Happy lunch time everybody! Thanks for signing on today for our lunch and learn session, Help I'm in College and Don't Have a Budget. My name is Alex and on behalf of Copper State Credit Union we are so happy to have you. 

I'm excited to introduce our speaker Christina Kredit. Christina is Copper State Credit Union's financial wellness program manager. She's been with the credit union for four years and loves her current position. Christina has lived in the Phoenix area for nine years since moving from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She loves listening to audio books and enjoys camping with friends and family as well as working in her garden. Financial fun fact about Christina, most of her lunch money is spent at Salad & Go or for Thai food. Christina, I'll turn it over to you.

Thank you Alex and thank you everyone for joining us today, very excited to be with you. For those of you who are new here I want you to meet Copper State Credit Union. We are a local Arizona credit union and we're built from the merger of two equally thriving credit unions, Deer Valley and Canyon State Credit Union. And that was back in 2019 that that merger became official. In 2020, Southwest Healthcare Credit Union joined us and we rebranded, found our new name and we are now Copper State Credit Union. Membership, with its many benefits, is open to most Arizona residents. If you live, work or worship in any of those six counties, you are eligible to be a member if you are not already. We have seven branch locations plus a location at GCU in the Lopes Shop. We serve over 40,000 members and we offer a variety of accounts, different loans and we have online banking and a mobile app. Pretty much anything you'd expect from any financial institution we have it!
So, when we talk about our credit union and who we are I like to quickly go over our core values. Our core values are family, empowerment, excitement and discovery. We believe in making financial wellness a priority and want to lead our members and our community to achieving financial prosperity. That's why we want to make sure we're offering these financial education opportunities for everyone because we care about empowerment and allowing you to find your financial success.

The years after high school, particularly if you're going after higher education, are a very interesting and challenging time when it comes to finances. You're in a way different financial situation than your parents, or your grandparents, or your siblings or whoever else. You're spending a ton of money but you're not necessarily into your career yet so it's hard to figure out a budget. You can't just use a run of the mill budget template that you Google online. A lot of those aren't going to work for you.

So to help, we've taken the time to figure out a way to make budgeting easy and specific for a college student's situation. Today we're going to cover the basics of budgeting. Spoiler alert: it is four easy steps. First, we have determine your why or set your goals. Then we're going to talk about income. We're going to talk about expenses and then giving every dollar a job. We'll discuss what to watch out for that can hijack your budgeting attempts while you're in college, as well as share some bonus content for you with some money saving tips. The skills you learn today are totally transferable to life after college, so even if you're a senior graduating soon it can still apply. One of the most exciting things about today's session is today you're going to walk away with a customizable download. It's a student budgeting template that is pre-populated with a lot of Arizona averages for an in-state four year college student and you can edit all of the categories and all of the amounts to fit your needs. 

College Budgeting Step 1: Find Your Why

Why are you here today?

Why did you sign on to learn about college budgeting?

Why do you care about your finances? 

Usually it's related to a bigger goal that we want to achieve, a type of person we want to be or type of person we don't want to be. Defining our goals, saying them out loud and knowing the steps that will get you there is really going to help.

Finish this sentence "I am the type of person who..."

Here are some examples:

"...lives debt free."

" able to buy a car when I graduate."

"...doesn't make the same money mistakes as _____ "

Take a moment right now and think about why. Write it down! Then we can move on.

College Budgeting Step 2: Assess Income

For college students I recommend working on a semester basis with your budget.  If some of your income is monthly or weekly, simply multiply that number by how many months (4) or weeks (16) in a semester. Now, to start this step we're going to add up all income sources and money you have available to spend on a per-semester basis.

Common income sources for college students:

Family financial support: this could be from parents, guardians, grandparents, aunts and uncles, deceased family members, etc.

Part-time job: yes, this will be variable income, but you can always ask your supervisor at the beginning of the semester for an approximation of hours per week you'll be working. This will allow you to multiply out the weekly amount over the semester.

Summer job earnings: take the remaining funds and split it up between the two semesters

Financial aid: from federal grants and scholarships to your specific college, there's private ones, there's state ones. Hopefully you were able to get some of those.

Student loans: the last big chunk that a lot of us have or had or will have to support at least some of our college expenses is that student loans amount. So, it's what you're going to use per semester for that student loan amount. And it's weird to think of that as income but that money is there to help you pay for tuition, to help you pay for room and board, to get you through to whatever degree you're pursuing.

Add up all sources of income per semester and record this in your Student Budgeting Spreadsheet! Helpful tip - it's better to underestimate income so that you don't run out of money!

