Archive | September, 2016

Healthy Eating on a College Budget

29 Sep

Heather Kessler, Purdue University Alumna
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

healthy-eating-on-college-budget

Is it really possible to eat healthy while on a small college budget? There are many guides on the internet offering advice on this topic. I’ve gone ahead and broken down a few of the most common suggestions.

1)      Always have low-budget healthy staples on hand.  This is just a small list of what can be helpful to have in the pantry or fridge at all times.

list of healthy foods

2)      Have a plan before you shop.

  • Check to see what is on sale that week at local grocery stores, and what coupons are available
  • Make a menu for the next week (or two)
  • See what you already have in stock in your kitchen
  • Make a list of the other items you need
  • Stick to that list while shopping for items
  • Try to stay around the perimeter of the grocery store as this is where the healthy produce tends to be.  The aisles usually contain items that have been processed and are not very healthy.

grocery store producs

3)      If you struggle with buying more when you have a card, plan how much you are willing to spend ahead of time and get just that amount in cash.  This will help you keep to your pre-determined budget and be less likely to overspend.

4)      For fruits and vegetables try to stick with what is in season and on sale, as it will keep the prices down.  Frozen vegetables are also good to use and will keep longer (and can usually be found at lower prices than fresh vegetables).  Canned is okay, but they tend to use more preservatives in the canning process.

5)      For lean protein on a budget, try to stay with white meats.  Chicken and turkey are both great options.  If you are willing to spend a little more money, salmon or tilapia offer wonderful health benefits.

6)      Whole grains offer the most nutrition for the dollar with items such as bread or pasta.  Try to avoid white bread and pasta since they are processed and most of their nutrients have been taken out.

Try not to waste any of the food you have, you invested good money into those items and they should be used.  If you need ideas on different entrees to make with the same ingredients Pinterest or The Food Network have many different ideas and they are easy to navigate through.  Here’s to healthy eating and more money in your bank account!

Predict Your Own Financial Future

26 Sep

All of us are in college to invest in a better future. And we’re already taking a big step towards the future by investing in a big expense such as a college education. But, there are other activities we can participate in to help us save and plan ahead. I’m not here to tell you that you should get a Roth IRA or start your 401K now or start setting aside large chunks of money for your future dream home. This article discusses some helpful tips you can do now that will help you invest in your future.

MyMoney Water bottle and can koozie1)     Get a reusable water bottle

Sure, they are really good for the environment because you’re not wasting plastic bottles, but they’re also really good for your wallet. If you are getting your recommend 8 glasses (or more) of water a day and you buy each one of those water bottles, that’s a lot of money! A bottle of water from a vending machine costs about $1.50 and assuming each of those gets you about 2 glasses of water, then you’re spending about $6.00 a day. However, if you buy a reusable water bottle (I have a Brita), you’re going to be saving a lot of money! Also, a lot of companies hand out reusable water bottles as promotional items, and the cost to you is nothing! And like I always say, the freer the better!

2)     Know the weather in your area and be prepared for it

GIF shows changing seasons, spring to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter

By this I mean, know that it’s going to rain, snow, and be windy in Indiana and make sure you have the proper apparel. Buy water-proof shoes for rainy days so you don’t ruin your favorite pair. Get a reliable umbrella (maybe something not from the Dollar Store just to make sure it lasts). Get a hat, gloves, winter coat, and full ski gear. Just kidding on the last one, but know that it gets cold. And of course,watch the weather or get an app for that! Know what to expect and dress accordingly. By doing this, you’re not only saving yourself comfort-wise, but you’re also making sure that you don’t ruin non-weather proof items and you could even ward off a costly cold.

3)     Invest in your credit score

This doesn’t mean that you should get a thousand credit cards and rack up insane amounts of debt. What I mean by this is be smart with your credit. Get one credit card and use it wisely (or not at all, just have it). Pay your bills on time. Take out as little in student loans as possible. If you can’t avoid them, look into different payment options so you are aware of your repayment options. Lastly, if you did take out student loans calculate your monthly repayment. Be prepared!

