College Costs: How to Prevent a Disaster
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As if paying for tuition isn’t enough to clean out your savings account, when you go to college, you still have to pay for the everyday essentials.

How are you supposed to pull it off?

There’s stuff you’ll really need (like toothpaste, shampoo…or whatever a college student considers “necessary”), and then there’s stuff like going out to dinner with friends, buying T-shirts and other apparel for events, and all of those trips to Starbucks.

How will you manage paying for it all?

Here's how: You make a plan for how you’re going to spend your money, also known as a budget!

Budgeting 101

Why should you make a budget? Consider it disaster prevention. Many people tend to go a bit crazy freshman year and buy a ton of stuff—everything from food to school apparel at the on-campus bookstore. Avoid the on-campus bookstore at all costs―it’s usually way overpriced.

Pretty soon, you’re scared to look at the balance of your credit union account (speaking from experience). Budgeting will help you avoid overspending. You won’t feel tempted to impulse-buy if you know there’s something else that you have to get.

Create your spending plan

The basics of making a budget are easy. First, consider the money that you will have available for spending—your income. If you’re computer savvy, an easy way to do this would be on an Excel spreadsheet or with a program like Quicken.

You can also write it down:

Read Ken's blog to learn six simple ways to reduce college costs.

Later, once you have a regular job, you’ll do this in reverse—pay yourself first by pulling an amount into savings, and living on the balance. But that isn’t too realistic for a college student.

For extra reinforcement, stick your budget sheet up on your wall or on your desk―somewhere where you’ll see it often.

This is my favorite technique to use, because I won’t be tempted to spend my money on anything else if I am constantly reminded of my expenses. Personally, I like to write it on a dry erase board above my desk—that way I can allow for changes and it’s in a spot where I’ll see it daily.

An easy way to get started making a spending plan is to...

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