While in College
You may have a large balance in your account at the beginning of the year if you've received financial aid. However, it is budgeted to last the entire semester and will go quickly if you don't properly manage the funds.
If you have a budget, you will be better prepared. But you have to follow through or you will not have sufficient funds to cover the cost of your education. Use the following forms to record your sources of income verses your expenses, which will enable you to see how much you can spend each month.
Your goal is to receive a degree from the University of Illinois. Because a college education is expensive, you will need to focus on this goal throughout your college years. Paying bills on time and staying out of debt is the key to having a good credit rating and starting off on the right foot after college. OSFA offers many resources for you to use regarding paying for college. Be sure to use these resources whenever you need them.
Credit Card Debt
A major problem for college students is credit card debt. To prevent this problem, you must acknowledge how easy it is to go into debt. Not paying your college bills or not paying back your loans can become a serious problem and could ruin your credit rating for a long time.
Having a credit card is a big responsibility and you should have an income to support it. You should not accept every card offered to you. Be sure you are in control of your spending and have a budget worked out ahead of time so the credit card spending does not get out of hand. Only use credit cards in emergencies and pay it off as soon as the bill arrives.
If you need help managing your debt, the Financial Wellness program offers assistance to students free of charge. Peer educators are available for one-on-one assistance with credit issues, budgeting, and much more. Contact them by phone at 217-244-5580 or visit them online for office hours and location information.
Follow these suggestions to keep track of your expenses:
- Fill out the Personal Expenses Sheet.
- Use past receipts and your checkbook register to estimate the amount needed to cover expenses.
- Keep track of your actual spending each day for one month.
At the end of the month, add your expenses from the Personal Expenses Sheet and put the totals on your College Monthly Budget Worksheet in the actual column. Subtract the actual column from the budgeted column and analyze the results by answering these questions:
- Did you stick to your budget or did you over-spend or under-spend?
- In areas where you over-spent, why did you?
- Is there any way that you can cut back on spending?
- Did your checkbook balance show that you spent a lot more money during the month than you accounted for on your personal record sheets? Try to pay more attention to your impulse purchases. They may be the cause of the discrepancy.
- If you spend beyond your budget and cannot cut back, you will need to look for additional sources of income such as a part-time job or loans for which you may be eligible.
Save for College
Families can save for college in numerous ways. We list and explain just a couple below.
Bright Start Savings, a tax advantaged savings program under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, is specifically designed to help you build a college savings. It is treated as investment income and should be reported on the FAFSA. If you have a College Savings Plan, the net worth of the plan is listed as a current investment.
Illinois College Bonds
Illinois College Savings Bonds are bonds that are specifically geared for families to help them fund the cost of their children's higher education, though they do not have to be used for college.
- Bonds are not subject to state or federal taxes.
- Bonds are zero coupon bonds, meaning they will be sold at a price lower than their final maturity.
- Instead of paying periodic interest, these bonds offer a fixed-cash payment at maturity.
State of Illinois College Bonds can be purchased from a brokerage firm. Prices of the bonds are subject to change, depending on the market conditions at the time of the sale. Bonus Incentive Grant Program Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has a Bonus Incentive Grant (BIG) program for students who pay for in-state college education with Illinois College Bonds. At the time the bond matures, you will need to contact the administrator of the Bonus Incentive Grant (BIG) program at the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC).