Online tools

To understand the basics of credit, check out our Credit Basics Brochure.  

It Make$ Cents! Credit Basics: Your Money. Your Future.

Credit Score

A credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that ranks how risky of a borrower you are. The score is published by the Fair Issac Corporation (thus credit scores are also called FICO scores), and includes a number of factors about how you borrow money

30% Amounts Owed, 10% New Credit, 35% Payment History, 10% Credit Mix, 15% Length of Credit History

Payment history

is determined by whether you pay your bills on time or not. 

Amount owed 

 is based on how much you are currently borrowing and how much you're allowed to borrow.

Length of credit history

is how long you have been using credit, whether it's in the form student loans or just using a card for small items.

New credit 

is determined by the lines of credit you have opened recently (a lot is bad.)

Types of credit

is determined by how many and the types of credit you have, including credit cards, student loans, auto loans, etc.

Credit Reporting Agencies

Equifax Logo Experian Logo TransUnion Logo
Equifax empowers businesses and consumers with information they can trust. With a strong heritage of innovation and leadership, we leverage our unique data, advanced analytics and proprietary technology to enrich the performance of businesses and the lives of consumers. Experian We are the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to our clients around the world. We help businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision-making.  TransUnion Our mission is to help people everywhere access the opportunities that lead to a higher quality of life. By helping organizations optimize their risk-based decisions and enabling consumers to understand and manage their personal information, we empower both to take their destinies into their own hands.

Helpful Credit Sources

 Related image         


Consumers can request a free copy of each of their three credit reports once every 12 months from Annual Credit Report, the only official site to access your free credit report.  

Image result for credit karma logo  Credit Karma is another site where you can check your credit score for free. 
 Fair Credit Reporting Act  The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy, fairness and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies. There are many types of consumer reporting agencies, including credit bureaus and specialty agencies (such as agencies that sell information about check writing histories, medical records, and rental history records).

Make goals

When setting goals it helps to make sure that they are SMART. With these tips it'll be more likely that you actually follow through and achieve your goals.

SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Based


"I'll go to the coffee shop only twice each week" is more specific than "I won't go to the coffee shop as much as I used to."


"I will call and speak to an advocate at my local Parent Center to get a list of organizations that might be able to help pay for technology assistance (is measurable). "I want to find out how other parents pay for technology assistance (is not measurable).


"I will save $5 a week" is more achievable than "I am going to save $50 a week" if you don't have the money.


"I will shop around for a low-rate, low-fee credit card by the end of the month" is realistic only if you set aside the time to actually do that.

Time bound

"I will start contacting funding sources for assistive technology by the end of next week" is a more specific time frame than "I will start looking for funding sources after the holidays."

 Budgeting Calculators 


Expense Tracker (.PDF)

Monthly Budget (.XLSX)

For Excel version, click here.

Expense Tracker Monthly Budget

Spending Plan (.PDF)

Online Budget Calculator

Spending Plan


Online Budget Calculator

Spending Plan Categories (.PDF)

Budgeting Worksheet (.XLSX)

For Excel Version, click here.

Spending Plan Categories

Budget Worksheet

Budgeting Spreadsheet (.XLSX)

For full Excel Version, click here.

Holiday Spending Tracker (.PDF)

Budget Spreadsheet


Holiday Spending Tracker

Holiday Wants (.JPG)

Cash Course (Online Tool)

Holiday Wants vs Needs Cash Course 



Time Based Goals

Goals for spending get broken in to 3 categories: Short Term, Mid Term, and Long Term goals. Making this distinction helps you plan your saving and spending in order to reach your goals.

A short-term goal

(Less than a year) might be something like buy a new CD or setting up an Emergency Fund with 6 months expenses in it.

A mid-term goal

(Under 5-years) could be to invest $1200 a year for grand total of $6000 in 5-Years time.

A long-Term goal

(More than 5-years) is something like having saved up a certain amount of money towards buying a house, or have $1,000,000 saved for retirement.

Financial Pledge

My Financial Pledge - I Pledge to: Set financial goals for the future, plan and stick to a budget, apply for scholarships, make responsible & informed financial decisions, fill out the FASFA early each year, minimize my student loan debt, use credit responsibly, meet my repayment obligations on time, seek help if I am over-extended, make giving back to charities and organizations part of my plan.

