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 or living on ramen noodles.

Whether you use an online budget calculator or stick to pen and paper, making a personal budget is easy with these five simple steps.

Step 1: Add up your income

Make a list of funds you have available to spend, whether that includes a monthly allowance from parents, wages earned at a job, student financial aid, or a combination of money available. 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 college expense you’ll have throughout the month and divide 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 doesn’t change from 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 with enough money to 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. Do you have a car? You may have to have an emergency car repair. Taking online classes? You may need to repair or replace your computer unexpectedly.

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


Step 3: Add up your flexible expenses

Flexible expenses include amounts that fluctuate from 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 - total 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? Are you using a Smart Option Student Loan to cover unnecessary expenses?

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.


This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.