4)     Buy what you need

This may sound simple, but think about it. Everyone has a friend who bought a bike to ride to class every day but doesn’t use it, ever! Does that sound like a good investment? The $150 spent for the bike could have paid for your groceries…for a month or two. Be smart about where you spend your money and avoid buyer’s remorse. One tip is to think about how much use you’ll get out of a particular item. If it’s clothing, are you buying it because it’s a fad now or are you investing money in your wardrobe? If it’s something larger, how many times will you use it in the course of a year? If you’re not going to use it nearly every day, maybe you should reconsider it. Check out Should I Buy those Shoes? for advise on how to avoid buyer’s remorse.

These are all fairly simple suggestions, but they really can help make a difference when it comes to saving money and investing in your future. What types of things do you do to invest in your financial future?

Your Federal Loan Repayment

23 Sep

Honest businessman

Alanna Ritchie is a content writer for Debt.org, where she writes about personal finance and little smart ways to spend (and save) money. Alanna has an English degree from Rollins College. Join our Debt.org Google+ Community

repay-banner

As you fill out your intent to graduate forms and begin looking into the post-college future, your stomach might start to turn. You might start to panic and it may become difficult to breathe as you start imagining your monthly student loan payments. Stop, take a step back, BREATH, and let’s think about the situation.

But guess what? There’s good news!

Not only do you have a six month grace period after you leave school or drop below half-time attendance for your federal student loans, you also have numerous options for repayment plans. A grace period is a period of time after borrowers graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment where they are not required to make payments on certain federal student loans. Some federal student loans will accrue interest during the grace period, and if the interest is unpaid, it will be added to the principal balance of the loan when the repayment period begins. Repayment plans are designed to accommodate the needs of graduates entering the job market and receiving introductory salaries, while carrying the responsibility of handling additional bills, like rent, insurance, gas and groceries.

You do have options. If the standard ten-year plan with fixed payments is too much for you to handle, contact your lender to negotiate payments that match your budget. Not sure who your lender is? You can view all your federal loans and their lenders online from the National Student Loan Database.

Which Plan Meets Your Needs?

Cartoon Family Portrait

Federal student loans come with a variety of repayments plans that are offering based on requirements such as income, family size, or loan type. Examples of federal loans include Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loans, which could be Subsidized Stafford loans, Unsubsidized Stafford loans, or PLUS loans. There are three main categories of repayment plans for you to consider.

First, the Graduated Repayment plan will allow you to begin making lower payments. Although, like the Standard plan, this plan must be completed in ten years, the lower payments gives you time to increase your salary. Every two years, your monthly payments will increase.

Second, if the Graduated plan is still more than you can afford, the Extended Plan allows you to take up to 25 years to repay loans. There is more flexibility with this option, as you can choose between a fixed or graduated payment.

Finally, there are four different repayment plans that consider your income as a factor. Some of these plans also consider factors like family size, spouse’s income, and total amount of loans. Although these have similar-sounding names, each has specific requirements and formulas which influence the monthly amount you will owe.

Four plans with income factors:

Federal Loan Consolidation

While you are researching different payment cycles and methods, you may consider a Federal Loan Consolidation. A Federal Loan Consolidation allows you to merge all your Federal Student Loans into one loan. This can include your Subsidized Stafford Loan, Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, and Perkins loans. Once all your Federal Student Loans are merged into one loan, you will only have one monthly payment and one interest rate attributed to the loans. However, note that this will likely not reduce your overall interest rate since it is weighted by loan. As you can see, a Federal Consolidated Loan may allow for an easier way to manage monthly repayment.

How Can You Prepare Now?

cartoon roadmapGet in the habit of putting a portion of your paycheck in savings now, before you start paying back your loans. This will force you to make a budget and spend less every month, so when the time for repayment comes, it will be easier to part with this percentage of your paycheck.

The money you save up during your grace period can also be used as an emergency fund of accessible cash for unexpected situations. This cushion can enable you to afford your loan payments even when you have unexpected expenses such as a flat tire, broken arm or speeding ticket. Preparing yourself for the future can protect your loan debt from growing any larger.

