Let’s face it; money talks. And most of the time, it just says “spend me!” College students are always known for being broke and, to be fair, most of us are. But there are ways to budget accordingly that will make you break the stereotype, not the bank. Here are my top five tips for making and sticking to a budget in college.
Be realistic. If you spend $50 on clothes every Saturday, or have an addiction to Chinese takeout, account for that in your budget. Instead of cutting it out altogether, maybe limit it to certain times during the month, or give yourself a cap. Once you hit that, your quota is up for the month and that’s that. I think it’s perfectly alright to spend money on things that make you happy, as long as you plan for it accordingly. Also, definitely be on the lookout for student discounts. Use them wisely and while you still can.
Use separate bank accounts. One for spending, one for saving. Make sure they are two different cards if possible. I have one bank at home that I deposit all my summer checks into, and then I have one for school that my direct deposit goes to. I try to build up a good amount in each account over the summer as well. If I only bring one card out with me, then I can’t overspend.
Spend the most on investment pieces. I try to splurge on items that I know will need to last me for a long time. For example, I bought this great storage cubby for my dorm to use as a nightstand. While it was a hit to my bank account, I knew that later on I could use it in apartments and houses for years to come. Things I don’t splurge on include groceries, accessories and toiletries. The generic brand will do just as well, and that leaves more room for spoils elsewhere.
Don’t take experiences for granted. I try to go 50/50 on my spending. 50 percent on material objects, and the other 50 percent on experiences and outings. Those memories could be talked about for years to come. I also group gasoline with outings because that vehicle gets me to half of my adventures. Speaking of gas, I make sure to run it until almost empty and then fill up. That’s what keeps me from pulling into a gas station every other day to put my last $10 in. You actually spend less if you do it all at once.
Let’s talk emergencies. They happen. As a student, I would say a good safety net is about $500. It sounds like a lot, but things come up and the last thing you want is to be stuck at the trailways station with no money to get home, or scrambling for change to get your medication. Once you have that money saved, hide it. Put it directly in your savings account and please DON’T TOUCH IT. Life hits you when you least expect it.
That’s it! Those are my rules. Sure, sometimes things happen and it isn’t possible to even budget. But for the most part I like to keep myself actively planning for the worst, and praying for the best.