Money Management

When was the last time the amount of change in your pocket was the deciding factor in what you would have to eat? The last time you swiped your debit card, did you hope the transaction would clear without any overdraft fees? Many college students encounter these financial situations all too often and get caught in a world of debt. Managing your money with a budget is the best way to reduce the chance of experiencing this kind.

Download the Money Management Handout

A budget is nothing to be afraid of; it’s simply an itemized summary of income and expenses for a period of time. Having a budget helps you monitor where your money is being spent and better predict your future financial situation. Budgets can also help you to identify bad spending habits so that you can adjust your expenses, save money, and meet your financial goals. Budgeting doesn’t have to be painful or scary. You just have to pick a budgeting method that works for you!
A budget can improve your financial life by allowing you to….
  • Track and prioritize your spending
  • Limit your debt
  • Set money aside so that you can accomplish your financial goals
  • Feel more confident, less stressed, and happier overall!
Determine Your Financial Goals – Financial goals are what motivate us to budget so you need to determine what yours are, how much money you need to save to meet each goal, and reasonable deadlines for achieving them.  
  • Short-term Goals – 1 year or less to achieve (ex. a new phone or clothes).
  • Medium-term Goals – 1-3 years to achieve (ex. purchasing your Aggie Ring or setting aside a $1,000 Emergency Fund).  
  • Long-term Goals – 3+ years to achieve (ex. repaying your student loans, buying a car, or setting aside money for retirement).   
You can write out your financial goals and your plans for achieving them on our My Financial Goals Worksheet.

If you are having trouble prioritizing your financial goals, CNN Money’s Prioritizer might help as well.

Identify Your Income Sources - Sources of income include money from working, your parents, scholarships, financial aid, a college fund, etc.

Identify Your Expenses - Expenses include anything that you spend your money on. Credit card statements, bank account statements, check book ledgers, and receipts are the best ways to identify your expenses. As you identify your expenses, you may determine areas of unnecessary spending and opportunities to cut back.
  • Fixed Expenses - Expenses which are the same dollar amount each month (rent, cable/internet, insurance, etc.).
  • Variable Expenses - Expenses which are not the same dollar amount each month (clothes, gifts, entertainment, food, etc.).
Track and Compare Your Income and Expenses – Track all of your income and expenses over a month. If your income is higher than your expenses, great! Not only are you preventing financial stress, but you can set some money aside for your goals. However, if your expenses are greater than your income, you need to increase your income, decrease your expenses, or both.

Estimate (Budget) for Next Month’s Income and Expenses – Using the monthly income and expenses you just tracked, along with additional information you know about upcoming income and expenses, estimate next month’s income and expenses. This will allow you to estimate how much money you will have leftover at the end of next month. If it looks like you’ll be short money next month, consider adjusting your spending so that you can save money next month, rather than be broke or rely on debt.  

Repeat, But Make Adjustments – Repeat steps 4 and 5 every month in order to estimate your future financial situation, identify opportunities to cut back on your expenses, and save more money to ultimately achieve your financial goals. Remember though that you’re a person; that life happens; and, that if you need to adjust your budgeting process in order to make it less painful or more effective, do it!
There are many different ways to budget. The most important thing is that you pick a method that works for you (not your parents, not your friends, just you). However you choose to budget, the point is to watch your savings grow and for you to ultimately meet your financial goals.
However you choose to budget, it should:
  • ​Be quick
  • Be flexible
  • Require some discipline
  • Allow for you to have fun (budgeted fun, not last minute, impulsive, expensive fun…..)
  • Not make you cringe every time you think about it 
Below are a few different methods for budgeting your money.
The 50-30-20 Method
Break down your expenses into the following categories and then limit your total expenses for each category to the corresponding percentage of after-tax income.
 
Must-Have Expenses (50% of after-tax income)
Basic expenditures you must make each month (rent, utilities, transportation, food, insurance, monthly loan payments, etc.).
 
Wants (30% of after-tax income)
Extra expenditures above your basic needs (vacations, gifts, entertainment, clothes, charities, eating out, internet, cable, etc.). If you aren’t certain if your “Want” is really a “Must-Have”, wait 24 hours before you buy it. This will help you determine if you really “Must-Have” it.
 
