How can I save and budget money while maintaining a love life in college?

Students often have had very little experience with budgeting by the time their first semester in college rolls around. It is most likely their first extended stay away from home, and they have the newly found responsibility of making their own financial decisions. College students may also start exploring new relationships and a potential love life once they reach campus. But how can students stick to a budget, save money, and maintain a love life all at once?

It may seem overwhelming at first but there are a few tips and guidelines that make the process much more manageable.

  • Consider free on-campus activities. The Illini Union Board hosts events such as movies on the quad, comedy shows, and trivia night. These free activities are perfect for a casual date or with a group of friends.
  • Keep it homemade. Most people would agree that making homemade meals for a significant other is a kind gesture. You can make them their favorite dish or entrée that they mentioned one time. It shows you listen, care, and will cost much less than a night out on the town.
  • Use daily deal coupons. Websites like Groupon and LivingSocial provide activity-based coupons. These coupons often come in the form of activities like cooking classes, zip lining, sporting events, and much more. These activities provide a relatively inexpensive way to venture out and try new activities in the surrounding area.
  • Try a new restaurant. Despite popular belief, it is possible to spend money and maintain a budget. However, it is important to keep the spending within reason and to limit the frequency of the spending. Want to try that new Thai place on campus with your study partner from biology class? Go for it! It’ll be a fun experience but make sure it doesn’t become a habit. The next date could potentially be one of the three previously mentioned activities. See what I’m getting at here?

The aforementioned tips provide ways to maintain a love life while sticking to a budget. It may be beneficial to allocate a certain percentage of income or spending money towards miscellaneous expenses (your love life expenses may fall under this umbrella). This way you will know how much you can and are willing to spend each month. In addition to budgeting for your love life, make sure to continue to budget for food, books, rent, and anything else that you will need on a monthly basis.

Written by Alex Hoffmann, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Online Expense Tracking

There are so many ways to track your expenses: traditional pen & paper, mobile apps, computer programs, envelopes, online apps, and many more. No matter which method you choose, tracking your expenses is key to maintaining your spending plan. How do you know if you’re sticking to your budget if you don’t know how much you’re spending? It’s also a great activity as you’re developing a spending plan, because it allows you to see what you actually spend on items and inform how you may need to re-prioritize your budget. You might be surprised where your money is going.

Tracking your expenses online is not only convenient but it’s less time consuming than more traditional methods. Thankfully, there are several different websites that offer free, high-quality expense tracking systems. LearnVest, Mint, and GoodBudget are three expense-tracking platforms that offer mobile applications as well. These websites make it easy for you to track what you spend, because they sync to your bank accounts, allowing you to see all of your expenses in one place. LearnVest offers step-by-step guidance and, for an extra fee, the option to work with a financial planner on creating a spending plan that can help you meet your financial goals. GoodBudget takes the traditional envelope budget system and transforms it into a virtual system – very helpful for those that do not wish to sync their accounts to an online system. Mint, a fan favorite, allows you to customize your budget and presents your data in an aesthetically pleasing way!

When choosing an online expense-tracking tool, consider these 3 things:

  • Security – Make sure that the tool you use, whether paid or free, uses bank-level security to protect your financial data. Install any updates ASAP to reduce security issues.
  • Usability – If you do not find the tool useful or don’t check it often, it’s not going to be helpful. Choose a tool that you feel comfortable navigating and will be motivated to use.
  • Lifestyle – Your budget, as well as the tools you use, revolves around your lifestyle. For example, if you have limited access to the internet, using internet apps might not work for you.

No matter which method you choose, it’s important to select a method that works for you and your lifestyle. For more information on expense tracking, check out this great resource from GetRichSlowly.

