Money Talk

Managing a Budget as a College Student

One of the most frustrating things about being a college student is without a doubt managing your finances. It’s stressful and just one more thing to worry about. With the right attitude and preparation though, it doesn’t have to be so scary. Here are some tips and ideas from West Hills College for how to create the ultimate, stress free budget.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

First off, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Here at West Hills College, there are many resources to help you make budgeting an easy task. West Hills College regularly offers financial literacy workshops and you can always drop by the financial aid office if you have questions about loans, scholarships or paying your registration fees.

Figure Out Your Income and Expenses

One of the most important things you can do is make managing your budget a habit. You should take some time at the beginning of the month (or right after you get paid if you work) to figure out what your budget for the month will look like. You can even do this at the beginning of the semester if you want to be really ahead.

What should you be looking for? Start by figuring out your total income. What are you getting from jobs? What are you getting from parents? What about your financial aid and scholarships? Figure out what you have to work with and add all of this up. That will give you an idea of your income.

From there, it’s time to determine what your expenses are. What are your fixed costs—like a phone bill, tuition, rent and utilities—that you will absolutely have to pay? Figure out what these fixed costs are and add them all up to get your total expenses. Subtract this number from the number you figured out was your total income. Once you do this, you’ll know how much you have left over for food, emergencies and other expenses each month or for the semester.

Track Your Spending

Next, you have to figure out a way to keep track of your budget and spending. Since we live in the digital age, this is easier than ever. There are even apps to keep you on track and help you keep an eye on your budget! Some good budget managing apps include Mint and Wally.  There are dozens more like this out there. There are also many budget worksheets like this one available free online.

You can also do it in a more old fashioned way: create an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of your expenses and income or even just write it down in a notebook you keep for this purpose. One interesting trick you can also use is to keep all of your receipts in one place for a month as well as any bills you get. This is a good way to visualize exactly how much you’re spending.

Revisit Regularly

The goal of all of this math is to make sure of one thing: that your budget is balanced. Make sure that you aren’t spending more than you’re making/earning. If you are, it’s time to rethink how much you spend each month.

Learn More About Financial Aid