College Budgeting: How to Survive the Next Four Years

Nov. 19, 2018, 5:56 p.m.   evan@scholarme.co  


Perhaps the most frightening thing about college is the cost. Stress from a lack of understanding, proper planning, and overall abundance is detrimental to your health. In fact, a 2013 study by Princeton University showed that people preoccupied with money problems experienced a drop in IQ of 13 points.

That’s equivalent to the loss of an entire night’s sleep.

Case and point: money matters. We’ve created a simple budgeting system for you to follow so you can not only survive, but enjoy, the next four years.

1. Talk money, honey.

You can’t get around it this time, my friend. Sit down and have the talk with your parents, guardian, or a trusted adviser about your financial situation. Anxious about it? You’re not alone.

“One of our biggest obstacles [with] teaching young people financial literacy is not making money and expenses a taboo subject.” — Catie Hogan, Founder of Hogan Financial Planning LLC It’s a tough subject, but the more open the lines of communication, the better the situation all around. Once you bring up the dreaded talk, you can begin planning for the future.

2. List your expenses.

After you have your talk, you want to start setting up your budget. Make a list of everything that you will have to pay for during college. Include things like:

Room, board, tuition Meals Transportation FAFSA and taxes Scholarships, grants, and student loans Bank accounts Credit cards Clothing Your “fun” money, for when you’re not studying for once This list doesn’t include everything, but it does give you a great head start. Once you cover the items above, you can move onto the next step.

3. Track your spending

It’s 2018, fam. That means there are apps, digital banking platforms, and even artificial intelligence to help you stay on track. Now that you know what your expenses are, you want to start inputting everything in one, central location.

My personal favorite is Cleo — she’s an intelligent assistant that talks to me through Facebook Messenger. I just ask her my balance, my spending, and boom! All right there. The ScholarMe team also loves Mint by Intuit, the same people behind TurboTax. The cool thing about Mint is its inclusion of the credit score factor.

Another option is to explore your bank’s resources. I know Wells Fargo has a free money management tool. Bank of America has its own chatbot that helps in a similar fashion.

Not much of a digital person? Google Sheets and Excel spreadsheets get the job done too. Just keep in mind that these require manual input, leaving more room for human error and forgetfulness.

4. Plan for the long-run.

It’s not a bad idea to consider putting together an emergency fund. If you have student loans, setting money aside each month is a great way to start chipping away at those expenses.

Stuck on how to save money for that fund? Find ways to go cheap when you can. Rent textbooks from Amazon Prime, or borrow them from a friend if possible. Scope free lunch on campus from events, and use your student ID to get discounts from your favorite restaurants and movie theatres.

With careful planning, saving is possible. It’s possible to survive the next four years, especially with a proper budget in place. Still in need of funding? Check out our article on federal and private student loans for more options.


budgeting college
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Evan Farrell
ScholarMe CTO
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