How to Budget for Daily College Life

Tuition has been paid and books have been bought, but what about all the other stuff? Being a college student can get expensive, and the idea of handling personal finances may be overwhelming.

Creating a budget is not as difficult as it seems – and sticking to it can mean the difference between living it up and living on ramen noodles.

Follow these five easy steps to making a personal budget.

Step 1: Add up your income

Make a list of funds you have to spend, whether it’s a monthly allowance from parents, wages earned at a job, student financial aid or a combination of these things. List any regular sources of income and total them to find out what you have to spend.

Allowance       _______
Job       _______
Student financial aid (scholarship, loan, etc.)       _______
Total income       _______

Now that you know your total income, make a list of each foreseeable expense you'll have throughout the month, dividing it into two categories: fixed expenses and flexible expenses.

Step 2: Add up your fixed expenses

Fixed expenses include rent, car payments, membership fees and anything else that does not change month to month. You pay an exact amount on the same date each month.

Include an emergency fund allotment in the fixed expense category. If you rely on income from a job to pay all your expenses, a good goal is to build an emergency fund that will pay your monthly expenses for three to six months.

Ultimately, you can contribute as little or as much as you want to your emergency fund. Think about what counts as an emergency and what you would need to handle the situation. Is school far from home? You may need to buy a plane ticket on short notice. Taking online classes? You may need to repair or replace your computer unexpectedly.

Rent       _______
Car payment       _______
Gym memebership       _______
Car insurance        
Emergency fund allotment       _______
Total fixed expenses       _______


Step 3: Add up your flexible expenses

Flexible expenses include amounts that fluctuate month to month. Factor in necessities like gas, food and utilities, as well as any miscellaneous spending for hobbies and entertainment.

Groceries       _______
Gas       _______
Water       _______
Electricity       _______
School supplies       _______
Entertainment       _______
Total flexible expenses       _______


Step 4: Add up your total expenses

Add your total fixed and total flexible expenses together. Subtract the total expenses from the total income.

Total fixed expenses       _______
Total flexible expenses       _______
Total expenses       _______
Total income - toatal expenses       _______


Step 5: Evaluate your budget

Make reviewing your budget a monthly habit. Did you come up short, break even or have money left over?

The ideal outcome is to have enough money left to put into a savings account. A savings account is not the same as an emergency fund. Your emergency fund is not to be touched, while a savings account is a good way to plan for big-ticket expenses, like a spring break trip or a new car.

If you’re coming up short for any reason, it's time to evaluate your spending and see where you can make cuts. A budget will help paint a clear picture of what you truly need to survive daily college life.


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This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.