Paying For It All

Paying Bills

Managing money when you’re studying full-time or even part-time can seem like a juggling act of bills, textbooks, tuition, fees and waiting for the payday that always feels just a little too far away. Here’s some tips about how to tell your money where to go instead of instead of letting it drive you.

“If you want to have serious money, you need to get serious about your money.”
  • Define Financial Success:
    What’s your concrete definition of financial success? 

    • Is it having a minimum of $1000 in the bank at all times?  
    • Is it saving enough from a summer job to cover books and expenses during the school year? 
    • Try to get specific and calculate roughly how much that costs.
    • Use this number as your ambitious yet feasible long-term vision of financial success.
  • Create a Budget – Taking the time to develop a budget will allow you to pay yourself first, set your savings and spending goals, and help you be prepared for unexpected needs that crop up.
  • Pay Yourself First: 
    • Pay yourself first by setting a weekly or monthly savings goal and putting that in the bank first. See if you can set aside 10%  – 30% of each paycheck  and work toward a goal of having a $1,000  emergency fund set aside.
  • Pay off Debt: 
    • Once you  establish your own emergency fund, if you have any credit card debt or student loans, work on paying it off. 
    • You should prioritize paying off high interest debt like credit cards before lower interest debt like student loans.
    • If you have more than one line of credit, pay down the smallest balance until it’s gone. Then roll that extra you have into paying down the next smallest balance until you can quickly get out from under any high-interest debt.
    • Did  you know that you can pay down your loan even while you are still in college? If you get a tuition refund, put it towards your emergency fund. If you have an emergency fund, then put it towards student loans. 
  • Budget Planning Tools:
    • Mint is a free and easy-to-use budgeting tool that can help you plan and track your spending. Budgeting is the first step in directing your money instead of letting your money direct you!
    • Here’s a video on the primary components in a budget
    • Here’s a publicly accessible budget sheet you can use to draft your own budget.
    • A cost of living calculator can help you determine how much to budget for living expenses.
  • Score Deals
    • Money can be hard to come by but easy to spend. You work hard for it, but if  you don’t hold onto it, it can flow out the door in a steady stream. 
    • Before buying something, help yourself assess the value and need of a pair of shoes or a new phone by calculating the number of hours you would work to buy it, and ask yourself, “am I willing to work this number of  hours for this item?” 
    • Avoid impulse buys. Do research on the quality before you buy something and then do cost comparisons until you find the best quality item at the lowest price. 
    • Buy pre-owned and shop thrift stores and wear genuine retro.  
    • For example, Joe buys a new pair of boots for $50 every year. Those boots wear out in about a year and he has to go and buy another pair. Bill saved up for a few months to invest in a pair of much higher quality boots  worth $425 but that he found marked down to $250. These are higher quality and will last Bill 10 years. Who got the better deal? 
    • So remember: set clear and concrete savings goals so you can position yourself to buy quality over quantity.  To get you started on your bargain hunting check out this roundup of student discounts and deals – https://collegeinfogeek.com/student-discounts/!
  • Everything is Negotiable
    • Make it a habit to ask for a student discount everywhere you shop.
    • Most bill collectors are willing to work with you. After all, from their point of view, you calling is way better than you ghosting them, which would leave them with no other option but to spend more money on a collection agency to hound you. 
      • Negotiate a lower monthly payment: “Dear Sir, I know you are asking me to pay $50 a month to pay down my credit but I am doing my best with what I have and I simply don’t have $50 left over each month. I am able to pay $25/month on this bill. Would that work for you?”
      • Negotiate a lower total payoff amount: “Dear Loan Officer, I know that my remaining balance is $5,000. I can pay you $3000 right now if you will allow this to be my final payment and mark this debt as fully paid.”
      • Make a counter offer: You can always ask for a lower price or make a counter offer. “Would you be willing to take $7,000 instead of $8K for the car?” When buying appliances, “I know the sticker price says $1100 but will you take $800 for the floor model?”
    • Even in department stores, you’d be surprised to find what is negotiable. For example, Noreen was at the department store looking for a sweater. She saw a cute one that had a couple of loose threads where the hem was coming loose. She knew she could trim that and sew a couple of threads and it would be all good. So she told the salesperson on the floor real friendly-like how she liked the sweater but it had a loose hem and asked if she would be willing to mark it down. The woman gave her 15% off. 
  • Additional Resources

There can be many reasons why you may choose to work while in school, and for many students, it is a necessity to be able to pay for college. Here’s what you need to know about going to school while paying bills.

