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Student Employment Spotlight: Anna Pool

7 Nov

Name:  Anna Pool

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

Major: Communication

Year: Sophomore

Job Location: Almost Home Humane Society

Job Title: Kennel Staff

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Anna and her 9-year-old rescued Pomeranian/Schipperke mix, Raven.

Describe your job duties. This job consists mainly of animal care responsibilities including: cleaning of kennels and feeding; transportation of animals to new locations within the shelter; walking of dogs; assisting in dog play groups and microchipping; maintaining cleanliness of the dog and cat kitchens including washing dishes and doing laundry; animal socialization and customer service assistance for potential adopters.

What is your favorite part about your job? I love just being with the animals and letting them have the chance to be loved on. I have always been an animal person, so the shelter atmosphere gives me the chance to be surrounded by animals that just need a little bit of attention, and I love giving them all of the attention I can give. I have dogs at home in Indianapolis, and I miss them terribly, so  working at the shelter gives me the opportunity to get my “animal fix”.

How do you manage working and school? Honestly, it’s not a hard thing to manage since the shelter is so flexible with my hours and availability, and I have been working part time jobs since I was in high school. Finding the perfect schedule and the right amount of hours is something that took a lot of planning and consideration, but it paid off. I currently still have plenty of time for my academic and social lives in addition to working, and I am already planning my work schedule for next semester to prepare. At first it was slightly difficult to gauge how much time I would be able to work without it negatively effecting my schoolwork, but I know myself and my school work ethic enough. I know the difference between when I say I will do my work and when I actually will.

What lessons have you learned while working? I have learned that you can never expect to be doing the thing you were “hired to do”. I have been pulled to do so many things at the shelter that I never would have expected to be doing, and it has made me realize that I should always want to learn new things and get used to being uncomfortable. Remaining in the same place for too long doesn’t allow me to grow.

 Do you think your job has prepared you for the future? Yes, this job has prepared me for the future. Ideally, I would like to do public relations work for an animal shelter, and working at Almost Home has given me a glimpse into what the shelter life is like. The “marketing guy” at the shelter does so much more than update the social media page and write up press releases for events. He helps potential adopters get all of the information they need on animals, and makes sure to know all of the animals instead of being cooped up in an office all day. I want to be able to interact with the organization’s publics, while still getting to know the heart of the organization and be myself.

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Anna and her 8-month-old pit bull, Bowzer.

 What advice would you give to Purdue students looking for jobs? Don’t settle for something easy where you can just clock in and out and be done. Actually read the job descriptions and find one that you have interest in. Even if it’s something that has nothing to do with your career path or major, if it jumps out at you, reach out to the employer and apply! Do not forget that this is a job that you can put on your resume later and a place where you can gain applicable experience to a variety of fields.

Would you like to share any other remarks? I am the only non-Animal Science major who works at the shelter, and I think that says a lot about the importance of doing something you love even if it’s not directly related to your career path.

 

Time to Start Paying Loans, Graduates!

5 Nov

Hello, alumni! We hope life since graduating from Purdue has been treating you well. You have probably discovered some of the fun parts of being Purdue alumni, like returning for football games and tailgating, hearing a “Boiler Up!” wherever you are in the country when you are wearing a Purdue shirt, and using your smarts to make an impact in the world.

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However, you may have been dreading one thing since graduating: Student loan payments. If you graduated in May and are not enrolled in a graduate program, your six-month grace period is probably up, and you will be making your first payment soon. It sounds scary, but doesn’t have to be at all. Here are some things to remember:

1. Your first payment is due to your loan servicer this month. Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans have a six-month grace period before payments are due, and they will be due this month if you graduated in May. 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 your loan servicer has not contacted you, be sure to log into the National Student Loan Database System (NSLDS) to find out who will be handling your loans. You can then head to their website or give them a call to set up your account and make payments. Make sure the servicer knows how to contact you so you don’t miss any communication! Often, you may be able to change the day of the month your payment is due if it does not seem like this first payment works with your payday schedule.

2. There are different payment plan options to suit your needs. You may have seen a monthly payment estimate and freaked out. However, that is because you will automatically be signed up for the Standard Repayment Plan. If that works for you, wonderful. However, if it seems a bit too high to start with, that is not the plan you have to stick with. You will be able to work with your servicer to choose the plan that is best for you right now. Here is a bit more information about available plans:

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 borrowers 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 college.

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 Public Service Loan Forgiveness (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 always heard. 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.

