Posted in Finance and Budgeting

How to Make a Budget

College changes the way we live. You’re completely responsible for yourself, and even if you’re used to doing things on your own, not having help as an option is completely different. Every family situation is different. Every individual has different needs. So whether you’re paying for your own college, having your parents pay, or going on a scholarship, you’ll need to learn how to manage your finances. This is where budgeting comes in.


For the sake of this post, I’m going to do a monthly budget. You can alter the time period to weekly, bi-weekly, even yearly. To get started, think about what your monthly income is. Pick a number you know you will always make, to avoid falling behind financially. For instance, if you’re a waitress who gets paid hourly as well as tips, assume you have a bad month and don’t make a ton. Use that “bad” number as your budget. Let’s just use $200 as an example.


You make $200 on a bad month, so your monthly budget is $200.

Secondly, make a list of everything you’ll need to pay for every month. This could be a rather long list, so try to keep it vague. Getting too specific will just stretch you and your money.


Overall, there’s 5 things that should always be on your list.

  1. Food/groceries
  2. Toiletries
  3. Medical needs
  4. Transportation/gas
  5. Spending/miscellaneous

Make sure you include insurance (medical, vehicle, etc). Some additional costs might include:

  1. Rent
  2. Utilities
  3. Pets
  4. Tithe
  5. Monthly subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify, etc)

Next, subtract set monthly expenses- things that you will always need to pay for that will always be the same price (rent, insurance, subscriptions, etc.). It’s good to get this out of the way first, since you can’t cut back here. What you’re left with is your actual budget.


You have a $200 monthly budget. You pay $10 in subscriptions each month. So you really have $190 to budget.

After you’ve subtracted your fixed payments, order your remaining items by importance (most to least).


  1. Medication
  2. Groceries
  3. Toiletries
  4. Transportation
  5. Spending

If you have prescription medication, this is obviously the most important item on your list. Groceries are also important- humans need to eat. No, you’re not an alien. Next, we have toiletries. Although you CAN live without deodorant, I prefer you use it. So does your neighbor. I checked. Fourth on the list is transportation. This is easier to work around sometimes. Walking or biking are great alternatives to save money. If you go to school or work too far away, carpooling is another great way to keep your bank account positive. Plus, you can use the HOV lane and it’s good for the environment. win-win. Lastly, we have spending money. This is for clothes, haircuts, make-up, etc.


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We’re almost done, I promise. After you have your list, assign the amount you’d like to spend each month to each item on the list. As much as you’d like to spend $500 on marvel movies and t-shirts, try to keep your budget in mind. You don’t have to stick to the exact number.


  1. Medication- $20
  2. Groceries- $100
  3. Toiletries- $20
  4. Transportation- $50
  5. Spending- $20

Now remember, you only actually have $190 to budget. Add up your costs and see what you get.


$20+$20+$20+$50+$100 = $210

Don’t worry that it’s over your budget (not yet anyways). This is why we ordered them by importance. So, to get to $190, we have to subtract $20 from the lowest items on the list. There are two obvious options here:

  1. Subtract all of your spending money. It’s not a necessity, so it goes.
  2. Subtract $10 from your spending money, and $10 from your transportation money. You can make this up by walking, biking, carpooling, or even working from home.

Personally, I think that it’s important to be able to spoil yourself. Even if it’s only with $10. How many chocolate bars can you buy with that? Or you could rent a movie. Get yourself a coffee. $10 can be a lot.


  1. Medication- $20
  2. Groceries- $100
  3. Toiletries- $20
  4. Transportation- $40 ($50-$10)
  5. Spending- $10 ($20-$10)

Don’t worry, I did the math for you.

$10+$20+$20+$40+$100 = $190


Well, there you go! Making a budget is easy- sticking to it is hard. Here are some tips to help you save money.

  1. Pay with cash. You know exactly how much you can spend and are a lot less likely to go over.
  2. Factor in tax. Whip out your phone and calculate your total before you check out.
  3. Pay with exact change. If your total is $1.08, and you pay with two $1 bills, you’ll get 92 cents back. That’s almost a dollar. Soon enough, you’ll have $7 in change that you’ll never use.
  4. Make a list of what you need. This will help you from throwing things you don’t need in the basket.
  5. Cut back wherever you can. This is an easy way to save money. Bike or carpool instead of paying for gas. Rent a movie instead of going to see one. Eat in or use your meal plan if you have one instead of eating out. If you do go out, get one meal and water. Don’t splurge on appetizers and deserts, you’re poor.

Tip: Use a monthly budget planner, like the one here, to help you keep tabs on your spending.

I hope this helped you get started on saving money. Living on what you make in college is hard, but it is doable. If you have any more money-saving ideas, leave it in the comments! Please like, and subscribe for more content!

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