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Paying for College Without Going Broke, 2003

The Budget Kit : The Common Cents Money Management Workbook

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Successful Budgeting for Students

by Sandy Shields

Managing a budget is not as hard as it sounds. Making the initial commitment to live according to your budget is the hardest part. If you have done that, you are well on your way to wise spending and saving.

What is a budget?
It is simply a written plan for spending your money. You will spend your money; a budget just helps you to spend it wisely.

Managing your budget

Step One
Prepare a budget worksheet. You can make one yourself, or use a pre-made form. To make your own, just write down your income in one column and your expenses in another column, then compare the two.

If you would like to use a pre-made budget form, there are many already set up online. Here are a few links to worksheets that you can print out and use:
Budget Worksheet for College Students
Budget Worksheet from Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority
College Budget Worksheet

You will learn a great deal about your financial situation by taking this first step. If you are like most people, you will find that your income is less than your expenses. You are now informed about it though, and can take the necessary action to change your situation.

Step Two
Start tracking your incidental expenses. You know where the bulk of your money is going, but what about all those little extras? This is a very important step if you are serious about finding ways to stretch your money. Find a small notebook, and jot down all money spent each day on meals, snacks, gas, impulse purchases, and entertainment. After you have done this for a few days, you will start noticing how the small things really add up, and where you can start cutting back.

Step Three
Learn all you can about budgeting, spending, and saving your money. The library offers many free resources to help you with this. Talk to your friends, parents, and teachers about what they have learned about budgeting and saving their money.

Step Four
Take advantage of student discounts, and free offers. Here are some helpful student web sites online to help you save:
Student Advantage
Student Market

Step Five
Live a frugal lifestyle. Shop Smart and Spend Less.
Try these frugal living suggestions:

Define your wants verses your needs. Concentrate on spending money only on your needs.

Don't drink, smoke, or do drugs. They are bad for you, addictive, and cost money. You don't need them.

If at all possible, keep a savings account. Pay yourself first.

Use everything to its full potential. Don't waste anything.

Recycle and reuse study materials such as pencils, pens, and paper.

Don't spend money around the plans you make. Make plans around the money you have after all your responsibilities are met.

Don't be tempted by your friends' spending habits.

Make the most of the college's meal plan, and any college events where there is free food.

Use your tuition money wisely. Always take the maximum number of credits allowed.

Get an on-campus job.

Make things yourself instead of buying them whenever possible.

Shop smart when buying groceries and household items. Use coupons. Shop the sales. Stock up on discounted non-perishable items. Foods like milk, butter, and cheese can be frozen. Don't buy soft drinks, unless they are on sale, or store brand. Drink water. Do not spend money on snack machines.

Shop smart when buying clothes. Do not pay retail prices. Shop thrift stores, consignment shops, yard sales, clearance racks, and buy during off seasons. Don't buy any item that requires dry cleaning. Consider consigning your own clothes to earn some money.

Email or write instead of calling home.

These are just a few ideas that you can use to start living a more frugal life, and to successfully manage your budget. Learning how to manage your budget in college will help you immensely. The decisions you make early on will effect you later in life. Use your time and money wisely.

Sandy is a freelance writer and webmaster of She enjoys living the frugal life, saving money, and helping others to do the same. Reprint permission granted with this footer included. Copyright 1999-2005.
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