$ave the Planet & Your Wallet

28 Jul

Amanda Locker, Majoring in Environmental Science at Purdue University

GIF shows changing seasons, spring to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter

GIF by: Magellan

College is expensive enough so the thought of spending more money on “environmentally friendly products” is a huge turn off to any college student!  However, buying environmentally friendly products is not the only way you can help reduce your carbon footprint.  Here are some things you can do to save money and help save the planet:

Bottled Water

MyMoney Water bottle and can koozieJust stop buying it now!  Bottles of water are expensive and the costs add up.  Vending machines on campus sell bottles of water on average for $1.25.  If you are buying even 5 bottles of water a month for the full academic year you are spending $56.25 on water… ON WATER! Not worth it, in my opinion.  Just get a refillable water bottle and you’re good to go.  Plus, if you really don’t want to spend any money on water, fill up your bottle at any of the drinking-fountains on campus.

Transportation

Purdue has a variety of options on how to get around campus! The bus system (CityBus) is a great way to get around and has many different route options for students who live off campus.  Or, if you are still unsure about taking the bus you can always start biking to class and using all those fantastic bike paths.  Either transportation option will save you time, cash, and will help cut down your carbon emissions!

Farmers’ Markets

Purdue Farmers Market

As a student myself I know the feeling of wanting to eat healthy fresh foods but not being able to afford the costs of fresh food at the grocery stores.  However, there is good news! A study done at Bard College reports how in most cases the prices at Farmers’ Markets can be cheaper than at the grocery store.  In even better news Purdue has a Farmers Market and Lafayette does too! Buying local food helps reduce carbon emissions and helps boost your local economy. Even if you cannot do all three of these things just start out by trying one method above and see where it takes you!  Living a sustainable lifestyle really can be easier than you think.  Check this website out if you are interested in finding out what your Carbon Footprint is and more ways to reduce your impact on the environment. carbon footprint

If you would like more information about sustainable living or if you have any comments you would like to share feel free to comment below.

Townies – Should You Live at Home During College?

24 Jul

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna

2 cats on a staircase

Pressure from childhood pets. Photo by: Madison Duncan

 

Many townies may feel the pressure to both live at home and live on campus at the same time. Deciding which is more beneficial can be a difficult choice. On one hand, it’s nice to be on campus all the time and having the ability to walk back to your dorm or apartment. But, expenses are high when you’re not living at home, especially if you do not want to work 20+ hours a week and opt to take out student loans. As townies, we have the advantage of making a choice of which we would like to do; unlike a majority of students. By choosing to stay at home with mom and dad, we are given the option of living a (most commonly) rent-free four years of college.

family sitting on a couch

Photo by: Raysha Duncan

Personally, I chose to live at home with my family for the first two years of college. During my experience, I felt like I was missing out on something that everyone was talking about. Plus, it felt a little awkward being a college student when my baby sister was still in elementary school. I decided to move out, without much planning to be honest, my junior year. Because of this decision, I had to take out a student loan that I would not have had to take out otherwise. I won’t be graduating with a lot of debt, but it’s still debt I could have avoided. That’s not to say I didn’t benefit from of moving out. I learned a lot about how to live on my own and maintain balance that was otherwise hard to figure out while living at home with my family. There are definitely pros and cons on both sides of this argument, the largest con on moving out are costs. For me personally, I found the cost to be too much, and I’m actually moving back home with my family for my senior year to save up money for after graduation.

If you really want to save money or not work as many hours or not take out as many loans, then living at home is something you should seriously consider. There is no easier way to save on your college expenses than to stay at home with mom and dad and put off paying rent for 4 years. If that’s not something you’re worried about and you really want to live on campus for the experience, then that’s good too! You will grow a lot from moving out and having roommates. For those of you who are worried about not gaining this experience, you still have the rest of your life after college to not live with your parents.

 

lasagna sitting on stovetop

Photo by: Raysha Duncan

The debate between staying at home and moving to campus isn’t just limited to Purdue; all students who grow up in a college town have this debate with themselves and/or their parents. And a few general rules apply to all students in this situation.Living at home comes with the benefits of home-cooked meals and endless family time. But, if you have younger siblings like I do, there’s also a lot of coordinating of schedules and early bedtimes. This may not be the same experience you would have with roommates. The biggest difference is that your roommates don’t love you unconditionally and they can hold grudges longer than a loving little brother. However, you do learn how to communicate with people outside of your family and you get to learn what happens when you argue with someone you live with that is not a family member. I know I’ve experienced a lot of growth with this in my year out of my parent’s house. But, I am moving back in with my parents because I would rather be financially comfortable for my final year of college. It’s a tough choice, but it is your choice, and it really is about what makes you most comfortable.

1. Keep in mind what your schedule will be like: if you move on campus, how often will you be home? More often than justifies living on campus?

