Tag Archives | finances

Planning Future Finances: Will Student Loans Prevent You From Having It All?

Photo by Oliver Thomas Klein on Unsplash

Going to college is a top goal on many people’s lists. However, can achieving that goal be detrimental to future plans? With the average student loan equaling close to $40,000 (and some students even owing $100,000 or more), it’s enough to make anyone bat an eye once or twice. It can really make you question whether or not you’ll ever achieve your dreams of owning your own car, house, or business.

Despite accruing an impressive amount of debt, you can still do all those things and more. Here’s how you can plan for major life expenses while still paying off student loans.

Affording a Car

It can seem impossible to afford a car when you have to pay student loan bills on top of your other expenses. That doesn’t mean a vehicle is completely out of the question. Although you may not think your budget has room for a down payment along with various monthly payments, it is completely doable.

With a few strategic adjustments to your finances, you’ll be driving off into the sunset in no time. Here’s how you can start saving for a car while managing student loans:

  • Start With a Budget: Before you do anything, you need to know how much you’re spending every month. Creating a budget will help you determine expenses you can eliminate or cut back on to go towards your car purchase.
  • Estimate Potential Costs: After you make a budget for your current expenses, it’s time to estimate the potential costs of owning car. By figuring out how much you’ll pay each month on car payments, gas, insurance, and maintenance, you’ll have a better idea which car to get and if your current lifestyle can support the cost.
  • Pay Down Your Debt: Depending on how much of your student loans you’ve already paid, it may be wise to lower your balance even more when considering purchasing a car. How much debt you’re in can potentially affect your chances of getting approved for a car loan.
  • Save, Save, Save: Whatever extra money you make, put it aside in a savings account so it can grow and be there for you the day you buy your car. If you’re hard pressed to find money to spare, consider taking on side jobs to contribute to your car fund.

Financing a Home

Now that you have a car, you need a garage to put it in, right? Thankfully, plenty of houses come with one of those. However, now that you have student and car loans to pay, could a house truly be in the cards?

Of course. Like with planning a car purchase, there are different things you can do to make a house payment more financially feasible. First off, you need to be looking at homes you can afford. It does you no good looking at lavish estates that are way out of your price range.

By looking at homes that are within your budget, you can fall in love with the right house instead of pining for a mini mansion that’ll sink you into even more debt. Speaking of debt, the amount you have is extremely important to lenders.

Just like with car loans, mortgage lenders are looking for potential borrowers to have a specific debt-to-income ratio (36 percent or less including the mortgage to be exact). They’ll also be taking a look at your savings and credit score. To give yourself a better chance of getting approved, pay off as much of your debt as you can before you apply.

You can potentially make this easier by decreasing your student loan payments. This can be done by either refinancing your student loans or by changing your repayment plan to be income-driven. Whatever you decide, it’s important to make every student loan payment on time.

Late payments on any debt will hurt your credit score and will lead lenders to assume you won’t pay your mortgage on time either. The better your credit score, the greater your chances are that you’ll be approved.

Lastly, you’ll need to save up for closing costs and a down payment. Closing costs are usually 2 to 5 percent of the price of the house while down payments are usually 20 percent, and both need to be paid upfront.

Building Your Business

It’s the dream of many to be able to work for themselves. However, starting your own business is dramatically different, and riskier, than owning a car or house. The stakes seem especially high when you’re already thousands of dollars in debt with student loans.

Don’t let that deter you though. Many people with student loans have started their own small business, which means that you can as well. If you have two or more student loans, it may benefit you to consolidate them.

Doing so can decrease the amount of interest you need to pay and make it easier to make payments on time. In order to qualify, you’ll need a good credit score and have no defaulted student loans or bankruptcies on your record. Consolidating your loans may also require paying a fee and can affect the terms of forgiveness programs federal loans offer.

Another option is to apply for deferment or forbearance to lower monthly payments. The extra money you save can go towards your small business expenses to get it off the ground and running. Just remember that interest will still accrue even when accepted into these programs.

Finally, you need to work hard and cut or lessen every possible expense. Starting a business isn’t cheap, and having student loan debt makes it that much harder to raise the capital you need. If you still need to work a full-time job while your business is still in its infant stage, then do it.

Move back home with your parents if you have to or live with a roommate or two. Take advantage of public transportation as much as possible. Living frugally and shopping smart not only increase your chances of small business success, but also of repaying your student loans sooner.

Having student loans can make it feel like you have to put your life on hold until you pay them back. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Owning your own car, house, or small business is possible if you’re smart with your finances. By creating a budget, utilizing different loan programs, and living inexpensively, you can live your life to the fullest despite having student loans.

This article was contributed by guest author Devin Morrissey.

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10 Best Tips to Manage Your Finances

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

College is an exciting time, but financially, it can be difficult to stay responsible. Living on campus means spending money on food, beverages and nights out with your friends, which can be problematic if you’re trying to save up money for your post-grad years. However, it’s very possible to not only manage your finances responsibly in college, but also to save up money for the future. Here are ten essential money-saving tips for college students:

1. Find the Right Bank for You
It’s important to find a bank that suits your student financial situation. Look for banks that offer student accounts that reimburse you for out-of-network ATM fees or have low minimum daily balance requirements, or open an account with a bank that has ATMs near your campus.

