7 Tips for Creating a Realistic College Budget

7 Tips for Creating a Realistic College Budget

Budgeting for college can be difficult, particularly for students who have never lived away from home before. If you have never had to handle your own budget, you might not have a good idea of how much you would need to spend in the average week. Follow these seven tips to create a budget that will be realistic for you.

[1] Go Shopping. The first step you will need to take is to actually go shopping for yourself. Many college students have never had this experience, even if they may have gone for groceries with or on behalf of their parents. Start by making a meal plan for a week – and be honest about what you will actually be able to cook! Then go out and buy all the ingredients you will need, remembering to cover breakfast, lunch, and drinks as well. While you’re at it, consider stocking up on a couple of toiletries, as you will need to replace these from time to time and need to factor in those costs. When you pay at the till, you’ll know a rough idea of how much you’ll spend on groceries each week.

[2] Add Up Fees. How much money are you going to need to spend per month on expenses that will go out automatically? Think about things like rent or dorm fees, course fees, and any other expenses your college expects. You’ll need to keep paying these as the year goes on.

[3] Budget for Socializing. No college student is going to sit in their room all year long! Make sure you think realistically about socializing. How much is the average cost of a drink in venues at your college? How about the food prices? Create an idea of how much it would cost you to meet up with friends twice a week as a baseline.

[4] Tally Up Living Expenses. Besides eating and drinking, and getting a roof over your head, you’ll need some other living expenses. These could include how much it costs to use a laundry machine in your building or on campus, the cost of cleaning supplies, transport to and from your lessons if you are living off-campus, and so on.

[5] Consider Course Materials. What materials are you expected to bring to your lectures? Most colleges will expect you to purchase some textbooks as a minimum. If you’re taking classes that involve art, you’ll most likely need to buy materials and possibly equipment as well. This may also be true for other fields, so watch out for the price of taking part.

[6] Add It All Up. When you’ve got to this point, add up everything you’ve counted so far. If it seems like a lot, don’t be surprised – living away from home for the first time can be more expensive than most students expect! Now, add on at least an extra 10%. This is for unexpected expenses, as well as the fact that you may overspend – for example, if you socialize more often or eat more expensive meals.

[7] Work It Out. Can you afford the monthly figures you’re looking at under the terms of your student loan? If you can but only just, you will need to budget very carefully. If you can’t, then you will want to pick up a part-time job to supplement your funds. This is necessary for most students. Don’t forget you can work full-time over the summer to earn more.

Having that college budget will be scary, but it’s really important that you try to stick to it. Use a budget app to track your spending so that you can see whether your budget was realistic after all, and keep yourself on track.

Alex Lawson is a Financial Team Leader and a blogger, working together with other experts at Brighter Finance. Whenever not working on another project or helping customers with their financial issues, Alex may usually be found online, reading money-related blogs, and sharing his tips with other experts.