How to Save on Air Travel

18 May

Summer is here, and that means many of you are traveling! Whether you are taking vacations, moving to a new place for a summer internship, or still on campus and need to travel home here and there, chances are you are thinking of ways to save on your travel expenses. We have got you covered!

This blog series will focus on saving money with a variety of modes of transportation. On today’s agenda: Air travel.

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Flights can be expensive. Here is how to save.

Shop for flights during the week. After airlines have processed flight demands over the weekend, Mondays and Tuesdays will generally have you saving the most money. Just as there are slow days at retail stores during the week, there are slow days for flight shopping as well, so getting booked at the beginning of the week can be advantageous. While the absolute best day to book a flight used to be Tuesday, many are arguing that it is now Thursday. While we can’t provide you with a perfect formula, we do suggest fitting in your flight searching during the week. You may be busy with work or school, but taking the time to search flights will pay off when you are boarding with some extra spending money in tow!

Book your ticket (about) 47 days before your trip. If you know in advance that you need to fly, this magic number of days before your trip usually results in the greatest possible savings. The online search engine, CheapAir, crunched the numbers on about 5 million flights to arrive at the 47-day rule. Remember, this is an average. In general, booking around this time window will be good for your wallet.

Clear your browser’s cookies. Have you had your eye on a couple of different flights for a while now? Do you keep refreshing the tab you’ve kept open in the hopes that prices have dropped? Well, stop! This could actually make the flights you are looking at more expensive, because airline websites track what people are searching for. You may see a price hike, think it is never coming down again, and book a way more expensive flight than you should have. Remember, prices change based on demand. Clear your cookies.

Consider what days of the week you are flying. While not true for every single route, generally the cheapest days to fly domestic are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. The cheapest days to fly international are usually any weekdays; try to avoid flying on the weekend whenever possible. Many people do not like to take extra vacation days, making those certain weekdays unpopular for flights. Airlines cannot afford to have open seats on planes, though, so they will make these flights affordable to get more people on.

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Fly off-peak hours. You may have to rise early, or wait all day for your trip to start, but you will see significant savings if you fly during off-peak hours. Generally, this means you should aim for flights between 5 am and 7 am, or after 8 pm. Rates will be highest during the popular flight times between 11 am and 4 pm, so avoid these times if you are looking for savings!

Embrace the layovers. Direct flights are wonderful, but generally come at a greater cost. If you find a flight that fits within your time constraints and has a layover, it will probably be cheaper than the direct flight. Most people view it as a pain, but as long as you are prepared with what you need, layovers usually run a lot smoother than anticipated. The secret? Make it fun! Make it a goal to see as many airports as possible, and compare and contrast which ones have the best restaurants, layouts, etc. Even if you do not set foot outside but get a layover in a state or country you have never been, you can at least say you have been there!

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Fly different airlines. It used to be unheard of that two one-way tickets could cost less than a round-trip ticket, but not so much anymore. Finding two different flights for your trip can be nice if you have certain departure times you need to keep, or arrive and leave from different airports. There are many booking websites that can already do this for you, but they may not be able to display all possible combinations, so be sure to check airline websites as well to create your perfect combo.

Get a ride to the airport. Sometimes all of the costs we did not think of add up the most. Paying for parking at the airport is an expense you can avoid if you arrange for someone to drop you off and pick you up!

 

We wish you safe flights this summer and many good savings!

The Habits of Successful Borrowers

17 May

Attending Purdue is a large educational investment, and many students borrow educational loans at some point during their college careers. With graduation ceremonies coming to a close this past weekend, most of you graduates are looking toward the future and might be starting to panic about repaying educational loans.

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Good news: Purdue students are successfully repaying loans and not many are defaulting. The education you receive and the careers you are starting are preparing you to tackle these loans just fine. However, it is always a good idea to have some tips under your belt when starting an unfamiliar process. Here are 5 things you can do to be a successful borrower:

Don’t put it off. While deferment and forbearance are options if your life circumstances make it necessary to put repayment on hold, it is recommended to keep these at a minimum. It’s the same as with anything in life. Often, the more we put things off, the worse it feels when we finally do them. Start getting it over with little by little, and you can reduce the total cost of your loan and shorten the time you end up repaying it! A little bit of work now will make you feel a whole lot better later. Borrowers who use less than six months of forbearance are almost twice more likely to successfully repay than those who take longer postponements. If you need it, use it! Just remember that the loan will still be there when the forbearance ends.

Stay connected. Borrowers who track their progress tend to be more successful in repaying their loans. It doesn’t take much. Simply check in regularly online to stay aware of your balance and other payment plans if you feel like you might need a change. This can be done when you are sitting down to pay bills once a month. If you stay in the habit of checking in, you will be aware of what is happening with your loans. It’ll also ensure that you have contact information updated, or receive important messages if you did miss something in the mail!

Graduate. Many of you have already done this! And for those of you reading this with graduation on the horizon in the next few years, just work hard and stick with it. Nothing is more important to getting a return on your educational investment than graduating! Even if someone didn’t graduate, successful repayment is always within reach. If college is still in the future, it is important to stick to a plan so extra time and money does not have to go into getting that degree. When you are working and using your skills you developed at Purdue, you will definitely recognize the worth of the initial investment.

Stick with repayment. The longer you can make payments, the more successfully you can repay your loans. Even when times are tough, small payments can make a huge difference later on and keep you in the habit of making payments. Income-driven plans are available and can certainly be utilized if you are not sure what you can afford to pay. Just make payments. Missed payments will damage your credit and cost you more over the life of the loan. For more loan repayment information, click here.

