Creating a College Student Budget that You Will Stick To

It is crucial to understand how to properly handle your money as you start your journey into college and try to maintain a healthy balance between school and your job. If you ignore the details, you risk having some unpleasant discoveries at the end of the semester. Therefore, creating a budget is of utmost significance for college students. It is crucial to have a firm grasp of your financial situation, even though the thought of budgeting may sound like it may take the pleasure out of your life. However, it is necessary to have this information. You will be able to move closer to achieving your monetary objectives if you use a budget. You may be attempting to save money for a semester spent studying abroad, or maybe you would like to refrain from taking on any further debt from student loans. Whatever your financial objectives may be, a budget tailored to the needs of college students will help you work toward achieving them. The following article will go over the tactics with which you can develop and manage a successful budget that you can really be thrilled to utilize during your time as a college student.

Compile all of your financial information

In order to get off on the right foot with your budgeting endeavors, you will first need to determine how much money you have left to spend during each semester. This should be the first place you look in your search.

Talk to your mother and father about it

Ensure that you have an open and honest dialogue with your parents if they are contributing financially toward your education expenditures in any way. Put aside some time to go over the details of the financial agreements that have been made between you. In addition to this, you should inquire about the specific costs that they intend to pay as well as the costs that they do not want to cover. Find out whether any conditions must be met before receiving these monies as well. Some of my classmates' parents were supportive of them financially as long as they maintained a specific grade point average (GPA). Make sure that you have all of those facts from the beginning of the process so that you won't be surprised later on.

Look out for any available grants and scholarships

You can pay for your studies without taking out any student loans if you apply for and are awarded any scholarships or grant awards. Be sure to sift through the terms and conditions of any scholarships or grants that you are able to obtain for the upcoming academic year. Find out the specific purposes that the cash can be put toward. Sometimes, limitations are placed on how the money may be used when applying for scholarships and fellowships. For instance, you might only be able to use the money to pay for tuition rather than the remainder of your budget because of financial constraints. In some circumstances, you might even be able to put the money toward your day-to-day living costs. If you have doubts about anything, it is best to seek clarification from the organization that sponsored your grant or scholarship.

Expenses to account for in a college student budget

It's possible that the costs of your day-to-day living won't be too crazy high while you're still in school. But after you include in costs associated with attending classes, you will notice that your college student budget has to accommodate a significant increase in demands. The following is a list of expenses that you need to take into consideration while making a budget for your expenditures.

Tuition and associated expenses

The cost of tuition is one of the most significant expenses incurred by college students. When choosing an institution to enroll in, you should make sure that the cost of education is a consideration. The cost of attendance might fluctuate widely from one educational establishment to the next. In addition to the tuition, you will also be responsible for paying any applicable student fees. Every college or institution sets its own tuition and fee schedule for its students. On the other hand, there is a good chance that the annual fees will total several hundred dollars. Find out just what your university will charge you in advance so that you are not surprised by the student fees when the time comes.

Academic supplies

Having the appropriate academic materials, such as textbooks, is key to college success. Because of this, it is essential to put aside sufficient funds each year in order to be able to purchase books. The College Board states that the average cost of textbooks for a student attending a public four-year college is $1,240 a year. That could quickly put a severe dent in anyone's financial plan!

Housing and accommodation

To maintain their productivity, everyone has to make sure that they have a roof over their head. Accordingly, the cost of housing was the second most costly component of my budget as a college student, behind tuition and fees. Living off-campus is frequently a more cost-effective choice. However, you will still be responsible for finding a means to make your monthly rent payment. Also, if you want to live in a dorm, be sure you get an accurate estimate of the expenditures involved before you move in.


In 2019, the typical American spent 9.5 percent of their discretionary income on food expenses. College students should factor it very heavily when creating their budgets. When developing your monthly spending plan, it is essential to take into account how much money you are prepared to spend on meals. P.S. You may make a significant dent in your grocery bill by preparing meals in advance and experimenting with excellent low-cost recipes.

