Our suggestions will help you manage your college finances successfully.
Know Your Payment Options
Explore payment plan options to pay your University of Illinois charges:
University Payment Plans are administered through University Student Financial Services and Cashier Operations (USFSCO), which lets you spread out payment of anticipated tuition, mandatory fees, and university housing expenses if you do not plan on paying your student account balance in full by the billing due date.
Know Your Saving Options
Families can save for college in numerous ways. Here are a just a few you can take advantage of:
Bright Start Savings, a tax advantaged savings program under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, is specifically designed to help you build college savings. It's treated as investment income and should be reported on the FAFSA. If you have a college savings plan, the net worth of the plan is listed as a current investment.
Illinois College Savings Bonds
Illinois College Savings Bonds are specifically geared to help families fund the cost of their children's higher education, although they don't have to be used for college.
Illinois College Savings Bonds can be purchased from a brokerage firm. Prices of the bonds are subject to change, depending on the market conditions at the time of the sale. They aren’t subject to state or federal taxes, and they’re zero-coupon bonds, meaning they’ll be sold at a price lower than their final maturity. Instead of paying periodic interest, these bonds offer a fixed-cash payment at maturity.
In addition, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has a Bonus Incentive Grant (BIG) program for students who pay for in-state college education with Illinois College Bonds. At the time the bond matures, you’ll need to contact the administrator of the BIG program at the ISAC.
For more college savings tips, visit the College Savings Plans Network.
Utilize Our Services
University of Illinois Extension offers a Financial Wellness program to help you learn to manage your money more effectively and make wise financial decisions. It provides the following services free of charge to students:
- One-on-one assistance by trained peer educators on budgeting, credit issues, and utilizing job benefits
- Presentations to campus clubs and organizations
- A resource center with helpful financial education materials
- Referrals to related community and university financial services
Program educators are conveniently located in the Wellness Resource Center inside the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). Give them a call at 217-244-5580 or visit them online for office hours.
You may have a large balance in your account at the beginning of the year if you've received financial aid. However, it's budgeted to last the entire semester and will go quickly if you don't properly manage your spending.
Set a Realistic Budget & Track Your Expenses
If you have a budget, youll be better prepared, but you also have to follow through. Otherwise, you may not have enough funds to cover the cost of your education.
You can set a realistic budget by recording your sources of income versus your expenses, which will enable you to see how much you can spend each month. Follow these steps:
- Fill out the Personal Expense Sheet. Use past receipts, your checkbook register, and your online bank account to estimate the amount needed to cover these expenses.
- Keep track of your actual spending each day for 1 month.
At the end of the month, add your expenses from the Personal Expenses Sheet and put the totals on your College Monthly Budget Worksheet in the actual column. Subtract the actual column from the budgeted column and analyze the results by answering these questions:
- Did you stick to your budget, overspend, or underspend?
- In areas where you overspent, why did you?
- Is there any way you can cut back on spending?
If your balance shows that you spent a lot more money during the month than you accounted for on your personal record sheets, try to pay more attention to your impulse purchases. They may be the cause of the discrepancy.
If you spend beyond your budget and can't cut back, you'll need to look for additional sources of income, such as a part-time job or loans for which you may be eligible.
Avoid Credit Card Debt
A major problem for college students is credit card debt. To prevent this problem, you must acknowledge how easy it is to go into debt. Not paying your college bills or not paying back your loans can become a serious problem, ruining your credit rating for a long time.
Having a credit card is a big responsibility, and you should have an income to support it. You shouldn’t accept every card offered to you. Be sure that you’re in control of your spending, and work out a budget ahead of time so your credit card spending doesn't get out of hand. Only use your credit card in an emergency, and pay it off as soon as the bill arrives.
If you need help managing your debt, our university's Financial Wellness program can offer assistance.
Your goal is to receive a degree from Illinois. Because a college education is expensive, you’ll need to focus on this goal throughout your college years. Paying bills on time and staying out of debt is key to having a good credit rating and starting off on the right foot after college. Use these tips and the other resources we provide whenever you need them.