Life is full of surprises. Maybe you have an opportunity to take a trip related to your major, or maybe you just dropped your laptop. Whatever the case, you want to be sure you have money set aside when you need it most.
That’s why it’s important to learn the ins and outs of budgeting before an opportunity — or a crisis — arises. Here are seven tips to get your college budget off on the right foot:
Stick to a budget.
Living away from home means that you have the responsibility to manage your own finances. Plan how much you are going to spend each month and stick to that plan as much as possible. Use a free resource like My Money Map or create a spending diary to see where your money is going and keep track of your expenses.
Create a savings account that you don’t dip into unless it’s absolutely necessary. Even if you can only afford to set aside a few dollars each month, every little bit helps.
Increase your income.
Look into getting a part-time job to supplement your income and gain valuable professional experience. Start looking for your summer job or internship early to secure employment for when you’re not in school. If committing to a job is too time consuming during your studies, pick up some side gigs like babysitting or dog walking from time to time to tuck away some extra cash.
Keep track of your financial aid.
Some scholarships require renewal each year or may be dependent on academic achievement. Others are only a one-time gift. Make note of how much you are borrowing in loans, when they need to be repaid, and whether you need to find additional funding for next year.
Stay on top of paying friends back — and getting reimbursed.
If your friend covers your lunch after you leave your wallet at home, remember to pay them back. Lending or borrowing can be OK when it’s managed, but letting the balance add up can be overwhelming and strain your relationship. An easy way to accomplish this is with Zelle®, a free service in your mobile banking app that allows you to pay friends instantly (or request money).
Use your college discount.
Utilize your student discount to save on eating out, shopping, entertainment, and more. With a student discount, you can get anywhere from 5% to 50% off, depending on the retailer. Another idea: Shop consignment to find great deals on like-new clothing, furniture, technology, and more. Ask for help. Have questions about spending or saving? Talk to your parents, a guidance counselor, or another trusted mentor. With a little guidance, you’ll strengthen your financial habits in no time.