As a first-year college student at Clemson University, a lot of thoughts run through your mind. College life is not carefree and for a lot of us, college is the first taste of real independence; but that can also mean newfound responsibilities. Budgeting for first-year college students can be especially tough which includes balancing classes, maybe a job, and being fully accountable to yourself is a lot to take on. (Don’t worry, you got this!) One of the biggest responsibilities is managing a personal budget, possibly for the first time. Below are 7 practical budgeting tips as a first-year college student at Clemson University and how these budgeting tips can set you up for financial success.
- Calculate Your Income:
While at Clemson University, you may want to work a part-time job or internship to help pay for your education and afford everyday expenses. You might also have an income from grants, scholarships, loans or a monthly allowance from your parents. The amount of money you bring in each month is an essential part of your budget and creates the foundation for how much you can afford to spend. If you are looking for any on-campus internships or part-time jobs, Clemson University has the Center for Career and Professional Development which offers many unique services for both on-campus and off-campus employers as well as students regarding providing, developing, or finding an internship opportunity. As the first step in creating your budget, you’ll want to calculate your net income, which is the amount of money you earn.
- List Monthly Expenses:
List all of your monthly expenses (trust me this is essential). Some examples of common college-related expenses include school supplies (such as textbooks and electronics), room and board, groceries, dining, travel, household goods, phone/internet/monthly streaming subscriptions, transportation (such as gas, train tickets, and bus fares), loan payments (such as student, auto and personal), insurance (such as health, rental, and auto), utilities (such as electricity, water, and gas) and miscellaneous (such as gifts, entertainment, and apparel).
- Organize Your Expenses into Fixed and Variable Categories:
After you have listed your monthly expenses, it’s time to categorize which are fixed and which are variable. Fixed expenses are bills you typically can’t avoid and need to pay, including textbooks, room and board, groceries, transportation, insurance, and debt repayment. Variable expenses are more flexible and often include wants like travel, dining out, and entertainment purchases. Remember, your fixed expenses are very important because watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix all day is not going to pay your college tuition and other important expenses. It’s always good to try to separate your wants and needs so that your fixed expenses and variable expenses are all in separate categories.
- Shop Deals and Use Coupons:
Using coupons is definitely not the coolest thing in the world, but it’s certainly cooler than paying full price for something you could get cheaper. Keep an eye out for deals at retailers when you’re making everyday purchases. Online stores such as Amazon Prime, Adobe, Chegg, Apple, and Dell have discounts for college students on a variety of things such as books, technology, movies, and laptops! A little bit of diligence in researching price comparisons can wind up saving you big in the long run. Especially when you make deal hunting a part of your buying routine, the savings made each month can really add up over time.
- Take Advantage of Free Events:
College campuses (including Clemson University) are hotbeds of free activities built for budget-conscious students. Keep an eye on activities calendars and note special events at institutions in your area. Museums will also offer free admission for college students on certain nights, and there are countless free concerts and film screenings hosted by student organizations such as The Gantt Multicultural Center, Central Spirit, CUSG, and various clubs on Clemson’s campus. Going to free events can be a great way to remain active in the Clemson community and socialize without blowing your budget on bars, restaurants, and expensive show tickets.
- Keep an Eye on Student Discounts:
There are a number of deals, offers, and special prices that are granted to students. Take advantage of those deals! When you’re making a purchase or choosing between services, compare whether they have options available with a student ID or email. You’re already paying for school, you may as well get some special financial perks out of it!
- Make Adjustments:
The last tip in your budgeting process is to compare all the information you gathered and make sure the numbers work out. Look at your net income compared to your monthly expenses and see if you have enough money coming in each month to cover all your costs. If you can’t afford your lifestyle as a first-year college student here at Clemson University, it’s time to make adjustments. While you can consider ways to make more money, you should also think about ways you can cut costs. This may include reducing the amount of money you spend on variable expenses, such as limiting takeout orders and cutting streaming subscriptions that you don’t use regularly. You may also want to adjust some fixed expenses with fluctuating costs. When you go grocery shopping, clip digital coupons ahead of time and opt for store-brand items versus name-brand to save extra money. You can also consider using a credit card that offers rewards on all your spending, which can help offset some of your expenses. And if you have money leftover after creating your budget, consider putting it toward any outstanding debt, like a lingering credit card balance, or use it to start saving it for the future. When you first start your budget, if you’re not honest about the things you’re already spending money on, it’s going to be hard to set goals and properly track your expenses. Start with your current financial situation and make adjustments after you’ve assessed where you’re at.
Written by: Acacia Bryant