Compare Colleges Find Scholarships Financial Literacy College Pulse

Archive | Financial Literacy

Making The Move To College: Bargain Budget Must-Haves

Making The Move To College: Bargain Budget Must-Haves

There is no shortage of college preparation checklists and must-haves available on the internet. But as a soon-to-be college student who is preparing for an impending move on a tight budget, it’s a different story. With that in mind, here are some of the bare essentials you’ll need to live comfortably in college:

A Cozy Place to Sleep

After an all-night study session, there’s no place more comfortable than your bed. And since quality sleep has a strong correlation with academic performance, it is worth it to spend your hard-earned money on a quality mattress and bedding that you love. When it comes to buying a mattress, shop around and compare prices. Be sure to check online as well. While one may assume that it would be more costly to buy such a bulky item online due to shipping, it can actually be more affordable.

When it comes to bedding, you’ll need at least one set of sheets (or two if you have room to store a spare set), a down comforter, a duvet set and pillows (at least one for sleeping and a few decorative ones). If you’re going to splurge on one thing, it should be the pillow that you’ll sleep on. You can often save big on sheets with a set by Amazon Basics or find some at a discount chain like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. When shopping for anything bedding-related, be sure to shop around, as there are many great deals to be had if you have time to seek them out.

Homey Flourishes

Finding decor items that you love can make your dorm room or new apartment feel like home and help ease the transition into college life. Start by getting a few nice picture frames that you can use to frame some of your favorite photos of friends and family back home. Opt for a collage-style frame that can hold multiple photos if you have minimal wall space to hang pictures. Find knick-knacks like quirky bookends or colorful candles to infuse a little more personality into your new living space. Add a cozy throw blanket to the end of the bed to add a little more warmth, both literally and visually.

Additional Storage

Few college living arrangements are known for their ample storage space, so be prepared to invest in storage solutions. A plastic three-drawer storage chest on wheels is ideal for storing everything from socks and t-shirts to dry food goods, like macaroni and cheese and canned soup. If floor space is especially limited, use one of these storage chests as a nightstand.

Cooking Essentials

The stereotypical college student of years past may have lived off of instant ramen noodle soup, but today’s college crowd is more health conscious. While you may eat most meals in the campus dining hall, it’s still worth spending a little money to outfit your new place with a few cooking essentials. All you really need is a mini refrigerator, a small microwave and a few bowls, cups, plates and cutlery. You can find the small appliances available at steep discounts during back-to-school sales or even on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

Posted in Financial Literacy0 Comments

Budgeting For Your College Study Abroad Experience

Budgeting For Your College Study Abroad Experience

Most students who study abroad find it to be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. It is an experience that you will carry with you for the rest of your life, and may impact you in untold ways. But there is one minor issue: how do you pay for it? If your parents or grandparents are footing the bill, you have nothing to worry about, but for those students who are paying their own way, here are things to consider so you can properly budget for your time abroad – whether it’s a single semester or several years.

Paying for It

The first and most important consideration is paying for your time abroad. If you are planning to travel overseas for several years, you may be eligible for a student/work visa, in which case, you can earn money on the local economy. However, if you are planning to study abroad for a single semester, you likely will be forbidden from working in-country – so be prepared to save up enough money in advance to carry you through your entire term.

To pay for your trip, first determine how much you need. Is the program $5,000? $10,000? Remember, factor in both upfront costs, and those that will be incurred while you’re overseas. It does you no good to pay for your trip if you have no money for living expenses once you get there. For a ballpark estimate of how much you should be putting away every month, use a savings calculator to see how far your money will take you – and how quickly it will get you to your goal. If your current income won’t get you over the finish line in time, consider getting a second job, or starting a secondary business, like Uber or Amway. The extra income you earn could be the last piece of the puzzle.

Figuring Out the Local Economy

You’ll have to learn a lot of on the fly once you get to your destination. Does the economy support credit cards, or will you need to have cash on you at all times? How does the cost of living compare to home? How does the value of the dollar compare to the local currency – are you making money with each purchase, or losing it? To help avoid culture shock, do a bit of research in advance so that you know the answers to these questions before you arrive.

