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3 Easy Ways to Kickstart Your New-Year Budgeting Goals

Updated Published
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

If there’s one class that needs to be a part of every school curriculum, it’s Budgeting 101. When I first came to college, the daunting realization that spending money on multiple trips to Target, eating Chipotle too many times a week and having a social life can break the bank was enough to make me rethink my money spending habits. Even with an allowance of $50, I still easily found my money disappearing on just my basic needs.

This past year, I’ve been trying to control my spending by giving myself a monthly stipend of $50 that’s spent on my different needs. It made me learn a lot about my spending habits and helped me develop some skills to decrease my spending while still being able to enjoy life.

1. *Actually* be flexible

It was definitely easy to go over the limit, especially in the first month of each semester when I had to buy supplies and pay club dues, so it’s really important to be a little flexible with your budget by giving it some leg room. A lot of the websites that I tried to get advice from sometimes completely disregard a human’s social needs, which most of the time require some amount of money. This means that you should keep a sum of money for an outing or a short trip with you. This doesn’t mean that an outing has to happen every month, but it’s definitely well-deserved from time to time.

2. Use Excel or a spreadsheet that works for you

One of Microsoft’s greatest inventions, Excel, is a really good tool that can be used in daily life beyond an annoying statistics project. If you’re someone who tends to forget what you eat in the mornings, then you most likely won’t remember where your money is going and how it is spent most of the time. By making a simple Excel sheet for every month, you can keep track of your spending and be able to see any trends in your habits. This, in the long run, can help you see what things you might need to cut back on and whether you need to expand your budget a little.

If using Excel is a bit too complicated, too time consuming or maybe rectangular boxes simply trigger you, then you can use the notepad app on your phone to do the same thing. I personally do this, and it works great for me. Writing things down in a small book or on a sticky note also works. Erin Condren also has a great budgeting book with detailed budget sections, “savings tracking” sections and stickers for a great price to help manage your finances. Overall, the main goal is to jot down all of your spending to keep yourself in check (no pun intended).

3. Create a jacket pocket savings account.

Remember those joyful moments when you would pull out your winter coat from the deep ends of your closet and find a $5 bill safely tucked in the pockets? You can still do that. You can make those pockets your savings account. Many working adults usually follow the traditional rule of paying the bills and then putting whatever is left into a savings account. This is something that I don’t necessarily agree with. It’s best to take out some amount for savings and then use the rest for bills. This method, in my opinion, is the best for a college student because it forces you to have more control. Coat pockets, a piggy bank, a jewelry box or whatever place that won’t give you easy access to money should be your savings account. Continually doing this will leave you with more money to spend on trips during breaks or on a lot of ice cream.

As college students, we have enough work to keep us busy from thinking about our financial goals — but budgeting, when done right, can be a guide in helping you become more responsible.