Financial Wellness Center

The Financial Wellness Center helps empower students to confidently navigate their personal finances and achieve their goals. Through free, one-on-one financial coaching, workshops, and digital resources, our Center can help you navigate a wide range of financial topics, including how to pay for college, navigate the FAFSA, budget, and manage credit and debt.

Creating a Budget

A budget is your own personal money plan. It helps you organize your finances and achieve your goals. Acting as a guide, your budget allows you see where your money comes from and helps you determine how it should be spent. Tracking your spending and keeping your expenses lower than your income will allow you to grow your savings and avoid unnecessary debt.

Your budget can be based around a month or a semester, whichever is easiest for you. To help you build your first budget, we’ve provided two downloadable templates. You can complete them with Excel or print them out and do them by hand. If you prefer something more interactive, you can use a free budgeting app, like mint.com.

Monthly Budget (Excel)

Semester Budget (Excel)

Additional Budget Tips
  • Make it Realistic. Just like you, your budget is unique. It should reflect your real, lived experience. Avoid overestimating your income or underestimating your expenses. Remember to include some “fun” money for hanging out with friends, going out to eat, or purchasing hobby supplies.
  • Pay Yourself First. A budget should always include some savings, whether that’s $1 or $100. By making your savings one of your most important bills, you set your financial health as a priority.
  • Keep a Money Diary. Spending can be both emotional and rational. Try keeping a money diary for a week. Jot down how much you spent, when, and why you spent that money. This will help you build your budget and understand what your spending triggers are.
  • Adjust along the way. Take time every month to sit and adjust your budget. If you overspent in one area but underspent in another- try moving money between categories to better fit your needs. Be sure to include additional spending categories, like birthdays and holidays, on their accompanying months.

Saving as a Student

Saving for future goals and emergencies is an important part of developing financial wellness. At one time or another, we will all experience an unexpected financial emergency. That could be a medical bill, car repairs, or a surprise ticket. Having money in savings makes these emergencies an inconvenience rather than a catastrophe.

You may think your budget is too tight to save, but even small savings can add up over time. The two charts below break saving down into easy goals by week. Tape a chart to your wall and with just a few dollars each week, you can save $500 or $1000 in a year!

$500 Savings Chart (PDF)

$1000 Savings Chart (PDF)

Additional Saving Tips
  • Make it Automatic. Automatically send a portion of your paycheck to a savings account or use an app that rounds up charges and places the difference into a savings account.
  • Save your Windfalls. If you receive a tax refund, scholarship refund, or financial gift- place a portion directly into savings.
  • Swap out Expensive Habits. Try finding ways to save while still doing the things you love. Swap out online shopping for thrift shopping, get your hair or nails done at a student salon, borrow books from the library, or have friends over for a meal at home. Reroute the money saved into your emergency fund or savings.

Understanding Credit

Credit has impact on many facets of our lives. Your credit history affects the fees and interest rates you will be expected to pay when you take out an auto loan, mortgage, or any other type of loan. Landlords may check your credit when you rent an apartment and 30% of employers now run credit checks during the hiring process.

What is a Credit Report?

A credit report is a record of your credit history. It includes personal information, credit accounts, bills in collections, public records, and a list of credit inquiries. Credit bureaus collect, organize, and store this information in your credit report. That information is then made available to lenders, landlords, and other parties that you authorize to access your report.

The three largest credit bureaus are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You are eligible to access your credit report for free from each of these institutions once per year. To access your credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com. Accessing your credit report will not impact your credit score.

As you review your credit report, you should look for any incorrect information. Errors on your report may mean your identity has been stolen. College students are often targeted for identity theft because they have limited credit history and rarely review their credit reports. If you see an error on your report, you should contact the reporting agency to dispute the information.

Your credit score is not provided on your credit report. It is a three-digit number calculated based on the information in your credit report. These scores generally range from 300 to 850. High scores are better and indicate to lenders that you are likely to make your payments on-time and in-full. Many banks and credit card companies will provide credit scores to their members for free.

Navigating Credit Card Use

Credit cards are one of the most widely used forms of credit. A credit card allows you to borrow money in real time, up to a predetermined limit. Responsible credit card use can be a great way to build your credit history and boost your score.

While there are many positives to credit cards, they can also cause problems if you are not well informed. Your credit card limit is not additional income. Every time you pay for something on a card, you are responsible for paying it back. If you do not pay off your balance each month, you will be responsible for that value PLUS any accrued interest.

Additional Credit Card Tips
  • Understand the interest and fees. APR, or annual percentage rate, is the interest rate you will be charged if you carry a balance over from month to month. Credit cards may also have other fees. These could include late fees, foreign transaction fees, over the limit fees, or annual fees. Always compare a few cards before making a decision.
  • Make on-time payments, every time. Paying on time allows you to avoid late fees or negative credit effects.
  • Don’t carry a balance from month to month. You can avoid interest by paying in full each month.
  • Start small. Keep your credit utilization low and build a habit of responsible credit use by putting small regular charges, like utilities or gas, on your card.

Interested in Learning More?

One on One Coaching Appointment

Working one-on-one with a financial coach is a great way to define your goals, make an action plan, and get answers to your financial questions. All UMKC students are eligible for free, one-on-one financial coaching sessions. Coaches can help students create a budget, make a plan to pay for college, understand student loans and repayment, and navigate credit.

To schedule a financial coaching appointment, please contact our Financial Wellness Coordinator, Anna Zimmerman, at azimmerman@umkc.edu.

Request a Presentation

Workshops and presentations are available by request to all student organizations, staff, and faculty at UMKC. Presentation length, content, and delivery method can be customized to meet the needs of your audience. To schedule a presentation, please contact our Financial Wellness Coordinator, Anna Zimmerman, at azimmerman@umkc.edu. We ask that you request a presentation at least two weeks in advance.