Furthering your education is an important investment. But unless your tuition is fully covered by scholarships, college is also another expense in what may be an already tight budget. Here’s some tips to help you pay for school-related expenses while still enjoying your life.
First things first: write out a physical budget, taking into account monthly income and all monthly expenses. You don’t need to itemize everything, the way some budget worksheets instruct you to, but you should have an overall idea of where your money goes. A good guideline: 50 percent of your income should go for essentials, such as rent or mortgage payments, student loans, car payments, and food. Twenty percent should go to savings, including retirement and emergency funds, and 30 percent should go toward “wants.” That’s your cable bill, hair salon appointments, theatre tickets, and other non-essentials.
See? Sticking to a budget doesn’t have to mean skipping all the fun. There’s still room for the things you want to do. But it will force you to look at what you’re spending so you can identify areas to cut back.
There’s not much flexibility in your “essentials” spending. You’re always going to need a place to live, a way to get where you’re going, and food in your cupboard. By analyzing how much you spend on your “wants,” every month, however, you can see areas where you can easily cut back. Maybe you had no idea you were spending $100 a month on pizza deliveries. Seeing those numbers can make you reevaluate cooking at home.
Still feeling deprived? Next time you have to pass up that latest designer clothing item because it’s not in your budget, try to focus instead on what you are buying: Financial security down the road. That looks better on you than any dress could.