Written by Alex Ziskind and Andrea Pellegrini, University of Illinois USFSCO Student Money Management Center

Establishing Your Roots – Getting Started with Financial Services (Recorded Webinar)

Checking accounts, prepaid cards, debit cards, savings accounts and more! Which financial tools are best for you? Now’s the time to learn which financial tools can help you move forward financially and help you grow your money. Behavioral economists have found that mental accounting – when you put money into a category – can help people save money or cause them to lose sight of their financial goals. You can use financial tools to make mental accounting work for you!

University of Illinois Extension, along with the University of Illinois’ Student Money Management Center, hosted the webinar “Establishing your Roots: Getting Started with Financial Services” on September 16, 2014. The FREE webinar focused on understanding the pros and cons of different financial tools available to you. Watch it below!

spending badgeThis is a Spending Badge eligible program, so make sure to take the quiz after watching to get credit!

“Establishing Your Roots: Getting Started with Financial Services” is part of the Get $avvy: Grow Your Green Stuff webinar series. Tune in for another Get $avvy webinar on January 27, 4:00-5:00 p.m.! Learn how your finances play a role in “Life Transitions.” Register here.

Spotlight on Library Resources: Borrow

Understanding the Mathematics of Personal Finance [electronic resource] : an Introduction to Financial Literacy by Lawrence N. Dworsky

Are you easily overwhelmed by numbers and interest rate calculations? Do you tend to avoid careful planning and decision-making when it comes to your personal finances because you simply have trouble understanding these calculations? If yes, then this is the guide for you!

Understanding the Mathematics of Personal Finance is a highly useful resource for the day-to-day management of personal finances. Even before introducing any of the contexts in which math is used in personal finance, the resource has a primer on the mathematics that serves as the basis for personal finance calculations.

At its root, this book is all about loan calculations, but the author, Lawrence N. Dworsky, has a broader definition of a loan. A loan is not just when an individual borrows money from a bank. A loan can also be an investment, but in that case another party is borrowing money from the individualSo this resource is useful not only for borrowing but also for investing.

Understanding the Mathematics of Personal Finance will equip you with the basic math skills for personal finance that you need to make informed decisions before you borrow money and as you pay it back. Dworsky is clear that this resource does not contain strategies for borrowing or investing. Instead, it gives you the ability to decide for yourself what decisions would be best, solely on the basis of numbers.

Note: This ebook can only be accessed on campus or off campus with your University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign NetID. If you do not have access to this ebook, please request a print copy through your local public library.

Written by Heidi Johnson, University of Illinois Library

Expect the Unexpected – Saving for Emergencies

Planning for the unexpected can ensure that you are able to weather a financial hardship should you lose your job, have a car repair, or any other unplanned expense. By having savings set aside for emergencies, you decrease the need to rely on credit cards or loans to cover emergency situations. Borrowing funds to cover emergencies can create additional financial hardship. Most experts recommend that you have between three and six months of income set aside in emergency funds, but having any money set aside can help when a financial storm arises.

A recent survey has found that “18- to 30-year-olds are the most likely to have up to five months’ expenses saved up since they might have the benefit of lower expenses due to having roommates, living with their parents or being students.” Your college years can be an ideal time to create and build your emergency savings.

If you’re not sure how to start saving for an emergency, here’s a crash course in what to look for:

  • Prioritize your spendingneeds come before wants. If going without something could cause you physical pain or injury (like water, shelter, food, medications or proper clothing), then it’s probably a need. If you could get by without it, it’s likely a want.
  • Analyze areas of opportunityidentify ways you can save. If you cut out a $4 beverage or snack just once a week, you could save over $200 a year.
  • Save extra moneyturn birthday money into a rainy day fund. If you don’t have regular income, putting away gift money or profit you make off selling unused items can help start your emergency fund.

Getting Through Tough Financial Times is a resource developed by University of Illinois Extension to help individuals and families weather financial storms. This site provides information on spending habits, managing finances, and smart savings strategies.

Written by Sheri Williamson and Andrea Pellegrini, University of Illinois USFSCO Student Money Management Center