Financial Literacy

Financially literate individuals use financial knowledge to make better financial decisions. From everyday spending to long-term financial planning, effective money management means using money to further your personal goals - no matter what they are.


Money Management Checklist for College Students

No student wants to interrupt his or her education because of financial troubles. Here is a checklist to help you manage your financial life while in school. 

  1. Apply for financial aid. Do you need money for college? There are many resources to help you pay for school. The first resource you should consider is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form at fafsa.gov. At StudentAid.gov, you can find out how to prepare for college, career school, graduate school, and professional school, what types of aid are available (including aid from the federal government, state where you live, or the school you attend), and how to apply for that aid. You can also download a video on the federal student aid process at StudentAid.gov/resources#aid-process-video

  2. Know about the student loans you owe. Did you borrow to pay for college? What is the balance of your federal student loans? When do you have to start paying your loans back? Where will you send the payments? Did you know that you may be eligible for a 0.25% percent rate reduction if you set up auto-debit payments? Take the first steps in managing your credit and student loans by viewing your “My Federal Student Aid” account at StudentAid.gov/login or downloading the myStudentAid mobile app to get an overview of all of your federal student loans. Watch the “Repayment: What to Expect" video at StudentAid.gov/resources#repayment-expect-video to learn about federal student loan repayment options.

  3. Maintain a bank account. Do you check your bank account online? Are there any ATMs near campus that don’t charge a fee? Bank accounts are a necessary tool to help you track, spend, and save money. If you don’t already have a bank account, learn more at consumer.gov/articles/1003-opening-bank-account. Keeping track of your expenses is a habit that will come in handy for future loan repayment.

  4. Create a budget and spend wisely. Ever wondered where all your money goes? Keep track of your expenses by creating a budget and checking it regularly. Budgets change over time. For example, if you move from a dorm room into an off campus apartment, you will have different expenses. Check out StudentAid.gov/resources#budgetingvideo to find out how easy budgeting can be and find a method that works for you.

  5. Get into the habit of saving. Are you checking your budget? Great! Do you know how much you have in your online bank account? Fantastic! Now is the time to start saving (paying yourself first). Create an emergency fund for unexpected expenses; save up for grad school; put money aside to buy your first home . . . prepare for your future. Find out more about saving money at mymoney.gov/save-invest.

  6. Manage your credit cards. How many credit cards do you have? Do you know the interest rate for each card? Credit cards can come in handy, but they can also get you into financial trouble, so use them wisely. For more information, check out mymoney.gov/borrow. Page 2 of 2

  7. Monitor your credit score. Did you know that after college you still have a GPA of sorts? It’s called a credit score. Paying your bills on time will help you keep your credit in good shape. A good credit score can lead to all sorts of financial advantages such as cheaper insurance premiums and lower borrowing costs. Your future employer may even choose to review your credit report as part of the hiring decision. Protect your credit and review your credit report. Find out more at consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans.

  8. Protect your identity. How many times have you had to complete a form and list your Social Security number (SSN)? College students are easy targets for identity theft, so watch out for criminals trying to steal your personal information and protect your identity by not sharing your SSN unless it is required. Find out how to protect yourself from identity theft while in school at StudentAid.gov/scams. Learn about identity theft in general at consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft. Following this checklist will help you save time and money during your college years
Following this checklist will help you save time and money during your college years.

Financial Health

The concept of financial health, including smart decision-making.

In this topic, you'll learn:

  • Trade-offs between school, work, and money.
  • Traits of financially healthy students: organization, information, and focus on the future.
  • Average college student debt, including credit card debt.
  • Reasons why people find themselves in unplanned debt.

Financial Literacy 101 | Personal Finance Guide


Are you an Overspender? 

Are you an overspender? Answer yes or no to the following questions to find out.

  1. Are you still paying for purchases made a year ago? (Exclude payments on your home and car.)
  2. Do you race to get your paycheck to the bank before the checks you have written get there?
  3. Are your credit cards usually at their maximum credit limit?
  4. Do you use credit instead of cash, even when the purchase is small and you have the money?
  5. Are you often broke by payday?
  6. Do friends or family tease you about having "champagne" taste on a "beer" budget?
  7. Do you shop for recreation?
  8. Is your checking account frequently overdrawn?
  9. Do you notice mood swings when shopping down before you go, up while shopping, down again after adding your bill?
  10. When you receive statements from creditors at tax time, are you surprised at how much you've paid in interest?

If you answered yes more often than no, you may be a chronic overspender. The first step in getting your finances under control is recognizing the problem. The second step is deciding if now is the time you want to make a change. The third step is to take a realistic look at your financial picture, decide where the trouble spots are, and begin doing something, NOW. Maybe you need to get rid of your credit cards, or limit shopping trips with the person who always encourages you to buy things. Maybe you need a cooling off period before purchasing new tools, or clothes, or computer items. By trying to understand the situations that entice you to overspend and making a plan to handle those situations differently, you can make an important difference in your financial future.

Author: Ann Henderson, M.S., CFCS, Utah State University Extension Educator, Box Elder County

Sources Used: Successful Money Management (EC 428.1-4) by Dr. Barbara Rowe with Kay W. Hansen and Marsha M. Peterson, Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service, November 1990.