Last week I began a three part series on budgeting for the upcoming academic year. That post focused on the inflow portion of your budget, i.e. what you have currently available or pledged in order to meet your upcoming expenses. Now that you know what you have as a means to pay your upcoming expenses, it is time to get specific concerning what bills you have to pay. In what follows, I am going to walk you through an excel spreadsheet that I have created, which I feel will help to capture the majority of expenses associated with a college education.
As you download and use the form for the first time, take note of the spreadsheet’s layout and construction. First, this spreadsheet organizes expenses by semester (Fall, Spring, and Summer). This will allow you to later balance your expenses with any aid you are receiving. Since aid (i.e., grants, scholarships, and loans) will be your main source of funding, and since aid is allocated on a semester versus a monthly basis, it seems easiest to break down your expenses on a semester by semester basis. In addition to aid being calculated on a semester by semester basis, many college expenses are calculated on a per semester basis. Tuition and books, and room and board are primary examples. In addition, they also constitute the overwhelming majority of a student’s yearly educational expenses. Second, the spreadsheet organizes expenses either by on-campus or by off-campus living. With the disparity in pricing between on-campus and off-campus living as well as the overall dwindling of on-campus living opportunities for upperclassmen, these sheets are important, as off-campus living can be extremely expensive. The off-campus expense sheets can be tailored to those living in an off campus apartment, or the commuting student, living at home.
As you begin to look at your expenses, begin to look at trends, particularly the timing of payments. For most students, especially those living on campus, the vast majority of your expenses are front-loaded, meaning that the payments for the entire semester are paid within the first month. Thus, you pay your tuition, room, and meal plan expenses in August or January and have right to their use through the end of the semester. This is both good and bad. It is positive in that once these main expenses are paid in full there should be little left between the beginning and the end of the semester. The downside comes when you do not have the funding for these expenses at the beginning of the semester and have to find alternative means of payment.
I broke the expenses down into six different categories: Enrollment Expenses, Food, Room, Auto, Health, and Personal. While your major expenses (tuition, meal plan, rent) should be easily calculated, you need to spend time on some of the smaller categories realizing that it is often the piling up of small expenses that can break a budget. Some important expenses to note are eating out, laundry, fuel, and co-payments. If you enjoy the sports atmosphere of your university, realize game day provides a plethora of expenses and should be planned for accordingly.
This form, as well as many others may be found in the Resources Section of the Scholarship Shepherd site. They are for your personal use only. I welcome any suggestions you may have for their improvement.