3 Tips on Budgeting For Your College Expenses

16Mar11

Alright, so to begin, I must say this: having a student loan does not mean that you have free money.

For some reason, college students tend to hold to the idea that having a loan or line of credit to pay for their college expenses means that they can spend whatever they want on whatever they want. I know that it may seem to be an obvious thing to say, but…don’t do that. I mean, not to sound all “preachy” here, but college loans are meant to pay for your tuition, books, and perhaps if you’re lucky, a portion of your living expenses. These loans are meant to cover the bare minimum, not pay for the overly extravagant. No matter how tempting it may be, do not use this money as a means to pay off your bar tab, late-night delivery of pizza, or “back to school” clothes. Seriously, it’s just not wise; yet I see it happen every day.

So, how can you budget your money while you’re in college?

1.       The first thing that you need to do is figure out how much money you have for the school year.

Do you have a job? How much money do you expect to make before you leave for college? Are your parents able/willing to help you with the cost of your education? How much are they planning on putting towards the cost? Have you received any scholarships or loans?

Write down all of the money that you are certain that you will be receiving before heading off to college. It will give you a clearer idea of exactly how much money you will have, and if more money comes in than what you budgeted for, you will have a little more breathing room.

2. The second thing that you should do is add up every penny that you will be receiving and divide it by the number of months that you will be in school.

This point may seem fairly obvious, but it can be very tempting for a college student to spend more money once they’ve added up the entire amount that they are expecting to receive. Let’s face it; it looks like a TON of money when it’s all added together. The students think that there’s just no way that they can spend it ALL before the year is through. Unfortunately, that mentality is a slippery slope as they will most certainly spend every dime before the year is through. If you divide up the money over the course of your academic year, you will see the exact monthly budget that you must abide by.

3. The third thing to think about is how to curb your excessive spending while in college.

Once again, a college student sees the amount of money that he or she may spend in a month and doesn’t think that they’ll spend even close to that amount in a mere month. After all, if they’ve never lived away from home, they’ve never had to live on a budget, pay rent, nor even think of the cost of food. If you add up the amount of money that eating out or ordering in will cost you, it is easy to see why it’s a huge drain on your finances. Even getting a $1.50 coffee each day will cost you $45 at the end of the month, and if you’re in school for 10 months, it will add up to $450! Try making coffee and lunches at home and taking it with you to class.

I suppose the most important thing for [potential] college students to take away from all of this is the fact that they will not be able to “live the life” during their academic years, and then just pay off the debts that they owe once they’ve graduated and work in a high-rise corner office, wearing European suits and silk ties. It just doesn’t happen that quickly, folks. You need to budget well throughout your academic career in order to be prepared to pay off your debts upon graduation. You cannot expect to be making tons of money the moment you graduate; it takes time to work up to the corner office. You will need to be able to live off the salary that is a little more realistic to a recent college grad.  So, make sure you plan for it.

Although it may be a bit tough to be so strict with your budget whilst in college, just know that upon graduation, you will be thankful that you were!

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12 Responses to “3 Tips on Budgeting For Your College Expenses”

  1. I have so many friends that could have used this information that are, literally, paying for it now. I was fortunate enough to save and save and save and work and work and scholarship my way to a debt free existence. I still consider myself in the hole because the money I have put into college has yet to yield the money I’ve gotten out of it. However, though budgeting and being careful with my money during college, I’ve allotted myself freedoms that a number of my friends don’t have- namely taking a job I want, vs a job I need to pay off debt.

    But who can put a price on the college experience? I’m surely not cynical enough.

    Wonderful advice that I will be sure to share with some of my younger friends.

    • I respect the fact that you worked so hard to pay off your educational debts. I was very lucky to have my parents pay for my education, so I thankfully never really had to think about it much when I was in school. I did see many of my friends struggle with their debts, though, and I have seen it ever since. There are so many young students that are clueless when it comes to creating a budget, and they end up paying for it later. Although my parents paid for my education, they did not neglect to teach me how to budget; find out how much money you have for the month, save everything you can, and get yourself out of debt as soon as humanly possible.

      Unfortunately, I see many students that take their new-found freedom and ruin their financial future. Hence the inspiration behind this post… 😉

      I’m not surprised in the least that you were so smart with your money. You’re extremely intelligent in other areas, so I assume it translated to your financial sense rather well too. 🙂

      Thanks Posky!

  2. Great points fo sho. I got out with relatively little debt from college loans. Then I jacked up my own self with credit card debt. It’s amazing what a few thousand dollars in credit card debt can do to you for so long. So many of us spend a long time cleaning up the messes we made during college years. You’ve got some good advice here.

    • Thanks Clay! Yes, I was very lucky in that I didn’t graduate with any student debt and I wish that every other student could do the same. Unfortunately, it’s unrealistic to hope for that, so I just wanted to put out a few ideas to help the students. Although these 3 points seem rather obvious to us, there are many young, high school aged students that really don’t think about these things and don’t even have the skills to be able to develop a budget plan; I hope this helps them get started. 🙂

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  3. Half-read, Christy 🙂

    I will finish it tomorrow, I want to read it slower. Your english writing is so enlightened, accurate and beautiful, that I must read slower to well understand it.

    Also always that I read you I not into my notebook nice words or expressions you use, wich are very useful for me.

    To sum up, reading you is amazingly helping me with my english.

    Thank you!

    • Thank you for the kind words, Javi! 🙂

  4. Hi, to get the most out of college a person has to be mature. You get what you commit. If you don’t have a strict plan or schedule you are accountable to, you can slip up and end up having to settle for less than excellence. We have to choose the right friends and make the choices that line up with our goals and that means being wise with our finances.

    Luke 14:28 (Amplified Bible)

    28For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it?

    • Very good point, Mitchell. You only get out of something what you put into it, and that applies to school as well…you’re right. Unfortunately, I think that many college-age students haven’t yet developed that mindset and often fail in achieving freedom from student debt, or even understanding how to manage that debt in the first place.

  5. 9 118dollars

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  6. “having a student loan does not mean that you have free money.”
    What an awesome – pretty – head you have on your shoulders, young woman!
    Well done!

    • lol! Thanks, Hook!

  7. Article writing is also a fun, if you know after that you can
    write otherwise it is complex to write.


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