Managing Your Money

College is a time when students typically begin to assume greater responsibility for their personal finances.  While at Dickinson and as you prepare for your career after graduation, learn to make the most of your money by managing and spending it wisely.  The Financial Aid Office offers these practical and easy tips to help.

Budgeting

  • Develop a personal budget based on your income and savings. List your required expenses, such as food, gas, rent, living expenses, car payments, utilities and student loan payments.
  • Understand the difference between wants and needs and plan your purchases accordingly.
  • Know how much money you currently have and can expect in the near future.
  • Build an emergency fund.  Save money from each pay check and deposit it in a savings account.  Try to build a reserve equal to a few months income for unplanned expenses.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year for any mistakes or identity theft.  Be careful of advertisements offering 'free' credit reports but then require you to pay for a monitoring service.  Only AnnualCreditReport.com is authorized by the federal government to provide you with a free report once a year.  
  • Additionally, there are three credit bureaus which you can check annually for free.  Read your reports carefully and be sure to correct any mistakes.  A FICO score is calculated using the information in your credit report. It's important to know your FICO score because these are credit scores that most lenders use to determine your credit risk when applying for a loan.  FICO scores range from 300 to 850. The higher the score the better.  FICO scores are available through each of the three credit bureaus, but you will be charged a fee to obtain it.  The three credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Debt Management

  • Investigate and shop around before you apply for a credit card or take out a loan.  A credit check is done before you are approved.   Your FICO score will affect the interest rate you are charged.
  • Proper use of your credit card can improve your credit score and will determine the interest rates you will be charged on credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, etc.
  • Avoid maxing out your credit card.  Keep your balance well below your limit.
  • Pay more than the required minimum payment each month.

Student Loan Debt

  • You can view a listing of all your federal loans at the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). You will need to create an account and access the site using your federal 4-digit PIN (FAFSA PIN).  Here you will find a summary of all your federal loans, including amount owed, interest rate, and contact information for your lender(s) and servicer(s).
  • For Federal Direct Loans, you can log into the Federal Student Loan website to calculate estimates for your monthly payments using various repayment options. While extending the period of repayment will lower the amount you have to pay each month, you will pay more interest over the life of the loan.
  • If you have private alternative loans, you will need to contact your lender.
  • You may want to consolidate your loans, but you cannot consolidate federal loans with private alternative loans.
  • There are tax credits and deductions available to reduce your federal income tax burden.  A tax credit reduces the amount of income tax you may have to pay.  A deduction reduces the amount of your taxable income and may reduce the amount you have to pay.  IRS publication 970 (Benefits for Education) is available through the IRS.