Kellyn Simpkin-Girl Holding Money

Budgeting 101 - Spending and Saving in College

Here’s something nobody really wants to talk about in college - money. Not only is it not a super exciting topic, it’s also not often a topic of conversation among college students. Money factors into so many aspects of the lives of individuals in college, like tuition, rent, loans, groceries, necessities, clothes, social activities… the list could go on forever. However, not everyone is great at budgeting their money to best accommodate their lives when having to purchase things, whether it's necessities or general wants and desires. I am in no way perfect at budgeting, but I do my best! I have a system I believe is a fairly simple and an organized way to lay out your monthly budgeting plans. Here are a few tips and things I do to stay on track when budgeting.

1. Actually Have A Budget 

Yes, I know it sounds terrible, and if you’re like me and hate math, it doesn’t seem enticing to deal with money either. But it’s not too difficult! Whether you work during the summer for spending money during school or work a job or internship alongside your classes, figure out how much you’re willing to let yourself spend each month. Write down your total monthly income (if applicable), how much of that you want to put into a savings account (if you so please), and the amount left over that you have available to spend on other things. The absolute necessities, like rent, utilities, food, toiletries and other household items that need to be purchased frequently, should come out of your budget first. Everything else like eating out, buying clothes or going out with friends should be factored in and added after. Having a budget doesn’t mean completely cutting these fun things out, it just means realizing that they’re going to happen in your life and being prepared to spend money on them (within reason and within budget!) when the time comes. 

Photo by Christin Hume from Unsplash 2. Track Your Spending 

This is an important one! Tracking your spending does not have to be stressful. Simply write down in your notes app the date you spend money, the total price each time you go out to eat or purchase something, and what form of payment you used (debit, credit, or cash). This will help you keep track of the different cards you use and which purchases can be paid off at a later date and which were spent and dealt with in the moment. Tracking your spending also makes you realize you're actually spending real money, not just pushing your card into a chip reader and forgetting it ever happened. 

person holding money Sharon McCutcheon

3. Make An Excel sheet 

Or get an app! Do something that allows you to write down and keep track of all of your expenditures of everyday life. There are plenty of apps out there that you can connect your debit or credit card to and they track your spending for you. Oftentimes, the app will even show you graphs and charts of your spending, showing you what you tend to spend the most money on. If you’re more old school and like to physically see everything written out like me, I suggest an Excel or Google sheet. These are easy to drop your rent payments, grocery receipts, book expenses and any other spending into. It’ll even calculate and sum everything out for you too! 

4. Build Credit, Be Responsible, Save Money! 

Having a credit card is important for building credit for future money moves, like renting an apartment or buying a house. Personally, I use my credit card on a few things per month, like Spotify Premium (student version!), some trips out to eat and anything I buy online. Being responsible with money is something so important to learn early on in adult life and college is a great place to do so. Saving is also a huge part of this responsibility. Save part of what you make each month for emergency expenses or just for everyday life. It’s important to have something in the bank when you leave college and jump into real life too! 

Pink piggy bank with pink background Pixabay - Quince Media


5. Know your limits 

This can prove to be a hard one, even for those who think they’re really good with money. Now that you know how much money you have available to spend each month, make sure you stick to that. If you know ahead of time, make note on each monthly budget sheet you make what big expenses you know you have coming up or any unexpected spending that occurs during the month. Need to take a trip to campus urgent care? Go! Your health is important, but you probably don’t ever plan to get sick or plan to have to pay a copay at the doctor’s office. Add this to your monthly spending as an unexpected expense, but don’t get too overwhelmed over it. Life happens and you just need to be ready for it. Having limits doesn’t have to mean never spending money. You work hard and deserve to have fun and treat yourself! Just keep your budget in the back of your mind. 

online shopping with credit card Shopify Partners

Budgeting in college doesn't have to be a difficult or scary thing. Life is all about balance and so is spending money. You can work hard, have fun and stay within your preferred set budget. These simple tips are tools I use throughout my everyday life in order to stay on track with my spending and stick to a budget. No matter how tedious it may seem, it's extremely important to be money-conscious, even and especially as a young adult. The real world will be upon us before we know it... let's be ready for it.