Being Social on a Budget

27 Jul

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

table with coffee mugs; text overlay: being social on a budget

In college (and in life in general), people want to do things and they want you to do things with them. However, when you’re on a college student budget, and just want to make sure you can afford Ramen next week, this can get really overwhelming! But, you don’t have to stop hanging out with your friends just because you’re on a budget.

Your friends want to go out to eat?

If you just can’t say no, see if you can pick the place. Pick something where everyone either splits the bill for one BIG entrée (like a pizza!) or go somewhere with cheaper meal options. But, if your friends pick a place outside of your price range, make sure you opt for water (free!). As for food: get an appetizer, see if you can order a smaller portion of an entrée (lunch portions are generally cheaper), go vegetarian for the night (typically cheaper options), or just order dessert!

Your friends want to hit the mall?

If you have issues with impulse spending, don’t go. Even if you leave your wallet at home, you’ll see things that you’re tempted to buy and come back for them later. Offer to meet up with your friends later if you know you won’t be able to stop yourself from spending money. If you think you won’t be tempted to spend any money, go with them and be their personal stylist for the trip. Just remember two big things: 1) don’t make them spend more money just because you’re not spending money and 2) don’t judge them for spending money just because you can’t.

Your friends want to take an expensive weekend trip?

First of all, don’t be a mooch…that’s just tacky. Be open and ask how much the trip will cost, then take some time to determine if you can make room in your budget for it. Be honest with yourself on how much you’re REALLY able to spend on a weekend trip right now Where else in your budget will you have to make sacrifices? What funds will you need to tap into to afford this trip? Is this a good way to spend your hard-earned cash? Do you really want to go…or is fear of missing out (FOMO) motivating you?

If you go, stick to your budget: bring your own snacks for the road and your stay, drink water with dinner, don’t give into impulse purchases, bring something to do for nights in, etc.

If you don’t go, then find something free and fun to do while you’re home for the weekend. Go out and volunteer, read a book, go for a walk…do something and don’t just sit around all weekend while they’re out having fun. You can have fun too!

These are just a few examples, of course. There are many more ways that you’ll feel pressured into spending money. Just remember: you have a budget for a reason. You’re living like a college student now, so you don’t have to live like a college student later.

 

How do you manage being social on a budget? Let us know in the comments below!

First Apartment Essentials

23 Jul

Autumn Knox, Purdue University Student & Peer Counselor
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

green door & window; text overlay: First Apartment Essentials

The transition into your first apartment is a big one. It feels like there are half a million things you have to remember, between security deposits, setting up utilities, and fine tuning the logistics of actually moving in. In all of that madness, it’s important to remember to pack the essentials!

Kitchen

There are the basics you want to consider: silverware, plates, bowls, and cups. This may sound like common sense, but these things can be forgotten in the hustle and bustle of moving! Aside from those items, you’ll want things like a skillet, at least one pot, a baking sheet, and the like. Even if you’re not much of a chef and plan to live off Ramen Noodles and cereal for the year, these items can be handy to have around. You may also want some bigger utensils – a spatula, a wooden spoon or something similar for stirring, etc. Also, don’t forget the sponge and dish soap for those pesky dishes!

Then there are the (highly useful!) extras that can be great to have around, and these really depend on your preference and needs. Things like a toaster and a microwave top the list. Most apartments for college students come furnished with a refrigerator, but this is something that you’ll want to make sure you have! If you’re a coffee drinker, investing in a coffee maker is an important addition to this list. Having your own coffee maker is more cost effective and adds convenience to a hectic college lifestyle.

Bedroom

The good news is that dorm life requires some of the same bedroom furnishings that an apartment does.  Things like bedding, a bookshelf, hangers, and maybe even storage tubs – all key to dorm living— are also needed in an apartment. Depending on whether the apartment is furnished or not, you will also want to consider things like a bed, a desk and chair, as well as something like a dresser.  Depending on the lighting, and if you plan to study there much, you’ll also want to consider investing in a lamp.