  • Pros and Cons of Working While in School 
    • It’s important to consider the pros and cons before making a decision.
      • Pros: 
        • You have extra money to cover your costs
        • You can gain work experience that will enhance your resume
        • You gain prioritization and time management skills
      • Cons:
        • You have less time to study
        • A job may conflict with other obligations that round out your college experience, like socializing and and extracurricular activities
        • Balancing work and school can be stressful
  • Cost of living calculator 
    • It is important to understand how much money you should budget for each year of college.  You can use this Cost of Living Calculator to calculate the living expenses for one year.
  • Employment 
    • Federal Work Study
      • Federal Work-Study is a program that offers part time jobs to students to allow them to earn money to pay for college.  
      • Work-Study is administered by your school’s financial aid office and the amount you earn is determined by the Work-Study awarded in your financial aid package.
      • The advantages of having a work study job is that it is usually on campus, you will be hired more easily even without a resume because three quarters of your pay will be covered by federal aid (there are jobs in the library, hospital, and many college and university offices), and you are guaranteed to make at least minimum wage.
      • Typically, a work study job will respect your hours of availability because they  want you to be a successful student.
  • Housing and Food 
    • There is a variety of housing types available and they will vary depending on the school.
      • On campus housing
        • On campus housing is any student housing or dormitory that is managed by the college.  These can vary widely, from shared rooms with one or more roommates and communal bathrooms to private single rooms.  Some schools may have dorms for students with a specific interest, for example music majors, or dorms that are restricted to freshmen.
        • On-campus housing can come with a meal package that provides you access to meals in university-managed dining halls or cafes.  Different meal packages may offer more flexibility in how and where you can spend your dollars.  Read more about meal plans here.
        • In your upperclassmen years, becoming a resident advisor (RA) is an option to reduce your housing costs.  Many schools offer free or reduced room and board for students who take on the responsibility of becoming an RA, which typically involves supporting students in the dorm and offering community-building programming.
        • Advantages to choosing on-campus housing could be that the housing options are very close to where your classes will be, you can bond with other students through living in close proximity, you do not have to worry about maintenance, and you can have the convenience of a meal plan without having to worry about cooking.
        • Disadvantages to choosing on-campus housing could be unpredictable roommate situations or having your housing close during holidays or long breaks like winter and spring break.  
        • When you consider your housing selection, it’s important to consider any cost difference as well as a living situation that you are most comfortable with.  It is also important to consider if the school has a requirement to live in on campus housing your first year.
      • Off campus housing
        • Renting an apartment or living at home and commuting to campus are common alternatives to living on campus.  
        • Renting an apartment can offer a significantly greater level of flexibility and independence but requires an investment of time to search for a suitable apartment or roommate.  It will also require time and money to buy furniture, and go grocery shopping on a regular basis. You may also have to budget additional time to get to class depending on where your apartment is located.
        • Living at home and commuting is an affordable way to manage costs while in college.  Many colleges may offer special programs to ensure that commuter students stay connected to the campus experience.  
  • Additional Tips
    • Ask for student discounts
    • Keep a budget and track what you spend
    • Utilize your campus meal-plan if you have one rather than eating out.  If you find you aren’t using your meal plan as much as you can be, considering getting a lower cost meal plan.
    • Minimize credit card purchases and pay off your bill on time.
    • Buy used textbooks and sell back textbooks you no longer need
  • Purpose of your resume
    • Your resume is an important way to market yourself because it communicates your skills, experience, and achievements.  Developing a resume will be useful for a job application and to ensure noteworthy accomplishments aren’t missed in your college application.
  • What to include in your resume
    • Your education
      • High school and graduation date
      • Any academic awards or honors
      • Adding your GPA is optional.  If you choose to include it, list it accurately without rounding up.
    • Extracurricular activities
      • List any extracurricular activities you participated in during high school and for how long
      • Examples could be volunteering, sports teams or clubs
