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Archive | February, 2012

5 Ways to Make Your Financial New Year’s Resolution Last

5 Ways to Make Your Financial New Year’s Resolution Last

We make resolutions as initiatives to work towards self-improvement, with the intent of fixing the problematic areas in our lives. For many college students, this problem area is the state of their finances; most of them want to resolve their issue, but don’t know what is required to do so. Well here goes: the first step is to make a resolution based on your areas of focus; the second step is to follow through with your resolution, which is where we come in to guide you. In order to successfully navigate your sojourn to financial self-improvement, follow these tips and guidelines to make sure that once you set out, you continue down the right road and attain your end goal.

Set a Goal (And Know Why You Want it)
It is not uncommon for the enthusiasm that once fueled your motivation for financial self-improvement to fizzle out over time, but there is a strategy to fight the fizzle; instead of simply setting a goal for yourself as a means to an end, you should really understand your motivation for setting this goal.

In the first steps of goal-setting, knowing why you want this one thing so badly is even more important than knowing exactly how you will get it. Do you want to increase your low credit score within the next year? Why? Because it will allow you to sign a rental lease on a new apartment? Because it will improve your job prospects for a promotion or new position? Because it will help you become a better candidate for a much needed school loan? All of these are significant motivating factors for wanting to increase your credit score. Once you understand your own reasons, it will be easier to formulate a strategy for achieving your goal and the probability of success will be higher.

Create an Organization System
If you really want to be successful in achieving financial health you must incorporate some organization into your life. Many people who’ve found themselves in bad financial shape claim to not have realized the extent of their troubles until it had gotten completely out of control; this is due in part to a poor money management system. There is simply too much paperwork involved for you to not have some sort of organizational strategy in place. 

You should keep your important documents (social security card, marriage or birth certificate, passport) separated from the paperwork you reference on a regular basis. The former should be kept in a secure lock box or cabinet; the latter, which would likely include bank or utility statements, receipts, investments, credit reports, loan information, and budget sheets, should be kept in a binder with categorized sections for each respective type of paperwork. By arranging all of your paperwork and important documents in a systematized filing system you will be much more equipped to stay on top of your finances.

Use Your Banks Financial Tools and Resources
Banks offer some great resources to help its clients manage their money better. The advent of internet technology has made online banking a convenient, useful tool for consumers who now have much more accessibility to their banking activity. For example, you can view your statement online at any time, making it easier to monitor your spending and keep tabs on your budget. 

Another useful feature is automatic account transfers, which are helpful if you want to establish a savings fund. Once you’ve set up a prearranged amount of money you would like to be moved into your savings account, you are no longer accountable for remembering to set aside money each month; the bank will automatically take care of it for you. In some cases, it is also possible to set up an automatic transfer from your paycheck into your savings account. (Ask your employer if this option is available.)

Start Sensibly Saving (For Real, This Time)

There are a few ways to get started doing this.

First, use small change to create big change. Literally. Empty out your pockets or purse at the end of each day and stash your loose change in an empty jar. Once the jar has reached capacity, take it to your bank and deposit it in your savings account. You would be surprised at how much it will add up to—think a few hundred dollars each time.

Second, set up the auto transfer feature for your bank account that we mentioned earlier. It is an easy, long-term, low-impact way to start a savings fund. Putting just 10% aside each month will go a long way.

Third, rethink any surplus. If you have extra money coming in from somewhere—be it a raise, a bonus, a tax return, some rebates, anything at all—resist the impulse to splurge on the frivolous. Instead of treating yourself now when you might not need it, elect to treat your future self, who might actually need the money for something important down the road, and put the money directly into your savings or emergency fund.

Improve Your Credit
The significance of your credit score cannot be stressed enough. This number is essentially the determinate for everything important in your life: it affects your chances of getting hired, your ability to rent a home, and the price of your loans, mortgage and insurance rates. To stay on top of your credit (or to rectify a current delinquent rating), it is imperative that you submit regular, punctual credit card payments and that you disassociate with any activity that could otherwise compromise you’re credibility.

Take advantage of your free annual credit report which you can get at By law, you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit bureau: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Look closely for any errors that could be negatively impacting your score; if you find one, immediately inform the reporting bureau.

Today’s guest article is brought to you by, an industry leader in providing solid financial advice and tools for college students.

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The Slippery Slope of Being Unprepared – College Costs

The Slippery Slope of Being Unprepared – College Costs

The investment in a college education can easily be the most expensive purchase a family can make (with the exception of their home). However, from what I can see with the rising cost of college, it may be possible for that education investment to surpass the purchase price of even a modest home.

It is not uncommon for families to get a pre-approval for a mortgage loan before they can purchase a home but, as a society, we have no official process or financial check point in place when the same family is looking at committing (or possibly over committing) themselves to a similar sized investment in a college education.

My hope is that a family would spend as much time focusing on their college investment as they would on securing the right priced home and the accompanying mortgage. However, that may not always be the case.

