Forming a budget strengthens chances of financial success

Marnie Leonard

Staff Writer

Illustration by Rick Nease/The Detroit Free Press/MCT

Illustration by Rick Nease/The Detroit Free Press/MCT

Many Parkland students have recently received their financial aid refund checks, and that may mean something that a lot of college students are unused to—extra cash to spend. But what is the best way to use that extra money, and what are the budgeting resources available to Parkland students to help them manage it?

Taylor Grace, a Parkland Agricultural Leadership and Communications major, said she thinks many college students tend to have trouble budgeting their money, especially younger ones.

“We have a lot of expenses, like our tuition and books and gas and rent. But I also think that a lot of students go around spending their money on things they don’t really need, like going out to eat, shopping, and movies,” Grace explained.

One such resource is the Parkland Financial Aid Office. Scholarship Coordinator and Advisor for that office, Haiti Eastin, is one of the people who help students make budgets.

“You’ve got to look at wants versus needs. If you need it, is there a less expensive alternative? Don’t take your refund check and go out partying all weekend. Make sure your needs are paid for first,” Eastin explained. “In college, they’re not necessarily going to have the same standard of living that maybe they had with Mom and Dad. This is their time to try to figure that out, and it’s a good learning experience in the end.”

The Financial Aid Office also goes through financial counseling with students requesting additional loan funds on top of the base amount they are awarded. They provide the students with a budget form and help them fill it out. The advisors will then try to point out any red flags in that budget.

“If their rent is $800 a month, then can they take a roommate? If clothing expenses are $400 a month, we need to go over that. If you’re spending $80 a month going to the movies, maybe you need to hit the Red Box.”

Kelly Barbour-Conerty, a Parkland Professor in the Department of Business and Ag Industries, said that having trouble sticking to a budget is something that countless Americans have trouble doing, not just college students.

Barbour-Conerty went on to say that not enough adults have been taught how to manage money properly, and that credit card debt is probably the number one thing that leads to problems concerning financial management.

“It is very easy to get into the habit of buying whatever you want now, and then only having to pay the minimum payment each month.  The interest and finance charges keep adding up over the years; that’s money that is not going towards a tangible product or service, but is pretty much just being given to the credit card companies,” Barbour-Conerty said.

Concerning pointers on how to best manage your money, Barbour-Conerty said she always tells students with limited income to start tracking every penny they spend. It can be extremely helpful to get a clear picture of where all your money is going, and it’s the best way to see which cuts you can afford to make.

Her main tip for budgeting was simply this: Don’t spend more money than you are bringing in. It isn’t fun or easy, but that is what financial success boils down to.

Kelly also pointed out that there are many websites that offer free templates and advice on budgeting, as well as credit counseling sites. There are financial planners in the Champaign-Urbana area as well, but Barbour-Conerty recommends students check out the free Internet sources first.

A quick ‘budgeting for college students’ Google search turns up millions of results. The articles range from worksheets to help form a budget to advice on how to stick to your budgeting plan. Taking advantage of reliable sources such as Wells Fargo, Fox Business, and Microsoft will help strengthen your chances of financial success.

To get more information and tips on budgeting, Barbour-Conerty said that she is always willing to give advice and suggestions to students. Additionally, advisors such as  Eastin, in the Parkland Financial Aid Office, room U286, are always available to help Parkland students find financial success.