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Going to college or university doesn’t have to feel like a money crunching time.  Apply a few money budgeting tips to your daily lifestyle and you can not only stretch the money that you do have, you can also find ways to grow your income.

Budgeting software packages like Mint, Quicken, Budget Tracker and DSBudget make it easy for you to create, update and save personal budgets.  The software walks you through the process of creating and maintaining a budget, allowing you to know what you’re spending your money on and how you are improving in your financial savings.  You can also create manual budgets using blank sheets of paper in a spiral notebook.  To start creating your budget, determine whether you want to track your finances on a weekly or monthly basis.  Tracking your finances weekly might allow you to get a clearer picture of where you’re spending the smallest amounts of money, while a monthly budget might save you time.

Work With Effective Budgets as College Students

In your budget lists your expenses and your income.  For example and in regards to expenses, you might include:

  • Costs of meals (e.g. cafeteria food, pizza, snacks and other food items you buy from convenience and grocery stores, trips to the restaurant)
  • Textbook expenses (include a note that estimates the amount of money you expect to get if you sell your used textbooks back to your college or university bookstore)
  • Entertainment and sporting event tickets
  • Clothes, jewelry and other personal appearance items
  • Paper, equipment and other college and university supplies
  • Cell phone, Internet access and texting charges

When it comes to your income, list items such as:

  • Wages earned from part-time and full-time jobs
  • Money you get while working internships and work/study programs
  • Scholarship money you get that covers living expenses
  • Cash and checks you receive from your parents
  • Money you earn for tutoring other students or working a job that you created as an entrepreneur (e.g. sewing clothes for other students)

Deduct your expenses from your income to see how much money you have left each week or month after you pay your bills.  Highlight items you could eliminate to grow your savings.  Remember that the more money you have left after you subtract your expenses from your income, the more money you have to contribute to your financial savings.  Keep your expenses low and grow your income to increase this amount; doing so will help you to feel financially empowered and liberated, instead of bogged down each week or month with a stack of bills.

More Money Budgeting Tips for College and University Students

Other steps you can take to manage your budget are:

  • Clip coupons out of your local newspaper and use them when you shop at grocery and department stores.  As a tip, Sunday editions tend to have more coupons than Saturday or weekday newspapers.
  • Get cost saving discount cards from grocery stores.  You might be able to save as much as 5 to 10 percent on some food items using the cards.
  • Look for sales at local retailers and shop for items you need during sales events.
  • Use a calculator to add up the amount of money you spend while you shop, so you’ll know what your total is before you reach the check-out line, allowing yourself to return certain items if you desire.
  • Purchase a mini-refrigerator from a department or office superstore to avoid the high costs of eating out every night.

College Students Keep Track of Expenses in Real Time

To keep track of your money in real time, consider opening an interest bearing checking or savings account.  You can also take out savings bonds or CDs at your local bank to grow your income.  If you do open a checking account, choose overdraft protection so you don’t have to pay hefty overdrawn checking account fees should you write a check before a recent deposit clears.  Also make sure that the checking and/or savings account you open doesn’t have lots of administrative fees.  To find out about these and other fees (e.g. late payment fees) check with a teller or officer at your bank. 

Each week or month, sit down and review your savings and/or checking account.  Review the purchases that you made using debit cards and checks.  See if there are expenses you can eliminate to increase your savings.  If vendors you work with offer discounts if you set up automatic bill payments, review these options.  Also, when you use your debit card, be aware of bank fees you might have to pay if you don’t use your debit card at your bank’s ATM machines.

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