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Preparing for college means getting ready to live a more independent life than you have had living in your parents’ home.  One of the items on this list of independence is learning how to handle your own finances.

While you may not have learned money management in high school, now is the time to begin taking student budgeting seriously. Creating a semester budget is a step towards the financial responsibility and independence that you seek.  A semester budget may make sense since your expenses vary at different points throughout the semester.

There are many worksheets available to help you create your budget.  However, you may find it most helpful to create your own.  Consider creating an excel spreadsheet, or just use pencil, paper, and calculator.  The important thing is that it be as accurate as possible. 

Here is a student budget example with some items that would typically appear on a college student’s expenses and income list:


  • Tuition
  • Room and board
  • School books and supplies
  • Food (groceries and restaurants)
  • Entertainment (movie/concert tickets)
  • Car payments/transportation costs
  • Cell phone bill
  • Car insurance
  • Spending money
  • Other miscellaneous costs


  • Job earnings
  • Student aid
  • Savings
  • Gifts from family

Under each of these budget example categories, you should consider tracking items both by the month and by the semester.  Make sure to compare what you thought you would spend on each item with the actual expense for each.

Creating and sticking to a budget takes honesty, discipline, and hard work.  Anyone, who has ever tried to live on a budget, knows that the plan is the easy part.  Seeing the process as a positive learning experience about yourself and how you control spending will help.