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Creating and sticking to a budget are smart moves for your Financial Wellness. There are a number of ways to create your budget, including apps and spreadsheets, but it all starts with two essential pieces — how much money you make and how much money you spend. Follow these steps to get started.

Building Your Budget

  1. Total your monthly income. Take into account all of your income sources, such as wages, financial aid refunds and assistance from your parents/guardians.
  1. Track your expenses. Start with fixed expenses, costs that don't change from month to month like rent, utilities, car payments and tuition. Then add in variable expenses, costs that regularly occur but vary in amount like gas and groceries. Finally, add discretionary expenses, non-essentials like entertainment.
  1. Compare your income and expenses. If your income is higher than your expenses, you have room to build your savings. If your income is lower than your expenses, you have to cut expenses or increase your income.
  1. Track your income and expenses over time. The better acquainted you are with your finances, the more opportunity you have to cap your spending and build your savings.

Federal School Code: 001316


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Planning Ahead

As you learn more about your current finances, it's a good idea to start thinking about your future finances as well. One thing to keep in mind is any student loans you'll need to repay after graduation. Your budget will also change throughout your life as you perhaps decide to buy a car or home, get married, have children, start a business, save for retirement or go back to school. Make sure to modify your budget during these different times in your life.

Use this salary calculator to project what your future salary could be and how you'll be able to budget for student loan payments, rent and other bills. This repayment calculator can help you estimate what your monthly student loan payments will be. Use this cost-of-living calculator to see how much house you could afford with your potential salary.


Budgeting Tools

If you enjoy using the latest technology, like the structure of spreadsheets, or prefer paper and pencil, there are plenty of options for creating your own budget, including these:

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EveryDollar: With this app, which can sync across your devices, you can create a budget, manage money and track your spending.

Mint: This app features a number of financial tools, including budgets.

Wally: This money management app helps you track your spending and set financial goals.

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You can create your own budget spreadsheet using your favorite program or use a budget template, such as these templates offered for Excel, Google Sheets or Numbers.

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Pencil and Paper

You can also just use the old-fashioned paper method, either creating your own system or using a worksheet like our Build Your Own Budget worksheet.