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Up to 70% of college students in the U.S. are stressed about their finances, according to The Daily Helmsman. With student loan debt weighing down on most of them, combined with the pressure to find extra sources of income to cover the financial gaps, graduate students need to think smarter in the way they spend their money.

In fact, almost all graduate students, whether they’re being supported by family, loans, stipends, or savings, have the ability to plan and achieve basic financial goals while in school. There are better ways you can control and save your money, and it all begins by tracking your expenses to get better control over your finances.

1. Improves Your Financial Awareness

The main reason behind tracking expenses as a student is to improve your financial awareness. If you have no clear picture of how you’re spending your money or where exactly your money goes, you can’t identify the habits to change so you can avoid overspending and get back to financial stability.

Even small unplanned expenses on a daily basis can break your budget.

Tracking down every coin you spend on tuition, room and board, textbooks and supplies, equipment, personal expenses, food and drinks, transportation, entertainment, and school and activity fees will help you spend less on unnecessary expenses. Improving your financial awareness is the first step in controlling the situation.

2. Helps You Pay Off Your Student Debt

Dealing with student loan debt is challenging. With Americans now owing up to $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, it’s easy to see why paying off your student loan early is important. In order to gain control of your student finances, you need to have a full understanding of your repayment terms and calculate your monthly loan repayments so you can take the steps needed to pay off your debt comfortably.

Start by tracking down your expenses so you can manage every single coin you spend more wisely. This will allow you to save money that you can push into paying off your student loans. You can also consider loan refinancing options to better manage your loan payments.

If you want to get out of the student loan trap, you need to stop wasting money.

3. Helps You Identify Spending Patterns

Tracking your student expenses will help you identify your common spending patterns.

This is the only way you can determine if the money you’re spending is matching your priorities or not. For instance, you’ll be in a better position to reach your financial goals after you realize that you’ve been eating out every night. The money you save can go towards paying off your student loan or starting a side business to boost your income.

Understanding your financial habits and making necessary changes is important. Your spending patterns are the road map you need to understand your daily expenditure and what steps you need to take to stop financial ruin.

4. Prioritize Your Needs and Wants

Once you have a clear picture of your spending habits, you now know what to prioritize between your needs and wants.

Is that money you’re spending on entertainment every weekend in line with your financial goals? Is traveling to school from home every day really worth it? Have you considered sharing a room to save money?

Even for students who have their finances together, there’s always money you can save by looking closely at your spending priorities. Discern the difference between your needs and wants so you can avoid wasteful spending.

5. Helps You Stick to Your Budget

We’re all too familiar with the culture of creating budgets that we never follow.

As a student, you may feel no need to have a budget, simply because you’re in school to learn and not struggle with finances. But the truth is, financial prudence starts early in life.

By tracking your expenses, you’ll be able to make the best of your budget. Without clear spending insights guiding your budget, you’ll not know when to stop spending in a given category. Being consistent is key if you want to stick to your budget and get out of debt so you can achieve more important goals.

6. Monitor Your Progress as You Save

Tracking your spending in college allows you to monitor your progress and hold yourself accountable. It’s simply a quantifiable way of measuring your small steps of progress in your financial plan, with constant feedback. It’s important to set schedules to monitor your spending.

For instance, have weekly, monthly or quarterly checks to monitor your spending and the results of the implemented changes along the way. If you’re able to meet all your spending targets regularly, then you’re building yourself a more reliable financial future. Take advantage of budgeting and personal finance apps to help you track your spending and create financial goals.

Extra Tip – Keep Going No Matter the Challenges

Most students will create and follow a financial plan, make a few mistakes and then stop following their plans altogether, or even postpone them to another time. This is normal in our day-to-day lives, but falling into this cycle when it comes to spending in college will only lead to further financial problems.

Just because you overspent on a few categories doesn’t mean that you convince yourself to try again next month. You need to keep going no matter the challenges.

Remember that your budget will evolve over time so expect some changes to happen as your needs and goals change.

Tracking your expenses to control your finances is not the end of the road. You have to choose what to do with the extra money you’re saving. You can save the money in a student bank account, use it to pay off your monthly student loans or do something else that will ultimately lead to a more financially stable lifestyle in and out of college.

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