Gasoline and transportation

It is possible that working off-campus will need you to commute to class or keep a vehicle in order to get to work. If you want to use a car, you should make sure that the cost of doing so is accounted for in your budget, and you should also be prepared to pay for auto insurance. If you can help it, use the school transit system rather than driving so that you may save money on petrol and avoid the stress of looking for a parking spot. On the other hand, if you want to go with the choice that will cost you the least amount of money and you don't live too far from the university, a bike will work very well for you, and it is a much healthier alternative to driving everywhere.


As you prepare to enter employment, you will probably find that you require some new work attire. You will want to put your best foot forward at the job fair by dressing professionally in clothes that reflect who you are as a person. As a result of this, you should prepare yourself to make financial investments in business attire during the time you spend in college. Since you are on a budget, you will likely be able to get by for the time being by purchasing only a few well-selected products once every year. When you are looking for a job or beginning an internship, dressing in professional attire is suggested. Items such as a structured jacket, some slacks or trousers, and acceptable footwear for work can make you feel your best.

Fun money

The time spent in college ought to be one filled with joy. Even though you will be required to remain mindful of your academic performance, it does not mean you cannot indulge in things that you enjoy. You don't have to choose between keeping your grades up and enjoying the things that bring you joy. You can do both. When making a budget as a college student, you shouldn't be hesitant to include a category for "fun money." You will not feel guilty about using these funds in any way, shape, or form. You ought to make the most of your life and put some money aside each month so that you may spend time with your friends or treat yourself to something you've always wanted.

Tracking your expenditure the correct way

It is time to start tracking your expenditures now that you have a good idea of the many categories of costs that will go into your college budget. It is OK for you to revise your budget to reflect your spending requirements more precisely as you move along with this process. When you have a more accurate picture of your spending patterns as a result of precise tracking, you will be in a better position to put up an efficient college budget for yourself.

Digital tools

You are in luck since there are digital solutions that might make it easier for you to keep track of your expenditures. The Mint is an excellent resource. It is a free tool that may help you track your financial objectives and keep track of your spending in real-time, making budgeting a breeze for college students.

The old-fashioned approach

You can manually record your costs, despite the fact that digital tracking is the most accessible alternative. You may keep track of your expenditures by using either a spending log or a straightforward spreadsheet. It's possible that manually tracking your costs will result in you being more deliberate about how you spend your money, despite the fact that it's going to be a pain in the neck at first.

Sample of a college student budget

It might be beneficial to have an example on hand while you work through the process of developing a budget for college students. The first significant step is to determine whether you will budget on a yearly or semesterly basis. This decision is quite important. Since scholarships are typically given out on a semester-by-semester basis, I decided to organize my plans in that manner. Below, I will describe a budget for college that is quite comparable to the one I used before I graduated a few years ago. In addition to the monthly budget, it presents the budget for the complete academic semester:
Expenses for the semester Budget for the semester Budget per month
Tuition and fees $3,800 Spent during the start of the semester
School supplies $500 Spent during the start of the semester, mostly on textbooks
Rent $2,600 $650
Utilities $160 $40
Internet $120 $30
Food (groceries and eating out) $1,200 $300
Clothes $100 Mostly for professional and formal clothing
Fun money $300 $75
The specifics of your budget will change depending on the particulars of your school and scenario. Because I wanted to leave college with a little amount of money stashed away in savings, I was able to finish most of my semesters with a personal budget surplus. I was able to finish school without having to take out any student loans because I had financial support from my parents, was awarded scholarships, and worked during the summers. Suppose you examine your finances and determine that you can't cover everything without taking out student loans. In that case, you should look for the lowest possible interest rates on any loans that you take out. Even a seemingly insignificant change in interest rates may affect your post-graduation financial situation. In addition, you should monitor your financial situation in the manner that makes the most sense to you with regard to your budget. Utilize a budgeting tool or spreadsheet, as was previously said, or write it all down on a board and leave it hanging on the wall in your room so that you can keep a close check on it. No matter which of our suggestions you implement, they sure will assist you in becoming more thrifty.

