Borrowing Responsibly

As you determine the level of debt that is manageable for you to take on, review your budget needs carefully. Graduate Financial Aid is available to assist you with budgeting and to answer your questions about other concerns relating to financial assistance. See below a series of tips offering insight about how best to build and maintain your budget. 

Estimate Your Expenses

Making responsible borrowing choices requires knowing the total cost of attendance which includes estimates for other expenses you are likely to incur while you are in school. The total cost of your education is made up of direct costs and indirect costs for one academic year. Direct costs are those associated with your enrollment in a graduate program (e.g., tuition and lab fees) and are typically billed directly through the University. Indirect costs are those expenses necessary to attend the University such as housing and food, books and course materials, transportation, and other personal expenses.

Create a Budget

The idea of building a budget may seem overwhelming at first, but it can actually be quite simple. Here are a few steps to get you started on the right track!

  • Figure out your monthly income: Most student incomes are a combination of scholarships and financial aid, earned income, and other assistance.

  • Track your expenses: Keep a record of your expenses for at least a month. Keep track of your spending using a budget template, a computer spreadsheet, or an online budgeting tool like

  • Compare your expenses to your income: Total your monthly expenses and subtract them from your income. Ideally, your income will be greater than your expenses. If not, you will need to make adjustments.

  • Analyze your expenses: Sort your expenses into “need” and “want” categories. (Be honest!) If a “want” item isn't easily covered by your income, consider reducing or eliminating it from your expenses.

Borrowing Responsibly

Making the decision to borrow loans to finance your education represents a serious investment in your future. Such a commitment requires careful consideration of the future implications of your current financial decisions. Handling this long-term financial obligation can be made easier by using sound debt-management practices—both while you are in school and after you graduate. Federal Student Aid offers a Loan Simulator Tool to help assist students in determining the impacts of student loan borrowing.

Remember it is important to consider your financial goals when deciding if borrowing a student loan is right for you. Here are some goal-setting tips to keep in mind:

  • Determine what your goals are: Make a list of your goals—large and small. Don't worry about costs right now.

  • Categorize your goals by the time you think it will take to achieve them:

    • Short-term goals you will achieve within a year. This could be purchasing a piece of furniture or moving into a new apartment.

    • Mid-term goals you will achieve within one to five years. This could be financing your education, creating savings and investment goals, or planning for your post-graduate employment and living arrangements.

    • Long-term goals you will achieve in more than five years. This could include purchasing a house, starting a business, starting a family, paying off student loans, or beginning to plan for retirement.

Budgeting Tips

Making responsible borrowing choices requires having an overall knowledge of the total cost of your education, making reasonable estimations for your expenses, and knowing what some of your future goals include. Considering ways in which you can reduce expenses now can help you to achieve financial stability in the future. The following list contains some tips to consider when trying to budget and reduce expenses.

  • Take public transportation, use rideshares, bike, or walk instead of owning a car. You will save on parking, gas, repairs, and insurance.

  • Use credit cards sparingly and try to only charge what you can afford to pay off in one month. Paying down outstanding credit card charges as quickly as possible can have a big impact on the overall amount you owe.

  • Look at ways to cut monthly rent expenses. Share living expenses with a roommate can assist with this.

  • Buy previously owned instead of new furniture.

  • Before making housing changes, consider that most new apartments often require you to pay a first and last month’s rent plus security deposit, and that there are many expenses associated with moving.

  • Take advantage of the array of free and inexpensive entertainment available on campus (e.g., plays, concerts, clubs, gyms, museums).

  • Buy used books whenever possible or borrow books from friends or a library.

  • Shop where they offer student discounts and avoid impulse buying by creating a shopping list beforehand.