How to Budget When You Don't Know How

So, college can make money hard. This pandemic is probably making everything harder, especially financially if you are out of work. Here are some tips for budgeting for before and after this crazy pandemic. 

 

Getting Started

The first step will be figuring out the way you’re going to account for your spending. There are apps like Mint, by TurboTax, an Excel sheet, or what I do, which is just an old fashion notebook. I recommend after each purchase putting the money spent into your log. This way you can see if you have money left over or if you overspent. 

 

Start with the bills

Pay your loans, credit card bills, subscriptions, rent, insurance, and anything else that is a priority to your basic living needs that is due with high consequences.

a calculator covers a spreadsheet of expenses 777546 | Pixabay

 

Place some into savings

From every check, you should save a minimum of 10-15% so that you build solid savings that you can eventually lean on or use for big purchases. I save $25 minimum because I feel like I make more progress. Right now I am leaning on my savings because this is an emergency and I’m not able to work. 

 

Groceries

After you’ve paid bills and stocked a little money away, you need to see what you need to live like groceries and gas. For groceries, I recommend looking at how much you actually eat at home and cook at home. If your groceries are a lot of snack foods, you might be able to slim down the bill by limiting how many you buy and slim down the junk food and drink. If you are looking to save money, but you aren’t a great cook, look into budgeting for a meal service like Hello Fresh (use code GRACE for a discount) or Blue Apron to get you started in meal planning and prep. Making food at home can save money, but it’s not for everyone, which leads me to another budget item.

Trade Joe'S Bag Groceries Jocelyn Hsu / Spoon

 

Eating Out

Look, we are all young and like to go out when there isn’t a global pandemic. If you don’t like going out I hope you can at least own up to going to get an occasional snack or meal at a fast food place. These should be budgeted if you are consistently going out. If you know you get coffee at Starbucks at least twice a week and it costs $10, then budget for that. I will stress, THIS SHOULD NOT BE A PRIORITY UNLESS IT IS YOUR MAIN SOURCE OF MEALS. If something needs cutting from your budget, I always recommend cutting out this in favor of groceries.

 

Gas and transport fees

Everyone gets to work and school differently. If you take the bus budget, for that fare or pass whenever you pay for it. If you drive, I would look at filling up your car with every paycheck if you can pace it that way. I know that half of my tank is around a $20 fill up so I budget that every paycheck since I don’t drive too much. Don’t forget that when you do this budget you should also include if you go on a long trip, like going home or to a friend that lives more than 30 minutes -1 hour away. This will look different for everyone, but I also recommend always staying at half a tank of gas as well.

 

Cushion

I always make room for a cushion in my budget. Say I go over $5 for groceries or gas, or I get my credit card bill and I spent more than I meant to. Having a cushion is something you should consider for a safety net as you get a grip on your budgeting. 

A picture of clothes on racks at a clothing store Prudence Earl

Wants

The final thing in budgeting is wants like that cart of Colourpop makeup I have on their site. This will be the last thing you should budget for. I should also stress, this is not what your cushion is for. If you want to get something nonessential and you have room, put these in. I stress again, this should not be a priority in your budget. It should be the very last thing you budget for.