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As college students, there are normally two feelings that run through us whenever we check our bank accounts. On one hand, there are the times when your heart feels 10 times lighter as you see your direct deposit statement in your bank statement. On the flip side, there’s the feeling of absolute dread and panic. Those feelings seem to come around more often than not. We spend hundreds of dollars on expensive books, groceries, gas, food, and emergency supplies, like battery powered fans. I hate spending money. I feel guilty every time I do, even when I know I need it. It’s also stressful when you feel like you don’t know how much you’re spending on average. When you think about how much money you have and compare it to how much you’re spending to how much you’re earning, it can be overwhelming. Then when you start reading articles about how to save money or read an article about the amount of students graduating with a student loan debt of more than $30,000, you can feel like you’re doomed from the start. Putting it down on paper or in my case, an Excel spreadsheet, makes life easier.
But why should we, as college students, start budgeting?
First of all, college, as we all know is expensive. According to Debt.org, the average student debt in 2017 is $37,172. After students graduate, they stress about finding a job and finding a way to pay off the debt they have hanging over their heads. Using Excel Spreadsheets, students can calculate how much interest their loan will accrue in however many years. In addition they can also calculate how much they need to make in order to pay off their loan. Secondly, for any college student planning on going into graduate school, med school, or law school, you’re probably already aware of how expensive it is to get a degree in higher education. By budgeting now, you can cut out the unnecessary spending habits you may not realize you have in your life.
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How are you supposed to budget?
The easiest way to start budgeting is to start giving names to what you spend. Instead of listing every item, put them in groups. Don’t just group together all your receipts and add them up. Separate the items you spend your money on and label them like groceries, gas, eating out, school supplies, and going out. Once you start adding up your expenses and comparing them to the amount of money you’re actually making, you can calculate how much left over money you have or “cushion money.”
Then ask yourself if the amount of cushion money is actually where you want to be. If you see that you’re spending more on miscellaneous items like Chipotle trips or the shoes you passed by and decided you needed then and there because you don’t have a pair exactly like it yet, then think about how much money you want in your bank account in the next few years. Do you like what you see?
Using Excel is the easiest and fastest way to budget because you can use the formulas provided in the program to calculate numbers for you. However, sometimes Excel can seem overwhelming and can start to resemble the picture below. The columns, the rows, the numbers, and the labels can make your head spin.
Thankfully, there are a few apps you can download. Collegexpress.com provides an example spreadsheet and talks about the app, Mint, which gives you a visual representation of your spending habits. As the school year starts, you can start trying to budget and get better throughout the semester. Hopefully before the semester ends, you can all find out how to spend your money in a way that will make you financially comfortable but still allows you to feel like you can have fun.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of Pixabay.com