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What to Splurge on as You Prepare for College


Heading off to college usually involves a lengthy — and expensive — shopping list. To stick to your budget, you’ll need to be smart about what you’re investing your money in. Here are a few items to keep in mind.

Sturdy Backpack

You’ll be lugging plenty of study materials around campus for at least four years, so do your future self — and your back — a favor and invest in a sturdy backpack to haul it all around. Look for a design that is as sturdy as it is sleek so that it can easily transition as a work bag for your internship or first job. Key features to look for are a special padded laptop section, hidden compartments for valuables, as well as plenty of other storage compartments to keep the rest of your essentials organized and accessible.

Shower Curtain & Other Bathroom Linens

It’s worth splurging on a quality shower curtain to keep your bathroom looking clean and elevate the style of your space for a more adult look. Be sure to protect your shower curtain from mold and mildew by using a mildew-resistant liner. This can prevent mildew from growing, which can also save you time cleaning your bathroom.

Instead of buying the cheapest towels you can find in bulk, spring for towels that cost a little more. High-quality bath towels, hand towels and washcloths will often wash and wear better, lasting longer and saving you money in the long run. Skip the colorful options in favor of solid white towels that can easily be bleached to look like new if they stain or start to discolor.

Reusable Water Bottle

Maintaining optimal hydration offers a host of health benefits, from aiding digestion and helping you feel more energized to improving the look of your skin and promoting overall immunity. And if you are living it up in the typical college fashion and going out drinking with your friends often, hydration is even more important to ward off those dreaded hangovers.

Splurge on a double-walled stainless steel water bottle from Hydroflask, Swell or Klean Kanteen. While plastic water bottles, even the reusable kind, can leach chemicals into your water, stainless steel water bottles are safer and more eco-friendly. The sturdy construction also means this style of water bottle is more durable and can stand up to the drop and tumbles that can occur as you tote it around on campus daily. Double-walled, vacuum-insulated construction is key for temperature stability, keeping your water cold for hours in any environment.

Wireless Key Finder

You’ve got a lot going on and all of that juggling can make it easy to lose track of the simplest little things, like your keys. Save yourself the headache of furiously tearing your place apart looking for your keys by investing in a wireless key finder. This ingenious little device attaches to your keyring and uses a Bluetooth signal to pair with your phone. When you cannot locate your keys, simply deploy the find feature from the device app on your phone and it will begin playing a designated finder tune to help guide you toward your keys.

By splurging on the above items, you can enjoy years of use and spend less sweating the small stuff and more time focusing on your studies.

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Tips and Tricks For The Budget-Savvy College Student


You’re in! Acceptance to that college you have been dreaming of has now become a reality. Then it hits you – how are you going to afford this? Well, it’s easier than you might think! However, it does require careful planning and strategy. You cannot simply show up on the first day of school and expect to “figure it out as you go”. Taking a few precautions and implementing a few strategies can help you become a budget-savvy college student.

Where Does the Money Come From?

First, let’s look at financial assistance at the college level. Financial aid officers are like your guidance counselors in high school, but on a much larger scale. Your financial aid office should be your new best friend. Their job is to guide and educate students about the many financial options available. So, make sure to get acquainted with them! Students are often unaware of the many options available to them in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study programs, etc.

One other thing many students don’t know is that funding opportunities can be available outside of the financial aid office as well. Your program’s office may also have scholarships or grants available that are specific to your major, so make sure you make it a goal to try to find out about all funding opportunities, so you can make an informed decision about which to pursue. Becoming knowledgeable about all of these options is a great way to start giving yourself a realistic idea of what your education will cost.

Time to Explore

Next, explore your college campus. Do you really need a car to get around? What transportation options are available? Many campuses are like an all-inclusive resort. There is literally no need to go off campus for your everyday needs. In situations like this, students can save themselves the cost of a car payment, car insurance, gas, and repairs by using public transportation. Many campuses even offer free or low cost shuttle services to get students around campus quickly and hassle-free! Also, ride sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft offer discount rates to college students, so do the math… is it cheaper to own a car or to use alternatives?

To Work, or Not to Work? That is the Question!

There are some pros and cons to working while being a college student, which need to be taken into account. Will it affect your study or class schedule? How will taking certain jobs which require certain hours impact your social life? Aside from social life, team projects may also be impacted by when and where you work. Will this job be something related to your major, or will it be a side gig to earn some extra cash? Also, will the position be on campus or off campus? There may be many perks to taking jobs on campus, such as not having to commute, interacting with students, staff and faculty of your campus community, and perhaps an increased chance that you will be engaged in other activities and know “what’s happening” on campus.

Determined that you want to get a job? Then it’s time to explore your options.  Check with, or better yet, visit the career center at your campus to see if any job opportunities are posted. Having some extra money by undertaking a fun job while in school is a win-win. If you don’t see anything of interest, you can look elsewhere to find something you enjoy that will work with your class schedule.

