College students know firsthand how brutally hard school can be. With so many deadlines and exams to cloud the mind, many students may find it challenging to manage their spending habits. Keeping track of expenses while in school can be overwhelming; however, there are easy ways to track and reduce those unnecessary expenses.
The first thing that you can do to reduce spending would be to create a budget. Budgeting is a great way to reduce spending because it allows you to allocate money to fund various expenses each week. For example, if your goal is to spend $100 per month on groceries, then with the help of a budget, you can track how much you spend weekly on groceries. With this intact, a budget can determine if you need reevaluate the allocation to an expense.
An additional way to save on expenses would be to determine your needs versus your wants. It’s easy to go out and spend $5 on a cup of coffee; however, think about, if you saw a five-dollar bill on the sidewalk would you pick it up? While it may be a weird question to ask, purchasing an unneeded item adds up and after a while, becomes very expensive. If you determine your needs and stick to them, to a certain extent, you may find that you are able to save much more money in the long haul.
Cash at College is a must-see webinar for all students headed to college. University of Illinois USFSCO’s Student Money Management Center and University of Illinois Extension have teamed up to offer this educational and engaging webinar for all University of Illinois students. This free webinar features lessons on:
how to effectively budget your money while in college
the basics of banking
options for paying your college tuition
and how to make the most of your college education
Cash at College offers an important guide to managing your finances, so don’t miss out! Watch it below or on YouTube now!
This is a Spending Badge eligible program, so make sure to take the quiz after watching to get credit!
By participating in three Spending Badge eligible events, you could earn a digital badge to enhance your online professional portfolio. Learn more about the Financial Literacy Badges Program by visiting: badges.illinois.edu/usfsco/.
CliffsNotes Graduation Debt: How to Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life is a guidebook for managing a significant debt load after college, yet the author takes a positive approach to personal finance, emphasizing frugality and spending money wisely in order to still live well while paying off debt. It is possible to take vacations and have extra spending money even while repaying loans! The book even ends with sections on Eating Out, Moving into a Nicer Place, and “Earning” a New Car.
The focus of this ebook is not exclusively spending. However, as it does take a positive approach to personal finance and gives serious attention to spending as a part of living your life, this book can be read at least in part as a manual on budgeting and spending wisely. Chapter 5, “Budgeting for Your Lifestyle and Your Loans,” and chapter 9, “Budgeting During Inflation,” contain practical advice about spending and budgeting, including such tips as keeping a financial diary and choosing budgetary cutbacks. The book even provides, in a sense, “financial self-help” throughout by, for example, reminding the reader not to dwell on past financial mistakes but instead problem-solve when mistakes or overspending are discovered.
The ebook is divided up into many small subsections making it easy to read. In typical CliffsNotes-style, the book is effectively a “cheat sheet” for personal finance, making the topic accessible to readers least inclined to seek out resources on personal finance otherwise. The rewards it promises, too, are enough to make this resource enticing to any new grad knee-deep in debt!
Note: this ebook can only be accessed on campus or off campus with your University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign net ID. If you do not have access to this ebook, please request a print copy through your local public library.
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.
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.