Talk to your servicer. At Purdue, you learned to be a good communicator (it’s why COM 114 is required, right?), so put those skills to use! Your loan servicer can answer your questions and help you avoid missing payments and defaulting. They will work with you if you are forthcoming with your concerns, so engage with your servicer!

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Whether you just graduated (Congratulations, Class of 2018!), or are looking to graduate in the future, remember these pointers for quicker, smoother repayment.

Saving on Summer Utilities

14 May

Raise your hand if you have turned on your A/C already! Many of us are guilty of it. After the crazy snow we experienced in Indiana this year, the warmer temperatures have sure been welcome. For those of you all too familiar with Indiana weather, though, you know that when it gets hot, it is very hot. And unfortunately, very humid as well.

Many people are fine with layering when it is cold, but NEED that air conditioning on when it is hot. Sound familiar? It can be a challenge to figure out when to turn your air on, especially when you probably waited to turn the heat on and were saving some money by doing that. You do not want to be miserable during the summer months, so here are some tips to avoid astronomical utility bills while still having the A/C on:

Use your fans. Ceiling fans can give you a great breeze during the summer if they are set the right direction. Additionally, you can find inexpensive small fans at the store that you can move from room to room to give you maximum coolness wherever you are in your house or apartment. Remember, if you feel the breeze, it can cool you down! If not, you are wasting electricity. A properly placed fan will make you feel better, and eliminate the need for turning the A/C far down.

Shut unused vents. Do you have a barely-used room, or a roommate that moved out for the summer? Close the vents! You are just paying to keep a room that no one uses cool if you leave the vent open.

Gather your candles (for the dark). If it is a 100-degree day, there is no way you are compromising the inside temperature, but you still want to save on utilities, consider turning the lights off. Really, you can do this any time to save. Turn the light off when you leave the room, or when you are watching a movie. Make a night of electricity-saving fun by bringing out those candles, just like you did during childhood when the electricity went out during a storm.

 

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Get out of the house. You don’t need to have air running if you are not there, so turn it up for a little and take a field trip! Maybe you have a friend who has utilities included at their apartment, or are visiting family. Stores are always super air-conditioned, so even if you are not shopping, you can certainly window-shop or take a walking lap around the mall, all while keeping cool.

Program that thermostat. As mentioned above, there is certainly no need to have the air running so much when you are not home. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to run when you are home and have a higher temperature set for during the day when you are not there. If you cannot program your thermostat, you can simply make a habit of turning it up a bit when you leave, and turning it down when you get home. It will take a matter of seconds and can be easily snuck in to any morning or afternoon routine.

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Unplug. Do you leave your phone charger plugged into the wall by your bed all day, even when you only charge up at night? Is the toaster plugged in when not in use? What about your laptop? If it is in the wall and not a power strip, it is using electricity! Take an extra second after using something to unplug it, especially if you are going to be gone, and you will not be wasting electricity.

Save on laundry. Washing your clothes is not an option for you, but more of a requirement (we hope). However, drying your clothes in the dryer is not! To save some energy you would be using for your dryer, consider hanging your clothes to dry on a clothesline or drying rack. If outside in the breeze or on a drying rack by a window, your clothes will smell fresh and probably be in better shape than if you would have stuck them in the dryer. No shrinking!

Open the windows. While sunny, Indiana summers can be scalding, summer nights can be refreshing. If it is not too humid and there is a good breeze, consider opening your windows at night and then turning the air on during the day. You will have around 8 hours of savings at least if you are able to keep your windows open all night. If you do switch to air in the morning, just remember to shut all of your windows. As you may have heard your grandparents or parents warn, you do not want to be paying to cool the entire neighborhood!

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Anyone else wish this was their view?

 

We hope you keep cool this summer, Boilermakers!

Money Free Days

11 May

Now that the regular school year is over, you may be preparing for summer classes, summer jobs, internships, or studying abroad. Whether living in a familiar or new place, summer brings the opportunity to end up spending a ton of money. You are probably reconnecting with friends from home who want to grab dinner, or tempted by ice cream on every scalding, hot day. You may wish to sightsee, or visit amusement parks in the nice weather.

You may be asking yourself, “How will I be able to afford all of this?” Many people put out the goal to spend less money, but not everyone is successful. One strategy that seems to work really well to get serious about spending less is declaring certain days “money free days.”

What is a money free day? There’s no hidden meaning behind it. A money free day is when you do not spend money, not a dime! It can be an important key to your financial strategy. Figure out some days where it might be possible to not spend money. This means no going out to eat, grabbing a quick snack, online shopping, or spending on entertainment. There should be nothing coming out of your bank account.

 

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Coffee is amazing, but if you constantly grab some on the go, cut it out for a few days and see the impact it makes!

 

The strategy. How often or when you can have a money free day will really depend on your lifestyle and schedule. A good way to think about it, is to see if you can fit most of your spending into certain days. On your grocery shopping day, you may also stop to fill your car with gas because it is convenient to do both at the same time. Those are two big expenses combined into one day, and you might only have one of these days once a week or once every other week. If you know you have an event coming up with a friend and that you will be grabbing lunch, try to cook your own meals before that. You’ve strategically placed your eating out on a spending day, and made other days around it money free days. Try to get on a schedule with your bills, too. Sit down just once or twice a month and get them all scheduled and paid. If they can be done in a chunk, you then know how much you have left and do not have to spend that money later.

