Budgeting is a crucial planning skill that everyone should cultivate for. Moreover, it is even more critical if you are a college student in America. Unlike living with your parents who have always held the task of budgeting on your behalf, you will be out on your own, meaning that this responsibility will be passed on to you. The decision on what amount of money you spend on a particular item or activity will now autonomously lie with you. For this reason, you will need to carefully consider all the necessary factors involved before you spend a coin.
If you are an international student who has just been accepted in an American college facility, adequate planning and budgeting will be essential. As much as foreign countries present you with a new experience, it also poses new challenges. Nevertheless, researching beforehand on the living expenses that you are likely to incur as a student will get you prepared before you embark on creating a budget. Below are some tips that will help you along the way;
Involve your parents/guardians
Most often than not, your parents will be parting with their hard-earned money to support your education. In other words, they will have a say in your budget. Once the basic fees are catered for, your living cost will follow. Together with your parents, you need to think through the various costs in terms of where to stay, how much it would cost, after how long you should receive upkeep and how much it should be.
Your parents know their financial situation, so they will have an input on whether it is more affordable to live on or off campus. Once that is established, it will be easy to allocate funds on other areas like food, transport, and books.
Tracking your expenses
As soon as you are in school, hit the ground running with tracking your daily expenses. For your budget to shape up, start by noting down your expenses either on paper or using a software application on a daily basis. If you track your expenses for a month, you will know where you either underestimated or overestimated your first budget and proceed to make adjustments. Tracking your expenses will help you identify where it is possible to make cutbacks on your budget. When you need to convince your parents to give you more funding, tracking your expenses can serve as a convincing ground.
You will find that new textbooks in the U.S are quite expensive. To cut back on the textbook cost, buy from second-hand stores so long as you confirm that they are still relevant to your coursework. When you are done with them, sell them to other students to raise money for other needs.
Preparing in advance for events
If you want to travel to a new city for the spring break, it is prudent that you identify the cost and start allocating money way before the break. Start saving early and notify your parents in advance just in case you will need their help and how much you will possibly need. When the time comes, you will be thankful for having made plans early.
After your freshman year, you may prefer to live off campus if you find a cheaper place or you want to move in with a friend. Arrange to move early to avoid any inconveniences that may bring extra costs, or jeopardize your opportunity of spending less the following semester. This is because student apartments are competitive and if you spot a nice cheap place another person could be eyeing it as well. So, the best thing to do move in fast before someone else does.
Create an Emergency Fund
This is a very important aspect of any budget. Your budget will not always turn out as expected; some unforeseen expenses may arise along the way. Having an emergency fund can see you through such occurrences. For instance, you may get sick or lose something that needs immediate replacement. Other times, your stipend may delay and you will need something to keep you going.
Remember to also take advantage of student discounts while buying stuff from stores and meals. If you drink alcohol, go easy on your budget by waiting until happy hours to get that discount.