College presents an entirely new stage of life for young adults. It represents independence, responsibility, and another exciting chapter that is often overlooked – the concept of budgeting. Learning how to manage finances is not an intuitive skill. College students must be proactive when establishing financial wellness. It is much better to prevent catastrophe than dig yourself out of a financial hole later on in life. College students who acquire debt while still in school are the hardest hit when reality comes knocking. They graduate with a mountain of bills on top of school loan debt. However, following a few basic yet essential guidelines before each academic year will prepare students for success well beyond their college years.

Initiating a family conversation about finances may not be the most comfortable task, but it is necessary. Understanding who’s paying for what, including yearly tuition costs, student loans and financial aid, taxes, and daily living costs, will alleviate confusion and potential arguments. Knowing how monthly payments and bills are being paid and the amounts of each will also prepare college students for their days beyond graduation. The responsibilities are handed over solely to them. Many companies now offer free apps and programs to create a visual map of monthly bills and spending quickly.

Planning for expenses each semester is a beneficial way to prepare in advance for adulthood. Having an approximate dollar amount set aside for spending may determine extracurricular topics such as what type of summer employment is needed or whether the use of a credit card is practical. Students should consider multiple factors when choosing the number of discretionary expenses, in addition to their typical school supplies and textbooks. Room and board and meal plans may be easy to overlook, but not all are included in standard university billing. It may be beneficial to weigh the differences in costs of staying on or off-campus, along with purchasing a meal plan versus shopping for groceries. While the primary focus of college should be academic, fun is also needed. Setting some money aside in the budget to allow for study breaks is always advised.

As a college student, budgeting doesn’t have to be difficult and is an important life skill far past graduation. Communication is ultimately the key to success, ensuring everyone involved with finance is aware of what’s being saved and spent. Each semester may look different, so preparing in advance will prevent unneeded stress while at school.