A Collegiette's Guide to Budgeting

Have you ever wondered how much you should really be spending on groceries, or if you're dropping too much cash on going out? Budgeting doesn't have to be difficult, but it can be hard to get started if you're not sure about the basics.

I've been keeping budgets since the very beginning of my freshman year, per my parents' request. While it can get annoying to plug in all of my expenditures, my months of budget spreadsheets have left me with some pretty consistent numbers. Once I left the dorms, I realized that my rent takes up about 45% of my budget each month, groceries cost me around 22%, and everything else – from seeing movies to Target runs – take up the rest.

After talking to a few friends with varying financial statuses, I've figured out some ranges that work as a basic blueprint for budgeting in college. Rent will probably be between 40-60% of your expenditures, depending on whether you have a single or a double, are living in an apartment or a house, and on how many other people you’re living with. Groceries tend to take up between 20-30% of a budget, which seems like a lot until you realize how much more expensive eating out is. I usually allot around 10% to what I call "going out," which usually entails seeing a movie and hitting up a new restaurant in downtown Davis. The rest of my budget is dedicated to toiletries, prescriptions, transportation, and school costs.

These numbers are a sliding scale because everybody's budgets and lifestyles are different. Some people prefer to spend more on rent because they love having a single; others let themselves spend more on going out over the weekends but make sure to hunt for the best sales when buying toilet paper and shampoo. It's all about the balance, but it's always been helpful to me to have a target range of spending in mind when I take a look at my budgets. Spend wisely, collegiettes!