Budgeting

The Basics To Budgeting

budgeting 101

Avoid Debt

One of the only reasons people budget their money is to avoid getting into debt.  Budgeting allows you to assign your money where it needs to go.  If there is more expense (money spent) than income (money earned) at the end of your budget, something needs to change. There are many tools on this page to help you with that. 

Know Your Income

It is important to know how much money you have coming in.  Each budget you create can change from month-to-month or paycheck-to-paycheck.  Also, forecasting future income will help you with your current budget in case you need to make any adjustments.

Know Your Expenses

It is equally important to know what your expenses are.  First, get familiar with your bills - what they are for, when they are due, how much is due, and what's your flexibility (e.g. setting your own due date). Then write down all your reoccurring expenses that are not bills such as gas, food, etc.  Knowing what exactly you are spending money on will help you know what can be added or cut. 

Know the Difference Between Needs and Wants

Budgeting can sometimes allow for buying things we want in addition to the things we need. However, a proper budget starts with needs, then wants.  Basic needs include food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and utilities. Understanding the difference betweend needs and wants will help you determine how much money you spend on these basic needs.  

Know How To Improve

Once you know what your income is, what your expenses are, and what your budget looks like, you can start to adjust your budget in order to decrease spending and increase saving.  Again, we're trying to eliminate debt, not consistently manage it.

Budgeting Tools

After you've balanced your budget, begin keeping a detailed record of what you spend.  Expenses for one quarter should show whether or not you are following your plan.  If you need help making decisions on expenses to include in your budget, try using CashCourse's Needs Versus Wants Worksheet.  For ideas on how to easily cut costs, consider the following budgeting categories:

Food
  • Develop a weekly meal plan and go shopping with friends and roommates to help keep you on track. Compare prices at different stores and use coupons to save even more.
  • Learn about nutrition from the UC CalFresh program.  CalFresh, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also provides financial benefits for those who qualify.  Visit their website to review eligibility requirements and to access the application. 
  • If your budget is tight, consider visiting The Pantry, a UC Davis student run organization available to assist students with meals or personal care items. 
  • Eat something before you go shopping; never shop for food on an empty stomach!
  • Pack your lunch to avoid fast food places. If you do eat out, look for food at a reasonable cost.
  • Prepare meals at home.  You can find endless recipes online.
  • Buy house brands and generic products which are generally less expensive.
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season, and take advantage of the local Farmers Market
  • Consider joining the local Davis Food Co-op.
  • If you have tried all of the above options and utilized all of the aid that is available to you, ask us about our Aggie Meal Share Program!
Personal Expenses
  • Shopping in thrift or consignment stores can be fun and you may find some real treasures! Avoid "dry-clean-only" clothing purchases.
  • Factory discount outlets offer name brand, quality products at less than cost. If you are planning to drive to go shopping, take a few friends and share the cost of gas.
  • Many bookstores and music stores offer less expensive used books and music.
  • Avoid late fees/fines by returning books on time before the end of the quarter.
Utilities and Phone
  • Check into the variety of money-saving rate plans offered by telephone companies and PG & E. Remember to figure installation costs into your budget.
  • Find out how to connect to online services through UC Davis from the UC Davis Computing Account Services.
  • Look for the best wireless plan that works for you. Beware of extra data plan charges, and early contract cancellation charges.
  • To reduce your PG& E bill and save energy, turn off your lamps, television, and stereo when not in use.
  • If you and your roommates are looking for a house to rent, ask if you will be required to pay the utilities (water, garbage, etc.) as part of the rental agreement. Water is metered in Davis, so take shorter showers and don't run the water when brushing your teeth.
Health Care
  • To excel in school, it's important to take good care of yourself first. For those times when you're not feeling well, health care is available through the Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS) for all registered students.
  • If you are feeling a little overwhelmed and just need someone to talk to, there are many counseling services and programs available through SHCS Counseling Services. Their staff is here to help.
Transportation
  • Bicycling and walking are the cheapest means of transportation in Davis. Unitrans buses also offer transportation to and from campus; undergraduates with a valid Registration Card can ride free.  For trips outside of Davis, Yolo Bus is available to nearby cities and the Sacramento International Airport.  Bus schedules are available at the Memorial Union Information Desk.  Try something different, take a train! Amtrak offers service to San Francisco or Tahoe for a reasonable cost.
  • Avoid the expensive habit of driving a car. The combination of high gasoline and oil costs, insurance, maintenance, and parking fees (and parking fines!) can make a car a major financial burden.
  • Ride Share. If you are planning a trip, check the Ride Share Bulletin Board at the Memorial Union for listings of rides and riders wanted.  Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) provides information about a wide variety of alternative transportation methods.
  • If you have safety concerns while moving about campus at night, try using Safe Rides available through the UC Davis Police Department.
Recreation
  • A variety of music and drama events is offered throughout the year by the Department of Theatre & Dance, many of them free to students.
  • Look for dance, music, and theater productions at special student rates. Visit the Mondavi Center for special student rates.
  • Participate in your favorite intramural sport.  UC Davis offers more intramural sports than any other UC campus.

Supplemental content