Other things to consider include daily withdrawal limits, using your ATM card overseas, and whether or not you’ll have to pay international transaction and currency conversion fees. In all cases, you should speak directly with your bank or credit card provider regarding these questions. For peace of mind, and to ensure that you’ll have access to your money when you need it. The last thing that you want it to be unable to pay for a meal, or take money from an automatic teller, because your card isn’t compatible in the country you are visiting.

Spending and Getting by While You’re There

If you’re on a fixed income during your study abroad, it’s important that you put together a budget plan. Why? So that you have a good idea of how much money you can spend in a given period of time – say, a week or month, for example. If you spend more in a given period of time than you’ve budgeted for, this means that you have less money at your disposal in the next spending period. If you don’t account for this, you could find yourself completely out of money long before your semester (or year) abroad is over. It should be obvious to everyone that this is far from ideal!

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to save money here and there, all of which can help your dollar go further. And if it’s true that overspending leaves you with less money for your next spending period, then it’s also true that underspending leaves you with more! Being frugal here and there – by eating in, bringing snacks with you, visiting free attractions, and taking part in free activities, to name just a few examples – can pay dividends in the long run. There’s nothing better than occasionally being able to splurge on yourself because you’ve followed all of the rules.

Posted in Financial Literacy0 Comments

3 Real Ways To Cut Your Expenses At College

3 Real Ways To Cut Your Expenses At College

CuttingCostsAs a college student, you are likely looking for any way to cut your spending and save some cash. Plenty of people and articles will tell you to stop getting Starbucks or closely examine all of your small expenditures – because they can certainly add up! However, is that really the biggest way to make a financial impact? Here are some tips to save and make money in the long term.

Examine Your Current Bills

The first place to look at cutting your spending is by examining your recurring bills. For the most part, these are services you need, but you may be able to cut out some of them. For example, if you pay for a streaming service such as Hulu or Netflix, do you also need to be paying for cable? Is there any way you can split entertainment services with friends and roommates? There’s also a good chance you are overpaying for some services, like your cell phone. Switch to a plan with no unexpected costs or hidden fees, such as T-Mobile One. If you have a strong credit history and a good record of paying your bills on time, try calling your cell provider, or even your electric company, to see if they are willing to lower your monthly payment. They often want to keep good customers like you, and will be willing to work with you if you explain your budget.

Track Your Spending Habits

Time to dissect that credit card bill! While cutting out a latte per week may not make that big of a difference in your financial situation, completely analyzing your current budget and creating a new one that is more in line with your ideals can. It may seem stressful and time-consuming to go through all your spending and come up with a plan, but thankfully there are personal finance apps that do it all for you. For example, Mint connects to your bank accounts to track your spending by category, such as restaurants, groceries, entertainment, gas and more. From this information and your input on priorities and goals, it creates a personal budget plan for you. It can even warn you when you are close to reaching your monthly budget, alert you when bills are near due, and more! Having a pulse on your funds at all times will make you more responsible with your spending.

Minimalize

Whether we like it or not, a lot of us are materialistic. While this is not necessarily terrible for your financial situation, minimalization is sure to improve it. Start by taking a look through your clothes and taking out anything you haven’t worn in the past three months. Sell these clothes to thrift shops or an online marketplace, and make a couple bucks. Next, move on to some non-essentials, such as makeup. Put all your products in one location and move them to another as you use them. If you haven’t used a product within two weeks, you should probably throw it away. Continue to do this throughout your living space. While you may not receive much financial gain from this type of spring cleaning, keeping the mentality will save you money over time. Before you make a purchase, think of what it will provide to your life, and even consider how much you are paying per usage. For example, a $200 dress that you will only wear once seems a little silly, right?

Saving money can be difficult, but there are many expenses that are easier to cut back on than you might think. Dedicate some time to looking at your wallet and figuring out a plan to improve your financial situation. Your future self will thank you!

Posted in Financial Literacy0 Comments

College Essentials 101: Mitigate Your Student Debt

College Essentials 101: Mitigate Your Student Debt

Even if you have already had to bite the bullet and take out loans to pay tuition, that doesn’t mean you have to finance your entire 4 years with debt. You can still find ways to minimize the debt or even avoid it altogether. It takes a little creativity and sacrifice. But that’s what your college years are for! So here are 5 tips for graduating with the smallest amount of debt possible.

