Personal Budgeting

We’re about to enter college. Most of us are on a minimum wage job. Yet, we’re expected to be able to live on our own. With the woes of loans, book fees, tuition, room, food, and a social life, what’s a college student to do? For many of us, this is the first time we will be on our own, with no one to help us through. So – if one does not know how to take care of themselves with what little money they have, how can they be expected to thrive? Behind every thing in life, there has to be some degree of an education behind it.

Sometimes we just have to do what's best for ourselves. (photo by 401(K) 2013)

Sometimes we just have to do what’s best for ourselves. (photo by 401(K) 2013)

I personally love financing myself and calculating all of my estimated expenses. I was never good at math – until a real life application was given to me. For those of you who don’t necessarily enjoy calculating expenses (’cause hey, it frankly isn’t for everyone) there is a site called Mint, as linked here, that allows you to easily set a budget, track goals, and do much more, all for the pricey number of zero dollars. Worried about the safety that goes along with Mint? More than ten million people currently use Mint – knowing that they use the same security system that banks use. In any case, Mint is a read-only site, meaning that no money can be transferred, moved, or things of the like.

If you would like to budget yourself manually, follow through these simple steps to determine your budget:

1. Determine your income. This is obviously the starting point, because without, how do you know what money you have to spend?

2. Determine your expenses. This should include anything you have to pay for on your own, ie. your car (with subcategories of estimated repair values, gas, insurance, etc…)

3. Now, subtract your expenses from your income. If your budget comes out with a negative number, it’s time to learn to substitute and make trade-offs for what’s truly important. If your budget has a positive number, you can perhaps start saving. You may be in a good place, after all.

Perhaps take a month, before budgeting, to annotate upon every item you purchase. This may sound tedious at first, but it could unveil where all of your money is going. I personally use a notebook monthly to annotate upon every item I eat – so I can track my caloric intake. It’s the same principle, just a different topic.

Now all you have to do is stay on the budget that you’ve set for yourself. Here’s 10 Tips for Staying on Budget by HowStuffWorks:

1. Focus on your savings.

2. Use cash. At the beginning of the week, take out enough cash to last you the week.

3. Cut bad habits. Things like stopping consistent partying, drinking, and smoking may help your expenditures.

4. Share the responsibility (implying you have a spouse.)

5. Pay down your debt with your savings.

6. Keep your receipts (this one is similar to annotating your expenses.)

7. Balance your checkbook.

8. Analyze your spending.

9. Utilize special accounts, such as a CD account.

10. Give your budget a little wiggle room – life is unpredictable.

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