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Budgeting Basics

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

* 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.

Once you've tracked your spending, we encourage you to meet with a Peer Coach to create your budget. Schedule your Peer Coach appointment today.

Peer Coaching

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 your Estimated Cost of Attendance 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.

Online budget
There are many budget tools online that will assist you in creating a budget.Mint.comcan 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. iGrad offers a budget template that allows you to set goals, plan for expenses, and keep your finances on track.

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.

Using a program like Excel or Google Sheets gives you control over how your budget is constructed and will do the math for you.

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