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Categories to Include when Creating a College Student Budget

Updated on January 17, 2011

It is important for everyone to create a budget. When you create a budget, what you’re doing is looking at your income and expenses. You use the budget to find ways to reduce your spending and/or increase your income so that you can cover all of your monthly costs. This should be broken down into spending categories so that you can make the budget is accurate as possible. Many budget worksheets don’t apply to college students because their income and expenses are different from people who are out in the working world. This article provides you with a list of common categories that should be included when budgeting as a college student.

Income Categories for College Budget

The income that college students get is a lot different from the typical person who just works for a living. Of course, if you do have any type of job then you should include the income from that job in the income section of your budget. But make sure that you also include the income that you receive from other sources including:

o Financial aid income. Do you receive money at the start of each semester from scholarships, grants and student loans? This income should be included in the income section of any budget worksheet that you’re making. Although you will ultimately be paying back student loans (and they will then become an expense) they are currently an income source.

o Money given to you by your parents. If your parents are helping to support you with funds during the time that you’re in college then you need to count it as income when doing your budgeting. Sometimes this is tough because they just give you a little bit here and there. Consider asking them for a monthly stipend instead and let them know it’s because you’re trying to be financially responsible by creating and sticking to a college student budget.

o Income earned from miscellaneous sources. College students do a lot of odd things to earn money including such things as participating in medical studies or selling their plasma. If you earn extra money during college in these ways then include that as income for your budget.

Expense Categories for College Budget

College students spend money primarily on their school costs but also have other costs as well. Make sure that you include the following categories when working out your student budget:

o Tuition. This is usually the largest cost for college students. It must be included as an expense when figuring out your budget for each month.

o Rent. This may also be a really large part of your regular expenses if you’re living away from home while you go to school.

o Utilities. Try to figure out what your utility bills are on average each month so that you can afford to keep them turned on.

o Phone and cable bills. These monthly bills can cost you a lot of money if you aren’t careful. Make sure that you know how much you are spending on these things.

o Computers and other consumer electronics. College students often feel that they need computers, smartphones, tablets and other consumer electronics to compete in the classroom. Include those expenses in your budget. Make sure that you also include related ongoing monthly expenses such as the amount of money spent on software or app downloads each month.

o Books and other school expenses. Each semester you need to purchase books for your classes. You may also have to purchase additional supplies, such as art supplies for a drawing class. You may also be charged additional fees such as a campus gym fee or a lab fee.

o Groceries / Dining Out. College students are known for eating on a budget. Nevertheless, those grocery bills do add up especially if you’re eating out frequently. Make sure that you don’t ignore this part of your college student budget or it’s going to come back to bite you!

o Transportation costs. Whether you drive or take the bus, you’re certainly spending some money on transportation. Include all of those costs in your budget. If you drive, make sure that you include your car payment, insurance costs, gas, parking and maintenance costs. If you bike, include your ongoing maintenance costs in your budget calculations.

o Insurance. Car insurance isn’t the only insurance that students pay for. Sometimes students also have renter’s insurance, health insurance and other insurance fees to include in their budgets.

o Entertainment. Ideally you will spend your time doing free and cheap activities so that your expenses in this category will be low. Still, if you’re going to the movies or buying yourself CDs then you’re spending money on entertainment.

o Clothing. College students typically want to stay in fashion and so spend at least some money each semester on new clothes. You may also require clothes for specific events (like a formal dance) or specific activities (like going to the gym).

o Extra expenses. What else do you spend money on regularly? Check your debit and credit card statements to see and include that in your budget.

Tip: Convert Items for a Monthly Budget

One important thing to note as a college student is that your items should be converted into monthly numbers so that you can create a manageable monthly budget. This is tough because costs such as tuition and income such as scholarship money probably only come in once per semester. You need to divide those numbers by the number of months in a semester to create an accurate monthly budget.


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  • htodd profile image

    htodd 6 years ago from United States

    This is great post..Nice

  • oceansnsunsets profile image

    Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

    Thanks for sharing this information Kathryn, and congratulations on winning in the finance contest with this hub!

  • Michael Jay profile image

    Michael Jay 7 years ago

    Congrats on your win, Kathryn! Great hub filled with very useful information about budgeting tips for college students. Thanks for sharing. :)

  • soni2006 profile image

    Rajinder Soni 7 years ago from New Delhi, India

    Congratulations for your win. I checked your hub and already guessed that you will win. Excellent hub indeed. Best of luck for more Kathryn.

  • Purple Perl profile image

    Purple Perl 7 years ago from Bangalore,India

    Living expenses are usually missed out when students plan their budget. You have covered everything. Excellent guide! Congrats too!