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While getting the last bit of paperwork in for the refinance, I came across some old records, including a pay-stub from a job I had years ago while in college.

I was in no way rich, but I think made enough that if I had a better financial system, I could've done much better. I thought it would be fun to build a doable budget based on that paycheck I found.

Living on a College Student's Budget

While in college I worked several jobs. One of them was for a call center that was opened pretty much 24/7. I applied for work there because the had an opening for editor(forgot the title) checking advertiser's ad submissions for a search engine company.

The pay was better than many of the internships offered for students and I had some flexibility with my schedule since the call center was always open.

My take home average was $925/month (not counting any commissions or bonuses). Fortunately I was renting a room at a friend's house for $200/month (utilities included), so I had a safe and affordable roof over my head.

On the other hand, I was stupid and I had a car loan which ate up a huge amount of my pay – not only the car payment, but also the insurance I was required to have.

Monthly Expenses

Breaking it down, here's what I came up with on how I could have budgeted better:

  • Housing(plus utilities): $200
  • Car Loan and Gas: $300
  • Car Insurance: $75
  • Food: $ 150

Total Monthly Expenses: $725

With the remaining money, I would first save up a small emergency fund (2 months of my expenses) and then worked on paying off my credit cards. Once that was completed I would've put $100/month into the 401(k).

I would tell my past self to go ahead and sell that car. It was simply too much for my small college student budget.

As I mention I didn't include commissions and bonuses because they varied paycheck to paycheck. That extra money would be split between long term financial goals (emergency fund, pay off debt, and invest) and the rest would be used for fun money.

Thoughts on Working While College

Man, I wish I had this advice years ago! Haha, maybe someone can use it to create a spending plan. I'm curious – how many of you worked while in college? What job did you work? How well did you do with your budget?

Note: I guess I should've titled this post ‘Budget to Myself', oh well…

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

6 comments add your comment

  1. Ahhh, the simple life, and muy fun life while in college!

    Always commendable to see folks work during college. I think 10 hours a week max is what I’d let the kiddos do, so as to maximize their grades and teach them the value of work.


    • Yeah; I agree that working too much can be unduly stressful. Having a job in college though can be a big benefit – you get to put your education to work right away.

  2. I only did some babysitting and a little office work for the school while in college. I had a lot of scholarships so I knew it was important to keep my grades up, and I just couldn’t do that with a full or even part-time job. It is crazy, though, how little you can try to live on while in school. Part of my smiles because I know that someday it will seem ridiculous how small my budget is right now (just out of school for 2 months now), even though it feels like the most money I’ve ever had. Oh yeah, it is the most money I’ve ever had!

  3. I made plenty of financial mistakes in college. Luckily, one smart thing that I did was build up a sizable emergency fund that I still have today.

    • Kudos Shuan! I was proud that I set aside some money for retirement. Unfortunately when I left, I didn’t rollover that money 🙁 Got the check and I spent! stupid move on my part.