Bathroom

This room is a little easier, as bathrooms tend to come pretty furnished. Little extras you may want to consider  are things like hand soap (a must really!), hand towels, a shower curtain, and a bath mat for the floor  outside the shower/ tub!

Living Room

This space can vary depending on whether the apartment is furnished or not. Furnished apartments typically have the basics you would need in your living room. Some of the things you’ll want to make sure are included are seating (be it couches, a futon, or even lawn furniture), lamps if needed, and some form of a table for dining. If these aren’t provided in your furnished apartment, or you’re living in an unfurnished apartment, these are some things you may consider purchasing for your move.

Other

There are a few other things you’ll want to consider when you’re getting ready for your big move.  If your unit doesn’t have a washer and dryer in it, you’ll want to consider investing in a good bag/ basket to make the trip to and from the laundromat.

And though it doesn’t sound quite as fun, you may want to stock up on some cleaning supplies, as these can also come in handy. You’ll want a vacuum or broom – depending on if the floor is carpet or hardwood—and maybe some cleaning wipes or Windex.

If you have any pets moving in with you, you’ll also want to make sure you have all the supplies they need to be comfortable too!

The list can appear daunting at first, but for many common area things (living room furnishings, cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, etc.), you can talk to your roommates to see about splitting the cost and/ or responsibilities!

 

What other things do you recommend for a first apartment? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Saving Money in the Residence Halls

20 Jul

Tanya Khanna, Purdue University Student & Peer Counselor

There’s no doubt that attending college is a significant investment, but a little bit of planning can help you save a lot of money. Whether you decide to live in one of the University Residence Halls, or in an apartment off-campus, there are definitely many options that can help students reduce their daily college expenses. I’m going to cover four ways you can save money while living in a residence hall.

Student Life at Purdue 2

Taking Advantage of the Meal Plan

Students living in most of the University Residences are required to have a meal plan. Choosing the most appropriate meal plan can be an important factor in a student’s college expenses.  Sometimes it can be hard for students to be able to go to any of the 5 dining courts in between their busy schedules. Whenever I would have a short lunch break in between my classes, I took advantage of the On-The-Go options. On-The-Go is a great alternative for students with limited time, where they can grab a quick bite on their way to class, without letting their meal swipes go to waste.

Making Use of the Alternatives

Alternatively, most meal plans offer Dining Dollars. Dining Dollars can be used anywhere on campus such as cafes, restaurants at Purdue Memorial Union and the markets, to name a few. I would save on my snacks, milk and other personal necessities by using my dining dollars at on-campus markets like 3rd Street Market and Tarkington Market.

Microwave and Mini-Fridge

Not every student needs a microwave or fridge in their room. For me, however, that was a necessity. During my freshman year, my roommate and I decided to rent out a mini-fridge and microwave so we wouldn’t have the hassle of moving it out at the end of the year, or splitting it up. I realized later how investing in a microwave and fridge at the start of college was a much better choice than renting it out. Renting it for a year is just slightly cheaper than buying a new one for the first time; but in the long run, it’s actually more expensive!

Saving on Dorm Room Essentials

Another way to help save money while living in the Residence Halls is by limiting the number of things you have in your room. Coming to college for the first time can be very overwhelming, and students aren’t too sure what they will and will not need in their dorm room. Buying too many “dorm room essentials” is one of the most common mistakes a freshman can make. I’ve made this mistake too!

I bought myself a night lamp for late-night cramming sessions while my roommate was asleep; however, I never even used it because the desks provided in the dorms have a tube-light for that. Even though many “college check-lists” say this is essential, Purdue students living in the residence halls can take advantage of the one on their desk.

Most residence halls offer cleaning supplies that the residents can use to clean their room, such as a vacuum or mop, so a student could benefit from the offered cleaning supplies instead of purchasing them. I took advantage of them and never had an issue with availability or functionality.  Students may, however, want to keep a cleaning rag or something like that for convenience.

