A night on the town, a trip to the mall, college textbooks -- the expenses and temptations during the college years quickly drain your bank account without budgeting. Controlling your spending isn't always pleasant, but budgeting serves financial benefits immediately and down the road. Knowing the benefits of a budget helps you keep your spending on track.
A student going off to college no longer has mom and dad watching over her shoulder. That freedom allows you to make your own decisions and learn as you go, but it's also tempting to spend frivolously without parents there to tell you no. A budget is a responsible step into adulthood that allows you to take control of your spending. Instead of mom and dad telling you that meal out is too expensive, your budget tells you that the extra $25 is too much to stay on track financially.
Most college students have limited funds to work with, which makes budgeting more challenging but also more important. Whether the money comes from parents, a part-time job or savings, you need to make it stretch enough to cover your necessities. Without a budget, money tends to go to wants rather than needs. The budget allows you to see if your college income is enough to cover your expenses or if you need to seek additional sources of income. If your monthly expenses are $900 but your income is only $750, you either need to cut spending or increase your income to make up the $150 difference. But, if your expenses are only $650, you have $100 to spare each month.
A budget during college allows you to take control of your money. The budget itself shows you where your money should go, including your expenses, savings and spending money. It also serves as a reference tool at the end of each month. If you hold on to your receipts to track your spending, you can compare how you actually spent your money to the budget's money allocation. If you allocate $100 to entertainment but find you've spent $175 that month, you can see that you need to cut back in your entertainment expenses.
It's tough to look beyond the next exam or college party, but every financial decision you make in college affects your financial future. A budget allows you to account for your money and build a savings account. That savings could prove useful if you don't find a job right out of college. Living within your means also means you can avoid accruing excessive debt on credit cards as a student. Instead of paying $500 a month on credit card payments once you enter the working world, you have that extra money to pad your savings account. You also establish healthy spending habits that follow you into adulthood. If your budget includes putting $200 in savings each month as a student, you'll be in the habit of setting aside money when you find a full-time job.
- Maria Teijeiro/Digital Vision/Getty Images