Financial Wellness for College Students

As the University of Louisville (UofL) Student Financial Aid Office, we hear firsthand how today’s students face mounting financial pressures. From managing living costs to planning for the future, developing financial literacy is how to achieve stability during college and beyond.

Being in college brings independence and the financial responsibilities that come with it. UofL’s Office of Student Financial Aid provides proactive tips and resources to help you budget wisely, control debt and establish healthy financial habits as a college student.

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Resources for Money Basics

KHEAA Money 101

The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) has put together all the basics about saving money, how your degree can affect your future earnings and how to understand everything from credit to borrowing money.

KHEAA Money 101

My Finance Academy

Manage your money as an informed student. Access courses, webinars, blogs and more insights tailored to college student finance through PNC banking’s My Finance Academy.

My Finance Academy

Planning College Costs

Financial wellness for college students starts with planning for costs such as tuition, textbooks, food, housing and unexpected expenses. It’s never too early or too late to plan out the costs and expenses of college and, importantly, how to manage and pay for them.

Find information on the University of Louisville's cost of attendance.

Estimate your costs using the Net Price Calculator tool.

Plan for the Future

If you’re still in high school, planning for your financial future is essential. From deciding on a career path to getting into an affordable college, review these resources and set yourself up for success.

KHEAA Plan for Your Future

Paying for College

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers information to help college students understand their financial aid offer and the terms for repayment of loans they take out.

Explore CFPB Resources

Budgeting as a Student

Our Best Tips

We’ve compiled our favorite tips for budgeting and financial wellness for college students.

  • Download a finance app like Rocket Money or create a basic spreadsheet on Google Sheets to track your spending.
  • Creating calendar reminders for bills can also help you avoid any missed payments.
  • Based on your known monthly expenses, determine budget categories (groceries, housing, parking on campus, insurance).
  • Set limits for each budget category to ensure you don’t spend more than you have coming in each month.
  • Check in on your budget! It’s not set-it-and-forget-it. Each month, review your budget and make adjustments based on what’s on the horizon. Are there any textbooks you need to buy next month? Do you know you have a weekend trip coming up?

Earning and Saving Money

  • Finding an on-campus job, part-time job or gig work while in college, even 5–15 hours per week, can help you be more financially stable.
  • Student discounts are your best friends. Make sure you have your school ID or email address and search for savings on subscription services like Spotify, Amazon Prime, and even local restaurants and retail businesses.
  • In the case of unexpected expenses or emergencies, save money each month to build an emergency fund – whether you have a part-time job or receive scholarships.

Find on-campus and part-time jobs with Cardinal Careers to help manage the cost of college.

Being Smart About Loans and Credit

Borrowing money through loans or opening credit cards is an area of college student financial literacy that can be overwhelming. Loans and credit can also have the most long-term effects on your life and should not be taken lightly.

  • Know what interest is and how it works. When you borrow money through a loan or using a credit card, the credit card company or issuer of the loan will charge interest during the time the money is not repaid. Whenever you borrow money, you will likely pay back a higher amount than you initially borrowed due to interest.
  • Credit cards must be paid back on a monthly basis. Loan repayments typically begin after you finish your last year of schooling.
  • Only apply for or accept a loan for your college education if you understand the repayment terms and have a plan to pay off the loan in the future.
  • Only spend on a credit card if you can afford to pay the balance immediately before interest accumulates.
  • One of the most common loan types to pursue is a federal student loan, which you can apply for by submitting your FAFSA.

Learn more about different types of student loans.

Loan Simulator

With interest, repayment options and different types of loans available, it can be complex and confusing to know what taking on a loan actually looks like. Use this Loan Simulator from to understand student loan options for your specific financial situation.

Use Loan Simulator

Financial Literacy FAQs

What is the 50-30-20 rule?

The 50/30/20 rule is a simple budgeting method that suggests that 50% of your income should be allocated to essential expenses, such as rent, groceries and bills, and 30% should be dedicated to personal wants, like dining out, entertainment or hobbies. The remaining 20% should be set aside for savings or paying off debts. By following these guidelines, you can create a balanced budget that covers basic needs, allows for some personal enjoyment, and encourages financial responsibility through saving and debt reduction.

Where can I find part-time job opportunities?

Part-time job opportunities for college students can be found through various channels. Firstly, check the college's career center, as they often have job listings on and off campus. Online job portals, such as Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkedIn, are also excellent resources. Be aware of local community boards and social media groups that offer unique and flexible opportunities. Networking with professors, alums and peers can also lead to job prospects.

How do you protect your financial information while in school?

Protecting your personal financial information is crucial. Start by using strong, unique passwords for your bank accounts. Be cautious about using a public WiFi connection for financial transactions; opt for a secure, private connection instead. Regularly monitor your bank statements for any unauthorized transactions. Be aware of scams – never give out personal information via email or phone to unsolicited requests. Lastly, consider tearing up, inking out or destroying documents with sensitive information before you throw them out. Opting for paperless billing reduces the risk of mail theft, especially as you move dorms and apartments throughout your college career.

What is an emergency fund? How much money should be in it?

Ideally, your emergency fund should have enough money to cover three to six months' worth of living expenses – but any amount in your emergency fund is better than having no emergency fund. The idea is to have a cushion to help you pay for unexpected costs without using high-interest loans or credit cards. As a college student, start an emergency fund by saving a smaller, achievable amount and gradually build it up over time. Prioritize this fund in your budgeting to ensure financial security during unexpected situations.

What is a credit score? Is it important?

A credit score is a number, usually between 300 and 850, that represents how reliable you are at paying back borrowed money. It's determined by your past financial behaviors, like how timely you pay your bills and how much debt you have. A higher score can open doors to better interest rates on loans, easier approval for apartments and more favorable credit card offers.

However, for college students, maintaining a good credit score can be challenging. Balancing studies, part-time jobs and budget constraints make financial management complex. Late payments, high credit card balances or taking on too much debt can negatively impact your score. It's important to be aware of these challenges and strive for responsible financial habits. Building a healthy credit score takes time and discipline but is a crucial step toward long-term financial wellness.

Financial Literacy Resources at UofL

Financial wellness for our students is a top priority at the Student Financial Aid Office. Whether entering college for the first time or considering graduate or professional school, caring for your finances is an investment in your future and an integral part of a valuable college education.

If you have questions about any financial decisions you are facing, feel free to contact the Student Financial Aid Office for support.

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