The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

How to budget in college


Making it through college isn’t easy. The cycle of constant physical, mental, emotional and psychological challenges can be excruciating, especially when the inescapable reality of financial strain enters the picture. 

Here are a few pointers on how to not only survive the pecuniary toll of college but also to develop a holistic approach to budgeting that keeps your well-being as vivacious as your pocketbook.


Understand your resources

To budget effectively, you need to understand exactly what you’re working with. Both resources and costs vary greatly depending on each individual’s college experience. 

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Before determining how to allot your resources, it’s important to first collate what you’ll be working with and against. How much does tuition cost? How much will housing run you? What other smaller expenses will you incur? Once you’ve made a list of the costs, curate your resources. 

How much will you receive in grants, loans or financial aid? Are you working any jobs, and if so, how much will you make each cycle? 

Once you list and comprehend the positive and negative factors impacting your financial state, you can start to determine how to apportion your means to not only get through college but also make the most of this phase of your life.


Make things concrete

Make things as concrete as possible and obtain exact amounts wherever you can. The more precise you can be, the better positioned you are to make intelligent decisions about your money and lifestyle. 

Knowing the flow of money and exactly where it’s going in an empirical way can grant you the freedom to make important determinations without doubt or uncertainty creeping in. 

No expense or gain is too small to account for — when dealing with your finances, the more precision and exactitude you can muster, the more confidently you can assign your resources!


Overestimate costs, underestimate benefits

If you can’t fill in an exact figure for a cost or benefit, overestimate the cost or underestimate the benefit. This enables you to err on the side of caution and avoid a shortage of funds down the road. 

Assuming your initial estimates were correct, overestimating the costs and underestimating benefits will only result in you having more resources than you thought, while failing to do so puts tremendous pressure on your estimations to be correct, as if they’re even marginally inaccurate, you could find yourself coming up short.


Start with manageable cycles

Don’t intimidate yourself by trying to plan too far in advance. Things will change, and you’ll need to be flexible. Instead, focus on the period at hand a week or a month at a time. This will allow you to know the exact figures of costs and resources while eliminating uncertainty. 

Making a long-term plan can be beneficial as well — especially if you’re largely working in finite terms, without a consistent current income — but make sure it remains malleable. You could change jobs, get new scholarships or move to a different apartment — all things that could have seismic financial ramifications.


Plan for the unforeseen

Life is inherently unpredictable, especially in college. At such a rapidly changing, ever-shifting juncture in your life, it’s important to stay ready for what might not be on your radar at the moment. 

Emergencies and other calamities may be rare, but they have the potential to shake even the firmest of foundations to the core. Setting up an emergency fund can help take the financial strain out of these already jarring situations should one emerge, while granting constant peace of mind even if everything goes according to plan.


Don’t forget to account for your wellbeing

Your physical, mental and emotional health are paramount and every bit as important as getting through college, if not more so. 

Don’t neglect to allocate some of your funds towards these causes. Fortunately, many resources for both physical and mental health are provided on campus for free or at a minimal cost, but it remains prudent to set aside a portion of your resources towards taking care of your well-being. 

Some of this can be as simple as saving up a little money for fun. An occasional trip to a show or sporting event or a night out with friends can be vital to help blow off some steam and can have a colossal impact on mental health.

If you truly can’t afford to designate funds to enjoy yourself, still make sure to budget time and take advantage of opportunities to have fun that won’t hurt your checkbook. Taking a trip to the Illini Union to utilize their catalog of free and accessible events, playing board games with friends or relaxing over a round of billiards can be every bit as pleasant and refreshing as a meal out or a night on the town.


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About the Contributor
Ethan Oskroba
Ethan Oskroba, Senior Copy Editor
Hi all! My name is Ethan and I’m a junior majoring in journalism. I transferred over to Illinois in Fall 2023 and immediately jumped into The Daily Illini. I’ve penned features on a wide range of topics throughout my time here. Before coming to Illinois, I discovered my love for journalism at Trinity International University as the Editor-in-Chief of the school’s student publication. I used to play college baseball over there too, but now that I’m past my prime, I enjoy intramural and fantasy sports as well as board games, Mario Kart and chilling with friends.
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