Lots of information there, but do not let it frighten you! As long as you stay on top of the status of your loans and refer back to pieces like this or talk with your servicer when you have a question, you will be well on your way to successfully paying your student loans.

Winter Clothes: Save or Spend?

1 Nov

It gets dark by five and all of a sudden, we went from an Indian summer to needing our jackets each morning. Yes, an Indiana winter is coming. Winter at Purdue is always interesting, as there is a mix of Midwest natives quite used to the harsh conditions, and people who have never seen snow. Either way, you may be looking to refresh your winter clothing or buy some for the first time. You may be wondering, “Do I have to spend a ton on every item?” The answer: Absolutely not! Here is our guide to what you can save on and what you might consider spending on, as well as savings tips for winter clothes in general.

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Spend: Snow boots. At some point (or many points) during an Indiana winter, there is bound to be snow and ice. If you have never had to trudge through the snow in shoes clearly not made for snow, you are lucky! But if you have, you know the feeling of wet shoes, slipping on ice, and just having very cold feet, which is a sure way to catch a cold. If you are going to set aside some money to buy winter clothing, this would be an item that is okay to spend on. High-quality winter boots will last long, so remember the value you will be getting out of them, especially if you will be spending the next four years in an Indiana winter. It is sometimes difficult to find quality shoes in the right size at a thrift store, but take a look at discount stores where you can get a brand-new pair and may be able to use coupons, find a name brand for less, etc. TJ Maxx, Gordman’s, Kohl’s, and similar stores may be great places to start. Remember, you can always change into different shoes once you arrive at a destination, but your mobility will be greatly affected if you wear the wrong shoes when there has been a big snowfall.

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Save: Pants. Unless you plan to participate in any winter sports, the pants you already own should be fine for winter. While our parents bundled us up and made us look like marshmallows as children in snow pants, this is not necessary as adults. A durable pair of jeans and the availability of layers should be all you need to keep your legs warm. There are fleece-lined leggings, regular leggings, running tights, sweats, and more that you can always slip under your jeans for added warmth. Inexpensive but warm jeans and leggings can be found at Wal-Mart, Rural King, and really any place that sells clothes.

Spend: Warm socks. Whether they are wool, fluffy, or just insanely thick, you will want some warm socks to go with your boots this winter. While you can easily find warm socks at discount stores, you do not have to feel bad about investing in whatever you deem necessary to keep your feet warm. Often, thin socks will get holes in them fast and not last nearly as long as a wool pair that may have cost a bit more. Think about the value again in this case, and consider quality over quantity. If a couple good pairs of wool socks will save you from getting sick and paying for medicine or doctor’s visits, they are probably worth more than 20 pairs of thinner socks that could result in a stuffy nose. After all, you can always do laundry.

Save: Hats, gloves, and scarves. While winter accessories are also necessary, you do not have to spend a fortune on them. Something with a logo will cost more than just a plain item that looks identical and most likely keeps you just as warm. You can often find sets with matching hats, gloves, and scarves that are usually sold at a discounted price. Plus, these items are sold everywhere (including grocery stores and drug stores). With these accessories, it is also probably best to go with inexpensive choices so you can own more of them. Gloves can easily be lost if they fall out of your pocket or you leave them in a classroom. Or, you may forget winter gear sometimes and want to store extras in your car or backpack just in case. It is better to go with a good strategy for these items versus springing for one name brand hat.

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Spend: Winter coat. Above all else, you need a warm winter coat. Something waterproof and filled with down will be a solid choice, as it will keep you the warmest. If you think you can get away with just a fleece jacket you may have worn in the fall, you will probably change your mind once it hits freezing. While layers are important and it is certainly great to have heavy sweaters and fleece jackets, your coat will be your best friend in the winter. The wonderful thing about a durable winter coat is that it can last for years! So just like the boots, realize that this may be an investment you can use during your whole time in college and beyond. People rarely buy a new winter coat each year, because they hold up so well. However, you do not have to go to a fancy, winter sporting store to find a winter coat. Regular department and discount stores will have them. Do not be afraid to check out clearance, look online for deals, or even hit up thrift shops. Once you find your winter coat and the temperatures keep falling, you will be extremely thankful for it!

Be on the lookout for sales. You may be able to find some awesome winter gear during Black Friday or even Christmas sales. Remember, there can be snow well into April in Indiana, so think beyond the holidays. If you need to refresh some items this winter, sales after Christmas will land you with some deeply discounted winter gear. Above all else, always look for coupons, online codes, etc. that will help you save, and always ask about student discounts.

