One of the most important ways to develop financial discipline is to make a realistic budget that you can stick to month after month.
Sallie Mae’s budget calculator can help. Just plug in values for your income and your various expense categories, and the calculator will show how much spendable income you’ll have at the end of the month.
Remember to budget for savings
When adding up your expenses, remember to budget something for savings. It’s critical to start saving early so that you’ll be on sound financial footing when it comes time to buy a home, weather a financial emergency, or ensure a comfortable retirement for yourself.
Tips to help you save money
Having trouble making your budget balance? Here are some tips to help you bring your expenses down:
- Check credit unions, local banks, and online banks for the best deals on checking and savings accounts.
- If you use credit cards, pay off the full balance each month.
- Avoid fees whenever possible.
- Take advantage of free activities — like visiting museums during student admission time slots or going to parks.
- Pursue activities — like running, walking, or hiking —that don’t require expensive equipment.
- Rent movies instead of going to the theater.
- Use your local library for books and DVDs.
- Cancel cable.
- Eat out less frequently by packing a lunch for work.
- Take advantage of specials and coupons.
- Buy food in bulk.
- Buy generics.
- Grow your own vegetables, fruits, and herbs and spices.
- Instead of buying bottled water, use a re-fillable water bottle.
- Stop smoking.
- Ask your doctor if generic forms of your prescription drugs are available.
- Consider getting a roommate.
- Look for a place to live that’s close to public transportation.
- Lower the thermostat a few degrees in winter and raise it a few degrees in summer.
- Unplug energy-eating devices (like computers) when you’re away from home.
- Make sure your home or apartment is energy efficient.
- Check out thrift and consignment stores for furniture, kitchen supplies, and other household items.
- Don’t be afraid to haggle with a merchant if the price of an item seems too high.
- Use public transportation when possible.
- Carpool or use a car-sharing service.
- Walk or bike to work.
- Plan ahead to avoid multiple trips when you go out.