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Plan Well, Retire Well

Income and expenses for college students

mason jar full of coins that spilled over onto carpet

The new school year brings a lot of excitement and maybe some new responsibilities. Those responsibilities could be paying housing expenses or splitting those expenses with roommates, buying groceries, managing a budget, and more. But how do you pay for all of these things? Just the thought of those expenses that you may have never been responsible for before could be stress-inducing and scary. One way to help pay for expenses is by securing an income!

Finding jobs for students

Let’s take a second and think about your values as a student. Young adults who are just starting their college careers are in a unique place in their lives where they are choosing to further their education and focus on some of their long-term goals. For some, education may be their highest value and it’s important not to hinder that. How can we balance schoolwork and find and maintain a student job?

Ways to find student employment:

  1. Look to see if your school has a virtual job board. This could be a place where your school posts jobs specifically for students who are seeking part-time employment.
  2. Explore the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Federal Work Study program. This is a program provided by FSA that allows schools to provide part-time jobs for undergraduate or graduate students with financial need. Interested students will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) application to see if they qualify. You can learn more about the FASFA application here.
  3. Find jobs near or around campus. This can be as easy as simply walking around campus to see what kind of job opportunities there are! Or looking online at potential businesses to see if they are hiring.
  4. Utilize your school’s Career Services. This could be a place where your school has job postings, but they could also help you in all aspects of the job-hunting field. From building your resume, finding potential employment opportunities, and helping build your interview skills.

What will my paycheck look like?

Now you have the job and you have started working. Eventually, you will receive a paycheck, paystub, or some type of online earning statement that has a lot of information about the money you earned! But what does all of it mean? You may see your basic information like your name, pay period, and the day you get paid. Then you start getting into the more difficult-to-understand information like your gross income, net income, and various deductions.

Your gross and net income are similar but different. Your gross income is all the money you have made from working before taxes and deductions are taken out of your paycheck. Your net income is your ‘take-home pay’. This is the amount of money you will receive after taxes and other deductions are taken out. There are quite a few things that get taken out of your gross income to give you your net income. It’s important to understand these things so you have a better idea of what your paycheck is made up of! The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a very easy-to-read handout that breaks down various terms you may see on your own paycheck.

What happens if my expenses outweigh my income?

We talked about how to find a job, secure the job, and then get paid. When we get paid for all our work, we can start spending that money and paying our bills. But what happens if we are paying our bills and we start to worry that we won’t have enough money to pay for all our expenses?  

Some may choose to solve this problem by increasing their income. This could mean trying to get more hours at their current job, getting a second job or a side hustle, or trying to make money off a skill or talent. Others may choose to try and decrease their expenses by spending less or trying to use less utilities like electricity and water. Another option to help make your paycheck stretch is to utilize a local food pantry. Look on your school’s website to see what options students have for food resources. Find Food IL is also another excellent resource to find food pantries that are local to you.

Want to learn more about college-related money topics?

Register for our Get Savvy: Grow Your Green Stuff webinar series

Check out some easy-to-use money management resources on our Finances website

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 Listen to our Family Financial Feuds podcast, Teens and Money: No failure to launch

emily harmon
Emily Harmon
Meet the Author

Emily Harmon is responsible for finances programming in the counties of Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, Vermilion and other parts of Illinois as needed. Emily’s areas of interest are working with Money Mentor volunteers and providing financial literacy through research-based information. She is passionate about providing resources to empower individuals to make decisions for themselves to improve their overall financial well-being.