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Lessons Learned From A First Time Budgeter
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Lessons Learned From A First Time Budgeter

Graduating from high school and starting college was an exciting time in my life. You’ll start saying goodbye to some friends and start making new ones. If you’re like me, starting college will also involve moving to a new city and out of your parents’ house. That was a real eye opener. You mean, I have to buy groceries and toilet paper? Cook dinner every night and clean the bathroom. Darn.

When you’re making $10 an hour working as an office manager, you’ll find yourself pinching pennies trying to pay the bills each month. There’s rent to pay, groceries to buy, tuition to save for and more. Most college students don’t make a lot of money – that’s why they go to college right? To get a good job and make lots of money and live in a mansion with servants. (Okay, so the last part might not come to pass, but the good job part is certainly achievable.)

In this article, I’m going to tell you something that I wish I had figured out a lot earlier than I did: the magic of budgeting and money management. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Make a budget.

If I’m being honest, I’ve never really been good at budgeting. I’m more of a ‘go-with-the-flow’ kind of person and hate limiting what I can do with my money. My husband, however is not that way. He likes to spend as little money as possible and put the rest in savings. Budgeting is a new experience for me.

Decide what is important to you.

Your budget shouldn’t be a list of the top 100 things you want to buy (but that would be really cool!), rather it’s a list of the 5-10 things that take up the majority of your money each month. Things like rent, food, utilities, gas, car payments and entertainment. When you take time to list the important things you need money for each month, you’ll likely be surprised with how little money you need. You’ll probably find you spend a lot of money on unnecessary purchases and could be saving a lot more.

Follow your budget.

This is where I have a hard time. The national standard for food expenditure is $100 per month per person. So, when you make your budget and plan to spend $100 for food, make sure you don’t spend $120. Sure there will be times that you go over on your budget – like when your car breaks down unexpectedly and you have to pay $500 for repairs – but try to stick to your budget as best as you can. The best way to follow your budget is to keep receipts and write things down. If you spend $23 at the grocery store one week, make sure you go to your budget and subtract that from your total. Now you know you’ve only got $77 for food remaining.

And finally, the last thing I wish I had learned sooner is this: a credit card isn’t a ‘magic card.’ Growing up my Mom always joked and said we could use her ‘magic card’ for gas, or food or new shoes. While I knew the card wasn’t really magic, I never fully understood how it worked. So, when I got out of high school and started college I signed up for one (yes, you only need one) of the 37 student credit cards I got in the mail. Then I had to learn how to use it. It was cool. I could buy as many shoes as I wanted with my credit card. And I did. It was wonderful … until I got the statement at the end of the month and had to pay the bill. Then those shoes weren’t so great after all. Lessons learned. Happy budgeting (and good luck with school)!


Street Talk

Thanks for sharing your lessons on budgeting! You're right, it's possible to live on less by paying attention and budgeting.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
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