Make sure your loan servicer has updated information, including your phone number and email. Your servicer will need this information in order to communicate any new information on your loans, including when your next bill is due.

Choosing a plan and taking a proactive approach with your finances can help you smoothly adjust into your repayment period.

Cost of Attendance: Explained

21 Sep

Whether you know it or not, there is a limit to how much financial aid you can receive in a year. This is reflected in your Cost of Attendance (COA), which is sometimes referred to as your “budget” when speaking to a financial aid counselor. It includes 1. Tuition & Fees; 2. Housing & food; 3. Travel; 4. Books/ Supplies; and 5. Miscellaneous (think laundry or other random expenses). Your COA is NOT what you are being billed, rather it is an estimate of the total cost of attending school for one year.

  1. Tuition is the biggest variable between students when it comes to COA. The three different standard levels of tuition are based off of your residency as shown on the chart. This will also include your differential fees as well.tuitionfees-image.jpg
  • Differential Fees are added tuition costs for certain colleges or with specific majors (Engineering, Krannert, Polytechnic, and Computer Science).
  • Then, there are fees for classes like horseback riding, wine tasting, etc. While these are added to your bill like Differential Fees, they are not automatically added to your COA! The exception is the course fees for Aviation Tech majors.
  • These Differential and Course Fees are the same for every student regardless of residency.
  1. After Tuition & Fees, everything else other than Travel is the same for each student’s COA, regardless of their residency.housingfood-image
  • Outside of tuition, your biggest expense is almost always going to be your housing and food.
  • If you live on-campus or have a meal plan, this will be included in your bill from Purdue.
  • However, if you live off-campus it will not be on your bill but will still be included in your COA.

Your COA says that on average you should be spending $10,030 combined for your housing and food costs. Depending on your situation this might be much higher than you actually need or it might not be enough.

  • If you find that your housing and food costs will be significantly lower, consider borrowing less if you are taking out student loans.
  • If it is much higher and you need financial aid to help, contact the Financial Aid office.travel-image
  1. The travel portion of the budget is one that will end up extremely different from one student to the next. This is generally meant to be enough for a student to visit home twice throughout the year, but as you can bet the $370 is woefully inadequate for an International Student unless you’re driving to the closest areas in Canada from West Lafayette.bookssupplies-image
  1. Books and Supplies attempts to estimate the costs for your textbooks and other supplies needed for the year (pens, folders, notebooks, etc.). You may also consider using this money in order to buy a computer for yourself in order to do your classwork. If this is the case and your current aid will not be enough to cover it you may consider contacting the Financial Aid office to help increase your budget.miscellaneous-image
  2. The Miscellaneous category are all of the other incurred student costs that don’t fit neatly into the other categories. Costs like toiletries, laundry, clothes, and other personal expenses are included in this diverse category. Although they are smaller purchases, if they are unaccounted for, they can chip away at anyone’s budget.

If you feel like your Cost of Attendance is not representative of your costs of being a student at Purdue for a year and gives you too little room for aid, please contact our Financial Aid office. Conversely, if you find it is higher than you need and you are borrowing to help finance your education, seriously consider taking less in loans! Every dollar you don’t borrow is one you don’t have to pay back – with interest. You are also able to have allowances for child care or other dependent care and costs related to a disability, which is also added into your COA, but you must contact the Financial Aid office for assistance.

Keep in mind that if you increase your Cost of Attendance, that only increases how much aid you are eligible to receive! If you already have less aid than your COA, you probably won’t be getting more just by increasing it.

Financial Aid Contact Information:cost of attendance explanation.jpg
Walk-in appointments in Schleman Hall room 305
Call-in at 765-494-5050
Both available from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.

FAFSA: Who, What, When, How & Why?

19 Sep

fafsa
Getting you through FAFSA, one question at a time.FAFSAQs

 

  • Who

    • Who Should File a FAFSA?
      If you are interested in getting any Federal Financial Aid, including federal direct loans, you need to file the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov/ to become eligible. Federal loans are almost always preferable to private loans. In addition, many colleges’ need-based scholarships rely on FAFSA information to verify that you are eligible. In short, everyone should file the FAFSA – even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for any federal aid.