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Even though temperatures have just started to fall, it will get cold fast. Have these items on your radar and stay warm as winter approaches, Boilermakers!

Saving on Halloween

25 Oct

Halloween spending hit a record high last year at $9.1 billion. While Christmas is usually viewed as the major spending holiday, this Halloween number may shock you! So, what are Americans buying for Halloween? This figure is mainly comprised of costumes, candy, decorations, and, wait for it…greeting cards. That’s right; people are not just sending heartfelt sentiments for Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Halloween has become a major – and fun – holiday to celebrate. However, with the average person spending $86.13 on Halloween, it is starting to get expensive. We have some tips for you to save on Halloween:

Skip the costume stores. This is the time of year when every vacant store turns into a Halloween store (and was probably previously a fireworks store). While it can be tempting to pull up and just grab your costume at a place with a huge selection, it will cost you more than if you put your Halloween costume together yourself. First, try out some thrift stores like Goodwill. You will often find great pieces for any type of costume, or maybe even costumes themselves there! Since most people only wear a costume once, any costumes you find at thrift stores will probably be in good condition. Also remember the flip side: If you are only going to be wearing this costume once, only spend what you are comfortable spending for a one-time outfit. If thrift stores are not your favorite, any discount store (think TJ Maxx, Wal-Mart, etc.) will likely still have costumes or costume parts that cost less than those at the Halloween store.

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Homemade costumes like these can often look better than a put-together costume you would buy!

Spend on just one piece. Maybe you are going to a few Halloween parties and want to have the perfect costume for the perfect Instagram picture. That’s fine! Just think about what catches the eye. Do you really need that whole cat costume for $50, or can you use cheaper articles of clothing that are similar and add some cute cat ears you bought for $10? Not everything in your costume has to be used or homemade, but choosing only a couple of new items will be budget-friendly and give off the same effect. Plus, if you are wearing regular clothing items that you just jazzed up, you can actually use those clothes again.

Strategically shop for candy. Halloween screams candy more than any other holiday. Whether you are getting some candy to give to trick-or-treaters, to put in a bowl at a gathering, or to satisfy your sweet tooth, think before you buy. While it is tempting to go for the Halloween-themed products at the front of a store, head to the regular candy aisle as well. The themed products are usually marked up, while you may get a bigger saving on the regular thing. Who cares if there is a ghost on the wrapper or if the chocolate is shaped like a pumpkin? It will all taste the same!  Also, remember that bulk items may save you in the end. If you think you will be going through a lot of Halloween candy in the next week, check out the per unit price and go for the larger bag if it makes sense for your needs. It will end up being cheaper than going back for another, smaller bag every time you run out. Finally, just remember to not rule out what you would normally do while shopping! Find coupons online or in store apps; you can always use them on top of advertised sales.

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Check out the dollar store. Dollar stores have greeting cards and decorations for each holiday. If you need to send your grandmother a card back (since she sends you one for every holiday), or if you need to grab some decorations for your apartment, this is the place. You often cannot tell the difference between decorations bought at a dollar store versus anywhere else. Additionally, if you have to pitch it later or only had the item out for a few days, you do not have to feel as guilty about it if you only paid a dollar.

Go with what you know. Sure, Halloween in college often means dressing up and heading out with friends. Do not forget that there is other fun to be had, though! Catch the horror movies on TV or grab a $5 pumpkin and have an old-fashioned carving night with your roommates. Bake that roll of sugar cookies with the pumpkin face. The little things can make you feel like you are celebrating Halloween big.

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Remember November 1st. While Halloween is a fun holiday, the day after will inevitably bring an explosion of Christmas commercials, decorations, and festivities. Freeform will turn off the 31 Nights of Halloween, and Hallmark will have 24 hours of Christmas movies until mid-January. If you spent too much on Halloween, you will certainly feel it the day after, as everyone is no longer interested and on to the next holiday. You may be able to keep some Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations out longer than you could Halloween decorations, so remember that as you figure out your budget for the last few months of the year. You will be pining for ugly Christmas sweaters to wear to parties, and trying to find the perfect gifts for your family and friends very soon, so it is important to keep the big picture in mind when thinking about Halloween. However, November 1st is the perfect day to buy Halloween candy if you still have a sweet tooth! Can you say 90% off?

 

Halloween has become a big deal, and it is a fun day to celebrate. With these tips in mind, we wish you some happy savings and a Happy Halloween!

