How to Stay on Budget as a College Student

Being a college student is expensive enough. With all the money we spend on food, printing services and tuition it’s easy to fall into a financial hole. Balancing social experiences, food and academic expenses can seem almost impossible, but if you sit down and attempt to make a budget, you’ll be fine. Budgets are essential to saving money and determining how much money you should spend. Yes people, how much money you make determines how much you should spend.

The amount of money you make should be at least 50% more than how much you spend. This leaves you with enough money for financial mishaps, accidents, and hidden fees. Once you’ve picked a budget, you need to learn to stick with it. Here are 4 ways to successfully create a budget and stick to it.

Where’s my debit card?

The myth about saving money when you put it on a card rather than holding it as cash is true. When using cash, it’s hard to keep track of the change and you’re more likely to lose it or spend it. A debit card, on the other hand, can always be replaced, or cancelled if lost. Also, you can get alerts straight to your phone after every transaction with online banking, so you’ll receive an updated balance every time you swipe your card. You can set up online budgets through most online banking programs, and you can set up a savings account to pair with your debit card. Savings accounts have limited amounts of transactions so you can’t spend it all—this is an easy way to divide up your money without confusion.

I’m hungry!

Hey, I love food too! But we all know how expensive it can be to buy a meal everyday. Even the cost of fast-food every night can add up in cash and calories. A healthy and cheaper alternative is meal prepping. This works if you have limited access to a kitchen and hate cooking. Schedule a couple of times a month to cook a huge meal. Have some the night you make it, and freeze the rest in individual ‘tubberware’ or reusable food containers. This makes a quick and easy meal you only need to microwave and can last up to a week, depending on how much you make.

How much money do I have?

Write down your monthly income and how much you typically spend in a month. Go through your “spend” list and cross off anything you don’t need. Whatever is left should be bills, personal care and a small amount for miscellaneous things like food and entertainment. Subtract this amount from your monthly income and whatever is left is how much you should be saving every month. This will be different for everyone, but it works! Set this amount in your head, so you know every month you should have a certain amount in your account.

I can’t afford to pay!

Well my friends, if you find yourself saying these words, you’re either not saving enough or not working enough. Yes, we all know college is hard, but you’re an adult now and need to handle your business. Part-time jobs are necessary if you want to be able to save money and pay for your personal expenses. You don’t have to work a lot, just enough to balance out your budget and add to what you already have. Whether it’s walking dogs, or serving ice cream, it’ll help overall.

I hope these 4 steps help you on your journey to staying on budget.

What are your favorite money saving tips? Tell us in the comments below. Stay awesome!


Shaloun Mims is a Secondary English Education Major at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. With her degree, she plans to give back to the inner-city by educating its fragile youth and restoring a structured education system. Apart from a busy school schedule, Shaloun spends her time blogging, cooking, and exercising. She’s very passionate about education, and determined to help others become successful. Becoming a Student Ambassador is just the first step in fulfilling a life of educating, leading and supporting students. She is excited to represent the company and to be a part of the Cengage Team!

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