You’ve moved into your first apartment, unpacked your bags, and that feeling of independence is finally sinking in—but independence has some baggage of it own—responsibility. For the first time, you’re in charge of paying all your bills and making sure there isn’t “too much month at the end of your money”. Whether you have a job or your parents are helping with your expenses, being on your own means being able to live within a budget. Here are some ways to plan your expenses and even make your money go a little further.
Create a college budget.
Many companies offer free budgeting apps you can download to your iPhone or Android device. Once you’ve chosen an app, set up different categories such as rent, utilities, education fees, entertainment, food, and unexpected expenses. Allocate as much money as you think you’ll need in each category and then stick to your budget.
Prepare for unplanned expenses.
That unexpected auto repair bill or student fee can derail the best laid budget plans. Create a buffer by putting aside as much as you can afford each month. If you don’t have enough money to create an emergency account, look at your budget again. Is an expensive cup of latte each morning a necessity or a luxury? Can you trim your clothing budget? Developing the savings habit now can help you build financial stability later in life.
Don’t use credit cards to pay household expenses.
A credit card is a good thing to have in an emergency, but it’s not the right tool for making ends meet each month. Before you start putting basics such as groceries and utility bills on a credit card, stop and think: Do I really want to pay interest on a combo meal at my local fast food restaurant? If you find yourself charging daily necessities, check your budget and see if you can make cuts in other areas.
Make your own meals.
Cooking at home doesn’t have to mean a steady diet of ramen noodles and pre-packaged mac n’ cheese. Eat great and save money by reading your local grocery store’s weekly ad before you put a single item in your cart. You’ll find great deals on everything you need to cook delicious, inexpensive meals at home. Also, check out your local farmer’s market or co-op store for seasonal fruits and veggies at the peak of flavor and at the lowest prices. While you’re there, stock up on rice, beans, cereal, and tasty snacks from the bulk bin aisle.
The Bottom Line
Living on a budget doesn’t need to be dull. You can even set money aside for an occasional impulse buy. Budgeting is about paying attention to what you spend and maintaining a balance in your life, as well as your bank account.