The week after Spring break brings many mixed feelings. Maybe you're still half asleep from that road trip to South Padre, or maybe you are feeling broke as a joke refreshed and excited about finishing your Spring semester! Yes, the end is nearly in sight with only 7 weeks left! With that in mind, you may be starting to add up your attendance and assignment points and calculate your "worst possible grade." By this determination, you may realize your studying habits are paying off well. By giving yourself this mid-semester review, you have determined that you will have no problem passing the course by the end of the semester and are that much closer to graduation!
On the same note, as staff at the Student Loan Education Office, we believe the same mid-semester review process should be applied to your finances. If you did not completely adhere to a monthly budget, it’s time to re-visit your financial budget to see how your actual expenses compare with the amount you had planned to spend each month. It’s never too late to get back on track.
Monitor Variable Expenses
First and foremost, it’s very important to understand where your money is being spent so you can make necessary cuts or adjustments. Yes, there are certain fixed expenses that you won’t be able to cut. For instance, your rent, your car payment, insurance, cell phone bill, utilities, etc. Instead, consider cutting down the variable expenses, like dining out, trendy clothing and entertainment purchases. After all, those are the items that break our budgets the most.
Let’s imagine you have met your allotted entertainment budget for the month. You’ve gone out to eat with friends, bought a few video games, and a concert ticket. If you went on a Spring Break trip, your entire entertainment budget has probably already been spent and then some. As part of maintaining your budget and staying on track, you must forgo any other entertainment type expense until next month. This may seem inconvenient and difficult at first, but it will become easier overtime to say no to those discretionary purchases. Ultimately, these potential savings will carry over into next month’s budget and keep you from coming up short every month.
It's also a good idea to check on that financial aid refund you received a few months ago. Do you have enough to get you by for 7 more weeks?
Find Ways to Increase Your Income
If limiting your expenditures each month seems too daunting, or you want to find a way to afford certain purchases, and you don't want to ask mom or dad for money, consider finding a part time job. The earned income from a part time job can help buffer both the cost of tuition and daily expenses. There are many part-time employment opportunities available for students, both on campus and off campus. We recommend working during the school year because students who secure part-time jobs gain valuable experience to aid in job placement upon graduation. By having a part-time job, students can also help reduce their own loan indebtedness. One of the first places to start looking for job opportunities is the Student Job Board on your Access Plus account.
For many students who already work, taking a week off from working can be detrimental to their budgets. You may feel shorted by the time you get your next paycheck. If you don't have savings, discuss with your supervisor if you are able to pick up a few extra hours to help catch up, or make the decision for the next couple weeks to eat ramen every day to be very frugal with your money.
Review and Forgive
Remember, maintaining a budget is not an art to be mastered overnight. It may take several trials until you feel completely comfortable with tracking your monthly budget. Regular review and maintenance of your budget will keep you on top of your finances and can help you plan for bigger, unexpected expenses months ahead. If Spring Break left you feeling drained, try to better plan for your next trip. Yes, even the savviest savers have slip ups. It’s important to forgive yourself for small spending mistakes and get back on track. It may seem like learning a foreign language at first, but sticking to a monthly budget is key to a successful financial future. #adulting
Still feeling lost? Set up a budgeting session with one of our counselors through ISUappointments and see how easy creating a personal budget can be!