Budgeting Tips

When building your budget it is important to keep the following ideas in mind. 

1. Overestimate your expenses. It is better to under-spend and end up with a surplus than it is to NEED some groceries but not have any money in your budget for expenses. If you overestimate how much you will need you tend to fall on the 'under-spending' side of things. 

2. Underestimate your income. If you are on salary your income is pretty much black and white (provided you keep your steady job) but if you work for wages you will have to approximate how much you will make in a given time period. Because this can change depending on overtime, cut hours, a sick day or tip income this number can shift paycheck to paycheck. If you under-estimate your income you will find yourself with some extra cash rather than running out. 

3. Build in an emergency fund. I cannot over stress how important Emergency Fund's are! If something happens that is completely unexpected (i.e. your car breaks down and needs some repair work) having the emergency fund can really save the day!

4. Set saving goals. You may be able to live perfectly fine on your paycheck but if you aren't saving some of it you could be in serious trouble down the road. What if this job folds? You may need some stowed away cash to get you through until you land the next interview. What if you want to rent a new apartment, or buy some furniture for your place? Without a savings account you may be taking all this money out of your food allowance which means living on Ramen Noodles and Easy Mac for MONTHS. It's never too late to begin planning for Retirement.

To Buy or Not to Buy?

Food Pantry: Open to all UWL students, faculty, and staff. For more info to register, visit the Cove Desk at the Student Union, RM 2200

Compound Interest

What is Compound Interest?

Compound interest (or compounding interest) is interest calculated on the initial principal and also on the accumulated interest of previous periods of a deposit or loan. Thought to have originated in 17th-century Italy, compound interest can be thought of as “interest on interest,” and will make a sum grow at a faster rate than simple interest, which is calculated only on the principal amount (Investopedia).

Learn more at the Calculator Site or use their Compound Interest Calculator.

Compound Interest Formula (Including Principal): A=P(1+r/n)^nt

It Makes Cents: Your Money. Your Future. Compounded Interest Sheet

Investing Basics

Investing can be rather confusing, so IMC! has a few guides we made for you to use! There's also many guides available online and lots of reading to do on the topic, but we keep it basic at IMC! for beginners to start off.

Investing Basics (.PDF)

Investing Brochure (.PDF)

IMC your money, your future. Investing Basic It Makes Cents Investing Basics: Making Sense of Investing


It is never too early to be thinking about your future. Are you aware of how many people are NOT thinking about their future when it comes to retirement? Check out this helpful retirement calculator to see how much you will need to retire comfortably.


A cartoon robber with someone else's credit cards and social security card.

What is Identity Theft?

The Basics expanding section

Identity theft is the crime of using forged or stolen identification documents (birth certificates, social security cards, passports, etc.), usernames and passwords, or other personal information (banking pins, credit card numbers, etc.) for any purpose at all.

For more information visit these sites:
The Federal Trade Commission and Nelnet

Becoming a victim: the odds expanding section
    Violent crime = 1 in 5,000
    Heart disease = 1 in 2,600
    Car accident = 1 in 130     
    ID theft = 1 in 23 (9 million/year in U.S.)
    ID theft within 5 yrs = 1 in 5
    $6 – 10 billion loss in U.S. due to identity theft (estimates)

Protect Yourself

7 Signs of a scam expanding section
  1. The company or person does not provide their address or phone number where they can be reached.
  2. They require you to act immediately on the information they provide you.
  3. It's to good to be true.
  4. You're asked to move money.
  5. The webpage prevents you from leaving the page by using pop-ups or hijacks your browser.  (close the browser and clear your history and cookies if this happens.  If the browser does not close shut down the computer.)
  6. You receive official or professional looking mail, but the company or logo is unfamiliar.
  7. Search engines turn up negative results such as complaints or warnings.
5 Ways to protect yourself from identity theft expanding section
  1. Read your credit card and bank statements carefully and often.
  2. Know your payment due dates. If a bill doesn't show up when you expect it, look into it.
  3. Read the statements from your health insurance plan. Make sure the claims paid match the care you got.
  4. Shred any documents with personal and financial information.
  5. Review each of your three credit reports at least once a year. It's easy, and it's free. You can check your credit report here at

For more tips and tools on dealing with identity theft, visit The Federal Trade Commission

