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4 Sensible Ways to Save Money on Technology in 2015


technologysavingsAs a college student, you are probably well-aware of how expensive it is to go to school. Between paying for tuition, books, rent, gas for your car and necessities like late night pizzas, you probably have more month left than money most of the time.

While you might be tempted to get a second job or ask for as much overtime as possible, there’s a lot to be said for spending less money rather than always looking for ways to earn more. With that in mind, the following four tips can help you save some serious money in 2015, and they all share one thing in common — technology:

Cut Back on Cable

Yes, you love watching TV and you don’t want to miss any of your favorite shows or ball teams’ big games. But when you signed up for your cable service, chances are good that you ended up with a much bigger package than you really need. Most households pay close to $90 a month for cable, an amount that is predicted to rise, according to Consumer Reports. The next time your bill arrives in the mail, don’t just pay it, study it. Take a look at what you are paying for and what channels you can eliminate to save money. A classic and common example is premium movie channels; when you signed up for cable you might have been promised a certain number of months for free. Those months have probably passed and you might unwittingly be paying big bucks for channels you never watch. Once you determine what you can cut from the bill, call the company and cancel any unneeded perks, and ask them if they can cut your bill any further to save money. It definitely doesn’t hurt to ask.

Downgrade Your Smartphone

While the iPhone 6 with all of its bells and whistles is definitely amazing, it is also a pretty spendy little device. If you are in the market for a new smartphone, there are plenty of other choices that feature all of the options you could ever want or need, but at a fraction of the price. For example, the ZTE ZMAX from T-Mobile is priced right around $250, which is significantly less than many other models like the iPhone or Galaxy. But don’t think that the lower price means lesser quality — the ZTE ZMAX features a nice 5.7 inch HD screen, powerful battery and Snapdragon Quad Core processor that makes the phone a breeze to use.

Trim Down the Cell Bill

Now that you have a lower-priced-but-still-cool smartphone, why not take it a step further and see about reducing the amount you pay for monthly service? As Dave Ramsey notes, there are plenty of ways to cut back on your cellphone bill. For example, your bill should indicate how many minutes you are using. If you are paying for 4,000 minutes a month but use an average of 2,000, ask to change your contract. Insurance is another common monthly fee that you might be able to eliminate and save some hard-earned money.

Limit Your Streaming Services

Netflix and Hulu are great ways to watch your favorite shows, when you want them. If you have both of streaming services, consider getting rid of one service; it will save you some money and chances are you won’t be missing out on many shows. In fact, depending on how much TV you watch, you might be able to get by with just the free, bare bones service from Hulu, or by watching shows online on the TV network websites.

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College Bound? The Best New Cars for the Frugal College Student


collegecarIf you have a college-bound student heading off to university in the fall, you’re probably already planning to make sure they have everything they need once they arrive on campus. But what about how they’ll get there and get around once school starts?

An estimated 22 million college U.S. college students are heading to campus this year and the last thing you want to do is send yours off in an old, unreliable or unsafe car. If your teenager is still driving grandma’s old beater, there’s a good chance the car won’t even make it to the college dorm room parking lot when you help them move in.

Buying a new car for your college-bound son or daughter is an important part of planning for college. By using a reputable car valuation service like Kelley Blue Book, you can make sure you’re getting a fair price on a new car.

Here are the five best new cars for the frugal college student who is looking to save a few bucks while still looking cool and staying safe on the road.

Fiat 500

The little Italian cars long popular in Europe have really picked up speed in the United States. The model 500 car is selling especially fast, with many of those buyers being late teenagers. The Italian auto maker revamped its original 1957 subcompact car with a sporty exterior and interior and gets very good gas mileage.

Honda Fit

The Honda Fit is an affordable, safe and compact car that gets very good mileage. Being a Honda, the Fit also will not require much maintenance, making it perfect for college kids who don’t have a lot of cash for expensive repairs.

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius is another great option for frugal college students who want to save money on gas and help the environment at the same time. The Prius now also comes in several different styles, so if the natural hatchback is not to your student’s liking, they can have their pick of other body types. A little pricier than an all-gasoline car, the cost of the hybrid car is deferred while saving on gas and helping save the environment.

Nissan Rogue

Crossovers like the Nissan Rogue are a little compact car with some SUV mixed in. The new Rogue seats up to seven people, but you wouldn’t know from looking at it on the outside. The Rogue is a bit more expensive than a smaller car, but it’s safe and having all the storage space in the car is perfect for those long drives back home with loads of dirty laundry.

