A Budget-Planning Method for College Students

If jugs are the answer, what was the question?
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If jugs are the answer, what was the question?
Well, some people don't have to use any budget organization methods. (x)

Well, some people don't have to use any budget organization methods. (x)

Whether you’re rich because you work at the college library or because you take money from your immediate ancestors in anticipation of graduation, chances are you’re not that rich. Especially not after you spent 74 bucks on a fake Delaware ID or beautiful stationery to create the illusion of productivity. 

In college, it can often feel like our money is being taken away by some mysterious reversal of the Tooth Fairy. We eat out more than we should and go out more than we should and then textbooks cost almost as much as our imagined firstborns... and then we run out of money. 

As a wise senior, I have tried many budgeting methods and this one worked best for me. It’s called The Jug Method. Don’t worry: you don't need an actual jug. It’s just about dividing “income” (whether that comes monthly, biweekly, yearly, whatever) into parts that represent different spheres of your life and that don’t ever overflow.

First Jug: The Necessities (55% of your income)

Sadly, most of college girl resources are spent on survival – debatably nutritious meals, transportation to and fro different points on Earth, and rent. The first jug contains 55% of your income and is officially the most boring jug.

Second Jug: Entertainment (10%)

Waste it on hearing songs about diamonds and small towns. (x)

Waste it on hearing songs about diamonds and small towns. (x)

An odd bottle of expensive Chardonnay, if you’re old enough, and tickets to Florence + the Machine this summer should be included in the second jug, which holds another 10% of your money. I don’t need to tell you how to spend this jug best. You are probably already planning the weekend getaway or the subtitled old movie screening with your BFFs.

Third Jug: Savings (10%)

The third jug is the jug you wish you had earlier and keeps another 10% of the income. Someday you will thank your past self when you are on your spontaneous flight to Jamaica or when you can afford most of your graduate degree. 

But the rulebook advises us to use savings “for investing and creating passive sources of income:” a grown up way to advise you to be a grown up, basically, and try investing in stocks or essential everlasting things.

Fourth Jug: Self-Education (10%)

Favorite jug of mine (x)

Favorite jug of mine (x)

I know sometimes college classes leave little time for…well, anything else. But you need to follow Einstein’s advice and “never let school get in the way of your education.” 

Your self is your most valuable investment. Sometimes a book or a movie can change your whole perspective on the world. Hobbies turn into life experiences and jobs on the regular. It pays returns to invest 10% of your income on self-development: on tai chi courses or Friday French, on books about Japanese organization or subscriptions to The Economist. Your call.

Fifth Jug: Personal (10%)

The fifth jug contains another 10% and should be used for important purchases – furniture and cars, pets, and technology.

Sixth Jug: Charity and Gifts (5%)

No matter how cool the present, it's better wrapped. (x)

No matter how cool the present, it's better wrapped. (x)

Of course, it is nice to be independent and take care of yourself, but it can also feel good to think about the world or loved ones occasionally. Spend around 5% of your money on getting your friends and family silly things or take out a homeless person to a fast food place and listen to his stories about going to a Zeppelin concert back in the '70s. I know the latter one is cool because I did that once and now I know everything about said concert.

And there you have it!

Of course, you should tailor this system to your life - you may find that you need more for certain percentages and less for others, for example. But it is useful to have a budgeting system organized around the aspects of your life. 

You can borrow some ideas from the jug system about how to spend your money or, after observing for a month or so, find out on what you spend most money. And always remember a fact confirmed by Serious Studies: having doesn’t make one happier after a certain basic point. Experiences and becoming do. Live accordingly.

Thoughts?

Do you have any tested advice on budgeting income or do you spend your riches in chaotic fashion? Does this distribution seem viable? Tell me in the comments.