Money free days don’t have to be unpleasant. We are so used to spending money each day, that we often equate the idea of money with happiness or a good time. However, a money free day can be just as fun as a money-spending day. There is nothing that is different except the fact that you are not spending money. You can still eat great food, spend time with friends, and get out of the house. Look up a fun Pinterest recipe and try your hand at it. Instead of buying drinks, crack open that bottle of wine you have been saving. Visit a free museum or take a hike with a friend. If you need ideas, here is a list of 103 things you can do on a money free day. You can also check out local events and places to visit in Lafayette and West Lafayette by clicking here.

 

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Check out the wallabies at the Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette. It’s free! 

 

Money free days will help you enjoy life more. Maybe you are just immune to the true joy of grabbing a burger or a coffee, because you do it 3 or 4 times a week. If you have money free days and space out your treats, you may actually find that you look forward to them and enjoy them more.

Money free days add up. Let’s say you spend just $10 a day on those extra things that don’t really add to your happiness in the end. If you make 3 of your days in the week money free days, you will save $30 a week. Monthly, it comes out to $120. Yearly, $1,440. And that’s on the low side! If you try going money free, you might realize how much money you’ve been wasting and make more drastic changes.

Make it a challenge. How many days in a month do you think you could go money free? There is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment that comes at the end of a money free day! See if you can go more days than you thought you could, and keep track of your savings.

 

We are certainly not advising you to stop having fun or spending money altogether, but simply providing a strategy that might be easy for you. The beauty of having money free days is that you are not actually cutting anything completely out of your life. You can still buy coffee and go to movies. You just do it on a spending day, and try to make another nearby day money free. It is more of a black-and-white way to stay on top of your finances. Some days you spend, some days you don’t.

What do you think of the money free strategy?

Decorating Apartments on a Budget

7 May

Yay, you have chosen an apartment! You’ve budgeted for rent, utilities, and Internet. That’s it, right? Not quite. While a new apartment is nice, it unfortunately does require a few extra items than what you may have had in a residence hall or your room at home. Even if you don’t cook a lot, you’ll probably still need some plates, utensils, and a coffeemaker for the kitchen. If your apartment did not come furnished, you may also at least need a couch. To make it feel like home, you might want to decorate. Head spinning yet? No worries! There are plenty of ways to furnish and decorate an apartment on a college student’s budget.

Embrace hand-me-downs. It’s always fun to get something brand-new, but getting already-loved items can be exciting, too. Mom and dad’s Crockpot they got at their wedding could be your new favorite piece pf kitchen equipment. After all, the farther back you go, the more made-to-last it seems appliances were. Or maybe grandma is giving you a bunch of her old dishes that you remember eating Thanksgiving dinner on when you were little. Having items with a story behind them will add character, and a bit of sentimental value, to your space.

Refinish furniture. A rustic-looking end table can cost upwards of $200 when buying new at the store. However, you can create the same look for much less. If you have hand-me-down tables from a relative or you found some at a yard sale, you can always paint them the color you want and make them your own! For a rustic finish, grab some chalk paint and sandpaper at the store. Paint your surface, let it dry, and then rub the sandpaper to wear paint off in some places for a rustic finish. Purchasing new hardware for an existing table or dresser is another good way to create a completely different piece of furniture without breaking the bank. However you decide to spruce up old furniture, have fun with it!

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Use pictures as art. It can be expensive to buy pieces of artwork, quotes, etc. to hang in your apartment. Getting some pictures printed is always a budget-friendly way to substitute, and since they are so personal, they will make you smile every time you walk by! Get a picture of your dog, your family, or pretty scenery from your vacation and it’ll probably look like many of the pre-framed pieces you find at the store. See if anyone you know has extra frames lying around (you can paint them if they are not your style) or head to a place as simple as a dollar store to pick some up! Bonus picture idea: Stick Polaroids on your wall!

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Cost: $1.75

Buy just one. Chances are when you find something you love, like a couch or an interesting table, the stores will have plenty of matching pieces. However, is that brass coffee table going to stick out as much if you also buy the brass end table? Choosing one item you love not only saves money, but also ends up making your furniture look more interesting.

Hit up secondhand stores and flea markets. If you don’t mind digging through to find some treasures, secondhand stores are great places to find valuable items, and no two are alike! Often, people get rid of their items and may not even know their “junk” belongs to a collection. This allows you to get a steal on some amazing things. Additionally, Lafayette operates a flea market on the first Sunday of the month at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds. You can buy everything from furniture to Coca-Cola memorabilia. Old, historical magazines cost $1 or less, and are a conversation piece! You never know what you will find, and the pieces will always give your apartment a vintage feel.

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Cost: $2

Make what is functional also decorative. Are your favorite cereal bowls also pretty and in your color scheme? Use them! A stack of bowls or plates placed on a kitchen shelf make a practical use of the space, while still making it stylish.

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A basket of towels, plates, bowls, and spices are decorative, functional, and easy to grab on this shelf.

Get decorations from nature. That driftwood you picked up at the beach would look great in your nautical bathroom. The wildflower you picked can go in a vase for a week. The gorgeous leaf you couldn’t help but scoop off the ground can be pressed and hung. Use the world around you to bring some nature into your space!

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Driftwood from the beach and flowers snipped from the garden are free!

Mix what costs more with inexpensive items. Maybe you had a little bit of extra cash and splurged on something you love, or picked up a quality souvenir while studying abroad. You can mix that great piece with other, more inexpensive finds. If you have a collection of Eiffel Towers, you can put the one you bought in Paris next to other ones you’ve come across at discount home stores. There are no rules to it, just have fun mixing some awesome pieces!

Buy what you love. Don’t buy for the price tag. If you are putting substantial money toward a piece for your apartment, make sure it is something you really want to see every day and won’t tire of. On the flip side, do not buy something just because it fits into your budget if you don’t like it. If you don’t like it now, you probably aren’t going to like it later. If you are on a budget now, you’ll likely still be trying to budget later. Do not buy something you will just feel stuck with. If you are not sure about a purchase, see if there is something you like better that fits your budget. With all of the discount stores around, you are bound to find something that is within budget, and that you like. You may be able to use that chair or coffeemaker well after your apartment years if you made a decent purchase.

Make items semi-new. So the lamp you have had forever looks a bit dingy, but works perfectly fine, so you just can’t justify throwing it out. Just make it partly new instead! If you keep the base and buy a new lampshade, you will not even be able to tell it is the same lamp. Paint the mason jars you have. Same jar, new color. Challenge yourself and see what other household items you can do this with!

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Paint your mason jars to spruce them up!

Re-envision what you have. Shopping at home can be a cure if you feel the urge to buy something new. Once you have your decorations and furniture in your apartment, move them around if you get bored of their positions after a few months! You don’t have to leave every picture where it originally was or put the same blanket on your bed every day. You may find new purposes for the same things you own. It is fun and therapeutic.

 

Decorating, even on a budget, can be a blast! What other ways do you spruce up your space without breaking the bank? Let us know in the comments!

Moving Into Off-Campus Apartments

4 May

Living on-campus is a wonderful college experience that most students do for at least a year. Whether you want to cook more, have your own room, or bring a puppy to school, you may decide at some point in your college career that you are ready for an apartment. That’s great!

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Many of you have probably already signed leases for next year, and some of you may still be looking. Either way, you probably have questions about some of those terms you’ve heard as you’ve interacted with staff at apartment complexes. You may smile, nod, and sign your papers, but do you know everything you need to know about your apartment? It’s an important financial decision, and you need all the facts.

The leasing process: The steps are fairly simple. First, look around to find the perfect place for you, then fill out an application once you have decided. You will often have to put down a security deposit and maybe a portion of rent to hold your apartment. Last, sign the lease! Does any of that scare you? Don’t worry, we’ll break it down a little more.

Can I really just go look around? Absolutely! Looking around is a fun part in the process! Contact the apartment complex you would like to look at, and let them know you’d like a tour. Often, you can also just walk into their main office or clubhouse and someone will be available to show you around. On the tour, they will show you a staged apartment and any common areas like pools, dog parks, etc. You should be able to see layouts of each different type of apartment they have available, and ask any questions at this time.

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What should I keep in mind about roommates? If you have a roommate or roommates that you know you want to live with, you will be able to go through the process together and select which room each person will have. Remember that while these roommates may not be sharing an actual room with you, you will still be sharing a kitchen, bathrooms, and a living room. Sometimes you know living with good friends will work out, but sometimes that’s not the case if you have different schedules or cleaning styles. If you do not have a roommate in mind, apartments work much like resident halls. If you are matched with a roommate, it’ll be someone who fills out their forms similarly and will likely be a good match.

Will my application be accepted? Usually, college students have no problem being able to get into apartments, as the local complexes know how to work with students. When you fill out your application, the landlord will likely run a credit check. If you have limited credit history, you may need a guarantor. A guarantor is basically a co-signer, someone like a parent or guardian who is guaranteeing payment on the lease if you can’t pay for some reason.

Do I need renter’s insurance? While it sounds like something expensive, it is a good idea to purchase renter’s insurance. It is relatively inexpensive, actually. Renter’s insurance can usually be purchased through home or car insurance companies, and will protect your belongings in case of theft, fire, or other damaging scenarios.

Why am I paying a security deposit? If your landlord requires a security deposit, it will probably be held for the duration of your lease. You may get the money back at the termination of your lease, usually dependent upon the condition of your apartment when you leave. If there are damages, the landlord can use the deposit to cover the cost of fixing the damage. The best way to ensure getting back most or all of your security deposit is to conduct a move-in inspection, so you know what damage already exists. Document in writing and with photos the condition of your apartment when you move in.

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Will living in an apartment incur a ton of extra expenses beyond rent? While living in an apartment can be comparable to the cost of living in a residence hall, there is definitely a different distribution of costs. Read your lease carefully, as it will tell you about the late fee policy for rent, and will let you know what your financial responsibilities are. Some apartments cover certain utilities and cable/internet, but many still leave you responsible for a portion. Your lease is your guide, and do not hesitate to also ask staff at the apartment to clarify anything you may be unsure about. Just remember to budget out your utilities along with rent, so you know what apartment associated expenses you will have each month!

 

Signing your first lease is a milestone, and preparing financially and mentally will make the process a pleasant one. Stay tuned for more in our apartment series, including inexpensive decorating ideas!

Finals Week: De-Stress & Focus on Happiness

1 May

Ah, finals week during the spring semester. Not only are you studying and finishing work for all of your classes, but most of you are also packing up your dorms and apartments to go home for the summer, study abroad, or move for a summer internship. No matter what your plans, there is a lot to prepare for, making your mind wander to some stressful places.

