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.
1. 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 free budgeting websites to get you started:
- CashCourse.org: Sometimes is not about finding more money for school rather it's about finding ways to save and manage money while still having fun and meeting your daily living needs. Check out the videos, quizzes, money modules, and worksheets on topics of "cheap eats", scholarships, budgeting, getting out of credit card debt, paying for study abroad, and life during school and after graduation. Sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education
- 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 in 5 key areas: understand your loans, manage your spending, plan to repay, avoid default, make finances a priority. 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.
- 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.
A variety of resources and calculators to help determine how much school will cost, how much you need to save, and how much financial aid (including employment and savings) you might need.
- SmartAboutMoney.org: Sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education, this site provides you tools to make good financial decisions and to manage your money now and in your future..
- Financial Literacy- Federal Student Aid:
Information to help you plan and pay for your post-secondary education. A variety of resources on college preparation, financing your education, and consumer protection rights. Some resources also available in Spanish.
2. 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. The following resources can help you determine how to keep your debt load down and estimate future payments.
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 Budget Worksheet.
- Keep a record of all of your loans and your Master Promissory Note (MPN).
- 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. Don't know who your lender is? Find out at www.nslds.ed.gov
- 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.