Picture this: You just got your financial aid disbursement for the semester. Yay! You’re rich!
This is probably how I felt every time this happened:
Before you go running buying all of the back-to-school Target catalog, you need to follow these steps:
- Set aside money for housing. This is one of the first things I ever did when I got my disbursement. I was depending solely on financial aid to pay for housing, so I wanted to make sure I always had a roof over my head. I lived in a cheap apartment a little bit away from campus, but it saved me thousands of dollars in the end. Pay your rent up front for the semester if you can.
- Dump some money into your emergency fund. Prepare for the inevitable tragedy that will happen during your semester. Flat tire, broken computer, health expenses–you name it, if it happens, you need to be ready.
- Plan out your expenses on a semester basis. You have to make this money LAST. For that, you can use our handy semester-based budget that can help you map out your budget from September to December. Food, transportation, rent, everything is listed on this Google sheet, and I wish I had one of these in college instead of putting them down in a notebook!
- Needs first, wants second. Take care of all the bills you NEED to pay before indulging. If you have a part-time or full-time job, and you are also getting financial aid, your financial aid money should address school-related expenses, such as: tuition, fees, books, and materials. Anything that is left over goes to your savings account. After you have taken care of as many bills as possible, then you can see if there is anything you can use to have a little fun.
Our online education platform, iGrad, has a great article on how to articulate your goals for budgeting. Read here for more info.
What if I don’t know where to start?
You can visit us at our office in the South Austin Campus, room 1114 (in the Student Services suite), or go online to make an appointment for a personal financial coaching session.