If only there were some ways to de-stress…

Don’t worry, Boilers, we have you covered! Do any of these activities, literally just taking 5 minutes away from your tasks, to regroup and be more productive and less stressed in the end:

Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Sounds fancy, but this is a simple and free way to relax your entire body. You may not realize it, but you’re probably pretty tense right now! Find a quiet place and lie down. Starting with your head and face and then working your way down, contract or “flex” each muscle in your body for five seconds, and then slowly let go. Complete the same sequence in your shoulders, arms, abdomen and so on, ending with your feet and toes. This exercise also works like magic when relaxing your body at bedtime!

Visualization. It does wonders for the mind, and you can visualize to relax yourself, or to feel more positive about and prepared for the future. For relaxation: Close your eyes and imagine a serene place. You may have visited this place or it may be somewhere you have always dreamt of going. Ask yourself: What does this place look like? What does this place sound and smell like? What are you doing while in this space? Allow yourself to dwell in this place engaging all of your senses while breathing deeply. For the future: Set aside all of your worries about the future, no matter how hard that may be. Envision whatever you have been thinking about, happening exactly the way you want it to. You are rocking your summer internship, earning tons of extra spending money at your summer job, making amazing friends while studying abroad. Whatever it is, be specific about what you want and play it out in your head. Research on neuroplasticity proves that we can actually change the structure of our minds by doing activities like this often enough, truly rewiring our brains for success!

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Mindfulness Meditation. To practice, find a quiet room where you can have five minutes to yourself. Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your back straight, set a timer and close your eyes. Focus on your breath by being mindful of the air entering and leaving your nostrils or by focusing on your chest and stomach rising and falling. If your mind wanders, don’t fret! Simply, come back to your awareness of the breath and continue to focus on the sensations the breath produces. Mindfulness is a hot topic these days. Universities are teaching entire mindfulness courses, and there are many apps available to teach you how to get started on your mindfulness journey. A couple of apps you might find interesting are Headspace and The Mindfulness App.

Get some facts on happiness. Do you ever wonder why you are pushing yourself so hard? Or what happiness actually looks like? Professor Laurie Santos at Yale had the same thoughts, which is why she developed the course, “Happiness and the Good Life” (PSYC 157), or as students like to call it, “How to be Happy.” Reading about happiness tools is a great mind shifter, and can help you remember your goals, and also how to maintain happiness, even during these busy times. You can read course materials and take Yale’s Happiness course for FREE! Here is a bit more on the course:

 

 

There are even universities developing entire academic programs around the concept. The University of Pennsylvania’s Applied Positive Psychology program was among one of the first in the nation, and their cutting-edge research is helping people and communities construct meaningful lives.

Practice gratitude. Have you ever tried keeping a gratitude journal? Sometimes the best way to re-orient ourselves, is to simply think of what we are thankful for. Take 5 minutes to write ten things you are grateful for today, whether that is your health, your family, the weather, your good cup of coffee, the fact that you are fortunate enough to even be at Purdue worrying about your finals – anything. You’ll immediately start to see the benefits of this exercise! Time and time again, research shows that gratitude will improve your health and overall quality of life.

 

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Whatever your chosen technique for eliminating stress and relaxing may be, we wish you all the best during finals week and hope you carry these exercises into your daily life!

Saving Money While Studying Abroad

25 Apr

Studying abroad is a great educational experience, but it can be expensive. So how can a normal college student without a bankroll or a trust fund afford it? We’re not talking about tuition, visas, and round-trip travel to the study abroad location. We’re talking about the other costs–the ones you might not think about until it’s too late and you’re Skyping home to plead for more funds to eat, to travel, and to experience the culture you’re visiting. Having both studied abroad AND taught in study abroad, here are our 10 Ways to Save Money While Studying Abroad.

1. DON’T DRINK YOUR MONEY. Many students study abroad before they are of legal drinking age in the U.S., and studying abroad offers them a first opportunity to drink alcohol legally. While that may seem appealing, we cannot count the number of students we have worked with who drank up all their money in the first half of their trip, leaving no money for anything else. Drinks in European bars and clubs (in particular) are more expensive than in the U.S., so be aware and don’t end up being the one who has to stay behind on weekend travels because you spent all your cash on overpriced beer.

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Sampling those flights of English cider is tempting but pricey!

 

And if alcohol doesn’t tempt you, even coffee or bottled water every day or two can eat into your budget.  As our friend Cassidy, who just returned from a semester abroad in Greece, told us this week, “The small things really add up.”  Pack a French press from home, take a single serve option such as this one usually used by backpackers, or look into buying a cheap coffee maker as soon as you arrive so that you can make your own coffee.  If you’re spending even just $1 on coffee every day at a cafe for the whole semester, you’re saving yourself a lot of cash by making your own.

And fill a refillable water bottle with tap water.  In countries like Brazil or Thailand, that’s not going to be possible, but if the tap water is deemed safe, drink it.

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Tap water is FREE! Fill up whenever you can!

 

(BONUS RELATED TIP:  If you must buy coffee, be aware of differing prices for standing and sitting in European cafes. Yes, you read that right. Drinking an espresso while standing at the counter in Italy, for instance, costs about €1. But that same espresso can jump to €3 if you sit at a table. Stand and save yourself some money; sometimes this applies to eating in vs. carrying out food as well.)

 

2.TAKE ALONG A FEW CHEAP PLASTIC CONTAINERS FOR LEFTOVERS AT RESTAURANTS. Restaurants in other countries don’t always offer doggie bags, a fact we learned the hard way while living in Australia one summer. And cramming that leftover half of your wienerschnitzel into your backpack is not going to work. So carry a small plastic container with you to pack it up. Voila! Lunch or dinner the next day! Can you buy plastic containers once you arrive? Sure. But again, they cost more abroad. And besides, your mom probably has several in her cabinets (from Ziplocs to margarine tubs) that she’d be happy to donate to the cause. And once your trip ends, you can leave them behind and save luggage space because they were cheap! (Or you can pack them full of Kinder Surprise Eggs and sneak them home as gifts for friends!)

