Archive | January, 2015

Where Will You Live Next Year?: The On-Campus vs. Off-Campus Debate

29 Jan

Pulled from the archives, this post was originally published August 14, 2012.

Denver Bailey, Purdue Alumnus
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

Rental Truck

Are you having trouble deciding to live on or off campus? This is one of the most important decisions you will make for the academic year.  Where you choose to stay for the year will decide how much loan or aid you will need for the year, but you don’t want to choose your housing based on price.  You want to make sure to choose the proper housing for your budget and your lifestyle.

Residence halls tend to be the first choice for first year students. They are typically on campus and within a short walk to class. This means you can sleep in later, and as most college students know, every minute of sleep counts. The dining courts are open periodically throughout the day and having your food prepared for you can save more time for studying. Before selecting a resident hall, do some further research to find out which one is best suited for you.   Click here  for a closer look at the resident halls on Purdue University’s campus.

Renting an apartment or a house can be a wise decision for someone who is looking for a little more responsibility, personal space, and a chance to keep some cash in their pocket. With the money I saved living off campus, I was able to stay year round versus the typical 9 months students stay living in the dorms. Trust me, not moving my things twice a year was a bonus. I had to make sure I chose the best possible place and with apartments, it is all about location, location, location, and benefits.  Typically, the farther you go from campus, the more affordable the apartment is going to be. However, if you go too far you might end up paying more in gas and you might have to buy a parking pass. Ensure you’ll make it on time by finding an apartment that offers free transportation or is at least located on the CityBus route. You may not be able to find an apartment that offers 3 meals a day and unlimited soft drinks like the Purdue dining halls, but you can find apartments with swimming pools, gyms, and movie theatres. Before you sign a lease, make a list of benefits you would like to have in an apartment and then visit BoilerApartments to get a closer look at apartment options in the local area.

Photo by: Theif12 Permission by: Creative Commons

Photo by: Theif12
Permission by: Creative Commons

While off-campus living gives you more personal space, Residence halls are filled with many other students. Sometimes those students even share the same major as you. This creates an open door for group study. The residence halls give a close network with many possibilities for mentoring and friends. I lived in a residence hall my first year, and I didn’t like the experience of sharing a room with another person.  There are many things I had to adjust to while living in the residence hall. For example: Residence halls only have community showers. But, my first friends on campus were people I met just walking around the halls, and these people are still my friends today. Before you jump to sign a lease, make sure you can make friends and build a network in the off-campus environment. Joining clubs and getting involved in extracurricular activities on campus help everyone develop socially.

Before settling on a residence hall or renting somewhere off-campus, determine what is important to you and create a budget for housing and food. Some people will spend their whole time at Purdue in a Residence Halls because living in an apartment is just not for them. Some people will never live on campus because it doesn’t fit in their budget.  It really breaks down to the small things that matter to you.


After you calculate how much money you can budget for housing, complete the following housing test by agreeing or disagreeing to the statements. There’s a lot of other factors to consider when choosing your housing situation, of course, but these are just some starting questions to consider when starting the decision-making process.

1. I prefer sleeping in.

2. I would rather walk to class.

3. I can (or will learn to) cook.

4. I have transportation to late classes/evening exams.

5. I don’t mind sharing a room with a person I have never met.

6. I am/will be involved in clubs/activities.

7. I would like to have a pet.

8. I will be working throughout the year to pay for my housing.

9. I am comfortable with community showers.

10. I plan on taking summer classes.

If you agreed with numbers 1, 2, and/or 9 then you may prefer living on-campus in a residence hall

Numbers 5, 6, 8 can go either way, but should be factors when deciding where you’ll live: is it really convenient for you to have to drive in every day/rely on a bus? Would you rather live with a bunch of friends or by yourself?

If you agreed with numbers 3, 4, 7, and/or 10 then you may prefer living off-campus (especially if you want to have a pet).

