Money Management for Students

To make your money meet your expenses, the first thing you need to do is create a budget. If your income, including financial aid, doesn't equal or exceed your projected expenses, you will need to either increase your income (work or borrow more) or decrease your expenses.

Use this worksheet to estimate your income and expenses.

Additional CMU cost information: CMU Cost of Attendance Calculator, tuition rates, housing payment schedule.

Your actual line items might vary. Be honest about your needs and wants, but realize that you can't have it all.


Income (not monthly, but for the academic year):

________ Loans
________ Grants and scholarships
________ Fellowship or stipend
________ Savings at beginning of school year
________ Money from family
________ Work income during school year
________ Other
________ Other
________ Total Income

Expenses (fall/spring):

________ Tuition and fees
________ Books and supplies
________ CMU Room and Board

________ Apartment rent
________ Groceries
________ Apartment utilities (including deposits)
________ Apartment deposit
________ Apartment supplies (cleaning, tools, furniture, dishes, cookware)

________ Local transportation (car, bus)
________ Clothes, grooming, laundry
________ Cell phone
________ Take out and restaurant food and beverage
________ Entertainment (movies, DVDs, parties)
________ Other
________ Other
________ Other
________ Total expenses

________ Enter your total income(from above)
________ Enter your total expenses (from above)
________ Subtract to get your bottom line

Are you living within your budget?

If your bottom line is positive, you're in good shape.
If your bottom line is negative, consider the tips below to balance your budget.


If you receive financial aid…

Financial aid is intended to cover a very modest student lifestyle, including only the basics: tuition and fees, room and board (double room, basic meal plan), books, and a small amount for personal expenses such as clothing, laundry, haircuts, long distance charges, an occasional movie or dinner out. Financial aid is NOT intended to pay for a car for undergrads, cell phone, spring break trip, iPod, cigarettes, or building a great CD or DVD collection.

>For each expenditure ask yourself: Do I really need this?

If you are taking out student loans to cover "extras" do you really want to be paying interest years after graduation for things you could do without for now? Your time at CMU is a terrific chance to meet and mingle with people of many interests and cultures. Think of this as a free source of entertainment and enrichment.

>Protect your future: Don't borrow more than you need.

If you don't need the entire loan you are offered, just reduce your loan on Central Link under "Financial Aid Status"

Consider your living arrangement.

Is that luxury apartment really a good deal? Do the math. If you live on campus, your "rent" includes all the food you need (even prepared for you with no dishes to do!), your bed linen, high speed internet, local phone service, and you can walk to your classes. In an apartment, in addition to your rent, you will have to find your roommate(s), purchase and cook your own food, get yourself to class, come up with a rent deposit, pay for utilities, and possibly buy furniture. For 2007-2008 CMU room and board is $7236 for spring/fall. That's about $804/month for your housing and FOOD!

Be careful with credit cards!

If you don't have the cash for a purchase, you probably can't afford it. However if you have a reasonable budget for personal expenditures and can pay off your credit card in full each month, you will be building good credit for your future.

Don't use an ATM card for an individual purchase if a fee is involved.

Do you really want to pay $2.25 for a $1.50 taco? These little fees add up fast.

Give yourself an allowance.

Know what you can afford to spend for goodies each month and make a monthly withdrawal. Divide that into weekly envelopes to help you stay within your budget.

Direct deposit is your friend.

A check in hand is easily spent. Have your earnings and financial aid deposited into your savings or checking account, and take it out only when you need it.

If you're not working, why not?

Working 15 hours a week could earn you $100/week or more. In addition to providing that income, your job could help you budget your time, increase your contacts, and build your skills and resume for your future career.

If you're having problems making ends meet, visit the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.

We're happy to help you work out a reasonable budget.

Outside sites with calculators and money tips:

Survey Reveals One in Four Students Leave College With More Than $5,000 in Credit Card Debt

Experts Examine College Debt and the 'Cost of Free'

CHICAGO, Aug. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- For college students, applying for a credit card to get a free t-shirt or other perk may seem harmless enough, but poorly managed finances during those college years can lead to significant debt and a bad credit score years after that t-shirt is worn and discarded. A recent survey found nearly one in four respondents (23 percent) left school with more than $5,000 in credit card debt. In fact, one in 10 respondents indicated they owed more than $10,000 for purchases made with credit cards.

"In college, I signed up for every credit card that was offered to me, so I left school with student loans and more than $3,000 in credit card debt," said 1999 college graduate Ken Kearney of Chicago, Ill. "It took me nearly nine years to repair the financial damage."

The survey also revealed that four in 10 people have signed up for a credit card to receive a free gift or special offer. More than half of those respondents (52 percent) left college with credit card debt.

According to a 2007 study by student-loan provider Nellie Mae, the average credit card debt for college students is about $2,748. For a person that makes minimum payments, it would take nearly 18 years and an additional $2,506.01 in interest, at a rate of 15 percent, to pay off their debt.

Credit card debt impacts more than just your wallet today. It can also affect your credit score well beyond your college years. The good news is students who understand their spending limits, adhere to a budget and make payments on time can build a solid foundation for future financial success. The following guidelines can help in those efforts:

  1. Understand finances -- Students need to understand exactly where their finances stand. Regularly reviewing financial statements along with their credit reports from all three credit reporting companies is a good way to understand where they stand at any given time.
  2. Watch for danger signs -- Negative records such as late payments and collection accounts can remain on credit reports for 7 years. Students can keep their future finances healthy by avoiding these problems from the beginning. Library, cell phone and video store late fees can sometimes be turned over to collection agencies who may then report them to the credit reporting companies. So graduates should keep an eye out for these as well.
  3. Create a spending plan -- Developing a monthly spending plan can help students understand how much they need to pay toward their debts and how much they can afford to splurge. Generally, low interest rates make it possible for graduates to spread their student loan payments over the life of the loan, but they should focus on paying off high interest credit card debts as soon as possible.
  4. Prepare for emergencies -- A few preparations for the worst-case scenario can help students and recent graduates avoid financial problems in an emergency. To start, they should build up enough savings to cover their expenses for two to three months. If they find themselves out of a job or unable to pay back their debts, graduates should immediately call their creditors and lenders to explain the situation. Many federal loan programs have deferment and forbearance programs that allow borrowers to put their debts on hold temporarily.
  5. Consider consolidating -- Look into your loan consolidation options. Often, students who consolidate within six months of graduation or who sign up for automatic payments can save even more.


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Phone: 989-774-4000

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