Budgeting and Debt Management

Achieve your financial goals through budgeting!

Habits are difficult to change. You will have many financial goals you want to achieve during your lifetime, and to reach those goals you will need to understand your spending habits and control your spending so that you will have money to save and invest. Our counselors offer you the advantage of professional guidance and tools to achieving your financial goals.

What happens during a session?

To gain a better understanding of your situation, we will ask how your budgeting has been going in the past, as well as what financial goals you have. Do you want to spend less money?  Borrow less in student loans? Pay down credit card debt? Plan for a major purchase?

The first step in assessing your budget is looking at your income and spending history. If you have not been tracking your spending in some way, we will ask you to track it for a couple of weeks or, preferably, for one month. Even if you only track certain items, track those expenses that are variable, such as gas, food, and entertainment — this information is crucially important to making sound recommendations.

What happens during follow-up sessions?

The purpose of your follow-up session at the FCC is to meet with you and go over the spending you have been tracking, and to develop your budget based on more accurate data of your income and expenses.

Tracking spending

  • If you have encountered a shortage of funds between paychecks or at the end of each month, the FCC strongly suggests you keep track of your spending and schedule an appointment with one of our counselors to discuss your budget in-depth. Figuring out what happened is a good start to winning the battle.

  • Which method for tracking spending is the best? The one you will actually use. It could be an Excel spreadsheet, a check register broken down into spending categories, the envelope method, using Mint, or using your bank or credit union’s online tracking tools, if offered. Another good resource is the ISU Extension publication PM 1918: Tracking Your Spending (PDF).

We do not promote one company or website over another, when utilizing budgeting tools and websites. Rather, a number of quality links and tools will be provided for you to choose from. For example, Mint.com is a good-quality free online tool with positive reviews, such as one posted on moneycrashers.com, a “financial fitness” website.

Resources you may use

  • ISU Extension publication PM 1918, Tracking Your Spending, covers different methods of tracking spending.
  • Mint offers tips and tools for budgeting, tracking spending, setting financial goals, and more.
  • Contact Information

    Financial Counseling Clinic
    Iowa State University
    4380 Palmer HDFS Building, #1340
    Ames, Iowa 50011-4380 
    ​515-294-8644

  • What happens to your money?

    Have you ever had a twenty dollar bill just magically disappear? That twenty existed at the start of the day but was gone by the end of the day… where did it go?

    Have you started the semester with what you thought was going to be enough to get you to the end of the semester, only to be out of money by the middle of September or middle of February?

    Budgeting will help you understand your situation and achieve your goals.

  • Student Advice

    Get a job to earn money and learn how to balance time wisely. Video »

    Use one checking account for loans that pay for school (room and board, tuition, etc.) and another checking account for work money earned that pays for extracurricular spending (shopping, eating out, etc.) Video »

  • Tools