Mastering the art of budgeting

Starting college marks a significant milestone in one’s life, but it also brings newfound responsibilities, especially in managing finances. For many students, this is their first encounter with financial independence, and this territory can be daunting. Fortunately, institutions like Berea Group of Colleges understand the challenges and want to empower you with essential budgeting skills.

Embracing the Budgeting Mindset: It is crucial to adopt the right mindset towards budgeting. “It is important to view budgeting, not as a restriction, but as a tool for financial empowerment” these are words echoed by former Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, (addressing the Chamber of Commerce at a gala dinner held in Durban 2018). Understanding where your money goes is the first step towards attaining financial freedom.

Track your Expenses: A fundamental aspect of budgeting is knowing where your money is being spent. Financial writer, Tim Ranzetta, advises that one of the effective mechanisms to track spending habits is to diligently track expenses (, whether through apps, spreadsheets, or the traditional way using pen and paper. This practice provides invaluable insights into spending habits and areas where adjustments could be made to curb unnecessary expenses.

Differentiate between Needs and Wants: College life often exposes students to numerous temptations including habitual late nights that lead to impulsive takeaway purchases at fast food establishments. It is important to distinguish between needs and wants. While occasional treats are fine, prioritising needs such as tuition fees, books and essential living expenses is essential.

Create a Realistic Budget: Crafting a budget designed for your income and expenses is key to financial stability. Creating a monthly budget stand as one of the most efficient methods to safeguard against overspending. Cover all the essential expenses and leave room to save and occasionally indulge in treats.(

Easy Budgeting Tips for Students: Students can maximise their budgeting skills by coming together to cook communal meals, they can also take advantage of specials offered by various fast-food outlets. For instance, three students could each contribute 20 rand and purchase a KFC special offering 6 pieces of chicken for 60 rand. Alternatively, two students could chip in 30 rand each to make the most of Steers’ Wacky Wednesday meal deal. This approach not only helps them manage their finances effectively but also allows them to indulge in special meals without overspending. By doing so, they are effectively achieving two goals at once, smart budgeting and enjoying occasional treats.

Shopping at Charity shops, these often offer discounted prices on clothing and other items. By exploring these shops, students can find affordable clothing options while also supporting charitable causes. This approach allows students to save money while contributing positively to their community.

Sharing accommodation with fellow students is a practical way to reduce living expenses. By splitting the cost of rent utilities, and other household expenses, students can significantly lower their housing costs. This arrangement enables students to enjoy the benefits of comfortable accommodation while keeping their expenses within a manageable range. By implementing these strategies students can effectively manage their finances and save money. By utalising their resources wisely, they are able to meet their needs and attain financial freedom.

Use student discount and resources: Being a college student comes with its benefits, including numerous discounts and resources. Students need to take full advantage of these opportunities, whether it’s discounted student meals, free campus events, or student-priced transportation passes. Every penny saved contributes to better financial health.

Plan for Emergencies: Unexpected expenses can derail even the most accurately crafted budgets. Ayanda Nkosi, a financial advisor on uKhozi FM, stresses the importance of setting aside a portion of income for emergencies. This advice is also relevant to students even with limited income so that you can weather the storm when a sudden medical expense is incurred, or a laptop breaks. Having an emergency fund provides a safety net and peace of mind.

Explore financial aid and scholarships: Financial aid and scholarships can significantly alleviate the financial burden of college. Students can explore all available options, including scholarships, educational loans, and work study programmes. Being proactive in seeking financial assistance can help reduce reliance on loans and mitigate future debts (https://

Seeking Guidance and Support: Managing finances can be stressful, particularly for first-year students. Seek guidance from your lecturer, academic development officers or the college counsellor who may be able to steer you in the right direction or offer a tip or two from experience.


Transitioning to College life entails not only academic challenges but also financial responsibilities. Budget tips can assist you with making better financial decisions, making it easy to focus on your studies without any hinderances. From tracking expenses to prioritising needs and planning, mastering the art of budgeting sets the foundation for a financially secure college experience and beyond.

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