     

    • Whose Information is Needed to File a FAFSA?
      This answer depends on if you are a dependent student or not. Unsure if you’re Dependent or Independent? Check here. (Note: this is not the same as being independent for tax filing)
      Dependent students: You need tax information for both you AND your parents. If your parents are divorced, you need the information on whoever you receive the most support (51%) from.Independent students: You only need your own information unless you are married. If so, you will need your spouse’s information as well.
  • What

     

     

    • What If Things Change After I File The FAFSA?
      If your family situation has a significant change after you’ve filed your FAFSA, and any time while you’re in school, stop by your Financial Aid office to see if you qualify for a “special circumstance”. These could include job loss, divorce, death of a parent, child birth or other unexpected situations that impact your financial status.

     

    • What Types of Federal Financial Aid are there?
      There are three main types of financial aid:
      1. Grants — Federal Pell Grants do not have to be repaid and are sometimes referred to as “gift aid”. Grants are similar to scholarships, except that they are often for those who demonstrate financial need, where scholarships can be either merit-based or need-based.
      2. Student Loans — This is the type you hear about most often. Filling out the FAFSA is required to be eligible for Federal Direct loans. Federal loans are almost always preferable to private loans from lending institutions, because they have fixed interest rates and flexible repayment options. Keep in mind that there are limits on how much you can borrow in a year as well as in your lifetime.
      3. Federal Work Study (FWS) — Work Study may provide you with more opportunities to find on-campus jobs. Rather than being given the funds in the beginning of the semester like loans and grants, FWS earnings are distributed to you as part of your paycheck. Tips on finding a job around the Purdue campus and the difference between Work Study and non-Work Study jobs.
  • Where

     

    • Where Do I Get the School Code and FSA ID?
      You’ll need the school code for whatever schools you are interested in applying to. They are available here. Your FSA ID is used to login and electronically sign your FAFSA. Set it up at here. Purdue’s school code is 001825.

     

    • Where Do I Get Help?
      College Goal Sunday will be held on Sunday, November 13th and Sunday, February 12th in Indiana and it provides FREE FAFSA filing assistance. It is at Ivy Tech in West Lafayette, but to find a location near you in one of the participating 42 states, go to www.CollegeGoalSundayUsa.org. You can always call the Financial Aid office of your prospective school to ask questions as well.
  • When

    • When Can I start the FAFSA?
      You can begin the FAFSA any time after October 1st of the year before you plan to attend college. So if plan to be in college for the 2017-18 school year, you can start your FAFSA on October 1, 2016. The FAFSA uses the student/parent tax information from the previous year of when you file. If you are filling out for the 2017-18 school year you’ll use your 2015 tax info. Keep in mind that while you use your 2015 tax information, the rest of the questions are meant to reflect your situation the day that you file. You can estimate the required information to beat a college priority filing date, but the info must be corrected after the taxes are complete!

     

    • When is the FAFSA Due?
      If you are a Purdue student, the FAFSA priority filing date is March 1st, so be sure to have it done by then! Other colleges (and states) have their own priority dates. Check for deadlines here.
  • How

    • How Do I Get my Financial Aid?
      Your financial aid is sent directly to your school and they will apply it directly toward your billing and send any excess aid to you to be used for books and other education related expenses. The exception is Work Study which needs to be earned by working, and is paid via a paycheck.

     

    • How Much is the Maximum That Can be Borrowed?
      Most students don’t know this, but there is a maximum amount of Federal Loans you can take out each year. There is also a maximum amount you can take throughout your college career! If you take the maximum amount for four years, there won’t be as much left for a fifth year if needed. Plan ahead!Remember: Everything you borrow you will have to pay back with interest for the next 10 (or more) years. For every $5,000 you borrow at 6% interest, you pay back $6,661.23 over 10 years ($55.51/ month).

