Archive | June, 2015

It’s Time to Review Your Budget!

29 Jun

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator

close up dollar bills

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

Consider this list of questions as you review your budget:

When was the last time you reviewed your budget?

Is everything listed in your budget still relevant?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Are You Thinking Summer?

25 Jun

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator

orange tree; text overlay: #thinksummer

Hey Boilers, have you really been living up to the #thinksummer ideal this summer? Don’t worry, it’s only the end of June so if you’ve just been lazing around for the past month…there’s still hope! We’ve compiled a list of ideas of summer-long projects for you to pursue.

Sign up for a local class that interests you (even if it’s unrelated to your major and especially if it’s fun!). You can gain a new skill that you wouldn’t be able to during the school year.

Become a regular volunteer in your local community. Numerous non-profits need help every day and you could be just the person they need! Reach out to your local United Way or another community foundation to see where you can lend a hand.

Train for a 5K or a marathon! This is a tough challenge, but the dedication it will take you to accomplish this goal will teach you both self-discipline and time management – two things every college student desperately needs!

Tackle a summer reading list. This can be fiction, non-fiction, or both! Do some fun reading or challenge yourself to read one book a week until the end of summer. And if you can’t come up with books to read on your own, there are plenty of reading lists already out there waiting.

Pick up a part-time job, if you don’t already have one. Earn some money this summer! Even if your job isn’t related to your major or career goals, every job has some transferable skills that you can use later in life.

Learn to cook! This is a skill you can use for the rest of your life. If you’re at home this summer see if your culinary-inclined parent can teach you to make your favorite dishes of theirs so you can recreate them when you’re on your own in the fall. And make sure to use Pinterest to find something new and adventurous to make at least once.

Compile your resume. What’s missing? Try to find opportunities to fill in the blanks to make you more marketable to future employers.

Start an Etsy shop! This is for the crafty ones out there. Not only can you make fun crafts all summer, but you get the chance to learn how these small businesses work and you may even make a profit!

What are you doing with your summer? Let us know in the comments below! #thinksummer

How Much is Too Much to Spend On…Anything?

22 Jun

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator

coffee beans with text overlay: How much is too much to spend on...anything?

How much is too much to spend on an item? Chances are likely that you’ve encountered this question somewhere on the internet before making a purchase. Today, we’re going to focus on a general answer to the question, “How much is too much?”

If you’re wondering if the price of an item is too much, then you probably already have an idea of how much you’re willing to spend. I’m a huge bookworm, but I rarely buy books brand new, and especially not in hardback. No matter how much I like a book or author, I’m not willing to spend more than five dollars on a book. In my opinion, any more than that is just out of the question. I know that if I wait a month, I can borrow the book from the library or hit up a used bookstore. Knowing the maximum amount you’re willing to spend on an item can keep your spending in check and also help you save money.

You should always aim for a price you’re comfortable with, unless your ideal price is extremely low.  In that case, you may need to re-evaluate your expectations and come up with a more realistic price range.

If you’re completely unsure on what to expect to pay for something, do some research! What are people paying on average for that particular item you’re looking for? What type of quality are people getting at the price you’re willing to pay? Are you looking for a new car? Kelly Blue Book is a wonderful resource for new and used vehicles. Do you need to find an apartment for the upcoming year? lists tons of information about apartments, including tenant reviews and price listings. Do you need to purchase textbooks for school or a gift for a friend? Amazon lists thousands of items at competitive prices, and they even have next-day shipping if you don’t have time to wait for delivery.

One of the biggest reoccurring expenses you’ll have as a college student, and  even after you graduate, is paying for your where you live, whether that be your rent or mortgage payment. This is where you need to consult your budget and see what you can realistically spend each month without sacrificing any necessities. While it’s important to be comfortable with your living arrangements, being comfortable doesn’t have to mean more amenities or extras. You should try to live within your means so that you don’t have to take on additional loan debt to make ends meet. Remember, it’s always too much if you can’t afford it.

Do you have any helpful tips on keeping your spending in check? Share them with us in the comments below!

Father’s Day Celebration Ideas

18 Jun

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator

steaming cup of coffee; text overlay: Happy Father's Day!

It can be hard to come up with gift ideas for dads, especially if you’re on a budget. Everyone recommends for the general consumer to buy him ties, wallets, power tools, etc. – but what does the broke college student get or do for dad this Father’s Day? Never fear, we’ve compiled some thrifty ideas below to help you celebrate your dad this year.

Just go and hang out with him for the day.

