College life can be challenging enough without having to worry about money. With the high cost of tuition, books, housing, and other expenses even grants and loans barely cover the cost of living. However, there are ways to budget and economically survive college quarter by quarter (or semester). Keeping track of your monthly bills and paying ahead with your financial aid check is a smart way to budget your money.
Things You Will Need
Financial Aid Budgeting Tools
Financial aid amount
List of monthly bills
Excel or other way of making a spreadsheet
Learn to Budget College MoneyApply for financial aid if you haven't already. Financial aid comes in loans, federal loans, grants, work study, and can come from full or part-time work. By the time you are in school you should already have applied for aid. However if you need to apply for federal financial aid go to http://www.fafsa.ed.gov and go through the application process.
Step 2Write down all of your monthly bills. Include every recurring bill including rent, cell phone, internet service, and utilities. The purpose of this is to find the total amount of money that you pay out regularly. If someone else is paying part of your rent or paying a bill for you add it to your budget anyhow and write in the amount you pay.
To budget college financial aid money sometimes you have to switch cell phone plans. Looking at all of your current gadget services should be part of the way you budget college financial aid. Look at your budget when buying college supplies and only get what is necessary.
Step 3Calculate the total of the monthly bills. Multiply this amount times the number of months your quarter or semester lasts. For example, if your total expenses are $800/month and you are on a quarter system then multiply times three. Your quarterly recurring expenses are roughly $2400.
Remember this amount doesn't factor in anything like going out to eat, gas money, food, or other items that you spend money on.
Step 4Find out the amount of financial aid you'll be receiving. You will receive a financial aid reward letter. If you're unsure of the amount call your school's financial aid office. After tuition is paid the rest of the financial aid is given to you via direct deposit or a check. This money is for books and living expenses. Most college students are borrowing student loans so it's easy to be short-sighted about money.
The check that is cut to you is what you'll want to use to pay your bills in advance. It's hard to have a lump sum of money and not want to spend some of it, but being responsible will help you be more financially comfortable the duration of the quarter.
Step 5Look at your calculations and your financial aid check. Go down your list and pay your bills in advance for the college quarter/semester. This way of budgeting can help your credit because you'll pay early and maybe more than the minimum. Using your financial aid money wisely will also help you keep a good credit score and look good on your credit report. It also works really well if financial aid isn't the only source of income. Use your income source for your miscellaneous expenses. Mold this to make it work for your personal situation. You don't have to budget out every penny.
Keep track of your miscellaneous expenses. Keep your receipts and use them for budgeting the following quarter if you're having trouble making money last.
Tips & Warnings
If you don't think this will work for you just try it for one quarter. Most people find it hard to give up the lump sum in the beginning. If you budget your college financial aid money you will be able to save up money and have a slightly less stressful quarter. Once you take out student loans you should start tracking them on the student loan database and check regularly for errors.