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Adulting 101: How to Budget like a Pro

Becoming an adult can seem scary for many different reasons. Especially when you realize you have to actually pay for things on your own and can’t live off ramen and crackers for the rest of your life. But don’t worry collegiettes, budgeting your money is easier than you think if you follow a few simple steps.

1. Add-up your income

Adding up all your income sounds like it should be pretty simple, but it’s not always. Income can come from literally anything providing you cash, not just your job. Make sure to account for any money you receive from your parents, side gigs, hobbies, or even just selling old clothes online. Whatever income you’re consistently making should be accounted for in your budget.

Related: How to Get the Most Out of Your Money

2. Set aside money for fixed expenses

There are two main kinds of expenses: fixed and variable. Fixed expenses are bills that are necessary in order to get by. I’m talking about rent, car payments, water and utility bills, phone bills, and insurance. Y’know, all the fun ~adult~ stuff. These costs should remain pretty much the same over time, providing a stable number to budget for every month.

3. Figure out variable expenses

For variable expenses, these are things that are essential but can change day-to-day. These are expenses like buying groceries, eating out, paying for parking, buying gas and other essentials. If you know you’re going to keep buying a caramel macchiato every morning, make sure to budget that in. It can be really helpful to look at how much you’ve spent on these expenses over the last few months to decide if you want to maintain or reduce the amount you’re spending.

4. Divide your remaining money up

After you’ve set aside the money for what is ~hopefully~ your priority, now’s the fun part. Determine an amount each week or month that you want to spend on shopping, going out, buying tickets, traveling or whatever else your heart desires. Don’t try and budget any of this out – you’ll just wind up caving and spending even more on unnecessary items. Keep it reasonable and realistic, but don’t deny yourself.

Related: We Need to Talk About Unpaid Internships

5. Always be saving money

Regardless of how much you’re spending on expenses and fun, you need to be saving. Even if it’s only $20 a month, setting aside money is crucial for being a financially stable adult. If an emergency arises, like you crash your car or you lose your job, it’s important to have money to fall back on. A good starting point is saving enough money for at least two months of rent or enough to cover your expenses for two months.

Good luck planning out your own budget, collegiettes!

Sarah Larios

George Mason University '21

Sarah is a Senior at George Mason University where she is majoring in Global Affairs with a concentration in Media, Communication, & Culture. She is the Editor-in-Chief and Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at George Mason, previously serving as the Senior Editor and Marketing & Publicity Director. When she’s not editing articles, she can be found working as a Communications Intern, hiking in Shenandoah National Park, playing with makeup, or spending time with her husband.
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