What to do

If you have been scammed expanding section

Step-by-step instructions can be found here

As soon as you think your information is compromised, report it to government authorities such as:

Federal Trade Commission

State/Local officials Consumer Action

Postal Inspector

Internet Crime Complaint Center

Better Business Bureau

  1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review your credit reports
  2. Close any accounts, including bank accounts, you know or suspect have been tampered with
  3. File a police report in the community where the ID theft took place
  4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and Wisconsin Office of Privacy Protection
  5. Cancel government-issued ID and obtain a replacement if appropriate

The right bank for you

Many banks offer special discounted rates to try and recruit college students. This can include checking accounts along with credit accounts. While it may seem easier to simply use one bank for both, that may not be the smartest decision. With modern technology, it is also important to consider which banks have the best and most efficient apps.

UW Credit Union expanding section
  UW Credit Union works directly with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to offer a banking solution for students.

Our Campus Package fits your busy lifestyle. Take care of all your banking needs quickly and easily by opening a Campus Package online or by stopping by one of our convenient campus branches.

The Campus Package services were designed for your needs. Our free essentials are accessible and easy-to-manage.

  • Checking. No minimum balance.
  • Free Debit Card. Unlimited ATM transactions with no fees.
  • Free Online Banking. Access to balances, statements, bill pay and Money Management Tools.
  • Visa® Student Credit Card.* Build credit responsibly.
  • Savings Account. Be prepared for future purchases or emergencies.
  • Reserve Line of Credit.1 Your defense against bounced checks.

    Look Before You Leap

    Know how to protect yourself and your future spouse when you are preparing for marriage. Do you know about each other's financial situations? Do you need to write up prenup? Is marriage the right option for your relationship? Click here to read Look Before You Leap

    How can money affect my relationships?

    No one likes to admit it, but money and your relationships are a lot more intertwined than we might have expected. According to a widely accepted study by Kansas State University , arguments about money are the number one cause of divorce. No one likes to think about this. As humans we are innately romantics and therefore hold out on the belief that money can't buy love and that we really DO mean for richer or for poorer.

    There are plenty of perfectly happy lower to middle class families who, while they have financial struggles, know they are better together. These studies do not suggest that being poor means you will get a divorce. They simply point out that people who argue about money are more likely to do so. Cheat Sheet , a personal finance website, outlines the 5 major reasons behind the financial spurred divorce.

    1. Hiding bad spending habits or debt
    2. Harming your partner's credit and savings
    3. Not discussing purchases before you make them
    4. Not figuring out the details
    5. Being too controlling


    Each of these issues clearly detail trouble, but it isn't always as easy to avoid them as you may think. When you get married, you generally combine your lives very suddenly. Even if you have been together for a while, you probably haven't been using the same bank accounts before. This can cause a bit of tension between new couples as they figure out the world of financial codependency.  


    The best way to avoid all of these things is simple: communication . You need to sit down with your partner and discuss your finances and how you are going to work on them together. If, as a child, you only saw one parent - say your mother - handling the finances you are going to expect the wife in this relationship handle it in your own relationship. Now imagine your significant other only saw their father working on finances. They will think that the husband should be handling finances. Confusion on this nature is slightly less common in a single-sex relationship but still present. This can easily lead to two people expecting the other person to handle the finances and consequently, finances are never taken care of. Having two people who both try to completely control your fiscal matters can be difficult for couples as well.

    Scott and Bethany Palmer, better known as 'The Money Couple' give us some advice on how to avoid being part of this statistic. Communication! What is the best way to communicate about money? THINK

    T-is it True?

    H-is it Helpful?

    I-is it Inspiring?

    N-is it Necessary?

    K-is it Kind?

    Scott and Bethany Palmer

    Keep these thoughts in mind and think before you speak! You don't want to hurt your significant other's feelings but this IS a conversation you need to have.

    Particularly in our society, money is a personal and emotionally charged subject. Since childhood we have been taught to strategically avoid talking about it. That can be a good thing in friend groups or in public but in a relationship you need to throw this idea out the window and get to talking. 

    Once you THINK something over, plan how best to present the idea to your partner. You know what your past arguments on the topic have been and you know how they feel about it. Use your best judgment on how to say something without hurting them or making them upset.