 

Minimalism

26 Jan

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

house on a lake; text overlay: minimalism

Have you heard of this yet? The idea is that you willingly choose to live with less: specifically less things, less distractions from life. Not only does it include paring down your shoe collection and stack of magazines, but it also means evaluating everything in your life that is taking up space both actual and symbolic (i.e., do you really need 845 Facebook friends?).

There’s a lot of talk going on about minimalism (and even some controversy) and what it means in a consumer society like the United States’ today. We’ve become so obsessed with our possessions that we’re not paying attention to the actual people and how they matter in our life. Think about it… As a college student you may feel like you “never have time” to see your friends, get your homework done, and eat a decent meal…but how many times did you check Facebook today? How long did it take you to sort through the pile of clothes on your floor to find something to wear?

These guys have gotten lots of attention for their minimalist lifestyles, and they have a documentary coming out about it next year. Both of them had the jobs and lives we think we’re supposed to have (6 figure  salary, easily obtained high end products, big houses, etc.) but they weren’t actually happy. And once they realized how much their stuff was holding them back, they freed themselves from the very frustration of “stuff”.

It’s hard to admit how dependent and addicted we are to our stuff sometimes because our world tends to measure successes by how much stuff we have accumulated and can afford… But is it always worth it if it doesn’t bring lasting happiness?

This can really be applied across all aspects of life. We can’t take a vacation because we have to work, which we do to earn money for the vacation, but then we buy things for and during the vacation that take away from the experience of going on that vacation with others. It can be exhausting and psychologically impeding. Keeping up with our stuff takes too much of our time and space. And that’s exactly what minimalism is fighting. It’s fighting against not just the addiction of stuff, but also the sense of emptiness more stuff brings.

The same guys I mentioned earlier had a minimalist game out a couple years ago where you get rid of stuff every day for a month. Day 1, one thing, Day 2, two things…Day 30, 30 things. By the end of 30 days that’s 465 things! I bet you don’t even think you own 465 things (and if you’re living in a dorm, you probably really shouldn’t) but everything counts: each piece of clothing, every bottle of nail polish, every half-empty deodorant bottle, every old container of mints, every cup of Ramen you never got around to eating. Every one of these is stuff that’s taking up space and creating chaos in that space.
Is this a challenge you’ve tried or are interested in trying? Let us know in the comments below!

What to Do (Besides Netflix!) When You Refuse to Leave the House This Winter

22 Jan

Tiffany Craig, Purdue Student & Peer Counselor
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

snowy trees

As winter wears on, and sub-zero temperatures make the great outdoors seem less than appealing, snowy adventures may start to lose their charm. While the first snow of the year offers the excitement of sledding, ice skating and snowball fights, ice and slush quickly become tiresome. So what should you do when frigid weather traps you indoors? We’ve compiled a list of 7 (budget friendly) indoor activities to rid you of your winter woes.

Study

Okay, okay. So studying isn’t the most exciting activity to fill your time, but why not maximize your efficiency? You can use this time when you can’t go anywhere to finish homework, and maybe even get a head start on upcoming assignments! This way, when the weather warms up, you’ll have some free time to enjoy the great outdoors.

Bake

This activity won’t just keep you busy, but has the added bonus of creating a delicious reward! Nothing tastes as good as freshly baked cupcakes or warm gooey cookies on a cold day. You could even invite some friends to help out, or turn it into a competition.

stack of books & coffee cup

Read

Whether it’s a novel you haven’t had time for, or a chapter of your textbook you never got around to, (or maybe a MyMoney blog article) take some time to enjoy the power of the written word.

Get Creative

When you’re stuck indoors, you have all the time in the world to develop a new hobby. Why not learn to paint, sketch, or even knit? If you don’t know how, no problem! There are tons of handy tutorials online you can learn from.

Write

I’m sure I’m not the only college student with a parent, significant other, or elderly relative who would love to get a hand-written letter. Use some of your down-time to do something special for a loved one.

scrabble board

Bring back the Board Games

 How long has it been since you last played a board or card game? Grab some friends, and host a good old-fashioned game night!

