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An Emergency Fund Could Save You Upon Graduation

With the costs of college these days, and the student loans that can come along with a college education, building and maintaining an emergency fund might seem laughable.  However, having such a fund could prove valuable upon graduation.  While it might not be the eight months of living expenses Suze Orman advocates, at least having a multi-month reserve fund could end up saving your tail upon graduation or at least opening up a few more options that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

Avoiding the Parent Trap

If you’re like many college students out there, moving back in with your parents isn’t likely a goal upon graduating college.  You priority list probably doesn’t read:

  • Graduate school
  • Look for a job
  • Move back in with mommy and daddy

However, without an emergency fund, this might be exactly where you end up should you not find that job you desire right away.  And being stuck living with mom and dad, while a money saver and possibly even making for some great home-cooked meals, could lead toward complacency issues when it comes to finding a job and even hurt your self-confidence in the process.  With an emergency fund, you may avoid being forced back in with mom and dad even if money is tight.

The Job Search

You may not find your perfect job while still in school, and jumping on the first thing that comes along could have you on the wrong career path.  And taking a job just to have a job could leave you unhappy and stagnating in a role that you know isn’t right just for the paychecks it provides.  Having an emergency fund at your disposal could provide you with the time necessary to complete your job search and find the job that fits you best, or at least help you avoid taking any old job just to pay the bills.

Found a Job but Hate it?

But lets say even that job that you thought was right turns out not to be so perfect.  Without an emergency fund, you might be stuck between a rock and a hard place.  You’d like to leave, but you need the money.  However, with a strong emergency fund in place, you could have the power to walk away from a job that isn’t right and search for one that you’d like to stay and maybe even advance with.

Avoiding Debt

While you might be graduating with student loans, you may be free from other obligations such as credit card debt, car loans, or a mortgage.  However, you might find that while school was costly, the real world can be equally, if not more expensive.  With housing costs, transportation to and from a job, clothing costs, food, and all the rest, it might be more than your initial starting salary can handle, forcing you to take on additional debt to cover those regular costs.  However, with an emergency fund, should an unexpected car repair or medical cost pop up, you might be able to cover it outright rather than having to put it on your credit card.  Avoiding the process of taking on debt early on can set you on a path to financial responsibility for the rest of your life.

Author Bio

Today’s guest article comes from Todd Garner. He is a freelance writer based in the San Francisco bay area. His writing focuses on business, health, education and career related issues. He is currently writing for Online Schools Network, a site that helps prospective students find the right online college.

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Using Pinterest to Design Your Dorm on a Dime

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social networking sites in the history of social media. If you are not familiar with Pinterest, it is a free site that anyone can sign up for. When you sign up, you have “boards” that you can pin pictures too. The different boards are fully customizable and allow you to organize your photos into categories. The site also allows you to view and follow others’ boards. Then you can like their images and even repin them to your own boards. Many users have amassed hundreds of different boards and thousands of pictures. Pinterest really lends itself to fashion, design, and food. Businesses have got in on the action as well, especially companies that specialize in those three key main areas.

That makes it very easy to find ideas when it comes to decorating your living space. It is especially great when you are trying to find specific designs and décor for challenging spaces on a budget, like your dorm room, for example. Searching on Pinterest quickly gives you tons of ideas in a very visual way. You can immediately begin brainstorming and repining onto boards that you can organize according to color, product, or category. Performing a search for “Dorm Design Ideas” will yield a plethora of cute and fun ideas that will show you how to save on space, since maximizing your space is essential for decorating a dorm room. You will see some really great space saving ideas like incorporating drawer space under the bed and adding shelving above the bed as part of the headboard. Coordinating designs with your roommates will also save you money when bulk buying is an option. Another search for “Dorm Craft Ideas” will show you hundreds of ideas for adding accents and decorations for very little cost. This is also a great way of personalizing your dorm room and bonding with your room mates. Great ideas like picture collages, designing your own lampshades, and making personalized pen and pencil holders are abound on the social networking site.

Designing your dorm room doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. Ideas from Pinterest really make it easy to have a special, unique and personalized space, which is so important when you are away from the comforts of home. Getting a dorm room design on a dime that is within your style and taste is definitely within your reach when you use the power of crowd sourcing ideas on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Amanda Green. She is the author and Brand Manager for RHL, a leading online supplier of dorm bedding. She enjoys writing about college and dorm life.

