Budgeting Tips to Help You Take Control of Your Money

Do you think money is power? Personal-finance blogger Zina Kumok has learned the hard way that money management is much more powerful. In the latest installment of her ongoing KWHS series about financial tools and decision-making, Kumok shares the why and how of budgeting -- a concept that will help you travel a more successful personal-finance path during and after high school. Read More

by Diana Drake

Knowledge@Wharton High School featured blogger Zina Kumok, 26, in a student-loan article a few months back and invited her to be a regular KWHS contributor. Below is the second installment of a series of articles that Kumok is writing for KWHS about insights from her own personal-finance journey to pay off $28,000 in student-loan debt. One of her most valuable takeaways? How to budget.

If you’re anything like I was in high school, then your fall-back strategy when it comes to money issues is simple: “I’ll worry about that later.” Well, guess what: Here I am just a few years out of college and I wish I had worried more about money sooner — well, not so much “worried” as began to think about money management and how I could become better prepared to make decisions about my financial life after high school. I’m here to tell you that one of the best gifts you can give yourself in high school is to understand and follow a budget, which is basically a tool to assess your financial situation. [tweetthis alt=”” hashtag=”” url=””]The goal of good budgeting is to spend less than you earn — and to know what you are saving for.[/tweetthis] Learning how to budget now will teach you how to value your paycheck, save for the future and spend money on what makes you happy.

Most of the resources on budgeting — and there are lots of them — are for people with full-time jobs and bills. Here’s a guide on how to budget for high schoolers, whether you work a part-time job after school, babysit on the weekends, or get an allowance from your parents.

  • List your goals. You can’t budget without figuring out what you want to spend money on. It’s easy to blow a week’s wages on going out to the movies and shopping at the mall. Instead of doing that, make a list of things you want to buy. Are you trying to save up for an Xbox One? Do you want to upgrade your laptop? Include long-term goals like paying for college or taking a trip after graduation. Next to each goal, write down how much it will cost. This will give you an idea of what your decisions really mean. If you want to buy a new video game for $60, each $10 you drop at Chipotle is $10 more you’ll have to earn to reach your goal. Once you see what your goals really are, it will become easier to prioritize your finances. [tweetthis alt=”” hashtag=”” url=””]What’s the point of budgeting and making sacrifices if you don’t know what you’re doing it for?[/tweetthis]
  • Write down your expenses. Once you figure out what you want to spend money on, try tracking your expenses for a couple of weeks. Any time you make a purchase, write it down. You can also use the website Mint.com to sync your expenses automatically (there’s an app, too). While most people think they have an idea of what they’re spending money on, they are often shocked to discover what their total expenditures add up to. If you make $400 a month working on the weekends, you might be surprised to learn how much of your earnings are eaten up by daily expenditures like gas, shopping and grabbing a Snickers from the convenience store.
  • Make a plan. Once you see what your spending looks like, figure out what changes you want to make. Let’s say you want a laptop that costs $1,000. If you want to buy it in six months, you’ll have to save about $166.67 a month. Or maybe you need it sooner and will have to save even more aggressively. Once you decide what your goal is, figure out the spending cuts you can make. Maybe instead of going to the movies, you suggest to your friends that they come over to your place and get something from an inexpensive movie rental alternative like Redbox.[tweetthis alt=”” hashtag=”” url=””] I like to keep a visual of my goals around to remind me of why I’m giving something up.[/tweetthis] For example, print out a photo of your future laptop to keep in your wallet. That way, every time you want to spend money, you’ll be reminded of what you really want.
  • Talk about it. Peer pressure is very real. When you’re around a lot of people, it becomes easier to drop cash on things you don’t really want. If you tell your friends what you’re trying to save up for, you empower them to help you reach your goal, instead of derail you. You can make a pact with a friend to always call her if you’re about to make a purchase over $25. Or if you’re hanging out with someone, give him your card so when you want to buy something, you have to justify it to someone else. Removing yourself from temptation also helps. If your friends want to go shopping, you only bring $5 in cash so you can’t spend any more. You can also set up a savings account that automatically takes money from your checking account every month. Since it can be harder to remove money from a savings account, you won’t be able to spend the money that you have earmarked for your goal.
  • Treat yourself. Set up mini-rewards if you’re saving up for something for a long time. If your goal is to save $200 every month so you can pay for a Spring Break trip with your friends, reward yourself with something small at the end of each month you successfully reach your goal. If you deprive yourself for too long, eventually you will binge and ruin all of your plans.

