Chapter 11: Taking Control of Your Finances

Figure 11.1

A college student looking stressed out on the computer

Where Are You Now?

Assess your present knowledge and attitudes.

Yes Unsure No
1. I am confident I will make it through college without any financial hardships.
2. I realize that while in college I won’t have as much money to spend on things as in the past.
3. I plan to avoid debt as much as possible while in college so I don’t have large loans to pay back after college.
4. I am willing to make sacrifices and spend less on some things while in college.
5. I keep track of all my expenditures and maintain a budget so that I know when I am spending too much.
6. I believe I can have a happy and fulfilling life while a student without having a lot of money.
7. I know the best kinds of jobs to seek while in college.
8. I always pay off the full balance on my credit cards when the statement arrives.
9. I have applied for every possible form of financial aid to help pay for college.

Where Do You Want to Go?

Think about how you answered the questions above. Be honest with yourself. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your financial health at this time?

In financial trouble Very financially secure
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

In the following list, circle the three most important financial areas in which you think you may need to improve:

  • Making more money
  • Finding the best job
  • Spending less money
  • Living more cheaply
  • Paying bills on time
  • Avoiding overdraft and late-payment fees
  • Making a budget
  • Sticking to a budget
  • Controlling credit card spending
  • Getting help with personal finances
  • Saving money
  • Keeping good financial records
  • Building a good credit history
  • Applying for financial aid

Are there other areas in which you can improve your financial well-being and avoid potential money problems while in college? Write down other things you feel you need to work on.




How to Get There

Here’s what we’ll work on in this chapter:

  • Setting realistic financial goals for your college years
  • Choosing between making more money and spending less money
  • Accepting the financial realities of college and being happy with your financial choices
  • Discovering what kinds of jobs are more fulfilling while in college and how to find them
  • Tracking spending using a budget and managing your budget to stay on track
  • Spending less while still having fun, eating well, and having a social life
  • Using a credit card without getting into debt
  • Avoiding future financial problems while building a good credit history now
  • Getting all the financial aid you can


What is a chapter on personal finances doing in a book on student success? If you’re a new college student you may not yet have money problems or issues—but most college students soon do. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a “traditional” college student enrolled in college just after high school or a “nontraditional” student returning to school.

Younger students are likely to confront money issues for several reasons:

  • If you are living away from home for the first time, you may have less experience setting and sticking to a budget and handling money in general.
  • Because you need more time for studying and other aspects of college life, you may have less time to work and make money.
  • Even if you receive financial support from your family, your funds are not unlimited, and you’ll need to learn to live within a budget.
  • You will have many new expenses including tuition and fees, room and board or housing and food bills, books and supplies, and so on.

Nontraditional students who have worked or started a family before attending college may have already learned to manage their money well but usually still confront some financial issues:

  • Because you need more time for studying and college, you likely have less time to work and make money.
  • You will have many new expenses including tuition and fees, books and supplies, and so on.
  • You are more likely to have to juggle a budget that may include a family, mortgage, and other established expenses.

Almost everyone eventually has money issues at college, and they can impact your academic success. Money problems are stressful and can keep you from concentrating on your studies. Spending too much may lead you to work more hours than you might otherwise, giving you less time to study. Or you might take fewer classes and thus spend more years in college than needed. Worse yet, money problems cause many students to drop out of college entirely.

But it doesn’t have to be this hard. Like other skills, financial skills can be learned, and they have lifelong value. This chapter will help you

  • set financial goals,
  • consider jobs and making money,
  • learn how to spend less and manage a budget,
  • avoid credit card debt,
  • determine how best to finance your college expenses.


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