Living a student's life: Budgeting correctly can save you money


Alex Moore, a UNF health administration graduate student, sits down with his bank statements in hand to write out a budget.

He divides monthly expenses such as rent, phone, electric, cable, credit cards, food, entertainment, car payment, insurance and retirement into biweekly expenses.

He budgets every pay period to account for every dollar he will spend. Being a college student has made Moore learn the value of a dollar and has changed the way he tracks his spending, he said.

Moore said college has also made him realize the need to make a budget and stick to it.

“I have to be realistic,” he said. “This way, I know how much surplus to work with. I used to pay rent on one paycheck and bills with the other; it left me broke every other paycheck.”

It’s no secret that college is expensive. Whether students are juggling two jobs, living at home with parents or want to start saving for retirement now, finding ways to cut corners and save some cash is essential.

Forty-one percent of UNF graduates took out student loans and will leave college with an average of $14,694 in debt, according to the 2008-2009 UNF financial aid profile.

“Know how much money you have coming in, and don’t spend beyond your means,” said Vincent Shea, assistant professor of accounting at UNF. “Don’t look at your money as free-flowing, because you will get too deep in a hole. Eventually, that money has to get paid back.”

Students with this kind of debt on their shoulders should list what’s essential and what’s not in their budgets, Shea said.

Wesley Hardy, a UNF business freshman, said lists are useful when running errands so he doesn’t spend the gas driving around town to places he doesn’t need to go.

Shea said health insurance, rent, food and car payments would be essential items, while going out to dinner is not.

“Most of my money goes to eating out,” Hardy said.

However, Shea said students should list out a discretionary income as well. These items include going to the movies, out to dinner and out with friends.

Emily Bjork, a UNF student, doesn’t have to pay for her kind of entertainment.

“I like to go to the beach and listen to jazz for free,” Bjork said. “People-watching is also always entertaining.”

Another one of the biggest expenditures each week, apart from major bills, is transportation, mostly in UNF parking fees and gas, said Allison Clark, a UNF sociology senior.

With UNF being a commuter school, a lot of students have to drive from all areas of town.

Clark saves money in a number of ways.

“I don’t buy into consumerism, and I don’t buy useless things,” she said.

Both Clark and Moore agree — people should only become students if it’s worth it to them financially.

“Don’t waste your parents’ money if you are not serious about going to school,” Clark said.