Money Management 101 for College Students
Building a budget when you’re just starting out on your own doesn’t have to be as complicated or intimidating as you think it is. If you have little money, you need to be careful about what you spend it on. And if you have more money, you still need to be careful about how you use it. And although you may not have much, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of savings sooner rather than later. Rather than creating a zero-sum budget that allows you a certain number of dollars in different categories each month, it will be simpler to limit your purchases to only what you need.
To successfully manage the money you have, you'll need to review when it comes in and where it needs to go. For example, if you receive loans or grant money once a semester, make sure you cover your biggest bills at that time. Tuition, books and lab fees will need to be covered. If you're not a great saver, you may want to talk to your landlord about paying ahead on your rent for the semester.
The simplest way to plan your expenses is to carry cash rather than using cards when you shop. If your grocery budget is $50 a week, take $50 into the store and buy what you need. Keep a notebook or chalkboard in your kitchen and write down foods you need as you work in the space over the course of the week. By carefully restocking your household supplies as you use them, you will protect yourself from running out and can even stock up when you find some items on sale. Money is one of the common causes of stress in modern life. By managing money carefully, you can free up your problem-solving skills for more important goals.
Learn to Save
If you think of yourself as a person with no money, having money in savings may actually make you anxious. Instead, think of yourself as a saver. Try to set up your household bills on a budget payout so your heat, water, and utilities cost the same each month. Now you know what you have to spend each month. Beyond that, get used to seeing money sitting in your account or wallet every day. Set small goals to grow these dollar amounts.
Your money management style will probably change over time as your income and expenditures change. Create a flexible budget that provides you with the opportunity to save. Get in the habit of having some extra cash in your bank account and wallet. And whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of credit card debt.