Are you heading to post secondary school and are in need of a plan for your finances? Are you getting funding for school but have no idea how to budget it for the semester? Will you be living on your own for the first time and are overwhelmed with how to make y0ur money last? If this is you then stick around because today I am sharing all my financial tips for students living on a low income and using simple strategies to creating financial balance.
I think the biggest challenge to University and College students is learning how to budget on a student income. Perhaps you have had little to no experience at all budgeting an income, maybe you have never even had an income before this. There are so many situations that can arise with going to post secondary and managing your money is a huge learning curve for most.
I’m going to share with you my story of being a College student AND a mom of a 2 year old living on welfare when I went back to school. Managing a household, a toddler and a school budget has given me key insights in how to be successful with money. I will clue you in to the financial elements that you need to track so that you know where you are and where you are going. I will help you make a working budget.
So let me start at the beginning without trying to bore you. I was a 22 year old mother of a 2 year old when I decided to go to College to get my diploma. I was on welfare, I had to apply for funding to support me through the school year, and I had to figure out how to manage an apartment, both my own and my son’s financial needs and try and have some money to still do the things I wanted to do. To say it was a mountain to overcome was an understatement. Most students don’t have to factor in diapers into their school budget.
To extend my know how I am now the mother of a 17 year old son who is going into University in September so I am teaching him these FINANCIAL TIPS FOR STUDENTS! So get ready to get the advice I never got with budgeting.
KEEP TRACK OF SPENDING
Oh I know what a drag but this is honestly one of the biggest things that people don’t understand about their money. Where is it going!? I would suggest doing this for at least a couple of weeks and see where you are spending your money. You may be surprised that your Starbucks addiction is costing you 50$ a week, or that eating out with the friends is breaking the bank. When we don’t have a good grasp of where our money is going we can’t properly see the whole picture. This is a key habit to financial success and can change the way you swipe your debit card in the future.
Ok so variable expenses is the next thing that is important to know and keep track of. Basically it is anything you can buy in a store (for example groceries, gas, or coffee) or expenses that are within your control. You can decide how much and if you will spend on these items. Here is a sample list of some things that are considered variable expenses. You can see how by tracking your spending first that you can start to put those purchases into these categories and see where money is going.
- Personal care items (drugstore)
- Fuel / public transportation costs
- Clothing & shoes
- School lunches & snacks
- Eating out
- Tobacco / alcohol
- Sports & recreation, other hobbies
- Hair care / salon services
- Magazines / newspapers / books
TRACKING YOUR INCOME
Next financial tip for students is that you need to know what total income you’re working with. For instance maybe you have funding or a loan for school, but you also have grants and a part time job. You will need to track it all and figure out how much on average per month you will have at your disposal. You need to know what comes in so that you can balance what goes out.
TRACKING YOUR BILLS
You need to understand what your fixed expenses are and take them into account every month. These will be your bills that need to be payed every month ongoing. Some examples are:
- Tenant insurance
- Utility bills (cable, cell, electricity, water, etc.)
- Pone / cell phone bills
- Cable bill
- Internet bill
- Medical / medications
- Lease / car loan payment
- Vehicle insurance (if paying monthly)
- Bank fees
- Debt payments (credit card, personal loan, etc.)
MAKING A BUDGET
Once you have all the above information then the budget process is fairly straight forward. By placing both your fixed and variable expenses into the appropriate category you can add them all up and see if you have enough income. If yes then great! If no then you need to adjust your variable expenses so that you have enough money, or you need to increase your income.
I also suggest that your put 10% off your total income toward short term savings and 25% towards emergency savings. Short term are used for things that you want in the near future, things to save up for. Emergency savings are for those times when your car breaks down and needs to be fixed or you have an unforeseen expense you didn’t see coming up.
If you take away one thing from these FINANCIAL TIPS FOR STUDENTS it is to always keep track of what your spending and look back on each month. Make a date with yourself to keep your finances top of mind so they never get away from you. Swiping your debit or credit card can easily get away from you but if you know that when you get home you have to write it down and be accountable for it, I’m positive it will change the way you look at spending.
If you like the budgeting and tracking pages you see in this post then you can find the financial printable planner HERE
If you are struggling with your student finances let me know in the comments below what you difficulties or successes have been?