Inexpensive Ways to Enjoy the Holidays

8 Dec

Wanting to celebrate and spread some holiday cheer but don’t want to break the bank doing it? Holidays are all about spending time with family and giving back, so there’s really no reason to have to spend a lot! So here is a list of free/inexpensive holiday activities.

Christmas Tree: text overlay An Inexpensive Holiday

Send Cards to Soldiers

Holiday Mail for Soldiers is a program run every year by the Red Cross in an effort to send some holiday cheer to those serving and protecting our country. What a great way to send holiday spirit to someone separated from their family at such a special time of the year! You can do this individually, with your family, or even with a club/organization on campus.

Scout Out the Best Lights

Some people go crazy with their Christmas lights! Pile your friends and family into a car and drive around enjoying the lights and try to find the house with the most dramatic lightshow production.

Help Decorate for the Holidays

Whether you buy a tiny fake tree with your roommates or help your parents pull down the menorah from the attic one weekend, that act of helping set up decorations is a great holiday memory. You don’t have to buy new decorations; you can pull out the old and go over your memories from holidays past or have a crafting session with your roommates to make new decorations and new memories.

Spend Time, Not Money

What if you don’t buy presents this holiday season? What if instead, you do something special with each family member and friends you would normally buy a present for? These can be free or low-cost experiences. Maybe you’re back in town for the holidays and you have a friend who is obsessed with Starbucks seasonal peppermint mochas…why not take her out for one and catch up on your lives for a couple hours? The experience of the holiday season is what matters, not what you buy someone.

Go Caroling

So what if you don’t have the best voice? Any nursing home in town would love to see a bunch of new, young and/or cheery faces caroling down their halls. Get in the spirit! Gather friends, family, your sorority sisters, congregation, etc. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

BAKE

Baking delicious treats is probably one of the most exciting things about the holidays. You can bake some for your family, friends, neighbors, the mailman, your favorite teachers from grade school,  or anyone really. Everyone enjoys a few good treats in the winter! It’s the perfect time to try out those recipes you saw on Pinterest or someone shared on Facebook.

Renewing Your Trustees or Presidential Scholarship at Purdue

7 Dec

Trustees Presidential Scholarships.jpg

If you’re one of the lucky Purdue students to receive a Trustees or Presidential Scholarship, the thought of what you need to do to keep your scholarship may have come up. While these awards do renew automatically, there are some criteria you should know to keep your eligibility.

For starters, you need to complete at least one full academic year in the program (major) that you were originally admitted to. If you decide that you want to change majors, you will have to wait until after the spring semester of your first year or your scholarship will be lost

In addition, you need to maintain continuous full-time enrollment each semester (excluding the summer) with 12 or more credits or you will lose your eligibility. If you are taking 12 credits and drop a class to go below, this will put your scholarship in jeopardy.

While taking 12 credits keeps you full time, there is another credit completion mark you must hit. You must have completed a total of 30 credits at the end of your first year, 60 by the end of your second year and 90 by the end of your third year. Important to note is that transfer and AP credits both apply to this 30/60/90 goal as well as the courses you take at Purdue. This can give you a bit of a cushion, especially in your first year, to hit your 30/60/90 benchmarks. If you started at Purdue before Fall 2014, the 30/60/90 rule does not apply to you.

Along with maintaining full-time enrollment, you need to maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA. These grades are checked at the end of each spring semester and if your cumulative GPA is below 3.0 at that time, you will lose it. However, if you have lost it for one year you can regain it at the end of the next spring semester if your cumulative GPA rises above 3.0 again (assuming you meet all the other renewal criteria).

If you made it through your freshman year without transferring and you’re hitting your 30/60/90 goal while keeping your 3.0 cumulative GPA you’re probably well on your way to graduating in four years. Which is good, because the scholarships are good for up to four years (8 semesters) of eligibility. If you take an extra year or semester past that, you won’t have the scholarship to help out.

If you are participating in a Purdue approved co-op or internship that takes you away from Purdue, that semester will not count against your semester usage, credit hour completion totals, or 12+ credit rules. Due to your different pattern of enrollment, you may appeal to use a semester of your award during the summer. Summer appeals should only be used when you will not be on campus a total of eight fall and spring semesters.

Now, if you have been doing your best but fell short of one or more of these requirements, there is the option to appeal if you have extenuating circumstances. Keep in mind that high school was easy and college wasn’t so you got really into Netflix and sleeping instead is not considered an extenuating circumstance.

Looking for renewal information about other Purdue scholarships including the Emerging Leaders, Marquis, Purdue Achievement, Purdue Hispanic, or Purdue Merit Scholarships? Check out this link with details on maintaining those scholarships. You can also find more information on the Trustees and Presidential Scholarships as well as other Freshman Scholarships here.

