The Daily Gamecock

Column: Learn to budget in college

The United States of America's $1 dollar coins.
The United States of America's $1 dollar coins.

Regardless of it you're financially dependent or independent during college, knowing how to budget is a crucial and rewarding life skill.

While it may seem like an impossible feat to budget wisely throughout your time at USC, there are online resources, staff on campus and money-wise students to help you out. 

So, what exactly is budgeting? Great Lakes Educating Loan Services defines it as, “a proactive approach to organizing your finances.” In other words, a way to guarantee you’re not going into debt due to one too many coffee trips a week. 

If you needed more reason to start thinking about budgeting today, the resources available on USC’s campus  help you start the process and understand why it can be so beneficial to be organized with your money at this age. 

The coordinator for financial literacy at the USC Student Success Center, Rachel Sinoway, explained how the Money Management Lab, located in Columbia Hall, is there to help for just that. 

“The way that I talk about it is, what we're trying do is to meet students where they're at. So some students may need more help. Some students just already want you to look at a budget that they may have. But for me, I'm trying to figure out what the basis is. And so for us, that basis is always budgeting.” 

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators did a piece on a study conducted by Sallie Mae consumer banking on college students age 18-24 and found four out of five students wanted to learn more about money management. When it comes to budgeting, being curious now can lead to saving in the future. 

Saving tips, such as setting limits on your spending, can be a good first step. At the end of every month, no student wants to look back at their bank account and realize they can’t remember what it was that they spent $400 on. Fourth-year international business and finance major, Michael McGrath, briefly spoke on this same issue. 

“Setting limits on where you want to spend your money is super important because then you're more likely to stay in line and you're less likely to find yourself checking your bank accounts at the end of the month and being like 'whoa.'”

In the long run, getting started managing personal finances and creating a strategic plan for your money can be a relief for life after college as well. 

“Another key thing I would say is make sure, you know, you're putting this money in an account that's not just going to be taken out when you start running low," said McGrath. "This money is there for the long term. Because ultimately, the only value that budgeting and investing has in the long term is if you don't touch it and you let it grow.” 

Letting this money grow in order to use it after college should be all the incentive one needs to get started thinking about money management. If you do manage to let this money grow then around the age of 26, when most young adults are removed from their parent’s insurance coverage, you’ll have a safety net to fall back on. This may seem like planning too far in advance, but most students are 22 or 23 years old when they graduate — this time period is not as far off as you may think.

When asking Sinoway if she had one key piece of advice for someone starting out on their personal finance journey, she said “Going your own pace. Don't judge yourself. Don't compare yourself to your roommate who probably has a different job and maybe different spending habits. It's all about what you need to focus on. What you need in your life and what you want to spend money on."