2. Is moving on campus financially feasible?

3. What are the pros and cons for each situation? Does one situation outweigh the other? Why is that?

These are just a few very general questions to keep in mind when making your choice of whether or not to stay at home during college.

Have you had to debate living at home versus living on campus? Which did you choose?  What made you come to that decision?

Okay, so you have made the decision to move out on your own but are still contemplating between, dorm life, renting an apartment, or renting a house check out Where should I Live?

 

***This was originally posted in June 2013 and the author was interviewed by Reuters. Check out their article on choosing to live at home here.

25% Fed Student Loan Borrowers Qualify for Loan Forgiveness — Do You?

21 Jul

From WiseBread New Graduate Help Center: Reyna Gobel, Student Loans Expert

young people cheering

Photo By WiseBread

There is a federal program that, after 10 years of on-time payments, forgives the rest of borrowers’ student loan debt. That’s right — you can have any balance remaining on your student loan debt, and poof! It’ll be gone. Moreover, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that one in four federal student borrowers qualify for this program — but many don’t know about or don’t take advantage of the plan.

The plan is called Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Yes, it requires that you work a public service job — but many more jobs qualify for this program than you might expect. Read on to learn if you qualify, and, if so, how to take advantage of the program and potentially have your student loan debt forgiven.

How the Plan Works

The PSLF program was created to encourage recent college grads to enter the public service sector. In order to qualify, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Work full-time at a qualifying public service job
  • Work in public service for 10 years (but not necessarily 10 consecutive years or 10 years at the same public service job)
  • Make your loan payments on time and in full every month while employed full time in a public service position
  • Choose a qualifying repayment plan, which includes Income-Based Repayment Plan, Pay As You Earn, Income-Contingent Repayment Plan, 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan, or any other repayment plan where your monthly payment equals or exceeds what you would pay under a 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan.

In exchange, the federal government will forgive the rest of participants’ student loan debt after 10 years of service.

Even better, this plan works in conjunction with the various repayment programs where payments may be adjusted based on the borrower’s income and the student-debt-to-income ratio, such as Pay as You Earn. One common misconception is that you have to be earning very little to use these plans and PSLF, but there is no income cap. To see if you qualify, login to StudentLoans.gov and use their repayment estimator.

You also have to have federal direct loans (Stafford, PLUS, or Consolidation). Federal loans that do not qualify include FFEL and Perkins loans.

However, if you consolidate FFEL or Perkins loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, that loan does qualify.

Qualifying Jobs

Here is the most important thing to know about jobs that qualify for PSLF — it’s not what you do for work that matters, it’s who you work for. So, basically, you can do almost any job you can imagine, and as long as you do it for a qualifying organization. And, moreover, many more organizations qualify for PSLF than you might imagine.

There are three main employer categories that qualify for PSLF: government agencies, organizations, and entities; 501(c)3 organizations; and other jobs that are public service, but don’t fall into the two previous categories. I’ve included more about each area below.

Government

This includes jobs in all federal, state, local, and tribal government positions and agencies (except elected members of the U.S. Congress). At the state and local levels alone, there are 18 million government positions in the United States. This includes federal agencies ranging from FEMA to the IRS to the Department of Health and Human Services to the National Endowment for the Arts. To get a full sense of how much this category covers, take a look at this massive official list of federal agencies.

501(c)3 Organizations

501(c)3 is the federal designation for an officially recognized nonprofit — and there are over one million of them — most charities and nonprofits are covered under the 501(c)3 umbrella. If you want to get an idea of what’s in your area, browse around a site like Great Nonprofits, which can give you information on different organizations based on your area of interest.

Other Public Service Organizations

These organizations might not be official 501(c)3 groups, but they provide services to the public. The Federal Office of Student Loans defines these organizations as:

…emergency management, military service, public safety, or law enforcement services; public health services; public education or public library services; school library and other school-based services; public interest law services; early childhood education; public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly.

A Small Sampling of Jobs That Qualify

To give you an idea of just how many kinds of jobs qualify for PSLF, here are just a few. This list is far from all-inclusive, but it gives you an idea of the wide variety of positions that can lead to loan forgiveness:

  • Teachers
  • College professors
  • Doctors or lawyers working for any organization in one of the categories listed above
  • Employees at any level of federal, state, local, or tribal government
  • Members of the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps
  • Military personnel
  • Law enforcement
  • Any kind of creative working at a qualifying organization, including designers, writers, and performers
  • Emergency services personnel
  • Public health workers
  • Public librarians
  • Any type of engineer or technician working for a qualifying organization
  • Support staff employed by any qualifying organization

Even President Obama would qualify, if he still had unpaid student loans and fit the other criteria.

How to Find Public Service Jobs

Many nonprofits post jobs on traditional job-search sites, such as Craigslist. In addition, here are some sites that cater specifically to non-profits:

As for government jobs, do an Internet search for your state, county, or city name with the word “jobs” to find the official site for your area, or visit the federal government’s jobs site.

