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Know where your money goes! Dollar Sensei

Whether you're new to college, preparing for grad school, or balancing a career and studies, managing your money doesn't have to be a juggling act.

With a little time, and by focusing on these three steps, you can free yourself from the stress of money worries, meet your responsibilities, and maybe even save a little extra for yourself.

Organize
Start by gathering all your financial documents. Keep them in a convenient spot. You’ll need things like:

  • Monthly bills
  • Student loan records
  • Checking and savings account records
  • Pay stubs
  • Anything else related to your income and expenses

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Budget
Understand where and how you’re spending. The monthly budget is a time-tested tool that works. You can create one online or make your own by using a simple form to track:

  • Your income from all sources (work, financial aid, family, etc.)
  • Your expenses – everything that you spend money on each month
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   Expenses: What to list
   List on your worksheet everything that costs you
   money, including:

  • Fixed expenses: Rent, utilities, cell phone and Internet bills, car insurance, gas, food.
  • School-related expenses: Tuition and fees, books and other supplies.
  • Variable expenses: Everything else you spend, which may change from month to month, such as eating out or buying clothes. Estimate what you’re likely to spend in a month.

   Evaluate your financial scenario
   Compare your monthly income to expenses. If you spend more than you bring in, you’re juggling; that’s a stressful
   and risky scenario. Take some time to figure out how you can cut back on your spending, and then plan a way to
   make ends meet.

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Plan

Re-visit your budget every couple of months. Did you estimate correctly? Are you spending more on text messaging than you originally thought, or is your rent lower now because you have an extra roommate?
Be sure to re-calculate based on any changes.

Keep receipts. This is the best way to know how much you’re spending
on those extras. When it gets to be too much, just look at the receipts to
figure out how you can cut back.

Cut back.  Bring your lunch instead of eating out, rent a movie instead of going to the theatre, buy clothes only when you need them.

Go easy with credit cards. Debt builds quickly, and with it comes a lot of extra expense in the form of interest and sometimes hidden costs. If you
can’t afford to pay cash for something, then pass on it until you can.

Save a little each month. A savings account is the smartest thing you
can do. It earns interest and grows over time. Even a small amount every month can give you confidence and a sense of security.

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