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Different people might have different interpretation of the word budget. Some might associate being on a budget to living below a certain standard or inability in acquiring desirable quality Items. At the same token, others might see budget as a road map to reach financial freedom, so that they can afford a more luxurious standard of living.  The fact remains that budgeting lies at the foundation of every financial planning.  It does not matter if you live from paycheck to paycheck or make $300,000 a year, a budget can help account for that income.  It provides analysis on your spending habits, and it is used as a financial tool to better structure and allocates resources for individuals, companies, and governments. Budgeting is telling your money where to go and what to do not wandering where your money went.

The first step to budgeting is setting financial goals. As a student, you will need to adopt a budget and use it to project your short-term and long-term goals.  Regardless if you have a job that earns you money or not, budgeting can help you control your spending to make ends meet.  Your main mission in college, besides academia, is to invest in your knowledge and skills so that you can conquer life’s challenges in your future.  Budgeting is a soft skill that will serve you well and for years to come.  The process of budgeting is simply to state your income (money coming in), and examine your expenses (money going out).  The difference between your income and expenses represent your cash flow budget and it should preferably be always in the positive (income exceeds expenses).  A successful budget helps you recognize your needs from your wants and helps you control wasteful spending.

To create a robust budgeting plan is easy just follow these five steps:

1. Wants versus Needs

It is critical to examine your spending habits and divide them into two categories – Wants and Needs. As a student, it is imperative that you optimize the use of the money available in making the best possible financial decisions. To itemize your spending list and prioritize by needs is a first step in the right direction of establishing good spending habits. It is important to keep in mind that if you do not establish a good budgeting plan as a student now, you might have to spend the rest of your life trying to climb out of the budgeting deficit. Keep your spending within your means.

2. Set goals and guidelines

Decide why you want to create a budget and which guidelines you are willing to follow. We all have different budgets based on our incomes and how much we want to allocate to each of our expenses. Your budget should be tailored specifically for you to meet your income and your expenses. Make sure you allow for a few “wants” so you do not feel totally deprived (ie: a latte every once in a while, or a movie you want to see)

3. Differentiate between income and debt

Money can come in from different sources such as a part-time job, a charge on a credit card, or a financial aid refund check. Make sure you differentiate between what is income and what is borrowed money. You want to steer away from borrowing debt to satisfy living expenses. If you receive a refund check from your student aid as a result of borrowing student loans, make sure you use it strictly for educational purposes such as books and supplies. Steer away from using student loans for living expenses, instead, get a part-time job or search for additional grants and scholarships.

4. List all your expenses

Make sure you keep your list practical and sustainable, reduce any waste and control all unnecessary spending. Best way to achieve a lien list of expenses is to track your spending for a period of time and identify your needs and your wants.

5. Calculate the difference between income and expenses

You will need to make any adjustment to make ends meet. Keep a guide to help you make better decisions to stick to your budget. Put yourself on a weekly or daily allowance to make sure you stay faithful to your commitment. You will be glad when you graduate with a wonderful degree without incurring unmanageable sum of debts.