 

 

Clean and Organize

Again, this isn’t the most fun or exciting thing to do on a winter’s day, but did I mention efficiency? I’m sure we’ve all experienced the frustration of living in a disaster zone that we just don’t have time to clean. Winter is the perfect opportunity to get in gear and get things clean. When you’re stuck in that space you just haven’t been able to clean recently, you have an added incentive to make it spotless!

Whether you’re in a dorm, apartment, or house, there are plenty of activities to keep you from going insane this winter. What ideas do you have to help yourself stay busy during the cold months? Let us know in the comments below!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

19 Jan

  The time is always right to do what is right. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This day is marked as a day of service throughout the United States. Classes are not meeting today at Purdue and you’re encouraged to use it as a “day on, not a day off” in honor of MLK and the freedom and justice he worked towards.

Please visit the Purdue University Office of Diversity and Inclusion website for a list of events taking place today and the rest of this week.

 

Ways to Save $$ on Utilities This Winter

15 Jan

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna

Yikes! Did your first winter energy bill come in higher than you expected? Turning off the heat to save money for the rest of the winter isn’t going to be an option when you live in Indiana, unfortunately, so we’ve rounded up some tips to help you save some cash until it’s warm outside again.

Turn down the heat

Both on your thermostat and your water heater (you should have access to this in a utility closet). Lowering the heat in your house to around 68 is enough to keep you warm (you may have to add a couple layers) and can help to reduce your heating bill. If you have a programmable thermostat take advantage of the settings and turn the heat down a couple more degrees (but ALWAYS stay at least at 50 unless your apartment requires otherwise to avoid your pipes freezing) so you’re not using extra energy while you’re gone. Also, making a minor adjustment on you hot water heater will save you money (less hot water = shorter showers).

Unplug electronics you aren’t using

This is a simple one that can be used all year. Even if you’re not using your laptop and it’s in hibernation mode, it’s still using electricity. Unplug it and save yourself a couple bucks (so you can have heat!). Also, avoid space heaters! They use a lot of electricity and tossing a blanket on your lap or pulling on a sweatshirt will keep you just as warm.

car in snow with text overlay: Save $$ on utilities this winter

Cover your windows

Plastic over leaky windows can save you tons of money. This is an especially good idea if you live in an older apartment or rental house. We had a window in a rental house that leaked so badly that we could literally watch the plastic sheet we taped around it billow and fill with cold air! Just covering that window saved us a lot in heating costs. wikiHow has a great article on how to properly cover your windows.

Turn your ceiling fans clockwise

Apparently there’s a setting on most ceiling fans that will allow you to switch the direction they spin. And turning clockwise will push the hot air back down to keep the heat in your rooms instead of pushing it up towards the ceiling (hot air does rise, after all).

Always wear layers

Add an extra blanket to your bed, keep your slippers handy, invest in some sweaters from the thrift store, keep extra blankets in the living room… Putting on layers keeps you warm and will keep you from turning up the heat, saving you money on electricity.

Let’s Talk Credit Scores

12 Jan

Raysha Duncan, Purdue Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna

Here at MyMoney our goal is financial literacy. We want to teach students and our readers how to be smarter with their money and that makes the topic of credit kind of taboo. You see, credit talks about your relationship with debt: how much of it you have currently, how much you’ve paid off, how good you are at paying back your debt, what kinds of debt you have. We don’t want you to be in debt, but we do want you to be informed. And, since the average college student graduates with at least $20k in student loan debt, you should know how that affects you.

Girl in airport; text overlay: Let's Talk Credit Scores

Here’s the basic breakdown of what makes up a credit score, via wikiHow:

Payment history — 35%. How often do you pay your bills on time? Late payments hurt your score.

Debt usage — 30%. How much debt do you have in relation to your overall limit? Low debt and high limits is what you’re after.

Credit age — 15%. How long have you been establishing your credit? The longer the better.

Account mix — 10%. How many accounts or lines of credit do you have open? The more the better.

