Money Goals – GradPlan

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Money Goals

Living your best life…and how to pay for it!

Plan More, Spend Less

Whether you are earning money through a job, or deciding what to do with your financial aid refund check, it is good to have a strategy for how you will manage your money. Setting some short term and long term goals for your money (and how much of it you want to have) can be a great place to start.

Short Term Money Goal

Choose one area where you spend money that you can immediately start cutting back, but avoid cutting basic needs – food, shelter, medicine, etc.

Examples: Eating out, buying new clothes, shopping online

Sample Goal: By the end of this month I will reduce the number of times I eat out by 50%.

Medium Term Money Goal

Choose a number you want to have in savings 12 months from now that will be enough to cover one month’s worth of bills, food, and expenses for you.

Example: You usually spend $1,900 each month on rent, bills, food, etc.

Sample Goal: 12 months from now I will have at least $1,900 saved in my bank account.

Long Term Money Goal

Set an ambitious money goal for yourself to strive for over the next 5 years that is realistic, but also above what you need for your basics.

Example: Think about a number that would make you happy and is attainable if you push yourself.

Sample Goal: 5 years from now, I will be making at least $65,000/yr through my work and hobbies.

Here’s How to Start: 

  • Create a Budget – Take time to determine the amount of money you are making each month and compare it to what you are spending.
  • Begin by paying yourself first – set aside 10-30% of each paycheck for savings you can use in the future. This could come in handy in an emergency, or when trying to accomplish a goal like buying a car, or renting an apartment.
  • Look for ways increase your earnings. This could be through a 2nd job, providing a service like tutoring or coaching, or by selling a product you make or provide.

Pay off Debt ASAP:

  • Once you establish a savings account or “emergency fund”, look to pay off any credit card debt or student loans. Remember you can start paying off your loans at any time, but…
  • Prioritize paying off high interest debt like credit cards before lower interest debt like student loans. If you can pay more than the “minimum due” each month you’ll reduce your debt faster!
  • When you have eliminated one debt – say a credit card – don’t increase your spending. Rather, use that money to start paying off the next debt you have, like a student loan.

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, they want your money, even if it is only a portion of what you owe…for now.
    • Negotiate a lower monthly payment: “I know you are asking me to pay $50 a month for my credit card bill, 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 a month on this bill. Would that work for you?”
    • Negotiate a lower total payoff amount: “I know that my remaining balance is $5,000. I can pay you $3,000 right now if you will allow this to be my final payment and mark this debt as fully paid.”
    • Ask for a lower price or make a counter offer: “Would you be willing to take $7,000 instead of $8,000 for the car?” When buying appliances, “I know the sticker price says $1,100 but will you take $800 for the floor model?”

Additional Resources:

  • Check out this 30-Min Online Course on Budgeting.
  • There’s also a free 4-week course on Financial Planning from the Univ. of Illinois.
  • Mint is a free and easy-to-use budgeting app that can help you plan and track your spending.
  • Here’s a video on the primary components in a budget.
  • Use this budget sheet to draft your own budget.
  • A cost of living calculator can help you determine how much to budget for living expenses.
  • Check out this roundup of student discounts.

Start Today!

It’s never too early to start saving money and planning for the future. So remember: set clear and concrete money goals for yourself and work hard to achieve them. Share your goals with your family and friends so they can help hold you accountable, and don’t forget to visit with the financial aid advisors on campus. They usually have a lot of knowledge about jobs, scholarships, and resources that can help you pay your bills, save for the future, and to feel better about your financial situation overall.

Recommended Resources


Earning Money and Budgeting
Manage Your Money

"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

Malcolm X, human rights activist