After a couple of months living away from home, I’ve learn a thing or two about living on a budget.

First of all, living off campus, I chose not to purchase a meal plan and instead make at least two of my meals (each day) at home. This can often be more affordable than purchasing food at the school cafeteria, which usually costs $10-15 with a side and a drink. This would result in $30-45/day or $150-225/week on meals. Having that in mind, I like to set myself a daily budget of $15. It’s an amount that I’m comfortable enough to spend, if I’m feeling hungry, but low enough that it won’t break the bank. Additionally, I often buy things that can make several servings, like pasta, cook it all at once, and ration it through the week. It alleviates the pressure of having to cook throughout the week when you’re focused on your studies.

You can keep track of your budget in a number of different ways. If you have online banking set up, you can track your expenses for the month, and establish how much you spent each day. Or, you could even keep a spreadsheet of your monthly expenses, which is what I do. Fortunately, my parents are economists and helped me make a file that lets me track how much I spent on meals, groceries, cell phone plan, apartment rent (which I pay on a monthly basis) and miscellaneous expenses. These are fundamental expenses to monitor each month. Groceries and miscellaneous expenses can fluctuate from time to time, so you might want to leave yourself a buffer in that regard. For instance, you might only purchase laundry detergent every other month. Also, be sure to keep track of your savings in case you underestimated on your budget.

My recommendation is to pay close attention to the items you purchased in your first month of residence, as you’ll likely notice you purchased things you didn’t really need. For a daily budgeting tip, try to reduce the number of store-bought meals to one, or if possible, none at all. Both your wallet and your body will appreciate something homemade.

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