Kia Soul

The Kia Soul is another great crossover option for college students on a budget. Perhaps you’ve seen their commercials with the hamsters dancing and driving. Hopefully your college kids won’t have too big of a party in this great vehicle, although it has several amenities such as a booming sound system and other features that make it a super cool car. It also has about 20 cubic feet of cargo space to give plenty of room to pack for the long trip home.

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Having a Car in College: Is It Better to Buy or Lease?


studentcarTeen drivers have declined 12 percent from 2006-2012, a study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found. A prime reason for this may be that the high cost of car ownership, insurance, fuel and maintenance is simply too high for most young people. While a car allows you to commute to a job off-campus and head home to see your family anytime, it does not come cheap. Dig deeper into the benefits of buying and leasing to determine which model is best for you.

Buying a Car

College and the years right after graduation are often full of changes in location, job, career and lifestyle that can make it difficult for you to anticipate whether you’ll need a car in the near future. Still, a car is an asset that you can build your credit with, as College Board explains. If you are buying a new car, you’ll reap the benefits of manufacturer’s warranties and won’t have to pony up for most repairs. If your needs change later, you can sell the car to earn some money. You’ll save up front by buying a used car, but will need to save and pay for vehicle maintenance and repairs on your own instead of receiving warranty coverage.

If you decide that you want to buy, but don’t have the money outright to pay for the entire car, financing is also an option. If you are thinking of financing, come up with a realistic picture of what you can afford to pay each month by calculating your finances and your expenses. Then select a financing option that fits your budget and commit to making regular payments before deadline. This will help build your credit, which benefits post-college life.

Leasing a Car

Leasing can be ideal if you’re not sure that you want to have a car in the long term, but know you want access to a car now. When thinking of leasing, read the terms of the lease agreement as they will specify how many miles come with the lease. As a student, you probably do not need a high mileage limit since you’re unlikely to drive the car every day. However, if you have a long daily commute to campus or work, then it’s worth crunching the numbers before you commit to a lease. Exceeding the mile limit will cost you when you turn in the car at the end of the lease. Leases generally run for a 24- to 36-month lease term, which should meet student flexibility. There are “cancel anytime” programs available if you are unsure whether you can commit to the conventional lease term. These flexible leases can also be ideal for students who may need a car this semester but not next, for example.

If keeping payments low is your primary concern, and you don’t know whether you need a car after school, then leasing can be a convenient and cost-effective choice. Monthly payments and one-time down payments are typically lower with leased vehicles than with purchased vehicles. Plus, you’ll receive a warranty that will cover most of the repairs you’ll need to make. If you do decide to lease, make your monthly lease payments on time to help build credit.

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Greening Your Dorm Room: Saving the World or Just a Little Cash?


GreenMeadowIt may be modest, but your dorm room is likely your first chance to create a personal environment that really reflects who you are and what you care most about. Beyond posters on a wall, you have an opportunity to convey what is important in your life and how you want to live.

Or you might just need to keep it cheap and simple so you can focus on study and education.

Either way, finding ways to green your dorm room and college life make perfect sense. And it’s all relatively easy to do. Sure much of it comes down to a bullet list of common sense items, which we’ll get to in a moment, but beyond any list are the ideas and ideals behind the choices you make for your living space.

This quick article will help get you thinking about some of these ideas that you’ll carry with you as you move from a dorm room to an off-campus apartment and perhaps eventually to your own house or urban condo.

Years from now people will ask where you learned how to run such a low-footprint, energy-efficient house and you’ll say, “yeah, I learned that back in college.”

Let’s get started.

First of all, congratulations on making it this far; you’re studying at college or university – or you soon will be – and you’re getting ready to take on the world. Maybe some of your friends are still asking “is global warming real? but you know that climate, energy and sustainability are all part of the same problem. You know that the choices you make today will impact the future for generation to come. You also know that greening your lifestyle not only makes sense environmentally, but economically as well.

It all begins with the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce

Okay, you’re a poor college student living in a tiny dorm room – how exactly are you supposed to “reduce” when you’re living on peanut butter and skittles? You’d be surprised how, even in the most modest of dorm rooms, you can reduce – your energy use, your waste and your resource consumption.