The following represents some examples of what families/students may experience if they embark upon the college years and are unprepared for the associated costs:

  • A student may end up going to a college that is way out of their price range. If they have a zero EFC and have to pay 18K a year out of pocket to cover costs, that school might not be the best fit (financially not necessarily academically).
  • If a student is emotionally and academically connected to the University and is willing to pay the cost (no matter how high) to attend, they may end up being saddled with excessive student loan debt.
    • Which they will be stuck with long after graduation
    • More than likely it will inhibit their ability to be contributing alumni (donating back to their Alma mater)
  • Chances are… a student may not be able to come up with the funds (through loans or other means) to pay for even the first semester and be unable to register for subsequent semesters and be forced to withdraw from the college.
    • Unfortunately, they wont be able to have access to transcripts since they have an outstanding financial obligation to the college.
  • A student can have a bad experience (financially) at one college and they may decide to forgo their educational goals altogether.. which, in my mind, would be a travesty.

I am sure there are probably some other issues/challenges/hurdles that you may be able to identify that are born from not investing the time and research into college expenses and how to pay for them. If you can think of any, please feel free to share below in the comment section. The more challenges we can identify, the better we are able to respond to eliminating those hurdles for families/students.

In the meantime, I would encourage you to utilize CheapScholar’s College Resource Center to find great tips about saving for college, paying for college, student loans, and the financial aid process. Education and knowledge is the key to helping future generations realize their college goals and avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned above. My hope is that is helping out in that effort.

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Florence Allen Scholarship Opportunity For Ohio Women

Florence Allen Scholarship Opportunity For Ohio Women

The Florence Allen Scholarship program has been in existence since 1924 to honor Florence Ellinwood Allen who was Ohio’s first woman Supreme Court Justice (1922). The intent of the scholarship is to provide Ohio women with the opportunity to achieve their full potential through education.

This scholarship program has been in existence for a good number of years and in 1988 it was converted to an endowment fund that will insure its presence for many years to come. One caveat to this scholarship that is very appealing is that non-traditional (adult students) are eligible to receive funds from this program.

Here are the eligibility requirements:

Traditional Student Applicants
1. Women who will graduate or have graduated from an Ohio high school or who have
received a GED from the Ohio Board of Education prior to July 1st.
2. Must be a United States citizen.
3. Undergraduates who meet the above criteria and are enrolled as full-time students at an
accredited degree-granting institution recognized by a state Board of Regents.
4. Applicant must be pursuing her first undergraduate degree or a certificate.

Non-traditional Student Applicants
1. Women who are residents of Ohio and are at least 30 years old as of April 1st.
2. Must be a United States citizen.
3. Undergraduates who meet the above criteria and are enrolled at an accredited
degree-granting institution recognized by a state Board of Regents.
a. Applicant need not be a full-time student.
4. Applicant must be pursuing her first undergraduate degree or a certificate.

Scholarship applications are available starting in January and they must be submitted (postmarked) before April 1st.

You can receive an application by sending an email to the following:

If you know of anyone that could benefit from this scholarship program, please be sure to utilize the share tab below to pass this information along to them. In the meantime, feel free to visit CheapScholar’s “Find Scholarships!” page for more resources…

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College May Actually Be Cheaper Than You Realize

College May Actually Be Cheaper Than You Realize

I always enjoy a good infographic and I think the one below is very fitting for the subject matter we cover on Colleges costs have been increasing exponentially over the years. However, the amount of financial aid offered by many institutions has also been increasing at the same time. The additional amount provided through scholarships and awards probably doesn’t fully cover the increase in tuition but it does help to close that gap. Education tax credits have been helping to bridge that gap as well… Anyway, enjoy the following infographic!

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6 Tips To Maximizing Your College Investment

6 Tips To Maximizing Your College Investment

In today’s article I hope to provide some simple tips and guidance to families that are concerned about the financial aspect of their student’s college education.

A college education is a large investment of time and resources. When you begin the college search process, it is important that you find a college that is the right fit for your student. Two important factors that play into that “right fit” equation are academics and finances.

You can find a great college that has all the academic strengths you are looking for but if it cost $60,000 a year and all you can afford is $20,000, it is probably not going to be a good fit. The inverse is also true. You find a college that is only going to be $10,000 a year but their curriculum reminds you of your high school courses.

In an effort to help your checkbook come to terms with your academic goals, I have compiled the following list of tips…

Net Price Calculators For All: You may not realize but beginning on October 29th, all colleges and universities are required to have Net Price Calculators on their websites. These tools help students see what the actual cost for them to attend that school will be and helps them to get past the sticker price. Here is an example of a really slick looking net price calculator.

File your FAFSA:
My hope is that you have heard this time and time again. But just in case you have not, please make sure you file your FAFSA. It is not that hard and it is the first step to helping to reduce your college costs.

Compare Financial Aid Packages: Financial Award packages from colleges can be very confusing. It is always important that you take the time to compare your packages and be sure you understand what every component represents. CheapScholar has a great guide to help you decipher the financial aid package.

