Archive | April, 2018

Saving Money While Studying Abroad

25 Apr

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

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

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Sampling those flights of English cider is tempting but pricey!

 

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

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

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Tap water is FREE! Fill up whenever you can!

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

Thank you to our guest bloggers:

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

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

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

Graduates: Paying Educational Loans

20 Apr

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

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

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

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

Traditional Plans

Standard Repayment Plan

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

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

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

Graduated Repayment Plan

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

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

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

Extended Repayment Plan

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

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

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

Income-Driven Plans

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

Income Based Repayment Plan

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

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

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

Income Contingent Repayment Plan

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

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

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

Income Sensitive Repayment (ISR) Plan

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

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

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

Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

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

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

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

Revised Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boiler Up!

Breakfast on a Budget: Delicious, Healthy, & Affordable

13 Apr

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

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

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

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

1. Overnight Oats Keto_Overnight_Oats_square

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

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

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

2. Fruit Smoothies 

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

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

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

3. Hard Boiled Eggs (plus grab fruit)

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

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

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

4. Breakfast Burritos

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

5. Avocado Toast

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

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

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

 

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

Looking for a Student Job?

9 Apr

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Are you worried you won’t have enough money to have fun while you’re on campus this summer or for next fall? Think your parents will get 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 influenced by your parents) to get a part-time job while attending college, 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.

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!

 

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