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Like most college students, money is probably a concern for you. On top of that, you might have no experience in making a budget or managing money. Where are you supposed to start? The good news is that there’s never been so much help out there, from apps to websites to books and more that can give you a crash course in financial fitness. However, sometimes it can help to start with a quick overview so that you feel like you have a roadmap.
Know What’s Going Out
First, you need to know what your expenses are. If you’re already at school, you at least know what your housing costs are. If you’re on the campus meal plan, you probably know what you’re spending on that as well, but you may have a hazier idea of what you’re spending on any food that you eat outside of that, entertainment, incidentals like coffee, necessities like laundry and shampoo, or intermittent expenses like birthday gifts. The best way to figure this out is to track your spending, either by writing everything down or getting an app that does the tracking for you. If you haven’t yet started school and you really don’t have any idea what your expenses will be, check with your college. They will most likely be able to give you some estimates.
Become an Insider
Know What’s Coming In
Now you need to know how much money you have. Add up your savings, scholarships, loans and any other sources of funding you have and divide it across the amount of time it has to last. If you’re short, you are either going to have to spend less or get more money. You could get a job. You could look into taking out a student loan from a private lender. Check online to see what your options are and what kind of interests rates you might be eligible for.
Making the Budget
Knowing what you have to spend and what your expenses are, you can make your budget. It may be easiest to break down how much you can spend each week. Have different categories, such as rent, groceries, entertainment, gas for your car and anything else that you spend on. You can get apps to help you with this as well, including apps with a feature that will warn you if you are getting close to the limit in one of your areas. A common pitfall you should watch out for is making your budget too strict. There has to be room for fun in there or you won’t be able to stick to it.
Avoiding Credit Cards
Some of your fellow students are almost inevitably going to have more money to spend than you are. This can make using credit cards tempting, but you should avoid using them as much as possible unless you can pay off your balance each month. You do not want to graduate from college with a huge credit card debt. You can use a credit card in an emergency, but a better solution is to have an emergency savings fund. You should try to put away a little money each week toward this, even if it is only $5 or $10.
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