It’s no secret that attending college can be incredibly expensive. From costs of attendance like tuition, fees, housing, and meal plans, to other costs like school supplies and dorm necessities, the expenses can rack up. One thing I’m incredibly grateful for is my parents stressing the importance of budgeting. I’ve held various jobs since the age of 16, and as soon as I was hired, my parents sat me down and helped me to set up my first budget. There’s something so helpful about visually seeing where your money is going each month. This also is useful in making sure that you have enough income to make ends meet, whether that’s paying for groceries or setting aside money to go to dinner with your friends.
I’m an out-of-state college student, so when I moved to college, I moved 8 hours away from my family and friends. It’s one thing to stick to a budget when you’re living at home and having the majority of your expenses covered, but I had a rude awakening when I went to college. I didn’t realize just how quickly expenses add up, because when you’re financially independent you have to pay for literally EVERYTHING. From household supplies like toilet paper and paper towels (that would magically appear each week when I was home) to groceries, gas, car insurance, or any expense you can think of; everything has a price.
One thing that has really helped me get a grip on my budget this semester was to think of a budget as making my money work for me. I reworked my budget, starting from my vital expenses (monthly car insurance, gas money, groceries, etc.) and worked my way up to non-vital expenses, like eating out or spending money.
Another thing that has helped me clamp down on spending is switching up how I shop for groceries. I’ve really liked doing curbside orders at places like Walmart or Aldi. For one, these stores are (generally) cheaper than alternatives in my area, like Publix or Target. Additionally, when I order ahead or have a set budget and a set grocery list, I find that I spend less because I’m not just grabbing whatever catches my eye. I’m able to spend around $30-$40 a week on groceries (without a meal plan) and eat comfortably. This was something that I really struggled with last semester, but this new approach has been incredibly helpful.
My biggest piece of advice to other college students (or any students for that matter) is to pick a budget that works for you. With so many budgeting resources out there, what works for some people may not work for others. I’ve found that I’ve stuck more to my budget when I’ve used the app EveryDollar to track my expenses. Also, when you’re budgeting, make sure to cover set expenses, but also leave enough money for entertainment! Especially in college, if you don’t budget enough for that, you may not stick to your budget. By making sure that you allot money to just enjoy yourself and do fun things, you’re more likely to adhere to your budget.
To me, financial responsibility means financial freedom. I’m in my second semester of college, and I’ve already started to reap the rewards of being responsible with my finances. Since I took AP and dual-enrollment classes in high school, I entered college with 27 credit-hours worth of classes. That’s almost a whole year of classes in college, and this saved me not only time but THOUSANDS of dollars. I have 0 student debt and have been working my hardest to stay disciplined with the ultimate goal of graduating college debt-free.
Although committing to being financially responsible may require some sacrifices, like not being able to go out as often as I’d like, or having to work more hours at my job, I know that it’s worth it in the end. I’m setting myself up for success, not only in college, but for years to come. By committing to sticking to a budget and being intentional about saving, I’m building great habits to take with me into adulthood. I’m so thankful for the financial discipline that my parents instilled in me.
I am a sophomore at the University of Central Florida. I’m currently studying advertising and public relations. This scholarship will help cover the rest of my tuition for the semester which will allow me to focus my attention on my academics and the organizations I’m involved with on campus!