  • Lighting

Use CFL lightbulbs, or better yet, LED fixtures. We won’t save the world by changing lightbulbs, but the Energy Information Administration estimates that about 461 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity were consumed in the United States in 2011 just for lighting. That’s equal to 17 percent of total electrical demand and represents some “low hanging fruit” for greening a dorm room (or any room for that matter). Granted, upfront costs for LED’s are still high, but they use a fraction of the energy of even a CFL bulb, and could last until you get your student loans paid off. With CFL’s or LED, you’ll save money in the long run.

  • Go Paperless

We don’t need to tell you, the savvy college student, about all the cool apps and programs available to help you go paperless. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to eliminate paper entirely from your college experience, but with services like Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox and many others, you can be as paperless a student as possible.

Going paperless can extend to many areas of your life, too. Food, for instance. Carry a favorite mug for coffee or tea instead of an endless string of paper cups. Whenever possible, avoid using paper plates and napkins. Clean up with cloth towels instead of paper towels. You might be saving more trees than money here, but your actions just may catalyze others to do the same, saving even more trees in the process.

  • Energy

Beyond lighting, there are lots of ways to reduce energy consumption and their associated costs. Granted, you may not be paying for energy while living in your dorm room, but getting in this habit now will save money for the rest of your life.

It can start with sharing any appliances you don’t absolutely need in your dorm room – TV’s and refrigerators for instance; can these appliances be shared? If you do have a TV or fridge in your room, make sure they are EnergyStar rated – that goes for any appliance you own.

You can cut way down on energy for heating and cooling by adapting floor and window coverings to your environment. Put down rugs to keep your room cooler, roll them up when it gets warmer. On hot summer days open the windows and use curtains and blinds to either block the hot sun or let the air flow through. If you can, avoid using an air conditioner and opt for a fan instead.

  • Green mobile phones

Perhaps this one is a bit unexpected, as you look lovingly at your iPhone or Android, but your choice of smartphone can make a big difference in terms of manufacturing, packaging, energy use and product lifecycle. If you’re not looking to upgrade, then don’t. The greenest (and least expensive) thing you can do is to continue to use what you already have. But if you think you’ll soon get a new phone, consider your options for getting one of the greenest smartphones.

Reuse

Much of what we’ve mentioned so far may not save you that much money right off the bat, but they help establish lifetime habits that will save you cash throughout your life and set a good example for your friends and family.

“Reuse” however, is a different story. In our throwaway culture the idea of reuse may at first seem a bit foreign. But it starts with simple things. When you do use sheet paper, make sure to use both sides if you can before throwing it in the recycle bin. Save big bucks by using or buying used appliances or clothing. Make sure to donate items you do discard to the Salvation Army or some other charity.

Be creative, find ways specific to your life that you can reuse materials and resources, it will make an immediate impact on your bottom line and help the world at the same time. Let us know the different ways you’ve found to employ this concept in your life!

Recycle

This may be the best known of the three R’s. Recycle bins are becoming ever more evident wherever we go these days. And that’s a good thing. Recycling reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills. Americans throw away about 250 million tons of garbage every year, but only 32 percent of waste is now diverted to landfills nationwide. We can do better – much better!

The city of San Francisco diverts 80 percent of its garbage from landfills, and is on track to becoming a zero waste city.

But here’s a real challenge for college students everywhere: North Carolina State University now diverts as much as 93 percent of its waste from landfills. Surely you’re not going to let NC State one-up your school’s landfill diversion program – are you? (and if you’re from NC State – kudos!)

Save money, save resources, save the world

If only it were that easy, right? The fact is that getting started on the road to saving money, conserving resources and making the world more sustainable does really start with a few simple, common sense steps. Using a mug instead of a plastic cup, changing a light bulb or recycling old term papers won’t save the world or make you rich. But it’s a start.

By taking steps to green your dorm room and your college life you’ll lay the foundation for a better world – as Jeffery Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute puts it, a world that is economically prosperous, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable.

It starts with you, with me, with all of us.

About The Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Matthew Speer, the co-founder of iSustainableEarth.com.

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Split the Check: Co-budgeting Tips for You and Your Roommate


collegeroommatesjpgThe guest list for your house-warming party can wait. Co-existence with a new roommate is exciting, but one key part of your relationship can turn things sour: money. Bills are a part of any living arrangement, and a well-thought plan will keep you and your roommate on good terms.

