Making a Budget for College

2 Dec

Karla Lant is a life insurance contributor on The Simple Dollar, helping everyday people understand and master life insurance issues and questions. Lant has dealt with related regulatory issues in her work as an attorney and has researched and published on life insurance and estate planning. She has also taught subjects related to life insurance as an adjunct professor – she is currently an adjunct at Northern Arizona University. Karla Lant on LinkedIn

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There’s no better place to realize you are all on your own, and in need of a real budget, than college. You’re in charge of everything from paying your tuition to paying for dinner. Getting behind on your spending can trigger a spiral into serious debt, which in turn can stop you from graduating. In order to stay on top of things, you need to build yourself a budget. Even if you’ve never made one before and don’t have much money to spare, there’s no need to be discouraged! Keep it simple. These little tips will get you that much closer to mastering the art of the budget – without eating into your scholastic success.

  • Set out exactly how much you want to spend week by week, and stick to it no matter what.

    There are many things that can bump you up and over your weekly budget in sneaky ways, as this article points out. This can mean buying too many “treats,” like expensive coffees, fancy dinner and designer clothes. When in college, it’s easy to get excited about the potential to spend freely for the first time. But in reality, you aren’t getting away with anything. You are simply putting that all-important budget at a major disadvantage. Oh and there’s another major expense that soaks up money: alcohol. I know I sound a bit like your mother, but you already know excess spending on alcohol not only hits the wallet, it hurts your waistband, your grades and even your outlook post-school. Anyway, if you withdraw only what you need each week in cash and spend just that, you’ll be right where you need to be at the end of the year.

  • Think twice before overspending on extras like technology you want but don’t need.

    This infographic shows that college students spend far more than is necessary on these kinds of items, contributing to their debt when they leave school. Consider spending only a small amount every once in awhile on technology and accessories, like video games and movies. If you are in the market for something techy, you should consider shopping used (also selling things you own but no longer want or need) – the same goes for clothes. Make sure you get well acquainted with the thrift stores surrounding the university.

  • College students often spend a great deal of money on entertainment.

    Instead of breaking the bank on fun, get involved with free outdoor activities in your area. Look for seasonal events

    Music Festival

    Photo by: Eva Rinaldi

    and coupons to help you get in for less. Bring your own food and drinks to events when you can, and always carry cash instead of a credit card so you limit how much you spend from the start.

If you make a simple yet firm budget, you can make it through college with significantly less debt than your peers, and great habits that will last you a lifetime. Give it a shot!

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