Student Finances

Getting Started: The Trials and Tribulations of Budgeting in College

As a college student it is easy to say that you’re too busy with your academics, or that if you need money you’ll just ask your parents. It is easy to treat your debit card or credit card as an endless source of money. It is hard to cook your meals at home, while your friends order take-out. It is hard not to shop and constantly feel the need to buy something new. To begin budgeting you need to have the proper mindset to get you through when it’s tough. It does not matter if you wish to become a more financially responsible young adult or if you are materially driven; what does matter is that you need to know what motivates you and what will drive your budget.

Self-Evaluation

Now that you have the right mindset to begin budgeting, the next step in your financial journey is to evaluate your past spending. Now, this is the not so fun part.

You have decided you want to be a financially responsible individual, but you will be assessing the actions taken by a not so financially responsible individual. Once you download Mint it is important to scroll through all of your transactions and assess what was spending was necessary, and unnecessary.

Once, you have evaluated your previous spending habits you now need to total your necessary expenses. Since you have just begun your budgeting journey I think it is a good idea to give yourself a little wiggle room. What I mean by this is to put a few extra dollars in some of your more varied spending categories. It is important to be realistic in you budget. If you start out by setting yourself an extremely tight budget you will always fail.

Ready to GO!

Now that you have put yourself in the right frame of mind and have your handy Mint tool on your phone, you are now at the helm of your finances. When I first began to use Mint I found it helpful to check it every day. This made me more conscience of where my money was going on a daily basis. Once you become more adept at using Mint and taking control of your finances you can begin to taper down your checks. But when you are just beginning, it is crucial to constantly check Mint so you begin to familiarize yourself with not only how it works, but your spending habits.

Constantly reevaluate/Stay on the Job

When you first begin to budget your money, it is not easy. I found myself going extremely over budget so early in the month in some categories. I also discovered that when I would go over budget early in the month I would just say, “Screw It.” I would start a landslide of spending because I was annoyed with myself. That is why I say “Stay on the job.” Though it is not easy and not always fun you need to keep working at it, and remember why you began budgeting in the first place. It’s fine to go over budget, you just need to come up with a plan on how you’re going to attack the rest of the month.

This is why it is important to evaluate your spending constantly; but don’t be confused, this does not mean you should be changing the money you allocated to groceries, gas, entertainment, etc. on a daily basis. You should sit down at the beginning of each month and honestly evaluate your previous months spending. It’s ok to change your money allocation once you have done a serious assessment of your spending.

Celebrate the Wins

I have been using Mint for about 4 months now and the journey has been fun. I love receiving my weekly/monthly breakdown and seeing that I have come in under budget. Just the other day I received a notification from Mint. The notification asked me if I had lost my card or closed my account, because a lack of activity. In that time period I had been eating at home and hadn’t spent money in about 4 days. It put a huge smile on my face. It was rewarding for me to know that I was on the right track and was getting a hold of my finances.

REMEMBER! You are in college and you have just begun your uphill climb of budgeting. If you find yourself in any sort of financial trouble, or you need a little extra cash, no worries at all. Check out my next post where I will discuss easy side hustles almost anyone can do in college.

 

Connor Sweet is on the verge of finishing his college career and has deep aspirations to invest his money in the future. He is in the process of getting his finances in order and paying off his student debt in order to reach this goal. As he begins this journey he wants to offer his personal experience, advice, and findings in order to help college students/young adults in this very confusing time/pivotal point.