How To Get Your College Budget On Track

January 19, 2015


Tips to get your college budget on track.

Many of us are coming out of the post-holiday haze and realizing that we’ve spent more money over the past few months than we anticipated.

We weren’t thinking about the textbooks we would need in January when we were buying all of those Moguards as Christmas gifts in December (yes, even Grandma got one).

What are we poor college students to do when our wallets, bank accounts, and bellies are empty in the New Year? Never fear! There are some simple strategies we can implement to get our income moving in the right direction.

New Year, New College Budget

It’s a new year, which means it’s a great time to get your finances in check. This could include anything from cancelling a credit card you use too much to transferring 10% of your monthly paycheck into a savings account.

Save money in college - Avoid using plastic

Leave the plastic at home and save money in college

And it’s time to make a budget. I know I know, it doesn’t sound like fun. But by devising a detailed college budget over the course of a few hours, you can wind up saving hundreds of dollars each month to put towards textbooks, living expenses, and fun.

The first steps to creating a budget are:

  • Know your income. Track your weekly and/or monthly salary so you know exactly what you’re working with.
  • Figure out your expenses. What do you pay in rent? Do you need to eat? Do you plan on buying textbooks this semester?

If you’re ready to dive deeper into making a budget, please read 12 Steps for How to Make a Budget – Personal Budgeting Tips for First Timers.”

Create SMART Goals

As good as your money-saving spectacular college budget extravaganza plans may be, you want to be realistic and make goals and decisions you can stick with. Be SMART about your goals by:

  • Writing them down. Studies show that individuals who write down their goals are much more likely to accomplish them than people who don’t.
  • Being specific. It’s a good idea for you to create tangible, detailed goals that clearly outline what your financial plans are as well as how you will implement them. 

An example of a SMART budgeting goal would be to take $20 from each of your weekly paychecks and deposit it into your savings account in order to prepare for an emergency (aka, one of these).

Okay, so maybe a Tesla doesn’t realistically fit into the your new college budget. But we can still dream, can’t we?

Get A Bank/Checking Account

If you’re serious about getting your money on track for the New Year, open a checking account. Setting up a checking account in college has advantages. Banks tend to cater to students by offering them the opportunity to open free checking accounts. With a free account, you oftentimes won’t have to worry about accumulating fees on fund transfers or withdrawals.

When deciding on which bank to use, think about if they have ATMs near campus. You don’t want to have to be worrying about out-of-network withdrawal fees when you’re trying to get your grub on at 3am. You know you’ll pay that $2 service fee to take out $20 to be able to buy your pizza. Speaking of pizza…

Make Your Own Food

Those 3am pizza runs can get a little pricey.  So what to do when your tummy is as empty as your wallet?

Learn how to cook! Hey, it’s an essential life skill to have. You can easily make some seriously tasty grub and take all of that money you save to the bank.

Sell Old Stuff Online

You likely have items in your dorm or apartment that you’re not using. For example, do you really need that cupcake pillow? Well, yes…yes you do.

But you can sell your less important stuff using sites like eBay, or other online buyback companies, to generate quick cash. To get started, set aside a time to take stock of what you have. What is essential? What can you live without?

Items that yield the most cash include:

By selling your unwanted stuff, not only will your wallet be fatter, but your dorm will be clean (well, cleaner).

Sell Your Textbooks Online

Another way to get your income moving in the right direction is selling your textbooks online.

You’ve got tons of textbooks laying around that you convince yourself that you’re going to need in 10 years. It’s not going to happen. And your textbooks are worth the most money now, so strike while that buyback iron is hot!

While selling textbooks on campus is convenient, you often get more money selling textbooks to online companies instead. The process is simple and easy with many companies offering to pay the shipping for you.

One excellent, expedient online textbook seller that you should sell your textbooks to is

Share Your Tips

We’d love to hear from you! What are some ways you got out of your financial pickle? Please share any helpful budgeting advice for college students by leaving a reply.


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