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7 Tips To Saving Money On Your College Campus

There’s no question about it – college is a costly pursuit. In fact, according to the College Stats site, the average cost of a public university education is around $64,000. However, today’s students are more financially savvy than ever, using smart tactics and creative options to stay afloat, despite overwhelming college costs. Even in the midst of trying times, the intrepid college student finds ways to survive.

Learning to Live with Less

Life with Mom and Dad is very different from life on your own, and many college students learn this early on. When money is tight, today’s smart students simply learn to live with less. Homemade meals replace restaurants, free museums replace movies, and library books replace bookstore indulgences.

Buying it Used

The biggest difference between new and used items is usually just the price. College students are smart about finding affordable used textbooks, but this isn’t the only item you can find pre-owned. Clothing from Goodwill, furniture hand-me-downs from graduating seniors, and old well-loved cars are just some of the things that financially strapped students may opt for.

Bringing Home the Bacon

While college is all about preparing for a job, there’s no reason that students can’t work while they’re in school. There are many opportunities both on and off campus that can help bring in extra cash. Many of these employers willingly work around the student’s schedule and offer flexible hours to make school and work more compatible.

Wise Use of Borrowed Funds

When financial hardships really hit home, sometimes scrimping and saving just isn’t enough. Students can make use of credit cards, personal loans, and payday loans (if they’re employed) for emergency purchases. The important thing is to understand how these options work and to make it a priority to pay them back before interest rates make the cost of the original item outrageous.

Selling Skills

College students have lots of marketable skills that can help them earn extra cash. Those with high test scores can offer to help high school juniors and seniors with SAT Prep. Upperclassmen can tutor younger students. In college towns with a large resident population, babysitting, pet-sitting, and house-sitting services are often needed. Whether you’re handy at fixing computers or cars, you can often find a market for your talents.

More Affordable Living Arrangements

There are many options for college students living on campus. To save money, students may move back home if their parents live close enough. For those who don’t have this option, it’s always worth comparing the price of a dorm room with a small or shared apartment. Students who work as RAs usually receive free room and board in exchange.

Fuel-Free Transportation

On campus, owning a car is usually more of a luxury than a necessity. Selling a car is a quick way to get some cash if times are really tough. To cut back on fuel expenses, it’s worthwhile to look into getting a bike or bus pass. On many campuses it’s often possible to simply walk.

With smart tactics like these, college students can easily cut back and make their educational experience affordable and manageable on even the slimmest budget.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article is provided by Natalie Bracco.  She is a freelance writer and an amateur baker. When she’s not busy in the kitchen, you can find her writing about technology, education, food and finance.

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Can Gold Investments Be Tomorrow’s College Tuition?

Today’s guest article is provided by Natalie Bracco.

Experts advise parents to begin saving for their kids’ college as soon as the child is born. If you set aside $100 per month from the child’s birth, you can accumulate $48,000 by the child’s 18th birthday at an interest rate of 8-percent.

However, current interest rates are far below 8-percent. According to St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, the interest rates aren’t likely to rise soon. The average cost of a university education currently hovers at about $64,000 for public institutions and $128,000 for private universities, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and this cost is on the rise. Almost every state is raising college and university tuition to account for state budget deficits. For most of us, savings alone isn’t going to cut it.

So, What are the Options?

Stocks and bonds were the go-to investment for many parents until 2008, when we began to fear whether we’d ever get to retire – let alone send our kids to college. So, where is a parent to turn to put their kids in position to graduate college and succeed in life?

Historically, the soundest investments are commodities that are:

  • Not renewable, hence always raise in value
  • In demand no matter what the national or international economic climate looks like

There are three investments that meet these criteria:

  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Real estate

Gold vs. Other Investment Alternatives

Most parents can’t afford to make mortgage payments on a piece of property for each child they have, and an uncertain selling market means there would be no guarantee of selling the property for what its worth when the child is ready for college. Plus, real estate means property taxes, insurance and maintenance that offsets any profit to be made. So, real estate is definitely not a sound choice for financing your children’s education.

Silver vs. Gold

This leaves gold and silver. While both are at all-time high prices and each holds value, gold has many factors driving its value upwards – making it the soundest possible choice when investing for your children’s college education.