#1 Get a Part Time Job

Working while studying is becoming more and more common these days so you won’t have too much trouble finding an employer willing to work around your class schedule. And a part time job can bring in enough money to cover your living expenses. So by working part time, you can avoid thousands of dollars in debt because you aren’t adding 4 years of living expenses to your tab.

And beyond that, there are some employers that even offer education benefits. These employers will pay part (or sometimes all) of your tuition in addition to paying you wages. So if you find the right employer, you could not only save on living expenses but you could even decrease the amount of debt you’re taking for tuition!

Do your research and ask about education benefits in your interviews.

#2 Embrace the “Starving Student” Lifestyle

While at college, you are going to see too many students driving cars and renting apartments they can’t really afford. They buy the name brand groceries. They get the newest electronics. They go out way too often. Don’t be that student.

There are a lot of non-essentials that you can do without. Here are few of the obvious and less obvious things that you can do to cut the non-essentials and save tons of money:

  • Get a used car. Buy a reliable used car with cash. Don’t take out a loan to drive a new car. You’re a student. You have no reason to be driving a new car. Better yet, you could be using public transport and avoid all the expenses of owning a car like insurance, gas, maintenance, parking fees, and so on.
  • Live with roommates. This will save you hundreds every month.
  • Skip the TV. Just watch movies and TV shows on your computer.
  • Buy generic. Get the generic brands of all your foods. Get canned or frozen produce so that it doesn’t spoil before you eat it.
  • Invite people over instead of going out. Buying some snacks and drinks to enjoy at home with friends is much, much cheaper than going out to a restaurant or club. It’s also just as fun. And they’re broke to so you’re helping them out.

There’s a lot of ways to avoid spending money. In 4 years, you will be thanking yourself.

#3 Remember Credit Cards are not Free Money

When making your monthly budget, don’t include your credit card limit as part of your “available money” for the month. Budget as if you were living purely on cash. Credit cards should exist to get you through an emergency. You shouldn’t go into debt to cover your normal expenses.

So if you can’t afford it without using credit cards, you need to rethink your budget and start making some cuts. In fact, you shouldn’t even be carrying your credit card in your wallet. Keep it in a drawer in your room. Don’t touch it unless you absolutely need it.

If that advice sounds too tough to follow, please refer back to tip #2! If you’ve already cut everything from your budget that you possibly can, look for creative ways to earn more money before you go into debt.

#4 Keep Applying for Scholarships

Many people know that they should apply to scholarships and financial aid before they start college. But did you know that you can keep applying even after you’ve already started? There are plenty of scholarships out there that are available to students who have already begun studying.

Make a habit of checking and applying to scholarships, grants, and other sources of financial aid. Set aside an afternoon or evening once a month to scour the web and apply for everything you can.

It’s a numbers game. If you apply to hundreds of different scholarships throughout the year, you’re bound to actually get a couple. And even if they don’t cover everything, they will make a dent. And remember that every dollar you can take off of your total student debt is worth more than a dollar in the long run. That’s because the smaller your principal amount is, the slower the interest on that amount will grow.

#5 Work & Save Money during the Summers

After a year of studying and stressing over finals, it can be tempting to use your summers to relax and recuperate. That’s especially true if you work part time during the year. But imagine this: if you worked full time during the summer months and saved up the majority of that money, you could potentially save yourself from having to work during the school year.

At the very least, you could save enough to cut your hours or allow yourself to splurge on a few “luxuries” like that name brand cereal you love.

Final Word

Heading off to college can feel like your first taste of freedom and adulthood. But you have to realize that with that freedom comes responsibility. You can’t keep digging deeper into debt just to pay for things you don’t need. You will have to pay for it later, literally! Ensure that you have a solid, debt-free (or low debt) start to your actual adulthood after college by practicing the tips above and other smart money management practices!

