How to Live Well All Year Long (as a college student)

When I first started budgeting, I realized I was spending an absurd amount of money at Starbucks and eating out.

Like many others, I work as much as possible during the summer and winter to stockpile money for the semester when I cannot work as much. My financial goals at the start of each academic year are always to:

  1. Make my money last until May.
  2. Experience that year with my friends and family.
  3. Save money going into the next academic year

In August, I would look at my bank account balance and be afraid to spend because although my bank account balance was high, I was unsure how long my money would last. I would say no to weekend trips or events with my friends, and I stressed about unexpected expenses.

It wasn’t about having money, I had some, but I constantly worried, Do I have enough?

Enter budgeting. With my budget, I decide how much I want to spend each month to live comfortably. I decide how much I need for gas, for eating out, for gifts, for trips, and all of the other things that might happen in my life that academic year. I also consider things that might happen, such as having to get new tires or replacing my phone. After deciding how much I need, I spread my pile of money out from August to May.

I don’t have enough money for everything that I list out that I want. Because of this, I must prioritize what is important to me and eliminate those things that are less important. For example, I do not buy coffee from Starbucks anymore, unless I am having coffee with a friend. I also follow the same rule for eating out. For me, I was spending too much of my money on grabbing coffee and food alone, that I had to say no when friends were going out. I also do not buy new clothes and limit myself when buying new possessions. I don’t have enough for possessions and experiences. If I buy a new shirt, I must say no to fun with my friends later that week. I try to choose people over things.

Depending on your goals, your budget may lead you to work less or work more. For me, my budget enables me to stress less about work because I know how much time I need to spend at work to fund my priorities.

For help getting started with your own budget, we have a Quick Start Guide to Your Financial Success on Budgeting available for you here:

https://www.wku.edu/cfs/quickstartbudgeting.pdf

As always, we also encourage you to take advantage of our free peer-to-peer financial counseling by setting up an appointment with one of our counselors. You can do that here:

https://www.wku.edu/cfs/become-a-client.php

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