April 1, 2011
“Real Life College Student” Blog on the Importance of Budgeting
Recently, the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA) called out to college and high students interested in blogging their college experiences and lessons learned in order to offer future students of higher education first hand facts and advice from today’s real life college setting. If you are a current college student or high school student preparing to enter college and are interested in blogging for UHEAA, please send an email to ‘email@example.com’ and we will gladly send you details.
The second installment in our “Real Life College Student” blog series is by Utah college student, Cole Spicker. Cole currently studies Chemistry and Spanish. He really enjoys reading, good food and great friends. He admits that he is a little obsessed with education and hopes to make lasting, positive contributions to society. We hope you enjoy this week’s blog on the importance of budgeting!
I shall be employing a bit of sarcasm to address today’s topic … please bear with me. The process of starting and maintaining a budget can be summarized with a simple simile: budgeting is like popping a zit. Allow me to explain. An un-popped zit is unsightly and unbecoming—just like an individual with no budget and no plan. However, one feels a great sense of relief and pleasure once the zit is popped, true? Similarly, once we take the time to review our lifestyle and purchasing habits, map them out, and make crucial decisions that will lead to financial well-being—it too, can cause us to feel a great sense of relief and even pleasure. Zits come and go and need constant attention, the same applies to a budget. It needs constant care and attention. So, there you have it – budgeting is like popping a zit.
The basics of budgeting for us college students are the same for any other individual. Start with getting a blank piece of paper and draw two columns. Decidedly review your expenses and income and list them in their corresponding column. Expenses will include tuition, books, housing, gas, food, while your income will include savings from your summer jobs, financial support from your parents, financial aid from the school, scholarships, and income from your job if you have one. Find the sum of each category. If your income exceeds your expenses, you’re in fairly good shape … you can should consider setting aside a portion to a dedicated savings account. However, if your expenses exceed your total income, you need to find ways to cut spending and/or increase your income.
Why budget? Many feel that budgeting is an unnecessary and tedious task (especially if you feel that you’re financially sound). However, countless individuals have reported that as they budget, they keep on finding new ways to cut spending, uncovering hidden cash flow problems that might free up even more money to put toward your other financial goals.
Keeping a positive attitude and staying motivated are two ingredients for a successful budget. Think about the rewards of sticking to a budget. What do you have to gain? Will you be able to finally have enough money to purchase a motorcycle or car (or a new stereo or iPad 2)? Another thing about a budget: have realistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations are budget killers. If you set your sights too high, you only become discouraged when you fail to reach them. While it is admirable to try and accomplish great things, you need to set goals that are challenging, yet realistic.
There are many sites that aim to help college students prepare and execute a budget. In fact, UHEAA has its own budget worksheet that will help you begin such an endeavor (http://www.uheaa.org/parentStudent01c.html). Another impressive tool that can make a huge difference in your financial life is Mint.com. They also have free apps for download on your Smartphone, iPhone or Blackberry. Mint can be linked to your debit and credit cards; it can then categorize and measure your spending habits, alerting you whenever you make purchases that exceed your budgeted amount. It’s awesome when you can actually see how much you spend.
A college degree does not guarantee sound budgeting skills. It’s a process and needs continual work – and above all, discipline. And the time to start is NOW!
From UHEAA: A couple of other great resources on Financial Literacy and budgeting:
- FinanceInTheClassroom.com: Providing high-quality personal finance materials for K-12 educators, students and parents, Finance in the Classroom is the place to help you prepare Utah’s youth to be money smart.
- UtahFutures.org: Check out the “Reality Check” feature to evaluate your budgeting and financial planning.
If you have any questions or comments for Cole, please add them using the comment box below and he will gladly reply.