How To: Create and Stick to a Budget

The dreaded B-word. Creating a budget is an essential step in understanding and taking control of your finances–whether you’re a college student or graduate. You may not realize the impact your daily choices have on your financial well-being. For example, if you buy a fancy coffee every day for $4.50 5 days a week, you would spend $1,170 a year on that alone. That money could be put toward paying off student debt, buying a house, or taking a deserved vacation. Now that you are armed with this knowledge, doesn’t budgeting sound more appealing?

A close-up shot of a calculator.

Most common, easiest, and FREE tools to create budgets:

  • Mint is an online and app-based budgeting tool. It is a favorite among many because of the ease of use and handy features like money tips and a free credit score. Mint has ready-made budgets as well as the option to create your own. You also are able to sync your bank account so that transactions are entered and categorized immediately (what can get easier than that?)
  • EveryDollar is a popular choice by people who love Dave Ramsey. It is an easy-to-use online and app-based budgeting tool aimed to help people track their spending and eliminate debt.
  • Excel is the spreadsheet tool in the Microsoft Office Suite. If you are an Excel fan who wants to customize their budget, this is perfect! If you aren’t comfortable creating your own, Excel has plenty of templates to get you started. While more manual than the other options, it has extreme customization.

Resources that require payment

  • YNAB(You Need A Budget) is an easy spreadsheet budgeting tool. It offers excellent insight into your spending through graphs and reports. YNAB does not sync with your financial institution to make automatic transactions. YNAB is $5 a month or $50 a year, but FREE for college students with proof of enrollment.
  • Quicken is more in-depth at handling all of your finances, not just budgeting. It can sync with your financial institution for automatic reporting. Quicken has three different products priced at $29.99, $64.99, and $94.99 currently.

How to stick to your budget

1. First, make it a reasonable budget. It’s important to have realistic expectations when creating your plan. Saying you are going to spend $20 a month on food is most likely not a realistic goal. Make clear, reasonable budgets. 

2. Make a grocery list. It’s easy to give in to impulse buying while in the store. However, if you have a list pre-made, only buy what is on your list.

3. Sleep on your purchases. In the same vein of resisting impulse buys at the grocery store, treat all purchases the same. You may love that top in the store, but after sleeping on it you might realize you don’t really need it.

4. Research purchasing options. Instead of only looking at one place to buy, research different options to find the best price.

5. Think of how many hours you need to work to pay for that item. This can easily change your mind fast!

6. Lastly, if you come in under budget–save it! It’s important to treat yourself once in a while, but don’t feel the need to spend your excess cash every month!

Now that you’re in control of your finances with a budget, take the next step and register with a College Raptor Account to find an affordable college education.

 

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