Purdue’s Residence Halls offer Wi-Fi in the rooms now! Students do not need to worry about getting their own router. The rooms also offer Ethernet cables for students! There are a lot of computer labs and printers (color printers too) available all over campus, including in each residence hall, so students can save on printer, ink and paper too. A small part of the students’ tuition is put towards printing so utilizing the university printers is a great option.

Whether you live on or off-campus, you can make use of the options offered to help reduce daily expenses. It all comes down to the your choices and preferences.

 

Do you have any tips on saving money while living in the residence halls? Share them in the comments below!

Should I Pay Off My Loans with My Summer Earnings?

16 Jul

Leah Oswalt, Purdue Alum 2012
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

beach; text overlay: Should I Pay Off My Loans with My Summer Earnings?

It’s easy to forget about your student loan debt while you’re still in school. With tests, projects, and a social life to keep up, student loan payments don’t normally make it to the top of the priority list. However, it’s important to be aware of what those loans are really costing you now.

Borrowing money now is the easy part. It pays your tuition, your living expenses, and a night or two out with friends and all you had to do was accept it and sign an agreement to pay it back. Those thousands of dollars I borrowed? Sounds like a future problem to me!  The real fun comes once you graduate and have to start paying those loans back.

So the big questions is:  If you have extra money now, maybe money you’ve earned working during the summer, should you start making payments towards your student loans?

And the answer is….maybe. Each student’s financial standing is very different, and to understand what would work best for you, you’ll need to have a good understand of where your money is now, what it’s doing, and how much it’s costing you. Time to use some of that eighth grade arithmetic you remember so well!

Interest rates of your loans

The first step is determining how much you’ve borrowed in student loans and the current interest rates of those loans. Some student loans do not add interest until after you graduate. So while you’re in school, you owe the exact amount you borrowed. However, most loans are not so nice and add interest from the time you borrow them.

For example, a loan you borrowed for $2,000 at a 6.8% interest rate for 4 years will actually add up to over $2,500 once you graduate. Your lender, whether it is the Department of Education or a private company, will send you statements periodically listing the accrued interest, principal, and total balance. Hang onto these statements! Not only does it tell you what your current balance and accrued interest is, but it also has information about repayment options.

The reason loan interest rates are important to know is because you will need to decide the best use of your extra money today. Consider any credit card debt or any other financed item you are still paying off (car, laptop, etc.) For instance, you might have a balance on your credit card, which is charging you 17% interest each month. 17% is a lot more costly than a 6.8% interest rate, so paying the credit card balance should be a higher priority now.

Will I need this money in the future?

You have to also consider your future costs and spending. If loans are offered to you at a higher interest rate in the fall semester than in past semesters, you won’t want to pay off old loans at a lower interest rate, just to borrow at the new, higher interest rate. Instead, pocket that earned money and use that to pay your tuition and living costs directly. Or maybe Grandma decided to let you borrow money for next year at a 2% interest rate. Since your old loans are costing you 6.8%, it’s a lot cheaper to hit up Grandma for money next term and use your summer earnings to make payments on that loan from last year.

A lot of your peers are in the same place you are, and most are just as new to this concept of loans and interest rates. If you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed talking to older people about this, you might learn a lot from just talking with your friends. At the same token, don’t take anyone’s word as gospel and do your homework (no pun intended) before making your decision. Regardless of how you choose to spend and save your money now, those future student loans bills will come, and they will find you. Making wise decisions now might save your future self a lot of stress induced head-banging.

FOMO and Your Money

13 Jul

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

Summer is hard, right? Everybody is doing cool things like kayaking and eating beautiful salads and everyone is always at the beach. Everyone except you, right? But what if you just jumped up and started doing all of those things? What if you just left your full-time summer job that pays for your books every school year and just ran off to the beach? Wouldn’t that just be perfect?

