College Budgeting 101

Your guide to smart financial planning
three students ordering food at a restaurant near campus

Oh, the joys of coming to college! You’ve been waiting for this time to experience what this "adulting" business is all about. For many students, college is the first time you’ll be on your own. That means you’ll be making your own decisions — including financial ones — without your parents’ input. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the college budgeting landscape and avoid common pitfalls.

Managing College Costs

Students often forget that the cost of college is more than just tuition and books. You’re going to need notebooks for class, a new laptop, dorm decorations, a parking pass and more.

  • Keep track of your expenses so that you know what’s coming up. It’s best to try to plan for everything and limit the amount of surprises that may surface. That way you have the funds to cover any expenses your financial aid does not.
  • If your class schedule allows, work part-time when you’re in college. Especially, if you can land a job on or near campus. If you need something to wear to your interview, check out the Professional Wardrobe Program for interview and professional attire.
  • Student discounts are too good to pass up! There are a variety of spots both on campus and around town that offer student discounts. You can also use Roo Bucks at select off-campus locations, so don’t lose your ID. It can come in handy.
Budgeting and Saving

If you learn to budget now, you’ll be set for the future. Budgeting keeps manage your finances and helps guide your spending. 

  • Keep a track record of your spending patterns, and do a monthly assessment of what you’re spending money on so you can make adjustments accordingly.
  • It’s better to overestimate your expenses and underestimate your income. This helps create some cushion so you’ll always have a little left over after bills and other obligations.
  • If you get a financial aid refund, don’t spend it. Put it back into your savings account for a rainy day.
  • Always comparison shop so that you can get the best prices and best value. There are apps on your phone that will price compare for you.
Credit Cards

If you use them wisely, credit cards can actually help you build up your credit. but think carefully before you decide to apply for one and think carefully before you swipe. Keep these things in mind if you’re looking to apply for a credit card:

  • Get one card with a low APR rate.
  • Never spend more than you can afford to pay back.
  • Keep track of your expenses
  • Think before you use. Do you really have to charge it or would another payment method work just as well? 
  • If you get a credit card offer in the mail, don’t feel obligated to accept it.

Budget documents are living and should be constantly reevaluated, so if things change over time, it’s easy to make an update. If you need help getting started, visit the Office of Financial Aid for additional tools and resources you can use to start your journey toward financial wellness.

Published: Jun 24, 2019

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