  • Since the same weight in gold is worth far more than the same weight in silver, safekeeping enough gold to cover your children’s tuition costs is less expensive and takes up less space. Which also makes it easier to hide. You have to account for purchasing safes or renting safety deposit boxes when determining how to store your investment assets.
  • The price of silver is directly tied to the value of the dollar. Gold will hold its value no matter what the world currency situation becomes. Humans have sought after gold in good times and bad since before recorded history.
  • Gold is proven to fare far better in uncertain economic times. For example, while silver prices fluctuated erratically during the financial crisis of this century, gold (aside from normal day-to-day fluctuations) has seen a steady incline in value, beginning the year 2000 at just under $300 per ounce and valued at about $1,600 per ounce currently. During the same time, silver entered this century valued at less than $8 per ounce, dipped below $4 per ounce and now sits just above $17 per ounce.

Clearly, the most sound investment in your child’s ability to attend college lies in investing in gold.

About the Author:

Natalie Bracco is a freelance writer and an amateur baker. When she’s not busy in the kitchen, you can find her writing about technology, education, food and finance.

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College Savings – Understanding 529 Plans, Fees, and Expenses

If you are planning on saving for college you may want to consider a 529 college savings plan.  529 plans are tax-advantaged savings vehicles for future college or university costs. There are two varieties of 529 plans that are available: pre-paid tuition plans and college savings plans. All fifty states and the District of Columbia offer at least one type of 529 plans for parents, grandparents, prospective students and other savers.  In addition, many private colleges and universities sponsor pre-paid tuition plans which allow you to lock-in tuition rates and mitigate the risk of escalating tuition prices. Many broker-sold 529 plans offer more than one share class, with fees and expenses that can vary greatly.  The most common share classes for 529 plans are Class A, Class B and Class C shares:

Class A shares usually impose a front-end sales load. Front-end sales loads reduce the amount of your investment. By way of example, if you have $5,000 to invest in a college savings plan with a 5% front-end load, the $250 sales load you must pay is subtracted from your $5,000, and the remaining $4750 is invested in the college savings plan. Class A shares usually have a lower annual distribution fee and lower overall annual expenses than other 529 share classes. In addition, your front-end load may be reduced if you invest above certain threshold amounts – this is known as a breakpoint discount. These discounts do not apply to investments in Class B or Class C shares.

Class B shares typically do not have a front-end sales load. Instead, they may charge a fee when you withdraw money from an investment option, known as a deferred sales charge or “back-end load.” A common back-end load is the “contingent deferred sales charge” or “contingent deferred sales load” (also known as a “CDSC” or “CDSL”). The amount of this load will depend on your holding period and typically decreases to zero if you hold your investment for enough time. Class B shares typically impose a higher annual distribution fee and higher overall annual expenses than Class A shares. Class B shares usually convert automatically to Class A shares if you hold your shares for the required period of time.

If there is a sale of Class B shares within the first few years of purchasing Class B shares, there will likely be a contingent deferred sales charge or load added to the transaction in addition to higher annual fees and expenses, further reducing your investment returns.

Class C shares might have an annual distribution fee, other annual expenses, and either a front- or back-end sales load, so be sure to read the prospectus carefully.  It is important to note that the front- or back-end load for Class C shares is usually lower than for Class A or Class B shares. Class C shares typically impose a higher annual distribution fee and higher overall annual expenses than Class A shares, but, unlike Class B shares, will not convert to another class over time. If you are a long-term investor, Class C shares may be more costly than investing in Class A or Class B shares, so consider your likely timing of your need for the funds for college saving plan before deciding to purchase Class C shares.

Author Bio

Today’s guest article is provided by James Garfinkel. He is the founder and CEO of New Amsterdam Life and Director of the not-for-profit Juvenile Life Insurance Foundation.  James Garfinkel has been developing wealth planning advice and financial solutions for individuals and families for almost 30 years.

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Money-Saving Habits To Practice Throughout College

Everybody knows that college can be expensive. Whether you’re at a community college, a top-tier university or anything in between, higher education can create a significant financial burden and loans can accumulate even before graduation. Because of this, students may feel restricted in terms of spending money. You don’t have to let this feeling put a damper on your social life, though. There are plenty of ways to save – and even make money – that all students should take advantage of throughout school. By adopting a few of these small changes in your everyday life, you can put more of your money towards what really matters to you.

Limit Your Coffee Buying

You’d be surprised how much spending on coffee can really add up. If you spend $3.15 on coffee five mornings a week, that’s $63 dollars a month. From August to May, that’s $630. Four years makes $2,520. That’s probably more than you’d make at a summer internship, and it’s a good chunk of what you’d spend on textbooks.

  • Treat yourself to a coffee a week, or maybe one before a big night of studying.
  • Invest in a small coffee pot for your dorm or apartment to save money in the long run.

