How to make and stick to a budget

It’s getting to that point in the year where our wallets start to run dry. Sadly, for some, it’s like that year-round. For those who struggle with money to the point where you’re filling your gas tank in $5 increments, this is for you.

Most students have one monthly bill—rent.  That’s fine, it’s actually the easiest budgeting plan ever. The strategy that works best for me can work in virtually any situation. All you need are five envelopes.

Now, this works best if the majority of your income is cash. Label four of the envelopes as individual weeks to represent your savings for the whole month. The fifth envelope is for your debit or credit card bill. If you have multiple debit or credit cards, create as many envelopes as you have cards. Look at your monthly billings and expenditures that are consistent. For example, if you have a gym membership, a Netflix membership and car insurance, add them up and divide the total by four. Write that divided number on each of the four envelopes and you’ve got your bills planned out for the month. If you pay rent, add that in there too. At the end of every week, your goal is to have the amount of money due for that week. Any purchase you make using your debit or credit card should be entered into the envelope as you go. After dividing your money into four weeks of bills, it should give you a good idea of what you can and cannot spend. I put any remaining money from one week into the next week’s envelope, and it’s the best feeling when I have my monthly bills paid off after two weeks. Any remaining money goes into another envelope which I use for fun spending. Like I said, this works best with cash.  

If you signed up for direct deposit and never get to see your money until you sign into the app or receive your monthly statements, no need to fear. This method can be used whether you’re saving cash or living out of your bank account. Look into a budgeting app on your phone, such as Goodbudget Budget Planner. Apps like this does all the work for you. The only thing you have to do is make sure you’re always checking in and recording your spendings. It’ll help create digital forms of those envelopes used in the first method but in a reverse method. You’ll have to consistently check your banking app and update it to match your budgeting app in order to stay on track. It may be a pain at first, but when you start to see good habits form, it’ll be worth it.

Budgeting may seem like hard work and not worth your time, but it really can pay off, literally. You’ll be able to see how much you actually spend in a month and get a better understanding of how money works. Money is easy to throw around when you don’t know how much you’re actually spending. Following a budget will allow for some wiggle room to buy the new Yeezys that are coming out or go to your favorite band’s upcoming tour, all without the worry of going broke.

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Kerri Tallman
Overachiever and overtired. Former architecture student, current senior double major in Journalism and Communication Studies. A true Rhode Islandah, she’s lived all over the state and knows the best chowdah in town.