Apartment Hunting: What You Should Keep in Mind

10 Oct

While it seems the year just started, this is actually the time when many students start considering housing plans for next year! You will most likely start seeing housing fairs and housing promotions starting on campus. With so many students at Purdue, the process does start early so apartments know the population of students they will be working with in the coming year. Are you considering an apartment? As you start your search and tours of different complexes, here are some things to think about:

Cost. Plain and simple, and probably what you thought of first, too! It is important to think about how much you are willing to pay each month. If you are coming from a residence hall, you are used to funds being paid to the hall once each semester and not having to worry about it afterwards, so this could be a bit of an adjustment. Look at what you are spending each semester currently, and analyze whether you want to stay the same, can spend a bit more, or if you want to spend less. Remember that in an apartment, you will also have to budget for food. You may have parents that help you, or you may use funds from a job or financial aid to help cover living expenses. Talk with the people who help you pay or stop in at the Division of Financial Aid (Schleman Room 305) to figure out what you can afford. There are a wide-range of options available, with rent at some places being as little as $350 per month and others reaching $1,000 per month.

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Utilities. Again, if this is your first time in an apartment, this is probably the first time you are thinking about all of the extra expenses that come with living on your own. Ask questions as you tour about what is included in your monthly rent. Depending on the apartment complex, you may be responsible for electric, gas, water, cable, and/or internet. In many of the larger apartment complexes near campus, usually everything other than electric is included with your monthly rent. This is such an important factor; if it looks like an apartment is at the top of your budget and you would still be responsible for many extra bills, it might be wise to search for a place that has more included.

Roommates. Who will you live with next year? This can greatly impact how much you will pay each month. Most apartments have options for two people and go all the way up to six. Generally, the greater the amount of people, the cheaper your rent will be. Also, if you have to pay any extra bills, it will mean the bill will be split between that amount of people, which can be another great saving. Go with a balance of what will make you happy and make financial sense! If living with five friends sounds like too much but you can manage living with two other people, you will likely be able to find a good option for your budget and enjoy your living situation at the same time.

Promotions. Apartment complexes want you to sign a lease early, and they will run many promotions between now and the end of the year to get you to do just that. Remember that many places will require a security deposit when you sign your lease, and sometimes your first month’s rent. If you are trying to avoid spending lots of extra money, one of the most common promotions apartments run is waiving the security deposit if you sign during a certain window of time. Others offer stocking your fridge as a promotion, prizes, and more. If one of these promotions helps you out and you know you like the place, great! However, do not rush to sign a lease just because there is a promotion. If you are unsure about a place, look at others and make sure you are happy with your choice before you make a final decision. Chances are, there will be different promotions running all year and you will still be able to take advantage of one.

Location. Location is another factor that impacts cost. Apartments within walking distance of your classes can be extremely convenient. They are usually also more costly, so just make sure that the value of the convenience is worth it for you. There are also many apartment complexes only about a 5 minute drive away from campus that usually cost a bit less than the walking distance apartments. If you have a car or are willing to take the bus or shuttle at that complex, that is always a good option, too! There is no right or wrong answer, but rather what brings value to the apartment for you.

Extra fees. Review policies at the apartment and see what you could be charged for. While no one plans to ever make a late payment, it can happen. What is the grace period for you rent payment, and what is the fee if you are late? If you have a pet or are planning to have one in your apartment, you may want to check out pet fees, and what pets (if any) are allowed. Is it a one-time payment or something tacked onto your rent each month? Sometimes it can be both. Be sure to also inquire about what happens if something is damaged and how much you could owe (often you just will not get your full security deposit back). This seems like a lot, but do not get overwhelmed. Read your lease carefully before you sign it and do not be afraid to ask questions in the process. As long as you know what you could be potentially responsible for, you can evaluate whether that fits into your budget or not.

Amenities. While they should not make or break your decision, taking a look at the amenities can help you get a feel for what else you can gain from living at that place. Many have a pool and workout facility you can use for free, and they are often less crowded than the co-rec and other local gyms. Many also have basketball courts, fire pits, and movie rooms. Before you spend your money on entertainment, you may actually be able to have free entertainment where you live!

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Renter’s insurance. Is renter’s insurance required at the apartment? It is something you will need to know in order to make arrangements with your insurance provider and within your budget. Whether your apartment requires it or not, renter’s insurance is usually a good idea to at least look into. It can typically be purchased through home or car insurance companies, and will protect your belongings in case of theft, fire, or other damaging scenarios. It is usually relatively inexpensive.

