When it comes to creating a budget, the most important thing to remember is to know yourself. You shouldn’t create a budget that is unrealistic for your spending habits or personality. Make something that works for you.
Understand exactly how much you make
It’s really important, when making a budget, that you understand how much money you’re actually making. Remember, while you might be making $12 per hour, once taxes are taken out, you will actually be making slightly less. If it helps, try looking at a previous pay stub to see how much is taken out for taxes. If you work the same hours every week you will get an answer for how much you’re actually making every month.
Make a list of things that you have to pay first by making a list of what we call static, or recurring expenses, and flexible expenses. Things like rent, groceries, utilities, cell phone bills, and loan payments would be considered “static expenses” while things like meals out, going to the movies, and buying new clothes would be considered flexible expenses. Once you have a list of all of the different expenses you have in a month, write out the cost of all of the recurring expenses that you have. Then add them up. When you’re done, take the amount of money you make per month (after taxes) and subtract your recurring expenses. What’s leftover is what can be used for flexible expenses, or better yet, to establish savings.
Always expect the unexpected
Budget for “unexpected” expenses. Create a savings account that you contribute to weekly, monthly, or quarterly, knowing that the money you put into that account is for things like unexpected doctors visits, car repairs, etc.
During those months, or years, when your budget is tight, don’t get discouraged. Living extravagantly isn’t typical for the average college student. The great thing about living on a college student budget is that you have the opportunity to establish excellent budgeting skills. When you start making a salary, or a higher pay, at a full-time job, you will already have skills in place to establish larger savings in the long run. But for now, take a deep breath, pay your bills on time, try to stay out of debt, and enjoy college.