Financial Fitness

Welcome to Financial Fitness! The Office of Financial Aid has put together this webpage to help you shape up your financial future. With the cost of higher education increasing every year, more and more students are finding themselves with large amounts of student loan and credit card debt. It is never too early to start taking steps to minimize debt, maximize savings, and secure your financial future.

Debt Management

Student Loans

During school:

  • Borrow only what you need Loans are not free money and need to be paid back
  • Know what you are signing!
  • Keep track of what you've borrowed and who you've borrowed from. You can view your federal student loan history at
  • Make interest payments while in school. Paying the interest will help reduce the overall amount you will end up paying back over the life of the loan.
  • If you have questions about the loans, ASK!!!!

After school:

  • Know your options. Different loans offer different repayment options.
  • Be sure to update your lenders of address changes. Not receiving a bill is not a valid excuse for missing a payment.
  • Ask about auto debit. Some lenders will offer an interest rate deduction if you enroll in automatic debit.
  • Pay on time! Avoid late fees! Late payments are also reported to the credit bureaus and can adversely affect your credit rating.
  • If you have questions about the loans, ASK!!!!!

Credit Cards

"55% of college students acquire their first credit card during their first year in college, and 83% of college students have at least one credit card." Senator Akaka, Credit Card Minimum Payment Warning Act, May 21, 2004.


  • Provide credit record
  • Online purchases
  • Available for emergencies
  • Pay for purchases over time
  • Frequent flyer miles or points


  • Can create excessive debt
  • Interest can be high
  • Repayment could be 3 to 5 times the original amount
  • Too many cards increase default risk
  • Card numbers can be stolen by different means (ie. Physically, over the Internet, over the phone, etc.)


  1. Don't have too many cards (if any)
  2. Reduce available balances if not needed
  3. Close unneeded accounts
  4. Beware of low introductory rates
  5. Be wary of "predators" (ex receive a free t-shirt if you apply)
  6. Don't apply for individual store cards, which typically have higher interest rates
  7. Don't charge unless you need to

Budgeting And Living Within Your Means

How to Make a Budget

  1. Make a list of your values. Values are things that are really important to you.
  2. Set your goals.
    • Goals are mini-steps that help you maintain your values.
    • Make goals for the next three months, the next year and the next three years. The goals for each time period do not have to be the same.
  3. Determine your income. Figure income you actually receive
    after any deductions.
  4. Determine your expenses.
    • Fixed expenses: rent, loan, payments, etc.
    • Flexible expenses: food, clothing, entertainment, etc. These vary from month to month. Keep receipts so you can see what you are spending. Keeping track may surprise you on how much you are spending!
  5. Create a spending plan.
    • Your total expenses should be less than or equal to your total income.
    • Adjust your spending plan if your income is not enough.
  6. Pay yourself first! Start an emergency savings fund equal to three to six months of your normal monthly earnings.
  7. Be careful with credit cards.
  8. Keep track of your expenses.
  9. Periodically evaluate your spending plan and make adjustments as needed.

Tips for Living Within Your Means

  • Use credit wisely.
  • Don't increase your debt as your salary increases.
  • Reduce grocery store purchases by reducing impulse buying. Make a list. Use coupons only for things you would purchase anyway.
  • Bring your lunch from home. Eating out is a big drain on your finances.
  • Look at monthly fringe expenses. Can you eliminate memberships, newspapers, magazines or cable television?
  • Purchase your drinks at a grocery store in bulk is much cheaper.
  • Review current services. Can you change or reduce a cable or phone service? How about cell phone service? Do you need the extra text messaging or media packages?
  • When using ATM machines, avoid those that assess service charges.
  • Keep your checkbook balanced. Knowing how much is in each account prevents bounced payments.
  • If you have trouble making the payments on your monthly bills, contact your creditors and set up a workable plan for repayment.

Credit And Credit Reports

Your credit report is similar to your college transcript and will reflect your credit history. A credit rating score is a numerical value assigned to you based on your credit history. Low credit scores can affect your ability to buy a home, car or even get a cell phone.

What is on Your Credit Report?

  • Personal identifying information-name, social security number, date of birth, current and previous address and employers.
  • Credit account information- date opened, credit limit or loan amount, balance, monthly payment and payment history.
  • Public record information-bankruptcy, tax and other liens, judgments and, in some states, over due child support.
  • Inquiries-names of companies that requested your credit report.

Your credit report does not contain information on checking or savings accounts, medical history, race, gender, religion or national origin; credit scores; friends; political preferences; or criminal record.

Generally negative information stays on your credit report for seven years -10 in the case of some bankruptcies. Positive information stays on indefinitely. Inquiries stay on for six months to two years, depending on the type of inquiry.

When looking at your credit report, most potential creditors consider the following:

  • How promptly do you pay your bills?
  • How many credit cards do you hold?
  • What is the total amount of credit extended to you?
  • How much do you actually owe on all of your accounts?

Request Your Credit Report

A federal law now gives U.S. citizens the right to receive a FREE credit report once a year. To request your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreportcom. You will be able to view and print one or all of your credit reports reported by the three major credit reporting agencies.

A fee may apply if you request more than one copy from the same credit reporting agency within a year from your original request date. However, if you have denied credit you can get a copy of your credit report for free within 60 days of the denial.

Maintaining Good Credit

  • Establish credit while in school
  • Keep in mind apartment leases and utilities may provide some credit history
  • Review your credit report yearly
  • Make corrections to your credit report when needed
  • Be wary of stolen identities
  • Too much credit reduces your credit rating
  • Bounced checks are reflected on your credit report

Clean up Your Credit

You have missed or are late with a few payments. It's no big deal, right? WRONG! A less-than-perfect credit rating will make it difficult - if not impossible - for you to get credit when you want or need it. You may have other problems too, such as renting an apartment or getting a job. What do you do?

  • If possible, pay off your past due accounts.
  • Bring past due accounts up-to-date and keep them that way!
  • Get a free copy of your credit report.
  • Wait until the credit bureau removes the bad ratings from your report before applying for more credit. In most cases, when you apply for credit, an inquiry is listed on your report.
  • Write a brief explanation for the poor rating to be included on future credit reports.

Additional Resources

Mapping Your Future

JumpStart Coalition for Financial Literacy


America Saves

National Foundation for Credit Counseling


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