just going to start with budgeting when you live at home. I hope you enjoy.
1.//Know Your Income
Write down all the money you have coming in, whether it’s from work, scholarship, or gifts. Make sure you know how much money is coming in. I am terrible at tracking my income. I know I should and I plan to start writing it down, but I’ve been lazy about it. I promise to start this weekend.
You can’t make a budget if you don’t know how much money you have or are earning.
2.//Put Money Into Savings
Most people live at home to save money, so this should be a given. The majority of my income goes into my savings account. I’ve always been really good at that. Here are some things you need to save for.
Your first savings goal should be an emergency fund. I don’t think you need to have 3-6 months of living expenses saved if you live at home, but make sure you have one. My emergency fund is $1000 based on the numerous finance blogs I’ve read over the years, but I think college students who live at home can get away with less (At LEAST $500)
So many people think that emergencies won’t come up, but an emergency fund can be used for any unexpected expense like overspending on your credit card, medication, or a ticket. A few years ago, I passed a school bus and got fined $300. It sucked but I was able to pay for it because I had savings! Things like that come up even when you are young and “invincible.” (Maybe even more so), so make sure you create an emergency fund.
If you don’t have financial goals, that’s a problem. Please don’t blow all your money on eating out and booze. There are so many (very expensive) things in store for the future and you want to be prepared for them. Here are some examples:
- Moving Out
- Travel Fund
- Post-Grad Savings
That is the bare minimum financial goals for college students. I’m assuming you plan on moving out of your parents’ house eventually, so you’ll need savings for that. If you want to travel in college and after college, you need to save money for that. I don’t think people think of the last financial goal very often. College students mostly think about saving money for the first two and push the third goal on the back burner.
Think of the little things you need to save for like first & last month’s rent, furniture, a plane ticket to the state you plan on moving to, etc. Saving money for that now.
3.//Create A Budget
Now we can get to the budget. After tracking your income and putting money in savings, you know what you have to work with. When you live at home, you don’t have as many expenses, so here’s a list of things you should factor in that you may not think about.
My parents don’t charge me rent, but I know that a lot of parents do. It’s probably incredibly cheaper than the price of a dorm, so it’s worth not taking out any student loans. Factor rent into your monthly budget.
Lunch + Eating Out
This can easily put a big dent in your spending. It’s really easy to spend a lot of money on eating out in college because you are able to. If you are commuting from home, you probably don’t have a meal plan, so you’ll end up going to a lot of restaurants.
This can get really expensive over time, which is why I try to bring lunch twice a week. Even so, I budget $45 per month for lunch, which is really low in terms of how much I could spend on eating out all the time. I also go for the healthier option, which is more expensive. (I used to eat Chik-Fil-A every week because it was so inexpensive, but it was really bad for me.)
Transportation + Gas
This part should factor in train tickets, Uber rides, gas, etc. Track how much you spend on transportation in a month and factor that into your budget. Find ways to save money in the process. For example, I buy the monthly train pass even though I don’t use the train every day. I also use my student discount and buy it before the 15th of the previous month to get a discount.
I encourage you to take advantage of all the free events you have available to you, but some opportunities cost money. Factor that into your budget. This can fluctuate from time to time, but make sure you plan for those cases. I bought tickets to the Lion King On Broadway this January. I knew this show was coming and I saved money to buy the tickets. My friends and I try to go to the Renaissance Festival every summer. I know that it’s coming, so I save money for it.
Those two things are bigger events I plan for, but you should budget money for going bowling, or to the carnival, or to the movies. Just fun little things that are sort of spontaneous and in the moment. You can probably get away with budgeting $20-$30 per month for this. You may not end up spending any at all, but it’s good to allot some money for fun stuff.
Personal Hygiene Products
Budget things like shampoo, soap, face wash, deodorant, make-up, pads & tampons, etc. Things that you need, but don’t need to buy on a monthly basis. I don’t buy expensive beauty products, so I spend $10 at most every month. My mom buys some of the things I listed in bulk from Costco, so I rarely need to buy deodorant or pads, but I prefer to budget enough money for my own things.
I don’t like going shopping, but since starting college, I’ve taken advantage of Amazon Prime. Make sure you budget for any shopping you need or want to do. For example, I bought a bunch of laptop stickers for my new laptop last week. I never specifically factored that into my budget, but I had enough in my budget to buy them.
This point isn’t just about saving money. I’m the type of person who beats herself up about spending money. I think about the fact that my money could’ve been better spent elsewhere. Having money planned for shopping helps me not guilt myself for buying something that’ll make me happy.
It also helps me not take any of my purchases lightly. If buying the item isn’t useful or won’t make me happy, I won’t buy it. Making conscious buying choices will really help your budget.
I think we as college students use the excuse of being broke too much. I don’t think it’s entirely true. Yes, we may not be able to afford certain luxuries, but we should still be compassionate enough to donate some money because I can’t just wait for disasters to happen to donate. Even if it’s just $5, I need to start factoring this into my budget. Everyone is guilty of thinking that they don’t have enough to donate, but still spend hundreds of dollars on Starbucks. Charity should be a part of everyone’s budget.
Related – 6 Money Habits Wort Starting In College
I hope this post has encouraged you to be smart with your money. Stick around for more posts on saving money. I’ve been having some writer’s blog lately, so I would appreciate some blog post ideas.
Until next time.
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How do you budget your money in college? What financial goals do you have?