I’m not going to lie: When you’re a student, budgeting is no easy task…especially if you need money you earn from a summer job to last all year long. Unless you have a regular source of income during the school year, you need to stick to a pretty strict spending plan to make this work.
Assuming tuition, books, meal plans, and accommodations are taken care of, you should set a reasonable amount of spending money per week for incidentals. You should also set aside a few dollars for “back to school” purchases. You know, some new clothes and random dorm accouterments.
After school necessities, you need figure out how long you have to make the summer cash last as weekly spending money. This is easy math: take the amount of weeks you need to survive and divide it by the amount you have in the bank. Chances are your budget will be set right there.
If you have a work-study job, or a part time job to make it through the school year this does not mean you should increase your weekly spending amount: It is never too early to start an emergency fund. If you find yourself in the unique position of having more than you thought for spending money, please put some away in a savings account!
Now, set aside funds for the second semester and don’t touch them until you come home for winter vacation. Going back to school in January knowing that you don’t have to get a part time job is a Christmas present all by itself!
Speaking of holiday presents, if you’re fortunate enough to get cash gifts over the holidays, don’t think of this as extra. If you can help yourself, stick to your budget of weekly spending money and try to put any cash gifts in savings. When you have an unexpected car repair or want to head to spring break with your friends you will be glad you have some money tucked away!
Being a student and trying to budget is incredibly difficult. But, if you learn to budget at the beginning of college, you’ll be so much better off in the long run.
Budgeting is no fun, but having no money is even less fun. Classes and tests and preparing for the future are enough to worry about without having to stress over having no money. If you can create a budget before the school year starts with money from your summer job, the upcoming school year will be a more enjoyable and less stressful experience.