Budgeting and Paying Bills
Living off campus can be great, but navigating new and inevitable financial responsibilities can be tough. We have put together some tips and resources to help you through this process. If you would like more information, check out the Financial Aid Department's Financial Literacy and Personal Financial Planning pages.
1. Open a checking account
This allows you to pay by check, automatically, or online instead of using money orders and gives you verification of payment, in the case of a dispute.
2. Pay online
Online banking and bill paying, which most banks offer, makes bill paying really fast and easy. Plus you save the cost of postage!
3. Use “Automatic Payment” when available
A lot of companies offer automatic payment withdrawal from your checking account. The exact payment is withdrawn on the same date each month. This is very convenient, unless you forget to account for that deduction. It is helpful to schedule automatic payments shortly after pay day or after you receive your financial aid - then you have a better sense of how much you can spend for the rest of the month.
4. Create a budget, and stick to it
Make a list of all your expenses, including food, coffee, gas, and entertainment. Then calculate how much money you have coming in, and make sure you have enough coming in each month to cover all your expenses. If you don’t, figure out what you can cut back on. It’s not a good idea to skip a payment here and there, because that can negatively affect your credit rating. Though it is important to learn how to create and manage your own budget, there are apps and programs that can assist with the process. Check out this New York Times review of apps to track income and expenses for more information.
5. Create a schedule
Map out when you should pay your bills each month. Try to narrow down your bill paying to a couple of times a month (pay day is a common date to schedule payment deductions).
6. Mail bills early
Mail your bills at least a week before their due date. Don’t be late! Some bills, especially credit card bills, charge late fees (to the tune of $30 or more!) as well as interest on unpaid balances. Also, some companies report your late payments to credit agencies, and this can damage your credit score.
7. Financial aid can help
Federal and state financial aid can be used to pay for rent and utilities expenses off campus. In fact, Western's Financial Aid Office automatically includes a standard allowance for the room and board expenses incurred by student aid applicants, regardless of whether they live on or off campus. Tip: students who must drive more than 150 miles per week to and from Western to attend classes may seek consideration for additional financial aid by filing a revision request form with the Financial Aid Office. Visit the Financial Aid Department's website for more information.