How to Budget & Stick to It

Download the "How to Budget" PDF

Why Budget?

  • When you first move off-campus, learning how to manage your money is one of the most important life lessons anyone learns in college and is vital to having a great off-campus student experience. Find out more at Northwestern's Financial Wellness website.

How To Begin?

  • Develop your own system or download a Monthly Budget Spreadsheet from our website
  • Keep the following items in mind when planning your overall budget each month:
    • Tuition/fees, books, and supplies
    • Rent and renter's insurance
    • Utilities, cable, internet, water, garbage, and recycling (some of these may be included in your monthly rent payment)
    • Lease fees (i.e. application fees, processing fees, security deposits, move-in)
    • Phone bills
    • Groceries or meal plan
    • Transportation costs – gas, car maintenance, insurance, parking or bus/train passes
    • Personal expenses (clothing, fun)
    • Savings for unexpected emergencies
  • Consider using highly-rated, free budgeting apps like Wally, BillGuard, and Dollarbird
  • If you need additional assistance with keeping up your financial health, you may find some useful information on the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid's Cost of Attendance page and Living Off-Campus page. The Graduate School also has information about graduate funding here.

Ways to Save

  • Visit the WildCARD Advantage page to find businesses in Evanston and Chicago with student discounts (the NUHelp app also has WildCARD discounts built into its map feature)
  • Rent or buy used textbooks or e-books using sites like Packback, Chegg, and Amazon
  • Visit Norris Bookstore and Beck’s Book Store
  • Check SustainNU, Brown Elephant, Salvation Army and other secondhand stores in the area
  • Repair, don’t replace. Request maintenance from your landlord, depending on your lease
  • Purchase tools and follow YouTube/general tutorials, or ask handy friends
  • Purchase or sell items from cookware to furniture to clothes using the NU Free and For Sell Facebook groups
  • Take advantage of free campus entertainment.
  • Check out the PlanItPurple calendar

Every Dollar Counts

  • Identify your sources of money and how much you have to spend monthly
  • Track exactly where your money is going each month. Remember celebration seasons, special occasions, personal purchases
  • List essential needs like food costs, rent, transportation, and textbooks
  • Set a minimum amount of savings, and how much you will add to it monthly
  • Do not buy on impulse, but do allot money for nonessential wants

Ways to Earn