When entering your freshman year of college, you’re going to be hit with a wide range of different experiences. Whether it’s learning how to apply for a credit card, following a self-driven schedule, or even shopping for your own groceries, you’re faced with new responsibilities that you didn’t give a second thought to before. Along with these new responsibilities, you’re going to be expected to keep track of your finances and make financial decisions on your own. While it may be enticing to spend all your money on munchies and parties, learning to budget your first semester will save you from financial distress. Here are some tips on how to budget your first semester as a college student.
Track Your Spending Habits
Before you dive into the world of budgeting, try making a list of any bills or monthly expenses that you owe. In addition to this, you’ll want to keep track of your spending habits over the course of a couple of days, weeks, or maybe even months. Once you have a solid list of your spending history, try to take note of what you spend your money on the most. By doing this, you’ll have a better idea of how much money you spend in a given week or month. From there, you can establish some grounds on how to budget your first semester.
Distinguish Needs VS Wants
In order to spend your money wisely, you should first establish a need vs a want. A need qualifies as anything you would need in order to survive your day to day life. For instance, you need food and water to survive. You need a functioning cellphone in order to connect with your family or receive updates about your work schedule. You need to buy a physics textbook in order to complete your homework for the semester. Whereas a want, is anything that will satisfy a desire, but it’s not the end all be all if you don’t have it. For instance, you want to buy tickets for a concert. You want to buy Starbucks coffee every morning. You want to buy a new eyeshadow palette that everyone is raving about. While needs and wants vary for everyone, it’s important to distinguish your needs from your wants. When budgeting your first semester, you’ll want to make sure you’re spending money on your needs before your wants. With this, you’ll also learn to sacrifice certain wants in order to meet your needs. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out your wants completely, it just means you’ll have to learn how to prioritize. For example, rather than spending $5 on a coffee every day, try drinking the dining hall coffee instead. While it may not be your first choice, it will save you money and pay off in the long run.
Download A Budgeting App
With multiple budgeting apps available at the click of a button, learning to budget your first semester will come easy. With apps like Wally, Budget, Mint, and more, you can easily keep track of your money. Although every app differs, they generally have the same functions. You can keep track of your spending history, schedule notifications for bills that need to be paid, or set limits for how much money you can spend in a week. Rather than trying to keep track of all your bills and needs on your own, let the app do all the work while you become a budgeting master.
Establish How Much You Can Spend Per Week
Whether you’re living off of savings or you have a weekly income, you’re going to want to establish how much you can spend per week. First, you’re going to want to count how much money you have or how much money you’re going to make. Next, you’re going to want to set aside money for bills, groceries, and other necessities. Depending on how much money you have left over, you can decide to indulge or put it towards savings. It’s expected that some weeks you’re going to spend more money than others. You could end up having to pay a medical bill, go on a last minute trip, or even spot a friend. If this happens, no need to worry. You can either cut back on your spending for the upcoming week or find a way to earn some money to make up for it. Whatever you choose to do, it’s up to you to make sure you meet your financial needs, wants, or goals.
Set Financial Goals For Yourself
When learning to budget your first semester, it’s a good idea to set financial goals for yourself. For some people, this means budgeting and setting aside money for student loans. For others, this could mean budgeting and setting aside money for spring break or a future trip. Whatever your financial goals consist of, you’ll want to keep them in mind when budgeting your money. You could choose to save as little as $10 per week or up to $100 per week. Depending on your time frame, you’ll want to budget and save based on when you need to meet your goal. By setting goals for yourself, you’re more likely to stay on track and avoid careless spending. Although budgeting can seem tedious, you’ll be impressed with your ability to budget like a pro.