    After you have presented the topic give them time to THINK. Suggest an upcoming time or date that you can both discuss the topic together. Giving them some time to marinate over the subject gives them space to think about how they feel and what they want to add to the conversation. (It can also give them the space they need to calm down if the subject you have presented is a touchy one.) Together pick a time in the near future to discuss. Don't delay the conversation or let yourselves continue to avoid it. Pushing things back may be easier short term, but the sooner you get this out of the way the sooner you can come up with a solution and put it into effect.

    Money has a much larger effect on our relationships than we think, but that doesn't always have to be a bad thing. Use these techniques to help you make your fiscal relationship strong! The money couple has also created as assessment to learn what your money personalities are. Click here to see what yours are!

    money heart graphic

Finding a job can be a daunting task, especially after graduating college. Below are tips and resources to help you from your interview to giving your 2 week notice. If you would like a personalized meeting, schedule an appointment today to better help you prepare to enter the workforce. 

While our people are happy to give you advice, carrier services will be able to help you far more than we will.

Job on a hook

1. Your Resumé expanding section

A resumé is a brief overview of your professional experiences and skill sets. 

For more info on making the perfect resumé, check out ASME's 6 Tips for Writing an Effective Resume.

View some resumé examples 

2. Searching expanding section

Job Fairs
Job fairs are a great place to mingle with potential employers and get a feel for companies. UWL hosts several job fairs throughout the year. Visit the Career Services page for a look into all of our fairs and workshops. Remember to bring several copies of your resumé! 

UWL Job Board
Career Services Job Board called Handshake has been used internationally by employers to hire UWL students. This is a great place to submit your resumé and browse job descriptions.

Search engines
Sometimes a keyword search such as "editing jobs" or "accounting positions" is all you need to turn up potential employers. The most popular website tailored to find you a job is Indeed, but don't just look at one and hope for the best. You should be open and look everywhere you can until you find and land that perfect job! Many links can be found on Career Services webpage too!

Knowing someone on the inside
Having a friend who works somewhere you would like to work gives you an edge on getting that job. If your friend is a good employee and refers you to their boss, there's a better chance you'll get a the job based on their recommendation.

3. The Interview expanding section

Do your homework

Research the organization you're applying for. Know what the average salary is for this position you are interviewing for and how your experience and education measure up. Visit their website, read their mission statement, and read articles about them so that if you're asked questions about the company you have some ready-to-go answers. Doing your homework might even save you from working for a disreputable company.

Clean up your web

It has become common practice for employers to search for your profile on social networking sites. Make sure all of your social media posts are appropriate and your photos don't portray you as an unstable worker.

Be prepared

Have copies of recommendations and reference letters with you when you show up to the interview. A lot of students will bring the recommendation letters someone wrote them when they applied to college. You are a different person then you were four years ago! Try to get one of you professors or employers from the last two years to write you a reference or recommendation letter! Be prepared to answer questions about your previous employers, your coworkers, your hobbies, etc. Try career services practice interviewing system.  

Dress professionally

Interview attire

A good rule is to dress a notch above what the job's dress code requires. For example if the job requires a collared shirt and tie, wear a suit. If the job only requires a company t-shirt, wear a collared shirt to the interview. If the job requires a suit, wear your best suit. For more information view our Dressing on a Budget Brochure. 

Act professionally

Even if you look nice, employers are also looking for good people skills. Introducing yourself, shaking hands, remembering please and thank you, eye contact, and smiling are good first steps in a successful interview. 
4. Post Interview expanding section

Say Thank You

 After your interview, be sure to ask for your interviewer's contact information so you can send them a thank you email. In the email, include the position you interviewed for, the date and place of the interview, anything important that you forgot to mention during the interview, and any other qualifications that weren't included in you resume. Also, bring up a specific topic that you talked about during your interview and express your interest in the position. Be sure to keep the email brief! Sending a thank you email reminds the interviewer of who you are and helps set you apart from the other applicants!

Making the best decision

Image result for decision

Were you offered more than one job? View our brochure to make the best decision. Two Job Offers?

Different locations? Get a good idea of how the cost of living from different cities to states make a big difference in how much your salary will stretch.

It is important to know how to negotiate a job offer too. Your starting salary will make big difference in the long run. Especially with pay increases and putting away money for the future.