Becoming Credit-Wise: What Students (and You!) Should Know

5 Dec becoming-credit-wise

Note: The following article was written for Financial Aid administrators, but has information that is useful to anyone looking to learn about credit.

By Jeff Hanson, Director of Borrower Education Services, Access Group Published by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA)

becoming credit wise.jpg
As a financial aid administrator, you know your students need to understand their student loans and manage their spending well. Understanding how credit works is an essential part of that, especially for students who must supplement their federal loans with private, credit-based loans.But do your students— and you—really know enough to be truly “credit-wise”? Students may know the basics, such as having the highest credit score possible will help them get credit at an affordable price. But do they know what it takes to get a high credit score (say 800 or more)? And that most students probably score far below this number? Do they know that their credit score can impact the cost of credit, their ability to obtain other financial products such as auto insurance, or their employability? And what happens when they miss a payment or start accumulating credit card debt—how much can this lower their score? Students should never underestimate the value of good credit. Those who need private education loans, as increasing numbers of students do, will find that their credit history is likely to affect their ability to obtain the needed funds, and can even affect the cost of their loans. The better the student’s credit, the greater the probability that he or she will get the loan, and the lower the cost of that loan. Good credit does count! Building up a good credit history comes from understanding how credit reporting and credit scoring work, and from practicing sound financial habits.

Credit Reports

A credit report is a summary of the information contained in an individual’s credit history, which creditors use to evaluate the likelihood that the individual will repay future loans. A credit history is generated from credit account information and payment records that creditors have reported to authorized credit reporting agencies, so anyone who has at least one credit card, a consumer loan (such as a car loan), student loans, or any other form of personal credit should have a credit history with an authorized credit reporting agency (see the list at the end of the article). In essence, credit reports provide a sense of an individual’s willingness to repay a loan, based on his or her past credit performance. Students can think of their credit report as their “credit transcript.” Whether students think they have credit problems or not, it’s a good practice for them to review their credit reports from each of the three national credit reporting agencies at least once a year to be certain that all reported information is accurate. In fact, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, Pub. L. 108-159, 117 Stat. 1952 (FACT Act) entitles all consumers to obtain a free copy of their credit report upon request from each of the three agencies once every 12 months. More information about obtaining these free reports is available from the Annual Credit Report Request Service at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 887-322-8228.

Credit Scores

If the credit report is the credit transcript, the credit score is the “credit GPA,” and just as with grades, the higher the better. The credit score is a numerical value based on credit account information in a person’s credit report that focuses on individual borrower behavior. Unlike the credit history, which consists of raw data, credit scores are measures of future credit risk based on an assessment of that raw data. Credit scoring is a quick, accurate, consistent, and objective method that helps lenders’ quantify how well individuals have managed their credit. The higher the credit score, the greater the statistical likelihood that an individual will repay a future loan on time. Credit scoring was first developed by Fair Isaac Corporation, which created the credit scores used most widely by the credit industry and are often referred to as FICO® scores. Credit scores are calculated using a statistically derived mathematical formula that provides a numeric prediction of credit risk. The formula itself, which is proprietary, was developed by examining the credit reports of millions of people at two points in time (typically 24 months apart).

Factors Affecting Credit Scores

Paying your credit card bills on time each month has the greatest affect on your credit score. However, contrary to popular belief, a flawless payment history is not sufficient for good credit. A number of factors impact your credit score, including:

  • promptness in paying bills;
  • total debt;
  • amount owed on all credit card accounts;
  • age of credit accounts;
  • number of credit card accounts including number of credit inquiries;
  • the proportion of credit card balances to total available credit card limit;
  • number of credit card accounts opened in past 12 months;
  • number of finance accounts; and
  • occurrence of negative factors such as serious delinquency, derogatory public records, past due accounts that have been turned over to collection agencies, bankruptcies, student loan defaults, and foreclosures.

FICO® scores assess all such negative factors in three ways by evaluating:

  • how recently they occurred,
  • their severity, and
  • their frequency.

The more recent the occurrence, the farther the score will drop. The larger the balance affected (severity), the farther the score will drop. And the more frequently such negatives appear on one’s credit history, the farther the score will drop. Two factors that warrant further review are credit inquiries and student loan debt:

Credit Inquiries

Requests for your credit record can also affect your credit score. Only “hard” inquiries made during the past 12 months, however, have a potential negative affect on your score. Hard inquiries are those made by creditors when you apply for a loan or a new credit card. In such cases, you must give permission for your report to be “pulled” (provided to the creditor). All other credit inquiries are “soft” inquiries and are not a factor in scoring. Soft inquiries include:

  • Self inquiries—your requests for a copy of your own credit report or credit score;
  • Promotional inquiries—those made by companies wanting to offer you an opportunity to apply for credit;
  • Administrative inquiries — inquiries made by your current creditors who want to monitor your credit activities, as well as inquiries from the credit-reporting agency that’s maintaining your credit history (this typically occurs when you have disputed an item that’s contained on your credit report); and
  • Inquiries from prospective employers— although they have the right to obtain your credit report with your permission, these inquiries are not for the purpose of obtaining new credit and so do not impact your score.

Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt affects credit scores, but it does not necessarily result in a low credit score unless the borrower has a “thin” credit file. A “thin” file is one that contains three or fewer “trade lines” (credit cards, car loans, etc.). These files are more susceptible to lower scores because they contain less positive information to offset any negative impact of increases in student loan debt. (Note that the majority of Access Group private loan borrowers have more than three trade lines.) As installment debt, student loans typically are viewed more favorably than revolving debt (credit card debt) in credit scoring. However, although increasing installment balances (for example, because of additional student loans) can have a negative impact on credit score, as students advance from year to year in their program of study, payment delinquencies and increasing credit card debt appear to have the greatest negative impact.

Weighing the Factors

The factors affecting credit scores are not equally weighted in the scoring process. As Fair Isaac reports at www.myFICO.com, payment history has more impact—about 35% of the score—than the other factors. Thus, making payments by the due date is very important. Missed payments, one or more delinquent accounts, and serious derogatory items such as student loan defaults, bankruptcy, charge-offs of accounts, etc., can have a significant negative impact on the score. The amount of debt, especially credit card debt, is the next most significant factor, typically accounting for about 30% of the score. Total debt is important, particularly the percentage of revolving credit (credit cards) being used. Utilization is the amount of credit card debt you have as a percentage of your total available credit card limit. The smaller a person’s credit utilization rate, the less likely it is to have a negative affect on the person’s FICO® score. Thus, it is important to keep credit card balances low, since lower is better. But this does not mean credit cards should not be used once in a while. In fact, some minimal use of credit cards can be beneficial to establish a positive payment history. This does not require the accumulation of credit card debt, however. Rather, simply using a credit card occasionally each month for small purchases and paying the credit card bill in full each time will achieve this goal. The other three factors—length of history as measured by the age of your oldest credit account, new credit as measured by the number of new accounts opened and the number of “hard” inquiries made within the past 12 months, and account mix (relative proportion of installment accounts, revolving accounts, finance accounts, etc.) generally have a lesser impact on scoring, but cannot be ignored when managing your credit.

What’s the Score?

Although there are no well-established statistics regarding the average credit scores of college students, 60% of all consumers with established credit histories have FICO® scores above 700 (using a scale of 300 to 850) according to Fair Isaac. Scores above 700 generally are considered to be “good,” and scores above 775 are viewed as “very good” to “excellent” by most lenders. It is possible to estimate what the credit score might be for a typical student. Fair Isaac Corporation and www.Bankrate.com have joined forces to offer an online FICO® Score Estimator, which provides a credit score range, rather than a specific score, at no cost to consumers at www.bankrate.com/finance/credit/what-is-a-fico-score.aspx. Using the basic Fair Isaac methodology, it provides an estimate based on the answers to a brief series of questions about credit use and payment behavior. We used the FICO® Score Estimator to predict likely credit scores for a typical third-year undergraduate, who has both education loans and credit cards, using four scenarios. For the first scenario, this hypothetical student’s credit characteristics are as shown in the table at left.

  1. “No payments missed” scenario. The estimated FICO® credit score range for this individual is 715-765. Lenders would probably consider this person to have a “good” history, and although they might not offer their best interest rate, they are unlikely to deny credit based solely on this credit score. Of course, before extending credit, the lender might also require the borrower to meet a minimum income threshold or provide loan collateral.
  2. “Missed payments” scenario. What happens if the hypothetical student’s credit characteristics change? In this second scenario, suppose the student suddenly becomes delinquent on an account and is 30 days late in making the payment. Assuming this is the only change, the estimated score range drops to 620-670. This would represent an average drop of 90 points, and the borrower’s credit would now be considered only “fair.” The individual would be more likely to have trouble getting some forms of credit, such as a private student loan, on his or her own signature. If credit were granted, it probably would be at a higher interest rate and have other restrictions and/or costs.
  3. Higher credit use scenario. By contrast, suppose the record showed greater utilization of credit cards. Starting from the original “no-payments- missed” scenario, suppose in this third scenario that the amount of credit card debt was at 50% of the available credit limit. The estimated score range drops to 645-695—a “fair” credit rating. This is better than the missed payment scenario, but would still cause an average drop of 70 points in the score from the original scenario. If credit card utilization increases to 90% (credit cards are nearly “maxed out”), the estimated score range drops to 620-670—the same impact as a 30-day delinquency.
  4. Both 30-day delinquency and 90% utilization scenario. If this hypothetical student had both a 30-day delinquency and was at 90% utilization of credit cards, the estimated score range falls to 565-615. This would create serious credit issues for the student and would make it very difficult to obtain most kinds of credit. Thus, two simple missteps— missing a payment and maxing out credit cards—could take our hypothetical student from having good credit to a situation where credit (particularly private education loans) might be very difficult to obtain and much more expensive.