If you’re not sure if the organization you’re interested in working at qualifies, the best way to find out is to fill out the employer certification form or call the public service loan forgiveness servicer and ask — more on that below!

How to Utilize the PSLF Program

Think PSLF is right for you? Here’s how to get started.

1. Make Sure You Have the Right Type of Loans

Only federal direct loans qualify for PSLF. But if you have FFEL or Perkins loans and you consolidate them into a direct consolidation loan, that loan does qualify.

2. Fill Out the PSLF Application Form With Your Employer

Fill out the Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness form. Do it as soon as you start working with your employer to get your paper trail started. If you aren’t sure if your employer will qualify, call the public service loan servicer at 855-265-4038 to find out if your new employer will help you earn public service loan forgiveness.

3. Work Full-Time

Only full-time employment qualifies for PSLF. In this case, full-time is described as at least 30 hours a week. If you work a job that has you work full-time for most of the year and then take a few months off — like teaching — that still counts for a full year in terms of PSLF.

4. Make On-Time, Complete Payments

You only qualify for PSLF if you make full, on-time payments every month. But PSLF works with the various income-aware repayment plans, so if you feel like your loans are too expensive, check with your loan servicer to see if you qualify for another payment option with a lower monthly cost.

5. Fill Out the Employer Certification Form Again If You Get a New Job

Remember, you don’t have to stay in the same job or with the same employer for the full 10 years — in fact, your qualifying public service work doesn’t even need to be completed 10 years in a row. If you work in public service for five years, at a for-profit company for two years, and at another public service job for five years after that, you could qualify to have your loans forgiven after 12 years. So whenever you start a new job, fill out the employer certification form again to help keep track.

Are you planning to use PSLF?

 

Reyna Gobel is a writer, author, public speaker, and student loans expert.  Her financial advice appears on Wise Bread’s New Graduates Help Center, in her video course How to Repay Federal Student Loans, in CollegeWeekLive newsletters and keynotes speeches, and in her audiobook How Smart Students Pay for School, now in its second edition. Be sure to check out her website for more helpful information on repaying your student loans.

New to campus? What do you really need?

14 Jul

Hannah Stewart, Purdue University Student and Peer Counselor

Rental TruckAs incoming freshmen, there are lists of things we need to remember to bring and inevitably, something will be forgotten. Luckily, there is a Wal-Mart nearby saving the day and your wallet! On the other hand, sometimes we think we need some item that our college peers have, when the item is actually not necessary to our college survival. Here is a list of top five items that incoming freshmen think they need, and ways to save money with an effective switch.

Photo by: Theif12 Permission by: Creative Commons

Photo by: Theif12
Permission by: Creative Commons

The Futon: Futons are a wonderful and awesome place to catch some zzz’s or watch a movie. But, they can also be really expensive, not to mention bulky! The university does offer the option to rent a futon, but that’s just it – you have to rent every year. But you have options; find fun chairs in varying shapes and designs. There is also the very retro, but very comfy bean bag chair. Check out Where to Find Cheap or Free Stuff for your Apartment for more ideas on furniture options.

Textbooks: Here’s a secret for my fellow college students – sometimes you don’t need all the textbooks listed on the syllabus! In high school, we all had to read every chapter and actually use all the textbooks assigned, but you’d be surprised by which textbooks you many actually need. My advice is to wait until classes start and ask your professors if you will need the textbook for the class. Some professors provide the material online, some professors allow you to use older additions, and some professors want you to read all the material presented in each textbook assigned. For more textbook options read “Lower the Cost of College by Spending Less on Books.”

Storage: When students pack the car or moving van full and then start to unload it into the “seems smaller in person” dorm room, the matter of storage becomes a HUGE issue. Some students spend tons of money with storage such as boxes, chests, ottomans, and in some cases, even storage units. But let’s be real – do you really need all that stuff down at school with you? You can always exchange summer clothes for winter clothes at home. Not to mention, if you haven’t worn it in over a year, you’re probably not going to wear it now. Cutting back on the amount of items can really help you save on both spending, and on space, which are in limited supply for most college students.

Microwave/mini fridge: So, it’s really awesome that you have a microwave for popcorn and a fridge for drinks, but do you need two? Talk to your roommate! This is a prime example of the multiple things that only one roommate should bring. For rugs, lamps, microwaves, fridges, and cleaning items, one is plenty.  Also, there is a group on Facebook where you can buy items at a discounted price

Dorm Frig

Photo by: BrittanyJ

from current Purdue students.

Electronics: Do you really need a laptop and a tablet? Chances are one is plenty, and my advice is to go for the computer. But even then, there are campus computer labs; some are even in the dorms. Printers also are all around the campus. Part of your tuition fees is a printing quota, so use it! Because printers and more importantly INK are expensive to purchase and replace, double-check before you buy that electronic item. The same question can be asked again and again: do you really need it?

What items are you going to leave at home when moving to college?