Nope. Don’t do it. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a real thing and it hits especially hard during the summer because this is the season where you’re supposed to be having fun all the time. But, you’re not having fun all the time…people on Facebook and Instagram are and you’re jealous. Well, right about now is the time to remember that people’s social media feeds are just their highlight reels. I bet yours is too. Your Instagram probably isn’t filled with pictures of you dressed in your pancake house uniform or the Excel sheets you stare at all day or the dirty chair where you read to the kids you nanny. But those things are what provide you with the funds to get ahead and pay for college.

And that’s just it. You shouldn’t buy into Susie’s Instagram feed because it’s not showing everything she’s up to every day. It’s impossible to completely banish feelings of FOMO, but here are some things to keep in mind when FOMO sneaks up on you.

girl standing in woods; text overlay: FOMO and Your Money

You’re living like a college student now so you don’t have to later.

Do you want to live like you have money now when you have no money or later when you have money but have too much debt from trying to live like you had money in college? Trying to live it up now means taking on excess debt and maxing out credit cards to make room for a lifestyle you just can’t afford. And if you do that, you’ll be paying for it later (literally). “Yeah, but who cares?” Future you, that’s who. Future you doesn’t want to be paying for college you’s wardrobe and luxury apartment when future you has to move back in with mom and dad because future you can’t afford to live on your own.

By not giving in to FOMO, you’re learning the difference between “wants” vs “needs.”

When you say “no” to something you want in exchange for saving for something you need, you’re learning a critical life lesson a lot of people don’t understand. Their future self will not be happy with them down the road, but yours will. Knowing your wants from your needs is an essential skill in life and the earlier you learn, the better.

You don’t HAVE to do what everyone else is doing.

…and you may not want to! By not giving in to your FOMO you may also be avoiding peer pressure. It’s important to do what you like, not what everyone else likes. Don’t waste your money and your time on things just to try and fit in. Spend those valuable resources on things that are important to you. And more importantly, save for those big goals you have.

By not participating, you’re saving money.

This is the biggest thing. If you are constantly doing things because of FOMO, you’re going to strapped for cash really fast. But, if instead you’re happy and content and ignore that FOMO, then you’ll have a lot more money to spend on important things…like, you know, your textbooks and groceries. And the adventures future you will want to have!

 

Have you conquered FOMO? Share your tips in the comments below!

Cheap Meals 101

9 Jul

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

yogurt & strawberries; text overlay: Cheap Meals 101

One of the easiest ways to cut back on your spending is to reduce your food expenses. The quickest way of course is to stop eating out! Okay, so now that you’ve done that…what now? Well, you need to learn some cheap go-to meal ideas, so I’m sharing some of my favorites with you below.

Rice and Beans

This is my favorite meal. It’s really simple, really cheap, and really good for you. If you’re a little bored with the idea of just eating plain old rice and beans, it’s really easy to jazz it up some too. Just add a little salsa and/or cheese and/or avocado and/or creole seasoning and you’ve got a brand new exciting (and spicy if you went for the Creole seasoning) meal!

Crockpot Chili

Throw a big crockpot of chili ingredients together all at once and it can cook either all day and be ready for dinner or all night and be ready to divvy up into lunch containers. You’ll also get a ton of leftovers if you’re cooking for one. The bulk of it may seem expensive, but if you break it down over how many meals you’ll get out of it, you’ll quickly see what a great deal it is to make a meal in bulk like this. Want to make it even cheaper? Leave out the meat and go vegetarian with it!

Chicken Salad

The most common way is of course to mix some canned chicken with mayo. You can do that of course or add in some chopped onion and celery or get super fancy and add grapes or walnuts or tarragon. Or go totally crazy and swap out mayo for mashed avocado – trust me, if you love avocado, you’ll love this swap. And another tip, make a lot of chicken salad at once so you have leftovers!

Breakfast for Dinner

This was one of my favorite meals as a kid and still is. Breakfast food tends to be pretty cheap and there’s such a wide variety to choose from! Scrambled eggs, toast, a bowl of cereal, yogurt and fruit, smoothies, breakfast burritos…the possibilities are endless!

What are your go-to cheap meal ideas? Share them in the comments below!

