A Guide to Budgeting for University Students
You might have heard that you only need to budget when you have plenty of money, but in fact, the practice is important for everyone. If you’re a student working hard to make ends meet, you can tell that budgeting is more important for students than anyone else.
University life can be pretty stressful because you have to balance your grades, course work, social life, health, and part-time job. On top of all these, you have to manage your money.
Remember that poor spending habits could leave you broke in the middle of the semester, and this can cause added, unnecessary stress. Budgeting may feel like a cumbersome task, but it’s one worth doing.
We’ve listed below some strategies that could help you create and maintain an effective student budget.
Know The Amount of Money You Have
Before you start budgeting, you need to know how much money you have available to spend. And for this, you have to determine certain factors. How much, if anything, are your parents willing to spend on your education?
Some parents help pay for college expenses. If your parents are providing you financial support, make sure you know what costs they will cover. And keep in mind any expectations they may have for providing financial assistance, such as having you maintain a certain GPA.
Try to Get Scholarships and Grants
Higher education is expensive. The average cost of tuition and fees for a graduate degree is now more than $23,000 per year.
Fortunately, most universities offer scholarships and grants that can help. Most scholarships are merit-based. They’re awarded to students with good grades or those who possess a particular talent. As a result, scholarships often require a lot of work. For example, they might require you to write an essay, submit a video, or maintain a certain GPA.
But the payoff is worth it! Scholarships can cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and other expenses. The good news is that most scholarships cover living expenses as well. Let’s say you live in one of the student apartments near Waterloo University. In that case, your scholarship or grant could cover your residence expenses.
Scholarships undoubtedly offer you the perfect opportunity to cover your university expenses without taking out student loans. And if you get a scholarship or grant offer, make sure you know the details, such as which costs it will cover or any other conditions.
Make a List of Your Expenses
It’s a good idea to break down all your expenses and make a list. Doing so will help you understand where your money is going. You can then use the findings to create a solid budget.
Here are some expenses you should account for in your budget plan:
- Tuition and student fees
- School supplies
- Food and groceries
- Recreational expenses
- Track Your Spending
Once you’ve made a list of your expenses, start tracking your spending (you can use an app for convenience). Tracking not only helps you understand your spending habits, but it also lets you know when to cut down and where.
Tracking your actual spending habits also helps adjust your budget to reflect your needs – and that’s perfectly okay! A budget is flexible and can be adjusted with changing needs.
There are many apps out there to make your budget and track your spending. For example, Mint is a great free app that helps you track your spending and focus on your financial goals.
Tips for Saving Money and Sticking to a Budget
Saving money and staying on top of your budget is challenging, especially in the beginning. But it’s not impossible. Here’s a quick list of some ways you can stay on track.
- Trim your expenses where possible.
- See if you can find used textbooks for the semester.
- Find free food at, for example, food giveaways and free pizza nights.
- Keep an eye out for student discounts and keep your ID on you at all times to take advantage of offers.
- Sell your old textbooks for some extra money.
- Talk to your parents about health insurance.
- Use your credit card responsibly.
- Find free on-campus or off-campus activities.
- Look for a part-time job.
While budgeting may feel overwhelming at first, these simple tips will help you manage your finances effectively for a better university experience.