Savings & Debt Repayment (20% of after tax-income)
Money saved (emergency fund, retirement account, financial goals, etc.) and loan payments made above the required minimum payment.
The Envelope Method
  • Write the name of each of your monthly expenses (groceries, entertainment, coffee, etc.) on separate envelopes.
  • Determine how much money you want to spend next month on each type of expense and put that amount of cash in each corresponding envelope.
  • Once a particular envelope (ex. the Eating Out envelope) runs out of cash, then you can’t spend any more on that expense for the rest of the month!
  • At the end of the month, put all unspent cash into a savings account.
If you’d rather use a debit card than cash, just write the amount you determined for each expense on its associated envelope and then subtract from that amount whenever you make a purchase.
The Calendar Method
  • Open a calendar to this month.
  • Write in your Income on the dates you will receive it
  • Write in your Expenses on the dates you expect to pay them.
  • Write your Bank Account Balance on today’s date.
  • Estimate your remaining Bank Account Balance after receiving Income and paying Expenses for the rest of the month. The example calendar below illustrates how to do this.  This will tell you the maximum amount you could expect to have in your Bank Account by the end of the month (be prepared for unexpected expenses to occur). 
As the month goes on, you can write down your actual Bank Account Balance on the current date and then re-estimate your remaining Bank Account Balance after receiving Income and paying Expenses for the rest of the month. This will allow you to maintain a more accurate and up to date estimate of how much you can expect to save or lose by the end of the month as the month goes on. 
Budget Using Microsoft Excel
One of the more common budgeting tools is Microsoft Excel.  Below is an example of a 3 month budget worksheet created in Microsoft Excel. 
 Month  September  October  November
 B-Budgeted; A-Actual A B A B A
Income          
 Income Item 1          
 Income Item 2          
 Income Item 3          
Total Income           
Expenses          
 Fixed       Expense Item 1          
                Expense Item 2          
                Expense Item 3          
 Variable  Expense Item 4          
                Expense Item 5          
                Expense Item 6          
                Expense Item 7          
                Expense Item 8          
                Expense Item 9          
           
Total Expenses           
           
Monthly Net Savings/Loss          
Total Net Savings/Loss          

The steps for creating a budget using this worksheet are below.
  • Fill in the names of Month 1 thru Month 3 (with Month 1 being this month).
  • Fill in the names of the actual Income and Expense items for Month 1.
  • Fill in the Actual dollar amounts of the Income and Expense items for Month 1.
  • Review the Actual Monthly Net Savings/Loss and Total Net Savings/Loss for Month 1 (they should be the same). 
At this point, your budget worksheet might look something like this:
 
 Month  September  October  November
 B-Budgeted; A-Actual A B A B A
Income          
Work  $479        
Scholarships/Financial Aid  $8,550        
           
Total Income   $9,029        
Expenses          
 Fixed       Rent  $965        
                Cable  $40        
                Car Payment  $160        
 Variable  Tuition and Fees  $4,235        
                Books  $486        
                Groceries  $165        
                Gas  $75        
                Dining Out  $125        
                Clothes  $43        
           
Total Expenses   $6,294        
           
Monthly Net Savings/Loss  $2,735        
Total Net Savings/Loss  $2,735        
 
  • Add in the names of the Budgeted Income and Expense items for Month 2.
  • Use the Actual dollar amounts of the Income and Expense items for Month 1 to estimate and fill out the Budgeted dollar amounts of the Income and Expense items to occur in Month 2.
  • Review the Budgeted Monthly Net Savings/Loss and Total Net Savings/Loss for Month 2 to get an idea of how much money you will save or lose in Month 2. 
  • After the end of the month, fill in the Actual dollar amounts of the Income and Expense items for Month 2.
At this point, your budget worksheet might look something like this:
 Month  September  October  November
B-Budgeted; A-Actual A B A B A
Income          
Work   $479 $500 $489    
Scholarships &
Financial Aid
  $8,550 $0 $0    
           
Total Income   $9,029 $500 $489    
Expenses          
Fixed       Rent  $965 $965 $965    
               Cable  $40 $40 $40    
               Car Payment  $160 $160 $160    
Variable  
Tuition and Fees
 $4,235 $0 $0    
               Books  $486 $0 $0    
               Groceries  $165 $150 $200    
               Gas  $75 $75 $60    
               Dining Out  $125 $100 $112    
               Clothes  $43 $0 $25    
           
Total Expenses  $6,294 $1,490 $1,562    
           
Monthly Net Savings/Loss $2,735 $-990 $-1,073    
Total Net Savings/Loss $2,735 $1,745 $675    
 
  • Repeat these steps for all future months in order to continue estimating future Monthly Net Savings/Loss and Total Net Savings/Loss. 
Mint.com
Mint.com is one of the most popular budgeting tools being used by our Aggie students. It is a free website which you can use to easily and quickly track your bank, credit card, loan, and investment accounts. This website will automatically track and categorize all of the activity on each of your accounts (including your expenses so you know if you’re overspending on anything in particular). It also allows you to set financial goals and easily monitor your progress towards meeting them.  
 