Create a Budget

If you know there are certain things you need or want to buy each week, then you need to plan around that.

  • Create a budget where you take into account your expenses and your income. Figure out how much you can spend a week, and always put some money into savings, even if it’s only a little.
  • Make substitutions when possible. Anytime you make a purchase, ask yourself if there’s something you’d rather spend your money on.

Land of the Free

This one’s obvious. Always take advantage of free stuff on campus. Be on the lookout for free:

  • Food provided by your dorm
  • Coffee chats with professors
  • Discussions and seminars
  • Acapella concerts and theatre performances
  • Snacks during finals

Student Discounts

Discounted prices for students are everywhere. Find deals on concerts, store purchases, transportation, restaurants and movie tickets. You can get inexpensive rates to major museums and other venues, so take advantage of it while you can.

Research before Large Purchases

Whether it’s a new cell phone, a computer, new shoes or any large purchase, make sure you do your research.

  • Use a comparison shopping engine to see where to find the best deal and what products are least expensive for their value.
  • Since textbooks are one of the biggest college expenses aside from room and board, buy textbooks online or even rent them to save money.

Money-Making Alternatives

You may have a job on campus, but there are always creative ways of making money. Sell some old clothes to a thrift store or find a weekend babysitting job. If you attend a research university, then participating in paid research studies is a great option as well. Researchers are always looking for participants, and studies are usually comprised of a few questionnaires or small group tasks. These can easily pay around $15 an hour.

Get in the habit of following these steps, and you’ll easily be able to spend more money on going out with friends or treating yourself to a fancy dinner. Not only will you save as a student, but you will become more money-savvy beyond your college years.

Today’s guest article is provided by Lindsay T. She recently graduated from Northwestern University, just outside of Chicago, and currently writes for Skyo, an online site for renting or buying college textbooks at a discount with flexible rental options. For more information and tips, visit and Skyo’s college blog.

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The Best (Free) Wi-Fi Locator Apps for College Students

With tuition on the rise, the cost of living becoming your responsibility and the predicament of bills and other expenses, the last thing college students want to worry about is where they are going to get their Wi-Fi. Most have grown up having access to wireless Internet at all times. Thankfully, smartphones have evolved in tandem with Wi-Fi and as have apps designed to help the wandering student locate the best places to get free Internet on the go. So get out of the library and study in a more relaxed atmosphere with the help of these free Wi-Fi locator apps:

Free Wi-Fi Finder
Free Wi-Fi Finder works on all iOS mobile devices. The hotspots are plotted out on a map and can be found either via GPS or by address. Additionally, an offline map can be generated to help you search while you are away from a Wi-Fi connection.

4sqwifi is a Wi-Fi locator app made to connect with Foursquare’s API by searching for venues using keywords like “Wi-Fi” and “password.” Co-creator Apostolos Papadopoulous explains: “Tips are user-generated, and the best thing is that 4sqwifi works immediately with and in Foursquare’s community — worldwide.”

Wi-Fi Crowd
The service is intended to help people find the nearest public Wi-Fi hotspots. Users can store hotspots privately or share them in common databases so that other people can access them. There isn’t much to distinguish this app from the others in this field, except that it’s free and comes with an easy-to-use interface. The sharing aspect of Wi-Fi Crowd can be especially valuable if traveling through unfamiliar territory as it allows you to tap into the knowledge of locals.

Offline Wi-Fi Finder
While Offline Wi-Fi Finder is not a network scanner app, it offers a free and comprehensive directory of more than 35,000 hotspots across the United States. It lists hotspots in more than 8,000 cities and can help you find Internet access in any of the 50 states. Best of all, you do not need Internet to use it; it’s designed specifically with the offline traveler in mind, as it stores its database on your phone, enabling you to access the data and even determine your location by using a simple search function. Online users can also add hotspots to the database.

About the Author

Today’s guest article is provided by Logan Harper, community manager at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s online Masters in Public Administration degree. He is currently working on a project to create a web resource to find MPA jobs for UNC graduates. Outside of work, Logan enjoys movies, traveling and learning new languages.

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Many Wild & Some Not-So-Wild Ideas for Saving Money in College

WILD: Big-Time Bottle Collection

Taking the time to return your bottles and cans to get your deposit is a no-brainer. I’m talking much bigger here. Think about it—college students almost always have a drink in their hand (not just on Saturday night!). I guarantee every building at your school has one or more receptacles for bottles and cans. You just need to beat the custodian to ’em.

