- Know Where You Want to Go. Sometimes people track every dime and that works for some. For others, it drives them crazy. I would suggest you focus on 2-3 areas where your spending is a bit out of control. These areas for college students usually involve eating out, buying clothing, entertainment and other impulse purchases.
- Track Your Purchases. Monitor spending in those three areas for a week. Once you have done this, you can see where you are spending the most and create a plan to stop these purchasing habits. For instance, if you are overspending in entertainment, you could give yourself an allotted amount to spend each month on entertainment. Keep movies, clubs, etc. to a minimum and try to limit yourself to one big splurge each month, such as a concert if it fits in your budget. If you are super tight in this area, you might limit your movies to one per month and do cheaper activities throughout the rest of the month.
- Be Cautious of Credit Cards. New laws have been put into place to try to stop credit card companies from targeting students under the age of 21 without a co-signer, but nevertheless, think carefully before getting one. Ask yourself, “Do I pay my other bills on time? Am I forgetful with in turning in assignments on time? Do I like to check my mail and do I handle that mail promptly?” If you answered no to any of these questions, this could be a warning sign. You can do damage to your credit score by failing to pay your credit card bill each month. If you are not sure if you can handle the responsibility of a credit card and think you need one to build credit or for online purchases, then look at getting a secured credit card. With this type of card, you give the bank $500 and they let you borrow against this money. This allows you to begin to develop a credit history without as much risk.
- Pay Yourself First. Remember the goal here is to spend less than you earn, thus saving money. My best advice for this is to set up a direct transfer from your paycheck where 10% goes straight into a savings account. This method keeps you from seeing that money and thinking that you have it to spend. When something unexpected comes up, you will be very grateful that you have this savings to draw from.
Mint.com – This site lets you keep track of all of your money in one place. It allows you to create a budget, track your bills and check your credit score. This works great if you are comfortable linking your bank accounts with this budgeting software.
Budgettracker.com – For this site you enter your bills manually and assign your own categories. It requires a bit more work, but you do not have to give them any bank account information.
Budgetpulse.com – This is very similar to Budget Tracker above and with this one you also manually enter your bills and set up your budget.