This is the simplest idea out there. Just spend time with him – keep him company in the garage, listen to him talk about what he’s been up to recently, take an interest in his hobby (it’s just one day, remember!). Sometimes the best gift is just your time, and nobody appreciates that more than your family. And this is the best gift if you don’t live close to your dad because you can actually go spend time with him or if travel isn’t possible that weekend just spend time talking with him on the phone.

Update the pictures of you and your siblings on his desk/in his wallet.

How old are the pictures your dad has in his office or his wallet? Lend the man a hand and update them for him! Either collect pictures from your siblings and get them printed (make sure they’re the correct size, make it easy for him to replace them!). Or if you want to go all out, meet up with your siblings either before Father’s Day and take pictures and have them printed beforehand OR do a mini-photoshoot on Father’s Day so your dad is there to participate in the picture-taking festivities. If you go with the second option, make sure you remember to get the pictures printed and delivered to your dad after!

Let him do what he wants that day and take over his weekend chores.

Pretty self-explanatory, give your dad the weekend off to do whatever he pleases.

Make dinner.

Because the quickest way to a man’s heart (or anyone’s really…) is through his stomach. Cook up his favorite foods either by yourself or with your mom or siblings. And if mom’s already got the meals for the day covered, bring him some snacks to munch on between meals.

Make a ‘dad date’ with him to watch his favorite show/game/movie with him at a later date.

Can’t spend time with your dad on Father’s Day? Make a date with him for a later date. Does he love watching the opening game of his favorite team at home in his recliner? Offer to bring snacks and your own recliner and hang out with him for the day. Is he super pumped for the new Batman v Superman movie? Offer to take him to the premiere or opening weekend.

Do you have any special ways you celebrate your dad on Father’s Day? Share in the comments below!

Top 5 Things This Financial Aid Counselor Wants You to Know

15 Jun

Jenna Kuhns, Purdue University Student and Peer Counselor

table and chairs; text overlay: financial aid top 5 tips

Whether you are an incoming freshman or a returning senior, financial aid can be confusing. As financial aid counselors, there are things we really want all students to know.

There is a limit to how much financial aid you can receive.

Every school will give you something along the lines of an “Estimated Cost of Attendance” or “Budget.” This is your limit on financial aid at your university and students cannot have financial aid over this amount. This amount will vary at different universities because it takes into account your tuition, room and board, and other estimated expenses that are specific to each university.

There is a difference between your Estimated Cost of Attendance and your bill.

Your Cost of Attendance is a term that is interchangeable with “budget.” It will include estimated costs for expenses like books and supplies, transportation, housing and food, miscellaneous costs, etc.

The university is not going to bill you for estimated miscellaneous costs. If you’re not living on campus, you will not be billed the amount for “room and board” on your Estimated Cost of Attendance. Your budget is a list of estimated expenses you may have for the year. Your bill is what you will actually owe. Your budget doubles as your financial aid limit, as mentioned previously, but it’s also a way for you to “budget” for expenses that may pop up during the year.  In actuality, your bill will only be tuition and fees (and housing and food if you stay in a dormitory).

Financial aid counselors want you to understand this difference because we often see students taking out loans to cover their entire budget. In reality, these students could have saved themselves thousands of dollars had they known they wouldn’t be billed for their entire Cost of Attendance.

You can get a refund.

So why does your Cost of Attendance/budget even bother to include expenses you won’t be directly billed for? The answer is simple. It’s so you can get financial aid to help cover extra expenses, and this is done with a refund.

Since your budget includes costs like miscellaneous expenses, you may find that you have a budget of $20,000 when you only have a bill of $17,000. This means you potentially have financial aid $3,000 in excess of what you need to cover your bill. In a situation like this, the Bursar’s Office will issue you a refund check. This refund can be used to help cover any of your academic expenses that you won’t be automatically billed for such as: books, supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses. If you are staying off campus in an apartment, fraternity, or sorority, instead of living in a residence hall, this refund can also be used to help cover your off-campus rent.

Your grades really matter.

Believe it or not, grades actually matter when it comes to financial aid. Students must meet Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) in order to remain eligible for financial aid. SAP is measured at the end of every semester, even if you didn’t take classes, and Purdue notifies you by email of your new SAP status. Purdue’s SAP Policy can be found online on the Division of Financial Aid website.

There are no dumb questions.

We are here to help! We understand that financial aid is very confusing, especially if you are brand new student. It’s our job to answer any financial aid questions or help explain things that may seem confusing. Above all, we hate seeing a little issue turn into a big issue just because a student was scared or embarrassed to ask us a question. We’ll be excited that you are seeking more information, and you’ll never know unless you ask.


