By Ellie Bramel

Kelsey Snelgrove was in the sixth grade when the Great Recession happened.

The crash hit close to home, and she watched her parents lose the business they had worked to build.

“My dad literally came to me one day and was like, okay, so we have a bag of money. It says for groceries. That’s it. We have no other money,” Snelgrove recalled.

She said the experience gave her a deeper understanding of money as she learned how to stretch her family’s dollar. Now a junior at the University of Georgia, she uses that understanding to budget her paychecks, account for weekly expenses and adopt long-term savings goals.

“I do my budget mentally in my head,” said Snelgrove. “I should probably record it, but it’s hard and scary to think about all the money and seeing exactly where it goes.”

Snelgrove is not alone in her budgeting style. Kristy Archuleta, an associate professor of financial planning at the University of Georgia, has found that many students do not make a formal budget. Instead, she said, many conceptualize how much they spend and try not to go over that amount.

“It’s important to know why you have a budget and know where your money is going,” said Archuleta. “When you know exactly where your money is going, you have an idea of what you can do differently to improve your budget and reach your goals.”

Budgeting as a college student can seem challenging, given that, as Archuleta observes, most college students have a limited income. She said, however, budgeting can be a good way to build and practice life skills.

“When you know how much money you take home,” she said, “and where it is going, you have better control over your financial future.”

But budgeting can pose some challenges for college students, which Snelgrove understands firsthand.

Striking a balance between treating yourself, enjoying college and overspending on unnecessary things is challenging, she said. She had to learn how to say no to dinners out with friends, putting her money into her savings account instead.

Because of discipline with her money Snelgrove was able to afford a study abroad summer program to Argentina. She said budgeting for something specific like a trip was a good way to set financial goals and stick to them.

Her advice for other students when budgeting for something big, like a trip, is to set small goals and take it one step at a time. She said taking it day by day can make money stretch a lot further than you would think.

“Set short term and long term financial goals,” she said. “Track your spending. Building a budget based on what you expect to spend then track how much you actually spend.”

Both Archuleta and Snelgrove agree that while budgeting can seem like a daunting task, it is a very important skill for college students to develop.

“It’s never too early to start budgeting,” said Archuleta. “Building budget skills and habits now will help students budget in the future.”

Ellie Bramel is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.