The Definitive Guide to Pay As You Earn — A Federal Student Loan Repayment Plan

7 Jul

From WiseBread New Graduate Help Center: Reyna Gobel, Student Loans Expert

young woman at computer

Photo By WiseBread

In the past few years, the federal government introduced several new student loan payback plans that base payment amounts on borrowers’ income, aimed at helping these borrowers pay back their loans without being crushed by debt. Perhaps the most enticing of these is the Pay As You Earn plan, which, for many borrowers, provides the lowest monthly payments of any plan — and, if you qualify, you can even have the remainder of your loans forgiven after 20 years.

There are some criteria for qualifying. Unlike the other income-sensitive plans, Pay As You Earn borrowers had to be student-loan free as of October 1, 2007 and had disbursement of loans on or after October 1, 2011. You also have to demonstrate a “partial financial hardship” — but, as you’ll learn below, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t qualify for Pay As You Earn if you have a job — even a high-paying one.

Read on to learn about the pros and cons of the plan, discover if it’s right for you, and find out how to apply.

What Is Pay As You Earn?

Pay As You Earn is a federal student loan repayment plan that reduces your federal student loan payments based on financial hardship. The plan was developed as a way to help those struggling with sizeable student loan payments, and it went into effect December 21, 2012.

Benefits of Pay As You Earn

There are several benefits to the Pay As You Earn repayment plan.

How Much You Pay

For many people with federal student loans, Pay As You Earn is the payment plan with the lowest monthly payments. When you’re on this plan, your payments are calculated as 10% of your discretionary income divided by 12. (More on how that discretionary income is calculated a bit later.)

Interest Subsidies and Capitalization Breaks

In addition to lowering your monthly payments, the Pay As You Earn plan also has other benefits. First of all, if you had subsidized federal loans (the kind where the government pays your loan interest for you when you’re in school), for the first three years that you’re on the Pay As You Earn plan, the government will continue providing an interest subsidy. They won’t pay for all of your interest, but if the amount you pay each month doesn’t cover all of the interest your loans are earning, the federal government will pay any leftover interest.

Also, according to the government, when you have a partial financial hardship, “…interest that accrues but is not covered by your loan payments will not be capitalized, even if interest accrues during a deferment or forbearance.” Basically, this means that any interest accrued will not be added to the principal of the loan, and thus you won’t be charged interest on the interest. And, furthermore, “the total amount of interest that capitalizes while you are repaying your loans under the Pay As You Earn plan is limited to 10% of your original principal balance when you begin paying under Pay As You Earn.”

Loan Forgiveness

If you always pay in full and on time and have a partial financial hardship every year, you can have the balance of your loan forgiven after 20 years. And if you work full-time in public service, you may qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, where the balance of your loans can be forgiven after just 10 years.

How to Figure Out if Pay As You Earn Works for You

Unfortunately, not everyone can use the Pay As You Earn plan. Here’s how to figure out if you qualify.

Do You Demonstrate a “Partial Financial Hardship”?

In order to qualify for Pay As You Earn, you need to have what the federal government calls a “partial financial hardship.” The Office of Federal Student Aid defines this as:

You have a partial financial hardship if the monthly amount you would be required to pay on your eligible federal student loans under a 10-year Standard Repayment Plan is higher than the monthly amount you would be required to repay under Pay As You Earn.

That definition doesn’t really say anything about what the payment would be. So, let’s dig a little deeper.

As I mentioned earlier, Pay As You Earn is 10% of your discretionary income. You might be familiar with the idea of “discretionary income” as the money you have leftover when you’re done paying your monthly bills. In the case of Pay As You Earn, it’s a similar concept, but the government calculates your discretionary income as your income minus 150% of the poverty guidelines for your family size.

Even if you think you might not qualify by reading that definition, you might — because your debt-to-income ratio also matters. For example, if you make $100,000 a year but owe $200,000 in loans, you can qualify for income-based repayment.

The best way to figure out if your income and debt-to-income ratio allow to apply for the plan is to plug your information into this calculator.

Do You Have the Right Kind of Loans?

Like all federal loan repayment plans, this program only applies to federal student loans. Specifically:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Direct PLUS Loans made to graduate or professional students
  • Direct Consolidation Loans without underlying PLUS loans made to parents

And the following loans cannot be repaid with the Pay As You Earn plan:

  • Direct PLUS Loans made to parents
  • Direct Consolidation Loans that repaid PLUS loans (Direct or FFEL) made to parents
  • FFEL Program loans
  • Private education loans

An additional note on FFEL loans — if you have FFEL loans, which are provided through a federal program but by private banks, the loans cannot be paid back with the Pay As You Earn program. But if you also have Direct Loans you’d like to use the Pay As You Earn plan for, the amount of your FFEL loans can be taken into account when figuring out if you have a partial financial hardship. Moreover, FFEL loans can be consolidated with direct loans. When this happens, the new combined direct loan can be repaid under Pay As You Earn (provided the underlying FFEL and direct loans were disbursed on or after October 1, 2007).

