College is an expensive adventure, and one that requires budgeting to help control and monitor costs. Money for college expenses typically comes from family, a part-time job or loans, thus cash can be limited. College students can utilize a basic monthly budget to help better understand what costs they are incurring and how they can afford to live comfortably within their means while getting an education.
Tuition and Educational Supplies
A payment plan can help budget for tuition costs. Set up a monthly plan with the school to pay down balances that exist after factoring in student loans, grants and scholarships. Loans defray tuition costs in a student's monthly budget; repayment does not begin until graduation or when the student stops attending school. Keep in mind that taking the maximum amount of loans will reduce a student's monthly budget, but will mean higher payments once school is done. Educational supplies such as books also should appear in a student budget. Plan on a lump sum to purchase these materials at the start of each semester.
Housing costs vary for college students depending on living arrangements and location. Students who study close enough to home can live with their parents to save money on housing. However, those attending school far away will need to secure housing either on or off campus. Dormitory housing is the most cost-effective option on campus, while renting an apartment or house off campus is more affordable when roommates split the costs. You can save on a college student's housing costs by opting for a full-year lease on an apartment, rather than a shorter one. If circumstances might change, consider a per-semester on-campus housing arrangement.
Students and their families can budget for food expenses through the use of school dining plans, which charge a set amount monthly or by semester for meals. Students also can choose to eat off campus or pay for school dining hall meals on their own. If a student lives in an apartment or house with a kitchen, she can prepare her own meals at home for less money, helping to reduce her food budget.
Students should budget transportation costs whether they live at home, in a dorm room or off campus. Students living at home will need to budget for gas and the other costs of getting to school when they have class. Students living on campus must budget for transportation to travel home for visits or during semester breaks. Those residing close to the school but off campus will need to walk, drive, bicycle or carpool to get to campus. The budget for these students will vary based on their situation.
Personal Items and Entertainment
Like everyone, college students need money for personal items and entertainment. Students spend plenty of time in class or studying, but they still need to budget money monthly for movies, concerts, sports and other activities for their down times. In addition, set aside money for personal care items, clothing, shoes and similar items.