The New Year is a time to reflect on the changes we want or need to make. With textbooks, groceries, student loans, and many other expenses that come with college, 2014 may have been a costly year for you. So why not make your new year’s resolution to save more money and start a budget?
Going on a budget may seem like a daunting task or you may think that it will get in the way of how you already live, but this is not the case. By starting a budget now you will be able to have a great college experience at an affordable price, and you will also be able to live comfortably in the future thanks to you learning these valuable lessons now.
To create a budget you need to first figure out where your money goes. Keep track of all of your expenses and sources of income for a month. Your sources of income should include all scholarships, grants, work-study, savings, contributions from your parents, and income from your job. Your expenses list should include everything from school to personal. This means you need to keep track of tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board or housing utilities, groceries and restaurants, personal care items, transportation, clothing, and entertainment. Don’t forget those Starbucks runs too! You’d be surprised to see how fast they can add up. Recording your spending can be eye opening, but this is a great way to find areas where you should be cutting costs. It’s also a good idea to set aside some money each month for emergency purposes.
Once you’ve gathered all of this information, it’s time to do some math. You want to add up your total income and subtract your total expenses. Your expenses shouldn’t exceed your income. If you notice that this is the case, then it’s time to cut back in some areas. Try making small sacrifices now by realizing the difference between wants and needs. This will put you in a better position for the future. Once you’ve determined a budget that fits your lifestyle, you should also learn to keep money in your savings to use as a reward for yourself occasionally.
All of this can be a lot to take in, but there’s one easy way I like to keep everything in control, and it’s right on my phone. The Mint Personal Finance app is the easiest way to track your expenses and income, as well as evaluate your financial state as a whole. Not only does Mint allow for in-depth personal budget management, but the app also lets you sync your checking and savings accounts, so that you are constantly aware of your financial state. I like to categorize my budget both on a personal and school level. I include areas for shopping, food, transportation, books, and other school supplies. Mint then allows me to set a monthly limit for how much I should be spending in each of these areas. By seeing my spending trends from month to month, I am able to figure out where I can afford to increase my limit and where I should be cutting back.
Keeping a budget can be hard, but I find having a goal for what I am saving for keeps me on track. Mint even has a Goals feature where you are able to save up for something specific. I entered the amount of money I need to save in order to study abroad for the fall semester. Mint helps me to stay on track by telling me how much I should be setting aside each month in order to reach my final goal. Not only does the app track how much I need to be saving, but it also gives me recommendations on how I can achieve my goal faster.
Sticking to a budget also involves looking for new ways to save money. If you need to purchase something online, check Studentrate to see if the brand offers a student discount. When buying your textbooks this semester consider renting (Barnes & Noble is a good place to rent books and they offer an additional 6% cash back through Studentrate), or buying used books instead of going to the bookstore.
If you budgeted to fit your needs and wants you should be all set, but I know college does have its temptations! You should learn to trust your new system, as well as push yourself to stay within your budget. It’s a budget for a reason, so sacrifices are likely, but with a little determination you can make 2015 the Year of the Budget and you’ll be surprised to see just how much you can save. Good luck, and happy saving in 2015!
This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.