Financial Literacy

For many students, college may be the first time that you will be on your own. That means that you will be making your own decisions without your parents’ input. Knowing how money works will be important for you to be financially healthy in the future.

College Costs

  • Keep track of your expenses.
  • Make a monthly budget.
  • If you have credit cards, be smart with them. Only charge the amount that you can afford to pay off every month. Limit yourself to one or two credit cards with low maximum balances and APRs.
  • Talk to roommates about money issues (food, bills, and other responsibilities). Make sure that all agreements and contributions are made up front.
  • Work part time while in college, especially if you can find an on-campus job.
  • Take advantage of student discounts.

Budgeting and Saving

  • Know how much money you have coming in!
  • List out all of your expenses for one week. This should include things like rent, car payments, car insurance, utility bills, recreational activities, etc. Knowing how you spend your money is important.
  • Create a budget: This should include your obligations as well as your “fun” money. Ideally the money coming in should be more than your expenses.
  • SAVE!!! To save money effectively, you should build savings (even if it is just a dollar) into your monthly budget.
    • When you get a paycheck, set aside a portion to go directly to savings.
    • Ask your employer to directly deposit some money into another account.
    • Create a “penny” jar that you can dump all your loose change into at the end of the day.

Get started here!

Credit Cards

Getting a credit card, as a college student, is easy! However, managing it is much more difficult. Here are a few things to know:

  • Remember that you are taking a LOAN every time you use your credit card!
  • Think before you use! Would a debit card or a secured credit card (declining balance that is prepaid) be a better option?
  • If you do have a credit card, make sure you look for the lowest APR, no annual fees, and find a credit limit that is right for you.
  • Only keep one or two cards.
  • Always track your credit card expenses.

Credit Reports

  • Know whether or not you have a credit report.
    • You have a credit report if you have a credit card, student loan, auto loan, or other loan history.
  • Know how to read your credit report.
    • Credit reports are looking at whether or not you pay your bills, if you pay them on time, how much credit you have, and how much you owe.
    • Credit reports also look at your employment, where you live, whether you rent or own, and any other public information.
  • Know how long information stays on your credit report.
    • This is categorized by type.
    • If it is positive, the information stays on your report forever.
    • If it is an inquiry (application for a new line of credit), then it stays on your report for six months to two years.
    • If it is negative, then the information stays on your credit report for seven years with some bankruptcies staying on for up to ten years.
  • Know your credit score.
    • Your credit score is a numerical value of how well you handle your credit. It includes your payment history, outstanding debts, types of credit you hold, and the length of time you have had specific lines of credit.
    • You can improve your credit score by not closing accounts, paying off your credit cards, not signing up for new credit cards, and making your payments on time.
  • Know how to protect yourself.
    • Protect your social security number. DO NOT carry it with you or give it out.
    • DO NOT give your information out over the phone or to unverified sources.
    • Shred financial documents.
    • Keep personal information secure.
    • Monitor your financial information (
  • Get help when you need it!
    • If you are having a difficult time paying your bills on time then you may need to speak with a professional.
    • Credit and debt counseling are confidential. They can help you deal with creditor phone calls, financial responsibilities, repairing and rebuilding credit, bankruptcy, and getting back on the path to financial success.
    • Many are non-profit and licensed.