Are you a student at Purdue who has questions about financial aid? Please feel free to contact the Division of Financial Aid via email or phone.

Summer Is Here! … Now What !?!

11 Jun

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator

Splash park

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

Lafayette/West Lafayette/Tippecanoe County Parks

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

Wolf Park

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

Outdoor Art Trail

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

Prophetstown State Park

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

…but what if it’s raining?

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

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

-Check out the area’s nightlife. Whether you’re a pub or a coffeehouse kind of person there’s something for you. Most places offer live entertainment on Friday or Saturday nights too.

– Love all things vintage? Head to downtown Lafayette and check out all the antique stores on the “Antique Trail”. (Or pop over to the Tippecanoe Mall to completely avoid the rain and shop both vintage and major retailers – the vintage store Hot House Market!)


What are some of your favorite things to do in the Greater Lafayette Area during the summer? Let us know in the comments below!

Let’s Talk Big Savings Goals

8 Jun

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator

night sky; text overlay: Let's Talk Big Savings Goals

A lot of us have something we really want, but just can’t afford. Typically, we have to save money for these things. Whether it’s a study abroad trip, a wedding, a bigger and better computer, or even a house, your big savings goal is a BIG GOAL for you. It’s really important to keep these big savings goals in mind when creating your budget (and organizing your life in general).This way, your money is helping you work towards your goal, rather than holding you back. The money you earn isn’t really working in your favor if you aren’t spending it wisely.

What do you want most? Are you willing to work for it?

If not, then you don’t really want it. If you are, keep on reading! You’ve got a goal to save for!

How much of your monthly income can you save?

Pull out that budget you have and take a good hard look at your current savings rate, where you’re spending money, and where you’re wasting it. More than likely, you have enough room in your budget to save something, but you may have to reconsider where your money is going.  It is important to set at least some money aside each month to achieve your savings goals.

Make your goal visual

Putting money into savings can be so hard, especially for those of us who can feel it burning a hole in our pockets.  This is where visuals might be helpful. Get a cork board and pin up pictures of what you’ve saved for as you go. Once you’ve saved enough for a big piece of your goal (plane tickets, for example) draw up or print off a picture of that piece and put it on your board. This can help you keep your eyes on the prize and see what you’re working towards as you save, instead of just watching a number in your bank account slowly increase.

Determine your timeframe for saving

This needs to be realistic. As a student, you can’t afford a study abroad trip in a week or save for a house in a month (unless you’re totally loaded, in which case…this blog probably isn’t for you!). Let’s say you decide today that it’s really important for you to study abroad and you have 2 years left until you graduate. Your timeframe would be less than two years to save for that goal – which is pretty realistic! Your timeframe needs to line up with what you’re actually able to save every month. If it doesn’t, then maybe you need to re-evaluate your goal and your expectations.

Tips on how to save

-Keep a small visual of your goal handy (the background on your phone, a picture on your fridge, a sticky note of how close you’re getting to your savings goal on your computer screen).

Automate your savings.

-Save your change! Holding on to those pesky nickels and dimes could really add up!

-Track your savings via an app on your phone or with a countdown, whatever works for you.

-“Treat yourself” by putting money towards your goal.


Do you have a big savings goal? How do you save towards it?

Take Out Minimal Student Loans & Win!

4 Jun

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator

man jumping into lake; text overlay: Take Out Minimum Student Loans & Win!

If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all lately, you’ve probably seen something about the student loan crisis and the obscene amount of loan debt that college grads have these days.

A lot of us have to take out loans for educational expenses. While student loans are there to help us finance our education, as many of us don’t have the means to pay for college completely out-of-pocket, there are ways to manage the amount of debt you find yourself in after graduation.

So, how do you manage your student loans in a smart way?

Determine How Much Loan You Actually Need

How much do you actually need to cover your bill to the university, your housing, and your books? Purdue provides an estimated Cost of Attendance (COA) to students, and if you’re at another university, it is likely they provide this information to their students, as well. This is a good starting point to determine what your expenses will be for the semester. It requires a bit of math, but what’s a bit of math now if it can save you from paying excess interest in the future?

Loans aren’t there to help you maintain your ‘lifestyle’ – they’re there to pay for your education.

Use Savings from a Summer Job to Pay Expenses

If you worked a summer job, then you earned some money. Some of the money you saved could go towards paying your tuition bill, or you could use it for housing expenses or  books. This way, you can decrease the amount of loans you’ll need to take out for the year.

If you didn’t have a summer job this year, maybe consider getting a job during the school year to help cover some day-to-day living expenses and start saving up for the books you’ll need during the next semester.. Consider getting a job or internship next summer to help you avoid taking out excess student loans in the future.

