Having a budget is something that has helped me stay sane while in school. As a freshmen in 2014, I felt ready to begin managing my finances. I was excited to see what I could do with my money, and how I could slowly accumulate my wealth. I decided to open up an Excel spreadsheet, and I began to create what I now use today, on a daily basis.
Although I use this budget today, I was not able to say the same thing for my freshman year. The budget I created was awful. I started by creating some rows, and I ended up with a list of some expenses that I knew applied to my lifestyle: groceries, car maintenance/gas, dining out/snacks, and other categories.
These are just a few examples of what I included. I also created a section with my checking account and cash balances. This may seem like I knew what I was talking about, but the truth is, I had no idea what I was doing—after a few times of attempting to utilize my budget, I realized that it was not going to work. I was frustrated, because I put so much thought into my budget, and in return, it was doing nothing for me. I thought that I had everything I needed to budget successfully, but it turned out that I needed a little more, based on my needs.
Each budget is different, and it will change depending on the person that it belongs to, as well as the financial state that the person is in. For me, I wanted something that would track my daily expenses, income, savings, and I wanted it to be specific. I also wanted something that would keep track of my debt, and even give me an overview of my year. Today, my budget may seem very complex to others, but I know the ins and outs of it. I know how to adjust things if it is needed, and it has become a very easy process for me. Three years ago, I would not have imagined myself using such a complex budget.
The thought of budgeting prior to college would scare me. Today, I can look forward to it, because it has become so simple. I have made a list of tips for any of you who are thinking about creating a budget.
• Start anywhere, whether that be tracking your expenses, or what you need to save; understand that it will not be perfect, but starting is the first step!
• You cannot create a perfect budget for yourself from the start, because part of having a budget, is discovering how your finances work.
• After your draft is complete, have friends, family, and/or professionals look at it!
• From there, you may find that your needs change, because budgets change all the time, so be flexible! You will learn as you go!
• Because you are learning as you are making your budget more complex, you will find that what once may have seemed scary, is no longer a threat!
• Overall, start your budget, and do not give up on it! Modify it where you need to. Be flexible, and if things do not work out, then go a different route, be patient, and it will be worth it!
It took me three years to perfect my budget, but it could still change for me today. Once I start having to make mortgage payments, or pay my car bill, my budget will change as well. The point is, you just have to give it time!
Written by: Sergio Torres, peer mentor @ Student Loan Education Office