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Budgeting Living in DC

Making a budget and sticking to it is one of the most important and difficult parts of "adulting." Use our tips to start tracking your spending and make informed decisions.

Budgeting 101

Download the infographic: Budgeting 101 [pdf]

  1. Figure out where your money goes.
    • Start looking at your bank account records and receipts to figure out where you spend your money. Are these things wants or needs? There are some things we need, others we want, and others that we should be saving towards.
  2. Break down your paycheck with the 50/20/30 rule.
    • Ideally, 50 percent of your paycheck goes to essentials, such as rent and groceries. Twenty percent should go to savings, while 30 percent can go to personal spending, such as dining out, entertainment, and shopping. Everyone's situation is different, but these guidelines are good to try and stick to.
  3. Break down your current spending.
    • Take your essentials (the 50 percent) and break it down. How much is rent or insurance? What does that leave for groceries? Make a plan for your monthly spending.
    • Then, look at your personal spending (the 30%). What categories are important to you and where can you cut back?
  4. Keep track of your expenses.
    • Keeping track of your expenses is the key to an effective budget! Everyone tracks spending differently, so find a system that's right for you.
    • Popular budgeting methods: spreadsheets, websites and applications (Mint, Learnvest, and more), notebook, keeping money in different envelopes for different categories.
  5. Stick with your budget.
    • Let's be honest. You're going to go over budget in some category at some point. Maybe you spent more on heating this month, or it was someone's birthday, or you really needed some retail therapy. It's ok.
    • Budgets can be a little flexible now and then. If you have been saving, you'll have something to fall back on. Live and learn!


There are many resources to help you learn about budgeting and managing your finances. Many of the following links are external links that we are not responsible for. has resources relating to budgeting and saving, including this worksheet.

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can help you in many areas of financial planning, including paying for college, organizing finances, and managing your credit. There is also a series of worksheets that help you develop your personal rules for spending and rules for saving.

Learn more about finance and managing your money at You can find simple, straightforward breakdowns of how to save, spend, and invest.

The Your Life, Your Money series on provides advice for handling your spending by using real life examples aimed at college aged students. There is even an online game!

Job Search

Work on or off campus! Visit AU's Career Center for more information, counseling, and resources.

Other popular websites include,, and Students and recent graduates should take a look at the Pathways program, which offers federal internship and employment opportunities for students and recent graduates.