This Month’s Hot Topic
Money… We all need it. Whether you have embarked on a college journey, entered the workforce, or are still determining your post-secondary path, economic and financial literacy is important. That is why this month, we are going to focus on exploring the state and federal college financial aid (FAFSA and PHEAA) and discuss budgets and savings.
FAFSA and PHEAA
What is financial aid? Financial aid is money allocated exclusively for those earning a post-secondary education at universities or trade schools. Financial Aid can come in the form of grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study. The intention of financial aid to “make college or career school more affordable” (U.S Department of Education)!
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form created by the federal government and completed by current or prospective college students in the United States to determine their eligibility status for student financial aid. FAFSA collects information related to the student’s and their parent’s financial history–such as income, assets, and family size–to determine the expected necessary financial support. The FAFSA application opens this month (OCTOBER) and applies to the following academic year! (U.S Department of Education)
Are you ready to complete your FAFSA form? You can do it! Complete your application here.
These virtual resources are helpful for completing your application:
- How to Fill Out the FAFSA: This helpful video was created by the U.S Department of Education (who also created the FAFSA)! It walks you through the steps of completing your FAFSA and provides helpful tips.
- Filling Out the FAFSA® Form: This website outlines the process of applying and explains the different application components.
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is state-specific financial aid and includes the PA State Grant and other state-funded student aid programs. Additionally, PHEAA provides information on applying for non-PHEAA financial aid (including the FAFSA). Explore PHEAA services and aid options by visiting their website.
Budgets and Savings
What are budgets? Budgets are tools that can help you identify how much money to spend in various areas of life, such on bills, food, entertainment, clothes, etc. Budgets help you to stay on track with your finances and can reduce financial stress. Budgets can be made using a template or by scratch.
- To make a budget, you first need to determine your monthly income.
- Then, you need to identify your monthly expenses or bills and add up the total cost. These are items that must be paid every month. This could include insurance, phone, internet, electricity, subscriptions (Netflix, Amazon, etc.), and rent.
- Next, identify the amount you spend on food each month. To do this, you can look at previous grocery store bills and create a monthly average.
- Then, subtract your monthly food and bills expenses from your remaining monthly income. If your monthly expenses–bills and food–exceeds your monthly income or leaves you with little remaining balance, you need to identify areas where you can make some financial changes, such as eliminating a subscription or utilizing grocery coupons.
- You want to make sure that you have some designated income to spend on something fun or relaxing, which is where our entertainment category comes in. Identify an amount that fits your budget and lifestyle. This could mean allocating some funds for eating at a restaurant or dining hall once a month or spending money for a trip to the mall. It is important to plan for your entertainment to ease your financial stress and help you make wise choices.
- Next, identify an amount that you feel comfortable putting into a savings account. This allows you to save money for future expenses–such as a trip home, study abroad, or a new laptop–and emergencies–like medical expenses, car repairs, or a broken phone.
What are savings? Saving involve placing money into a separate bank account that you do not use for everyday purchases or paying bills so the amount can grow over time.
To make a budget, you can use a template on a Word Document, Excel Sheet, or GoogleDoc or create one in a paper notebook. If you would prefer one you have with you throughout the day, there are also helpful smartphone apps!
Some useful virtual tools for budgeting are listed below:
- Budgeting: This video was created by the U.S Department of Education and presents information and tips on budgeting during your college years.
- Best Budgeting Apps of September 2021: This article lists popular and useful smartphone apps for creating and using a monthly budget.
Self-Care Idea of the Month
Financial planning can be overwhelming so it is important to practice self-care. Self-care does not need to break the bank! Here is a free self-care idea to help you unwind this month!
One way to practice self-care is to intentionally explore and express gratitude. You can do this through setting aside time to journal, draw, or verbally respond to prompts that encourage identifying positive elements of your life. Gratitude prompts can be found complied into online lists, such as this list.
Here are some example gratitude prompts:
- What is one good thing that happened to you today or this week?
- What is something that brought you joy today or this week?
- What is something nice or kind that another person did for you today or this week?
- What is something that always makes your smile?
- List 5 things you love about your home or town.
- What is something you are looking forward to in the future?
- What is something that you are proud of yourself for accomplishing?
We recommend spending 15 minutes each week practicing gratitude! Please let us know how this self-care idea worked for you and if you have self-care ideas to share!