Developing a budget and sticking to it will allow you to live within your means and avoid financial crises. A budget will help you develop a realistic understanding of all your financial obligations and how they relate to your income. Evaluate your expenses and consider the choices you've made regarding rent or mortgage payments, car payments, living expenses and your student loan debt. Keep in mind that any excess financial aid you receive at the beginning of the term must last until the beginning of the next term.
Understanding & Using Credit
Take all the credit you deserve for not taking all the credit that's offered to you. Credit can be relatively easy to secure. If you haven't already, you will likely receive offers from banks or department stores for a credit card. Consider carefully before accepting. The card issuer assumes you will pay the charges with future earnings, but preferably not all at once. Credit card issuers are counting on your need (or desires) being larger than your ability to pay. You get instant (if short lived) gratification, and the card issuer earns interest. The best way not to become caught up in an endless credit cycle is not to accept a credit card. The next best way is not to carry the card around with you. Use it only when absolutely necessary, for things you truly need or in emergency situations, then pay off your balance before purchasing additional items.
For many post-graduates, a source of stress isn't finding a job, but paying back their loans. It's important to take steps to avoid over borrowing. We recommend reviewing your Direct Costs (see Cost of Attendance), subtracting the aid you don't have to pay back (your grants and scholarship aid), and then reviewing closely your remaining aid eligibility and your needs vs. your 'wants'. Borrow only what you need when borrowing from a student loan program.
- Loans will accrue interest.
- The more you borrow now, the greater your monthly loan payment will be when you leave school.
- There are lifetime limits for various aid programs including Federal loans. You will reach these limits quickly if you borrow the full amount of your eligibility each year, and you don't want to run out of loan eligibility before earning your degree. This is especially important if you are a part-time student.
For more details on the various Federal Loan programs, refer to the Federal Student Loans section of our site.
Here are some government sponsored sites that can help you with all areas of credit and budgeting:
An informative site by the Financial Literacy and Education Commission that offers information for financial planning through various life events including many resources, calculators, budgeting worksheets and helpful checklists.