Budgeting for college

Going to college is a big step in life and, like all big steps it can be both exciting and nerve wracking simultaneously. The exciting part is meeting new people, living away from home – perhaps for the first time – and gaining independence alongside a valuable qualification. On the other hand, independent living brings new challenges and responsibilities, especially financial ones, and these can be a little overwhelming if there is no sound game plan in place. Think of it like taking up a new sports activity – take action to get into good shape, make sure all the right equipment is in place and practice to become a champion.

Get into good financial shape

Preparing a budget for college is an essential part of getting into shape for good financial management. Calculate likely outgoings depending on your course – not forgetting course materials and books, tuition fees, accommodations and subsistence. Check these against income – there might be parental contributions, payments from a student job or income from a student loan for living expenses at college.

If these are set out together on a basic spreadsheet, they can be turned into a cash flow simply by estimating when costs and income fall due, and apportioning these on a monthly basis. This is a great way of finding out which months may be ‘leaner’ than others, and taking steps to adjust spending accordingly.

Be equipped for financial survival

If a loan is needed – and there are, in fact, a range of financial arrangements available for students, such as those at Miami College – try to factor in some level of repayment as part of normal outgoings – this will help keep any debt at the end of the study period as low as possible.

Aim to find a part-time or flexible jobs so that this income will be there as a regular back-up to other kinds of support.

Practice good financial control

There are lots of good and useful tips and ideas for saving and making money. Look for scholarships, grants and bursaries relevant to the chosen course of study – these do not have to be repaid and will sometimes cover specific items such as tuition fees or course materials.

Check out or on-campus student jobs, as these are often very flexible in terms of working around study requirements.

Remember that students get discounts on lots of things, including on clothing, in restaurants and in bookstores. Having said this, cooking and eating at home is less costly than eating out or ordering in takeaway meals.

As far as possible, underuse a credit card or overdraft facilities as debts caused by these can easily spiral out of control.

Get champion results

Perhaps the single biggest challenge about going to college is managing the finances, so that down the line, when leaving, there are no huge debts to settle at the point where a first job is on the horizon. With a budget in place, the right kind of financial resources identified and self-control when it comes to managing expenditure, it’s possible to live virtually-debt-free at college, and leave it with finances that are relatively stable and intact.

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