Budgeting Tips for College Students
Tuition, lab fees, text books, note books, laptop, printer, transportation, room and board. The list goes on and on. Whether you received scholarships and grants, student loans, have a part time job, or mom and dad are paying, it is time to think about going on a budget. Even if you have scholarships and grants, chances are some of the money is coming out of your (or your parents) pocket.
If someone is helping finance your education find out what they are expecting to pay for and what they expect you to contribute. Make a list of all anticipated expenses. Many times, the school can supply you with a list, but make sure you also consider things like laundry, toiletries, gas, maintenance, and parking (if you will have a car) or transportation such as bus and train fare. Try to be as complete as possible and don't forget about your social life!
Once you have an good idea of what your expenditures are it is important to track your spending. There are many apps out there, or you can just use a notebook, the important thing is not how you do it, but that you do it. Chances are that you will have to adjust your spending to be more in line with your resources. See where you can save money. Many colleges make their dining hall food plan available to all students whether they live on or off campus. Simple cost savers like having cereal with milk instead of going to the diner for breakfast or skipping the fancy latte in favor of home brewed coffee may be just enough to keep you on track.
The most important tip I have for you is this: Beware of the allure of credit cards! Credit cards can be a life saver in an emergency but be cautious with your definition of emergency. It is so easy to get into the trap of paying for everything on credit, but with high interest rates, many students don't realize how much they are charging and how the interest really adds up. You may still be paying for that game console or flat screen TV long after you graduate. The key here is discipline. By spending wisely and developing good budgeting habits you are benefiting yourself not just while in college, but also in your future.