Campus Philly’s Financial Resource Guide, Presented by Citizens


Welcome to the Campus Philly Financial Resource Guide Presented by Citizens.

Financial literacy is important at any point in your life, especially as a college student or young professional entering your career. This financial guide is packed with advice from Citizens experts, along with tips, tricks, and resources for every college student and recent graduate, covering topics ranging from opening a checking account to affording grad school. 

Before we jump in, check out this breakdown on some financial words that you might come across as you’re looking over the resources below. Familiarize yourself with these key terms, or if you already feel good about the financial terms, jump into the guide!

Ready to get started?! 

Financial Term Dictionary

Budget: An estimation of how much money is made and spent over a certain period of time and is usually reviewed on a periodic basis. Budgets can be made for a person, a group of people, a business, a government, or just about anything else that makes and spends money.

Income: Money or an equivalent value that an individual or business receives, usually in exchange for providing a good or service.

Expense: The cost required for something. Common expenses for college students include payments for food, books, clothes, room and board, etc.

Cash flow: The net amount of money being transferred into and out of a business or personal bank account. Cash coming in is called “inflow,” and cash being spent is called “outflow.”

Refinance: Or “refi” for short, refinance refers to the process of revising and replacing the terms of an existing credit agreement. Usually when people “refi” it’s in relation to a loan or mortgage to favorably change their interest rate, payment schedule and/or other terms in the contract. 

Loans: A type of credit agreement where a sum of money is lent to another party in exchange for future re-payment. In many cases, the lender also adds interest in which the borrower must repay in addition to the initial balance.

Overdraft: An overdraft happens when a bank account reaches zero dollars, but the bank still allows money to be taken out, meaning the person becomes indebted to the bank. If you happen to overdraft, there is usually an additional interest fee for every overdraft that must be paid back to the bank. 

Checking Account: A bank account held at a financial institution that usually allows you to place an unlimited amount of money in your account (deposit), and take money out when you need it (withdraw) in a convenient and accessible way.

Savings Account: Similar to checking accounts, a savings account is a safe and reliable way to save cash through depositing money into a bank. However, savings accounts usually have some limitations on how often you can withdraw money. 

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get into the deets. 

First things first, here’s everything you need to know about student loans

  1. What is FAFSA and where you can find it

FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is used by many states and colleges to determine your eligibility for Federal student aid such as grants, federal student loans, and even work study. 

We recommend using the online FAFSA application to apply. Sending in your form via mail is also an option. Your high school guidance counselor or college financial aid office should be able to provide you with a paper form! 

  1. How often should you apply for FAFSA?

The FAFSA form should be completed each year you’re in college. After you apply every year you’ll receive a new financial aid award letter from your school.

  1. Looking for your official transcript? 

A transcript is your official academic record. It usually contains a list of your courses and grades, an explanation of your school’s grading scale, and a list of the school’s course offerings.

Your high school guidance counselor is the perfect resource to find out how to get transcripts sent to your selected colleges and universities. As you plan, keep in mind important deadlines and the possibility of a charge fee for your transcript to be sent. 

  1. Direct Loans 

Once you complete your FAFSA application, your school will be able to determine if you are eligible for a Federal Direct Loan. After that, you’ll need to complete a Federal Direct Loan Master Promissory Note, or MPN, for short. 

  1. Looking for a scholarship opportunity? Check out The Citizens Scholarship for undergrad and graduate students 

Citizens wants to honor the dedication of students and families pursuing higher learning! Fill out the registration form to be entered for a chance to win a Grand Prize of $15,000 to use towards school expenses or one of the $2,500 monthly prizes.

Budgeting Basics 

We get it, even though that pizza for lunch was totally worth it today, there may be ways to enjoy some of the best food in the city without splurging or going over your budget every week. 

The idea of budgeting may seem intimidating, but if you stick to these seven budgeting basics, it can be easy. 

  1. Figure out your net monthly income: Add up all your paychecks from the past month. That’s how much money you’ll have to work with in a typical month.

  1. Add up everyday expenses: How much do you spend each month on recurring everyday expenses like that morning coffee or bus fare? This can vary week to week, or month to month, so they’re harder to predict. But by looking back at previous months, you can get a general idea on how much you tend to spend on these recurring expenses.

  1. Tally up your bills: Most bills—rent, student loans, cable, Internet, insurance, gym memberships—cost the same every month. Therefore, they’re easier to account for. Add all your bills together to estimate your monthly expense.

  2. Calculate your savings potential: OK, time to put it all together. Take your net monthly income and subtract your everyday expenses and bills from that number. What’s left over? The money you can save each month, A.K.A. your savings potential.

  1. Choose your savings goals: Now that you know your savings potential, distribute those funds amongst all your goals. But first, what are those goals? What are you saving for? List out your savings goals so you can figure out how much to distribute to each one. 

  1. Divvy up savings potential to each of your goals: How much do you want to save monthly for each goal? Distribute your savings potential across all goals. Prioritize accordingly—you might want to save more for one goal if you need to reach it sooner or if it’s more expensive.

  1. Set up your automatic transfers: Last step! Now that you have separate accounts for each goal, set up the automatic transfers from each paycheck to cover each month’s totals. So if you get paid bi-weekly, that means you’ll usually have two paychecks each month to cover all everyday expenses, bills, and savings.

Have some fun with—take the Citizens Savings Personality Quiz to learn which style of savings is the best based on your individual personality!

