How to Set (and Keep) an Off-Campus Budget

A Student’s Guide to Making Money Last

For students at ODU, off-campus housing presents an incredible opportunity to save money. The difficulty is that unlike life on campus, you have to keep track of a lot more expenses. The key to saving money is keeping track of these expenses, and settling into a rhythm that can both enjoy and afford.

Beyond figuring out what specific expenses to keep or cut, the discipline of budgeting is important to capitalizing on the savings off-campus housing affords. To help all our off-campus ODU students set a budget and stick to it, here’s our guide on how to track your money.

Pick the Right Tool

Let’s be real. Budgets are hard to stick to. Sometimes, that’s just because there’s too many great deals on Amazon and fast food calls to you when you’re hungry. Other times, budgets fail because we don’t take the time to keep up with them. Inputting numbers and keeping track of receipts takes forever.

If you’re really looking to keep a budget, you need to pick the tool that makes it as easy as possible to keep track of your money. An example, and the favorite of many first-time budgeters, is Google Sheets.

With a tool like Google Sheets, you can set up a basic spreadsheet to track income and expenses. But what makes Google Sheets so helpful? You can download the app on your phone so anywhere you go, you don’t have to fill your pockets with receipts. You can just take out your phone and input the expense right then and there.

Organize Your Expenses

The key to saving money with your budget is organizing expenses correctly. Certain expenses, like rent and utilities, you can’t avoid. Other expenses, like concerts, movies, and restaurants, are optional. If you want to see how much money you’re spending on optional things, a budget can help you keep track of what’s necessary and what’s too much.

Setting Limits

Tracking your budget is one thing, but limiting it is another. Once you get into the rhythm of what’s reasonable, set a goal number that you plan on staying under. Obviously, you can go above it for emergencies, but really try to cut back on optional expenses that would put you over your limit. By making controlled spending a habit, you are setting yourself up for better finances this year and for years to come.

Saving for Large Expenses

In your budget, don’t just focus on the day-to-day or even the month-to-month expenses alone. Keep two kinds of expenses in mind: events and emergencies.

Certain experiences, like a weekend trip to the Outer Banks or Black Friday shopping spree, add more to the expense column of your budget than normal. This is totally ok though as long as you plan ahead! If you know how much something is going to cost, determine how much money you need to set aside each month before now and then. Make it a part of your budget so you don’t get to the week before and realize you don’t have any money saved for fun!

Also be sure not to forget about emergencies. People don’t like to think that bad things will happen, but they do, and you’ll need money for a lot of those things. If your car breaks down or your phone breaks, you don’t want to be caught with no extra money to fix the problem. A good way to avoid this is to make savings a regular part of your budget. If you protect a portion of your income for emergencies, you want get stuck when unexpected emergencies arise.

Save Money – Budget Better!

To live off-campus means more savings if you can handle your responsibilities well. If you want to get the best out of your off-campus ODU housing, take our advice and get in the habit of budgeting. You’ll get to enjoy how much money off-campus housing can save you!