College Budgeting Tips

Education | 05/24/24
College woman using calculator

For many, college is a stage of life filled with first-time experiences and newfound independence. While being out on your own for the first time can be exciting, it can also be a stressful period of life as you learn to manage academics, relationships, and finances.

While it’s not always easy, you can achieve financial success in college through smart planning and good habits. Let’s look at a few things you can do to ensure financial success during your college years. 

Create a College Budget Plan
A strong budget is the cornerstone of financial wellness. Ascend offers a free budget worksheet that automates the budgeting process for you. Let's walk through the steps.

Calculate your income: Tally up the money you receive each month, whether it be from a job, financial aid, or familial support.

Calculate your expenses: Write down all your expenses, big and small. You can use your bank statement for this, or if you’re an Ascend member, you can use our digital banking platform to track your expenses in real time. Start with your necessary expenses, like housing, transportation, and food. Then, calculate your non-essential expenses, like eating out and streaming subscriptions.

Set goals: Consider short-term and long-term financial goals you'd like to reach. These could include saving for emergencies, textbooks, or a spring break trip.

Subtract expenses and goals from income: Once you have all your totals calculated, subtract your expenses and goals from your income. If you have money left over, great! You can put this towards anything you want, whether it be supplementing your emergency fund or saving for spring break. But what if you’re spending more than you’re making, or you just want to cut back on expenses? Now that you know how to make a budget, let's discuss a few tips for you to free up expenses and make your budget work for you.

Look for student discounts:
While student discounts aren’t monumentally large, the savings can add up quickly! You may not realize how many businesses offer student discounts, so you might as well take advantage of them while you can.

Meal planning:
Instead of going out to eat every night, make a meal plan for the week. Not only will this save you money, but you may also discover cooking as a new hobby!

Use campus resources:
For many schools, your tuition includes access to campus facilities, such as libraries, computer labs, and fitness centers. Take advantage of these to avoid unnecessary expenses.

Revisit and adjust:
You’ll need to revisit your budget periodically to adjust for new expenses and income. Maybe your rent has been raised, or you’ve received a new grant from your school. Regardless, you’ll need to account for these changes in your budget to make sure you’re operating with the correct information.

Building smart money habits during college can have an impact on your financial health for years to come. Use these tips to manage your money smartly in college. If you’d like more information on managing finances in your college years, consider Ascend’s free course on financing higher education.

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