Archive | Budgeting and Savings RSS feed for this section

Making Black Friday Work For You

20 Nov

Black Friday.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Your First Student Loan Payment

9 Nov

It’s been six months since you’ve left school and despite not wanting to think about it, the time has finally come to start paying on your loans. Your loan servicer (the company that will collect payment from you) should have contacted you to let you know who they are by now.

1st student loan payment.jpg

If they have not, be sure to log into the National Student Loan Database System (NSLDS) to find out who will be handling your loans. Be sure to let your servicer know how to contact you! If you think you can dodge them, they’ll just keep attempting to reach you at the contact info they have until your loan goes into default. And you don’t want that. You can also check your total federal loan balances on NSLDS to confirm how much you owe in total across all federal student loans.

Now that you know who you have in loan debt, be sure to log in to their website that’s provided on NSLDS to set up an account and see what your loan payments are per month.

Everyone is automatically enrolled in the standard 10-year repayment plan by default, which is actually the most aggressive repayment plan. Other repayment plans that are based off your expendable income might work better for you, especially as you get on your feet professionally.

While making higher payments is always preferable to pay down your loans as fast as possible and with the least amount of interest accrued, that’s not always possible on every budget. Ideally, your student loan payments won’t exceed 20% of your take-home pay. If it does, an income-driven payment plan might be needed to help shift the burden off your shoulders for now.

Once you know what payment plan you’re planning on and how much it’ll cost you monthly, it’s encouraged to sign up for auto-pay, also known as Direct Debit. Why pay your bill automatically when you probably prefer to choose when it comes out? Well, you’ll save 0.25% on your loan interest rate for federal loans.

For the average 2016 graduate with $37,172 in loan debt on the 10-year standard repayment plan this would equal $532 in savings. If you are enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan then you can save $1,252 for the 25 year term.

That’s not a bad trade-off considering you have to make the payments anyway and can choose what day of the month your payments are withdrawn when setting up auto-pay.

Once you’ve done all this, you are good to go! You’ve figured out who you are making payments to, made sure they fit into your budget with the correct payment plan, and can even set up automatic payments in the future so you don’t have to remember every month!

It’s Almost Halloween

18 Oct

The air is starting to crisp up with that familiar combination of cool air and pumpkin spice everything. Halloween, possibly the best holiday as a college student, isn’t far away. There’s a lot of different directions you can take your costume for the spookiest of all holidays: some opt to just shell out for a pre-made costume from a store or online, other will get crafty and make matching costumes with their squad, and then there’s some people who simply throw on a flannel and claim they are a lumberjack.

Spoopy October.jpg

 

Depending on which direction you decide to go, you can balance having an awesome costume and not blowing your candy cash on something you’re going to wear once.

If you opt to go the route of buying a costume from a store, there’s a few ways to make it work in your favor. One is that the costumes are going to be reusable, so when Breakfast Club or future Halloweens come along you can just toss that on again and not have to worry about it. Bonus points if you find something you can add a few different accessories on to and make it a whole new costume! This option will cost the most at first but if you commit to reusing it then you’re at least able to try and get your money’s worth out of it.

If you’re the DIY or crafty type, there’s a whole world of possibilities out there. Some people can make the shower loofah for a whole group or one of a ton of other possibilities. If you’ve got the time and are willing to put in effort, then jumping on Pinterest or one of a million Buzzfeed lists will score you some pretty great ideas to start on.

Thrift stores can be your best friend come Halloween time. It’s tough to know what you’ll actually find there but with any imagination you can see how a leather jacket turns into a biker outfit, some Adidas gear can make you look very Russian, or even a cheap suit for something business-ey. While going in looking for one specific thing might not work out, looking at the racks and coming up with ideas on the fly can yield some pretty great results.

For those who are putting something together last-minute or with the absolute minimum level of effort, you’re probably going to be using what’s immediately available to you. Got some plain sheets? Boom, one YouTube video on toga tying and you’re set. Flannel and jeans? You can be one of many lumberjacks who forgot how soon Halloween comes up. Red bandanna and a yellow shirt becomes Hulk Hogan real quick. Got the same yellow shirt plus some overalls? You’re one set of circular glasses from being a minion.