 

3.SHOP FOR GIFTS AT THE GROCERY STORE. One of our favorite things to bring home to our friends and family is foreign snack food. It’s cheap and interesting, and the person you’re giving it to doesn’t have to find a place to store it. Jammie Dodgers from England, Tim Tams from Australia, shrimp crackers from Japan, a can of Guarana from Brazil: items like these cost around $2 or less, a much smaller investment than t-shirts or random tchotchkes. And because they’re consumable, your friends and family won’t have to figure out what to do with them after they smile and say thank you. Another cheap gift idea: office supplies! Both Europe and Asia are home to pen and pencil manufacturers that make useful, inexpensive, easy-to-pack items you can’t find in the U.S.

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This flavor isn’t available in the U.S., so we brought some home (sealed in Ziploc bags, of course).

 

4.TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PURDUE MOVES SCHOLARSHIPS. If you’re studying abroad for a full semester, Purdue will give you up to $3500! And for summer programs, you can receive up to $2000! The fine print is that you must have a FAFSA on file for the current year, and you must apply for these funds BEFORE the day before you leave on your study abroad experience. In almost every case, the Purdue Moves scholarship at least pays for your plane ticket, and in some cases goes a lot further than that. There might also be scholarships at the college or department levels; the Brian Lamb School of Communication, for instance, offers its majors almost $10,000 in study abroad scholarships each year.

 

5.CHOOSE PATCHES RATHER THAN T-SHIRTS OR SWEATSHIRTS. You want souvenirs. We get that. So do we when we travel! Other bloggers suggest taking home postcards, menus, or other free/cheap paper items as souvenirs. And if that floats your boat, then great! But part of the fun of traveling can be coming home wearing a shirt emblazoned with the city you’ve visited so that other people can see where you’ve been. Let’s face it: when you wear a London sweatshirt, it’s not because it’s the most stylish, highest quality sweatshirt money can buy. It’s because you want complete strangers on the street back home to see your sweatshirt and think, “Ooh! That person went to London! How cool!” And while menus and postcards are cheap, they aren’t exactly enviable. So how about buying a patch at each place you visit? Europeans actually buy these as souvenirs often, so they’re super easy to find in Europe at most touristy shops, and they’re far cheaper than t-shirts and sweatshirts. Try buying a cheap fabric bag before your trip, and take it and a sewing kit so that you can sew on each new patch along the way. Instantly enviable! (And Instagrammable!)

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The bag costs less than $20 at Target, and the patches were each less than $5.

 

6.PACK SNACK FOODS FROM HOME. Remember, it’s the little things that add up, so bring some snack foods with you from home. Peanut butter and crackers, trail mix, and even microwave popcorn would be options to take with you. If you know you’ll have access to an oven, you could even take cookie mixes. We’ve done this many times, and our kids have even earned some spending money by selling their cookies to study abroad students who were desperate for some home-baked goodness. Can you pack enough for an entire semester and still stay within your weight limit? No. And mind you, we’re foodies, so we love trying foreign junk food and snacks; we’re suggesting this simply as a way to save cash once you’re there. And besides, if you buy them at home, there’s a good chance your parents will take you grocery shopping and not count it against your study abroad budget!

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Our daughter, Kinley, bakes cookies from a mix bought in the U.S. to sell and earn some spending money.

 

7.COOK AND BROWN BAG IT. In London one summer, one of our students was talking about how her simple lunch eating out while she interned cost the equivalent of $15 every day! Packing your lunch, or cooking simple food or making sandwiches, can seriously reduce your food costs, freeing up more money for travel and experiences. And besides, if you’ve gone to the trouble of taking our advice to bring along cheap plastic containers, you might as well use them.

 

8.WALK OR RIDE THE BUS. Public transit in study abroad locations is usually much more efficient than public transit in the midwestern U.S. But a lot of it is unfortunately underground. If you’re only traveling underground, you miss out on opportunities to really see your study abroad city. Buses are usually a little more difficult to figure out, but they allow you to see the territory you’re covering. And for shorter distances, consider walking to take in the life of your adopted city–if you’re only going 2 or 3 stops, walking might actually be just as fast as a subway, and it’s free to boot.

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9.BE OPEN TO TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES THAT WEREN’T NECESSARILY ON YOUR LIST. It’s great to have a plan for the places you want to visit from your study abroad location on weekends and travel breaks. But leave some flexibility in your schedule to follow cheap deals that you learn about after you arrive. From Italy, for instance, we were able to visit Morocco and the Canary Islands much more cheaply than some of the higher-profile destinations we had been thinking about before we arrived. And we wouldn’t trade those experiences! The places your classmates arrange might give you new ideas that are worth following.

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Our side trip to Morocco from our study-abroad location in Italy was one of the most memorable of our lives!

