Budgeting is the absolute best way to get a complete picture of your finances. Budgets are great for saving for large purchases, reducing spending in problem areas, and knowing what you can afford. The main goal of your budget should be to live within your means. Simply put, you want to earn more money than you spend.
How to Get Started
Start by recording everything you spend money on for a month. Once the month is complete, you will be able to see where your money is being spent and be able to make more informed decisions to reduce spending and plan for the future.
If you are spending more than you are making, it is time to identify problem spending areas and where to save money. If you are earning more, then maybe it’s time to start a savings account to have a safeguard for unexpected expenses.
You can find a wide variety of budgeting apps and resources online, in Google Docs, or in your app store. You can even go "old school" and keep track of your expenses with a piece of paper!
- Identify your needs and your wants.
- Have an unsubsidized student loan? Make interest payments while you are in school. That $2,000 dollar loan you take out today will have a much higher principal amount due by the time you graduate. If you make interest-only payments, the loan will be the same amount as when you initially received it.
- Little purchases could be breaking your budget. Coffee from your favorite coffee shop is great treat, but you can save a lot of money by simply making your coffee at home. Maybe treat yourself to coffee occasionally, but not everyday.
- Eat in more and dine out less. Learn to cook simple, healthy meals at home.
- Plan a game night with friends and enjoy a potluck dinner where everyone brings something. You get to try new foods, have fun, and save money.
- Live like a college student. Sure, living by yourself would be great, but sharing a home with a few good friends will save you a lot of money over time, especially in the Bay Area.
- Buy generic. In most cases, the generic brand will be the same quality.
- Coupons only save you money if you use them for items you needed to buy without the coupon.