Some of the best ones in this category are shockingly low-effort puns like a chicken cord-on-bluelife giving lemons, or even a blessing in disguise. This is only limited by your ability to make anyone understand it in one sentence.

A few tips for anyone, regardless of which costume style you opt for:

  • Make sure it’s reasonably comfortable: squirming all night because you’ve got a set of wings on your back that’s 20 pounds isn’t going to be fun for you or anyone around you.
  • Commit to the bit: No one is going to look at you and give you extra points because you didn’t try very hard (unless it’s a killer pun). So if you’re dressing up, try to make it perfect! Make your whole costume work together. Hair and make-up (even for guys when it helps the costume) can turn a costume from just a t-shirt into the real deal.
  • Be careful with your skin: As someone who once painted half their body for a costume, I implore you to be careful about anything that’s either applied or adhered to your skin. Tape and adhesives can leave annoying rashes as well as the pain from having to remove it. Anything that can’t be removed easily with some make-up remover might be better off avoided.

 

The Ice Cream Lesson: How to Know Where Your Money Goes

26 Sep

CouponChief Logo (002)

One student we interviewed lived just down the street from an ice cream shop. Most nights, last call for ice cream was .

Invariably, the student would need to take a break from the books at about , and what better way to do that than to take a brief walk and grab a cone?

Often he would invite a friend or two along and pick up the tab for them too. After all, ice cream isn’t all that expensive.

This student took a personal finance class, though, and part of the coursework was to track all expenditures for one month. When the smoke had cleared and the totals were staring at him, he remembers one thing about that exercise especially well: he had spent over $100 at the ice cream shop. And it was winter term!

You should do the same. No, not eat ice cream every day, but track what you spend for a month. Face the reality.

Here’s how to take your financial snapshot:
  1. Keep it simple. You don’t need to micro analyze your spending. We’re just looking for a clear picture of your overall situation.
  2. Determine when you will begin and when you will stop. Typically, a calendar month works just fine.
  3. Determine how you will track what you spend. A simple approach is to use a debit card or credit card for everyth
    ing. That gives you an online trail. For out-of-pocket expenses, carry a small notebook or a few index cards with you and note any cash expenditures on them.
  4. Determine how you will collect and sort your transactions. Banks offer downloadable statements. Most also allow you to sort online and pull down a specific date range. Bring everything into one spreadsheet or bookkeeping program. You’ll need to add your cash transactions in by hand.
  5. Set up your categories and subcategories. It’s helpful to get somewhat granular here, but don’t knock yourself out. The Food category, for instance, could include subcategories for food purchased at the grocery store, from restaurants, from campus food service, and from miscellaneous sources (that’s how the ice cream shop expenditures were captured and noted).
    The exact methodology you employ will be determined by how much latitude you have in setting up the reports pulled from your bank or credit card companies and whether you use an official bookkeeping program or design your own spreadsheet. Either will work, just remember to keep it simple. The easier it is to do, the more likely you are to stick with the plan.
  6. Record your spending during the period without trying to change anything. You want a true picture. Any changes needed will be duly noted and enlisted later. For now, you only want to get at the truth of the matter: how much are you spending and where is it going?
  7. Once your tracking period has ended, pull down the data, clean it up and confirm it, then be prepared to get your eyes opened a bit wider. If you’ve never taken a financial snapshot, you’re sure to be in for some surprises.

Pencil and paper
Here’s one more saying that’s been passed down through generations: “Watch your dimes and your dollars will take care of themselves.”

Most of us will listen up when the discussion is about hundreds or thousands of dollars, but our interest dwindles when the amount seems piddling.

One of our students told a story about waking up in her dorm room to see her roommate unwadding a small pile of dollar bills. They had been laying on our student’s desk.

Noticing she had awakened, the roommate looked sternly at her and said, “Do you know money will take you anyplace you want to go – and you treat it like this?”

It was an impactful lesson in respect. Those who take good care of a little may soon find themselves in possession of a lot.

This is tip #10 of CouponChief.com’s 10 Top Ways Students Can Have More Money This School Year. Be sure to check out the rest of their tips for ways to save and make money throughout the school year!

