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Spring break is a time that college students look forward to all winter. It’s your chance to escape the rigors of the classroom and relax on a warm beach or other exciting destination. Although spring break can be fun, the costs associated can add up quickly. With a little planning and preparation, you can enjoy a week away from studying without emptying your bank account. Use these five planning tips for a successful spring break.

1. Set Your Budget

The best thing you can do is plan your spring break trip a few months in advance. This will not only give you ample time to get everything organized, but you’ll have more time to save and plan for your trip. Determine what your budget is and let that guide you’re planning. Then, take the time to research destinations and estimate the costs for each option. Transportation and lodging will likely make up the bulk of your cost, but don’t underestimate your other expenses during your trip. You may find that some trips are just too expensive based on your resources and budget.

2. Split the Bill

If you’re driving to your destination, ride with friends and split the cost of fuel. Additionally, you may be able to save on hotel costs by sharing a room with friends. Those extra savings can go a long way and will give you more funds for other activities during your trip.

3. Borrow – Don’t Buy

Create a packing list and figure out if there are items you don’t have but know you will need. It’s a pretty safe bet that buying something will be more expensive at your destination. Try to borrow anything you might need from friends or family, especially if it’s an item you’re unlikely to use after the trip. Try your best to anticipate everything you’ll need during your trip and pack accordingly.

4. Find Fun Closer to Home

Although it sounds great to take a big trip somewhere far away, you can have just as much fun trying new things closer to home. Remember, the entire purpose of spring break is to take a break from studying, relax, and enjoy yourself. Sometimes, that might simply be going home to see family and friends. And the best part of that kind of spring break is you won’t have to spend much money at all! Check out tourist destinations in your current city to explore new activities. You’d be surprised at how many things are nearby that you may have overlooked previously. Get creative and enjoy yourself.

5. Pay as You Go

Ideally, you want to be able to pay for your spring break trip with savings and not use high interest rate credit cards or even student loans to fund your adventure. Again, try to set a budget for your trip and then keep your spending within your budget. Don’t be tempted into spending more than you have or feel pressured into trying to keep up with someone else’s crazy spending sprees. Spring break can create memories that last a lifetime, but you don’t want create a financial burden that lasts a lifetime either!

Enjoy your spring break and the time away from your classes. Remember to be safe and protect yourself and your belongings while traveling. A little planning and budgeting will help you have a great time and feel good about your finances when you return.

Recent surveys and studies suggest that many young adults lack basic money management skills. Too often, students enter college at a loss for managing their personal finances. College may be the first opportunity you have to experience some independence, and may be the first time you are faced with budgeting and making financial decisions on your own.

One of the simplest, yet most important steps to controlling your finances is budgeting. To start the process, determine your take home income and total expenses. Then break it down to a simple formula:

Income – Expenses = Positive or Negative Outcome

As you can probably guess, you want to end up with a positive outcome. To accomplish this, you need to spend less than you earn. It may sound easy, but it can be difficult. In order to calculate this number, you’ll want to sit down with a list of your monthly expenses. Worksheets like this one can help ensure that you’re accounting for everything – even that daily latte.

Here are some steps to get you on track to creating a budget and taking control of your financial future.

Know your income sources.

This is usually pretty straight forward. It’s typically money you earn from a job, but if you’re a student it can also be money you’re receiving from financial aid sources (grants, scholarships, or loans), money from your parents or other family members. To ensure your funds last the entire semester, you may need to average out your financial aid to a monthly amount.

Identify your expenses by using a daily spending diary.

Fixed monthly expenses like rent, car payments, insurance, and any other expenses you pay every month are easy to identify. The daily spending diary can help you track your variable expenses like food, entertainment, and clothing. After tracking of all of your expenses for a month, you may be surprised at where your money is going.

Figure out needs vs. wants.

When looking at your expenses or potential purchases, it’s important to make a distinction between “needs” and “wants.” There are some things you absolutely need – like housing and food. However, some things may fall into the “wants” category, like frequently eating out.

Find room for improvement.

After you’ve identified all of your expenses, find areas that can be reduced or even eliminated. Remember, you want to spend less than you earn. That goes for credit cards, too. It’s easy to spend what feels like “free money” but that debt can catch up with you quickly with interest.

Stick to it.

The last step, and possibly the most difficult, is to stick to your budget and resist the temptation of unnecessary spending.

After you’ve crafted your budget, stick to it each month, then evaluate how you’re doing. Are you staying within your budget? Are there problem areas you need to address with some of your expenses? You can find more money saving tips here to keep your expenses under control.

After you’ve created your budget, you’ll start to experience the benefits.

  • Ensure you don’t spend money you don’t have
    • Far too many of us spend money we don’t have using credit cards or student loans. A good tip is to only use credit cards when you can pay the balance each month and only use student loans for what you need (not want).
  • Shed light on bad spending habits
    • Building a budget forces you to look at your spending habits. You may find areas where you are spending money on things you don’t really need.
  • Leads to a brighter future
    • Budgeting allows you to position yourself for a more successful future. It’s far easier to “live like a student” when you’re actually a college student as opposed to trying to climb out from under a mountain of debt later.

Budgeting doesn’t mean spending as little money as possible or feeling guilty about every purchase. It’s about knowing your limits and making sure you have control of your finances.