Financial planning is not something you do once in your life and move forward. Planning requires active and fluid participation on your part as your life unfolds.
Start with a well-crafted budget for your living expenses. If you keep a tight budget while you are in school and avoid needless expenses, you require less funds to cover your cost of attendance.
Carefully crafting a budget can help you live in the present and prepare for the future. What are your goals and what will it take to achieve those goals?
When you are creating a budget, you need to know your current spending habits. This can be a hard reality to face. Start by simply tracking all of your expenditures using past bank and credit card statements. Before you can truly adjust, you need to know where your money is going.
Try the student budget template as a place to start. Use the annual tab to plan costs for the year and then track your weekly and monthly expenses on pages provided to see if you are over or under budget (simply copy the page multiple times and formulas will duplicate as well.)
If you do not have good records, start now to track every cent you spend for 30 days. Now categorize those expenditures:
- utilities (electricity, water, gas, internet, television, telephone)
- groceries (not dining out)
- auto expenses (fuel, taxes, service, insurance)
- personal (haircut, clothing, laundry, gym)
- medical (insurance, doctor, medicine)
- entertainment (games, movies, sports)
Create a list of all resources, such as financial aid (using net figures), savings, contributions from family or other resources. Remember that in some cases, your cost of attendance budget is only for 8 or 9 months, not a full 12. How will you handle the time between terms?
Now, review your list of expenses and separate by needs versus wants:
- What could you do without while you are in school?
- Where could you make changes?
- Can you live in a less expensive apartment?
- Can you find a roommate to share your space?
- How can you reduce your utilities?
- Do you really need cable television, or can you make do with just the internet, which is needed for school?
- Can you make more meals at home and cut out fast food?
You can live on a limited budget now and reduce your indebtedness for the future.
You need to know the impact of credit on your life:
- What do you know about how your choices of credit are viewed on your credit report?
- How will education loans and repayment impact your future credit?
Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans and alternative loans require that a student have a good credit record. Students with poor credit may not be able to secure the loans necessary to completely finance their education.
Be sure to review a free copy of your credit report each year. Remember: Any time you are denied credit, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from that agency.
Review your credit report for:
- Inaccuracies (like accounts that are not yours or have been misreported)
- Report any fraudulent activity immediately to the credit reporting agency.
- Correct other inaccuracies with your creditor(s).
- Too many accounts (or accounts with high credit limits)
- Cancel any unused or store credit cards. Do not simply cut up the card, but write and cancel the account with the credit provider.
- Hold your oldest major account open and active as the age of your credit history influences your credit score.
- Request a reduction in the credit limit on your remaining card(s).
- Delinquent accounts
- Pay on time. Late payments matter; 18-24 months of on-time payments must be made to fully restore your credit ranking.
- Bring current any delinquent accounts now, if possible, collecting written confirmation of payment from each account.
- Contact each account to make satisfactory repayment arrangements if possible.
- Keep complete documentation on each account even after it is paid in full as it might take several years for your past history to stop impacting your current credit options.
Your free credit report does not contain a credit score. Reporting agencies will charge you extra for that information. If you wish to know something about your score, visit CreditKarma.com for a free average score. You can also get helpful tips on how to improve your credit, as well as a credit simulator to see how making more payments or borrowing more impacts that score. Ignore advertisements suggesting you try a credit or insurance product.
These sites provide additional financial literacy information, budget calculators and other assistance in financial planning:
Credit scores can affect your ability to get a loan or to get better interest rates. Learn more about your credit:
- AnnualCreditReport.com: Get a free credit report.
- Major credit reporting agencies:
- Credit Karma: Get a free credit score average.
Webinars and more
Federal servicers are another great resource for financial training. Many offer regular webinars on financial topics:
You can also contact EVMS Financial Aid by phone at 757.446.5804 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment or to learn more about resources and tools to help you through the financial planning process.