As a student trying to be a debt-free scholar, one of your biggest financial friends should be your budget.
Unfortunately, many college students view budgets just as they do taxes as financial nuisances to be avoided if possible. If you truly want to become financially free, however, you need to learn to budget successfully.
Follow the six tips mentioned here, and you will be well on your way.
1. Budget Realistically
If you have never successfully used a budget, dont set yourself up for failure by creating unreasonably high goals when you start. For instance, a person who normally spends hundreds of dollars a month on coffee should not suddenly set his budget to only allow for five dollars a month. A rule like that is almost certain to be broken.
Instead, make your budget reasonably similar to your current spending patterns and change it slowly over the period of a few months.
2. Know Why You Budget
Motivation is an important key to successful budgeting. If you are simply keeping a budget because a friend said it was a good idea, you are not likely to keep budgeting for long.
Before you start budgeting, answer the important question: Why?
Depending on your situation, the answer could be to pay off debt, save for retirement, or get more control over your money.
3. Save For Your Future
When you create your budget categories, remember to allocate as much money as possible for savings.
Although retirement may seem far in the distant future, it will come all to quickly if you do not start saving now. If you just put aside a little money during the early years of college, it will multiply exponentially by the time you retire. If, however, you do not invest early, you will have to save much more later on with less result.
Obviously, for many debt free college students saving money may seem impossible. However, if you eliminate all unnecessary expenses, you can almost always save something.
Saving even just a penny per month is better than saving nothing.
4. Budget Luxury Items
To make you budget achievable, you need to dedicate a certain amount of money to spending.
Depending on how much money you spend currently, the amount funneled to this fund will vary.
When setting your budget, be careful to avoid setting this category either unrealistically low or extravagantly high. Look for the happy middle.
Once your discretionary spending limit is set, determine to never spend more even if your favorite store has a 60% off sale.
5. Prepare For Emergencies
Car breakdown. Computer failure. Bicycle theft. Though never planned, unexpected emergencies should be anticipated in a budget. If you have every penny of you money dedicated to some use, what will you do in an emergency?
The key is an emergency fund.
Built up over a period of months, this budget category should always have about a thousand dollars. Then, when an emergency comes it will not break the bank just the emergency fund.
Always work hard to keep this fund full and ready for action.
6. Watch The Little Things
The biggest, most deadly danger to your new budget seems small and insignificant. Little expenses are actually public enemy number one.
Two dollars for candy, three for a snack, and you will soon be faced with a budget collapse.
As one of my favorite authors, J. C. Ryle, said, A small leak will sink a great ship, and a small spark will kindle a great fire.
Beware of the little expenses that are not included in your budget!
By following these six tips for budgeting, you are well on your way to being a debt-free and financially-free student!
Do you use a budget?