Good Spending Habits

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

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.

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 MyMoney.gov. 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.

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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.