When you’re a college student living away from home, making sure you don’t run out of money starts with knowing where your money is going and prioritizing your spending.
Yes, that means having a budget.
A budget is really just a tool you use to meet your financial goals, says Betsy Mayotte, director of consumer outreach and compliance for American Student Assistance, a nonprofit organization that provides financial education to college students. Your goals can be everything from having enough to pay for food to saving up for a spring break getaway.
Using a budget is also a good way to develop important financial skills and avoid relying on credit cards or overdrafting your checking account when you come up short. “This is the time to start establishing good money habits,” says Mayotte.
Budgeting sounds tedious, but it doesn’t have to be. The best budget—and one you are most likely to stick to—is simple and easy to execute, says Mayotte. You don’t need to balance your checkbook every month (do people even do that any more?) or track every single penny. And there are plenty of apps that can make managing your money easier.
But you do need a plan. Here’s how to budget as a college student.