Fresher’s Week has come and gone, tutorials have begun, and you may have just checked your bank account and realised that all the pablos you ordered at the Union did in fact have a price attached to them. This is when you realise you need a budget.
Budgeting is important. It’s not fun to talk about or plan, but it is necessary. It lets you see what you’re spending money on, give you more control over your money, and ensure that you aren’t overspending. Determining that you need a budget is actually the hardest step in the whole process. Luckily, there are a variety of steps and ways to start budgeting, which I have compiled below.
Calculate Your Budget
Establish what you have to spend – the key here is to be honest with yourself. Consider scholarships, loans, and savings. This number is the basis for the following steps, so really think about what you’ll be spending money on throughout the year. It helps to break down your list into two categories: essentials and non-essentials. Essentials would include rent, groceries, bills, transport, and course materials. Non-essentials would include everything else: nights out, restaurants, hobbies, clothes, traveling, gifts, and I hate to say it, Netflix.
From these numbers, you can calculate your weekly budget. Start with everything you’ll need for the year, and then subtract your big expenses. Next, divide the number you have by the number of weeks in the school year. Congrats! Your weekly budget is all done.
Some people decide to have a monthly budget instead of a weekly one. There are positives and negatives to this, so make sure to consider what you think will work best.
Set Some Goals
There is a worry that when the math is done, that weekly number won’t feel like enough. This is when you should look at where you can cut expenses down (restaurants, travelling, etc.) You may not want to, but sometimes it just needs to be done. Then, you can set savings goals to have room later in the year to spend more. You can set other goals too, like starting to invest your money, creating a travel fund, or anything you want. It’s all about finding the balance and what works best for you.
Extra Tools to Help
There are so many ways you can budget: apps, spreadsheets, or calculators. Use them to your advantage! Each of these can help you achieve your goals. The difficult part is determining which system works best for you. So, take time to try a few, and see what really works. Some people even take their entire weekly budget out in cash for the week as a way to really monitor their spending.
No matter how you budget, whether using apps, paper, or taking out your weekly amount in cash, finding a way that you enjoy tracking your spending will allow for more freedom in the long run. Honestly, I could write an entire article on the benefits of budgeting: improving decision-making, meeting objectives, and planning for the future. Not to mention, it might even help you afford more Pablos at ReFreshers next semester!