 

Apartment hunting can be exciting! Make yourself a list of what you need to ask, and you will be good to go. We hope you find the perfect fit!

Student Employment Spotlight: Julia Kuhn

3 Oct

Julia

Name: Julia Kuhn

Hometown: Fort Wayne, IN

Major: Elementary Education

Year: Junior

Job title: Peer Counselor in the Division of Financial Aid.

Describe your job duties: Provide counseling via phone, email and in-person interactions for students and families in regards to financial aid.

 What is your favorite part about your job? The services that I can provide to a student and their family can potentially change the course of their future. That responsibility is a blessing to provide the necessary service and knowledge so they can move forward with the most beneficial circumstances to pursue an education that they are passionate about.

 How do you manage working and school? It helps to make a very detailed schedule to build in set time for studying, rest, personal and free time, as well as classes and work hours. I make sure to finish my assignments on time while still having room for work.

What lessons have you learned while working? I have learned that dedication and kindness in the workplace do wonders in stressful situations. It’s never a bad idea to be kind and considerate in all situations.

 Do you think student employment has prepared you for the future? Absolutely! I know that the professional communication skills have prepared me for my classes, as well as to provide a foundation to approach all forms of communication with confidence. These skills have translated over to my personal life to make my interactions with friends, family and other students more intentional and meaningful.

 What advice would you give to Purdue students looking for jobs? It’s a lot easier to balance work and school than you would think. Planning and prioritizing is crucial to create a well-organized plan of action.

The Small Costs (That Add Up)

2 Oct

You have probably heard of the latte scenario. Visit Starbucks and get a $5 coffee each day, and you end up spending a huge chunk in a week, month, and year that could have gone toward something else. Caffeine addicts, it’s okay. We are not going to lecture you in this post. However, there are similar coffee scenario situations out there you should be aware of. Very small purchases can add up before you know it, and sometimes just aren’t worth it. If you have any of these habits, try to add up how much you spend in a month. You might decide to cut back!

Vending machines. Vending machines never feel as expensive as going somewhere to purchase a drink, and sometimes it is just really convenient to grab something in the building your next class is in. Ask everyone on campus, and they will probably be able to tell you the location of a favorite vending machine. Sure, the cost might be $1 here and $1.75 there, but that will add up, too, if you buy something every day. It is rare to find something under $1.00 in a vending machine nowadays. Every once in a while is more than fine, but even just spending $1 a day at a vending machine will be $365 in a year!

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The dollar spot. Who can resist walking into Target and perusing the dollar section? Those sections grab attention quickly with bright colors and seasonal items. However, by the time you go through each aisle of the section, you end up spending $10. The nature of the section tends to lend itself to just throwing items into the cart and not caring “because it’s cheap.” Just remember that the more you grab the more you spend, and not all items in the dollar section are actually a dollar.

Anything near the checkout. Checkout lanes at stores are designed to appeal to customers. While you are waiting for the person in front of you with two carts to check out, why not grab some candy? Even the self-checkout lanes have items that are easy to grab on the way out, and that most people want. Clothing stores are no stranger to this phenomenon either. Often the items near a checkout are small in size, but not necessarily small in price and add up over time. Ask yourself if you would have walked around the store for this item or if it was on your list. If the answer is no, chances are this is just a small expense that will add up to a big one later, without giving you much value.

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Alternative transportation that charges. If you do not have a car or cannot drive for a time, it is easy to purchase just about any mode of transportation you want. You can rent a bike, electric scooter, or car. Many of these things can be fun every once in a while, but beware of what it can cost you later if you rely on any of these. A simple scooter or bike can be as much as $1 just to unlock, and then you will be charged by the minute. It’s a cheap way to have fun and get out for a day, but will really add up if you use this every day. Remember that you can always ride CityBus free as a student!

Upgrades. “Would you like to make that a large for 30 cents more?” This is a common phrase uttered at many restaurants in the U.S. While just a few cents seems miniscule, if you did this every time you ate out, it could cost you money you could have spent on something else, or just saved. Especially in a world of free refills, do not feel like you have to say yes!

Apps. A $1.99 app sure doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really depends on how many apps you purchase. Check out your app store history and add up what you have spent. If you use that meditation app then great! But if you have a habit of buying apps you rarely use, try to find free alternatives to see if you like the type of app first.

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Ordering food can be another seemingly small cost that adds up, especially if you put it on a credit card. This visual illustrates how some $10 pizzas can easily turn into $400.

