Preparing for college means more than just taking tests to determine your placement ranking, it also means planning for the means to finance your college education and living expenses while in college. Knowing how much college is going to cost, the amount you need to live on and covering other school-related expenses is important to ensure you have what it takes financially to make it through college.
Understanding what you need financially to get through college starts with creating a college budget worksheet. Using a spreadsheet program on a computer will help you classify and organize your income and expenses. When you create a budget, you need to be realistic as to what you expect your living expenses will be. This includes understanding how much you will need for food, clothing, and incidentals such as toiletries. If you drive a car, you will need to calculate gasoline, insurance expenses and parking fees. You also need to consider your monthly rent and utilities. Putting all this information into a spreadsheet will help you manage your funds and plan for your expenses accordingly.
Going to college on a budget requires that you not only account for your money but find ways to save money on your regular living expenses. Sharing rent and living expenses can go a long way to reducing your monthly costs, but you have to find other college students who are committed to their education and plan out their expenses smartly if you plan to live and share expenses with others. Choosing students who are not committed to their education, but would rather party and have a good time will work against you if you decide to share living expenses with them. Look at dormitory options, renting a room in a boarding house or living at home while you go to college. Multiple options are open—planning ahead will help you get the most out of your college budget.
Several colleges offer budget calculators that will help you determine everything you need to account for when planning budget and financial needs for college. Some colleges also have financial aid programs or can direct you to outside sources for financial aid. Student loans are available at reduced costs, but it would help to meet with someone from the financial aid office at your local college. You can also apply to foundations for outright grants where you don’t have to repay the money. Avoid paying someone to help you find grants, loans or scholarship info. Most college financial aid offices provide this information free.
When planning your monthly expenses, consider shopping at thrift stores to find bargains, look for items in bulk that might save you money and plan out your food budget wisely. While it is important that you eat right while you are in college, look into the food plan offered by your college. You can also consider finding a job on campus that won’t interfere with your school schedule. Several colleges offer job opportunities to students to help defray their school and living costs.