College was the first time I was more or less financially free of my parents, which was both a good thing and a bad thing. I didn’t have my parents scrutinizing my impulse buys, but I also didn’t have someone to ask for cash if I needed some last-minute funds. I found budgeting my money in a specific way helped me make my money last throughout the semester without having to miss out on any fun. Setting up a college bank account helped me achieve my financial goals.
The most important thing when it came to budgeting was establishing what was important for me to spend my money on. For some people it could be clothing, food, going out, etc. I decided I wanted to save as much money as possible so I could splurge when I studied abroad in a few years. This meant I had to be frugal my freshman and sophomore years.
I decided it wasn’t important for me to spend money on eating out because I already had a meal plan that covered me almost anytime I was hungry. I was, however, willing to spend money on concerts and shows. After all, these were special events that only come around every once in a while, whereas eating out was not as big of a deal to miss.
I already had an account at home, and I found that setting up a separate college bank account helped me save money. My home account was my savings account and I decided I would budget myself $500 a semester. This meant that I took out the $500 from my savings and put it into my college bank account at the beginning of each semester.
So, the only money I could access was the $500 I had set aside; I couldn’t spend more than that. I checked my balance after every withdrawal and found that I spent about $100 a month, give or take.
There was a small amount of risk involved in this plan: What if there was a last-minute emergency where I need cash fast and my college bank account didn’t have the funds? I solved that problem by giving my parents access to both accounts. This allowed my parents to transfer money to me immediately in case of an emergency.
Every person’s budget is different. In order to figure out the right budget for yourself, decide what you want to spend your money on and establish a way to implement that spending in the most responsible way. I found that each semester I came in under budget and could save even more with my system!
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