For the 2021-2022 academic year, Statista reports that over 19.6 million Americans are enrolled in colleges and universities nationwide.
College can give you a leg up on your education, but it can also be costly. To ensure that you’re set up for success in your education, future career, and long-term finances, here are four hacks for a successful college budget.
Know Your Income
Some students elect to not work at all in college to focus on their studies. But if you have the option to work part- or even full-time in college, this income coming into your bank account will help offset the expenses associated with college.
The first step for you to create your monthly college budget is to know how much money you’re working with, either from a source of income like work or from your savings. Know this figure so that you never spend more than you can afford to based on your income and savings.
Outline Your Fixed and Variable Expenses
When making a monthly college budget, you will have two types of common expenses – fixed and variable.
Fixed expenses are set bills that you will 100 percent need to pay, such as your tuition, rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation.
Variable expenses are expenses that will change from semester to semester, month to month, or week to week. Some common examples of variable expenses include how much you plan to spend on eating out, entertainment costs, and other “wants”.
If at a certain point you decide you need to cut costs to stay within your college budget, eliminating or reducing the variable expenses that you have lined out first is a good place to start.
Set Average Monthly Costs for Each Expense
All of your fixed monthly expenses and many of your variable monthly expenses will have an average cost. At the beginning of each semester, take note of the current cost of items you buy the most frequently. This can be things like the common amount you spend per grocery bill or how much it costs to fill your vehicle with gas. This additional expense insight can help you better build a detailed college budget.
Stick to Your Budget and Make Adjustments
Perhaps the hardest part of creating a college budget is actually sticking to it. Many universities and colleges offer many social and entertainment options. (And let’s be honest: sometimes, after a long day of class, ordering delivery food sounds much more appealing than cooking the groceries you have at home.) There are endless opportunities to go over your monthly budget in the blink of an eye.
While the best option is to always stick to your monthly college budget, if you do go over your college budget in one particular month, reduce your budget for the following months to make up for the difference and avoid racking up debt. And yes, you can stick to a budget and even save money while paying off existing debt.
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