Interested in other ways to save? Check out this article that shares 14 things you can do to start saving TODAY.

Checking & Savings Account 101 

A checking account is a bank account held at a financial institution that usually allows you to place an unlimited amount of money in your account (deposits), and take money out when you need it (withdrawals), in a convenient and accessible way. Below are some of the benefits that come with opening a checking account:

Let’s chat about overdraft fees, and how to stay away from them!

An overdraft occurs when you don’t have enough money available in your account to cover a transaction. 

This happens when your bank account reaches zero dollars, but the bank allows you to continue taking money out, meaning you become in debt to the bank. If you happen to overdraft, there is usually an additional interest fee for every overdraft that happens.

Here’s an Example: You just spent your last $20 dollars getting stir-fry and a honeybar dessert at honeygrow (trust us, it was worth it!), and now your bank account has zero dollars in it. However, you forget that your Apple Music bill is due today too. Since you have the student discount, $5 will automatically come out of your bank account to pay for your Apple Music membership. 

An overdraft has just happened because more money has left your account than what you had in it originally. You now are $5 in debt to the bank, plus they may charge you an additional overdraft fee, which could go as high as $35. 

The best way to avoid overdrafts and fees is to monitor your account balances and activity. Here are some tips that make it easy:

  • Set balance alerts: Set up Online Banking email and text alerts to be notified when your balance is low, and to monitor specific transactions.

  • Track your balance: Log in to Online and Mobile Banking daily to securely check your available balance and account activity. Remember to consider any outstanding checks or scheduled payments that have not been made.

  • Pay bills automatically: You can set up bill payments when you know you have money in your account (like on payday) and set reminders to ensure you won’t pay your bills late and incur costly fees.

  • Sign up for direct deposit: Have your paycheck automatically deposited in your account to get faster access to funds on payday and ensure your money is available when you need it.

Get Ready to Save!

A savings account is a safe and reliable way to save cash by depositing money into a bank. Savings accounts usually have some limitations on how often you can withdraw money, but they generally offer flexibility that’s helpful when you want to build an emergency fund, or even save for something like a car!

Whether you’re hoping to save $5 or $50 a month, Citizens has tons of savings options and resources to help you.

  • Check out their Savings Calculator to determine how much time and money you need to reach your goal!

  • You can set up automatic transfers so funds are automatically deposited into your savings account, learn how.

  • Waive monthly fees—they provide simple ways to waive your monthly maintenance fees.

  • Schedule an appointment to discuss guidance for personal savings!

So, are you ready to open a checking or savings account? Let’s do it! If you have questions as you go, just click the “Message Us” tab on the right side of the screen to chat with a Citizens rep.

How to Make Money While in College

Whether you want to make money out of necessity, or simply because you want to have some extra cash in your pocket, there are loads of money-making opportunities for college students like you. Check out some of the options below. 

  • Work-Study Programs: This is a nice way to get involved on your campus and make a couple of dollars all at the same time. Federal Work-Study program funds full and part-time jobs for students at most colleges. Eligible students must already receive financial aid and need additional support to pay for expenses while in school. 

  • Part-Time Jobs on Campus: Even if you don’t qualify for the official federal work-study program, you may be eligible for a work-study arrangement. Often, university funds are distributed to academic departments or offices for student hires. On-campus jobs can include barista, library aide, research assistant, etc.

  • Part-Time Jobs and Internships Off Campus: If you can land a job at a major corporation, you may qualify for tuition assistance, with the benefits kicking in immediately in some cases. To help out with this, Campus Philly has a FREE Job Board!

    Whether you’re looking for an internship or part-time job based in or around the Philadelphia region, there are a lot of companies that are currently hiring, and looking for young professionals just like you. Head to the Job Board to search through all of the job opportunities available to you right now! 

While you’re there, make sure to check out the Campus Philly Contributor Program! We’re currently accepting submissions for contributors to write for the Campus Philly blog and/or contribute photo and video content. This could be the perfect gig for you! 

  • Enter into the Gig Economy: For students who have skills in areas such as writing, graphic design, or other creative areas, freelancing offers similar flexibility and exposure to a marketplace with plenty of contract work opportunities.

Our friends over at REC Philly have all the resources you need to get your career in the gig economy started. REC Philly is a community for creatives who want to turn their artistic passions into a sustainable career. They also have a 10,000-square-foot co-working and studio space at 9th & Market, making it a great resource for networking and exposure. Learn more here!

Post-Graduation Finances

We understand that it can be a little scary figuring out how to set up your finances for post-grad life. Citizens provides some really cool resources for those who are in grad school or are thinking of going! 

  • Interested in going to grad school? Fully understanding all of your options is really important as you prepare to head back to school. Check out these tools below and find even more on the Citizens website

  • Have a post-grad budget in mind, but not sure if it will work? Check out this Budget 101 article on how a 23-year-old art teacher successfully uses these monthly budget tips  since graduating! 

  • Thinking about refinancing your student loans? This Citizens Guide breaks down everything you need to know about a fixed vs. variable interest rate, how much money you can save each year… and what “refinancing” even means (plus, how easy it is to do it!)

Phew! We packed A LOT of gems into this guide! Let’s stay connected. If you have any questions about any of the resources mentioned above, reach out to us or our friends at Citizens. (Thanks for all the tips, Citizens!) Also feel free to share this guide with a friend—you never know how helpful it could be!

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