College is one of the most expensive times of your life. You are spending thousands of dollars on an education, which you will most likely be paying off for many years after graduation. As such, college is a very important time for you to learn how to handle your money, and this can all start with a budget. Here are some tips on how a college student can stick to a budget.
1) Have a budget
Before you stick to a budget, it’s important that you have one! Do not just have a budget “in your head.” Instead, write it down on paper or have an excel spreadsheet set up for easy access. For those of you who are not familiar with how to do a budget, then I’d suggest doing some research. Simply put, however, you should be calculating what you will make in a month and coming up with any expenses that you will have. Then, set up categories (such as groceries, entertainment, etc) and predetermine how much money you will spend in each category; make sure you never go over the total amount that you make. For more information, you can visit ChristianPF.com or Dave Ramsey’s website. Both have excellent information regarding budgeting.
2) Have accountability
If there is no one around you that can help you stay on track, you will probably fail. I’d suggest talking about your budgeting to a close friend, and maybe even suggest they make their own as well. The good thing about this is, saving money is something most people would like to do but do not know how. Your friend will probably know when you deviate from your budget, simply because they are around you a lot.
3) Pack lunches/use the meal plan
I know what it’s like to be in college–fast food is everywhere and it is cheap and easy. But, over time all those fast food purchases add up. I’d say that most people break their budgets in the area of dining out, especially college students. If you have a meal plan, use it as much as possible; after all, you already paid for it! If you don’t use it, you just wasted hundreds of dollars. If a meal plan isn’t a part of your college life (like if you commute), than be sure to purchase food that you can cook and pack lunches for yourself. This will go a long way in helping you stick to your budget.
4) Set up a reward system
You don’t have to live a completely ascetic lifestyle; the point of a budget is to make your money work for you effectively–to have it do what you want it to. A good way of sticking to a budget is to set up some type of reward after being faithful for a month or two. At the end of the month, if you have done well with your budget (and thus have money left over) than treat yourself to something nice!
5) Have goals in mind
What is your goal for budgeting? Identifying your motivation will go a long way to staying on track. For most people, budgeting is a way for them to save money and cover expenses–is this your reason for budgeting? I would hope, since you probably have a lot of student loans, that part of your motivation for budgeting comes from wanting to eliminate your debt as soon as possible.
6) Educate yourself
Especially since you are in college, education should be a primary focus for your life; this should include budgeting. Although you might not be taking any personal finance courses, there is a lot of information out there for you. A good starting point would be to visit a site like Dave Ramsey’s, and then go from there. The more you educate yourself, the more enjoyable budgeting and financial matters can be. At the very least, you will be reducing a lot of stress in your life.