Creating a Student Budget for College

Get a head start on creating your student budget.

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

Creating a Student Budget for College Creating a Student Budget for College

There is a lot of independence that comes with going off to college – from parents, high school teachers and that old summer job. But there’s also another type of independence that comes with a lot more responsibility: financial independence. Your student budget could create a lot of stress as you navigate paying for food, clothing and other miscellaneous costs on a limited income or allowance; but if you prepare yourself for living on a student budget beforehand, the task will seem much more manageable when you arrive on campus.

1. Talk with your family about a budget.

If your parents are contributing financially to your student budget, sit down with them before school begins to talk about how much they plan to contribute on a monthly basis. Even if they’re not giving financially, it’s important to involve them in your plans. After all, they’ve been living on a budget for quite a while now, so no doubt they’ll have some expert advice.

2. List all sources of “income.”

Now it’s time to sit down, and begin your budget. First, consider all sources of income you may have outside of financial aid or assistance that is going toward your tuition, room and board, etc. We’re just talking about your everyday expenditures like food, clothing and entertainment. List dollars coming in from your work study or part-time job, Mom and Dad and any other ways in which you may be generating an “income.”

3. Chart your expenses.

Typically, students spend their money on groceries or meals at restaurants, personal care, transportation, clothes, cell phone and entertainment. Estimate how much you will spend on each per month and jot it down in a spreadsheet. If you’re unsure, keep track of your spending for a few weeks. This will give you an accurate picture of where your money actually goes and how you can designate your “income.”

4. Plan and save.

Every once in a while, an emergency comes up for which you will need money – whether that’s an unexpected book for class or a trip to the emergency room. That’s why you need to set aside some money for savings from your monthly “income.”

Most college campuses allow students to use a campus debit card, which holds money for meals or campus convenience stores. In an effort to control your spending, try to do as much spending as possible on campus rather than off-campus. After all, this money is coming out of your room and board costs anyway. If you want to grab a meal with friends, do it on campus. Need a book for a paper? Borrow from the library. Essentially, exhaust all of your options on campus before heading off campus to make purchases.

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