If you have your budget pretty well managed, it is definitely okay to hit up a vending machine or have some fun with the dollar spot. Just remember that the small purchases always add up in the end! How much have you spent in one of these categories recently? If you need help figuring out a budget and how much you spend monthly, check out this electronic budget worksheet.

Saving on Groceries

27 Sep

College is often the first time many people grocery shop on their own. While you may have shopped with your parents, gone to the store for relatives, or bought your own groceries when you wanted something special, you most likely didn’t need to stock a whole kitchen. Those first few shopping trips this past month in college may have come as a shock to you when you saw the total. You probably now understand why you would hear your parents talk about grocery lists and budgets! Even though it sounds boring, it is often necessary. So, you want to eat well but still not spend a fortune. Is it doable? Absolutely. Try some of these techniques next time you shop.

 Buy generic. Next time you find yourself with many brands to choose from, take a well-known brand and a generic one and compare the ingredients. Chances are the ingredients in that ketchup, pasta, or even cold medicine are the exact same. You are paying more just for the name itself in many cases. Also, many name brands actually produce for more labels than just their own. Your milk, eggs, popcorn – anything really – may literally be that same name brand product under a different label. If you do see a difference in product quality then it is of course acceptable to have a preferred brand. Just do not go straight for a product just because it is on TV, and without making sure you cannot find a cheaper alternative that is just as good!

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 Make a list, and stick to it. Before shopping, go through your fridge and cabinets and write down everything you need. Then, be prepared to stick to that list. Going in aware of what you need and having a plan can eliminate a lot of impulse buying. Treat it like a scavenger hunt. Do not distract yourself, and feel the satisfaction as you cross each item off your list.

Plan your meals. This goes along with making a list. If you know what you are making ahead of time, you will be less likely to grab things “just in case.” List out the ingredients you need for each meal, and you won’t run into wondering if you need a certain spice for a recipe and grabbing extra items.

Don’t be afraid of bulk items. While they are sometimes more of an upfront cost, buying in bulk can save you money in the long run. The important thing to know is if you are really getting a deal with what you are buying. To figure it out, look at the unit price, which is the smaller number you will see on the tag in the aisle. If you end up paying less per granola bar if you buy the big package, it is worth it. Buy what you know you will use a lot of in bulk. It may be something you eat daily or something like toilet paper. It feels good to get a deal on items you are always using, and it is nice not having to buy them as often!

Do not always get roped in by sales. Yes, always look for deals. But just because a deal is there, do you have to take advantage of it? No! Take advantage of deals for items on your list, and buy what you need. If avocados are on sale and you buy more than you need, you will likely witness half of them go bad and see your money go down the drain. Pay close attention to the quantities of perishable items that you buy, as it is very dissatisfying to throw food away. Also remember that you can still get the sale price even if you do not buy the full amount of items advertised. Chips may be two for $5, but if buying only one bag fits into your need and budget, buy one bag. You will still get it at the sale price of $2.50 per bag.

Don’t be afraid to visit multiple stores. There is no rule that says you have to buy everything at the same place. While ground beef was on sale at one store, it does not mean all the groceries will be cheaper. It is okay to go to a store for a specific deal and to go somewhere else to finish your shopping. Or maybe you have a couple of favorite stores and you know what you buy at each location. While you do not have to spend your whole day grocery shopping, visiting a couple of places will make you happy that you got the best deal possible!

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Leave the big spenders at home. There are many couples that designate one person as the shopper if the other has a habit of grabbing everything and spending too much. You can do this same thing with your roommates, or can think about this when inviting someone to head to the store with you.

 Think before using a grocery service. It may be so convenient to have your groceries delivered, but is it worth the tip and delivery charge? It might be for people with many young children in the house that make it rough to go to the store, or people that work overtime. But for the average college student, that delivery charge and tip could probably be better spent! However, just because grocery delivery might not make the most sense, doesn’t mean every service is bad. Stores like Meijer and Wal-Mart are now offering free curbside pickup. If it is no extra charge and you just get to click in your order, it can be beneficial to you if your eye often gets caught by random items in the store. By searching for what you need online, you will eliminate the temptation of walking past all of the things you may want but not need.

 Bring cash. You may set a budget, but it is so easy to overspend when you never actually see the money. Instead of using a debit or credit card, consider withdrawing the exact amount you feel comfortable spending in cash. Only bring that cash into the store with you, and you will only spend that amount.

