Budgeting for Beginners

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Following a budget is never easy, especially for so many of us who have credit cards and sometimes forget those little plastic miracle workers have limits.

What is a budget anyways? A budget is a plan of action that determines your expenses in a certain amount of time. Everyone has a type of budget in their lives. As college students, it's important to have one because there are so many things we have to keep in mind when spending: tuition, room and board expenses, gas money, food, and a social life that are all funded by a limited amount of money. Here's a list of tips that will help what often feels like a juggling act into a balanced budget:

1)      Know your limits:

If you know that you have $30 to survive the week, but you found this awesome $20 shirt at a store, consider your priorities. Would you rather look nice for a day (you aren't planning on wearing that shirt all week, right?) and scraping by with $10 for seven days, or would you rather, you know, eat?  The same goes for those that have credit cards: you can keep charging them, but if you don’t pay them at the end of the month, those interests are going to show up and the results are definitely unappetizing.

2)      Stick to the essential:

For those who run on tight 'n' low budgets, establishing those previously mentioned priorities is a must. Sadly, alcohol and dining out is not an option included in those priorities. A simple visit to Walgreens for toilet paper could end up becoming a huge spending spree where we walk away with tons of things we don't need and no money left. Resist!

3)      Calculate your expenses:

After you understand the limitations of you budget and what is absolutely essential to you, it's important to keep in mind a rough estimate of what those needs are going to cost you. Monthly bills, groceries, gas, and whatever else you need must be calculated in order to establish the budget. 

4)      Save up:

Another reason for having a budget is to carefully monitor your expenses so you can save up some money. Some people use budgets in order to save money for big expenses like a trip, grad school, or a car. Knowing you have those savings gives you peace of mind when emergencies happens and you need money fast. Consider this option so that money woes will never catch you unprepared.

5)      Treat yo' self (sometimes!) :

Of course, some budgets can be extremely tight, but that shouldn’t be an obstacle for you to save up something in it for a small but fun activity every once in a while, like a visit to the movie theater or an ice cream come now and then. College consumes too much energy and money from us, we need something to distract us away from all the stress. It’s a deserving treat every once in a while. 

Budgets aren’t easy, but you’ll be forever grateful for having one after you see the difference of carefully planning your expenses in this dry economy.  These days, we have all the types of apps to keep the budget in mind (my personal favorite is iReconcile, but there’s a huge variety to pick and choose from depending on your needs. Stick to your budget, be willing to sacrifice some little things and, in the long run, your bank account (and your future) will thank you for it.

About The Author

Hi there! My name is Karen Michelle Montes. I'm a Journalism and Geography major who aspires to become a meteorologist, fully bilingual in English and Spanish. I have a guilty pleasure with coffee, taking pictures of the food I make, Harry Potter and Twitter. Also, I collect shot glasses from every place I travel to. Follow me on Twitter: @kiwifeliz! 

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