Know The Difference Between Federal And Private Education Loans: It is always important for you to exhaust your federal loans before you start looking at private loans. In most instances, federal loans will be a better option. However, private loans do help to make ends meet when all other options are not available.

Look At ALL The Costs:
Tuition, room and board are not the only expenses you will incur when you head off to college. There are a number of other fees that you will encounter along the way.

Know Your Payment Options: Colleges and Universities try to make paying for college as easy as possible. It may not always be painless but knowing your different options will go a long way when that first semester bill hits your mailbox.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you know of any other college bound students/families, please don’t hesitate to utilize the “share tab” below to pass this information along to them.

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2012-2013 FAFSA On The Web Demo (video)

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Making Your Degree Work For You

Making Your Degree Work For You

A college degree is only beneficial if it leads to a job after graduation. Whether you receive an English degree or a physics degree, you face the daunting task of searching and applying for a job when you graduate from college. While the job search process may seem daunting, there are steps you can take to make finding a job in your degree field much easier. You have put in the hard to work to earn the degree, so it is time to make your degree work for you.

Do not wait until after you graduate to start the job search process. Take advantage of the career office at your college or university to find potential business contacts in your field, create a stellar resume and participate in mock interviews to prepare you for the job market. For example, if you are currently taking computer programming classes, contact members of your school’s alumni association who currently work as computer programmers and ask for their advice on finding a job in the field.

Build up as much experience as you can before beginning your job search. Take an unpaid internship that relates to your future career. Volunteer with a non-profit organization that could provide you with valuable insight into your future career field. Read as many books as possible written by some of the top individuals in your desired career field. Become proficient using as many computer programs or specialized software programs as possible and include those skills on your resume to set you apart from other employees.

Promote yourself as the ideal candidate for the job. Create detailed profiles on popular social networking websites that make you appear to be a professional and someone who is more than qualified for a job in your field. Create a list of companies you would like to work for and get to know these companies inside and out by talking to former and current employees and reading company profiles. Use any connections you have to get interviews or have someone put in a good word for you.

Network every chance you get. Whether you’re at a job fair or standing in line at the gas station, always keep your eyes open for a chance to network. Ask for business cards, and make sure that people you talk to know your skill set and qualifications. With all of the changes that have happened in the job market over the last few years, it is important that you use every opportunity at your disposal to make an impression on potential employers; one thing that will always catch their eye and secure a place for you in their memory is an obvious desire to put your skills to use.

Getting a job in your field is not as simple as filling out applications and sitting through interviews. To make your degree work for you, you have to put in some work. By taking the steps to position yourself as the ideal job candidate and network with those in your desired industry, you will not have to settle for less than the job of your dreams.

Today’s guest article was provided by Joseph Baker.

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Digging up “DRT” on the New FAFSA IRS Linking Tool

Digging up “DRT” on the New FAFSA IRS Linking Tool

The following is a guest article provided by J. Randy Green, Director of Financial Aid at Wittenberg University

As part of ongoing efforts to improve the higher education financial aid delivery system, the IRS and Department of Education are working together within the FAFSA application process.  That work will cause frustrations for some families this year.

The idea is wonderfully simple: the Department needs to know family financial information to determine eligibility for financial aid; the IRS has information on family income.  It is natural for the two to share that information.

The tricky part: the IRS is very careful with tax filer information and does not want to share this information with anyone.  (This is a good thing!)

The elegant solution: when completing a FAFSA, a student can access, without leaving the FAFSA site, the IRS’ Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).  This tool allows the student to pick up his or her own financial information and drop it into the proper slots on the FAFSA.  Technically, the IRS is not sending the information to anyone; they are simply allowing tax filers to access their own information electronically.

Another tricky part: although the DRT is available starting February 1, the tax return needs to have been already processed by the IRS in order for it to be available through the DRT.  As many people do not file their taxes until March or April, and as many colleges require that FAFSA data be provided by February or March, many students will not be able to use the DRT during their initial FAFSA filing.  This means that many families will still use self-reported or estimated financial information when they file the FAFSA.

And the kicker: families that do not use the DRT will be much more likely to be selected for verification, which is like a mini-audit of their FAFSA, and they will have to provide IRS data to schools to document their income.  A bit more detail here: for many years, the verification process has required families to prove that their FAFSAs were completed properly.  Usually, this involved sending the school a copy of the federal income tax return.

Here’s where the frustration may kick in: starting with the 2012-2013 school year, financial aid offices may no longer use copies of tax returns to verify information – they must get the family’s information from the IRS.

This means that the family must request a tax transcript from the IRS or go back to the FAFSA site and use the DRT.  Since the delay in getting a tax transcript from the IRS may be as long as ten days, whereas the DRT provides information in a day or two, it seems safe to say the DRT will be getting a lot of use.

A final twist: if a student’s parents file their return as “married, filing separately” they cannot use the Data Retrieval Tool and, if selected for verification, will have no option but to request transcripts from the IRS.

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