Living on a College Budget

Before your first day of college, it’s important to think about creating a budget for the upcoming school year. Budgeting is the process of creating a plan to spend your money. When you know how much financial aid you’ll receive, you can evaluate expenses and plan on how to make ends meet. Remember that financial aid can only be used for educational and some living expenses.

Here are a few tips to assist with developing a budget while in college:

Talk it out. Talk to those who are helping you pay for college. Discussing your finances and budgeting plans with those supporting your educational pursuits, allows expectations to be set for everyone involved. Even if you’ll be supporting yourself financially in college, inform others that you’ll need to manage your resources and may not be able to splurge on certain activities or items. Talking it out allows everyone to be on the same page.

Essentials first, fun second. When developing a budget, account for necessities first, – housing, transportation, tuition, etc. – then designate money for flexible expenses like going to the movies or gym memberships. This method ensures your living expenses are taken care of while giving you room to enjoy leisure activities. Some college campuses host fun, free events that can make the most of a small entertainment budget.  

Discounts and sales help. Check to see if your favorite stores and restaurants offer a college student discount. Using coupons and shopping sales can also assist with managing your finances. Browse retail websites and apps for coupons and sales that will leave more money in your pocket. While these tips may not directly relate to developing a budget, it can help you stick to the one you create.

Avoid budget busters. Daily coffee shop runs or eating out every night can be budget busters. You don’t have to stop these altogether, but limit yourself to one or two splurges a week. Buying a coffee maker and snacks from the grocery store can minimize the impact of these habits on your budget. Use your college meal plan or pack a lunch to save money. A helpful option is to track your spending by using a budget app or software program. These kinds of trackers show your spending behaviors and give insight on routines that may need to change.

Embrace Minimalism. Minimalism is intentionally living with only the things you really need and that support your purpose. Adopting this mindset in college can help control your spending. Free yourself from the mentality that you need the latest greatest thing. You will find that your bank account will thank you! Many people find that a minimal mindset helps them become more efficient with less clutter in their space and their minds. Less stuff also means an easy to clean dorm room and makes packing and moving simpler.

Learning to budget makes it easier to avoid debt, build wealth and live a lifestyle you can afford during and after college. To learn more about tips for budgeting while in college, visit