Did You Get Your Loans During the Right Time Period?

In addition to the above criteria, your loans also have to fall within specific time constraints. You must:

  • Be a new borrower (i.e., have no outstanding student loan balances) as of October 1, 2007
  • Have received loan disbursement on or after October 1, 2011 (meaning that your loan funds were provided to your school on or after that date)

Are Your Loans Properly Consolidated?

If you consolidated loans that do qualify with Parent PLUS loans, which don’t, this consolidated loan is not eligible for the Pay As You Earn plan.

Estimating Your Payments and Applying

If you fit all of the criteria listed above, visit the Office of Federal Student Aid’s Pay As You Earn payment calculator to find out how much you would owe each month. Then, if you have any questions before signing up, contact your student loan servicer. Finally, when you’re ready to apply, you can do so by logging in at studentloans.gov.

Pros to Pay As You Earn

To recap what we’ve discussed so far, if you qualify, there are several great reasons to consider the Pay As You Earn plan:

  • Depending on your income, your payments might be less than any other payment plan — and, at the very least, they’ll never be more than they would be on the standard 10-year repayment plan.
  • You can have the remainder of your loan forgiven after 20 years of on-time payments, or after 10 years with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
  • If you have a subsidized loan, you will continue to get interest subsidies for three years if your monthly payments do not cover all of the interest you owe.

Cons to Pay As You Earn

There are some downsides to the plan.

  • Pay As You Earn won’t work for everyone. If you can’t demonstrate a partial financial hardship as defined by the Office of Federal Student Aid, you can’t qualify.
  • You have to provide updated income and family size information every year to confirm that you still demonstrate a partial financial hardship.
  • If you no longer demonstrate a partial financial hardship, you can choose the standard repayment plan and still potentially qualify for some loan forgiveness if you still have a balance after 20 years of combined Pay As You Earn and standard payments.
  • Even if your loan is forgiven after 20 years, you may have to pay taxes on the amount that was forgiven. At this time, it is unclear whether or not congress will create an exception to this before any borrower has to pay these taxes.
  • Since paying less per month could mean you’ll extend the life of the loan, you could also owe more in interest. If you continue to qualify for Pay As You Earn, this is not a problem. But if you reach a point where you don’t qualify, your interest will capitalize, and you could end up paying more overall than you would with a standard repayment plan.

About that last point – here’s an example of what I mean. Say that borrower named Joanne has $30,000 of unsubsidized student loan debt with an interest rate of 6.8%. Her income for the first three years out of college helps her qualify for a Pay As You Earn payment of $60 a month, which doesn’t even cover interest. Since she doesn’t have subsidized loans, the government doesn’t pay the additional interest, and she still has her $30,000 student loan debt left. Now, in addition to that initial debt, she has to pay another approximately another $3,000 in interest accumulated. If her income increases enough, she will never be able to have loan forgiveness, because she’ll pay off her loan well before 20 years.

How Pay As You Earn Compares to Other Repayment Plans That Consider Income

Pay As You Earn isn’t the only option for paying back your student loans. There are also other income-related plans to consider. One of the biggest differences with all of these plans is that, while you’ll almost certainly pay less on Pay As You Earn, these plans work for loans no matter when you got them. So, for example, if you received disbursement of loans before October 1, 2011, those loans would not qualify for Pay As You Earn, but could qualify for the plans below.

Income-Based Repayment (IBR)

Under IBR, you also need to demonstrate a partial financial hardship. Your payments are locked in as 15% of your discretionary income (compared to Pay As You Earn’s 10%), and you can qualify for loan forgiveness after 25 years.

Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

Payments under ICR are based on your gross annual income, family size, and loan amount; and they change accordingly each year. Loan forgiveness is available after 25 years.

Income-Sensitive Repayment (ISR)

In this plan, your loan amount is based on your income. The plan is only available for 10 years, and there is no loan forgiveness.

What You Should Know After You’ve Signed Up for Pay As You Earn

There are a few things to be aware of after you’ve signed up for Pay As You Earn.

You Must Make Your Payments Every Month and on Time

If not, you risk defaulting and not being eligible for loan forgiveness.

You Have to Reapply Every Year

And, if you no longer demonstrate partial financial hardship, your monthly payment will change to a “standard” payment amount.

Any Questions?

If you have any questions, ask your loan servicer, or feel free to get in touch with me — I’m only a tweet away at @reynagobel.

 

Reyna Gobel is a writer, author, public speaker, and student loans expert.  Her financial advice appears on Wise Bread’s New Graduates Help Center, in her video course How to Repay Federal Student Loans, in CollegeWeekLive newsletters and keynotes speeches, and in her audiobook How Smart Students Pay for School, now in its second edition. Be sure to check out her website for more helpful information on repaying your student loans.

Should I Buy These Shoes?