Budgeting is not always fun, but it’s definitely useful. I budget when I want to travel somewhere and don’t know how I will be able to afford it. Or maybe I want to upgrade my camera and I’m not sure how I’ll come up with that $500. When you budget for your goals, you see how keeping track of your money can help you. It’s so important to understand that we control our money and not the other way around. And in six months when you’re sitting in front of that new laptop, you’ll appreciate just how sweet budgeting can be.

Related Links

Conversation Starters

What financial goals do you have? What are you trying to save for? Do you need money for short-term goals, like a new computer, or long-term goals, like paying for college?

Do you keep track of your money? How do you know how much you’ve spent and how much you have left in your checking account?

What does Zina Kumok mean when she says, “It’s so important to understand that we control our money and not the other way around?”

Kumok has given you lots to think about in terms of budgeting. Now read the KWHS budgeting basics article linked below. Who is Nicholas Bakke? What does he help you understand about budgeting?

16 comments on “Budgeting Tips to Help You Take Control of Your Money

  1. Budget tips like these are one of the best blogs to read because readers learn how to save money. And knowing about how to spend money and not to exceed on the given budget.

  2. Budgeting is very important. I wish I read this article sooner. I had a job at $10 an hour in the summer i averaged 45 hours a week. So, i had overtime coming in too. But, because of it being the first few paychecks I have ever gotten, I never saved any of it. And I blew it on things I really didn’t “need”, but I necessarily wanted it because I had the money. When I start my job back up next summer, I will be making more money, so I really need to start learning on how to control my behavior and budget. I want to buy a nice car and such by the end of September next year. So I am thinking that I am going to put away $50 every paycheck or even $100. I will have a picture also maybe in my wallet on what I want to remind me on what I am doing this for!

  3. Budgeting is very important and I have never cared to really budget before but now that I look at it this way and see that I do not always get money or have the life style to spend ridiculously, then i need to start budgeting.

  4. This information is very helpful for me. I’m 15 years old and I glad I’m being exposed to ways of dealing with money at such a young age.

  5. I’m trying to save money for equipment that I want for creating content. I love keep track of my money and it’s something I adapted to as a habit. It lets me know what I have for today and gives me the heads-up what I could earn tomorrow. Budgeting is important because it does important things for you in life. For me, it keeps me away from blowing on unnecessary purchases where I know I could’ve possibly done it another time. It could be things like jewelry, shoes, clothes, or even video games. Budgeting also gave me the mentality of what I need that can keep me pushing the next week or month. So yes, everybody needs to budget unless you’re filthy rich.

  6. This is very helpful as most of the time we are reckless with money. Making and having a budget will help a lot.

  7. Budgeting is really important. now that i started working i found myself spending money on things that I don ´ t really need. Whenever I get a paycheck i tell myself ¨I ´ ll save the next one let me just go ahead and spend some of this ¨ some ¨ end up being basically all. and sometimes I get so mad at myself because of how much I am spending. so i have gotten myself a piggy bank and whenever i get paid i put some of my money in there and spend the rest. so i know that once i spend the one i took from, there ´ s no taking from the ones in the piggy bank.

  8. Budgeting is really important. now that i started working i found myself spending money on things that I don ´ t really need. when ever i get a paycheck i tell myselfI ´ ll save the next one let me just go ahead and spend some of this¨ some ¨ end up being basically all. and sometimes I get so mad at myself because of how much I am spending. so i have gotten myself a piggy bank and whenever i get paid i put some of my money in there and spend the rest. so i know that once i spend the one i took from, there ´ s no taking from the ones in the piggy bank.

  9. At this moment in time I’m currently saving most of my money for more important things that I might need in the future but I still spend some of my money on things that I want.

  10. Budgeting is something that can be very hard for someone like me because I love spending. But after reading this article I want to take part in some of these ideas on how to budget so I can get the things I want that are expensive. I think budgeting will help me with my long term goals.

  11. I want to save up for a phone right now, I want to upgrade. As of now Im trying to use these budgeting skills in order to have money left over and keep on with my saving. I feel budgeting helpful because it allows you to think first and not just waste money till your left with none. My short term goal on saving is to get a new phone and a long term goal is anything that comes in the future like college, a car, or possibly even a house.

  12. My financial goals for the future is having enough income or wealth sufficient to pay one’s living expenses for the rest of one’s life without having to be employed or dependent on others. Income earned without having to work a job is commonly referred to as passive income.

  13. My financial goals for the future is passive income which is the ability to support oneself for the rest of one’s life without working or depending on others, whether through income or riches. Passive income is a term used to describe revenue that is generated without the need for employment.

  14. I wanna start saving from now just in case I need extra money for my college it’s very important to save money for emergency and things like that. I’m so impress that I been learning many things with all the professor in here they are very helpful.

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