Erasing the struggles of college budgeting

Tough Taxes: Money management is hard and most systems in our country still use complex paper forms, which for many students can be a slog to get through. As hard as it is knowing how to do your taxes it’s an important skill. Keep your financial forms meticulously organized and utilize free tax applications like TurboTax to help you make this boring chore much easier.

Andrew Shermoen

Look, nothing about school is easy, and it’s going to get harder whenever you eventually decide to leave the dorms and start having to allocate every month to rent, utilities and food. For many students this might be a difficult task, but I’ve been doing it for a few months now and I have a few pointers for how to put your best foot forward.

You’ll want to actually monitor the amount of money you are receiving every month. Do this before you even commit to a place. Too many people pick out the apartment and then try and find the jobs required to afford the place. This can put you into a very difficult situation. Know how much you’re making and then pick out the place. After that, you can work on getting better jobs and the apartment will feel much more affordable than it used to be, then all that extra money can go to things you enjoy having.

Alternatively you can allocate that extra money to go into a savings account which you can use to save for a high price purchase or as a potential cushion if tragedy strikes. You’ll be surprised how much of that extra money will accrue when you hold onto it for a few months.

Take into account the expenses you wouldn’t usually think of. You’ve been living in the dorms or with your parents for a few years now; you don’t want the shock of realizing that Wi-Fi is not free. Not to mention the addition of utilities like electricity, water and trash disposal. The place that makes you pay the least for utilities is the better bet, usually. At my apartment my fiancé and I only pay for internet, electricity which powers our heating and water and trash.

If you’re someone who has trouble going days without buying something, then seriously consider using your bank’s phone app or website. Check it several times a day and if you ever consider buying something for fun, make sure to check your account first.

The last thing you want is to try and buy something and then find out later that day that your direct payment for your electricity went through earlier and now your account is in the red.

If the bulk of your income is mainly in cash try allocating that cash into different envelopes for your expenses. It’s an easy organization system that prevents you from putting your hard-earned tip money into your wallet and spending it all. It’s easiest to spend money when its on your person and small bills are the easiest to spend quickly.

Also, a quick tip: ditch cable for the first few months. Wi-Fi is a necessity as a student, but not television; it’s a luxury. When you do have time for television it’s easy to notice how much of it can be viewed through streaming services. Netflix is the most popular entertainment streaming service in the world, so many of you should have access to thousands of quality films and television shows. Amazon Prime also offers a wide array of original and borrowed programming as well.

Channels like AMC and FX, carrying current programming, have online streaming services accessed by your cable account info, borrow them from your parents and you’ll have all the “American Horror Story” and “The Walking Dead” at your fingertips. HBO has a monthly subscription as well too for the “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld” junkies out there.

This is not where the bulk of your money should go though. Your job should bring in money for the apartment, food and other required living expenses. The entertainment comes second. Make sure to make a dedicated budget of where your income goes every month. If you find yourself coming out with a few extra dollars every month, then pick up a streaming service or a new videogame. Don’t forget your roommate’s needs though!

I live with my fiancé, so if you have a shared income with the person you live with, make sure you talk to them before buying anything for yourself. It’s fun to have something to entertain you with, but you don’t want to go overboard and get something leaving them without something they want. Always take into consideration what they need. Sure, a new cd is always fun, but maybe you should take your significant other out for a night on the town.

Also, don’t get a pet unless you’re financially ready for it. Too many people buy pets because they love puppies and then can’t afford to care for the new friend. This puts pets out on the street as strays and results in you spending months worth of income on a pet you couldn’t afford to keep.

Finally, never overdo it. You’re young and experiences this early in life are important, but that doesn’t mean you need to go overboard. Yes, Cancun with the guys sounds great this Spring break, but that means nobody is watching the place, and you’re spending money you might need later. You need to pace yourself. Don’t find yourself being put in a financially difficult situation because you wanted to have fun. Save money for those grand experiences, and pace yourself when you’re out with friends.

Money is difficult to handle in these early years of our life, but with the right knowledge and careful planning, you can live comfortably and happily in a new home all your own.