Mini JanSport bag and water bottle placed in a suitcase

A Student’s Guide to Budgeting: It’s Never Too Early to Start

Mandy Carr Mar 21, 2024

Living outside your parents' home for the first time can seem scary, especially when you are responsible for your own expenditures. If you aren’t careful, you may run out of money before the end of the month, leaving you struggling to pay bills or even eat.

You can easily ensure you have enough money with proper budgeting. It may seem daunting to keep track of everything, but it can be a valuable tool to learn early in your life. It can help you reach goals like buying a house or traveling Europe. 

You can start anytime—for example, when heading back to school after exams in the summer, or even right now. Just add it to your to-do list under “choose the best backpack for college.”


Budgeting Basics for College Students 

Start by determining your income sources and amounts. Next, gather all your expenses, including rent, electricity, and insurance. Estimate how much money you spend on food and household stuff. And factor in split expenses with roommates and self-care

At its core, budgeting involves tracking expenses against your income and ensuring they balance. Setting a budget management schedule is vital—schedule check-ins weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. You already had to get organized for college. Now, you can get organized to handle your money. 


Budgeting Tools 

Next, choose the tools for your budgeting. Excel or a Google Sheet are great options. You’ll have to input everything manually, but it’s a simple and affordable way to manage your budget. 

If you don’t like math, you can use a budgeting app to help you. Many even sync with your accounts, so you don’t have to input anything manually. Buddy is a great option if you are splitting household costs with roommates. If you are an Apple user, you can use Wally. It lets you sync your accounts so it can do the work for you. Keep your phone easy to access so you can budget on-the-go with the Jet Set Caddy.

Also, keep in mind that while budgeting apps have free options, you’ll have to pay for more advanced features. So sometimes, having a basic Excel or Google Sheet is actually the better way to stay on top of everything and save money. You never know when you’ll need money for your favorite artist's concert. 


Creating a Budget 

To create a budget in Excel or Google Sheets, first, list all your income sources in the first column. Below that, list all of your expenses. It's best to separate the weeks into columns to the right. Enter the income amount in the weekly column where you receive it and the expenditure amounts under the respective week the bill is due.

For instance, food and household items can be weekly expenses. So, you'll have a weekly budget for these items. You can see how much you have each week based on when you receive your income, and then subtract for that week and put the total left on the bottom. You would then add any income at the top of the following week. 

Just think of it like when you organize all your school supplies in your Big Student bag. Once it’s done, you have everything you need. 

You should also add savings to your budget—ideally, one for emergencies, one for the future, and one for fun stuff. Once you see how much money you spend on the essentials, you can also add fun things like going out with friends, streaming services, and subscriptions to your budget. 

Once you understand how much money you have and where your money is going, you can plan for what you want. The sky is the limit once you have control of your money.


Creating Financial Goals 

Now that your budget is set up, you should create financial goals. For example, you may want to save up for a car, a house, concerts—or even just repay your student loans. If you’ve been thinking about traveling across Europe, this will allow you to do it. (But don’t forget your Dopp Kit with all your toiletries!) 

It’s never too early to start thinking about the bigger things you want in life. By saving today, you can make these goals a reality and find financial independence without relying on your parents. 

What are some of the financial goals you have set for yourself? Share them with us using #LifeUnzipped on social media.