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Building a Budget for Graduation in 5 Basic Steps

Sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

We’re a couple months from graduation, and it’s a good time to begin thinking about how you can better set yourself up for success after college.

Budgeting can be a useful tool to help you reach your graduation goals without breaking the bank and prepare you for life after college. A budget can help you keep track of your spending, avoid debt, limit overspending, and build good savings habits.

Let’s explore how a budget can benefit you this graduation, and beyond, and how to build one:

  • Start with the basics. A budget helps you figure out how much money to set aside for regular expenses like cap and gowns, photo shoots, graduation memorabilia, celebratory dinner or festivities. As you’re planning a budget, think about unexpected costs and trends in your current expenses that could challenge what you want to spend during graduation. Is there a particular expense that is pressuring your budget? Has your take home pay changed since last year? Are there new recurring bills for medical or cost of living needs? Understanding your financial habits can help you make the proper adjustments for graduation.
  • Create your budget. This takes a few simple steps including calculating your take-home pay or cash gifts; gathering credit card and bank statements and receipts for the past few months; organizing expenses into categories, such as rent, groceries, and entertainment; and determining how much you spend in each category per month. Now that you’ve crunched the numbers and can see how much money is coming in and going out, you can start making your budget.
  • Don’t forget to save. Make a place in your budget for savings. You can set aside money from each take-home pay period, or cash gifts, and tax returns for graduation need.
  • Set some limits. Some expenses remain the same each month, like rent or car payments, while others like groceries and entertainment are more flexible. Set spending limits for your flexible expense, like movie nights or takeout,  so you can focus on seasonal expenses like graduation.
  • Use budgeting tools to track spending. This can be as simple as using paper and pen to write down your income and spending categories, entering numbers in a computer spreadsheet or using budgeting apps — like Chase’s Budget feature in the mobile app and on – that are linked to your accounts.

Adjusting to a budget can take time, it’s about finding the right balance of spending and saving. But starting now can help you worry less on your graduation day. You might discover some of your spending limits are too low, while others are higher than they need to be. You can always review your budget against your expenses and rethink how you’ve set it up.

Keep working at it – that’s the best way for your budget to be effective. For more information, visit, or stop by the Chase branch on campus. 


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