Budgeting Basics

While university charges are fixed, many other expenses are variable based on your situation. The basics of budgeting and credit awareness will better equip you to make sound decisions now and in the future.

Better understand your expenses, and begin budgeting today

The basics of budgeting and credit awareness are the same for students as they are for anyone else.

To create a budget, list the source of your income, such as financial aid from Washington University or outside scholarships, financial support from your parents, and income from your job if applicable. Then, list your expenses, such as tuition, housing, food, books, groceries, and entertainment.

Student Budgeting Worksheet

As a student at WashU, we will provide you with a Student Budget Worksheet that will help you consider how to best manage your money. In the meantime, we’ve provided some useful information below on managing your money.

A Note on Credit Cards

As a college student, a credit card can be convenient, but be sure to use it wisely. Carry only the minimum number of credit cards you need. Be aware of your credit balance at all times, make your monthly payments on time, and make sure you have a plan to pay off your charges before making a purchase using credit.

4 Steps to Creating a College Budget

Step 1: Talk it Out

Determine your Needs vs. Wants

Budget first for needs and then carefully consider your wants.

Decide in advance who pays for what

It’s important to determine which expenses you are responsible for covering – cell phone, personal items, entertainment,etc. – and include them in your budget. If your family or guardian will be assisting you with these costs, have a conversation to make sure that everyone understands the plan.

Discuss what happens in an emergency, or when an unforeseen expense occurs. A little planning will make unexpected events much easier to handle when they come your way.

Step 2: List Income & Expenses

Identify all monthly inflows of cash and their sources:
Refunds, employment, savings, borrowed funds, and money from family.

Identify all monthly outflows of cash and their sources:
Focus first on major expenses such as meals, books, etc.

Step 3: Build Your Budget

Use our Student Budget Worksheet to create your monthly budget.

Step 4: Track Your Spending

Whether you use paper and pen, a spreadsheet, or an app, it’s important to consistently track your spending to avoid risk of busting your budget.

Tips on credit cards

Carry only the minimum number of credit cards you actually need


Know where your cards are at all times


Be aware of your credit balance at all times


Have a plan to pay off your charges before making a purchase


Always make your monthly payments on time


To prevent being a victim of credit card fraud, you must do all you can to guard yourself and your funds. In the event that your credit card is lost or stolen, immediately notify the credit card company.