3 Jul

Amy Ledman, Financial Aid Administrator and Purdue Alumni

A common statement you hear people say is “live like a college student.”   To most, this means live cheaply or live within your means.  Trying to live within your means might be difficult when it’s your first time living on your own.  When you’re out with friends and shopping here are a few questions to ask yourself.

Do I need this or do I want this?  Keep in mind that it’s insanely easy to convince yourself a want is a need if your want is strong enough.  If you need something it means you cannot survive without it.  That means water, food, and preferably shoes without holes.  So if you’re on the fence of buying your 5th pair of sandals it’s time to step back and think if you really need a rainbow choice.  Or just maybe you should save this money for a weeks worth of groceries.

Will this be practical?  A good way to save money is by spending it wisely.  Say your professor states you need to dress up for a day and you only own flip-flops.  Clearly nice pair of shoes is needed.   This would be classified as something you should own, but be practical.  Look for a pair that is versatile enough that they can be used for different situations.  While the jazzy hot pink shoes might look fun a less expensive black pair would work and be more useful in the end…which will also cause you to not have to go buy another pair later.

sparkly high heeled shoe

sparkly high heeled shoe

Is this crazy or a good buy?  Even while you are being a cheap college student you also need to be not overly crazy cheap…or frugal if that sounds nicer.  There will be times when being cheap won’t pay off in the long run.  An example would be buying shoes that are $15 but end up giving you 20 blisters.  Finding something that’s low in price doesn’t always make you thrifty.  This comes back to being practical.  If you get 20 blisters you’re going to need to go buy another pair of shoes causing that $15 to sit in your closet.

These are just some quick questions to consider the next time you are out spending your hard-earned money.  If these questions don’t help solve your shoe dilemma then you should go walk around.  Leave your possible purchase behind and around the mall.  If the wish to buy your new shoes is gone then clearly the purchase wasn’t meant to be.

Cash: The Ultimate Saver

30 Jun

Kyle Koneval – Peer Counselor, Majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management

Twenty Dollar Bills

My high school government teacher always taught us to “spend-save”. Confusing, right? Spend. Save. How can you do one while doing the other? After some thought, and more spending experience, I have found a way to save while spending money.

Money burns a hole in your pocket

My father always told me when I was a boy, “money burns a hole in your pocket”. Unlike using a card when you pay with cash the money is taken directly from your pocket. Seeing the cash physically taken for a purchase can lead to better spending habits, and possibly more savings. The idea of seeing money literally slip between your fingers can hit home, especially for purchases that may be deemed unnecessary afterwards.

Photo by: Raysha Duncan

Photo by: Raysha Duncan

Change is a beautiful thing

Anytime I see change on the street, floor, couch, etc. it is always a good day, no it is a great day! Those seemingly harmless pennies, dimes, and nickels can add up over time. When using cash, there is always a chance you will receive change. This change can be put into a piggy bank, cup, jar, or anything that will hold it for use later, but not a vending machine. Saving change can be described as a game to some people, and Danny Iny has a perfect example of this. He made it a ‘game’ to save his change. Making anything into a game brings out the competitive side in almost everyone. Who doesn’t want to win? We challenge ourselves, and when that challenge is met, or exceeded, we take pride in this feat.

…Who really misses those few coins weighing you down?

A lot of people these days do not like to carry around a pocket full of change. It can be noisy and bothersome. Some of my friends hate change so much that they give it to me when we get a late night snack somewhere. I’m never one to turn down change; I accept change knowing that I just earned more toward my current savings goal. “A penny saved is a penny earned”, as my friend Ben Franklin would say.

Goal setting for the future

counting money

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Frankie J. Colbry

No goal is too ridiculous, but some goals can be short of what you can achieve. Set a goal with your piggy bank: a new pair of shoes, the newest video game, a vacation or even bigger RETIREMENT. Setting realistic, but difficult goals help us to challenge ourselves to win the ‘change game’ and can be worthwhile. When starting a change jar, you need to set a goal and a time frame to meet that goal. My current goal is to fill a 3 foot bowling pin and see how much change it can hold. As silly as it may seem, it is attainable, not ridiculous, and doesn’t fall short of what I can do.

There are many different ways to develop your own strategy for saving your change, so find your ‘game’ and try to get the high score. There are pros and cons to using cash. Seeing the visual transaction can help deter bad spending habits but saving the change from cash transactions can make even bigger changes overtime.

Lower the Cost of College by Spending Less on Books

26 Jun

Brandon Endsley, Financial Aid Administrator and Purdue Alumni

college books costs too much

The cost of college today is all over the news.  From every media outlet you can read, watch, or listen to a professional talk about how student loan debt is at an all-time high and tuition and fees are rising faster than inflation.  While this all maybe true, talking about the issues over and over does not help any student attending college.
Pick any college student and they can tell you how the cost of college affects them negatively.  I am going to cover some simple tips students can use to cut their overall college costs by spending less on text books.
Per CollegeBoard.org, in the academic year 2006-2007 the average annual costs of books for a 4 year public university was $942 and that number continues to rise year after year.

