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Living Within Your Means at School

How to stick to a tight budget

Track expenses

According to Wright State University, it’s easier to decrease your spending rather than increase your income while in college. As such, Geoff Williams, writing for U.S. News & World Report, recommends writing down a full list of your monthly expenses. These may include housing, school supplies, food, transportation, and clothes as well as more fun purchases like activities and streaming services.

Once you know what you spend your money on each month, you can then decide if there are any areas where you can cut back on. For example, Wright State University says buying a cup of coffee every day can quickly add up, so it may be worth making your own coffee instead. When going to the grocery store, you can also avoid buying unnecessary items by writing and following a shopping list.

Calculate your debt

To be financially responsible, it’s important to consider how much debt you will have upon graduating. If you’re borrowing using student loans, you can add up their total amount for your entire college career to get a sense of your debt.

If you want to reduce that amount, you can potentially do so by only borrowing enough to pay for your tuition and textbooks. You would then need to cover any other costs yourself. While this may not seem ideal, borrowing less now means owing less later. However, this isn’t a feasible solution for everyone.

Know your income

In order to pay for college without solely relying on student loans, Lauren Schwahn, a writer for NerdWallet, says you need to figure out who is covering your remaining college expenses. Family members may decide to pay for all or some of the costs. Another option is getting a job or receiving financial aid.

Set a budget

With all of the above information in mind, you can create a monthly budget. Latoya Irby, writing for The Balance, recommends figuring out your monthly income and then subtracting your expected expenses from it. If you plan to spend more money than you can afford to, you can take another look at your expenses and find ways to cut back.

Schwahn says using a budgeting app can also make it easy to keep track of your spending and determine what is and isn’t essential. In addition, Wright State University advises setting specific savings goals. For instance, if you want to study abroad, it can help to know the exact cost of the trip and when the money is due so that you know how much to save each month.

By making and sticking to a realistic budget, you may be able to more easily live within your means. If you want to know more about paying for your college, speak with a financial advisor.