Obtaining Your Credit Score

The easiest way to obtain your FICO® credit score is to go to the Fair Isaac consumer Web site at www.myFICO.com. From this site you can request your FICO® credit scores calculated by the three national credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—and can purchase your FICO® credit score from one, two, or all three of these agencies.

You will receive an explanation of the score, a copy of the credit report that was used to generate that score, and an explanation of the positive and negative factors that are affecting your score. Be aware that your credit score may vary from agency to agency, because the information on your credit report at each agency may differ. More information about credit scores and the scoring process can be found at www.myFICO.com. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission provides consumer information about credit scoring at www.ftc.gov.

Good Credit Really Counts!

To sum up, to get the credit needed, when it’s needed, at an affordable cost, it is essential to understand credit reporting and credit scoring. But knowledge alone is not enough. Being creditwise also requires practicing good habits. The credit tips listed below provide a framework for practicing those good habits and can help students avoid the types of pitfalls illustrated in the hypothetical credit score scenarios presented here. This will help them avoid the frustrations, anxieties, and fears associated with credit problems.

Tips for Maintaining Good Credit

You can use the following tips to help students develop and maintain a strong credit record; one that should allow them to borrow the funds they will need to fulfill their educational dreams and successfully achieve their other long-term goals. In fact, many of these tips probably are good ideas for everyone, not just for students.

  1. Develop and follow an affordable monthly budget.
    Live below your means while you’re a student; learn to stretch your dollars; be thrifty.
  2. Pay all your bills on time.
    Just one late or missed payment can have a noticeable negative impact on your credit score.
  3. Notify your creditors immediately whenever your address changes.
    Typically you can provide information updates by phone or via the creditor’s Web site. But remember, it’s your responsibility to keep them informed.
  4. Minimize your credit card debt.
    Keep credit card balances as low as possible. Do not exceed 30% of your available credit limit.
  5. Avoid charging more on your credit cards than you can afford to repay in full each month.
    Get in the habit of using cash, not credit cards, whenever possible. Credit card debt that carries over from month to month can be very costly and may lower your credit score.
  6. Record every credit card purchase you charge just as you record every check you write.
    Tracking your charges is important so that you always know exactly how much you must repay.
  7. Limit the number of credit card accounts you maintain.
    You probably don’t need more than three major credit card accounts. Avoid opening new department/retail store charge accounts; they typically can only be used at the store that issued the card and they tend to have the highest interest rates of any credit cards.
  8. Be careful about opening new credit card accounts and closing older ones.
    It’s beneficial to have the longest possible credit history to show that you’ve maintained your credit accounts responsibly over time.
  9. Maintain accurate records of your credit accounts. 
    Keep copies of all documents relating to your credit accounts. These documents should include the application, promissory note, account terms and conditions, disbursement and disclosure statements (if applicable), and lender correspondence.
  10. Obtain a copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit-reporting agencies at least once a year and review it for accuracy.

Promptly notify the reporting agency of any errors; it can take several months to correct those errors.

Credit Resources

Credit Reporting Agencies
For more information on credit reporting or to obtain a copy of your credit report, you can contact a credit reporting agency. The three national credit reporting agencies are:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
This service was established by the three national credit reporting agencies in response to the requirements of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act of 2003, which provides consumers with the right to obtain a free copy of their credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies once every 12 months. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com for more information.

Bankrate.com
For information on all aspects of credit and personal finance, visit www.bankrate.com.

Fair Isaac Corporation
For more information on credit scoring or to purchase your credit score and report, visit Fair Isaac’s consumer Web site at www.myfico.com.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
For help with credit reporting problems, call 877-382-4357, or visit www.ftc.gov for information and free publications about credit.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS)
For help managing your budget or your debt, call 800-388-2227 for the CCCS office nearest you or visit the national Web site at www.nfcc.org.

Note: Contact information for the above resources is provided for information purposes only. This does not constitute an endorsement, by the author, Access Group, or NASFAA, of these entities or the information and services they provide.

Jeffrey E. Hanson is director of borrower education services for Access Group, Inc., in Wilmington, Delaware. Transcript wishes to thank Craig Watts, public affairs manager for Fair Isaac, for his assistance with this article.

Food, Perfect to Give AND Receive

1 Dec

Hannah Stewart, Purdue University Student and Peer Counselor

Yay for the Holidays! There is all the delicious food, holiday cheer, a break from classes, and of course presents! While it’s always awesome getting presents, giving presents can sometimes be a little more challenging; no one said finding the perfect gift was easy! There are always tons of cheap ideas on Pinterest if you want to make something hand-made. Goodwill and the Salvation Army always have really neat things too. On a more personal level though, one staple gift I always give is good food and a good time! We are college kids so money can be super tight. Personally, I never turn down free food. And you can always be sure it’s a gift people will actually use and enjoy.