How I Started to Coupon & Save Big!

21 Sep

Aubrey Rennick, Hospitality Major at Purdue – Class of 2019

Couponing First Haul.png

I was asked to write a little about my adventure into couponing after posting this picture of my first “haul” over the weekend.

I think couponing is great for anyone who wants to save even the smallest amount. If you can save a few dollars every week, you potentially can save more than you ever thought in six months or a year. As a college student, I know what it is like to be tight on money, and I wanted to find a way to save money wherever I could.

I have always been fascinated by the extreme couponers that you see on T.V. who save hundreds of dollars in one trip. I decided to follow some couponing pages on Facebook, and I chose to stick to Dollar General pages because I had read that it was easier to follow than trying to start out at Walmart or CVS.

It took me a long time to try and understand all of the lingo being used on the page. Dollar General has an app that you can use digital coupons allowing you to simply clip the coupons on the app, then type in your number at checkout to apply the coupons. I started there because I was not subscribed to a newspaper, so I did not have access the paper coupons but I eventually learned you can print out coupons!

I have only been doing this for a few weeks, and I still have so much more to learn. There are so many rules and different ways that coupons will work. I subscribed to a newspaper and started asking people I knew if I could have their coupons inserts. That is how people get so much stuff, they have a lot of coupons.

My first two trips to Dollar General resulted in me saving money, but I still spent well over $10. I made it my goal to try and get as close to $0 as I could get. I rounded up coupons and studied what other people were doing on the Facebook pages. I learned that certain coupons give you “overage” which means the coupon value exceeds the value of the product you are buying.

I went to one Dollar General only to find that they had about half of the items I was looking for. I still managed to save over $40 and bring my balance down to $5 AFTER taxes.

I decided to hit up another store location, and found all but one of the items. I saved over $45 on that trip, and actually had a NEGATIVE balance.

This meant I could get some other things I wanted/needed for free to get my balance above 0. I was so happy and proud that I had figured out how to start somewhere.

As far as what items I am looking for, I am limited when it comes to coupons. Most of the time it is household products. There will hardly ever be any food deals besides candy and snacks.

I know a lot of the stuff I got on my big haul I personally will not use. I plan on donating items to women’s shelters, disaster relief, or animal shelters. Big things I am going to keep an eye out for are things like toilet paper, paper towels, and toothpaste. These are things that I use daily and can end up being pricey when you start adding it up!

Eat Healthy-Even on a College Budget

19 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!

Cheap On-Campus Fun

18 Aug

www.purdue.edu/mymoney

txt-bell-tower

Looking for something to do on the weekend but running out of money? Try some of these fun activities available on Purdue’s campus to keep you entertained while saving money.

Purdue Student Union Board Events

The Purdue Student Union Board (PSUB) is a student run organization that provides students with different activities throughout the year. Most of the time the events they put on are free and involve getting free food! These events are a great way to meet new people, have fun, and save money. For a list of events take a look at their website as events change from semester to semester.

girl walking on Purdue campusExplore

This is always an interesting way to spend a few hours. You can either walk around campus and visit places you have never been or take a walk across the bridge and see what downtown Lafayette has to offer. Or get in your car and see where the road takes you. You never know what you might find while exploring. Have you ever been to Purdue’s Horticulture Park? Definitely worth the short drive (or walk if you live in McCutcheon or Harrison hall).

Having a hard time deciding where to go on your adventure? Every time you come to an intersection while walking or driving, take out a coin and flip it. If it lands on heads take a right and if it lands on tails go left. Let fate decide your adventure!

Flicks at Fowler

Every few weeks PSUB will show a movie in Fowler Hall located in the Stewart Center (or on Slayter Hill when the weather is nice). Students can get in for free when they show their Purdue ID and general admission is $4. Not only do you get to see movies for free but they are fairly recent movies. Visit the PSUB website for dates and movie titles.