Tips and tricks to save money and stick to your college student budget

Although it may be difficult, saving money while adhering to a stringent budget plan is not impossible. When you are a student at a college or university, you will have access to even more ways to save costs than you had before. Here is the most helpful guidance that I can offer to college students for cutting costs and creating a budget.

Keep an eye on your expenditures and try to reduce it

It is impossible to exaggerate how important it is to keep track of your spending. Keeping meticulous track of your expenditures can give you a clearer picture of how your money is being spent. In the event that you are not satisfied with your existing spending, you will be able to track your development as you modify your spending routines. While you are keeping track of your spending, keep a record of any expenditures that appear to be too high. There is a chance that you might be paying an excessive amount for a service. Try calling the service provider of the bill to see if you can negotiate a lower rate with them. If it doesn't work, your next best option is to change providers in order to get a better bargain. Also, if you want a good cup of coffee in the morning, you should stay away from Starbucks and prepare it yourself instead. You do not need a gym membership right now since you can get your exercise by riding a bike or running around campus for free. Examine everything that you believe to be "essential," and then search for a less expensive substitute for it.

Go for second-hand textbooks

The content of textbooks seldom undergoes revision. Search for a second hand copy of the book rather than purchasing a brand new one. You may buy second-hand textbooks from local businesses surrounding the university, on CampusBooks, or through Facebook Marketplace. Consider your school's library as an alternative to purchasing inexpensive textbooks. In many instances, you will have the option to check out a copy at no cost. If you are going to use the textbook for a couple of your assignments, you might as well save yourself some cash and spend a few hours studying in the library instead.

Take advantage of free food

One of the best things about college campuses is the plethora of free food that is available. On any given day, there is a possibility that you will come across free pizza evenings or food freebies. If you wish to get more out of your food budget, look into these accessible sources of food.

Be sure to use your student discounts

In addition to receiving free food, you may be eligible for other discounts across the city since you are a student. Student I.D.s may often be shown to receive discounts at a variety of establishments, including movie theaters, public transit systems, and even music venues. Always remember to have your student identification card on you at all times. There is no telling when you may come upon a deal that will assist you with your college student budget.

Discuss your options for medical insurance with your parents

The cost of health insurance can be relatively high. If it's at all feasible, you should discuss with your parents the possibility of remaining on their health insurance plan. Due to the Affordable Care Act, you are eligible to remain on your parents' health insurance plan until you become 26 years old. If that is not the case, you will need to make room in your college budget for this significant investment.

Put your old textbooks up for sale

Avoid making your place too crowded by storing your textbooks from the previous semester. Instead, it would be best if you spent a few moments trying to sell them. By selling those textbooks, you'll not only be able to clear some space in your flat, but you'll also have some more cash in your pocket.

Be responsible with your credit card

If you've decided to get a credit card while you're still in school, one important thing to keep in mind is how to handle that card responsibly. It is not difficult at all to find oneself at the bottom of a slippery slope, buried by a pile of credit card debt. If you want to prevent a significant debt load in the future, you should do all in your power to pay off your credit card balance in full every month. Keep in mind that the ideal way to handle a budget for college students is to make sure there is no debt.

Look out for free entertainment

Every day, most college campuses make a variety of enjoyable and cost-free forms of entertainment available to students. Even if you have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations in order to take advantage of some of these changes, doing so may be a rewarding and enjoyable way to broaden your horizons. To experiment with anything novel does not require you to spend a fortune.

Take up a part-time job

Finding a job that you can do on the side to supplement your income is a good idea if your schedule allows for it. It may even be possible for you to put part of the money you make toward savings or investments, on top of the fact that it can help you offset some of your costs. Whenever you have some time to spare, such as in the evenings or on weekends, you may give working a go. Perhaps if you don't have a lot of spare time, in that case, you should investigate some student-friendly ideas for passive income. Figure out which opportunities have the potential to be successful for you!

The bottom line is - it is possible to create a budget and stick to it as a college student

Putting together a realistic budget for your time as a college student that takes into account your unique circumstances will help you keep on track financially for your life after you graduate. In addition, developing the ability to create and stick to a budget is an essential skill that will help you even later on in life.

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