I think that college students are infamously known for being broke and there’s a good reason for it. Tuition itself is expensive as well as all the additional costs of living the college life. The reason I’m putting this post together is because a lot of people in my personal life have asked me to budget their money with them since I do one for myself . I have never studied business or anything remotely close but I have always had a keen interest in maths and money because I love to invest in clothes and make-up. Around September/November last year I started writing down everything I bought into one book to really see where my money was going and to see where I could save money. This has helped me to afford things that otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford. I will write about how I do my simple budget/account in more detail in this post and I have also added in a few tips that will help you save a few bob here and there.
Making a budget/account
I started off my buying a soft back A4 copy book to monitor two things, how much I was spending a week and what I was spending it on. Unlike a normal budget, instead of writing in my entire weekly income I chose to write in my weekly allowance. For me, I found that this was more effective because when I saw that I could only spend x amount a week I really tried hard to stick to it, whereas if I was to see my entire income in a week I would be temped to spend it all and save nothing.
Saving money every week is really important because you never know what could happen in the future. If you are going to budget in a way that you are going to write your entire income in a week in, as opposed to what you are allowing yourself to spend in a week, make sure to deduct some money from that for savings.
I am not an accountant. I literally googled for the most simple format of an account book/ budget book I could find and this is what I came up with. It really is super simple and if I can do it, anyone can.
- Make 4 columns on your page one for date, debit, credit and balance. In my debit I write in what I allow myself per week and in my credit I write what I spend per day. Then at the end of the week I see if I have gone over my allowance for the week or if I have some to spare. If I go over what I allow myself to spend in a week I add that credit into following week and make it up as to stay on track for whatever goal I have for that time.
- On a separate page make 3 columns one each for date, item and amount. This is where I write down everything I spend. Writing down everything you spend might seem like a bit of a trek but it’s actually pretty easy if you just hold onto your receipts. I usually write in most of this on Sunday evenings so I can look back over what I’ve spent the week previous and what I have spent it on.
- Make a saving’s goal and be realistic! I would be hopeless at saving if I wasn’t working towards a certain amount or a certain item. If you really want to save €500 or you want a new laptop let that be your motivation and trust me it will keep you on track with sticking to your weekly allowance and saving the rest.
At the end of a month I tally up what I have spent in total. This sounds extra, but I also make a pie chart of what I spent my money on to see visually where it went. It’s up to you what you what way you want to budget. I prefer to write down everything so I know exactly what I spent. If you want to budget but you don’t want to keep track of everything just make sure you are sticking to your weekly allowance.
Tips on how not to be a broke student
- Have more than one bank/credit union account. It really is best to separate your disposable income from your savings. Having a saving account and a separate current account is a good idea to keep you from dipping into your saving for unnecessary things. For me, I keep college expenses and personal expenses separate, this way I can prioritize college expenses such as printing, travel and books over clothes and make-up. Then when I have saved up over something as small as a three week period I can buy a new trousers or a foundation.
- Use cash when possible. Now, I am not suggesting you carry around loads of physical cash in your purse/wallet because if that gets stolen there’s no getting it back, but I find that paying for small things like snacks with cash makes you realize how much money you actually are spending on the little things. Contactless makes things much too convenient and almost painless, but we’re only fooling ourselves at the end of the day.
- Plan what you are allowing yourself for a night out before you go out. Separate essential money like money for a taxi home and entrance fees from your non essential money like money for drinks. Do not bring a debit card out with you that is connected to your savings account, this is just an all-round bad idea, choose to bring a card with much less money in it if possible so that if damage is done it wont be too extensive.
- Get student discounts everywhere you go. Always ask if a store does a student discount, you have nothing to lose. Even if it is a few euro it can make a difference.
- If you are a frequent traveller, get a student leap card. The fares are cheaper and you can get discounts in other stores with them too like McDonald’s and Boots.
- Prioritize your spending. We all know the difference between what we need and what we want, make sure you have enough money put away for essential things like rent and food before thinking about anything else.
- Stock up on things you can pick up for free. Colleges are always handing out free stuff and it doesn’t harm to stock up on all these free things especially during college occasions like Freshers and RAG week. Also don’t forget free things like water. Although I do love a mineral water every now and then buying a new bottle of water everyday really is a waste of money in areas where the tap water is within drinking quality standards. Buy yourself a stainless steel re-usable water bottle and fill it up everyday. ~ Think about it, if you were to spend at least €1 on bottled water a day that’s around €70 on bottled water a semester (~14 weeks). Also that’s 70 wasted plastic bottles, so save your money and the environment.
- Avoid impulse buying at all costs. It’s always a good idea at the time until you go home and find out you can’t return it because it was on sale and now you can’t go out for the week. It has happened to the best of us.
If you budget and save you will be more aware of where your money is going, so you can see if it’s going in the right place and you will be able to reap the rewards of having a few extra euro in your pocket like actually being able to say ‘ya I can go’ instead of ‘I’m broke soz’.
Fingers crossed this will help a few of you out and if you have any other tips leave them in the comments section below. I am not a business or finance expert (clearly :’)) so if you need some actual financial guidance get on to your college and see what services you can avail of.
Have a great week ! 🙂