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Learn from UNC students on how to budget

DTH Photo Illustration. Students learn different ways to budget and save for the future as they manage their own finances.

While college is a unique experience for everyone, budgeting can be difficult for students — and saving money is not as easy as it looks. Despite this, students are finding a variety of ways to put money away for the future.

Chip Snively, a clinical professor of finance at UNC Kenan-Flagler who teaches courses about personal finance, said that students who are new to budgeting and saving should simply get started. 

“Even if it's in a very, very small dollar amount and on a small timeframe, just get used to planning what you think your expenses are going to be,” Snively said. “Track your expenses over that timeframe, and then look at how you did.”

Through saving money in a different account, finding less costly alternatives to larger expenses and more, students shared their ways to save and maintain a budget. 


Snively said many people set themselves up for failure by spending first instead of saving. He said students should set financial goals for themselves and make saving a priority. 

“And then you live off the rest and you set your standard of living accordingly,” he said. 

Junior Olivia Ocamb said with each paycheck she earns, she moves a portion of her money into a separate account. 

Ocamb said she divides a part of her paycheck and puts it in a separate savings account. She said that by doing that, she’s building interest — even in a smaller amount. 

While not everyone has access to a savings account, those like sophomore Callie Xu can still save money in a similar way. 

“I don't have a savings account, but I'm also not a very big spender,” Xu said. “So I haven't rashly spent my money on anything in the past many years.”

Xu said she never spends more than 25 percent of the money she earns, even though it can feel easy to impulse buy. 

Cheaper alternatives

Cutting costs by finding less expensive alternatives to a product is what some students say helps them save money. 

Ocamb said she shops for some groceries at Walmart because of the affordable pricing, even for vegan dietary needs. 

“I've actually found that we've been able to buy a ton of food at Walmart and have almost no issues,” Ocamb said. “Even specialty items, we can almost always find one thing that as vegans we eat.”

Some UNC students, like Xu, tend to find their required course material at the student store. But others are able to get books at a cheaper cost. 

“I try to look it up online and see if there’s a free version of it,” junior Uriel Jimenez said. “If not, then I go to a student store to purchase it or rent a book.”


Typical costs are not the only things that take up student budgets. Most students have hobbies or personal needs that are added expenses. 

Xu said that recently, she has been adding stationery costs to her budget. 

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“I just love having stationery,” Xu said. “I've been spending money on it maybe weekly. Every time I see some new washi tapes I like, I’ll buy it. It's a pretty low expense, but it's something that I've been spending money on consistently.”

For students who are not used to setting out a budget, there are multiple online programs for getting used to planning for future expenses. Apps and budget-related tools can help track spending and saving patterns. 

Junior Zoe Atkinson said she budgets for consistent expenses by making grocery lists of the things that she needs instead of having a set budget. 

“I don't really have a set budget, because usually, I’ll end up overspending or underspending,” Atkinson said. “So usually, I'll just look in the kitchen and see what I need… write out what meals I'm going to do for the week, and then do grocery lists based on that.”