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Managing Your Money

Establishing Good Spending Habits while in College

  • Avoid future money worries by establishing good habits now. As a student receiving financial assistance, it's especially critical for you to (1) know how much money you have and (2) keep your spending under control.

Evaluate your income and Expenses

  • Estimate your expenses and compare them with your student budget. Determine your fixed costs such as (tuition, books, food, rent, or room and board) and your flexible costs such as (travel, recreation, clothes, long distance phone calls, dining out, and personal expenses.)
  • Estimate your income. Calculate how much money you will have each semester or summer session. Include grants, scholarships, loans, earnings, parental support, and any other income you may have.

Balance your budget

  • The simplest method may be to become aware of all the ways you're spending money. 'Trivial' purchases -- a snack, a DVD rental, -- add up much more quickly than most people realize.
  • You may need to increase your income and/or decrease your expenses. Develop a worksheet if you need to set up a budget or monitor your spending.

Keep track of your income and expenses

  • Open a checking account if you don't already have one. Record each check in your checkbook immediately after you write it. Keep your account balanced and be sure to allow for service charges and possible errors. Remember that most businesses charge you from $10 to $25 for any 'bad' checks you have written, in addition to the charges from your bank.
  • Save your receipts and record transactions in your checkbook when using your debit card. These transactions may make it too easy to spend more money than you intend.
  • Consider getting roommates if you're currently living alone. Paying only a percentage of the rent and utilities may cut your expenses considerably. Be sure, though, that all financial arrangements are formalized with your roommate(s). You don't want to be stuck with more than your fair share of the bills. Return library books and pay bills on time in order to avoid having to pay fines or late charges. If you have a car on campus, park in designated areas so that you don't get parking tickets.
  • Watch for free or inexpensive activities on campus.

Avoid impulse purchases and purchases with high-cost potential

  • Avoid credit cards. A student budget does not allow for paying interest, and plastic may make it too easy to overspend. If you really want something special, budget for it by setting aside some money each week.
  • Compare prices. Check out the availability of used textbooks and the possibility of selling your old books.
  • Consider walking or taking the bus. Be aware of the costs involved with operating a car. Remember that car expenses (parking, fuel, repairs, taxes) are not included in financial assistance budgets.


  • There are five lessons covering borrowing, budgeting, credit, debt, and employment.  Take a moment to visit MoneySmarts website.
Last updated: 09/20/2018