Financial Aid

Good Spending Habits

All students, not just students receiving financial aid, need to establish good spending habits.

Many students are dealing with budgets, costs, and larger expenses for the first time. Reach out to use resources that can assist you in planning your finances.

Make a Budget Plan

It is critical for you to know how much money you have and keep your spending under control.

  • Evaluating your income and expenses.
  • Decide on the planning period to be covered — a month, semester, or year.
  • List all anticipated income sources and expenses item-by-item.
  • Rank your expenses to establish their relative importance.

Which expenses will need the largest amounts of time, money and attention? You may have to forgo some expenses if your income is not sufficient. In some cases, it may be as simple as living like a student.

After assigning dollar amounts to each item, you may need to make adjustments. Budget surpluses allows bills to be paid off early or puts money into savings to be used as a contingency fund for future emergencies. In the case of a budget shortfall, options include cutting down variable expenses like utility and telephone bills, clothing, recreation and entertainment, etc. Also, increase your income through a part-time job, additional loans, or family assistance.

Monitor expenses closely. Variable expenses can quickly take over the budget. By keeping accurate records of income and expenses, you can tell how well you are sticking to your financial plan. You can determine reasons for surpluses or shortfalls and begin to better anticipate them.

Compare actual income and expense figures to the ones budgeted. Make adjustments during the next planning period. Continued planning and good evaluation of your plan will ensure meeting your financial obligations now and in the future.

Continually ask yourself "Can I do without this?"

The hardest thing to do may be defining needs v. wants. Try to live as frugally while in college so as to limit debt and make for a better life in the future. The cheaper you live now, the easier things will be for you later when you are beginning your new career.

And remember, credit cards (and student loans) are debt — not income. Use them wisely and in a limited fashion.

Seek Out Online Tools

There are a number of online tools that can help you develop good spending habits and track your money flow.

One site to consider reviewing is The resources of 20 federal agencies and Bureaus have been brought together to help all users make smart financial choices. You can maximize financial decisions through use of worksheets, tutorials, publications, and information links on the site.

Organize Documents & Monitor Catalyst

Organization can go a long way in managing your funds. Each year, create a folder titled "Financial Aid."

Keep in it all forms, important emails, letters, award offers, bill printouts, and related financial aid documents. The various documents you receive will provide crucial information on your financial aid and your obligations. Loan paperwork, in particular, will provide eligibility information, when and how you will begin repayment, and details on your accumulated debt.

By keeping all of your financial aid information at ready reference, you can more easily answer questions you may have about the process.

Monitor your aid award and online bill via Catalyst. Keeping track of your finances each term will avoid late fees and other penalties.