Below are a few other online budgeting websites you might consider using as well:
  • Money Strands
  • BudgetTracker, Inc.
  • Budgetpulse
Financial Literacy 101
Financial Literacy 101 is an interactive online training program that is available to all students at Texas A&M. You can find it on the Money Education (ME) Center Channel of the My Finances tab of howdy.tamu.edu. Among other things, it can help you plan your financial goals through its Financial Goals page, create a budget using the Monthly Budget Exercise page, and track your budgeting progress through its Budget Tracking page.
The Estimated Cost of Attendance at Texas A&M

Are you having a hard time trying to estimate the overall cost for you to live, breath, eat and go to school? If so, you might find the estimated Cost of Attendance (which is provided by the Office of Scholarships & Financial Aid) to be useful. The estimated Cost of Attendance provides a breakdown of the estimated cost for tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, travel, and more. The estimated Cost of Attendance differs based upon whether a student is an Undergraduate, Graduate, or Professional student.
 
Tuition and Fee Information at Texas A&M

General tuition and fee information is provided by Student Business Services and can be found on their website, sbs.tamu.edu.

To see your own tuition and fee charges on your student billing account, go to the View Current Activity link on the My Finances tab of howdy.tamu.edu.
Including debt repayment as a top priority in your budget could save you a significant amount of money over the long run. Below are steps for reducing your debt.
  • Make a list of all of your debts and include the following information:
    • Amount
    • Interest rates
    • Required minimum monthly payments
  • Pay the minimum required monthly payment on all of your debts.
  • Pay extra money each month towards the debt with the highest interest rate. 
If you can’t make the minimum required monthly payment on your debts, find out your creditors’/servicers’ contact information (student loan servicer information is available on nslds.ed.gov) and contact them. They will help you find a payment plan that works for you.
How do you reach your financial goals? By increasing your income and/or reducing your expenses. Almost everyone knows this, but for most people, it’s much harder to increase their income than it is to reduce their expenses. With that in mind, below are some ways for reducing your expenses.
 
Textbooks
  • Campus libraries keep copies of course textbooks on file. Try to use these before purchasing your textbooks. 
  • Buy used textbooks, or rent your textbooks.
  • Before selling your textbooks back to the bookstore, try selling them online or to a friend (you could get paid more for your textbooks using one of these options).
  • Student veterans can borrow textbooks for free from Aggie Shields Student Veteran Lending Library.
Housing
  • Get roommates.
  • Live near the bus route 
Utilities
  • Disconnect your cable TV service.
  • Turn off the lights when not in use.
  • Manage your heat/AC usage. 
Food and Drinks
  • Don’t buy brand name items at the grocery store.
  • Only buy what’s on your grocery list.
  • Don’t go to the grocery store hungry.
  • Compare prices at the grocery store.
  • Treat eating out as a luxury.
  • Make coffee at home.
  • Use restaurant and grocery coupons.
  • Don’t buy expensive drinks or desserts at restaurants.
  • Share meals.
  • Learn to cook.
Transportation
  • Ride the bus, a bicycle, or walk.
  • Carpool.
  • Use coupons for oil changes.
  • Disabled student veterans may receive free or reduced parking by Transportation Services. 
Phone
  • Shop around for discounted long-distance and cell phone rates.
Entertainment
  • Campus libraries have DVDs, books on CD, and more available for you to check out for free.
  • Watch new films at Rudder Theater for free through MSC Aggie Cinema.
  • See matinee movies or use discounted movie tickets.
  • Join a student organization.
  • Join an intramurals team through the Rec Center.
  • Take part in free or cheap seasonal events that take place in Bryan or College Station.
Health and Appearance
  • Use the Student Rec Center (paid for through your tuition and fees), which offers racquetball, ping pong tables, courts (for basketball, soccer, and volleyball), a weight room, punching bags, indoor and outdoor pools, and more. 
  • Use coupons or special discounts for haircuts.
  • Avoid paying for expensive health club memberships.
  • Get on the email list for your favorite stores; they’ll email you sales and special coupons.
  • Shop at discount, consignment, and thrift shops.
  • If possible, iron your clothes (rather than paying for dry cleaning).
  • Check the website of the stores where you shop, as they often have coupons posted that you can print out and even forward to friends.
  • Don’t buy clothes just because they’re on sale. Buying an item you don’t need at 40% off is still spending 60% more than you needed to spend.
  • Purchase clothes off season (i.e. buy winter clothes on sale/clearance during the spring) 
Banking
  • Avoid minimum balance fees, ATM fees, overdraft charges, and checking fees.  


Create Your Budget