By Amber Cobb —

This is fourth in the budgeting column: finances in college.

Budgeting is the simplest and most effective way to manage your finances, yet it’s something that most of us don’t do. Or even know how to start.

It’s a lot easier to just swipe our credit card or click “check-out” online then to pay attention to how much money we’re making and spending. However, this is also the easiest way to get into financial trouble and develop bad credit which we talked about a few weeks ago.

What is a budget?

A budget is your estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time. Some people operate on a weekly budget, while others may budget for their pay periods or a month.

For whatever time period you choose, a budget allows you to keep track of how much money you will make, the set expenses you will have to pay and whether you can go out on the weekend.

After subtracting your known expenses from your income, the amount that you have left is the “extra” money you have for unexpected expenses, eating out and shopping.

“Budgeting has allowed me to track my spending habits but also celebrate the margins in which I can start saving for wants, over needs,” said Anna Rittenhouse, a U of L alum and Johnson Traditional Middle School music teacher.

Essentially, budgeting actually creates more financial freedom, not less.

Sarah Langston, manager of digital communications at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “Budgeting has helped me and my family save money for buying a house without going into too much debt from buying furniture, to the down payment. Without knowing where our money goes each month, we wouldn’t have been able to put enough into savings for all the expenses associated with buying a home.”

Rittenhouse and Langston are both excellent examples of how budgeting in college sets you up for success post-grad.

As for most things, there are tons of resources and apps to help you learn how to budget, like “Mint,” a budgeting app that connects to your bank account and helps you track where you’re spending your money categorically (i.e. gas, groceries, eating out, etc.).

When it comes to budgeting, just remember, it’s never too early…or late!