Understand Needs vs Wants

Having the above elements sorted will help you create a realistic budget. Groceries, dining, clothing, toiletries, supplies, etc. all add up very quickly. Creating categories of items which you know that you will be spending money on will give you insight about what you need versus what you want. Before school begins, scouting clearance and sales for some of these items and building a stock of necessities can help make this process easier. This will at least offset these costs for the first few months as you get settled in with your exciting new path as a college student.

Education is an Investment

Higher education can come with a daunting price tag. Don’t let the cost of tuition scare you! We have met college hopefuls who have decided not to attend their school of choice based on tuition alone, or even some who were so terrified by the tuition that they put off going to school altogether. There are numerous options that students can look into to help alleviate these costs. Think of your tuition like the sticker price on a car. What you see does not have to be what you pay! You will have to put in the time and the research to get what you want. As with all things in life, if you are dedicated to making it work, you just might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome! One thing that may alleviate any concerns you may have, is to do some research and find out how much you expect to earn once you have your dream job. Compare that to the cost of tuition. A college education is the key to earning that amount of money, so think of it like an investment!

Knowing Your End Goal Could Save You Money!

The end goal looks different for every student. The main question to consider: what do you want to accomplish with your education? Is it important for your resume to list a particular school? Is there an organization you can join which can help you with your career goals? These questions warrant close examination. For example, undecided or budget conscious students may opt to spend the first two years at a community college to satisfy the prerequisite courseworks and transfer into a full time university or college. Community colleges are cheaper compared to a private or state university.

The option is available to transfer credits from an associate degree to a college or university where students begin taking core courses. This is not the ideal option for everyone, as some professional degrees may require prerequisite associate level courses before moving on to the Bachelor level. If this is a viable option that suits your end goals, however, it could be a significant financial relief for you (and your wallet). The bottom line is, if you know where you would like to be, academically and in your career, the path you choose to get there could save you money in the long run. There usually IS more than one way to get there!

Today’s guest article comes from Desiree Van Campen, Dr. Kacey Shap, Dr. Jazmin Letamendi and Dr. Carl Letamendi from Ology Research Group. They provide support with research & evaluation support, survey instrument design, survey implementation, analytics for reports, assessment and grant writing. They may be reached at info@ologyresearchgroup.org.

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Preparing for Unexpected College Expenses


College is already stressful – workload, course load, homework and projects, club meetings and events without adding financial troubles to the mix. However, properly preparing for unexpected college expenses can help minimize stress.

There are plenty of places where students can go to get help managing money, applying for financial aid, and getting familiar with what to expect from college, including the Federal Student Aid.

Textbooks on a Dime

Text books are expensive, especially given many students don’t keep them past a year. A great way to keep costs low is to buy used texts as often as possible. There are plenty of online resources to ensure you get quality used books for a low price while others rent textbooks for the quarter, such as Chegg.com or Amazon.

Don’t purchase your books right away, either. Wait until you have a syllabus and know you will be staying in the class. Buying them before the first day can be costly if students drop the class for one reason or another. Fall quarter syllabus created in the summer can also change before the quarter starts up.

Digital text books can be rented or purchased and are often much cheaper, too. Plus instead of weighty books, they’re as light as the device they’re saved on.

Balanced Budgets

Budgets are the hardest part to stick to. Saving even 10 percent of your income from jobs or student aid can greatly increase your ability to cover unexpected costs.

Monitor your spending. Instead of springing for cable or daily lattes, go for Netflix and a coffee maker. There are ways college students can sway out spending for lower-cost options all over the place. Food costs can be cut by pooling food money and buying in bulk. Housing can be less expensive the farther from the campus students live, though, get too far out and you may need a car (negating some savings).

Credit cards can be a dangerous slope, as minimum payments are never enough and costs rack up quickly. It’s good to have an emergency credit card, but its easy to overspend via credit cards.

Having a car can be really fun, but aren’t the most cost-effective possession for a young college student. However, if you really want one to have cool road trips in or to haul your college gear, check out local DMV locations to get your in-state license if you don’t already have one.

Student Discounts

Many places offer student discounts when you show your student ID. Anything from insurance to food, clothing to services, and more. Organizations have already compiled comprehensive lists of places with student discounts, so all you may have to find is where businesses are located. When you’re at the register, just ask if they have a student discount and hopefully you’ll be able to save a couple bucks.

Amazon Prime even has a discounted version for students. Prime Student is a six-month free trial of all Prime services. After the initial trial ends, eligible students get a 50-percent saving off Amazon Prime for four years.

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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!

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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.”

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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!

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4 Ways to Create a College-friendly Budget


Being a college student can be financially stressful, to put it lightly. Not only are you likely already in debt, but it seems like you never have enough money for your day to day life. One of the reasons it can seem that way is because keeping track of your spending and where your money is going can be difficult.