Today’s guest article comes from Kostas Chiotis, an economic blogger with a keen eye for personal finance. You can find more of his articles at FinanceBlogZone.com and follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Posted in Financial Literacy0 Comments

How to Overcome These 3 Devastating Budget-Busters

How to Overcome These 3 Devastating Budget-Busters

It happens to everyone, including even the most money-conscious student. No matter how well you think you planned your budget, after a few months, your bank account has less money in it than you expected.

There’s simply no avoiding an unexpected budget-busting expense at least once every few months, not to mention the smaller purchases that siphon off your funds so subtly that you hardly notice.

It may be something serious like a medical payment or a car repair. Or, it might just be your day-to-day habits. But few people can avoid falling off the budget wagon.

The key to overcoming the most common problems is knowing that they will strike. To better prepare, be sure to consider these three budget-busters.

Too Many Memberships

How many recurring subscription-based payments hit your card each month? The answer is almost certainly too many. Are you subscribing to Spotify, Apply Music and Tidal? Are you actually watching Netflix and Hulu enough to justify having both? Do you actually watch the cable service you pay an arm and leg for every month? How many magazines or newspapers do you actually read?

It can be all too easy to let $9.99 slide by month after month, rather than calling the company to cancel. But many people are throwing away $100 or more per month this way, simply letting the inertia of past sign-ups accumulate, which prevents them from reaching their goals. This can add up to thousands per year — forcing you to miss out on vacations or toys you really want.

One drastic solution is to cancel (virtually) everything right now. Then, try to live your life for a few weeks and figure out which services you actually miss. Maybe Spotify and Netflix both leave a big hole if your daily life. If that’s the case, renew those or other services you really need. But chances are you won’t even miss most of the rest.

Car Repairs and Other ‘Emergencies’

One good way to strengthen your budget is to look over old transactions from the past year. Chances are that you will find a sudden auto repair or maintenance cost that you completely forgot about, especially if you’re driving your parents old, clunky car.

One way to avoid this coming as a surprise the next time is by planning ahead. Wait for a good deal and then buy replacement parts that you know you will need in bulk. TireBuyer, for example, offers a discount to anyone who purchases a set of four select tires.

It’s also best to save for these things in advance. Many financial advisors recommend maintaining two savings accounts: one for your general goals and another for emergencies. Your current financial situation will determine how much you can reserve for this fund. But your objective should be having at least a few thousand dollars squirreled away. Because while each “emergency” comes as a shock, you know at least a few unexpected issues will strike every year. Be ready.

The Small Stuff

While a busted transmission or broken water heater is an immediate, obvious calamity, many people find themselves confused when they blow their budget every month. That’s because they fail to realize just how much they are spending every week on coffee, snacks or parking. If you’re going out to eat every night for $5 fast food, or hitting the bar every Friday to hang out with classmates, it’ll add up by the end of the month.

This doesn’t mean you need to cut out your less-memorable day-to-day expenses altogether. But you do need to account for them. The best way is to dedicate some time — at least one month, but ideally three — to being super-vigilant about everything you spend money on. This even includes times when you spend $1 on a parking meter.

After tracking it for a period, you can stop sweating the tiny stuff. But you will develop an ability to predict this “petty cash” outflow each month and just add this $50 or $100 or $200 per month into your budget as “miscellaneous.”

Posted in Financial Literacy0 Comments

Millennials Show Alarming Gap Between Financial Confidence and Knowledge

Millennials Show Alarming Gap Between Financial Confidence and Knowledge

Millennials are overconfident and under-prepared when it comes to managing their money, according to new research funded by the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) and conducted by George Washington University. They consider themselves far more knowledgeable financially than they actually are.

“Millennials are known for having unrelenting belief in their own abilities. This generation is diverse and highly educated. However, their overconfidence puts them in an extremely fragile financial position, and sadly, they don’t realize it,” says Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE.

Only 24 percent of respondents showed basic financial literacy in the study, with just 8 percent showing a high level of knowledge. Yet, 69 percent gave themselves a high self-assessment of financial knowledge.

“What young adults don’t know about money can hurt them,” says Beck. “This is our opportunity to reach them with relevant financial education to help close the gap.”

