Budgeting is the foundation for money management. A budget is similar to your headlights, providing the light for you to see where you are going on a dark night. Your budget will shine a light into your financial situation so that you are able to navigate cautiously and purposefully.

Why is budgeting important for a college student?

If you learn to budget while in college, you are not faced with “figuring it out” once you graduate and start to make money.

What can a college student do now?

Utilize a budgeting worksheet or download a budgeting app, and complete your information. Then once it’s complete, track your progress at meeting your goals for spending in each category. Also, challenge yourself to save a few dollars at the end of the month. As you meet your goals, adjust to save more.

Don’t forget to include the most important aspect of your budget… leisure. A budget does not mean “no fun,” it means “planned fun.”

Digital Budgeting Solutions

  • You Need a Budget (YNAB): Focused on a forward-looking zero-based budgeting approach, YNAB offers college students a free 12-month subscription to get students started on good budgeting habits.
  • PocketSmith: Taking an approach of using a calendar to track recurring and one-time expenses, PocketSmith might be a good option for students who prefer a more visual interface (with a free option for simpler budgets).
  • Quicken: A well-established budgeting solution, Quicken is a well-known desktop app with Starter version (~$36/year) to get up and running.

Not into these apps? Do you love tinkering with a good spreadsheet? Many templates and approaches can be found online for MS Excel and Google Sheets. Or create your own for the ultimate in controlling how your budget is structured and tracked.

Many online, app-based, and desktop budgeting solutions are available. The Financial Wellness Center is not recommending any of the listed solutions. Do you research and select a tool that's right for you.

Book Recommendations from Students

  • Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry: Makes the topic of money fun, entertaining and relatable. Covers a variety of topics not just budgeting
  • Budget Planner Books Monthly Budget Plan: Use each monthly budget page to record income expenses, daily spending, and check your progress.
  • Indigo Monster’s Cash Book: This easy-to-use tool contains yearly, monthly, and weekly budgets included, so you can use it for a full year.

Other Resources

  • Nerd Wallet: This is a good resource to start learning about credit cards, investing, loans.
  • Groove: Groove is a financial habit-building platform that helps you identify your money personality and helps you learn, set, and hit personalized goals to build healthy financial habits and rituals. Groove meets you where you are, allowing you to earn badges while building confidence. It’s not teaching for tests and quizzes, it’s about creating positive money habits for a brighter and more confident financial future. It features TikTok-style video learning content, cash-flow tools, and more, to get you learning about money in a fun, new way. You'll find short-form content in six different categories, from investing to debt, that helps you learn at your own pace. Check out their introduction video.