Paying for your education is more than tuition. You’ll have to consider all your monthly expenses, books, rent and any unexpected costs that may pop up over the course of the semester. Having a budget in place before you get to campus can help hold you accountable all year. Use these helpful tips to establish your budget and stick to it!
Write Down Monthly Expenses
The most important part of making your budget is sticking to it. This is easier if you have already included all your expenses up front. Be honest about what you think you’ll buy on a weekly or monthly basis, and then add in money for occasional purchases. Consider what you own and the climate you’ll be moving to. Attending a university in a cold climate will require the appropriate clothing to get through the winter. Also, think about what you may need beyond basic academic supplies. Physics majors will require expensive calculators, while digital media majors may require state-of-the-art editing software, which can bust a budget if you haven’t accounted for those costs. Consider your social life, and remember that the clubs and teams you join when you get to campus may require additional dues and costs. Finally, factor in your visa, passport and travel costs for the beginning and end of the year, and any flights home you may want to take in-between.
Cut Where You Can
Now that you have all your anticipated expenses written down, decide where you can cut back. Make reachable goals and you’ll be amazed at how fast the small savings add up. For example, limit the number of times per week you go out for coffee. Be aware of parking costs in downtown areas that can add up over the course of the semester. Only buy new clothes off the sale rack, and check out second-hand shops and thrift stores for unique finds that are a great deal. Consider furniture rental to avoid the high costs of furnishing your whole apartment during move-in. Stay away from expensive movie theaters and restaurants, and instead have dinner parties at your home and stream entertainment online.
Track Your Spending
The way you track your finances can be as simple or as detailed as you want, but it’s important that you understand your system and update it regularly. A simple spreadsheet will work, but there are also many advanced apps you can download to your phone that will link to your debit card and track purchases for you. These apps can also remind you how much money you have left in your weekly or monthly budget, and can track the areas where you are spending the most.
It takes about three weeks to form a new habit. Once you have gotten into a good rhythm with your spending and saving, start rewarding your good behavior. Whether that’s going out to dinner or buying a new pair of shoes, rewarding yourself for following your rules makes you more likely to stick to your plan.
These simple steps can help you master your bank account and start good money habits that will help you throughout your life. Start small and see how your savings can add up!