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For most students, debt is an unavoidable fact of life. Without it, paying school tuition would be impossible.  

However, taking on too much debt without a plan to pay it off can easily lead to stress. In time, this stress can affect your moods, behavior, grades, and relationships. It can even impact your overall health and well-being.  

Like mental health and physical health, “financial wellness” is one of the many aspects of “whole health.” If one aspect of life is out of balance, it has a way of impacting the others. To lessen the harmful impact debt can have on your overall health, it helps to keep in mind the basics.

Learn how to create a budget
A budget is a tool that can help you live within your means. To get started, track your monthly income and expenses for at least a month. You can use pen and paper, a budgeting app, or a spreadsheet.

Begin by adding up your monthly income. Do you have a job, an allowance from family, or financial aid? Then add up your monthly expenses, such as rent, food, and credit card payments. What happens when you subtract your monthly expenses from your monthly income? Do you have money left? If you discover that you spend more than you earn, it may be time to cut back on expenses or find a way to increase your income.

Be mindful of good debt and bad debt
Student loans are generally considered “good” debt because they enable you to prepare for a successful career and earn an income that will allow you to pay off your debt. Just make sure to keep this in mind as you select your classes and pursue your degree.

While credit cards have become a necessity for managing everyday expenses, they can easily become a source of bad debt, especially when they’re used to finance a lifestyle you cannot afford. It’s helpful to pay off your credit card debt in full each month to avoid paying high interest.

Increase your “financial literacy”
When you develop financial literacy, you develop the skills needed to make informed financial decisions so you can support your everyday needs while also preparing for and weathering unexpected challenges along the way. With this knowledge, you can plan to spend your money—and time—on things that truly matter to you.

To increase your financial literacy, you can take a class on personal finance. You can also use many free resources available online, including your member portal or app that are included with your Assistance Program. These tools have an entire section geared toward “college life.”

If you find that your debt is interfering with your everyday life, it may be helpful to seek support by contacting your Assistance Program for a referral. A financial counselor or a mental health expert can help you develop a plan to manage your finances—as you obtain that degree.  

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