Incoming students who have never had to budget money may not realize that it takes time, diligence and the ability to make good financial decisions to keep one’s finances solvent. Budgeting should be a priority before the money is gone without a trace.
Try not to follow in the footsteps of other college students like Julie Berg, an Indiana University junior who said on CollegeBound.net, “I spent seven bucks photocopying stuff for class last week, just because I didn’t want to sit in the library and read it. So much of this just comes down to laziness.”
To start a budget, make a list of bills that have to be paid on a monthly basis, such as rent, electric, cable and car insurance, and then estimate the monthly cost of items such as entertainment, gas, food, toothpaste and shampoo, which can vary quite a bit.
Gather information about all of the money that will be received this semester such as scholarships, a part-time job and money from parents.
When all the necessary information has been collected, do a budget either on paper or using an online budget planner. For example, Moneystrands.com has a free budget planner that allows information to be manually or electronically uploaded. It can also track credit card information.
The goal of a budget is to make sure that less money is going out than coming in. If rent is $600 per month and no new money is expected, then $2,400 needs to be set-aside for October through January housing.
The same thing needs to be done with all expenses, even entertainment. If more money is going out than is expected to be received, a part-time job is one option.
Cutting down on entertainment and brown-bagging lunches could be another choice. At the Marshall Student Center on Thursday, I watched the totals of the lunches being bought by students and it amazed me how many were more than $10.
Remember, if you receive financial aid, the next disbursement is not until January 15, which means that the money won’t be available until a few days after that date. Therefore, budgets should be set up to last through winter break.
Another good idea is to build an emergency fund – a few dollars a week can add up quickly. Also, keep track of deadlines for scholarship and grant applications, and get the paperwork in on time.
At USF, the place to go to get answers to financial questions is the Financial Aid Office, which is located in the Student Services building in room 1102. The office can be reached at (813)-974-4700.
Regina Farrell is a junior majoring in art history.