One of the biggest transitions for college students is getting used to paying for things on your own. You’re living away from your parents, which means you don’t have the crutches like the food in the fridge or your mom asking if you need anything when she goes to Target.
So what is the best way to adjust to all this? My best advice is to make a spreadsheet.
Your spreadsheet is the Holy Bible of budgeting, to put it plainly. You should keep track of your monthly expenses by allocating how much money on average each thing you buy would cost.
Your spreadsheet should have necessities like groceries, gas, rent if you have to pay for it, and other similar items. If you know your rent is $700 a month, and your total monthly budget is $1,000, you know your gas and groceries can only take up a little bit more of your money if you still want to have room for your wants. Wants should include things like entertainment, eating out and road trips.
Personally, I know I spend a lot of my money on entertainment. From sporting events to movies to concerts, I know I have to set aside an extra amount for that category. Thankfully it balances out, because I don’t eat out that much thanks to the fact my grandma sends me home with frozen food every time I visit her.
But finding a balance takes some time. My first semester I was blowing through money because there were so many events and new things to try. By my second semester, I started with my spreadsheet.
What helps the most is getting a part-time job. Whether you actually need the money or not, it’s great to always have some extra spending cash or money to put in savings.
For me, my tuition was taken care of, same for my housing, so I didn’t have much else to pay for. I didn’t start paying for my phone and car bill until 2019 when I had enough money from my jobs.
Now for other tips besides keeping up with your spreadsheet. If you live close, make sure to stock up on food when you go home. If that’s not an option, the food may not be the best in the world, but getting a meal plan may save you money. Additionally, the Campus Cupboard has a stock load of food for those that need it.
Next, try to find an on-campus job. There are a lot of opportunities like working at Bourgeois Hall, being a tutor or even writing for The Vermilion like me. If an on-campus job doesn’t work out, try to find something close to campus so you’re not wasting the money you earn on gas.
With every paycheck you get, set aside $20 for your savings. That way when you’re really in a bind for money, you have some in your savings to use. This was especially useful for me when COVID-19 hit and I lost two of the three jobs I had. I went from making about $600 every two weeks to $250 and it was a hard blow. Thankfully I went home and didn’t have to worry about food and grocery expenses anymore.