Financial basics

One of the most important skills you can learn in life is to manage your finances.

This can include handling what money you have wisely, planning for changes, and preparing for the unexpected. Explore these topics below to gain a better understanding of how to manage your finances.

Creating short, medium, and long term financial goals are a great way to start managing your finances. To handle the money you have now or will have in the near future, you will need to create a budget. T

Here are some great templates:

  • Budget Spreadsheet: A prebuilt budget template with fields for costs of living and school and additional fields for income
  • Student Budget Spreadsheet: A prebuilt budget template with fields for costs of living and school
  • S&T Budgeting 101: A great presentation from one of your very own S&T M³ Peer Counselors

Want to know more about budgeting?

Check out these sites:


Knowing the difference between “wants” and “needs” is an important part of learning to manage money, especially in college. It's easy to spend money, and even easier to spend money when you’re out with friends.

Things like eating out excessively, partying, or upgrading to the latest smart phone are examples of wants. Needs are essentials that you must have to survive, for example food, housing, and clothing.

Before you buy something, ask yourself, “Do I need this item, or do I just want it?” You can be surprised at how many things are actually just “wants.”

Needs vs. wants exercise

Take a piece of paper (or download the needs vs. wants worksheet) and list some of your needs and wants to compare them to figure out where your money is going.

  • Do you spend more on wants or needs?
  • Are there some of your wants that you could live without?
  • See if you can shorten your wants list.

College student credit cards are easy to get and have some great rewards perks.  However, you need to be smart with it.  Remember you are taking out a short-term LOAN every time you swipe your card!  One with extremely high interest.  If you only make the minimum payment each month, you will quickly start racking up a huge debt.  Some tips:

  • Only keep one or two cards.
  • Never spend more than you can afford.  Not sure what you can spend each month? Check out our info on budgeting!
  • Pay off the full amount each month if possible. 
  • Always try to pay credit card debt off before other debt.  This is because that high interest will soon add up. Make sure you don't default on your other loans though!

Don't think having a credit card is worth dealing with?  Think about all the benefits it can get you later in life (that is if you use it wisely).  Student credit cards are an easy way to help you start establishing credit.  Credit helps you get banking benefits, better loan rates when buying a house or car, starting a business, and even getting a job in some industries.

For more information about credit cards, view U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 student credit card survey.

Graduation coming up?  Make sure you know what you owe!  Don't be surprised when lenders start asking you for money, and be prepared to know about your options by completing Exit Counseling before leaving school. 

Look over this exit counseling presentation to learn more. There are three types of student loans: federal, university/perkins and private loans.

Federal Loans

Your Federal loans offered by the government may be called Stafford (subsidized or unsubsidized), PLUS, or Direct.  Federal Loan servicers can be found in the National Student Loan Database System at  Look at the NSLDS overview for steps on navigating NSLDS.

Parent Plus borrowers should log in using their Parent FSA ID; student borrowers of federal loans should log in with their Student FSA ID.  Information on who a borrower’s servicer is and the amount borrowed will be in the database.  Here's a great tip sheet to help keep track of who you owe Before You Go… You Should Know.

  • All students are required to complete exit counseling when they graduate, transfer, or drop below half time enrollment.  This is a learning module with quizzes to help students understand interest, repayment, and repayment plan options.  While exit counseling itself does not trigger repayment, it is necessary to be completed every time a student graduates, transfers, changes degree program (for example: undergraduate to graduate), or drops below ½ time. Make sure you complete this at!  To prepare, review our exit counseling tip sheet.
  • You have a 6 month grace period after graduating (or dropping below half-time enrollment), and then your loan servicer will ask for payments. 
  • Don't ignore your servicer!  Student loan default has serious repercussions, such as negative credit rating, tax refund loss, more debt, and even legal action.  Talk with your servicer about options that may be available to you.   Information on federal loan repayment plans, consolidation, and deferment can be found at

University and Perkins loans

University loans are loans offered through the university and are called various names such as Ellis, Crum, Doyle, Silver, Gold, Stubbins, Schrenk, Armstrong, Alumni, Prange, Harmon and Townsend.  Perkins is a federally funded loan, but it is offered through the university and repayment will be similar to other university loans.

Most university loans, like federal, have a six month grace period but can be paid back before graduation as well.  If it is during the current academic year, the borrower can reduce the amount of the current year's university loan by emailing and stating how much they would like the loan reduced to.  If the loan has already disbursed and resulted in payment to the student account, the borrower will be required to pay back S&T’s Cashiers Office at the next billing cycle.

If it is past the academic year the loan was borrowed, a student has already graduated or left the university, or if a borrower would rather pay off the lender directly, the borrower should go to  More information on university loans and ECSI can be found through Student Loan Collections.

Private loans

Private loans are loans provided through an outside affiliate such as a bank or online lender.  While S&T cannot recommend one private lender over another, a historical lender list can be found at FAST Choice.  These loans must be paid separately from federal and university loans, as they are through whatever outside agency the student chose to lend from.   Borrowers should contact their lender directly for information on repayment as all lenders have separate requirements.

When you’re in college, it can feel like everyone is telling you to think about the future and to save money for that future. You’re expected to know how to manage your money, even though you may have never gotten experience doing so. The best thing to do is to start at the beginning. Think about the areas specific to your life where you spend money, and then think about how you might be able to save money in those places.

For help getting started, take a look at this presentation with some great tips on saving money as a college student, from a college student (created by your M³ Peer Counselors): Avoiding Poverty 101

Students needing to file taxes are able to use the tax preparation services offered by the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. Clinics are held at several locations throughout Rolla until April 17. Tax-Aide offers free, individualized tax preparation for low to moderate-income taxpayers. For more information or to book an appointment, taxpayers may call one of the locations by using the Tax-Aid Site Locator.