Managing money, from loans to credit

beth.kramer and beth.kramer

Between scholarships and federal loans, Anne Marie Palazzolo has tuition and textbooks completely paid for. But the junior special education major still has to pay for rent, food, car insurance and gas.

To accommodate, she employs a number of money-saving strategies. Friends have dubbed her “the coupon queen” because she clips countless coupons.

“I look for sales and coupons and don’t spend money on unnecessary things if I don’t have to,” Palazzolo said.

When she can’t afford something, like a winter jacket or even dental work, she asks her family to buy it for her in the form of a birthday or Christmas gift. She surfs clearance racks and second-hand stores to keep costs down.

“I don’t really spend much on fun stuff. I make enough to cover the bills and a little extra.

“My expenses are pretty low for entertainment: renting movies, making nice dinners and going for walks,” Palazzolo said.

Despite her thrifty spending habits, she still finds herself coming up short.

A Look at Loans

Scott Thum, assistant director of financial aid, said the first place to look for additional money is at NMU. Check federal eligibility for a FAFSA (Federal Application For Student Aid). Students’ financial need is determined by subtracting the expected family contribution (taken from parents’ paychecks) from the cost of tuition.

“That’s the single biggest thing you can do,” Thum said. “Regardless of parental income, regardless of how much money you make, if you’re eligible to file a FAFSA form, there will be some money there for you. Worst case scenario, it’s just loans at a fixed 6.8 percent interest rate, which nine times out of 10 beats what you’ll find outside the school.”

It’s important to look at how money much is needed as opposed to how much is desired, Thum said. The needs can accumulate quickly, like they did for Palazzolo. Beth Guerard, spokesperson for SallieMae, a national provider of student loans and college savings plans administrator, suggests conducting an “honest self-assessment of spending” by looking through bank statements to see exactly where the money is going. This includes examining spending habits for entertainment, such as movies or concerts, sporting events, late night pizzas, parking and gas.

“It’s certainly the right time of year to think about budgeting,” Guerard said.

A preliminary budget can be gauged by seeing if income (from loans, scholarships, jobs or elsewhere) is enough to cover these expenses. If the numbers don’t add up, it’s time to consider a private loan, both Thum and Guerard said.

“It’s clich