Determine the Split

Before you can organize a real budget with your roommate, you must determine how much each party is paying. Split the rent based on the amount of space each individual is occupying. For example, if you have a larger bedroom, then you should pay a slightly higher rent. If the bedrooms are the same size, then you might split the cost of rent in exactly half.

The same rule applies to other bills. You need to split the bills based on the usage or a set agreement before moving into the same space together. According to http://www.internetproviders.com, the cost of an Internet connection is variable on what kind of connection you want. Your roommate might have different requirements than you. Even if the cost is reasonable, focus on the usage to develop a proportionate amount each individual pays.

MovingToday.com suggests that paying a proportionate amount of the bills and rent will reduce the number of complications when it comes to budgeting. Split all of the bills that are shared, even if certain utility bills are obtained in one roommate’s name. If a bill is in your name and your roommate uses the utility more, then ask your roommate to pay the appropriate percentage before the bill is due.

Shop Together

Talk to your roommate about groceries and other necessary expenses that are not basic bills. Determine whether you are going to buy groceries together or separately. Organize your plans so that you can shop together if you determine that the groceries are being purchased together.

ApartmentRatings.com suggests that organizing the foods that you will buy together or setting up a plan of action related to basic necessities will reduce the burdens that you and your roommate are facing. You do not want to pick up the financial slack of your roommate, but you also do not want to place an additional burden on him or her.

Talk about groceries and similar expenses and then organize your budget accordingly. If you plan to split the groceries evenly, then shop together so that each individual can pay half of the price.

Arrange Your Maximum Expenditures

Setting a personal budget is a key part of arranging a co-budget. You and your roommate will need to discuss the cost of furnishing common areas and paying for basic necessities. Before you can organize a co-budget related to furnishings, identify the maximum amount that you have available to spend.

Talk about your budget and the funds that you have available. Set a goal related to furnishing the apartment or common space so that you and your roommate are on the same page.

According to AZfamily.com, a personal budget will allow you to organize all of your income sources and expenditures so that you are able to meet your financial goals. Not all of your expenses will be budgeted with your roommate. Ideally, only your utilities, groceries and rent are budgeted with your roommate. Discuss other expenses that are used communally with your roommate before making any purchases.

 

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7 Companies That Offer Savings to College Students


moneyOther than your future home, college will likely be the most expensive investment of your life. It is no wonder a good number of college students feast on Ramen noodles and wear the same clothes they’ve had since their sophomore year in high school. Students need to utilize as many discounts as possible, which are widely available to those with a college I.D. card or a .edu email address. Most companies don’t advertise the discounts, but some very common ones offer them at most locations.

Buffalo Wild Wings

If you’re fortunate enough to have a Buffalo Wild Wings near your campus, treat yourself to a plate of Parmesan Garlic or Thai Curry wings. Just be certain to show your student I.D. to receive 10 percent off the purchase. B-Dubs is also a great place to watch all your favorite sporting events.

Amazon.com

You can buy just about anything at the website formerly known as an online bookstore. The Amazon Student program is free to college students for the first six months of enrollment. Some of the benefits include free two-day shipping on select purchases, discounts, and email alerts of upcoming promotions.

Wall Street Journal

Students taking economics classes can get the latest news on US Money Reserve gold prices, stocks, and bonds with a subscription to the most circulated newspaper in the United States. The Journal offers students up to 75 percent off the regular subscription rate. It is also a great tool to prepare students for future investments and other financial endeavors.

J. Crew & Madewell

One thing college students cannot neglect is their wardrobe. Both J. Crew and its women’s fashion subsidiary Madewell offer 15 percent discounts upon presentation of a student ID. The discounts, however, cannot be used for gift cards or in addition to any other promotions being offered at the time.

Apple Stores

Macbooks, iPads, and iPhone are pricey already, but being a student makes them that much more affordable. College faculty, staff, and students can save up to $200 on a brand new Macbook or desktop computer. Students can even show their acceptance letter to college and receive the discount before enrolling in classes.

Greyhound

Whether you’re going south for spring break or home for the holidays, Greyhound is an economical option to consider. Students get a 20 percent discount on fares and 40 percent off shipping via Greyhound. The Student Advantage Discount Card, which must be purchased to receive the benefits, is only $20 and is good until you graduate.

