What does my NEEDS budget look like?

Being in college is exciting. Learning things that you want to, socializing with new people, going out to eat, etc. All of this comes with the freedom of being independent. Parents are not there to tell you what to do. Sounds great, right?

With this newfound freedom comes financial responsibility. Spending money is easy, but saving could be a bit harder. For example, buying coffee frequently, spending money on party favors, could all add up. It’s easy to forget to keep up with your bank statements when you’re having too much fun! Good habits turn into good lifestyles, which is why it could be a good idea to have a weekly or monthly budget.

Today I wanted to talk a little about a NEEDS budget. WANTS are important because they supply you with happiness, however, it is good to prioritize your NEEDS first. Let’s break it down a little bit further as I will talk about my personal needs budget and what it looks like.

Each week, I give myself a food budget. Food is one of the most basic needs everyone has to consume to survive. Since I currently don’t have a meal plan, I give myself a $50 food budget on going out to eat. This may seem as if I am going out to eat about five times a week, but that is not necessarily true. I would say I go out about 3 times a week spend roughly $24, (i.e., $8 per meal). That leaves me with $26 left for food. That way I can do some basic grocery shopping and buy eggs, bread, deli meats, fruits, and veggies which will be about $20 if you shop at the right stores! With that, I have $6 left for miscellaneous things such as coffee or quick snacks at vending machines. As a college student, it is hard to manage time with cooking and going out to eat. But if you plan your week out it gets easier, trust me.

Toiletries, hygiene, and laundry are a need as well. Typically, I will do my laundry once a week which is about $5 a week. Making sure I have bathroom supplies, paper towels, kitchen supplies, is a must! You don’t want to live your life without any of these, trust me. Since I don’t have to buy this stuff weekly, I give myself a $25 budget for 2-3 weeks.

With all those needs you’re only spending about $75 roughly a week. Sure, if your budget doesn’t allow it, you can lower the budget! If you’re on a dining hall meal plan your needs will change for food, too. Either way, it’s always smart to map out your personal needs and how much it will run you, money-wise.

One final thought is school supplies and textbooks. You must realize that you have to pay for your supplies to succeed in school. One tip on that is trying to rent your textbooks if possible, it’s a lot cheaper and will be smarter so you don’t have to keep old books forever.

Happy budgeting!

Written by Mike Gicala, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Spring 2020. Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, University of Illinois Extension.

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