 

10.ASK LOCALS FOR MONEY-SAVING TIPS. Guide books and program leaders are helpful, but it’s also helpful to strike up conversations with people who live where you’re studying. They often have insight into the best way to maximize your money on public transportation, free days at museums, or discounted day seats for the theater. One of the benefits of spending weeks or months in the same place is that you aren’t in as much of a hurry as the casual tourist; you have the luxury of time to figure out how to get the deals and then maybe spend a little time standing in line for them to leave more money in your pocket. For example, once when we were living in London for summer study abroad, we learned that a popular tourist attraction offered discounted tickets to locals. The catch was that you had to provide your local address and apply for the tickets more than a month in advance.  We did that and scheduled our visit for our last week in town – just outside the month window – saving ourselves quite a bit of cash.

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Our family waits in line before the box office opens for cheap day seats to see War Horse in London.

 

Studying abroad doesn’t have to be expensive. Taking advantage of some of these tips will allow you to fully experience your study abroad city and nearby travel destinations without breaking your budget.

 

 

Thank you to our guest bloggers:

Josh Boyd, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Brian Lamb School of Communication

Gina Boyd, 4th/5th grade teacher, Mayflower Mill Elementary

Josh and Gina have worked with study abroad in the U.K. and Italy, and they have taught English on mission trips through Let’s Start Talking in Ukraine, Japan, Brazil, Malaysia, Fiji, and Thailand. Gina writes a travel blog called “My Traveling Shoes Are High Heels,” available at http://gina-shoes.blogspot.com/.

Graduates: Paying Educational Loans

20 Apr

Can anyone believe it is already the end of April? The year flew by, and you Boilermakers did some amazing things! For the seniors, the highlight is probably going to be graduating. No matter what your next step is, we are so excited to see how you impact the world.

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There are many changes on the horizon, and you are probably thinking much about the future. One thought that’s probably impacting you is how you will pay off the educational loans you took out to earn that wonderful degree. While it seems scary, heading into your post-college life with federal student loans will be just fine, especially if you remember these facts and tips about your loans:

1. Your first payment will be due 6 months after graduating. Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans have a six-month grace period before payments are due. For those of you graduating in May, this means your first payment will be due in November. Your loan servicer must provide you with a repayment schedule stating when your first payment is due, so be on the lookout for that in the mail, as well as in emails. If they have not contacted you, be sure to log into the National Student Loan Database System(NSLDS) to find out who will be handling your loans. Make sure they know how to contact you so you don’t miss any communication!

2. There are different payment plan options to suit your needs.

Traditional Plans

Standard Repayment Plan

The Standard Repayment plan consist of equal monthly payments over a 10-year period of time. This repayment plan is good for those who can handle making their monthly payments and make enough money to afford them. This payment plan is best for those who have minimal other debts and start working right out of school.

The Pros: You’ll pay off your loan faster compared to other plans, and pay less interest as a result.

The Cons: Your monthly payments will be higher than those made through other plans.

Graduated Repayment Plan

The Graduated and Extended Repayment plans could be an option for you if your income is low when you graduate but will increase quickly. Under a graduated plan, payments start out low and increase during the repayment period, usually every two years. This is a good plan if you can’t afford your current payments but know you will make more money in the years to come.

The Pros: Your loan is still paid off within 10 years.

The Cons: You’ll pay more interest over the lifetime of your loan compared to the Standard Plan.

Extended Repayment Plan

An Extended Repayment Plan is an option if your loan amount is more than $30,000 and you want to stretch your repayment to 25 years.

The Pros: Smaller monthly payments (since they’re spread out over as many as 25 years) and more time to pay off your loan.

The Cons: You’ll be saddled with payments for a longer period of time as well as pay more interest.

Income-Driven Plans

If you qualify for an Income-Driven plan, these are often the most attractive options if you’re willing to recertify your payment each year (it’s not very difficult). However, some of these are contingent on when you took out loans! If you’re interested in student loan forgiveness*, you’ll need to be enrolled in any one of these plans.

Income Based Repayment Plan

If you’re not making enough money to cover all of your monthly expenses the Income Based Repayment (IBR) Plan would be a good option. There are two separate calculations for IBR which are dependent upon when you took out your student loans.

The Pros: The IBR plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income** if you were a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014. Otherwise it will be 15%. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF (this is true for all loan forgiveness).

Income Contingent Repayment Plan

If you have a federal Direct Loan (other than a PLUS loan), you could opt for the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan. Your payments could be as low $5 or even $0.

The Pros: Your monthly payment will be the lesser of 20% of your discretionary income or on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over 12 years. You can have your remaining loan balance forgiven after 25 years of regular payments.

The Cons: You’ll pay more over the lifetime of your loan than you would with a 10-year plan, your payment could be lower than the monthly accrued interest and your loan principal will grow. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan

The Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan is only available for those with Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. Payments are based on your annual income, family size, and total loan amount. You would pay the loan off in fifteen years.

The Pros: Each lender has their own calculation, but generally it is between 4% and 25% of your monthly gross income, although your payment must be greater than or equal to the interest that accrues.

The Cons: It’s only available for up to five years. After that time, you must switch to another repayment plan. You must reapply annually, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll have continued enrollment in the plan.

Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Pay as You Earn Repayment (PAYE) Plan is another option for those not able to afford their current monthly payments.

The Pros: The PAYE plan takes into account your annual income as well as your family size. Your payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 years.

The Cons: PAYE is only eligible to those who were new borrowers on or after October 1, 2007 and must have received a disbursement of a Direct Loan on or after October 1, 2011. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

The Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment (REPAYE) Plan is very similar to PAYE. This plan was created to allow more borrowers the opportunity to have their payments lowered to 10% of discretionary income.

The Pros: Not dependent upon when you took out your student loan, the payment will be 10% of your discretionary income. Any outstanding balance on your loan will be forgiven after 20 (for undergraduate loans) or 25 (for graduate loans) years.