      • It is important to highlight any leadership positions you held, such as captain of the basketball team or president of the student council
    • Work experience
      • If you held a job while in high school, list the job, the employer, the time period you worked there (e.g. 2017-2019), and an explanation of your responsibilities.
      • If you are using this resume to apply to a specific job, consider writing your work experience to connect what you have done to the job you are applying for.
      • For example, if writing skills are important to the job you are applying for, think about the writing you have done, such as “Drafted monthly employee newsletter” 
    • Skills
      • You can add a section if there are skills or training you would like to highlight that make you a good fit for a job, like “American Red Cross CPR certified” or “Familiar with Microsoft Excel and Word”
  • Tips for your resume
    • Utilize spell check and grammar check tools
    • Have someone else proofread your resume when you are done
  • Sample resumes
    • You can browse some sample resumes HERE.
  • What is a cover letter and when do you need one?
    • A cover letter is a one page document that explains your interest in a specific job.  It gives you the opportunity to explain more about yourself and why you are a good fit for the job.
    • Some jobs require a cover letter, while others say it’s optional or don’t ask for one at all.  Including a cover letter shows you are proactive and interested in the job.
    • You can browse some tips about what to include in your cover letter and see samples HERE.
  • Check out this list of youth job resources posted by the City of Chicago.
  • CPS Tutor Corps: The inequitable impact of the pandemic requires a response that targets interventions for the students who need the most support to recover and reach their potential. The CPS Tutor Corps is comprised of Chicagoans driven to see their city’s youth succeed. As a member of the CPS Tutor Corps, you will work either with elementary students (K-5) on reading or middle school students (6-12) on math.  Who will serve in the Tutor Corps?  Chicagoans who are community members, retired educators, recent CPS graduates, and college students.  Salary Tutors will be paid between $20-22/hour. Tutoring will happen during the school day and throughout the entirety of the school year. CPS will prioritize Tutor Corps applicants who can work 20+ hours. They will also prioritize candidates who can commit to tutoring for the entire year. You are required to commit to tutoring for one semester (September – December). For more information, click here.  Interested, apply here.
  • Chicago Regional College Program provides tuition assistance at any of our 7 partner colleges and universities and over 10 affiliate institutions.  You’ll earn a weekly paycheck and more working as a part-time package handler at the UPS facility in Hodgkins, IL.
    • Be newly hired to work 3.5 to 5 hours, average per shift.
    • Shifts are Monday through Friday at night (10 p.m to 3:30 a.m.) or early morning (3:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.)
    • Starting pay is $24.000 per hour on night or sunrise shifts.
    • Eligible for medical benefits, paid vacation after 9 months.
    • Free public transportation, paid for by UPS. Five routes bring employees to UPS: CTA Bus #169.  Pace Bus: #390, #392, #395, and #890.
  • Online jobs might be a great opportunity for college students with busy course loads to make money.  This article lists some popular online job opportunities for college students, and the job site Indeed allows you to search for jobs based on different criteria such as part time vs. full time remote jobs.
  • Many retail/fast food businesses are hiring!  Check out their websites for summer job opportunities:
  • Youth Job Center – YJC partners with young people to provide job preparation and wrap around services, including work readiness training like resume creation and interviewing skills, and continued career planning.  Their Next Stop program provides participants with a stipend while working on work readiness activities to determine their next steps.
  • College to Career Program – Free career counseling for Associate’s & Bachelor’s degree recipients.
  • LeadersUP – Free career coaches services committed to providing young people work-related support at any stage. Meet with coaches one on one virtually.  Services include resume support, mock interviews, draft cover letters, and career advice.
  • Chicago200 is an annual leadership program that convenes young (age 18-25) diverse leaders from across the Chicagoland area to address the question: “How will we make Chicago a city for all?”  
  • TA98‘s mission is to tackle the unemployment rates for young adults 16-24 by providing meaningful career opportunities.  Their programs equip young adults with 21st Century Skills by providing an intensive 8-Week Personal + Professional Development training.
  • BravenX is a 15-week virtual fellowship experience that equips participants with the skills, confidence, networks, and experiences necessary to launch a strong career.  It is aimed at participants in their sophomore or junior year of college who have a hunger to attain a strong post-grad opportunity, though all students who have completed at least one semester of college can participate.

