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Reasonable Spending + Responsible Saving = Peace of Mind

Creating a budget can be intimidating. Rest easy, it’s not as hard as it seems. The real challenge is sticking to it. Here are some helpful tips for creating a budget that works for you.

Average monthly living expenses according to the U.S. Department of Labor:

 Average Monthly Living Expenses Graph.png

*Note: As a college student, you may not have all these living expenses.


Start by tracking what you spend over the next couple of weeks. Log every penny that comes in and leaves your wallet and bank account. This will allow you to see where your money is going, helping you identify any unnecessary purchases you may be able to eliminate from your budget.
Make a list of all income that you receive directly. This could include wages, work study, family help, food stamps or any other source of income.

Using the CMU Cost of Attendance Calculator or your pre-billing statement to determine tuition expenses will be part of what you want to track.  You may even want to dedicate an expenditure toward your savings. Even if you can set aside $5, it is a good habit to start.

Consider doing the same with your student loans. Paying even a small amount each month toward the loan principal or interest can go a long way.

There are several ways to create a budget, and everyone does it differently. Choose what will work best for you, whether it's online, on paper, in a spreadsheet or even on an app.

Online budget
There are many budget tools online that will assist you in creating a budget. Mint.com can link to your bank account and categorize transactions. This can help create a budget structure and will show if you will make more money than you spend in a given month. CashCourse offers a Budget Wizard that creates a monthly budget based on your entered income and expenses.

Mobile App
There are a handful of mobile apps which allow detailed budgeting to be done right from your phone. Apps bring your bills and your income into one place, giving you a clear picture of your budget. The Mint: Budget, Bill, Finance app is a good example.

Spreadsheet
Using a program like Excel gives you control over how your budget is constructed and will does the math for you. Here is a sample spreadsheet budget that may be helpful.

Paper
Here is a Semester Budget you can download. This budget will help you prepare for a semester at a time.