The Cons: If you are married, your spouse’s income will be considered whether taxes are filed jointly or separately. You will have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt unless you qualify for PSLF.

You can get a closer look at these payment plans and get your questions answered here.

 3. Make your payments on time. Yes, this is elementary and a no-brainer that you’ve also heard about credit cards, utility bills, and anything else you could possibly owe money for. However, many people do not actually know the consequences of missing student loan payments. For example, if your loan is in default, the feds can actually take your tax return and apply it to the overdue loans. Communicate with your lender, set-up your payment plan, and set reminders for the date your payments are due to avoid adverse consequences.

 To all of the graduating seniors, CONGRATULATIONS!! We wish you all the best in your bright futures, and never hesitate to come to My Money if you are in need of help with financial topics.

Boiler Up!

Breakfast on a Budget: Delicious, Healthy, & Affordable

13 Apr

“I have two exams this week, a paper I haven’t even started, a couple of shifts scheduled at work, an intramural volleyball game, and maybe a social life that will still in that mix.”

How many times have you or a friend uttered a very similar sentence during these exciting, but busy, college years? Students are constantly on the go, making it challenging for most to even think about making proper meal choices. They grab food here and there whenever time permits, and often regret those choices later since they were never really healthy or satisfying, just convenient.

Breakfast seems to be the meal that most commonly falls to the wayside as college students go about their busy days, yet it is the most important meal to think about. Yeah, yeah, everyone is told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day starting in kindergarten, but could it actually be true? Research shows that people who eat a wholesome breakfast in the morning are in better overall health, have more energy throughout the day, and are better able to successfully complete cognitively-demanding tasks.

So, what to have for breakfast when you are busy and on that tight, college kid budget? My Money at Purdue has some ideas for you:

1. Overnight Oats Keto_Overnight_Oats_square

While overnight oats require a bit of prep the night before, no actual cooking is required! All you need is the container you want to eat your oats in (mason jar, tumbler, Tupperware, etc.), and ingredients you love. Throw them in and – voila!- a delicious and nutritious breakfast. A good overnight oats recipe to start with includes:

  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ to one single-serve container Greek yogurt (depends on preference)
  • ½ banana, sliced
  • fruit to top with
  • ½ cup milk of choice

All you need to do is throw in the oats, layer them with yogurt, banana, and any other fruit you want, and pour the milk in last. Put a lid on the container, shake it up, and let sit in the fridge overnight. When you wake up, you will have a breakfast that just requires a grab from the fridge! It’s easy to get creative with overnight oats, so feel free play around with your favorite ingredients. You can also find more overnight oats ideas here. The average cost of a serving of overnight oats is around $0.60, varying depending on your ingredient choices.

2. Fruit Smoothies 

Talk about healthy, tasty, and a breakfast that lends itself to multi-tasking. All you have to do is drink it! Here is a favorite classic smoothie recipe:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • honey or maple syrup, to tastemilkshake-1021027_960_720

Throw it in the blender in the morning or make it the night before to save for morning! If you like sweeter breakfast, play around with peanut butter and cocoa powder in your smoothies. Check out more smoothie recipes here. In general, you should be able to make around 4 smoothies for $3, making your smoothie another breakfast under a dollar!

3. Hard Boiled Eggs (plus grab fruit)

When you are in a huge time crunch but also want to grab a satisfying and slightly savory breakfast, nothing beats grabbing a hard boiled egg from the fridge. Add a piece of fruit, and you will be satiated until lunch. Have you heard of a billion different ways to hard boil eggs? A tried and true method recommended by My Money is as follows:

Fill pot of eggs with cold water, set on stove, and bring the water to a boil. As soon as 6030618367_b3ab25ca65_bwater starts boiling, turn off the heat and cover the eggs in that pot for 12 minutes. Then, carefully drain the water out, and you should have perfect hard boiled eggs!

When breaking down the cost of grabbing a hard boiled egg and piece of fruit, this meal totals in at a whopping $0.30 or $0.40.

4. Breakfast Burritos

If you want to set aside an hour on the weekend to cook some make-ahead breakfast with your friends, breakfast burritos are the perfect item! There really are no rules to them. Just have tortillas on hand (consider whole grain if looking for added health benefits) and scramble some eggs, and then let the fun begin. You can add sausage, bacon, sautéed vegetables, even leftover potatoes that you have diced up! Be generous with your favorite cheese, and assemble all theburrito-chicken-delicious-461198 ingredients into delicious burritos. Put them in the freezer and pop in the microwave in the morning, usually for 1-1 ½ minutes. When taking ingredients in this bulk recipe into account, you are looking at about $0.50 per burrito. Make as huge of a batch you’d like and enjoy, because it is cheaper and healthier than fast food burritos!

5. Avocado Toast

Have you jumped on the avocado bandwagon yet? We hope so since they are yummy and healthy!  Avocado toast is even better:

Start with toast (again, do whole grain or wheat if you are trying to be really conscious ofdownload your choices). Then, scoop your avocado into a bowl and mash it up with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and crushed red pepper. It needs to be mixed and softened, but leave some avocado chunks.

Some people like to even top this with an egg. There are many variations of avocado toast, and you can find some good ideas here. As long as you look for avocado deals, this meal stays around $1.00 and will probably not exceed $2.00.

 

We hope these ideas help you make some healthy choices, maintain your budget, feel full, and feel ready to accomplish the amazing feats you Boilermakers work on every single day!

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