What to do when your budget goes out the window


Mackenzie Smith, Guest Columnist

COVID-19 is scary; it’s changing a lot of things, and to say that we are out of sorts right now would be an understatement. Some of you might be saving money from this, some of you might be losing it. Here’s what to do when you haven’t got a clue at what life is throwing at you next. Money can be complicated, but when it gets down to it, the main thing is money in vs. money out.

Money In

Prorated amounts will be refunded for campus housing and meal plans. This is not an

insubstantial amount, but don’t go spending it just yet. Stimulus checks don’t go to anyone that filed as a dependent, and your parents won’t get to claim you for the $500 because you are over 18. A lot of part-time workers are getting laid off due to store closures or losing hours. At the time of writing, things are still getting ironed out, but don’t count on money that isn’t already in your account. This is always a good rule, but especially when things get icky.

Money Out

You still need to eat and to find a place to live. If that is back with your parents and they don’t charge rent, that’s great. If not, last-minute moving and competition with everyone else doing the same can be expensive. Some landlords, banks, etc. are changing their policies to allow more leeway in paying on time. If you are suffering hard times because of this, you may be able to call those you owe money to and find a temporary arrangement. You might see nice refunds coming into your account and think you now have money to burn. Don’t. Budgets are important for a reason, and just because yours may have shattered into tiny, unrecognizable pieces doesn’t mean they suddenly don’t matter. Retail therapy is wonderful, and I can personally account for how great it is, but there are healthier ways to deal with stress effectively without hurting your progress toward financial goals. We don’t know when this will end, and the guesses put out there seem to vary widely, but it will end. Life will return to normal or find a new normal, and your budget will start to look like something you can count on again. When the dust has settled you will either come out ahead or behind, with a few breaking even. For those that come out behind, this is what emergency funds are for. Emergency funds are savings set aside to use when life gets tough and should cover at least three months’ expenses.


Hopefully you already have one or have other savings areas you can pull from. If not, reaching out for support from family or the financial aid office may help. For those of you that come out ahead, great. Make sure you refill any emergency fund money used as soon as possible or start one if you don’t already. As my car lovingly reminds me, just because a fluke happens that takes your emergency money away this month, it doesn’t mean that another once-in-a-decade event can’t happen the next month too. Fortune favors the prepared and all. After that, try to use your extra money to pay for things you would ordinarily need to take extra student loans for – tuition, housing, etc. You can add it to savings for a more reliable car or be ready to buy a professional wardrobe after graduation.

Remember, everything ends, and even if it takes you a lot of hair-pulling and extra time, things do get better. If you are having problems with stress and anxiety, you can reach out to the school counseling office.