 

    • FAFSA-brw-chart
      
      

      Why

      • Why Should I Do a FAFSA?
        Other than qualifying for grants and Federal Loans? Many state grants and institutional scholarships require FAFSA information submitted. Even if you aren’t sure, it is always worth submitting!

Need a Part-Time Job During the School Year?

16 Sep

www.purdue.edu/mymoney

broadcast-purdue

Are you worried you won’t have enough money to have fun while you’re on campus this fall? If your parents have finally gotten sick of you asking them for money, you might consider getting a part-time job on campus. I know, I know, being a student is a full-time job, but how else are you supposed to keep up with the latest trends and enjoy a cup of Starbucks every few days? Especially without racking up more debt than you may already have from student loans. Earning a little extra cash during the school year not only helps you financially, but as reported by Student Employment Services at Purdue University, working 8-12 hours per week may actually help in academic performance and student retention.  Probably because working students learn better time management skills.

Now that you’ve decided (or have been bullied into by your parents) to get a part-time job during the school year, START EARLY! This will give you an edge on everyone else searching for part-time jobs near campus.  If you want to work on-campus you have a variety of options, or if you’re willing to go off-campus, you will have even more options! To start your search for on-campus employment I would recommend you start here:

Start here for specific student employment options. Purdue University’s Student Employment website is a comprehensive job posting website with on and off campus opportunities.  This site is especially helpful if you need to search specifically for a work-study position.

Are you looking for other employment opportunities on campus?  Check out the different employment websites listed below.

Be sure to follow @Hire_A_Boiler on Twitter for daily tweets about job openings that were posted that day and other job searching tips!

Other options for employment near campus include the bookstores (either Follett’s or University Bookstore.) Also, there are plenty of restaurants and stores around campus that hire students. Just walking down the Chauncey Hill or the Levee opens more options for employment. There are plenty of restaurants there and a few shops that hire students. Make sure you get there early though; they often have to wait and see if their regular employees will be returning in the fall, so it’s good to get your name and face in their brains. There are enough employers hiring at any given time, that if you want a job you should be able to find one!

Can’t find anything there? If you are looking through alternative resources to search for jobs online BE CAREFUL!  Some online job postings sites may not screen their job postings and it could lead to a scam.  You can research the company’s track record and see if any complaints have been made through the Better Business Bureau. A safer option would be visiting a particular company’s website to see if they are hiring, or you could even call or stop by and ask for an application. Both West Lafayette and Lafayette have companies that hire part-time workers, and most of them are often hiring. If your job search isn’t going as well as you would like, don’t give up! Maybe you could work at Starbucks instead of that little coffee shop on Chauncey. If you have a close friend who works somewhere, ask if they can get you an “in” and have them tell their boss how great you are.

Good luck in your search!

Be sure to leave any job openings nearby or job searching tips in the comments! 

Renters Insurance: Pros & Cons

13 Sep

Chris Bibey is the founder of Finance.info, a website providing personal finance advice from the pros.

No matter if you are renting an apartment as a college student or a single family home as a young professional, you are going to have many financial decisions staring you in the facestudent-housing-ww.jpg.

One of the most important questions you have to answer is this: Should I purchase renter’s insurance or opt against this coverage for the time being?

Like any sort of insurance policy, you need to compare the pros and cons to ensure that you are making the right choice. Upon doing so, you will have a better idea of how to move forward.

Pros

Most people soon find that the advantages of buying renter’s insurance greatly outweigh any perceived downfalls. Here are several benefits you don’t want to overlook:

  • It is affordable. While home insurance can often times be expensive, this is not the case with a renter’s policy. For approximately $10-$15 per month, you can receive up to $50,000 of personal property coverage. These numbers are rough estimates, but give you a good idea of just how affordable a policy can be.
  • The ability to add liability coverage. In addition to coverage for your personal property, liability protection is a big deal. For instance, if somebody is hurt on your property or your dog decides to bite a neighbor, you will be protected.
  • It’s easy to obtain: Plenty of companies offering high quality renter’s insurance. Regardless of where you live, you won’t have a difficult time finding an agent who can provide you with the policy you are looking for. Investigate your current auto or life insurer, they too can have renter’s insurance policies and bundling insurance policies could save you more money.Acer Laptop

Cons

Generally speaking, there are not many disadvantages of renter’s insurance. However, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Deductible: Like any insurance policy, there will be a deductible attached to this coverage. This is the amount you will pay out of your own pocket before your policy kicks in.
  • Another monthly expense: Although renter’s insurance doesn’t cost a lot, this is an expense you have to add to your budget. Can you afford it?