Are you the most popular person on campus? While it’s wonderful having all of those friends, buying gifts for all of them could put a major strain on your budget. While some people choose to select only a few people to buy gifts for, others may want to be more inclusive. Cookies to the rescue! Cookies are great for several reasons. There are lots of different varieties, but most have the same basic ingredients so making a bunch of different types isn’t too difficult. Plus, you can make very large batches fairly quickly. Personally, I couldn’t shop for 10 people in 2 hours, but I can make enough cookies in that time frame. Depending on the recipe, you can make even more than that! Getting a lot done in a short amount of time is always a great thing.

2 cupcakes on a plate: text overlay  Food: the perfect gift to give...and receive!

Another option: Host a Christmas dinner party. A well-cooked ham or turkey can feed several people. While there is a bit more involved, a delicious entrée is just an oven and a couple hours away! People can get homesick and nothing quite compares to a well home cooked meal, especially after months of cafeteria food. You can also choose to have a potluck so others can get involved!  Plus, left overs are a major added bonus. So not only are you giving a great gift and having a good time with friends, now you have dinner or lunch made for a while.

Are you looking for something a little more personal and one-on-one? There is an old saying that a way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. Perhaps you can make a pie to start a conversation with that cute somebody, or a cake to go with that coffee date. Romantic dinner for two anyone? One of the great things about food is it’s versatile for large groups, or just a special someone.

If you’re still not sold, nothing gives parents the warm fuzzies quite like having a break. Offer to help with that big Christmas dinner, or even cook some dinners for them. There are several crock-pot recipes and dishes you can prepare the night before so that on Christmas morning, after all the gifts have been unwrapped there is a hot delicious breakfast waiting. After all that excitement, who wouldn’t be famished?

Not all of us are fantastic cooks ( guilty, but I can follow a recipe). For people out there who need some guidance, Pinterest, Google, and Food Network are great, free places to get recipes and ideas. So who knows, maybe you’ll even surprise yourself with a hidden gem. It could be a favorite family recipe that is about to be passed on to one more generation. Food is a great gift to give on the holidays. And nothing quite compares to seeing the happiness on another’s face when giving a gift.

Graduate School Application Checklist

30 Nov

Lee Gordon
Director, Office of Graduate Admissions, Purdue University Graduate School

Special Considerations for Application Deadlines

  • Application deadlines vary! You may need to adjust this timeline to meet the deadlines of the programs you apply to, so be sure to note each program’s application deadline. This timeline is based on a January 1 deadline.
  • If you find more than one deadline for your program of interest, use the earliest deadline to set your timeline; this is most often the one you must meet to be considered for fellowships and other financial assistance.
  • Access more resources at https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/prospective/preparing/

Summer Before Senior Yeargrad school application checklist.png

  • Identify your goals and consider whether or not graduate school is right for you.
  • Write a draft of your personal statement.
  • Research program options and requirements by browsing through graduate program guides (online and hard copy), university websites, and other resources.
  • Research fellowships and other types of financial assistance. Consider government agencies, philanthropic organizations, the schools you apply to, and professional organizations or honor societies as potential sources of funding.
  • Register for required standardized tests.

August-September

  • Meet with faculty members in your department to discuss your personal statement, possible programs to consider, and potential fellowships and other funding sources.
  • Determine the schools to which you will apply.
  • Get organized. Create a file for each school you will apply to and keep all related application information in the appropriate file.
  • Prepare for standardized tests.
  • If your area of interest is STEM, register and attend the Big Ten+ Graduate School Exposition. Hosted annually on the campus of Purdue University, the Grad Expo features educational workshops, an elite graduate school fair, networking receptions, and more!

September-October

  • Take standardized tests and request that your scores be sent to the appropriate schools.
  • Complete your personal statement and have it reviewed at the CCO.
  • Requests letters of recommendation from faculty; provide a copy of your personal statement and résumé/ curriculum vitae to each professor. Give your recommenders the appropriate information to submit their letters. Many recommendation letters can be submitted online and your recommenders will receive an email with instructions when you list them on your online application. If your school requires hard copy letters, give your recommenders the appropriate address.
  • Order transcripts from all post-secondary institutions and request official copies be sent directly to the schools to which you are applying.

November

  • Complete application forms. (Do a draft first!)
  • Mail application materials (if not Web-based) one month in advance of the application deadline. Pay close attention to the instructions; all documents may not go to the same address.
  • Remind your recommenders of when they must submit your letters of recommendation (i.e., the application deadline of each program – consider telling them a deadline one to two weeks earlier than the actual deadline in case something falls through at the last minute).
  • Make copies of all application pieces for your records

December

  • Check with schools to verify that your letters of recommendation, test scores, transcripts, and other required documents have arrived to complete your application by the deadline.
  • Remember that many offices will be busy at the end of the semester and over winter break, so do not wait until the last minute.

