Creating Your Own Budget

If you are starting college or moving away from home, one major change is that you have to be responsible for your money. It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new place and lose track of your spending habits! Whether you have recently left home or been on your own for a while, it is never too late to start budgeting. We want to show you how budgeting can be easy and effortless! Creating a budget and keeping track of it may take some groundwork at first, but it is all about building good habits. Here are some tips for how to lay that groundwork and get your budget started!

Discuss your budget and expenses with anyone involved, such as your parents or guardians. If anyone is giving you money each month or semester, you want to communicate with them your needs and set a solid game plan. This is also a good time to figure out the expectations: do they want you to get a job to earn some income, apply for loans for tuition, or put a certain percentage into savings? Establishing the expectations on both ends will lead to a smoother transition and all of you will feel more confident and comfortable!

List all of your income. This is great to do with your family, if they are providing you with monthly income. Take into account all ways you may be getting money: allowance from family, part-time jobs, side gigs, financial aid, savings, and any other place you have income coming from to help you live during college.

Now, list your expenses. Another topic of discussion is how the expenses will be paid for. This is an important step in communicating with family because you can figure out what money is being used for each expense. If you are unsure what all of your expenses are, track them for a month or two and start categorizing them so you can see how much you’re spending on each per month. Some common expenses for college students are:

  • School related: tuition, textbooks, school supplies
  • Living: rent, utilities, internet, insurance, cell phone, basic home and health supplies
  • Food: eating out and groceries
  • Transportation: car expenses, gas, bus system
  • Entertainment and clothing

Make sure your expenses aren’t more than your income! Add up all your monthly income and monthly expenses, and see what the difference is. You’re aiming for either breaking even or having some money left over. If your expenses are more than what money is coming in every, you need to start budgeting and cutting back! An easy way to start this is by monitoring your spending by checking your bank accounts, credit card statements, or apps like LearnVest or Mint. Apps like this are linked to your bank accounts and automatically put purchases in various folders so you can see exactly how much you’re spending on each category. (See the end of the post for a list of great apps for budgeting!) This can help you figure out areas you can cut back on, such as eating out less per month or finding cheaper solutions to your groceries and supplies.

It’s never too early to think about the future! If you are able, it’s always a good idea to start putting money into your savings. This can be an emergency fund, a travel fund, or saving for your future and a family. Even if it’s small, every little bit helps!

Now that you have clear expectations and goals for where your money needs to go, your foundation is set! Building good spending habits and remembering to keep track of when you’re swiping that card are important for maintaining your budget going forward. Here are a few great apps to help with this and keep you accountable, since it is sometimes hard to keep track of it all!

5 Great Budgeting Apps for College Students

  1. LearnVest: This app links to your bank account and categorizes your purchases into various folders like Groceries, Entertainment, Living, or ones you create yourself.
  2. Mint: This app also connects to your bank account automatically updates your spending and allows you to create whatever budgets you want. It also makes sure that you never charge more than what you have on a credit card.
  3. Pocket Budget: This app shows your main budget in a pie chart and also lists your transactions. It is very straightforward and let’s you easily see what percentage of your money is going to each category of expenses.
  4. You Need a Budget: This app does all the work for you! It is based off of your personal income and “assigns” your money to specific categories, like rent, groceries, entertainment, and savings. It doesn’t leave any dollar unaccounted for, so you can make sure you’re being as effective as possible.  
  5. Wally: This app helps you track your income and expenses and shows your remaining budget so you don’t overspend.