College is almost synonymous with having to live an especially frugal lifestyle, but that does not mean that you should not follow some type of budget. Whether you have a lot of money or a little if you do not pay attention to where it is all going you could find yourself in a situation where you cannot pay your bills, rack up unnecessary debts, or simply must sacrifice spending your money on anything that is not crucial.
Managing your money as a broke college student can turn into a great system of challenge and reward though. Using a budget each month as a guideline for where you can and cannot afford to spend, and sticking to it, gives you the thrill of the challenge to stick to it while teaching you valuable life skills like discipline and intention that will serve you all throughout your life.
Before you can execute your budget, you need to understand the line items that you will need to add to it each month. After you complete that step, prioritize your list. Spaces like tuition, housing, and food are examples of areas of high priority, you are not going to be able to not spend money on food. Think about other big items like tuition and housing in terms of how you are paying for them, if you are taking out student loans to pay for college, you may not need to budget from your personal cash on hand however you should include them in your budget so that you are aware of how much of your loan is being spent each month.
You can take out a student loan from a private lender to pay for college. Utilizing this private option is going to give you some flexibility on the terms of your loan, and what you will be allowed to spend that borrowed money on. Companies like Earnest student loans have a plethora of resources available online for you to browse options and even ask questions so that you can align your budget and your loan before you even begin your first class.
In some cases, being a copycat has a negative notation while in others imitation is considered the sincerest form of flattery. For the purposes of managing your collegiate budget sometimes it is best to not reinvent the wheel. Take advantage of books, online tutorials, and the advice of trusted loved ones and school advisors and copy the outline of their process. If you are attending college right out of high school tasks like grocery shopping may not be intuitive yet so reviewing budgeting tips for groceries can help you learn how to not overspend on food.
A common mistake with college budgeting is not being realistic about how money will be spent month to month. It is unrealistic to think that you are never going to need fun money for example, so just budget it in. If you start down the rabbit hole of being too restrictive, but still spending on things that you have not planned for, you are going to end up underwater quickly. Also bear in mind that as you get some experience under your feet, maintaining your budget will become second nature. It is also worth considering contributing to an emergency fund every month so that you have a safety net should you need one.