Monday, February 23, 2015

Taxes and Budgeting

By Levena Lindahl

Tax season is often a big deal for college students.  Not only are you heading in to midterms and cramming for tests, you have to make sure you are doing your FAFSA and your taxes too.  It can all be very overwhelming!  (But have no fear! TTC very kindly offers help with your taxes, if you need it.  There are flyers up on campus telling you when and where they will be!)

This time of year is also a good time to start thinking about budgeting.  This is often a fact of life for most college students, the phrase ‘broke college student’ started for a reason.  Instead of running out and spending all of your return on impulse shopping, see if you can save some of your return instead.  Budgeting is a way to save up money for emergencies, for a big purchase you’d like to make, or to go on vacation.  The possibilities are endless; you just have to save first.  

Starting a budget can be daunting, but here are some easy tips you can follow to get started.  And once you get into the habit, you can really start to see your savings grow!

Be Realistic
To start your budget, you need to start figuring out how much money you’ll have coming in every month, and what you think you’ll be spending. Be honest! The more realistic you are about your expenses, the easier it will be for you to stick to your budget.

“Needs” And “Wants” in Budgeting
As a college student, your money’s tight, so it is really important for you to know the difference between “needs” and “wants”.  Knowing this can help you stay within your budget. Remember, needs have to come first, and if there’s money left over in your budget, you can spend the things you want.

Guess Low For Income and High for Expenses
It never hurts to be conservative with your budget, and one way to set yourself up for success is to guess low for income. The reason for this is that you don’t want to be caught short because you were overly optimistic on the money you have coming in.  In addition to guessing low for income, guess high for what you are spending on bills and other expenses.  This way you have a little breathing room in your budget.

Review Your Budget and Adjust if Necessary
A review of your budget every month or so can help you stay on top of your finances. This also helps you see if you are being consistent in what you are doing in terms of spending or saving your money.  Do you overspend? Were you able to save? If so, how can you fix the issue or do the same next month?

Pay Cash
Give yourself a daily, weekly, or monthly allotment of cash, and use it whenever you can. With debit and credit cards, it’s really easy to not really understand how much you are spending, but with cash it’s really easy to see how fast those coffee breaks add up.  This is an easy way to keep an even closer eye on your spending habits.

Forgive Yourself For ‘Splurges’
It’s almost impossible to follow a budget all month, every month. Sometimes unexpected expenses pop up, and sometimes there is that impulse buy that you just had to have.  Don’t sweat it, but don’t let it become a habit either.  

And that’s it!  It really can be that easy to follow a budget!  If you’d like to check out a helpful budget guide, check out this online guide here.


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