Money Management — Making Common Cents

Dec 1, 2017 | Blog, Student Success

Hand made medallion beaded with porcupine quills.

When tasked with the responsibility of clothing and feeding family, paying bills, keeping the car fueled and running, and paying for an education, you may feel overwhelmed. You are not alone.

Understanding credit and debt management allows you to make fiscally responsible decisions. Financial literacy ranges from understanding how a checking account works to understanding your credit score.

Financial Resources

Salt Money and the following other resources will provide you with an overview of money management skills and numerous opportunities for further learning.

Explore, ask, and understand—you financial future depends on it.

Your First Bank Account

Before you open an account, do some research. Ask a bank employee, someone you trust, and reliable sources on the internet. It could save you a lot of money down the road.


  • On average, how much money will I be able to keep in the account each month?
  • Will I need to write checks/make payments (a debit card is the same as a check) each month? If so, about how many?
  • Do I want to go to the bank to deposit checks and withdraw cash, or is it better to use ATMs and/or online banking?
  • Will I pay most of my bills using online banking?
  • Will I use a debit card for purchases?

Once you have those answers, determine which account type suits your needs:

    • Checking: A basic checking account is ideal for anyone who may not be able to keep a consistently high dollar amount in the account. Most banks will charge a small monthly fee, but at certain banks the fee is waived if you use automatic deposit from your paycheck or if you keep a minimum balance in the account (amount varies by bank).  Many banks offer deals on student checking accounts, including free checking. If you are a currently-enrolled student, this is worth asking about as it may mean certain fees are waived or other incentives are available.
    • Interest-bearing:These accounts are often used for long-term saving, as the money in it will grow marginally based on the interest rate. Such an account will almost certainly have a monthly fee if the balance minimum is not met; often $1,000 or so. Another type of interest-bearing account is called Money Market. The bank invests a portion of your amount and often yields a higher interest rate. Similar to other accounts in this category, you will be charged a fee if the minimum balance is not met. Only open these accounts after you know you can maintain the minimum requirements.
    • Overdraft Protection:When opening an account, you may be offered overdraft protection. While it sounds like a no-brainer to protect again writing a check that will bounce, be wary. If you do not have a second account to draw from (such a savings account that will automatically cover any additional if an overdraft occurs in the checking account), inquire about the interest that will accrue on the overdraft if you borrow from the bank.

Additional information on bank accounts can be found in Book 3 of our Developing Your Vision booklet available for download or online viewing here.

Budgeting for Children and Family Considerations

For budgeting purposes, it is necessary to include childcare costs as part of your monthly expenses. Following are things to consider and ways to reduce costs:

  • Consult with your employer to see if your employee benefits package includes child care assistance, such as a flexible spending account (FSA).
  • Work exchange with childcare provider for a reduced cost.
  • Alternate work hours with a partner or family member, allowing at least one of you to care for the child, saving full-time childcare costs.
  • Child-care swaps.
  • Government-funded programs.
  • Explore tips from comUS News, and the Single Mother’s Guide .

When Your Child Has Special Needs

The term “special needs” encompasses a wide variety of physical and neurological conditions. As a parent or caretaker of a child with special needs, you will face unique challenges.

Build a supportive community in order to provide the best possible care to your special needs child to help you navigate the medical realm, school system, and social workers.

Check with your tribe and local Department of Social Services or Office for Children for information on support services and programs for which your family is eligible.

Check with community agencies or groups that provide education and counseling opportunities for you and your family.

Explore ways to cover medical costs, including:

Information in this section is adapted from 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy.

Caring For Aging Parents

While many of us will assume the role of caretaker for other family members at some point, there is rarely a warning or clear understanding for the responsibility that it requires. It is vital to cultivate a support system to assist you.

Support services may prove beneficial by:

  • Providing training
  • Adult day care opportunities
  • Help for choosing a nursing or assisted living home
  • Free or low-cost legal advice
  • Contact your tribal offices about local programs or support groups.
  • Call the Eldercare Locator number (800-677-1116), a federally-funded service that can provide information and referral services for your area.

Other resources:

What is Credit?

We all know that good credit is important, but what exactly is it and how do we achieve it? In short, credit is your reputation as a borrower (The Balance). Your credit score, then, is determined by your borrowing history. This history is compiled in a credit report, which is available for viewing by any lender (such as a bank) and includes information about how much you’ve borrowed, how much your repaid, and how timely those repayments have been.

Each year, you are allowed to view your own credit report for free. Free credit reports can be accessed through the websites listed here.

Note that if there are errors in your credit reports, they need to be fixed or you could face rejection for loans in the future.

The credit score itself is determined through a careful study of the patterns, any red flags, and other characteristics in your borrowing history.

If you’re feeling full of information but low on credit, watch this video from our friends at Bank of America about building credit from scratch:

If you already have a long history of credit but it’s less than ideal, watch this brief video from to gather tips for improving it:

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Lifestyle and Loans Tips

For this section we searched high and low for Native-centric advice and wisdom and believe that Dr. Per Cap from the First Nations Development Institute is among the best out there.

Take a few moments to read through Dr. Per Cap’s advice on avoiding payday loans, understanding enticing credit card offers, and much more.

National Debt Relief has created an entertaining and informative video about establishing a frugal lifestyle. If you follow even some of these suggestions, you are bound to make a dent in your debt.

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