How to Start Budgeting For Your Upcoming Semester

College was the first time I was really financially independent, and I'll admit that wasn't used to it. It was a few years into school, when my bank statement was looking pretty bad, that I started really looking at my habits, and how I could budget my money better. Here's what I learned, and what you can do to take care of your money when your new semester of college begins.

Set a budget and stick to it

The hardest part is just getting stated on writing down a budget. This can be especially tough at the start of a new semester, when you need to purchase school supplies, but still, it's worth trying to make a budget a week or two into classes. So, figure out how much money you're earning, figure out how much you spend in a month (saving your receipts helps), and do some math. If you're working and earning cash, try and make it so that you're not spending more than what you earn. Even if that budget drifts and changes, at least starting one will get you thinking.

Use the school's financial resources

If you're a Centennial College student, budgeting includes making sure you've checked Financial Aid and filled out the "Doorways to Dollars" questionnaire to make sure you've gotten all of the bursaries and scholarships you can, since many of them go unclaimed every year. It also includes buying used books off of the Centennial College Student Association Inc.'s (CCSAI's) website, instead of new ones.

Be aware of the school's free resources

An important part of budgeting is knowing what you can get on the cheap, and this includes what your college offers. For one thing, Centennial College students can get into our gym for free. But there's so much more offered. I've written about free and inexpensive services Centennial College offers before, including business clothing, medical prescriptions, and even legal advice.

Make your own meals, instead of buying food at school

Groceries are always cheaper, and always better for you. Just remember, for every step you do yourself, you save money. Another lunchtime lifehack: When you make dinner, make more than you need, and take the leftovers with you the next day. As for what food to buy, most grocery stores have weekly flyers that, if you don't get them in the mail, you can look at online. When you're picking your groceries up, and figuring out what you're going to eat each week, use those flyers to decide what to buy, and stick to what's on sale.

Take the opportunity to figure it out

College is a good time to figure out how to manage your money in a safe environment, so it's a skill for life. Learning to budget, shop frugally, and not have a lifestyle you can't afford are essential life skills. College may be the first time you're managing money on your own, and it's the perfect little lab for figuring out what sort of saver you're going to be for the rest of your life.

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