Inquiries — 10%. How often do you apply for new credit? Too many inquiries can hurt your score.

These are all taken into consideration and then get applied to a scale, typically between 300 and 850. You want to aim to have at least a good credit score, usually between 700 and 749. Go here for a breakdown of what the different levels of credit scores mean.

Your credit score is important for your future financial and personal prospects. Say one day you want to buy a house; the easiest way to buy a home is to take out a mortgage, and while paying the balance in cash sounds nice, it’s just not feasible for most people. And to get a good rate on that mortgage, you need a good credit score. This is probably all you’ve ever heard on the subject, with the exact same example (because it’s a good example). Now, how do you make sure you have a good credit score? Or better yet, how do you keep from having a bad credit score?

#1 Pay your bills on time

Every single one of them. Every time they are due. While you’re in college you can practice with your cell phone,  utilities, and rent. Then, consider a credit card that you use for only very specific things (gas, perhaps) and pay that off on time, every time the payment is due. Once you’ve graduated, make sure you don’t default on your student loans (i.e. make your payments on time, every time).

#2 Budget your money

But…what does that have to do with credit? Everything. If you’re not budgeting your debts (e.g. car payment, rent, utilities, student loan payment), then you’ll fall behind on your payments and your credit will start creeping downhill. Remember that credit card I mentioned in #1? Don’t use it for unbudgeted expenses (with the exception of it being a serious crisis like emergency roadside assistance that’s not covered by your car insurance, not when you desperately need a latte). Only spend what you have available to spend and can pay off at the end of the month.

#3 Minimize your debt

Take out the minimum amount of student loans you need. Don’t use a credit card on things you don’t need. Save up for a big down payment on your next car purchase so your payments are lower and you’re able to make them on time. Keep it small so that it’s manageable and you can still pay your bills on time. Don’t take on excess debt. You’re in college, live like a college student now so you can live the way you want once you are debuted to the world.

#4 Keep an eye on your credit score

You can check out your credit score for free once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can check it every three months by using each one once a year or you can check them all at once and compare (they may be slightly different). Watching your credit score will let you in on any changes that happen. Your credit score may go down some if you missed a credit card payment, majorly if you have unpaid medical bills, or drastically if your identity is stolen. On the plus side, if you’re managing your credit wisely you may see it gradually increase over time. And then you can credit yourself with the independence and security it brings!

Winter Prep Necessities

8 Jan

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator and Purdue Alumna

The snow is starting to fall on the pavement of your apartment complex parking lot… You start dreaming of hot chocolate and movie nights with your roommates, snow ball fights, and maybe, just maybe, one of those rare, rare snow days that happen on college campuses. You wake up the next morning to six inches of snow. They haven’t plowed your parking lot yet, the stairs are covered in ice, you realize you don’t have any snow boots, and your apartment is freezing (in an attempt to save money on utilities, not because the furnace is broken).

Times like this make you realize just how unprepared you are for the cold seasons… you may ask yourself, “What would mom and dad do?” And winter break is the perfect time to ask Mom and Dad’s advice…and snag some supplies from while you’re home (especially since we already have six inches of snow and counting here in West Lafayette…).

snowy trees with text overlay: Snowpocalypse Preparation

Here are a few things to get while you’re home this break:

Snow boots, winter coat, hat, gloves, scarf, etc.

There’s no reason for you to not be prepared to face the cold. You’re in Indiana, it’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

Snow Shovel

If you’re expected to shovel your sidewalk for your apartment complex/rental house, you need the tool to get it done. If you didn’t think ahead to get one, or still haven’t gotten around to it, snooping around the garage while you’re home may save you some money (but ask first and don’t leave your family without their own snow shovel).

Things to Keep You Warm

Stock up on blankets, sweaters, slippers, scarves, etc. Turning down the heat to save money isn’t a bad idea, but you still have to be warm enough to get your work done. Make sure to grab all your warm things out of storage (or borrow from mom/dad/grandma/grandpa to get a more vintage feel in your winter wardrobe).