Know your Loan Repayment Options

If your loans are currently accruing interest, you can pay off your interest while you’re in school. Talk with your lender about setting up interest payments. If you have federal loans and aren’t sure who your lender is, then log-in to to see your loan balances and lender information.

Once you graduate, you have to start repaying your student loans. If you find yourself unable to make payments using the standard repayment plan, don’t worry. Borrowers have multiple repayment plans to choose from. Be sure to research your options and work with your lender to choose the repayment plan that works best for you.

Learn to Live like a College Student

There’s a reason college students are linked to Cup O’ Noodles – they’re cheap and the average college student doesn’t have money to blow on more extravagant food items. Live that life. Be the stereotypical ‘poor college student.’ Don’t blow your money/student loans on extravagant purchases.  Living this way now will help you to avoid living this way in the future. We’re all working hard for our degrees so that one day we don’t have to eat Cup O’ Noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Your apartment/wardrobe/plate of food won’t be Pinterest-perfect and may not even be Insta-worthy, but you should enjoy it! College is the time to love thrift shops and decorate with mismatched furniture. . When you’re in your forties, it won’t be cool to sit around your studio apartment in lawn chairs while using your bed as table, but it kind of is right now (or at least it’s expected). You’ve finally got your own place, just enjoy it  – don’t worry about making it perfect. Perfection costs more than you’re making or should be borrowing in student loans and that extra, unneeded debt will make your life much less than perfect in the long-run.

College is supposed to prepare you for the rest of your life and this sentiment isn’t just about your education, it’s about your finances too. So go out and have fun, but spend and borrow wisely! You don’t want to have to pay for it later.

Spending Summer $avings … the Right Way

1 Jun

Raysha Duncan, Financial Aid Administrator & Purdue Alumna

girl gazing at mountains

Summer vacation has just started for some, and for others we are a month or two into the season. By now you’ve probably been able to save up a bit of money from your summer job. And if you haven’t been saving, you’re realizing now is the time to start. It’s great to save money from your job over the summer, but what exactly do you do with all that money you’ve been saving up?

Tuition Money

This is the most obvious option. If you’re working over the summer to pay for your schooling, this is one major expense your savings should be going towards. Earning money over the summer and saving a lump sum of your earnings for your tuition can keep you from taking out loans. As a result, you graduate with less debt increasing your discretionary income (income after taxes and current bills have been paid). This will save you interest over time and allow you to fund other investments like a house, car, or your retirement.  The Project on Student Debt had the following to say: “Seven in 10 college seniors (71%) who graduated last year had student loan debt, with an average of $29,400 per borrower. From 2008 to 2012, debt at graduation (federal and private loans combined) increased an average of six percent each year.” Imagine being part of the 29% instead of the 71%….

Put it Towards a Big Purchase

If your computer broke down on you during the school year and it’s something that you really need (not just for Facebook or Netflix) this is a legitimate expense to spend your hard-earned cash on. Other big purchases like brand-name purses, designer shoes, cologne or designer sunglasses are not really a good use of an entire summer’s wages.

Another big purchase you could put it towards would be a study abroad trip for next summer or school year (and I’m sure a summer in Paris sounds really good right about now after working the cash register for 30 hours every week). Purdue has numerous study abroad options for students of varying interests and majors. It’s also highly recommended by students and faculty that any student who wants to goes on a study abroad; it’s an experience of a lifetime.

Have Your Own Safety Net

Adults are always talking about having a 3-month, 6-month, one-year safety net of funds in case something was to happen to them. This money is the minimum that they would need to get by for a set-period of time if they were to remain unemployed for a time period. This is something college students should have too! What if you end up having to take 18-credit hours and it’s a really strenuous course-load that causes you to leave your part-time job? What if your car breaks down part way through the semester? How will your rent, water bill, cell phone, etc. get paid? You’re a student first and foremost in college, and planning ahead and saving can help keep that priority in focus.

Invest It

One thing college students typically don’t think about is investing. Investing is something you do once you’ve graduated and are bringing in a steady paycheck. But, there’s no better time like the present to start investing! It’s important to do your research before you start. You may want to look into what options your own bank has for investments and compare them to other options like Roth IRAs or investing straight into the stock market. This is a good option especially if you have a large sum saved up, already have your tuition covered, and have a safety net established.

These are just a few of your options to help you get set up for the long-term versus just satisfying you in the short-term. It’s always good to plan ahead, and saving money is one tool at your disposal. Do any of you already have plans for what you’re using your summer savings for?  Share your summer plans below.

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