If you’re going off to college (or are already in college) this might be the first time you are managing your finances on your own. Whether you are responsible for student loans and educational expenses, living expenses, or merely your spending money, there are a few things you need to take into consideration when making your college budget.
68% of undergraduate students graduate with student loans. That means the vast majority of students need to spend their college years preparing for loan payments they will have upon graduation. For many this may involve choosing a degree that will be financially lucrative, working during school years, or managing your finances well while enrolled. Start by writing down your income for the month. This should include money you make from any jobs as well as allowances you might be receiving from family members.
Then subtract from that amount the amount you will spend each month on educational expenses. Educational expenses may include tuition, fees, loan payments, textbooks, school supplies, project fees, and other costs necessary to receive your education. This will help you to have a clear picture of what income you will need to bring in to cover your educational expenses, as well as how much money you will have leftover for living expenses and spending money.
Then there are living expenses to consider. Often room and board are covered by student loans, but you may have additional living expenses such as rent, meal plans, groceries, dorm room furnishings, clothing, and other items for your dorm room or apartment. Total up your monthly living expenses, then subtract that amount from the total left over after your educational expenses.
By now you will have a new total: the amount of your income left after educational expenses and living expenses. This might be a good place to look at which items are necessary and which aren’t. Do you need to spend that much on groceries each month? Is there a way you can decorate your apartment more inexpensively or pay less on clothing? Can you buy used textbooks? Any change you can make to your bottom line will affect how much money you have leftover for spending money.
Now, of course, is the fun part. Whatever is left of your college budget at this point can be used as spending money. If there’s not a lot left, don’t panic. There are many ways to thrive on a college budget, one of which is to take advantage of your tuition to take a class that interests you or spend a semester studying abroad. These things are included as part of your student loans and are good investments in your future. There are also many free activities your school may have to offer. This might include sporting events, fraternity or sorority events, school productions, and choir concerts. Enjoy the on-campus activities, then keep track of whatever is left of your college budget for spring break vacations and other college entertainment.
DEXSTA Federal Credit Union is here to support you in all your college endeavors. Whether you live or attend school in New Castle County Delaware, we’d love to help ease your college budget by providing low-interest student loans you can pay for after you graduate. Stop by one of our branches in Wilmington for more information.