While you are a student, money is often tight. It is an important time to set short-term and long-term financial goals for yourself and develop a budget. Think of it as a challenge or make it a game to meet these goals. Try to set financial goals that are realistic and based on your situation so that you will succeed. As your situation changes over time, so should your financial goals.
Set your financial goals in specifics and state them in the positive. Believe in yourself and that you will take the necessary steps to achieve your goals. Remember to reward yourself when you succeed!
There are two parts to managing your finances
During school, income include many sources such as:
- Your financial aid package
- Family gifts
- Part-time work
Once you have a sense of how much money you will have available, you need to look at how much you expect to spend. After your tuition you should plan out exactly where your cash will be going. Prioritize your expenses. For example, you need a place to live and food, while you may not need a car.
Build Your Budget
Track where you spent money over the past six months or a year. Pull out your checking account ledger, credit card statements and bills paid, and create a spreadsheet. Designate what you need money for each month and areas you can cut back to achieve your financial goals. Rules of thumb - 30% toward housing, 20% toward food, 20-30% for other debts such as a car, and the rest for savings and other expenses. Budget some dollars for the unexpected. If the unexpected never happens, put that money into savings. Don't forget to budget for some fun!
Evaluate Your Spending Habits
Look over your budget categories and determine where you can control your expenses. Areas that usually can be trimmed 5-10% are groceries, entertainment, dining out and clothing. Track your expenses by category and in detail, listing those that are NEEDS versus WANTS. Can any items in your 'wants' list be deleted or scaled back? Try not to have too much cash on hand. If you have cash in your pocket, you are more likely to spend it. Write down when you spend cash. Even the smallest items like a candy bar or cup of coffee can add up. Look at your habits. Do you watch all the cable channels? Are you paying more for an item at a convenience store than at a supermarket? Do you need both a cell phone and land line? Are you realistic about your computer needs? Can you carry a bag lunch rather than eat out? Control the urge to splurge.
Cut Back Your Expenses
- Like entertainment? Find a FREE concert!
Eating out is fun, but expensive - try making more meals at home, the options are endless!
Save on food costs - clip coupons, buy in bulk (maybe with a friend), scout sale items and buy generic brands. Write down your shopping list and stick to it.
Check out cell phone the latest offers - many companies are offering low cost deals!
Gas is expensive, whenever possible take advantage of public transportation or share a ride with a friend.
When you are ready to buy a car - look for a fuel-efficient car.
Think about the high cost of some of your habits. Where ever possible cut-down or cut-out expensive habits that drain your wallet. Money used to go out drinking, continue smoking, go on those shopping sprees to the mall or an occasional visit to a casino, can add up very quickly
Buy generic brand products whenever possible. Check the ingredients and don't pay more for a fancy label and expensive advertising.
Start Your Spending Plan
Follow your written plan and keep a list of what you actually spend each week. At the end of the month, evaluate how well you did and don't be surprised if you need to make adjustments for next month. Your spending plan is a tool to help you prioritize where you are spending money and allow for savings. Stick to this budget and you will be amazed how fast your savings will build. Invest any extra money so that it will earn more money.
Numbers Still Don't Match?
It may be that even after careful budgeting you still have a shortfall. Let's look at some options.
- Ensure you have exhausted all your available financial aid
- Discuss your situation with your financial aid office. They may have some ideas.
- Explore part-time work. This could be through college work-study, or just going out and finding a part-time job. Businesses look favorably on this experience when hiring.
If these avenues fail you may consider a private student loan. Visit our section of private student loans for more details.