Financial literacy is about making good financial decisions to manage your personal finances – from budgeting to credit scores. Many people think of budgeting with dread – that it is restrictive and impossible unless you have an accounting degree or love math. It’s neither of these. It is a way to give you financial freedom so you can enjoy spending your money on the things that you want to, without putting yourself into debt.
Budgeting: A budget, or spending plan, is your first step in managing your money. Before you can create your budget and effectively direct your income, you need to know where your money is going. The following are some helpful budgeting websites to get you started:
- Financial Awareness Counseling: Financial Awareness Counseling, a program of the U.S. Department of Education, provides tools and information to help you understand your financial aid and assist you in managing your finances. NOTE: This does not meet the loan entrance counseling requirement for new borrowers of the federal Direct Loan.
- iGrad.com: An interactive, online community that provides videos, articles, iTV, and other information on financial literacy, responsible borrowing, career planning and more.
- Cash Course.org: This online resource includes topics from "cheap eats", finding scholarships, creating a budget, getting out of credit card debt, and comparing costs for living on-campus v. off-campus.
- Secrets to Saving $$$ at School (PDF): Sometimes is not about finding more money for school rather it's about finding ways to save money while still having fun and meeting your daily living needs. This list provides some helpful suggestions - pick one or more and start saving!
- 12-Step Guide to Financial Success: Sponsored by mappingyourfuture.org, this guide provides practical ways to manage your finances to put you on a success path to financial health.
- Federal Student Aid Budget Calculator:
This budget calculator will help you estimate your available income and determine your expenses.
- Financial Awareness Counseling:
Provides tools and information to help students understand financial aid and assist in managing finances through 5 components – Understand Your Loans, Manage Your Spending, Plan to Repay, Avoid Default, Make Finances a Priority.
- Financial Literacy 101: Multimedia education center to help students avoid common financial problems.
A variety of calculators to help you determine how much school will cost, how much you need to save, and how much financial aid (including employment and savings) you will need.
- SmartAboutMoney.org: Sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education, this site will provide you tools to make good financial decisions and to manage your money now and in your future..
- Financial Literacy- Federal Student Aid:
This site provide information to help you plan and pay for your post-secondary education. You will also find information on responsible credit card usage, fraud prevention, and consumer protection rights.
Borrowing: While loans may be a part of financing your education, consider two things before you borrow: 1) how much you need to cover your educational costs, and 2) how much your monthly payments will be after you leave school. Determine what you actually need to borrow before you sign for that loan. You can estimate your loan payments might be by using one of these loan calculators.
Remember, any loan listed on your award letter is only an indicator of what you are eligible to borrow and not what you are required to borrow. It indicates the maximum allowable that you can borrow; you can always borrow less. Some helpful hints to borrowing:
- Only borrow what you need. To calculate what you need, use one of the budgeting websites listed above or our Estimated Budget Worksheet available under the "Forms" section of our website..
- Keep a record of all of your loans and your master promissory note.
- Start making payments on your loan as soon as you can, even during school (if possible).
- Notify your lender or servicer if any of your contact information changes.
- If you are unable to make your monthly payment, contact your lender immediately for assistance.
- When paying for your education, the main goal should be to keep your debt to a minimum.