Skip to content
Female student learning how to budget

Let’s face it, life ain’t cheap even when you’re stuck between calculus and cafeteria burritos. Between saving for that epic summer trip, swiping GTA VI on release, and grabbing a post-practice smoothie, money seems to vanish faster than notes during a pop quiz. But fear not, we have some tips to help you conquer this cash crisis with a secret weapon: the budget.

Think of your budget as your financial GPS, guiding you through the money maze without ending up like Blockbuster. I know, creating a budget sounds as appealing as dissecting a frog in biology (gross, right?). Relax, I’ve got your back with tips that are less boring than textbook budgeting and more effective than wishing for a bank error in your favor.

Tip 1: Track That Dough

Before you can spend wisely, you gotta know where your money goes. Grab your phone (because nobody carries cash anymore) and download a budgeting app like Rocket Money, Monarch Money or YNAB. These bad boys track your spending like ninjas, showing you exactly where your hard-earned paycheck or babysitting bucks are disappearing. You might be surprised to see how much that daily latte habit adds up in a month!

Tip 2: Income vs. Outgo: Who Wins the Battle?

Now, time for a reality check. List all your income sources – allowance, paycheck, side gigs (lawn mowing anyone?), birthday cash – and add it up. Do the same for your expenses, from your daily lunch money to that Max subscription you secretly share with your entire friend group. Be honest and complete, every penny counts!

Tip 3: The 50/30/20 Rule

This magical formula is like the Beyonce of budgeting – fierce and fabulous. Here’s how it works:

  • 50% Needs: Think rent (when you move out of the dorm), school lunches, phone bill, basic clothing (bare necessities only). These are the non-negotiables, the stuff that keeps you alive and learning.
  • 30% Wants: Fun money for movies, video games, hanging with friends, whatever floats your boat. Just remember, wants are optional, so prioritize and be realistic. You can’t have Starbucks every day and still afford that concert ticket.
  • 20% Savings: Boom! This is your future fund, the key to unlocking college dreams, epic vacations, or buying your own car. Even if it’s just a couple bucks a week, it adds up fast. Trust me, future you will thank present you.

Tip 4: Flip it and Reverse it

While in high school, make it the 20/30/50 Rule. Odds are your parents are paying the majority of things that would be considered needs. Spoiler alert: that doesn’t last, except maybe those 50-year-olds still living in their parent’s basement. Make sure that’s not you by saving half of every dollar you earn now. When you start having rent and paying more for food you flip back to the traditional 50/30/20.

Tip 5: Saving Savvy: Where to Park Your Pennies

So you’ve decided to be a responsible rockstar and started saving? High five! Now, where do you stash that cash?

  • 529 Savings plan: college can cost $50,000 per year or more in some cases. Probably not your reality with scholarships and grants, but do you know what that number will be for you? Put a substantial portion of that savings into this account, start with 25% of what you are saving.  
  • High-yield savings account: These accounts pay you interest on your money, like a tiny reward for being awesome. Online banks and credit unions typically offer the best interest rates. These accounts are different than your normal savings account and often carry limits on the number of transactions. Sometimes you can get other perks, for example, I found a credit union that offered an extra 0.25% increase in the interest rate if you have direct deposit.
  • Certificate of Deposit: If you can stash the cash for a longer period of time consider a CD. There are a lot of different terms for these but they are a way to maximize the interest rate on your money.

Remember, budgeting isn’t about depriving yourself. It’s about taking control of your money and making it work for you. Once you set up the basics and know where you spend your money you can start to manipulate it. Hunt down coupons, do some thrifting, pick up a side job, heck, maybe even open that Etsy shop you talked about. Earn more, spend less, and budget like a queen or king!

By Jason Combs