Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey


New Student Budgeting Tips

Budget to plan your future.

The following tips are to help with estimating expenses and finding the best values while you are a student at the Institute.


Be sensible in choosing your living arrangements. It is much cheaper to rent a room in a house or to have a roommate than to live in a one-bedroom apartment by yourself. You can often save as much as $300 to $500 per month by sharing your living expenses.

Money Matters

Do not arrive without some savings. Try to save as much money as possible prior to moving to Monterey. Money saved from now until your arrival will not affect your financial aid status. You will have many expenses during your first few weeks in Monterey. We recommend that students arrive with funds to cover:

  • Moving and travel expenses
  • First month’s rent and security deposit
  • Apartment set-up costs, including furniture, supplies and groceries
  • Books and school supplies

Remember, you cannot get any financial aid funds until after the first day of classes, and refund checks are usually disbursed sometime within the first two weeks of classes.

Be sure to have your credit history in order (clean and accurate) in case you have to apply for a Grad Plus or a private alternative loan (refer to the Institute’s website for more details). Federal Stafford Loans are not credit based, but Grad Plus and private alternative loan lenders will run a credit check.

Budgeting your Money

Expenses usually include rent and utilities, food, transportation, insurance and personal expenses (clothing, laundry, dry cleaning, haircuts, entertainment, etc.) Your student budget does not make allowances for consumer debt such as credit cards, car payments, moving expenses, furniture, etc. Expenses can be categorized into two types:


These expenses normally include the necessities of life and do not change over time. Most fixed expenses occur monthly, such as rent. Others occur periodically, like insurance, and some are a one-time expense, like a fee for a test.


These are items you can afford when your fixed expenses have already been paid. Normally, these items are not necessities. Cable TV, club memberships, and entertainment are all considered discretionary expenses. You should know within $25, how much discretionary money you have to spend per month, so you will always know when you have reached your limit.

  • Keep your budget written down. Review it each month to determine if it is accurate. A budget is of no use if it does not reflect accurate expenditures. 
  • Develop a habit of keeping records and paying bills on time. Online checking accounts and personal finance software can be helpful tools in managing your budget.
  • Keep accurate records to prevent expensive overdraft fees which can derail any budget.
  • Allow for savings in your budget. Unplanned expenses are a fact of life; if you can cover some of these out of your savings, you may be able to avoid credit card usage.
  • Keep only one credit card and use it primarily for unplanned expenditures.
  • Keep track of all credit card purchases and pay them in full at the end of each month, if possible.

Credit Card Spending

It is not that having a credit card is a bad idea. In fact, having one credit card with a low balance, that you make regular payments on, can help establish good credit history and serve as a great resource for emergencies. However, in most cases, if you cannot afford to pay cash, you should not buy it. Reserve your credit card for times when a retailer won’t accept anything else - such as for travel arrangements - or in absolute emergencies.

Read the fine print. Credit cards might all look alike, but behind the plastic they can be vastly different, with varying terms and conditions. It is worth your time to read the fine print and find out one that will cost you as little as possible. Look for things such as:

  • Low fixed annual percentage rate (APR) - 0% is only an “introductory rate” most rates will rise, sometimes dramatically after the introductory period
  • Reasonable grace period
  • No annual fee
  • No or minimal penalty fees


A car is not absolutely necessary while attending the Institute. Many students live within walking distance of campus and the downtown shopping area. Not having a car can save you hundreds of dollars per month. However, if you are planning to bring a car, remember that you will not receive extra financial aid based on your car payments, or the registration of your car. Also, be aware that the State of California has some of the strictest smog requirements in the country and you might have to pay extra to meet these requirements.

You may want to be creative in reducing costs, such as letting a family member borrow your car and assist you with the payments while you are in school.

Financial Planning

Here is a Budgeting Worksheet to help you start your in-school budget.