Special Circumstances

We stand with DACA and Undocumented students and support your college aspirations, your right to dream big dreams, and pursue your goals. Here are some resources that can help along the way:

  • If you have an IEP, it is important that any math, reading, foreign language, or reading accommodations from your senior year IEP remain so that the most comprehensive possible document goes to college with you. 
  • Important note: It is your responsibility to obtain a copy of your IEP or 504 plan from your high school prior to graduating. You should request at least two hard copies from your school’s case manager– one to keep on file for yourself and one to take to your chosen college.
  • Colleges do not have to honor the IEP, but many colleges will honor the broader existing accommodations from it, especially things like extended time and separate testing locations, use of assistive technology, and occasionally some note-taking services. 
  • Most colleges won’t call 504 plans by that name. However, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 has to be honored at all levels of education. If you have specific accessibility needs, please make sure they are noted in the 504 plan you take with you to college. Think about what you may need for housing, dining, and getting to classes. Work with your school’s case manager or transition coordinator if you have questions, or reach out to your PD to contact OneGoal for support.
  • iCan Dream Center offers a transition program for students with IEPs to navigate the transition to college
  • College Guide for Students with Learning Disabilities
  • Find a shelter or drop-in center near you: https://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/cgi-bin/id/city.cgi?city=Chicago&state=IL
  • Streetlight Chicago
    • StreetLight Chicago provides up-to-date information on shelters, health clinics, emergency beds, mental health services, and more for young adults in Chicago between the ages of 16 and 24 living with unstable housing.
  • Night Ministry
    • The Night Ministry is a Chicago-based organization that works to provide housing, health care and human connection to members of our community struggling with poverty or homelessness.
    • They provide housing assistance, transportation, assistance, health care, a listening ear, and food. Drop-in services available.
    • For more information: https://thenightministry.org/ (available to all members of Chicago community)
  • Illinois Covenant House
    • The mission of the Covenant House Illinois is to provide homeless youth (ages 18-24) with ongoing care and crisis support. Drop-in services available.
    • To get help: https://www.covenanthouseil.org/get-help (available to all members of Chicago community)
  • LYTE Collective
    • LYTE Collective serves young adults impacted by poverty and homelessness.
    • Our mission is to: SUPPORT every young adult who contacts us, with whatever they need, for as long as they want us by their side; END harmful systems that cause young people to need our help in the first place; and BUILD a more just and equitable world together with all who aspire to do better by young people.
    • To get help: https://www.lytecollective.org/ (available to all members of Chicago community)
  • Brave Space Alliance
    • Brave Space Alliance is the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ+ Center located on the South Side of Chicago, dedicated to creating and providing affirming, culturally competent, for-us by-us resources, programming, and services for LGBTQ+ individuals on the South and West sides of the city.
    • We strive to empower, embolden, and educate each other through mutual aid, knowledge-sharing, and the creation of community-sourced resources as we build toward the liberation of all oppressed peoples.
    • To get help: https://www.bravespacealliance.org/  (available to all members of Chicago community but intended for BIPOC trans and gender-nonconforming individuals)
  • Chicago Public Schools publishes these resources for students in temporary living situations.

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