Budgeting

43% of American families spend more than they earn each year. 

Average families carry about $16,000 in credit card debt. 

Personal bankruptcies have doubled in the last decade to 1 in 73 households. 

What is Budgeting?

Budgeting can be simply defined as living within your financial means. A budget can be a simple written list of basic monthly income and expense amounts or a more detailed worksheet with spending information for each day of the week.

Guidelines for Creating a Budget:

  • Track your expenses for at least one month so you know exactly where you are spending your money.
  • Pay major bills first. Set aside money for your tuition, books, student fees, and other large annual or semiannual costs. Once these amounts are subtracted from your bank balance, you'll have a more accurate starting point from which to plan your budget for the rest of the semester.
  • Evaluate your income versus your expenses.
  • Never spend more than you are bringing in!
  • Classify your expenses into needs and wants.
  • Determine if the expenses in the 'want' category can be reduced or eliminated completely. 
  • Write down your short-term and long-term financial goals
  • Create a budget and stick with it. You can use a simple written budget worksheet or calculate your budget online.

What happens if there are more expenses than income? Increase your income or reduce your expenses.

Here are some ideas:

DINING

  • Learn to cook. If you cook dinner at home, you can also bring in leftovers to work the next day. Find more than 100 recipes here and here that require only a few items and are perfect for a college student’s budget! Want to eat healthy on a budget? Find ideas here.
  • At restaurants, split a meal with a friend. Many restaurant portions provide more food than you actually need. Splitting with a friend is a way to make dining out more affordable and healthier!
  • Eat at restaurants early to take advantage of early bird specials.
  • Some restaurants offer coupons and discounts that come in with your regular mail. Also, many restaurants provide discounts or free-item coupons and even free birthday meals if you sign up for their emails.
  • Drink water. It’s healthy and cheap! Bring a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go and fill it up at water fountains, drink stands, or friends’ houses.

BOOKS AND MEDIA

  • Use the library. Borrow books from the library rather than purchasing them from the store.  In addition, most libraries (like Cal U’s own Manderino Library) offer DVDs, magazines, newspapers, and free Internet service.  Our library also works with libraries in the surrounding area to allow you to borrow books that they do not carry.

BE A SMART CONSUMER

  • Call companies to see if you can receive discounts on products or services because you are a long-term customer in good standing.
  • Use only your bank or credit union's ATMs. Using another financial institution’s ATM once a week could cost you $3 a withdrawal or more than $150 over the course of a year.
  • Transfer your prescription drugs to the closest, lowest-cost pharmacy. Some pharmacies offer you gift cards just for switching. Also, ask if they offer a generic version of your prescription.

UTILITIES, CELL PHONE, TV

  • Mobile phone companies have been known to give discounts to students, employees, and customers in good standing. Also, be sure you understand peak calling periods, area coverage, roaming and termination charges.
  • Don’t watch a lot of television? Consider shutting it off (even if just to try it out) and replacing it with Netflix or Hulu. Both offer free trials, so you can try before you buy!
  • Reduce your utility bills. You will save roughly 3 percent in energy costs each year for each degree you turn the thermostat down. Turn it down at night and when you are not home to reduce your bill substantially.

OTHER


  • Put your loose change in a jar. Keep it for laundry, gas money, textbooks, or save it for unexpected expenses.
  • Use a blank check register to record your daily expenses. You can usually get them for free at most banks.
  • Be aware of the unnecessary things you spend your money on that can be easily avoided such as daily trips to the vending machine, lattes, music downloads, out-of-network texting, etc.
  • Kick the habit. At about $6 a pack, smoking is expensive — and it takes a toll it takes on your lungs. For help on how to quit smoking, check out www.smokefree.gov.
  • Discuss spending limits for gift-giving with family and friends. This way, you can buy gifts you can actually afford to give. Discussing this well in advance gives you time to shop the sales.
  • Sell/trade things you don’t use. Use the money you earn to pay down your debts or save it for emergencies.
  • Have friends chip in to help pay for gas.
    • Visit GasBuddy.com for a comparison list of current gas prices in your area.
    • Better yet: Take advantage of public transportation, carpooling, or your feet to get you to where you want to go.
  • Wait 24 hours before purchasing a high-priced item. This gives you time to think about it and avoid impulse-buying.
  • Don’t lend money to friends.
For a more extensive list, please go here

Additional Resources

Want to know if you’re at risk? Take this online quiz to find out.

Try Mint.com. (You can set a budget, track your goals and more for free!)

DIY Project and Gift Ideas

You’re a college student on a tight budget -- it’s time you started spending like one! Check out the websites below for cheap gift ideas.

Cheap or Free Anniversary Gift Ideas

Homemade Christmas Gifts- Last-Minute

10 Gift Ideas from College Students to Parents

100 DIY Ideas for the Cash-Strapped College Kid

DIY Gift Ideas

Want more Ideas? Try Pinterest. This social media site allows users to “pin” images they find online to a virtual pin board. It is very useful for finding affordable recipes, homemade gifts, and low-cost, do-it-yourself projects.

Entertainment Ideas

Take advantage of free or low cost events

Visit the University events calendar for information on campus events.

Things to do in Washington County, PA 

Cheap Things to do in Pittsburgh, PA

For community events, check the classifieds or your local library, gym, or YMCA