Organize your cart. No matter how you decide to pay, organizing your cart can also help you keep within your budget. It still is okay to treat yourself or buy something new that you see and want to try, especially if it is done in moderation. But instead of just throwing those items in and staring at your total with wide eyes later, save them for the end of your transaction. Put all of the items you absolutely need in one section of the cart and scan those first. If at the end you feel comfortable with still buying those extra items, add them in. If not, let the cashier know you changed your mind and do not want the item(s).

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 Wait a week. You went to the store a bit hungry, and then you were tempted by every pie you saw in the bakery section. Do you buy one? If it seems like something you are just buying to momentarily satisfy you, try to wait until you are shopping again next week. If at that time you still really want a pie and thought about it all week, it was well worth it and not just a fleeting desire. However, if you completely forgot about it, you will probably be glad you did not spend money on it in that moment.

Park strategically. If you are going to a store that has a home section as well as a grocery section and you feel like you cannot make it out without a candle or new holiday towel set, simply park on the grocery side and stay on the grocery side. Plus, you will get out of the store a lot faster!

 Coupon. You always have to stick to the classics! Download store apps, take a look at mailers, and search online for coupons for some of the products you buy the most. It may only seem like a small saving when you look at an individual coupon, but over time it can really make a difference. Watch some episodes of Extreme Couponing for inspiration!

Here are some local resources:

-The Meijer app allows you to clip coupons straight from the app. You will enter your phone number at checkout, and it will register you with the coupons in your mobile wallet.

-Grab digital coupons online for Payless Supermarkets.

-Scan the weekly ad for Aldi, where there is usually a weekly theme for what is on sale.

-Head to coupons.com where you can print manufacture coupons and use them anywhere!

 

Who knew there could be so much to say about grocery shopping? Now that you are the one in charge of shopping though, you are probably glad there is! Have fun trying these tips and let us know about other strategies you have. Happy shopping, Boilermakers!

What Costs Can You Eliminate?

20 Sep

“Come on, I’m a broke college kid.” Do you ever find yourself saying this as you rummage through your parents’ pantry before heading back after a visit home? College can be tough. Here you are, expected to act like an (almost) adult without an adult salary. You may have taken out student loans or work a part-time job to cover some of your expenses. There’s rent to pay, food to buy, textbooks you need… So yeah, you probably do not feel like the richest person. You have probably thought about your budget and monitor your money so you can make all your monthly payments. What happens when you feel like you might want a little bit more, though? You may be maxed out with school and work and cannot fit many more hours in, but there may be some things you can cut out. Some routine and monthly expenses are sometimes unnecessary and really add up in the long-term. Try cutting out one or more of these items to save money, and see if you miss them after a month!

Cut cable. If you live in an apartment and have to pay for your own cable, consider cutting it and see if it really affects you or not. Chances are you are so busy with school and everything else, that you probably watch that TV a lot less than you think you do. Plus, many channels now put their latest shows online to watch, and with all of the streaming services available, there are still many ways to watch shows and movies.

Cancel the gym membership. If you had a gym membership back home or maybe opened one somewhere in the Lafayette area, try to cancel it and go to the co-rec instead. You can access the co-rec any time and not pay a dime for it!

Look at your subscriptions. There is nothing wrong with having Netflix or Hulu, especially if it is your substitute for cable. However, it is helpful to list out all of your monthly subscriptions, and even compare with people close to you. Do you have many monthly services? List them out from what you use most to what you use least, and see what happens when you cut out that service you use least. Then, compare with others. Are you and your roommate both paying for Netflix? Consider splitting the cost and each having your own separate profile on the same account. Or, maybe one of you can subscribe to Netflix, and the other can subscribe to Hulu, so you have access to more for less.

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Delete apps. Sometimes, one of the simplest ways to cut out a drain on your wallet is to simply delete some apps from your phone. When you are bored, do you find everything you didn’t know you needed on Amazon? Do you scroll through Pinterest, discover an amazing clothes store you didn’t know existed, and end up $200 deep in the end? Deleting apps that allow you to spend money will leave you with more spare cash and also more spare time that is technology-free.

Change some rituals. Do you and your friends end up at the Cactus every Thursday? Do you have a weekly lunch date at Taco Bell? Even though there are plenty of cheap drinks and food on campus, do not let that fool you. Going out to eat or having more than a few drinks every week can add up faster than you think. Go out and have fun, but if you are feeling like you have been spending a little too much lately, possibly suggest a cheaper alternative to your friends. Maybe you can have a taco night and make tacos in your kitchen, or have a drink during a movie night at home. Chances are your friends will be relieved to be able to save some money, too.