Financial Strengths: On paper, millennials are highly engaged in their financial lives. “It’s time to stop defining this generation solely by their student debt load. The picture is more nuanced,” says Beck.

The majority (88 percent) are banked, and 51 percent have a retirement account. Over 40 percent own their homes and one-fourth have investments in stocks, bonds or mutual funds.

Debt: However, on the other side of the balance sheet, millennials are heavily indebted and borrow against their assets. The majority (53 percent) feel they have too much debt. Two-thirds have at least one source of long-term debt (student loan, home mortgage, car loan), and 30 percent have more than one source of outstanding long-term debt. More than one-third have unpaid medical bills. About 20 percent of those with a self-directed retirement account either took a loan or made a hardship withdrawal in the prior 12 months.

“Young adults may not understand the consequences of their actions, such as how taking money out of their retirement accounts now has an exponentially negative effect on account balances in the future,” adds Beck.

Financial Satisfaction: Young adults also don’t feel good about their finances. Nearly one in five (18 percent) are “not at all satisfied” with their current personal financial condition; only 6 percent are “extremely satisfied.”

Financial Fragility: Many millennials are financially unprepared to handle sudden economic shocks. When asked if they could come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need arose within 30 days, nearly half (48 percent) said they probably or certainly could not come up with the funds. Less than one-third (32 percent) have set aside funds to cover three months of household expenses. Nearly 30 percent of those with bank accounts had overdrawn their account in the prior 12 months.

“The financial picture isn’t all bad,” says Beck. “But it’s not where it needs to be.”

For complete findings of the research, click here.

Study Details
This research analyzed data from the 2012 National Financial Capability Study (research brief of 2015 data also available), a state-by-state online survey commissioned by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. The analysis focused on 23-35-year-olds, with a total of 5,525 observations. The study was led by Annamaria Lusardi, Ph.D., academic director of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) and Denit Trust Chair of Economics and Accountancy at the George Washington University School of Business; and Carlo de Bassa Scheresberg, senior research associate at GFLEC.

 

Today’s Guest Article Comes From The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE)
NEFE is a nonprofit foundation that inspires empowered financial decision making for individuals and families through every stage of life. For more information, visit www.nefe.org.

 

Posted in Financial Literacy2 Comments

Top 9 Money-Saving Dorm Room Essentials

Top 9 Money-Saving Dorm Room Essentials

studentdormFour blank walls, small closets, communal bathrooms and a stranger sleeping in an identical bed three feet from you. Yep, your first dorm room can feel more like prison than an awesome college experience. That’s why it’s essential to transform your dorm room into a nurturing and organized living space where your mind can thrive. Here’s how to invest wisely in dorm room luxuries that will save you money in the long run.

1. Coffee Maker

Kick your brain into high gear with premium coffee made fresh from your dorm room at a fraction of the coffee shop price. Get a capsule espresso maker and automated milk frother that will automatically create delicious espresso and microfoam. This will save you massive amounts if it helps you forgo visits to the coffee shop.

2. Storage Furniture

Furniture that doubles as storage will help you stay organized and comfortable. Storage cubes from Ikea are great for corralling everything from textbooks to clothes to hair products. Knowing where all your stuff is will discourage you from wasting money on duplicate items, and it may even lower your stress level.

3. Clothesline

Air-drying your clothes will save you quarters at the laundromat and reduce wear and tear on your clothes over time, saving you money on replacements. Invest in a foldable clothes drying rack or a portable clothesline from The Container Store that doubles as a cool display for photos, cards or artwork.

4. Refrigerator

Having a mini-fridge is handy for saving leftovers from dinners out. Plus, you are more likely to keep staples like yogurt and milk on hand for quick breakfasts rather than splurging at the corner bakery on your way to class.

5. Rice Cooker

Beside making rice quickly and easily, a rice cooker can be used to make oatmeal, soup, steamed vegetables, and a ton of other things. At just $1-3 per serving for a filling and nutritious meal compared with $10 or more at Chipotle, a rice cooker will save you money on eating out. It can also be a great way to heat up leftovers, and can be stowed away in a closet when not in use.

