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Budgeting 101

What comes to your mind when you think of the word budget? You probably think “money” immediately. Maybe the word brings up some anxieties that you have around getting more money. In some cases, the word “budget” can dredge up feelings of shame around spending habits. For some people the idea of creating a “budget” just is not interesting at all. Budgeting doesn’t need to be boring! Budgeting is an important skill for financial wellness. Here we will give you some ideas about how to make a plan and make your money work for you.

The first thing to know when creating a budget is your income. As a college student, income can be tricky! If you do not already have a job, check out opportunities for students at jobs.uc.edu. The website is updated frequently with postings. Scholarships can be another way to supplement your income. You can apply for scholarships the entire time you are in school! If you have more in financial aid than your bill, universities will send you the excess as a refund check. This way you can use financial aid to assist with your living expenses. Get in the habit of considering any other financial support (perhaps coming from family) as income as well so that you learn to use it as a tool to meet your goals.

Once you know what your income is, it is time to identify your expenses and break classify them as needs or wants. Start your needs list with the things you can’t live without. Essentials often include rent, utilizes and food if you live off-campus. Create a list of essentials based on you! Do you pay your phone bill? Do you have monthly medical costs? Include them. After you have listed out your needs, move on to create a list of wants. This list may include some more fun items. Maybe you like a little retail therapy every once and a while. Maybe you enjoy a particular brand of coffee to-go each morning. Jot these things down!

After you have your monthly income and a list of monthly needs/wants together you are almost done! From here, take your income and minus out the needs first. Ask yourself the following questions:

Is there anything left over? Is it barely enough? Do you have more than enough funds?

Move on and minus out your wants. Ask yourself the same questions.

Do not get discouraged if you are not where you want to be today! This is your starting point. If you are in a position where you have more than enough, this would be a great time to start up a savings plan. If not, there are a few different ways you can make adjustments. You have to be creative when creating a budget as a college student. Think about some ways that you can cut your costs and increase your income. Remember, small changes can make a big impact over time!

Utilize campus resources. Spending a lot on transportation costs? Try using the UC Shuttle or UC NightRide. Both offer free rides to UC students! Putting a lot of your funds to entertainment? Stay up to date on free events and activities, including virtual ones, posted on CampusLink. Consider renting your textbooks if possible. Take advantage of college student discounts when shopping. As mentioned earlier, you may be able to increase your income through scholarships and student jobs. Start thinking of a potential side-hustle like making deliveries or selling your used items. Remember that everything counts!

Building a budget is all about setting your priorities and using your money as a tool for you. Congratulate yourself for taking the first step by making a plan. Continue to make changes as needed. Some people prefer to keep track of their financial plan by journaling or writing it out manually. There are a ton of apps available to help you manage your budget if that is not for you! The important part is that you start creating habits now that will enhance your financial wellness in the long run. For more information more tips, tricks and tools please visit our UC One Stop Budgeting page