Living on a Budget
Now that you’re in college you’ve probably taken on the responsibility for managing your money — it’s no longer your parents’ job.
Create Your Monthly Budget
List / add up all of your sources of income (financial aid, support from family, income from any work you do) for one month.
List / add up all of your expenses for one month. Understand the difference between needs (e.g. rent, food, bills, health care costs, etc.) and wants (e.g. ski trips, nights on the town, a new car, etc.) Wants are optional. Needs aren’t. Watch out for those little expenses that can add up. They can blow your budget by the end of the month.
Deduct your expenses from your income. Got enough to cover your expenses? No? Figure out where to cut back, or how to make more money. Find ways to economize — cook your own meals, borrow from the library instead of renting DVDs or going to the movies, wear warmer sweaters and socks and turn the heat down, find coupons to get discounts on food, etc.
If you have a credit card, use it wisely. College can be a great time to start building good credit. It’s also easy to build a mountain of debt. A good credit history after college is essential if you want to buy a car of your own or rent your own place. Many employers will check your credit history before hiring you. The wisest strategy is to save your credit card for true emergencies only.
Meg’s First Budget and Year at College
Meg is in her first semester of college. She’s excited about being away from home and living on campus. It's also the first time she’ll manage her own budget. Her parents want her focused on academics in year one, so they've agreed to give her some spending money (within limits of course).
Meg’s mom uses Samepage at work for project management and suggested using it to manage her money. Meg created a Samepage with her budget and let her parents review it. She also created a section on her page where she posts links to articles on budget management tips as well.
Meg also uses her smartphone and iPad to update her Samepage with her purchases. And because you can share Samepages, Meg gave her parents access so they can all have a clear picture of where the money goes every month. Their system is working well, and Meg is quickly learning to live within her means.
Make building a strong foundation for money management one of your goals while in college.