The beginning of a new school year is a great time to create or revisit your budget. Whether you have a part-time job or are looking to stretch your summer savings, a budget can help you stay organized, pay bills on time and save for unexpected costs.
Know your total monthly income
Start with your total monthly income, after taxes and other deductions. If you have a job where you receive tips or commission and your paychecks differ each month, base your budget income on your lowest paycheck or worst-case scenario. If you are living off your savings, give yourself a monthly allowance based on your expenses.
List your expenses
Make a list of all your expenses—rent, utilities, phone bill, food, personal care items, money to go out with friends, etc. Categorize your spending and include the amount you need each month to cover all of your expenses.
Build savings into your budget
If you can, make sure you are saving an amount of your paycheck each month in a separate account. Your savings will help if there’s an emergency or an extra expense, such as textbooks for next semester. If you have variable income and receive more tips or commission than usual, save for future months when you might be stretched thin.
Determine how you will track spending
Find a way to track your spending that works best for you—this can be done using a spreadsheet, notebook/budget journal or financial app.
Mint is a free app that links to your financial accounts to help manage your budget and track spending. After creating your budget in Mint, the app updates your budget based on your spending and sends notifications if you are overspending or have a bill due.
Check in at the end of the month
Review your budget at the end of each month and see where you can make adjustments. If you consistently have money leftover in your food category, consider allocating more into your savings instead.