In a presentation called “New Year’s Resolution: Save More, Spend Less,” peer counselors from the program recently provided a seminar on personal budgeting for 2012. The Money Management Center also offers ongoing seminars, workshops, presentations and web resources to help with various aspects of financing for students, including “Saving for Spring Break” on Jan 24 at 3:30 p.m. at the Lowman Student Center and various activities for Financial Literacy Week during the week of Feb. 27.
To begin better budgeting, it’s important to keep track of what is going in and out of your accounts on a monthly basis. The center recommends keeping a basic income and expense record, which include salary/wages; financial aid; support from family; gifts; scholarships and grants; and other income as well payments for rent/mortgage, utilities, cable/Internet, cell phones, car note and gasoline.
There are many ways to keep these records, from the simple to the complex. A old-fashioned memo pad can be used to record spending or it can be put on an Excel spreadsheet. There also are many mobile applications available on SmartPhone or Tablets to track your expenses, such as iMint and iWallet. Just enter “budgeting” in the search engine of your electronic device.
he Center suggests several ways to trim your monthly expenses. These can include:
- Cancel unused gym memberships
- Stop subscribing to a few magazines
- Cut down on cable TV channels
- Pay yourself first by putting some of your earnings in a savings account
- Pay down debt
- Exercise to reduce prescriptions and medical care costs
- Start couponing
- Stick to cash to avoid impulse buying
- Buy generic brands
- Keep your hands off your 401(k) until you are 60 years old
- Quit expensive habits, such as smoking, vending machine snacks, or Starbucks coffee
- Turn off the lights and unplug unused appliances
- Bring your lunch to work
“The key to sticking to a budget is to be realistic,” said Jacob Brock, a peer counselor at the center. “Set a budget and set goals.”
A major pitfall for many Americans is revolving credit. The average credit card balance in the U.S. is $8,329, which doesn’t include mortgages or car payments. Paying down your debt will also help raise your credit score, Brock said. Credit and debit cards also tend to lead to impulse buying, so use cash whenever possible. A monthly envelope system, putting cash aside for key expenses, also can be an effective way to stay on budget.
Expensive habits may also be draining your budget. For example, a daily trip to Starbucks on workdays can add up to $1,300 a year. Smokers spend an average of $1,800 to $3,600 on cigarettes annually, said Peer Counselor Eric Johnson.
Money also can be saved by couponing. In fact, an hour of couponing a week can save $100, and there are new applications from grocery stores to download coupons to your cell phone or store courtesy card. Generic brands may also save you money, but it is important to compare products to get the best deal. Bringing your lunch instead of buying your mid-day meal also saves dough and allows you to eat healthier.
“Do it in baby steps throughout the year,” said Kristy Vienne, Assistant Vice President of Student Services. “Here are things to remember: Keep track of your spending, look where you can save and pay one extra mortgage payment a year. It will cut your mortgage by seven years.”
For more information, visit the Student Money Management Center at www.shsu.edu/~smmc.