Non-perishable Food

It’s always good to have some on hand in case the weather gets too bad and you can’t leave the house (and why not try and get some for free?). It’s always a good idea to have some food stored that you can eat in case you get snowed in or the power goes out, so make sure to grab things that don’t have to be heated up in case of a power outage.

Salt

Not for your food, for the outside. Having a bag of salt by your front door to put on your sidewalk can help you not slip and slide on your way out every day, and can be especially nice if you have stairs.

Make sure to gather these winter necessities and keep warm this winter!

Basic Budgeting 101

5 Jan

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna

Budgeting: something that’s really good to do, but terrifying to get started. It’s a big deal in the “grown-up” world (as a certified “grown-up” I can assure you of that), but it’s good to get in the habit of making a budget when you’re in college so you can track your expenses better after you graduate and enter the “grown-up” realm.

Why is a budget important?

Well, you’re in college and you don’t have a lot (if any) income yet and you may be using student loans to subsidize your living expenses. A budget can help you analyze and manage your spending to keep your student loan debt down and help you enjoy your college experience at the same time. (It’s also a good intervention strategy for a Starbucks addiction).

How do you start a budget?

First, you would track your spending to see where your money is going every month. From there, you would figure out what you can afford to cut back on and where you need to be re-allocating your money. Then you could break it down into where you need to be spending your money, and then to where you want to be spending your money (see this article on Wants vs. Needs).

What do you need to budget for?

…pretty much everything. If it’s something you spend money on, you should plan for it. This does NOT mean you need to be too extreme and plan every cent ($4.01 on laundry detergent, $0.70 Den Pop…). Break it down into larger categories: food, travel, bills/utilities, etc. If you’re living on-campus, then you’ve already paid (or have a payment plan) for your housing and meal plan, so you don’t need to include these in your budget. You can still have a food category in your budget, but it should be much smaller than someone who’s living off-campus and having to buy all their own groceries each month.

brown bag with text overlay: Basic Budgeting 101

This is a very brief explanation of a budget and how to start one. I didn’t include any percentages of how/where you should be allocating your money because each student’s situation is unique. You may be completely supporting yourself or receiving some help from your parents or your parents may pay for most everything or you live at home. There are a lot of factors that affect how you budget your money. Some helpful tips when considering your budget include: avoid overspending, don’t get into any more debt than you HAVE to in order to pay for your education, and track where you’re spending your money so you can make adjustments in order to meet short-term and long-term goals. This will also help in the future when your budget changes as you change and grow.

Let’s do an example budget to bring everything together. Amy is a sophomore in college. She’s an in-state resident and her tuition is completely paid for by a scholarship. Her room & board are paid for by a combination of Stafford loans and her parents. She wants to make sure that she’s not taking out any more loans than she needs, so she utilizes Purdue’s Estimated Cost of Attendance to figure out how much she should plan to spend on things:

Chart: Books & Supplies $1210; Transportation $210; Miscellaneous $1550; Tuition & Fees $10002; Room & Board $10030

Her Tuition & Fees and Room & Board (her primary needs) are already covered with her financial aid, so once those have been covered, this is what her personal budget for the academic year (according to Purdue numbers) now looks like:

Chart: Books & Supplies $1210; Transportation $210; Miscellaneous $1550

This is for the whole Academic Year. The Books & Supplies category is something she needs to budget for so she can buy books this semester, Transportation assumes that she will go home at least twice during the academic year (a need in this case since she’s in a dorm and they close over winter break), and the Miscellaneous category is anything and everything she can expect to spend money on while she’s at school: a few “needs” like her phone bill & laundry but also some “wants” like extra food & entertainment. Assuming all of this, let’s break Amy’s budget down by semester and make some categories out of the ‘Miscellaneous’ section:

Chart: Books & Supplies $1210; Transportation $210; Phone $100; Food $182.50; Laundry $25; Entertainment $467

Now, this chart shows what Amy expects to spend in each category over the course of one semester, but if she wanted she could break it down month-by-month. This is just an estimate of what she can expect to spend. If Amy started to worry about where she was spending her money, she could take a look and see how her current spending was fitting into this estimated breakdown. She has a pretty large estimated entertainment budget compared to the other miscellaneous categories, so she could also choose to forego seeing a movie in theaters (and wait for it to go to Redbox) if she needed money for laundry one week.