Pets in College

6 Jul

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

cat hiding under chair

I have always had pets in my life. And I didn’t realize how much having a pet in the house meant to me until I moved out and didn’t have a pet of my own. Two weeks into living away from my parents and all of their pets (none of them could be separated to come with me) I started craving a furry companion. I started thinking I wanted a dog, but then after considering (some) of the financial costs, I opted for a cat. Now, my cat (featured in the picture above) turned to be an expensive little guy because of unexpected health issues (just my luck!) and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t financially savvy when picking out a pet. But, I’m going to share with you expenses you should take into consideration before impulsively getting a pet that will hopefully help you make the wisest financial choice.

Initial Start-up Costs

Chances are you don’t have a spare kennel, litter box, litter, food, food bowls, toys, nail clippers, etc. just lying around. But, good for you if you do! Depending on what type of pet you get and what its living conditions will be (can it just roam freely or does it need to be kenneled/in a cage because it’s a rat or amphibian), your immediate expenses will vary drastically. Also, some apartment complexes and landlords have you put down an extra pet deposit and add additional charges to your rent each month per pet in your house.

Getting Your Pet

If you decide to a purebred Pomeranian, you’re going to be spending a LOT of money. It may be your dream puppy…but is that really how you should be spending your money during college? There are a few local shelters in our area and they have adorable, adoptable dogs. Other shelters have both cats and dogs that are available for adoption. There are many benefits to adopting a pet rather than buying a pet, but for the sake of this article we are going to talk about expense. Adopting a dog from Natalie’s Second Chance costs $125 for adult dogs and $150 for puppies, this fee includes spaying/neutering, up-to-date vaccines (except rabies), and a microchip. Getting all of these things done on your own (like I did) can cost upwards of $200 and that’s not even including an adoption fee! Almost Home Humane Society did not have prices for their adoptions listed on their website, but they also have an “adoption package” that provides things like spaying/neutering and up-to-date vaccines.

Medical Expenses

Kittens and puppies are baby animals; and like baby humans they require vaccines. All pets need to be vaccinated young and then have yearly booster shots, this is essential to them staying healthy. Sometimes pets get sick, and unfortunately that comes with expenses as well. Emergency trips to the vet aren’t cheap, and you should remember that when deciding if you’re really going to be able to care for that adorable kitten at Pet Smart.

Time

No matter what type of pet you choose, taking care of that pet will require a lot of time and patience. Dogs need to be walked, potty trained, bathed, taken to the vet, crate trained, fed, and

played with. Cats need trips to the vet, cleaned, litter boxes cleaned, and lots of attention. You can’t simply get an animal and expect it to take care of itself. And in college, do you really have the time you need to take care of a pet? To cover the expenses of a pet, you may need to pick up additional hours at work, but then when will you walk Fido? Getting a pet means you will have to work your schedule to include both your needs and theirs, while also having the funds to take care of both.  Maybe you have a roommate or significant other who would be willing to lend a hand in more stressful or urgent situations; but, the pet will become your responsibility, so you should make sure you have the proper time to care for it.

These are just a few tips to get you thinking about your choice in getting a pet. Having a pet is great and it teaches responsibility…But, it also costs money and you have to think about if you’ll be able to afford to give this pet the home it really deserves. If you’ve decided you really can’t afford a pet while you’re in college, one thing you can do is volunteer at either of the shelters listed above. This is a really good way to get the furry friend experience and you’ll be giving back to the community, be sure and visit their websites for more information.

Image 4 Jul

statue of liberty; text overlay: Happy Independence Day, America

Green & Leafy: Vegetables and Your Wallet

2 Jul

Amanda Hart – Food Lover, FACS Teacher, Purdue Alum
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

chopped vegetables; text overlay: green & leafy: vegetables and your wallet

How many times have you gotten up and checked your fridge, only to realize its shelves are just as empty as they were 15 minutes ago? At this point, most people would just order take out and call it a day. But not you, my friend! You are an adult! Well, you did cry at the end of Toy Story 3, but that’s no big deal! Now’s the time to get up, get yourself to the store and buy food that’s good for you. (No, a box of macaroni and cheese doesn’t count as “good for you”.)

You make it to the market, you grab your trusty basket and head to the produce section, only to be greeted with a wall of…. well…. green things. Why is it all so leafy? What the heck is kale anyway? This place looks odd, foreign, alien almost. Don’t lose hope, my friend! Just pick up a few vegetables that are in season and you’ll be good to go. Using produce that is in season is one of the easiest ways to get high quality food for a lower price. This means it’s good for you, and your wallet too!

Eat Locally & Seasonally

When you eat foods that are in their growing season, you get the peak flavor, texture and nutritional content that piece of food has to offer. That’s the whole point of eating after all; to get your body the nutrition it needs and to have fun while doing it.  If you have a choice, try to pick foods that were grown and processed within the Midwest, or ideally here in Indiana. Pay attention to the displays in the grocery store and they’ll tell you where your food comes from.

Now you know what food is local, but how do you know what’s in season? Option one: Find an app. There are a few choices, just search for a seasonal fruit and vegetable app and you’ll find something that gives you a general breakdown of what foods are prime produce each month. . Otherwise you could get a handy-dandy chart like this one found at Cooksmarts.com:

seasonal vegetable chart

 

In Indiana, our summer produce includes carrots, asparagus, cucumber, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, corn, zucchini and summer squash, eggplant and green beans and a variety of greens. Since we have these vegetables in such large quantities, the price is SUPER low when they are in season. Good luck trying to get fresh corn in January for $3 a dozen.

Check Out Farmers Markets

The Lafayette area has a couple of great  farmers markets that run from May-October. They have a great selection of local produce, meats, baked goods, jams, craft jewelry, coffee and so much more. The growers are super friendly, and they enjoy talking about the items they’ve put so much time and effort into growing. They are great at giving advice on how to prepare or store their produce.  It’s my favorite place to spend a Saturday morning.

Try Something New

So, what should you make? Look, I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed with new things. And let’s face it, some vegetables just look weird. Your job now is to pick one new thing and try it out. If you bought produce, but you don’t know what to do with it, check out The Produce Mom or Epicurious for ideas. One of my favorite websites is Cooking for Engineers. Even though I am in no way an engineer, I like how the recipes are in a step by step pictorial layout and in chart form. You can also just Google the list of foods in your fridge/pantry and see what comes up.

If you are a picky eater or are in charge of cooking for one, your goal #1 is to hide those vegetables! Check out this tomato sauce recipe from Jamie Oliver. If you put it on baked spaghetti squash, you won’t even realize it isn’t your normal pasta meal.  If you are looking for more up-front, in-your-face kind of dish, try a simple cabbage salad as a side dish, a stir fry or a vegetable soup as your dinner one night. Throw a handful of spinach in your morning smoothie, or even cook some vegetables in with your ramen noodles for lunch. The point is, a wonderful, veggie filled future awaits if you’ll just take a bite.

It’s Time to Review Your Budget!

29 Jun

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

close up dollar bills

So, back in January you read our blog post on budgeting, created your own budget and have been dutifully following it since…right? But what’s in that budget? And why is it budgeted for that amount?

Consider this list of questions as you review your budget:

When was the last time you reviewed your budget?

Is everything listed in your budget still relevant?

Are there any reoccurring expenses not included or that you need to remove?

Are you budgeting your ‘fun money’? If not, why not? If yes, are staying in that budget? Does your ‘fun money’ allotment need increased or decreased at all?

Are you setting aside money for a big savings goal? Why or why not? If you’re not, can you think of a goal that you can save up for?

What’s sucking money from your budget? How can you fix that?

Is there a portion of your budget that you’re just not spending money on anymore? Where’s that money really going?

Where can you cut back to put more towards your big savings goal?

———–

Do you have any other tips of things to consider as we all review our budgets this month? Please share in the comments below!

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