February-March

  • Schedule campus visits to locations in which you are interested. Some programs may have planned visitations for admitted students; inquire about this.
  • Prepare questions for each school to gain more information about academic programs, student life, and professional development opportunities.
  • Conduct informational interviews with students in the programs to which you have applied to gather their perspective.

April

  • Mail acceptance forms and, if required, deposits.
  • Notify schools that you will not be attending after making your decision.
  • Send thank you letters to the writers of your letters of recommendation. Be sure to let them know where you’re going to school!

Want to join Purdue’s prospective student mailing list to receive additional tips, deadline reminders, and funding information?
Visit www.purdue.edu/grad and click on Request Info.

Black Friday Shopping (without hating yourself)

22 Nov black-friday

Black Friday.jpg

Black Friday is one of the strangest times of the year. Steep discounts on electronics and other items have people lining up and camping out for these “doorbuster” deals for hours before opening. So, how do you take fullest advantage of the Black Friday savings without regretting the missed hours of sleep? Depending on what you’re looking for, you may be able to save money without all the hassle.

If after scouring the various Black Friday ads, you have found a doorbuster deal that you can’t miss out on you’ll want to be prepared. Find out what time the stores you’re interested in open and plan to be in line well before that depending on the location. At places like Target or Wal-Mart expect people to be setting up shop well ahead of time. Some stores are also open on Thanksgiving for those of you who are willing to forsake their second helping of turkey. In the event you’re going to be part of a (hopefully civilized) mob storming a store, knowing where your desired item is beforehand will probably be the difference in getting it or not.

Remember to keep your receipts from your Black Friday deals that you buy for yourself and to get gift receipts if you’re getting a gift for someone else. It’s an easy details that you can lose in the chaos, but extremely important in the event you need to return it.

The doorbuster deals and people lining up for hours may get all of the attention but there are much easier ways to get those great deals without wasting your Thanksgiving evening or sleep. Aside from a few deals, almost everything will be available online for the same prices. A nice kicker? Many places offer free shipping with their deals as well. You can do this all from the comfort of your own home without waiting in the cold for hours. Additionally, you can wait a few days to check out the Cyber Monday deals as well as comparing with other stores online to see who has the best offers! Overall, you are likely going to get just as great of a deal by shopping online and comparing prices as you are with joining the crazies.

An often overlooked, yet easy, method to get great discounts is by giving into the store’s attempts to connect with you. Follow them on social media, download their apps, register an account on their website, etc. These are all great ways to get exclusive coupons that can add up quickly helping you save big without wading through the crowds.

The experience of joining the pack for the crazy openings may appeal to some, but to many others it is a hassle not even worth contemplating. If you’ve tried it and never want to see that craziness again, or just don’t even want to see it, don’t feel like you can’t get great deals too. Just like any time you are shopping for big-ticket items you just need to compare prices, amass coupons and other discounts and you can come out hundreds of dollars ahead. The work you put in to shop intelligently is well worth the minimal effort it takes.

Off-Campus Life: The Good, the Bad, and the Happy Medium

21 Nov

Leah Steppe- Public Relations and Advertising, Peer Counselor
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

For Rent Sign

Deciding where to live while you’re in college is a big decision for most. It’s your home away from home. There are hundreds of different living options while you are in college house, apartment, duplex, or dorm. One way to narrow down your search is to answer one simple question… Do you want to live on or off campus?.

To help ease the decision let’s discuss pros and cons to living off campus.

Distance

Pro: Many housing options (house, apartment, duplex) are considered off campus but are actually within walking distance to campus.  Living within walking distance can be great for students who want to live close (especially students who don’t have a car) but do not want to live in the dorms.

Con: Living off campus can mean living OFF campus, be careful what you look for. Although, many residency options are close to campus, there are just as many that are not within walking distance and require additional transportation… Most places around Purdue University are less than 10 miles or closer to campus so the drive really isn’t bad. Check out our article “Is It Worth It to Own a Car In College?” to see if you can afford the cost of transportation or for ideas on other means of transportation, some apartment complexes even have their own shuttle service.

Cost

The cost of living off campus can be significantly cheaper than living on campus, but it’s all about how and where you live.

Pro: Living off campus can be cheaper if you live in the right place. Typically, living further off campus can save you money on rent but your transportation costs may increase.

Photo By DrJunge

Typically, the nicer the apartment (i.e more amenities) the more expensive it is so you have to be careful. Living in a smaller place with more roommates can also save money by spreading the costs of living with more people (not just rent, but utilities, transportation, and food too). You also have the ability to buy and make your own food which means you can save a lot of money if you shop wisely. If it is your first time on your own or you just want to learn how to cook for less check out “Suiting Up Your Kitchen” or “When Raman Just Isn’t Enough, Why you Should Cook!”to learn quick tips on setting up your kitchen and cooking more than out of a box.

Con: Living closer to campus can be more expensive because you have the luxury of living close to classes, food, and entertainment. Living in a nicer, larger apartment with many amenities can be more expensive as well. The cost is greater because the demand for those apartments will be higher and real estate is all about location location location.

Space

Zami student housingPro: Moving out of the dorms means having a lot more space. When you live in an apartment or a house you usually have your own bedroom which means no more sharing a bedroom. You also could have your own bathroom or one you share with 1 or 2 other people, which is better than a whole floor of people. Almost all apartments or houses are going to offer more space than a dorm, just be sure to do your research.

Con: You may end up paying more for that space though if you choose to live in an apartment complex with lots of amenities. The fewer roommates you have, the more space you have, but you typically end up paying more for a 2-bedroom apartment versus a 4-bedroom apartment. Also, it costs money to heat and cool all that extra space too, something you didn’t have to account for when living in the dorms and the heating bill can really add up in the chilly Indiana winters.

Lease

Signing a lease means you are locked into living in that space for as long as the lease says, unless you sublease your place. Most leases around Purdue University are for a full year which means you are responsible for paying rent even when school is not in session.

FDR signing paperPro: This can be a good thing for those students taking summer courses, working on or around campus for the summer, or if you just want to get away from home for a while.

Con: It can be a hassle though as a lot of students will go home during the summer which means paying rent for a place you are not even living at.

Deciding where to live while you are away at college is a big decision. Make sure you do some research before choosing a place because once you sign that lease it is difficult to get out. Here are some resources to check out for help in finding the right place for you:

  • Boiler Apartments
  • Purdue Housing Fair: Takes places once a semester on campus. Several apartment complexes hand out information about their apartments and free stuff! Dates will be announced at beginning of each semesters.
  • Purdue Off Campus Housing

The right place is out there for everyone whether it’s on campus, off campus, right next to campus, or somewhere in between. Just be sure to find the right fit for you and remember there are pros and cons to living on and off campus. When you find the right place it will not be a dorm, apartment, house, or duplex it will be your home.

Entering Loan Repayment? Tips for Recent Grads

16 Nov

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Whether you’re a recent graduate whose loans are just entering repayment or you have been making payments for several years, there is a very real chance that educational loan payments may be causing you a financial hardship. For recent graduates, there is a lot of info covered in federal exit counseling and it would be easy to have missed some of it.

Loan Servicer Navient has put together a list of their Top 10 Things to do Before You Make Your 1st Loan Payment. The key to successfully repaying your loans with any Loan Servicer is understanding your responsibilities as a borrower and the wide range of tools available to help you throughout repayment. Your Loan Servicer doesn’t want you to default and you definitely don’t want to default on your loans either!

While there isn’t much that can be done about the amount you owe since you’ve already borrowed it, you can still choose from several different options for repayment.  The Institute for College Access and Success created a Top 10 Tips for recent graduates, a handy reference for borrowers.

Unless you chose otherwise, you’re probably enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan which spreads your payments evenly over 10 years. This is both the default plan as well as the most aggressive repayment option available. However, there are several other options a borrower can choose which can limit the repayment per month to 10% of  discretionary income and reduce payments to as little as zero dollars per month (depending on income). For more information, check out Acacia Squire’s piece in NPR about her experiences and what options may be available to you.

 

 

Throwing a Fun Friendsgiving

15 Nov

 

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Thanksgiving may be one of the few times of the year that you and your friends are going to be somewhat near each other. This makes it an opportune time to get a ‘Friendsgiving’ together and enjoy each other’s company for possibly the only time during the year. If your friends don’t already have this tradition, you’ll probably have to host the first one to get the ball rolling. But don’t fear, done correctly Friendsgiving can be a fun and low-stress opportunity to get together with your best friends.

The best way to optimize the fun-factor while keeping your actual work level low? Make it a pot-luck where everyone has to bring something. Whether it’s a side of green beans, a box of wine, or someone wants to volunteer to make the main course, everything is welcome! Be sure to coordinate who brings what though, so that four people don’t all bring those canned cranberries. This could be done with a Facebook event, or just keeping a spreadsheet of what people tell you. Typically there is far more than enough food to go around, so if one person shows up empty handed for some reason try not to lay into them too much.

If it’s your first rodeo (or even if it’s not), avoiding turkey is probably a good plan. Most people are getting their annual fill on the day of Thanksgiving and don’t desire any more. Plus, the amount of people who aren’t that crazy for turkey is pretty high considering we have a day that’s reserved for feasting on it.Friendsgiving1.jpg

Something you do not want to forget is dishes and glasses. If you don’t have enough plates for people to eat off of, you’re going to have issues. An easy workaround? Paper plates! You don’t have to buy extra plates just for this one event and, more importantly, there are less dishes for you to do. Just be sure that you have enough drinking glasses for people as they might use more than one if they switch up their drinks.

Speaking of drinks, make sure you have plenty of ice! What’s in your two ice trays isn’t going to cut it. Whether people are drinking water, lemonade, or even a mixed drink, having ice is important. So go to the gas station, spend $5.00 for a couple bags of ice and call this one good. Have someone coming who is a terrible cook? Let them be in charge of bringing the ice.

Another important, and possibly awkward part, is figuring out who your invite list will include. Depending on the size of Friendsgiving you are having, there might just be your core group of friends or it might get larger. Either way, be sure to include people’s significant others. If you don’t, you’re putting them in a spot where they have to ask you if they can come or your friend will just skip so they aren’t ditching their boy/girlfriend. If your invite list is getting larger, just make sure there aren’t any obvious interpersonal conflicts you’re creating or that there is anyone you are totally missing from the invite list. You can’t have everyone over, but there might be some people upset they didn’t get the chance to join.

Another important group to keep happy is other people’s parents. How might you fail to do this? Not letting your friends know of Friendsgiving ahead of time. If you spring this idea up last minute and a friend comes over when one of their parents had planned for super special bonding time, it doesn’t matter if there was a lack of communication. Parental wrath will ensue in some fashion. So avoid this, and other potential conflicts, by planning it out ahead of time.

The most important thing? Have fun! Friendsgiving is supposed to be a time to see your pals and catch up while reminiscing on that embarrassing thing that happened 3 years ago. The more stress you can avoid while putting this all together, the better. As host your job is to provide a location and some planning but don’t feel like everything is on your shoulders. Just remember that you don’t need to be replicating a massive family-style event to have a successful time with your best friends.

Preparing for Your First Indiana Winter (Pt. 2)

10 Nov cydhhkswaaa47bo

Casey Doten, Financial Aid Counselor & Native Minnesotan

While autumn may be far and away my favorite season, it also marks the approach of easily my least favorite time of the year: winter. If you’re from one of the many places in the world that Hoosiers dream about for 5 months of the year, your first Indiana winter can be a rough ride if you’re not prepared. However, with a little bit of preparation and proper clothing you won’t just survive, but thrive!preparing-for-indiana-winter-portrait

First things first, how you dress is going to determine how you feel for much of the day. So be sure that you have all the proper gear you need for any weather. Some days it will be in the 40’s, some days you might be hovering around 0 (Fahrenheit of course)! The key here is checking the weather in the morning, and there are several phone apps you can use for this. Don’t just look outside and see it’s sunny and assume you’re fine; some of the coldest days come when the sun is out since there are no clouds to help insulate.

A weather change you might not have ever thought of is the change in moisture in the air. Winter is extremely dry. Chapped lips, dry skin and nosebleeds can all be caused from the cold, dry air. Stock up on lotion and lip balm, because at some point you will need some. Just like the lack of sunlight (less than 9 ½ hours per day at times), you can’t change much about the humidity except how you deal with it.

Something you might have already put thought into is driving. After a month you might come to the reasonable conclusion that cars were not invented for winter driving. However, making sure that you have tires with reasonable tread will go a long way toward your ability to drive safely in the snow. Tires make even more of a difference than four wheel drive in snow and ice. A few things you might not have realized are important for driving safety in the winter are your wiper fluid and windshield wipers. Getting dirty snow tossed up on your windshield from the road can make visibility terrible without good wipers and fluid.

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In regards to warming your car up, it is actually a common myth  that you should do it for the benefit of your car. Unless you’re driving a vehicle with a carburetor, you don’t need to worry about it. The only reason why I let my car warm up is to give the heat time to get warm. The longer you let your car idle, the more gas you waste, not to mention opportunities for it to be stolen since the keys are in the ignition. Also remember to have a window scraper! If your windshield is iced over and you don’t have one, it’s not going to be fun to get it off.

Even though the weather can be a hassle, don’t use it as an excuse to skip class. You pay for your courses whether you are there or not, so not going wastes some of that money. Snow days are rare and few between, however instructors cancelling courses isn’t that uncommon. So if you expect that might happen, keep your eyes on your email as that’s the most likely way they’ll let you know (unless they are a monster who just puts a note on the door so you don’t find out until you arrive). You can burrito yourself in a blanket and watch Netflix later.

For a little bonus, here are some other blogs that help cover information about surviving in the winter if you’re new to it:

http://nyulocal.com/entertainment/2011/11/01/how-a-southerner-should-prepare-for-winter-in-new-york/

http://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/how-to-survive-your-first-winter-a-college-students-guide

http://lifeinleggings.com/winter/qa-tips-on-surviving-your-first-winter-season/

http://lifeinleggings.com/moving/what-ive-learned-living-up-north/

https://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/01jesse-klein-michigan-winters-suck20

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