Trivia Night

Another event PSUB puts on for students is a trivia night which takes place in the Union Commons or Pappy’s Sweet Shop. Your Purdue ID is usually required to participate. They even give away prizes to the top team!  So grab your friends and test your knowledge on 90s, sports, television, and more!

girls on rowing machinesCoRec

Looking for something a little more active? Try going to the CoREC. You get in free with your Purdue ID and they have everything from weights and treadmills to a pool and rock climbing wall. You can even join an intramural team if you are willing to pay a small fee. You then get to compete in your favorite sport with different teams.

These are just a few of the options for free things to do on Purdue’s campus. There’s always lots being offered so be sure to keep your eyes open and try something new!

Share your favorite ways to have fun in the comments below!

Freshman Boot Camp: Money Saving Tips for Students

10 Aug

Jim Wang, Wallet Hacks
wallethacks.com

College is a fantastic time of exploration, freedom, and growth.

It’s also a time when many of our habits are formed, especially those about money and saving. These habits can have a ripple effect on your life so solidifying a few good practices today can help you better manage the future.

I have a list of 40+ money tips for college students, which cover the basics like emergency funds and budgeting, but today I wanted to share an extra set of just money saving tips every college student needs.6 Easy Money Saving Tips

Avoid credit card debt at all costs

It’s so easy to charge everything to plastic. Whether it’s textbooks, equipment, or a pizza, make sure that you pay off your credit card bill in full each month.

It’s so tempting to pay the minimum and push the debt off another month, but that will result in you paying hundreds of dollars (if not more!) in interest for nothing. If you don’t believe me, you can use this calculator to do the math yourself and find out how much that $20 pizza will cost you!

That’s money you can use to save for your retirement, for a new car, or your first house. Avoiding debt, especially high interest credit card debt, is priority number one after graduation.

Start budgeting

Budgeting isn’t the most fun thing to do but getting in the habit early is a good idea. When you budget, you have a better sense of where your money is going.

You can use tools like Mint or Personal Capital to help automate the process and when you’re older, you’ll appreciate the wealth of historic information you’re recording now.

Cook more, eat out less

Your studies and your social activities will probably take up a big chunk of your time, so you’ll be tempted to eat out more than you cook if you’re not on a university meal plan.

Resist the temptation! Eating at a restaurant, even a quick service one, is far more expensive than cooking at home. In the beginning, you’ll be terrible at it. Everyone is.

But stick with it and try to cook as much as you can. It’s healthier, cheaper, and you’ll get better the more often you do it.

Take advantage of student discounts

Businesses give student discounts all the time. They know that students don’t make a lot of money and they still want your business, so they’re willing to give you a break if they know you’re a student.

Always keep your student ID on you and ask if a student discount is available – you might be pleasantly surprised.

Use your student loan for tuition only!

Some student loans are deposited directly into your student account and some are deposited directly into your bank account. If you have one of the latter, do not use the money for anything other than tuition and school related expenses.

If you have no other choice, you can use it on necessities but your goal should be to avoid debt as much as possible. Sometimes you don’t have any other options, and that’s understandable, but make sure before you saddle yourself with student debt.

Earn a little cash in your spare time

We all have downtime during the day and on weekends – try to find a way to turn that time into money.

Whether it’s taking on a side gig, earning some cash online through surveys, or something bigger – building a side hustle that earns a little extra money can pay dividends in the long run. There are a lot of sites online that will pay you money for small segments of work, or gigs, and you can easily finish them in 5-15 minutes of down time.

Jim Wang writes about money on his personal finance blog, Wallet Hacks. Get his strategies and tactics for getting ahead financially and in life by joining his free newsletter.

Freshman Boot Camp: Your Student Discount

9 Aug

Casey Doten, Financial Aid Counselor – Purdue University

Student discounts are one of the nicest perks you get from being a student. Combined with all the events that hand out giveaways and free food, using your student discount can help keep you within a budget.

So here’s a list of places that you can get a student discount at! Just keep in mind that this isn’t everywhere that offers one, so always ask when you buy something if they offer a discount!

