College Budgeting 101

Written by: Jeremy Jones

Budgeting seems to be the last responsibility on many students’ to-do lists when it comes to attending your college or university. Just remember that the Take Stock in College team is here to help guide you in using budgeting as a crucial tool in your postsecondary journey to degree attainment. And speaking from personal experience, I can recall setting aside funds each month to ensure I had enough cash in the early 2000s to pay for necessities like gas, cell phone bills, food, entertainment, etc. The possibilities for preparing for and surviving on college campuses are much more expensive now than in the early 2020s for our Take Stock students. Be concise in describing the amount of time you invested in your goal as you work to develop a budget for success. Like the old saying, “you get out of life what you put into it,” deciding how to pay for your academic journey may be fun and customized to your needs.

 To track your progress toward attaining your academic goals, you must first define financial goals with a reward system that will allow you to keep track of milestones that need to be completed. Make sure you research all available scholarships and grants and find out what your preferred school can do to lessen your financial burden. By fulfilling the conditions of your Take Stock-Florida Pre-Prepaid scholarship, be sure to request any need-based and/or merit-based aid and submit the FAFSA to be eligible for Pell grants and other institution scholarships/aid. By doing this, you will more likely be able to concentrate on finishing all your classes each semester if you push yourself to complete these tasks each year by priority deadlines.

Second, make your plans in accordance with the course schedule for your semester by allocating enough time and money for books, supplies, and study sessions to finish each class. To accomplish this, ensure you have the necessary materials and have taken the time to understand the information required to earn your degree. You can do this by using the bookstore, your instructor, or even online resources. Even students with financial help and a budget will discover that they waste money on unneeded things like takeout after long study sessions, outings to the mall with their new college buddies, and entertainment costs like dining at hip campus eateries and going to the movies.

Finally, while your responsibilities may grow as you progress through your academic career each year, keep in mind that you should know how to graduate from college with no debt or the least amount of debt possible. Remember that this is the secret to kicking off your new successful future with fewer barriers or challenges to achieving the academic dream. When it matters most, exercising discipline will enable you to make the most of your time and energy while using your knowledge as a spark to alter the course of your lifetime.

Quick Tips & Reminders for Budgeting

  • Understand your cash flow. Budgeting is normally done weekly or monthly, but it makes more sense for students to structure their spending around each semester. At the beginning of the semester, you might have some money in savings or refunds from financial aid (the money left over after loans, scholarships, and grants are applied to your tuition, room and board, and fees), as well as some consistent income from your parents or a job.
  • Keep a spending log. Determine your weekly and monthly spending after that. Check your bank account, credit card, and debit card activity from the last several months to determine where your money is going and what expensive purchases have appeared. You could be shocked by how much of your spending has been on non-essentials after you look at what you’ve been buying.
  • Determine your wants and needs. The challenging aspect now is to divide your expenditure into two categories, needs and wants. Clothing, housing, school supplies, food, and transportation are examples of necessities. Wants include concert tickets, your second soy latte of the day, and that airline ticket for spring break.