College Budgeting Step 3: Tally Expenses

Again, we are calculating per semester - basically every time money leaves your wallet or leaves any of your accounts.

Here are some categories to make sure you look for:

Tuition: likely to be the largest expense
If you're living on-campus: room & board. This one's easier because it's usually charged on a semester basis and includes the cost of your dorm room as well as a campus meal plan.

If you're living off-campus: rent + utilities + insurance + groceries

Books and supplies

Personal expenses: must have like laundry, cell phone, etc.

Personal expenses: nice to have, like food, drinks and outings, as well as other fun stuff (once COVID is over!)

Transportation: everything form fuel, car payments, parking passes, bus passes, airfare for traveling home, etc.

Savings Goals - yes, your savings are considered an expense!

A free checking account makes it easy to track your expenses!

Once you add up your current spending for each of these categories, it's time to move on to step 4. 

College Budgeting Step 4: Give Every Dollar A Job

Here is where you need to take all of your income divvy it out towards needed categories. If your current semester income is greater than your expenses, this is good! Maybe you can even decrease your student loan amount. If your expenses are greater than your income though, you'll have to make some adjustments to where your money is going. 

Bills - pay first! Tuition, housing, food, transportation, cell phone. The necessities.

Saving (Future You!) - find a little bit that you can start putting aside towards savings.

Spending - this is everything else that is variable. You can find ways to save money on these things while bills are always going to be a fixed amount. Include here books and supplies, fun money for outings, etc.

Using the budget template will make this last step significantly easier! It gives you some at-a-glance numbers at the top. The bottom half indicates the semester and has separate columns for income, expenses (bills + spending) and savings. You can rename any of the categories to your specific situation and put in the numbers that fit your budget.

Overcoming Budgeting Roadblocks

"How do I stick to my spending budget?" Bills are easier, usually they're auto paid from your account or something like that. You can set up your savings to be automatic. But what about the spending? Well, what you can do is if you figure out per semester I can spend this much money on fun stuff and then you divide that by how many weeks are in the semester (16) and then go to the ATM once a week and pull out your weekly amount in cash. Have that cash in your wallet and anytime you want to spend money on anything other than bills, you use that stash. That way, when you run out, you have to wait until the next week. 

"How do I force myself to save?" Keeping the bills and the savings part automatic through your credit union or bank is going to be really helpful. You can do it on a computer through online banking or most institutions have an app as well. Set up automatic payments and transfers to savings so that you don't see the money sitting in your checking account and spend it. 

7 Money-Saving Tips For College Students

  1. Books - how often are you using them? Some degrees, some majors you're in that book every single day and you do need to buy it. But if you're not, if you don't need them every day, there's a library copy. So consider that if it's something where you don't think you're going to be using the book a whole lot. That might be something during syllabus week to figure out if you have to buy the book or not or you can buy it used, buy the book used or buy it online. Know that the school bookstores even though they're the most convenient they are typically the most expensive. 

  2. Fees - be aware that almost everyone charges fees for things being late. If you're just coming out of high school or starting college mid twenties, whenever it is, sometimes you're not aware that pretty much everything has a late fee, credit card payments, rent, cell phone, library books, everything. So, if you're not in the habit of knowing your due dates get them put into your phone. Having a recurring reminder like my credit card bill is due on the 13th of every month and just have it recurring to remind you a couple of days before because those fees can cost you a lot.

  3. Printing - on college campuses, many printers charge 10 cents a sheet! So, if you have a couple of roommates and you can go in on a printer, they're not that expensive and over the course of probably a semester or a year you'll be glad that you did and got a printer instead of paying that rate on campus.

  4. Discounts - ask for student discounts wherever you go!

  5. Free food - actually look for free anything. There's a lot of times that college campuses have free food for a variety of reasons. Take advantage!

  6. Manage your credit card responsibly - only buy what you can pay off in the same month if at all possible. A credit card is not where you want to keep revolving debt if you don't have to. You want to be able to pay it off so that you aren't paying interest, that high annual percentage rate on your card.

  7. Sub a night out for an evening in - friends can all pitch in and you can cook a simple meal at home.

Helpful Links:

Student Loan Calculator

Survey + College Budgeting Template Download

Not In College? Download our Ultimate Budget Plan to Save You Time and Free Your Money.

Thank you for joining me today!

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This article is intended to be a general resource only and is not intended to be nor does it constitute legal advice. Any recommendations are based on opinion only. Rates, terms and conditions are subject to change and may vary based on creditworthiness, qualifications, and collateral conditions. All loans subject to approval.