1.      Rent if possible.  For the average college course, renting books is cheaper and less of a hassle for buying your textbooks.  Everyone knows that buying a used book is cheaper than buying a new book, but when you go to sell your book back your “buy-back price” is much less than the buy price and in many cases the book store will not even purchase the book back.  Plus, you may have to wait in long lines with unpredictable weather (if you’re in the Midwest) for little recovery of your first investment.  When you rent a book you pay a flat fee and return it by the end of your semester.  If you use an online source likecheapbooks.com or www.chegg.com you can FedEx your text-book back to them within a reasonable time period after your semester ends. Local bookstores may also have an option to rent.

2.      Look for an older edition of your textbook.  Calculus has not changed in 2000 years, but the story problems have.  I recommend checking with your professor to see if you can buy an older edition.  I took a tax class where the new book was $300 and I refused to pay that price for one text-book.  I bought an edition that was three years older for $0.62 on Amazon and received the updated tax codes (which were the only difference between the two text books) from my professor.

3.      Look for the e-book.  An e-version could be an option offered by the publisher of your text-book.  The online version sells for a fraction of the price of a new or used book.  The only downside of purchasing the e-book version is sometimes there is a limited time frame you can use the text-book.  If you want to keep the book for referring to after the class is over, this may not be the route for you.

4.      GOOGLE it.  It’s not just a phrase but a way of life for most college students.  What will surprise you is how many titles are available on Google books.

5.      Check Craigslist.  Besides garage sales, housing, and boats, you can find used books for sale from students who have taken your class.

6.      Borrow the book from a friend who has previously taken the class. 
 
7.      Share a book with a classmate and split the costs.  In this scenario I would still recommend buying a cheaper book and splitting the cost for even higher savings.

8.      Check it out of the library.  Your campus library should have the book required by your class.  You may not be able to leave the library with the book, but you could at least get some free studying done… until the library closes that is.

9.      Speak with your professor. A lot of time the department requires a book to be purchased but the professor barely uses the material or provides the material needed in class.  If it is before the semester starts try sending your professor or department head an email asking about the course materials.

Why You Shouldn’t Panic About Your Federal Student Loans

23 Jun

From WiseBread New Graduate Help Center: Reyna Gobel, Student Loans Expert

girl surprised by letter

Photo By WiseBread

Dear Not-Yet-In-Trouble Federal Student Loan Borrower,

You might have heard that the Department of Education will be sending out letters to millions of student loans borrowers. The letters target borrowers whose grace periods are ending, as well as borrowers who exhibit signs of trouble that could lead to defaulting on their loans. If you haven’t started repayment yet but are fretting about how you’re going to possibly repay all that money — stop worrying.

I’m writing you this letter to not only give you important details about student loan repayment, but also to help you be aware of potential issues well before trouble starts.

I Defaulted — Here’s How to Avoid My Mistakes

I defaulted on a federal student loan simply because I didn’t know it existed. I had over a dozen student loans from different lenders; I forgot about one loan and went into default. It’s easy to do, but it’s also easy to avoid. Just log in to the National Student Loan Data System. You’ll see all your federal student loans on this site, along with contact information. Either arrange to pay each individually, or consolidate them into one loan. This is also a great time to get a free credit report – it can alert you to any problems you might have, like having missed a loan or bill payment.

Then, know yourself. If you can’t keep track of each individual loan, you really need to consolidate them into one loan to streamline payments (ask your loan servicer about consolidation options). Once consolidated, you can still choose a plan where payments are based on income, such as Pay as You Earn. And if you’re interested in the public service loan forgiveness program, know that it’s only available through loans originated by or consolidated with Federal Direct Loans.

Realize That Even With the Pay as You Earn Plan, You Might Have Payment Problems

The income-based Pay as You Earn repayment plan bases payments on your income and family size, but it doesn’t fully consider your expenses if your circumstances change. For example, at some point, you may have to help support a sick parent or child. You could also have bought a home when your income was higher. After a pay cut, a majority of your income could go towards your mortgage.

If you experience a financial setback, you have three options:

  • Call your servicer and see if your Pay as You Earn payment amount can be adjusted. You have to supply your income annually, and you may have forgotten to do so this year, causing your payments to set based a higher income level.
  • Ask for a deferment or forbearance, which are temporary payment breaks. Taking a break should only be done if the situation isn’t permanent. Always take a deferment when possible over a forbearance when any of your student loans are subsidized. The government pays the interest on subsidized student loans during periods of deferment.
  • If your income is lower because you took family leave for six months, you may not want to change your plan. However, for long-term pay cuts where your income-based repayment is too high for your budget, you should ask your servicer to also calculate payment options and see which payment option offers the lowest monthly payment.

