Ways to Prepare your Budget for College

Ways to Prepare your Budget for College

Summertime offers a chance for students to work full time and save as much as possible for the upcoming college year. Of course, it is important to rest and enjoy some time in the sunshine too. 

Before long, it will be time to jump back into study time and get into your new class schedule. To help you transition back to school, it is wise to think about money matters and start a budget for your college school year. If you jot down your ideas on paper during the summer, you will have time to make adjustments and get organized with your spending.

Here are five great ways to begin your college budget and help you keep on track.

1) Determine your Funds Situation

It is vital to understand when your student loan funds, or additional financial aid will arrive and how this money will be delivered. Typically, your institution will receive this money and use it on your behalf to cover room and board, fees and tuition. However, private loans often have a different schedule for disbursement compared to financial aid. Speak with your loan service provider to determine when and how you can expect the cash to arrive. 

Have any of your relatives or parents used a 529 Plan to save money? Ask them how they plan on disbursing the funds and what situation will best suit everyone. 

If you received a scholarship, ask if the funds will be directly sent to the school and triple check the "made payable to" information is proper. Did you know that most institutions don't accept checks made out to the student? Don't hesitate to speak with your school bursar if you need more clarification. 

Keep track of the income record of your various funding sources by listing how much you expect to receive from each one and when you expect the funds to arrive. 

2) Keep Track by writing down your Expenses

Write down all your expenses in a list. Include room and board, tuition, personal items, books, fees and food. Are you taking a car or public transit to school? You will need to add a transit pass or parking fees and gas. Add up everything as it comes up. Do you need to purchase contact lenses? Are you making a credit card payment or student loan payment?

Some people like to create two different lists to help keep track of their school expenses. The first list can include any expenses that student loans and financial aid pay for. Your school receives this money and applies it to room and board, tuition and fees. Any excess cash will be paid to you, and you will be able to use it for other expenses related to education.

The next list will be made up of any expenses that you cover from your personal savings account. It can include funds earned from work-study, money from your part-time job, or any cash from your folks. Items include personal items, entertainment, clothes, dining out and similar items. 

This is a great way to break down all your expenses and understand where the money to pay for each item will be coming from. 

3) Take your Income into Account

It is exciting to earn money from your part-time job and feel like you deserve some treats. Be wary of blowing all of your hard-earned cash on clothing, entertainment and outings. Splurging once in a while is ok if you budget for it in advance. 

Add up the income you will be generating and determine how much you want to put in the bank to save for the school year. By saving some of your earnings and supplementing your budget, you may enjoy having to work fewer hours once school begins. This will free up more time to join sports, spend time studying, engage with a campus club, or pursue an internship.

If you are going to be working part-time while attending school, estimate how much you expect to earn each month. Are you betting on receiving a work-study award along the way? Decide if that money will be best spent on gas, food, rent, or other things in advance.

Birthday money and bonus cash gifts may make their way to you throughout the year. You can decide if that money will be better spent saved up for a rainy day or if putting it toward school expenses suits your situation. 

4) Develop a budget for additional expenses

There will be random one-time bills that arise on top of your recurring expenses. These items can include travel expenses, bedding, kitchen appliances, school supplies and similar things. Use your calendar to keep track of when you will have to purchase these goods. You will likely buy dorm room items late in the summer before heading off to college. Travel expenses like a plane ticket or extra gas money to travel home will likely be during the winter or spring months.

As in the rest of your life, unexpected expenses may arise. If costs appear such as having to fix your vehicle, medical expenses, or paying for computer software, you will be ready for success if you plan to have some extra emergency funds saved up. Being fiscally responsible will help you be more organized and less stressed.

5) Don't Be Afraid To Ask for Help

Never be afraid to ask for help if you feel stuck. There are plenty of budgeting resources available. You can speak with someone you trust who can impart some budgeting wisdom to you. Perhaps, a school counselor, relative, family friend, older sibling, or parent will be able to help you build a budget and answer any questions you may have. There is no need to shoulder the burden of financial worries on yourself.

Making your money last the entire year can help you feel less stress and is possible with some organization and planning. You will be less likely to accrue debt if you plan a budget and save appropriately throughout the school year.