Creating a budget in college may not sound like the most glamorous or fun thing to do, but not only will it help you keep track of you money, it will also help you spend less and save up. Here are a few tips for getting started:

1. Digitize Your Money

Cash may seem like the way to go, but how often do you lose, misplace or just ignore your small bills and coins? If you digitize your money, e.g. paying using your debit card, you can track every cent and have a log of what you spent your money on without having to do it yourself. Stocking up on change might seem like a good idea, but coin machines often charge a large amount of money to convert to bills, which makes it not worth the trouble unless you have hundreds of dollars in change.

Think about getting a phone with mobile pay to make digitizing your money even easier. For example, the iPhone 6s features Apple Pay which uses Touch ID to verify a purchase made on your phone, so it’s safer than ever before.

2. Start Setting Savings Goals

Online apps and banks, like Simple.com, let you set goals on your phone to further facilitate saving. Whether your want to save up for something specific or for a rainy day, setting a few bucks on the side is never a bad idea and can help prepare you for big-time savings that will come after college.

3. Cut Out the Non-Essentials

This is the hard part. The easiest way to save money when budgeting is to take a hard look at what you’re already spending your money on and cut out the things that you don’t absolutely need.

If you have a gym membership that you haven’t used in a few months, you should probably cancel it and save yourself that money. Instead of eating out once a day, try cooking more often and eating out only once a week. If you’re spending large amounts of money on online gaming, you should probably skip a few hours a day and study anyway. Double incentive.

4. Set Money Aside for the Things You Really Need

Think about how much money you need for your essentials that will last you until your next paycheck and set that money aside as soon as you get paid. When you start budgeting for stuff like food, the easiest way to figure out how much money to set aside is to go grocery shopping with a list of all the things you’ll need for a week. Go to the store, buy your stuff and make note of how much you spend. Now all you have to do is budget accordingly.

You can also budget for future events or purchases by setting money aside beforehand so you don’t have to spend an entire paycheck on something like the gift you forgot to buy for your best friend’s wedding.

College is a trying time. You feel like an adult, but at the same time feel like there are so many things your parents forgot to tell you about adulthood. Hopefully, you now have one less adult thing to worry about.

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Creating a College Budget: How to Save and Cut Costs


collegebudgetpigNo money and no time to make money may be the hardest college equation you’re asked to solve in the next four years. How are you supposed to pay for tuition, living expenses, entertainment, travel and more when you’re in class, studying for exams, or trying to find and complete an internship? It’s hard, but it can be done.

Indeed, the best way for college students to make money is to save the money they have already earned — whether from part-time jobs or student loans — by practicing smart spending habits and using student discounts. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Choose a Money Management Tool

Whether it’s pen and paper, a simple spreadsheet or an app, you must come up with a way to track your spending. Mint, a free app, helps you create a customized budget, track your spending, pay your bills, and even learn about how to improve your credit score. When creating your budget, set goals for your spending, but be realistic. If you’re a foodie, don’t cut eating out completely — just limit yourself to a certain dollar amount each month. The same goes for gamers, sports enthusiasts, shopaholics and adventurers. To save money and stick to your budget, you don’t have to live a boring life — you just have to plan ahead.

Save and Splurge

When money management is on the mind, every activity, cup of coffee and weekend get together all of a sudden looks like dollar signs to you. These things, as well as fixed costs and unexpected expenses, are part of life. Figure out a balance of when to save and when to splurge — and recognize when doing either will benefit or break your budget in the future.

When it comes to insurance, for example, you don’t want to skimp now and then find yourself paying big bills later. The same goes for car maintenance. If you can avoid choosing cheap repair options now, they won’t keep popping up in the future. So, the next time your car gets a blowout, see it as an opportunity to invest in high-quality tires, which will save you money in the long run.

Discounts: Use, Don’t Abuse

Whether they advertise it or not, tons of businesses offer student discounts if you just ask. From technology and travel to entertainment, food and clothing, simply flashing your college ID can save you anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent at many retail stores. For example:

  • If you join or renew as a Sam’s Savings member, you’ll receive a $15 gift card with your student ID. In addition to groceries, varying Sam’s Club locations also offer members-only discounts on tire service, an optical center, pharmacy and more.
  • Students can earn discounts on Adobe Creative Cloud by choosing between the All Apps plan (giving you access to the latest versions of every Adobe creative tool) or Photography plan (which includes Photoshop and Lightroom).
  • The Student Advantage Discount Card from Greyhound will save you 20 percent on walk-up fares and online tickets. It also saves you 40 percent on package shipments sent through the company’s Package Express offering.

While these are all awesome discounts, remember, there’s a reason businesses offer student discounts: It’s because students usually don’t have a lot of money to spend. Don’t let yourself jump on the “But it’s such a good deal!” train. The key to saving money with coupons or student discounts is to only use them on products and services you already planned to buy.

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