How to Make Your First College Budget

Budget. I know, it sounds like a scary word, right? As soon as you get a job or start paying for things yourself, it seems like that’s a frequent word brought up in conversation. If you’re in college, it may sound even worse.

But I’m here to help! This summer, I created my first budget after buying a car. I realized that with the expenses I have, I need to stop thinking “Okay, I’m safe for this month” and plan ahead. That’s basically the whole point of a budget. You may think you have enough money, but you also need to make sure you have enough money for next month, and the month after, and so on.

If you’ve been thinking about making a budget, but not sure how to do so without getting too fancy, this is how I created mine. Follow along and you can soon have an organized budget!

STEP ONE

I’m going to show you my entire budget, and then break it down into pieces. These are almost accurate numbers, but some may be higher or lower. This is also when I am at school, not when I’m home. I created this table in Microsoft Word, because I don’t know how to use Excel well enough.

The first step of making a budget: in your table, make three columns. The first will be what items you have in your budget (bills, fun, etc.). The second column will be “Budgeted,” and the third will be “Actual.” You want to list how much money you are budgeting for each category, and when the month ends, you’ll write how much you actually spent. By doing this, you will notice where your money is going if you’re always wondering why you’re broke.

STEP TWO

Figure out what your income is every month. Think about EVERY way you make money. Whether this is from your job, blogging, or your parents depositing a few bucks, you should count it. Now, if you don’t have a job and have no income, DON’T PANIC. You can still make a budget, but it must be smaller. I am including my part-time job at the library, where I have a set amount of hours each week. This is how much I am projected to make monthly.

STEP THREE

Write down your fixed expenses. These are all your expenses that do not change every month and must be paid. For me, this means items like Apple Music, my car payment, and my phone bill. I have added a few expenses in mine that I do not currently pay, but will pay in the future, like my housing and student loans. Add in as many fixed expenses that you have. This could also be the electric bill, internet, and insurance, just to name a few. Total it up at the bottom. (Side note: I don’t pay for Netflix, but my sister does. Thanks Britt!)

STEP FOUR

After that’s done, it’s time for your variable expenses! These expenses consist of things you buy or do that cost money, but change monthly. If you go out a lot one month and don’t go out at all the next, your “Entertainment” fund will definitely be different. I recommend going a little over on your budget for these expenses, rather than under. This gives you enough room in your budget and you will know how much money you’ll have left if you do spend that much. You can group things together, if you’d like. I keep gas and public transportation separate because it depends on my plans if I’ll use the T or my car. Total this at the bottom too.

STEP FIVE

You should also include savings in your budget. Depending on your income, you should be saving a little bit every month! However, if you’re in college and don’t work, please don’t fret about not saving. Yes, you should save, but you must also remember that you’re living off of what you currently have. Many college students prefer to live month-by-month, as opposed to mapping out the next five or so years. You can make your own decision of including this or not.

STEP SIX

Now that you have the totals of your income and your fixed and variable expenses, it’s time to figure out how much money you have left. Subtract your expenses from your income. If it’s positive, yay! You’ll have extra money! If it’s negative, you’ll need to go back and reevaluate your expenses. Cut down on entertainment or even alcohol (if you’re a 21+ student, that is). You want extra at the end, not just a few pennies. I have a good amount of cash left.

Congratulations, you just created your first budget! It’s easy to make, but hard to follow if you’re a big spender. I hope these directions have helped you with your own budgeting in your college years.

Have questions? Contact me!

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