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Determine what is necessary. Be honest with yourself. Do you need to have ad-free Pandora, or is it just nice to have it? Some services are so convenient, but are also not absolutely needed. Muster up your patience and get ready to listen to some ads!

Pinpoint the times you spend the most money. It’s game day! You buy your football ticket, get a new shirt to wear to the game, and get a soda and hot dog while you are there. You need to Uber back to your apartment and because it is peak-time in West Lafayette during a game, you spend an easy $40 on that Uber. Sound familiar? If there are certain events you attend where you just spend more money, try to come up with a plan before going, no matter what kind of event it is. Do you need another Purdue shirt (even though we all always want them!)? Did you have a chance to eat before the game so you weren’t as hungry? If you are taking an Uber, can you leave slightly earlier or later to avoid that peak-time fee? You do not have to cut it all out, but eliminating just one of those expenditures can leave you feeling a lot better about your money situation!

Examine your daily routine. If you do not change the temperature or turn off all the lights when you leave your place, do it! If you run the dishwasher half-full, wait until it is completely full to run it. Take shorter showers if you find yourself taking an hour. Because you do not read the meter or measure the water you use, it may be easy to just not really care about these small habits. Being more conscientious can drastically change the number you see on your bill, though.

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What else have you cut out that helped you save money? Tell us your strategies and have fun saving, Boilermakers!

The 19-20 FAFSA

18 Sep

Even though the 18-19 school year has just begun, it is already time to start thinking about being prepared for the 19-20 school year! Mainly, getting ready to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA for next school year opens up on October 1st. It is a routine task for many of you at this point, but there are always common questions that come up about filing the FAFSA. We’ll answer them here, and address some important information about this upcoming year’s FAFSA.

 Do I have to file the FAFSA every year? Yes. If you received any form of aid last year, it will not automatically be transferred over from year to year. The FAFSA will need to be completed for each year you are in school.

Should everyone file the FAFSA? While not required for college attendance, it is always recommended to file the FAFSA. The FAFSA, in many cases, does not just make you eligible for federal aid, but also determines your eligibility for state and institutional aid. Even if you do not plan on taking out federal loans, file the FAFSA anyway! You may qualify for a scholarship from your school that requires FAFSA information.

Where do I file the FAFSA? To file the FAFSA, visit FAFSA.gov. You will need your FSA ID to log in. If you have previously filed a FAFSA, use that same ID. It is usually an email address for the username, and then your password. Since the site is not one you may regularly log on to, passwords can easily be forgotten, but the website also makes it pretty easy to change your password as well.

Federal Student Aid also developed an app this year, so you can actually complete the FAFSA on your phone or tablet! The app also allows you to view your student loan and aid history, manage your profile, and more. It is called myStudentAid, and can be found on iTunes and the Google Play store.

When is the FAFSA due? Purdue’s priority filing date is March 1st, so if you are a Purdue student, submit it by then! Other colleges and states have their own priority dates. You can check them out here.

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What do I need to file my FAFSA? You will need your school codes (this is how your information is sent to different schools) and the items on the FAFSA checklist. Purdue’s school code is 001825, and you can find out school codes for other institutions by clicking here. If you are simply returning to Purdue, you will just need Purdue’s school code. If you are an incoming freshman and need to send it to multiple schools, put in school codes for the colleges you are interested in attending. The online form allows you to enter 10 schools, but you can also add more later.

The FAFSA checklist may seem a bit daunting, but it really isn’t that bad. Many families have been able to use the IRS data retrieval tool to transfer tax information right to the FAFSA instead of typing it all in and worrying about mistakes. The FAFSA also uses tax information from the prior prior year, meaning it will be information from two years before. The 19-20 FAFSA will use tax information from 2017, for example. This allows families and individuals to come into the FAFSA better prepared, since most people have already filed 2017 taxes.

What can I do if I have questions while filing the FAFSA? There are always resources available if you are unsure of something on the FAFSA and need some help. College Goal Sunday, Indiana’s largest FAFSA filing event, will take place at locations throughout the state on October 28th and February 24th, including Lafayette. You can find all locations here. Financial aid experts offer free FAFSA filing help to students and families during this event. You may also want to check with your high school guidance counselor if you are an incoming freshman, as they often have resources to guide you. Whether a current or prospective student, you can always contact Purdue’s Division of Financial Aid at 765-494-5050, facontact@purdue.edu, or by walking into Schleman Room 305.

 

October 1st is just around the corner. Happy FAFSA filing!

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