Archive for April, 2008

How to Set Your First Budget

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Ah, budgeting-possibly one of the least exciting things about moving off to college-but usually one of the most necessary!

It’s completely normal to feel confused or even frustrated by the idea of having to juggle all the bills that Mom or Dad once handled themselves. The easiest way to tackle them all at once, and make sure you have some change at the end of the month, is to start a budget.

Where to Start

The easiest way to make a budget that works is to save all your receipts, pay stubs, and bills-all of them!-for a month. At the end of the month, tally up your costs and your income. If your income is less than your expenses, you either need to increase your income (by getting a job, for example), decrease your expenses (check out these 50 ways to save $$ in college), or both!

Planning Ahead

Once you’ve seen what you earn and spend, you can set up a “Planned Budget” for next month. Estimate your income and expenses, and write them down. Use this free budget worksheet from Fox College Funding to get started-it’s straightforward and might remind you of some expenses you’d forgotten about!

So, you’ve made your “Planned Budget,” now what?

You guessed it. Save your receipts, bills, and pay stubs… AGAIN. At the end of the month, enter everything into your budget worksheet, and see how close your actual income and spending came to your estimates. Decide how you want to change your budget plan for next month to fit better with your priorities.

Making it Work

So… You’ve planned out your budget-and you really, really tried to stick to it-but somehow you spent a lot more this month than you thought you did. It’s tempting to think the only solution is to make more money (good luck figuring a second job between your first one, friends, studies, and classes) but the best solution? You need to control your spending.

How???

I’m a big fan of the envelope system-you budget out a certain amount of cash per week for things like groceries, clothes, etc. and literally put them in separate envelopes. Then when the cash is gone, you’re DONE spending for that week.

Don’t want to have cash lying around in envelopes? Here are some other ways you might be able to make a version of the envelope system work for you:

  • Keep your weekly budget of cash in your wallet, but clip money together in separate paper clips labeled with what that cash is earmarked for.
  • Buy gift cards to places you frequent (Starbucks) and use them to set your budget for the week/month. You could also buy prepaid credit cards or a Visa gift card for items like groceries or clothes-just write the use & balance on the back with a permanent marker.
  • Give yourself an “allowance” in cash for entertainment or other socializing so you don’t overspend when you go out with friends.
  • If you find yourself swiping your credit or debit cards too often, hide them so you can only use them for emergencies!

Remember, the goal of a strong budget is to make sure you have more money coming in than you do going out!

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12 comments April 10th, 2008

Do I Need to Have a Minor or Double Major?

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It’s hard enough choosing a major yourself, and now people are talking to you about a minor or worse-a double major! As if one major isn’t hard enough work!

But do you need a double major-or even a minor-to be competitive? Is it going to affect your future, your career, your chances?

Double Majors

Double majors are a good fit for a select few students, but you are definitely not expected to take on two majors. It will not look “bad” if you only have one major!

Clearly, doubling up on majors means a lot of extra work. My personal feelings on this-knowing people who have both double-majored and who have stuck with just one major-is that you should major in something you are passionate about, and focus your energy there.

You’re going to spend the majority of your college career focused on whatever field you choose to major in, so if you feel equally, deeply passionate about two things, then a double major might be a good fit for you. If not, don’t double major!

Minors

Minors are, again, not really a requirement. Here are my basic rules about when you might logically choose to minor in a field:

  1. If your minor would strengthen your capability at your major. (i.e. if you’re a physics major, a math minor could really help you to do better in your physics studies)
  2. If required classes for your minor overlaps solidly with those for your major. (If you already have to do the work, why not add on a few extra classes to get the minor?)
  3. If you feel passionately interested in another field, but not enough to double-major. (If you’re studying art but really enjoy psychology classes, you may as well work that in as a minor!)

Bottom line? A minor is not required, and most employers won’t care if you do or don’t have one. I minored in psychology simply because (a) I found it interesting and (b) I had already taken some classes that filled part of the requirement-so it wasn’t hard to finish up the minor.

Hope that takes the pressure off-remember, study what you like!

Photo: Sign by alifarid

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4 comments April 8th, 2008


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