When it comes to money management, college students and college grads aren’t exactly the epitome of success and wealth.

However, that doesn’t mean that has to be the norm or that we as a generation can’t collectively change the way we handle our finances.

Creating a budget system with the following 3 separate categories can help you to determine where exactly your money is being spent, how much money you may be losing on unnecessary purchases, and where you can adjust your spending to allow for the bigger splurges you desire. Managing a budget can also help you envision a future where you no longer live paycheck-to-paycheck, but instead gain your financial freedom.


After surviving on mediocre cafeteria fare and fast food during your college years, you may feel inclined to overindulge in this area - but you definitely won’t lose your freshman 15 easily that way! I suggest allocating around 20% of your income to food. Although food is vital, there are ways to help you curb your cravings, so your waistline stays trim and your wallet stays stuffed:

  • Don’t eat out every day. Instead, reserve one or two meals a week for a special treat at your favorite restaurant.
  • Shop seasonally. You won’t get bored cooking at home if you rotate different ingredients depending on the season. Bonus: shopping seasonally is much cheaper!
  • When possible, buy in bulk. This tip is especially helpful if you still live with roommates.


This category encompasses every main aspect of life: shopping, rent/mortgage, car payment, cell phone bill, gas, an emergency fund, retirement - and the most valuable of all, wi-fi. Before you ask, yes, this category includes the dreaded student loan payments as well - which is why I suggest putting a whopping 40-60% of your income into these expenses. This category includes many different items, but that doesn’t mean that your money should be split evenly among them. For example, you would not reserve the same amount of money for gas each month as you would put away in your emergency fund. You may allot $30 for shopping but $90 for your student loans or retirement savings. Each person’s total income and expenses vary, so find a system that works for you and maintain it.


I know traveling - especially abroad - is one of the major, common goals of many twenty-somethings. After spending a total of at least 16 consecutive years in school, many people are itching to explore the world around them in detail for the first time. Unfortunately, with the onset of various student loan payments, traveling can seem like an impossibility - maybe forever.

Although traveling is a huge expense, that doesn’t mean you can’t afford it even when you’re young. If traveling is an important aspect of your life, you will find the money for it, even if it means sacrificing in other areas.

Begin by setting aside roughly 10-20% of your total income for future travel expenses; the amount will differ depending on your particular financial capabilities and restrictions. You may feel comfortable putting aside more money in this category; however, since travel can be considered a luxury, don’t neglect more important budgeted items (retirement, emergency fund) in order to add more money to your travel fund.

Even though it may seem intimidating at first to see your total income split into many different categories as I’ve discussed here, it is much easier to save your money when you can see what you’re saving for and where each penny is being spent. It is also easier to say “no” to trivial expenses such as eating out 5 times per week when you are able to watch your savings grow toward bigger financial splurges (such as traveling).

By: Bria McKamey

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