Now that you understand the pros and cons of renter’s insurance, it is time to decide if it is right for you.

If you rent an apartment or home, this is a relatively cheap type of policy that can provide you with personal property and liability protection. Most agree that carrying some sort of coverage would be in their best interest. How do you feel about this?

Meal Swipes & More: Paying for Your Meals at Purdue

9 Sep

Purdue Dining and Catering offers several different payment methods to its patrons: meal swipes, dining dollars, Boiler Express, and cash/credit options. Below you will find an explanation of each option, culminating in a cost-effectiveness evaluation.

Meal Swipes: During academic semesters (including Maymester and summer school), students have the ability to purchase a meal plan, providing them with meal swipes. There are several different types of meal plans, which are covered in this blog. Meal swipes allow the student to swipe his or her student ID card and enter the dining court quickly. They are prepaid via the meal plans, which range in totadiningdollars_tall_meal-plan_purdue.jpgl pricing from $2,998-$5,398. Depending on the meal plan purchased, a student can have anywhere from 8 to unlimited meal swipes per week. Students holding one of the unlimited meal plans are given 16 meals per year with which they can swipe in friends or parents. Students on the 8 or 13 meal plans cannot bring in friends or parents, as the swipes are exclusive to the intended cardholder.

Dining Dollars: The second most popular student option. Dining dollars come pre-loaded on the student’s meal plan. Some meal plans are sold without dining dollars, so be aware of the dining dollar total presented with the meal plan you select. Dining dollars can only be re-loaded if you purchase the Boiler Flex Unlimited plans. Dining dollars are a great option, as they allow the student to bring in guests. The student will be asked whether or not their guest is a fellow student. Student pricing is slightly cheaper, as it is tax-free. The guest will be asked to produce a student ID to verify their status. A student dinner with dining dollars costs $9.60.

BoilerExpress: a third, slightly more expensive option. BoilerExpress accounts are helpful for off-campus students, employees of the university, or the student who has run out of dining dollars. Their pricing is a little steeper, coming in at $11.40 for a student dinner. Students can use their BoilerExpress accounts to bring in friends and parents in a manner similar to dining dollars. Employees can use BoilerExpress accounts to purchase meals at a discounted rate. BoilerExpress accounts are also valuable in their potential for refunded money. Unspent dining dollars expire at the end of the academic year; unspent BoilerExpress money can be refunded to a student as long as the account total is in excess of $10. It’s important to note that any deposit in a BoilerExpress account results in a convenience fee of $3, so when depositing, be sure to think ahead to future costs.

Cash & Card: Finally, anyone can purchase entry to Purdue’s buffet-style dining via cash or credit card. This is the most expensive of the options, costing $11.90 for a student dinner, and $12.73 for a non-student guest. Students can, again, show their IDs for tax exempt pricing, and if a family chooses to eat at a dining hall, children aged 3-10 will receive a discounted price. Purdue Dining accepts Visa and MasterCard.

Ideally, an incoming student will select the most appropriate meal plan and feed his or herself primarily using meal swipes. This is the most cost-effective option, assuming the student is not overpaying for unused swipes. If a student runs out of swipes for the week, the next best option is to pay using dining dollars. If the student does not have dining dollars, they can use BoilerExpress, or lastly, pay using cash or a credit card. It is important to make sure you know how many meals you have left per week! You can ask the employee who swipes you in to let you know how many meals you have remaining. If you choose to buy a meal using dining dollars or BoilerExpress, be sure to ask for your receipt, as it will have your current account totals printed on it. Being aware of your options when it comes to the dining halls can save you more money than you would expect!

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