The best time is usually in the evening. You’ll need a truck or a van, so you might need to get a friend in on this. Most of the time all that’s required is to remove the top of the bin and lift out the bag. Fill up the truck and drive straight to a store where you can return them. Apply that to your grocery bill and you’ll start saving the big bucks. Repeat as often as you’d like.

NOT-SO-WILD: Budget Your Money

I’m sure you’ve heard advice about budgeting before. But it really does help! The problem is that in college your income and expenses tend to vary widely from month-to-month. That’s OK! Even if you’re not staying within your budgets all the time the benefits are still there. Budgeting forces you to keep track of your money. You’ll also be able to reflect on where you spent a little too much money last month. This will help you avoid that frustrating moment when you think, “what the heck happened to all my money?” If you don’t know where to begin, I highly recommend

WILD: Dumpster Divin’

The key to this is finding the right dumpster. Most of them are just what you’re picturing in your head—smelly, filthy, downright awful contraptions. However, there are some opportunities. Think small convenience stores. Places without prepared food and produce. These establishments tend to trash whatever inventory passes the sell by date, which, as we all know, does not necessarily mean it’s gone bad.

For us it was the Wonder/Hostess Bakery Outlet near campus. We would drive over there at night, hop into the perfectly clean dumpster filled with packaged bread and tasty treats, and fill up the trunk. I didn’t pay for a single dessert all of Freshman year.

NOT-SO-WILD: Cut the Cable

This is getting more and more common these days. As much as you might think you’re addicted to ESPN, The Walking Dead, and trash TV, you really don’t need cable television. There is so much perfectly good entertainment available to you on the internet and with a much cheaper Netflix subscription. It will seem sad and terrifying at first, but give it a try for at least a month. I promise you will feel liberated. You can always head to a sports bar for the big game or to a friends to watch that one show you just can’t miss. This will easily save you several hundred dollars a year.

WILD: Lucky Host

Ready to open up your college home? Host a regular pot-luck dinner (once a month works well). This can be a lot of work, especially at first, but it’s college so nobody’s expecting much. And everyone’s always up for a social event. The key to this is the pot-luck aspect. Make it clear that everyone MUST bring something. People tend to over-do-it with this because they get excited and want to make sure there’s enough for everyone. This means leftovers! Now, there might be some people that are stingy and make sure they take their leftovers with them. But most of the time the host will end up with the extra. Be sure to be the one to clean up! If you’re lucky, you could have free food for days.

NOT-SO-WILD: Shack Up!

It can be tempting, especially in your senior year, to try living on your own. Resist this urge! You can do this once you graduate and have a regular income. While you’re in college, however, it’s always worth it to put up with a roommate. You’ll save money all over the place—rent, utility bills, food, furniture and housewares. If you can stand it, you can save even more by moving in with several friends. Lots of students rent out off-campus homes or multi-bedroom apartments. This could be a huge money saver for you so make sure you consider it!

WILD: Closing Time Customer

This one may help you hone your charm and negotiation skills. Most bakeries, coffee shops, delis, and similar corner bistros rely on having fresh food and baked goods everyday. This means that at the end of the day they often end up throwing out the stuff that didn’t sell. This is practically free food! To make it worth your while, make a list of 5-10 of these places around town. Pick a quiet weekday and figure out each of their closing times. Make a route so you’ll hit each just before they close up.

Usually the people working these shifts will be relatively easygoing and ready to head home. Use this to your advantage. Turn on your charm and ask them for the goods for free. If they say no, begin negotiating a very low price. You might find it more effective to buy a small coffee first. If you’re good, you should be saving plenty of money on some delicious baked goods.

NOT-SO-WILD: Brew-It-Yourself

Being a regular coffee drinker can really burn a hole in your pocket if you’re not careful. Put in the effort to brew it yourself. A $3 cup of coffee from Starbucks may not seem like much, but it certainly adds up over time. Even with the expenses of buying coffee, filters, and your own creamer, you’re shaving at least half of the cost off by making your own. More than likely it’s a lot more than that. If you’re saving $2 a day on coffee, that will add up to hundreds of dollars a year. Don’t believe me? Check out the math from The Simple Dollar.

Today’s guest article comes from Carl Phelps, an entrepreneur from Rochester, NY with expertise in digital marketing. He is a co-founder of Confidently, an online community that helps college students and recent grads start their job search, meet employers, and land top opportunities.

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