Whether you’re studying engineering, sociology, or art history, there is one subject that you cannot avoid at college: money. As a college student, budgeting is just as important as your next midterm exam, especially if you plan to build a financially stable life. Knowing how to make a budget will bring you one step closer to reaching your goals, both in college and later in life.
Use an app to (re)organize your money
Creating a “visual” college budget is the best way to track expenses, savings and keep up with account balances. Downloading the One app onto your mobile device and creating Pockets for expenses and savings can help you track where your money goes while maintaining an overview of your monthly budget. Many advanced budgeting tools, like Scheduled Transfers, virtual cards, and Pocket Protector, can also help automate your monthly budget, so there’s less work to manage it.
Open a no-fee online checking account
As a college student, you’ll dedicate most of your time to your studies, on-campus activities, and after-school jobs, so you may want to transfer your earnings to online checking account that is safe, easy to use, and doesn’t charge any fees. Although your available funds may be limited during this time, you’ll still want to be able to budget for college expenses properly. Opening a One account with no fees and fee-free overdraft protection can help prevent losing unnecessary money.
Easily split living costs with your roommates
Going to college means holding more responsibility for your household and personal expenses. Rent and utility bills are an essential part of your college budget, and the easiest way to handle them is by sharing all payments fairly with your housemates. Despite the challenges and fun-filled times of shared accommodations, splitting payments with a Shared Pocket will ensure that bills are paid on time without the wrangling of who’s paying what, when. As a result, you’ll have better control of your budget.
Understand wants vs. needs
Preparing a budget for college will not only make you more serious about your finances, but it will also teach you the difference between essential payments and discretionary expenses, which is often a new concept among many college students. The best way to learn such differences is by creating two groups:
- Essential Examples: Rent, utilities, groceries, textbooks, and health insurance.
- Discretionary Examples: Dining out, streaming subscriptions, and gym memberships.
Dividing your expenses into different categories will give you a solid overview of where money should be spent and how much you can eventually save.
Don’t shy away from discounts
One of the perks of being a college student is taking advantage of the many discounts available at restaurants, cultural institutions, and retail stores. Student discounts are also beneficial for the business itself. In fact, a recent survey from SheerID showed that discounts can heavily impact college students’ purchasing decisions, as 86% would stop by their favorite shops more often if they were offered discounts. If you’re on a low budget, you can opt for more budget-friendly methods, like shopping for generic brands. It can help you save a lot of your money over time.
Build positive credit history
Learning to build good credit while in college may be tricky, but it opens up many possibilities for life after graduation, especially when looking to secure an apartment, purchase a vehicle, or request a mortgage. One of the best ways to build credit is applying for a secured credit card, like Credit Builder. College students can build credit automatically with their everyday spending. There’s no guesswork; Credit Builder helps you avoid missing payments by automatically paying your entire balance on time, every month.
Save for an emergency fund
A common mistake students make when preparing their college budget is underestimating future emergencies. As a college student, you may not have all the necessary funds to cover an unplanned expense in case of an emergency, but you should work on your emergency fund as soon as possible, even with tiny amounts. Automatic saving with Auto-Save can be very helpful, especially if you’re budgeting through your One account. Set up a fixed amount to be put aside every month for unexpected events with paycheck Auto-Save or put a little away every time you spend with card Auto-Save round ups.
By building a budget, you will be able to quickly work through essential financial obligations such as student loans, rent, and necessary bills without ending up with unpleasant surprises at the end of the semester. You will also have the chance to think about your own financial goals, both in and out of college. Regardless of your financial objectives, a budget can help you reach your desired short and long-term goals more quickly and efficiently.
Organize your money, simplify your life. Make real progress.
Katie is a tech and finance writer, covering stories from building better financial health to credit cards. They are currently based in Sacramento, CA with their puppy Ollie and cat Bagel.