Don’t Feel Embarrassed If You Don’t Know Something About Student Loans

I wrote two editions of a 240-page book on student loans, and I still don’t know everything about them. I read articles and play with the student loan repayment calculators every day. There’s always something new to learn. For instance, the public service loan forgiveness employer verification form wasn’t created until after the first edition was released. Now, thanks to that form, you can find out if you qualify for the public service loan forgiveness program right away and register for it right after you start working or after you’ve already started repayment — the choice is up to you. Never be afraid to ask your servicer questions about any of these programs.

Talk to Your Friends Who Are or Will Be in Repayment Soon

I’m not the only person who has experience with and advice about student loans. Talking to your friends can help you figure out repayment options and possibly pick better ones based on their choices and experiences. Just remember, they might have different circumstances than you, such as income level, children, or other debt that impacted their choices. Therefore, you shouldn’t copy their decisions. But you’ll be more informed and learn questions to ask your servicer. Plus, they may have missed payments, recovered, and now have advice about that. Learn from others’ student loan mistakes and victories.

The Most Important Part of This Letter?

The help you get doesn’t end here. You can tweet me anytime — @ReynaGobel — and ask questions. My articles will be posted here every week. You can ask me questions in my CollegeWeekLive web chats or get more helpful advice in my book CliffsNotes Graduation Debt.

Finally, remember you never want to receive a “dear troubled borrower” letter. The second you think you might miss a payment, talk to your servicer about options for a payment break or new repayment plan. With federal student loans, that one call will likely save your credit.

 

Reyna Gobel is a writer, author, public speaker, and student loans expert.  Her financial advice appears on Wise Bread’s New Graduates Help Center, in her video course How to Repay Federal Student Loans, in CollegeWeekLive newsletters and keynotes speeches, and in her audiobook How Smart Students Pay for School, now in its second edition. Be sure to check out her website for more helpful information on repaying your student loans.

Summer Is Here! … Now What !?!

16 Jun

Raysha Duncan, Purdue Alumni

Splash park

Summer is less than a week away and I am excited! Are you? I know I know it has felt like summer for some time but the first official day of summer isn’t until June 21st.  Are you looking to save money on activities, spend time outdoors, or find indoor activities when the weather isn’t stunning? The Greater Lafayette Area is brimming with outdoor activities during the summer from parks to trails to outdoor performances. You can visit the Lafayette-West Lafayette website here to get more information on all the outdoor activities this summer.  I’ve gone ahead and summarized some of the activities below.

Lafayette/West Lafayette/Tippecanoe County Parks

West Lafaeytte ParksLafayette alone boasts 17 parks. Some of these parks have trails, some parks have pools, most of them have picnic shelters, and some of them are just soccer fields with a concession stand. Not to mention there are 12 more parks just across the river in West Lafayette! There are 3 sizeable parks with hiking trails in West Lafayette (the Celery Bog Nature Area only is 195 acres!) for hikers and casual nature lovers to enjoy. But in my opinion, the most diverse parks lie outside of city limits in Tippecanoe County. The Tippecanoe Battlefield in Battle Ground, Indiana, features a lot of history, including a monument in honor of the Battle of Tippecanoe; it’s also the start of the Wabash Heritage Trail.

Wolf Park

Located in Battle Ground, this park is a sanctuary for, you guessed it, wolves. It’s also home to coyotes, foxes, and bison. They have limited Photographer taking pictures of a wolfhours (1PM – 5PM Tuesday through Sunday) but it only costs $8.00 for an adult, $6.00 for children 6-13, and free for children under 5 to get into the park. There’s a BUNCH of fascinating events happening over the summer also, including Howl Nights every Friday and Saturday where guests have the opportunity to see the wolves in the evening and hear them howl, something you can’t experience during normal business hours.

Outdoor Art Trail

If you’re into 3-D art, this is the walking tour for you. Scattered across both Lafayette and West Lafayette are dozens of outdoor art pieces that you can walk around and see. There’s even a handy online map for routing out your own personal trail for the day. More information on the art pieces (like Candy Change’s “Before I Die” murals here in West Lafayette) can be found online to give you some background on what you’re going to go see.

Prophetstown State Park

Not only is this one of Indiana’s newest state parks, it’s also full of fun activities to do this summer. You can hike, ride your bike down the bike trails, camp, or even swim for a small fee in the Family Aquatic Center. Also close nearby is the Farm at Prophetstown, where you can take a tour of a horse-powered farm and learn about agriculture.

…but what if it’s raining?

Raining on WindowThere’s still plenty to do around the Lafayette area indoors too!

-Visit some of the area’s art galleries or take an art class (glass working, anyone?)

-Check out the area’s nightlife. Whether you’re a pub or a coffeehouse kind of person there’s something for you. Most places offer live entertainment on Friday or Saturday nights too.- Love all things vintage? Head to downtown Lafayette and check out all the antique stores on the “Antique Trail”. (Or pop over to the Tippecanoe Mall to completely avoid the rain and shop both vintage and major retailers – the vintage store Hot House Market just moved in in May!)

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