Figuring out how much you can spend when you are in college can be challenging. College is expensive and when you are living on your own, those bills can add up. When you are trying to avoid student loans it is even harder to stay within your budget. How do people do it?
The first step is figuring out what your income and expenses actually are. Start using a document (could be a word document or a spreadsheet) to track how much you make and how much you spend. There are also apps that can help you track these things and budget your money. If your banking app has these services, you can try them out. Otherwise, try using an app like Wally or Goodbudget. When you know what the numbers look like, you can make a more conscious decision about what you spend your money on.
How much money do you make in a week, month, and year? Knowing your net income (the amount you take home after taxes) is an important part of making your budget.
Once you know what you have coming in, you will want to take a look at your expenses. How much do you spend? What are you spending that on?
Divide things into categories. Your rent and utilities might make up a home category. Groceries, fast food, and dining out would be your food category. Write it out and know where your money is going.
We all have some expenses that really can’t be changed, like our rent payment. Some categories like food and transportation might vary more. Figure out which of your expenses are variable and decide on an amount that works within your income so you won’t go over.
Cut your costs where you can. It may take a bit longer, but buying groceries and cooking meals yourself can save hundreds of dollars. Going out for a meal can cost anywhere from five dollars to twenty dollars (or more). Whereas making the same meal at home could cost less than half the amount.
Skip the Starbucks or soda shop. If you need a caffeine kick, make your mixed energy drinks at home or buy your soda in a pack at the grocery store. These kinds of shops charge more than it would cost to make your drink at home. If you buy a soda every day for $2-3 then you are spending $60-90 just on soda for the month.
If you notice that you are going out a lot and spending money that you don’t really have (like to go throw axes or something fun with friends), try giving yourself a budget for this. You don’t have to stop going out completely, but it is a good idea to cut back. Give yourself a weekly or monthly budget. Once you have used what you budgeted, don’t allow yourself to spend any more on going out until your next paycheck.
If you need to raise your income to support yourself, you could try getting a part-time job. There are a lot of job opportunities for college students on-campus and off-campus. BYU-Idaho has tutoring and teacher’s aide jobs for students who have excelled in certain classes and get recommendations from their professors. There are seasonal jobs to maintain the campus. There are so many options for on-campus work.
If you decide that you do want to work a part-time job, keep in mind the number of hours that you have in a week. Don’t choose a job that is going to take too much away from your studies. Stay focused on your classes.
Ultimately, find that balance you need to achieve a healthy work-school-play life balance while sticking to a budget in the process. You got this!