StudentID Discount.png

Shopping

  • Amazon: Join Amazon Student for free two-day shipping for your first 6 months. Just remember to cancel it before the 6 months is up if you’re not interested in subscribing for $49 a year (50% of standard Prime cost). Not to mention with the Amazon Stores in the Union and Krach, you can get packages delivered directly to campus!
  • Apple: $5/ month Apple Music subscription and a bunch of random discounts on macs, iPads, and other products
  • Banan Republic: 15% off
  • Charlotte Russe: 10% off
  • Dell: $150 off PCs
  • FedEx: 20-30% discount on documents and packages
  • Microsoft: 10% off
  • Toms: Free shipping on all orders
  • Sam’s Club: $40 membership plus $15 gift card given to you

Entertainment & Travel

  • Amtrack: 15% off if you book ahead
  • Wabash Landing Movie Theater: Save on your movie tickets $.50 – $1.50 depending on the time of the movie. They also have a rewards program that is free to join for free concessions.
  • Rugged Xscape Escape Room: $2.00 off
  • Purdue sporting events!

There are also other discounts around the area, but unfortunately they are difficult to track down individually online.

Food*

  • Arby’s: 10% off
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: 10% off
  • Burger King: 10% off
  • Chick-fil-A: Free drinks with a meal
  • Chipotle: Free drink with a meal
  • Dairy Queen: 10% off
  • Kroger/ Payless: 5% off
  • Papa John’s 10-20% off
  • Pizza Hut: 10-20% off
  • Qdoba: Free drink with a meal and burrito meal for $5
  • Subway: 10% off
  • Taco Bell: 10% off

*All of these are depending on the location, but it’s worth it to ask!

Freshman Boot Camp: Budgeting Your Financial Aid Refund

9 Aug

One of the mantras told to college students is to “Live within your means”. While it’s good advice to generally follow, it doesn’t get at how difficult it can be to do so while you’re in college. One of the biggest challenges college students face is that their incoming flow of cash tends to be extremely irregular.Budgeting your Refund.png

You might be sitting on a big pile of cash after your financial aid refund comes in, but if you don’t budget it correctly you’ll be broke before the semester ends. So in order to avoid eating exclusively ramen at the end of the semester you’ll want to come up with a strategy for taking care of your money!

As a student, you probably have three potential avenues to get an incoming cash-flow. They are your financial aid refund, a part-time job, and cash gifts for holidays and your birthday. Your parents might also throw something your way once in a while but no one wants to have to ask just because you weren’t keeping track.

Making a realistic budget can be tough but once you know your income it does get a little bit easier. So total up what you’ll get between your financial aid refund and what you’ll get from work. If you know for sure what you’ll get for gifts you can toss that in, but that’s not a for-sure thing.

Next, start by totaling up all of your projected expenses for each month. Aside from obvious things like rent, utilities, food, and other monthly bills you’ll need to include a projected number for having fun. If you know some times of the year like Grand Prix or Homecoming you’ll be spending extra, try to account for that by varying it up by month.

What’s important here is to make sure that your total income is higher than your total expenditures. If it’s not, there’s going to be a big problem.

Assuming the numbers add up, you’ll have a little bit of a strange result. You’ll have your monthly expenditures but your income will be a combination of paychecks and a one-time refund from your financial aid.

There’s actually a surprisingly simple way to be able to make this into a steady income flow without being tempted by the big number in your checking account.

This method is called using a Holding Account. Basically you take the lump sum of money and deposit it into a bank account and set up recurring transfers to your primary checking account on a monthly basis. This way between your income from work and the transfers you’ll be able to pay your monthly expenses without having the temptation to make a big impulse purchase.

If you want to de-automate it a bit, you could actually have them both as checking accounts and write a check from your holding account to yourself on a bi-weekly or monthly basis and deposit it into your other checking account.

This system is not fool-proof but it combines the ability to pay your bills and have some fun while also putting up a small barrier to the full sum to keep you from tapping out your semester’s funds on a whim.

Something to note: make sure that your holding account doesn’t have any fees related to minimum transactions or minimum balance if you can. It doesn’t make any sense to pay one bank to hold your money when there’s plenty of others that’ll do it for free.

If you find that your financial aid refund is going to be much more than you’ll need to meet your expenses and you’re taking loans, it’s worth looking into reducing what you borrow. Remember that not only do you have to pay back what you borrow, you’ll be accruing interest on most loans until the day they are paid off.

%d bloggers like this: