BYU personal finance experts give budgeting tips

BYU’s on-campus resources help students save money and create a budget. (Maddi Driggs)

BYU hopes to help students through this tax season by providing an abundance of on- and off-campus resources, including access to free budgeting information to help them stay financially stable and responsible.

“Learning these habits now is so helpful and will benefit them so much,” said BYU student and family life professor Lauren Barnes. “Starting earlier with anything financial always tends to reap better rewards — not just meaning you’ll have more money for retirement, but also that you have the consistent behaviors established.”

Manager of the student financial planning center Paul R. Conrad said the most important purpose of budgeting is helping people achieve their financial goals.

“Budgeting to achieve a specific purpose or goal is a better way to manage limited income because it helps us to avoid drifting,” Conrad said. “If you drift financially, it’s easier to mismanage your money.”

Various financial apps and websites track spending habits, but students should also account for the cost and amount of personal information they would need to disclose to these tools.

One website that helps students budget is, which lists the following tips for creating a budget.

1. Budget before the month begins. Pick a day late in the month to budget for the following month. Block out a certain time to focus solely on your numbers. Don’t be afraid to get some grub before getting down to business.

2. Budget down to zero. Enter next month’s income. From there, determine the exact amount to spend for each category (food, rent, utilities, clothes), as well as any saving goals. It’s a good idea to account for every single dollar.

Conrad also said it’s important that students create an allowance for themselves.

“Having an allowance, or fudge money, allows you to splurge just a little,” Conrad said. “But this is a trade-off. You get to splurge with this limited amount of money if you also agree to follow your budget.”

3. Track your expenses. Keep tabs on spending to stay on track. This will help students achieve their goals and keep them from overspending. If a student budgets $100 for eating out and spends $20 at a restaurant on Saturday with friends, the student should track that and recognize there is $80 left for eating out. Spending all that money before the end of the month means waiting until the next month for another trip to Chick-fil-A.

BYU’s Marriott School of Business offers online courses for students to learn to budget their finances. There are courses for both beginners and for people who are more experienced with personal finance decisions.

BYU also houses The Student Center for Management and Planning, which offers one-on-one consultations for all financial needs, including making a budget, applying for scholarships and filing your tax return. The Financial Management and Planning Office also provides workshops and events to help students reach their financial goals.

Barnes also recommended that every BYU student take a family finance course.

“This is possibly one of the most practical classes you can take while at BYU,” Barnes said. “In the class, we talk about basic time value of money, budgeting, buying a car, insurance, buying a house, taxes, saving for retirement, etc.”

Conrad said college is a good time to start and experiment with various budgeting formats.

“There is no one best method,” Conrad said. “The best method is the one that works best for you. Budgeting is hard, but it can be most productive when we follow a budget to help us manage our limited resources, to achieve goals. Just doing it for the sake of doing it isn’t motivating.”

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