Car Insurance

We all have to have it, and good students can get it for less. Several providers offers discounts for various student achievements. Travelers Insurance, for instance, offers discounts for students with at least a 3.0 GPA. Esurance lowers premiums semi-annually for students who maintain a clean driving record. You can even inquire with your current carrier about student discounts they potentially offer.

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Saving Money in College with a Dorm Room Garden


moneytreeCollege comes along with new expenses and saving money is on the mind of most college students. An indoor vegetable and herb garden can help save money in many ways; plus it can get you started on a journey to a new hobby and healthier living. We know that dorm room space is limited, so we are going to focus our tips on growing vegetables in a small space. When you grow some of your own food and herbs, it saves money since you will not have to buy them and makes organic, healthy food free of pesticides or preservatives.

Here are the steps to take to achieve your indoor dorm garden goal:

  • Decide what types of vegetables you want to start growing that will fit in small spaces. You can always consult with a garden expert at your local store or nursery to see if there are certain things that grow better in your climate and for the space you have. You can also often find instructions on seed packets you purchase. Make sure that you can keep up with appropriate watering schedule for the plants you choose.
    • Oregano – besides adding great flavor to pizza and Italian dishes, this herb keeps bugs away.
    • Basil – This bright green plant with shiny broad leaves thrives in warm weather. Basil is considered a staple in pasta sauce and summer salads; try making a homemade basil pesto.
    • Rosemary – It’s easy to grow this hardy herb bush with woody branches. No indoor kitchen garden is complete without Rosemary. Known for the piney aroma similar to Christmas trees. The needle-like leaves emit the piney aroma of Christmas trees. Rosemary pairs well with roasted meat and savory breads, and it creates a wonderful aroma that stimulates the appetite.
    • Radishes – Many root vegetables are a challenge to grow indoors, but radishes are one of the exceptions; especially round or globe varieties that do not root very deeply, grow well in boxes, troughs and pans. Round carrots also do well with the same treatment.
    • Potatoes – Seed tubers used for outdoor plantings are easily grown in large pots, buckets or even plastic sacks. When planting the tubers, leave space at the top of the container for adding more compost to earth up the plants as they develop. Get ready for some tasty potatoes.
    • Mushrooms – Mushrooms are an ideal indoor crop for any time of year. Prepared bags of special compost with mushroom spawn only need watering before being left in a draft-free, dark place such as an attic or cupboard. Keep at 50 to 60ºF (10 to 15ºC) and mushrooms should be cropping a few weeks later.
    • Make a space for your garden. If you have a window, then that is probably the ideal space to put your indoor garden, however it is not necessary to have sunlight, you can choose vegetable and herbs that work around that. Add warm fluorescent lighting, even plants that get sunlight can also benefit from lighting.
    • Gather containers to plant your seeds. Recycling and reusing containers is the least expensive and environmentally friendly way to grow your garden. Yogurt containers, egg cartons, cans, and bottles can made great planters. There are always inexpensive ones to purchase if you have that in your budget and want a uniform look to the garden.
    • Get the soil ready. Preparing the perfect soil is much easier for indoor gardens than their outdoor counterparts because you’re dealing with a lot less space. Use a seed-starting or sterile potting mix right out of the bag. To maintain the soil with rich nutrients that are all natural, use compost from left-over food waste instead of throwing it away.
    • Keep out bugs, bacteria, and other problems with all natural Neem Oil. That is plant-based oil made from need trees, which you can get organically grown. It contains natural estrogen-like chemicals that kills off viruses, bacteria, fungus as well as repel bugs and other pests.

     

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Amanda Greene. She is a blogger and Brand Manager for RHL, a premiere source for online dorm bedding. She enjoys writing about tips and ideas for dorm life and college living.

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The Digital Dorm Room Saves You Money – Infographic


When I was first going to college (which is now verging onto a couple of decades ago -gasp), all we needed to power-up in our dorm rooms was a radio alarm clock and maybe a desk lamp. If you were one of the lucky few, you also had a laptop (word processor) on campus which meant independence because you were not tethered to the campus computer lab. Flash forward to the current academic year and you find yourself in a totally different environment. The number of electronic devices that a student currently brings to campus is astounding. The following infographic (created by CourseSmart) provides a great approach to how students can save money (and time) on their campus by using available mobile technology to replace “outdated” & “antiquated” services and devices in their dorm rooms. Enjoy!

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