Between refunds from financial aid, student loans, or scholarships, it’s possible you will encounter times during your college career where you receive a lump sum as a check or automatic deposit into your account. This can feel so exciting, and also increase temptations to go on a bit of a shopping spree or buy a few things you’ve been eyeing.
However, it’s important to first identify what deposits you’ll have to pay back (student loan refunds) and which ones are free money (grant or scholarship refunds) to see what can be spent and if any should be returned. Then, take time to figure out what you need to spend money on up front for the semester, such as books or other supplies. From there, it’s important to make sure your remaining money will last you to avoid financial stress as the semester ends and you are trying to study for finals.
Do the math
Once you’ve enjoyed seeing the positive balance in your account and have bought the items you need for the semester, it’s time to determine how long your remaining money is supposed to last you. It could be for the semester, a few weeks until your part-time job kicks in, the entire summer, etc. From there, you’ll want to divide the amount of money you have by the number of weeks or months you need the money to last. It can be helpful to set aside money for fixed expenses, such as rent, and place them into a sub-saver before doing the math to see what you really have to live off of.
For example, if you receive a deposit of $3,000 and you won’t have additional income for four months until the next semester begins, divide $3,000 by 4 to discover you’ll have $750 per month, or about $187 per week. However, if you’re also going to be paying your monthly rent or another large expense each month, subtract that first and move the amount into a sub-saver to ensure you don’t spend it. If your rent is $400 per month, multiply $400 by 4 and set aside $1,600 for this cost. This leaves $1,400 for other expenses over the four month period, allowing you to spend $350 per month, or around $88 per week.
Make it last
Now comes the hard part of actually sticking to the weekly or monthly budget you’ve determined you can spend. If you know there is no way you can live within your calculated budget, you’ll need to see how you can get more money coming in. Is there a way to get a part-time job or start your own side hustle? If not, what changes can you make when it comes to your variable expenses to free up some money? It can be surprising to see how much we often spend on fees, delivery costs, parking, coffee, etc. when things get tight. Sometimes a few small changes in your daily routine can free up money and keep you on track.