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How to thrive on a tight college budget

Living on a strict college budget

College can be one of the greatest times of your life. It can also be one of the most financially frustrating. That’s because living on a fixed income either mandated by your parents, personal income limitations, or both, can be stressful especially if this is the first time on your own. Here are a few ways to better manage your limited budget and avoid the monthly request for more money.

Talk to your parents (or people with the money)

Be open about what you need for college. Sure, there is the cost of tuition, books, lab fees, and room and board, but your budget should also cover living expenses. Go over the following list and decide who will pay for what. This could mean you use your personal savings or get a part-time job while you’re in school.

  • Phone
  • Internet
  • Laundry
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Clothing
  • Personal items
  • Car: Gas
  • Car: Insurance
  • Car: Loan payments

Adding these up is quick and easy with our online calculator How Much Should I Budget for College Living Expenses?

Credit cards are not part of the budget

Getting a credit card before or during college is fine. It can help you build credit. But, never use it for anything but emergencies when you’re in school. Using a credit card for emergencies and periodic meals out can add up fast. When you’re on a tight, college budget, your credit card payment can cause big financial headaches.

Track every penny

Use First Tech Online and Mobile Banking to track your expenses and stay within your budget. There are also budgeting apps for your smartphone and watch that can help. Just be sure to login each day, look at what you’ve spent, make sure you’re on track, and find ways to continually improve. It will be good for your college financial life as well as life after school.
First Tech tip: Purchases instantly appear in Online and Mobile Banking when you use your debit card at the register.

Someday will come

It might come as a shock, but you will live on a budget for the rest of your life – especially in retirement. The good news is, your income and budget will likely expand. Sticking with a budget today will help you with your budgets tomorrow. College is all about growth, discovery, and learning about yourself. Budgeting can be a big part of that adventure.

We’re your budgeting experts

First Tech has a whole list of financial calculators to help you plan and stick to your college budget, including What Will it Take to Save for a College Education. You’ll also find personal finance modules on topics like financing higher education, credit cards, and others. Need help with your budget? Give us a call at 855.855.8805 and we’ll put you in touch with the right people.