6. Lapdesk

Extend the life of your laptop by keeping your laptop’s battery cool as you study. Rather than propping your laptop up on a pillow or blanket, stay comfy and cool with a lap desk. Check out Pottery Barn’s selection that includes an internal storage compartment starting at $59.

7. Printer

The long line at the library printer won’t be an impressive excuse to your composition instructor when you turn your paper in late. Avoid stress and save money on printing costs by buying a wireless color printer/scanner/copier like the Canon PIXMA MG3520 or HP Envy 4520.

8. Alarm Clock

Avoid the harmful blue light from your cell phone late at night and early in the morning by opting for an alarm clock that gently wakes you with a simulated sunrise like Philips Wake-Up Light. Research indicates that waking up naturally to sunlight increases alertness, cognitive performance, and reaction times, meaning you could earn better grades, scholarships or work promotions. Say goodbye to that second senior year!

9. Water Filter

Filling a reusable water bottle with water from your dorm room will save you from buying disposable water bottles from the vending machine. In fact, you could save a ton, since some estimates state that people spend 10,000 times more on bottled water than on tap water. For better tasting and cleaner water than regular tap water, opt for an attractive filter like the compact Soma Water Filter ($29) or a portable water purifier like the Sport Berkey ($29).

Posted in Financial Literacy0 Comments

A College Student’s Guide to an Affordable, Meaningful Christmas

A College Student’s Guide to an Affordable, Meaningful Christmas

The Christmas season has unfortunately become synonymous with consumerism for many families and individuals. Instead of enjoying the many opportunities to create memorable experiences during the holidays, stress about gift giving can creep in and overshadow all the joy. And if you’re a college student on an already tight budget, this can be especially draining. It’s time to trade in the anxiety for some merriment! Here are some tips to handle Christmas on a budget and still get into the spirit of giving.

Give Your Time

Before you roll your eyes at giving someone else the gift of your time, give this idea a chance! After all, if you’re at a university across the country from your family, there’s probably nothing your parents want more than some quality time with you. Think about meaningful memories you have with each person on your list and try to recreate them this Christmas.

Maybe you and your mom used to watch Christmas movies and sip hot chocolate. All you need to do is buy some hot chocolate and a couple of her favorite Christmas movies, put them in a cute basket and include a ‘coupon’ that’s good for one morning of enjoying each other’s company. You can use the coupon idea for your significant other as well and give the gift of a massage; for your best friend, give the gift of a coffee and shopping date. The list goes on and on. All that’s required is a small monetary investment and a lot of thoughtful intention!

Give Meaning

A lot of people have begun to turn away from the materialistic nature of today’s Christmas season and opt for handmade gifts or giving back in lieu of buying presents. If you have philanthropically-minded individuals in your close network of friends and family members, consider giving a donation to their favorite cause or nonprofit. You don’t even need to announce the amount you’ve donated; simply make a card that includes the organization’s name and shows that you’ve donated to it in that person’s honor.

You can even get your whole family involved! If the rest of your clan is game, make a rule that the only gifts that can be given are those that benefit families in need. Look through a giving catalog to find meaningful gifts like medical care, education and clean water or food in the poorest parts of the world. Then have fun wrapping up a description of what you’ve chosen to give and watch your family delight in knowing other people will be helped thanks to your Christmas gift.

Give Health

If you’re intent on purchasing tangible gifts for the people on your list this year, you can still do so on a budget. The greatest gifts someone could receive are love, health and happiness and, of these, health is probably the easiest to contribute to. If you have a friend who struggles from insomnia, maybe buy her a small bottle of lavender essential oils and a diffuser. Or perhaps you have an uncle who is trying to lose weight. In this case, you could buy him a subscription to a health magazine or purchase a few classes for him at a nearby boxing gym, if that’s a form of exercise he’d be willing to try. The point is to think beyond the typical gifts and find inexpensive items that are thoughtful and health-conscious.

As you gear up for Christmas this year, don’t let the hustle and bustle take you away from the real meaning of the season. You can give your time and show how much you care without breaking the bank. Some extra thoughtfulness will go a long way this holiday season, helping you save money and spread joy!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Posted in Financial Literacy0 Comments

Advert