How to survive on a college budget

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It’s the 22nd of the month, and a student only has three packages of Ramen left and $29 dollars in his bank account. He doesn’t get paid until Friday and hopes his paycheck is enough to cover rent. This is often a scenario among full-time college students. But how do students take a 20-hour-per-week-paycheck and make it enough to survive?

Many students, like Aylea Stephens, struggle to find a balance between working enough to live comfortably and having enough time to study to make good grades. “I work 20 hours a week, and my grades have definitely dropped since starting my job,” said Stephens, a European studies major. Because the money comes dear, it’s important to make it stretch.

It’s important to note that BYU students are among those college students with the least amount of debt upon graduation, according to Time Magazine. However, knowing how to manage money is still an area of critical importance for students.

The first solution to better financial security is financial education. Personal finance professor Bryan Sudweeks referenced personalfinance.byu.edu as a resource for students. “The website was put together by the Marriott School of Management and is open to all students, and you will find that there is something for everyone, no matter their financial understanding,” he said.

The website is free to use and includes access to complete courses targeted at different student groups like freshmen, returned missionaries and young married students. There are videos, chapter readings and case studies to enhance the principles taught. Topics range from goal-setting to debt reduction and insurance.

The website also mentions that the most typical budget used by students, though not a recommended method, is the “DNAH” (Do nothing and hope) method. “This is the method used by most individuals, and it is the cheapest and least time consuming. It requires nothing. Individuals deny there is a concern and hope things work out,” Subweeks said on the site.

The next step to better managing finances is to set up some kind of budget. Therapeutic recreation major Jenna Higgins keeps a record of every purchase. “I write down the amount spent in my savings or checking account book, whichever one it came out of; then I subtract that to see how much I have left. If you write it down right after you spend it, then you know how much you have and what you are spending money on.”

After students begin budgeting, they can see where they have room to save. Several students mentioned food as an area where they can save money, reducing the number of times they eat out or the amount of food they buy at the grocery store.

Ashley Smith, a junior studying physical therapy, mentioned a few ways she has found to stretch a dollar. “I have purchased groceries with my roomies, gone shopping at thrift stores like Plato’s Closet, and I use coupons like a crazy woman. All that jazz,” she said.

There are several methods to budgeting, saving and financial planning. Each student will have slightly different needs. Banks can advise people on methods that fit their lifestyles. Budget templates can be found and customized online, as well as can free apps to help keep track of spending. The LDS Church offers several financial planning tools like the “All is Safely Gathered In” pamphlet. The Student Center for Financial Managment & Planning offers workshops, online tools and personal advisement to students. Visit financialplan.byu.edu to learn more.

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