Seeing everything broken down like this makes a lot of sense, but how do you figure out where exactly you’re spending your money? One of the best ways I’ve found to track my money is Mint.com. This website/app can link into all of your accounts (checking, saving, credit cards, student loans) and help you keep track of how much money you have and where exactly you’re spending it. It breaks everything out into pie charts upon pie charts for you to analyze (and we all love pie). And, you can even establish goals that you’re working towards and track your progress (maybe saving up for a Study Abroad trip or a new laptop). There are a lot of other budget apps out there too, so you should look and find which one is the best for you.

Budgeting can be really stressful when you start, as I know from personal experience, but once you’ve established where your money should be going, it can be really helpful in meeting your own spending/saving goals.

 

Are you a budgeter? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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History of New Year’s

1 Jan

Kayla Rudd, Purdue University Alum

With the New Year nearing people start contemplating New Year Resolutions, but why?  Why are people inclined to create these resolutions at the beginning of each year?  History reveals multiple facets of the generated idea of the “New Year” and the resolutions that follow.  While researching the New Year phenomenon, I stumbled upon an intelligent man named Bill Petro.  He basically handed me most of the history that I needed to know about the New Year tradition.   Overall, the New Year began in pre-Christian times.  In the beginning, the New Year started with the Babylonians celebrating in March, but it was later changed to January by the Romans (Petro, 2012).

Now, of course, English had to acquire the word “January” from somewhere.  And what does the root of January mean?  January is the Roman god Janus’s month.  Who is Janus?  Janus is a Roman god depicted below with two faces; he is the god of the doors and gates.  He is also seen as the god of beginnings.

sparklers: text overlay New Year's Resolutions A History

 

So, the idea of resolutions came with this two-faced Roman god.  These resolutions had a moral focus that mostly consisted of “being good to others”.  “But when the Roman Empire took Christianity as its official state religion in the 4th century, these moral intentions were replaced by prayers and fasting” (Petro, 2012).  As the Christians chose to mostly focus on a Feast of Circumcision (a celebration dedicated to Christ) for the New Year, they did not take part in the usual festivities.  Traditionally, the New Year was celebrated with revelries which are noisy, drinking parties.  Furthermore, “the Puritans urged their children to skip the revelry and instead spend their time reflecting on the year past and contemplating the year to come. In this way they adopted again the old custom of making resolutions” (Petro, 2012).

As centuries passed to today’s celebration of the New Year, the month of January is used to celebrate these things.  Essentially, groups come together and have some sort of party (whether there is alcohol or not) that includes some now-traditional foods.  People also tend to create a variety of resolutions.  Most resolution seem to involve increasing health or working on personal financial stability.

Not only are there resolutions with the New Year, there are also superstitions and the need to produce luck for the upcoming year.  People can go online and find the lucky foods that they should eat for the New Year, but Americans have predominately combined foods from other cultures.  Some of the lucky foods that are often mentioned include the following: Sweet-and-Sour Sauerkraut, Brown-Butter Creamed Winter Greens, Sausage and Lentils with Fennel, Hoppin’ John Salad with Molasses Dressing, Cuban-Style Roast Suckling Pig, Sauerkraut with Apples, Salt Cod in Tomato Garlic Confit, New Year’s Orange and Brandy Cake, Pecan Shortbread Cookies, and Coffee-Glazed Doughnuts (Salkeld, 2012).  Clearly, sauerkraut seems to be a common theme.  If you want to read more about this or to even try out the above foods, you can visit the website here.

Sources:

Petro, Bill.  http://billpetro.com/history-of-new-years-resolutions

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