2. Use Mobile Banking
It’s much easier to be responsible with your money when your account balances and statements are just a click away. Be sure to download your bank’s mobile app (nearly all banks have one,) and check your balances frequently.

3. Build Credit Responsibly
Building credit is essential to secure loans if you need them later in life, so use your credit card as much as possible. At the same time, be sure to monitor your card balances carefully; overcharging your card or being late on payments can seriously hurt your credit.

4. Don’t Overspend on Books
Many campus bookstores charge higher than the market price for textbooks, so a good way to save money is to get your books elsewhere. Online retailers like Amazon usually offer books for lower prices, or you can be especially thrifty and buy used textbooks on eBay or similar sites

5. Eat Free
One of the best ways to save money is to take advantage of any food you can get free or discounted as a student. Know your school’s meal plan; if it’s free to eat at the school cafeteria, eat there most days and limit money spent on restaurants or take-out. When you do go out, look for local businesses that offer student discounts, and also keep an eye out for student events that offer free meals.

6. Keep a Strict Budget
Even if you think you’re financially responsible, there’s no reason not to make a budget. Track all expenses on your smartphone and set goals for your weekly or monthly spending. Identifying what you spend the most on can help you reduce your overall spending.

7. Use the Envelope System
The ‘Envelope system’ is a method of setting a budget for the week and placing the money you’ll allow yourself for different expenses in marked envelopes. Calculate how much you’ll need each week on gas, food, etc., label each envelope, and if an envelope runs out, don’t spend more in that category until the next week.

8. Apply for a Job On-Campus
Even if you aren’t receiving financial aid, there are often employment opportunities right on campus. Contact your school’s student employment office to see what jobs may be available to earn yourself some regular income, but do it as soon as the semester starts; many campus positions fill up quickly.

9. Avoid Unnecessary Fees
You’d be surprised at how much money you can save just by avoiding any fees. Avoid ATM fees, for example, by starting an account with a local bank, or find the nearest ATM for your current bank and use it exclusively. You’ll also want to pay off credit card balances or other bills promptly to avoid late fees.

10. Don’t Drive
If you have a car on campus, you’ll want to drive it as little as possible to avoid spending extra on gas. If your college has a ride-sharing option, or rental options such as ZipCars, take advantage of it, or use public transportation in your area if available.

This article was contributed by guest author Hayden Sewart.

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Slick Tips for Saving Money during Your College Years

Image by 401(K) 2012, Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012, Flickr

The cost of college may represent one of the single most expensive investments in your life. However, that investment may pay out large dividends when used correctly. There are also several side expenses associated with college such as entertainment and meals that are often overlooked. Here are a few slick tips that can stretch those dollars, and help you avoid the headache of a draining bank account.

Stretch Those Meals
Many college students are on a combination of meal plans and budgets for cooked meals. You can save a considerable amount by making note of available meal plans versus cooking on your own. Staying in a dorm limits the type of food you can prepare due to restrictions on hot plates and other devices. However, you can often adjust meal plans to suit your needs in your room and board. Extend these services by reducing the cost of extras such as brewing your own coffee, or using a water filter to have fresh water.

Be sure to combine the collective costs of groceries with roommates as well. Putting meals “all in the pot”, and using money saving devices such as crock pot cookers, can save considerably on overall meal costs.

Consolidate Luxury Expenses
There are extra vices in college that come along with hidden costs. Some of the most expensive extras are going out to eat, and items such as cigarettes. Consolidating meals into groups, and using gadgets like online study tools reduce your overall costs substantially. Save even more with coupon codes for discountrue.com where you can find deals on many different kinds of items.

Tap into Career Centers
A great deal of the effort in college is preparation for using your degree for employment or advancement. Most colleges offer substantial free career planning resources. These career resource centers are also a hub for on campus jobs. The best way to save money in the long run, is to find on campus jobs that tie into your chosen major.

The added benefit is a perk on your resume, and reduced costs from career search programs after college. These resource centers provide you everything from resume critiques to mock interviews and can help you get a good head start for the future.

Libraries Are Your Best Friend
Public and university libraries provide a wealth of free resources that can save you money. Professors often put textbooks on reserve and scanned copies may be available on request. Check into these copies prior to class registration. Some professors have different book requirements, and a slightly older edition may be compatible as well.

A library can also provide free tunes and videos for your entertainment needs. Large libraries may also offer streaming services and e-books for tablet devices for free.

Navigating college requires dedication in both academics and finance. Most of the free resources found here are expanding rapidly and may dramatically reduce the cost of a traditional college experience. Some of the hidden expenses of entertainment can add up quickly and these tips are a surefire way to beat those costs.

This article was contributed by guest author Brooke Chaplan.

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Credit Card 101: Everything New Cardholders Need to Know

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

Image by frankieleon, Flickr

It’s a milestone, a rite of passage that marks the journey into adulthood: holding your very first credit card with your name in shiny, raised letters.

There’s a sense of freedom in the moment – you can go buy things, no matter what your bank balance shows. But before you peel that “Activate your card now” sticker off and head out to your favorite stores, make sure that you have a handle on what’s about to happen.

Choosing a Card

Card issuers offer a variety of incentives to attract new users. These offers can include waiving the annual fee, zero interest fees for the first year or bonus points that can be put towards future purchases. While the incentives may be appealing, it is important to remember that they are typically temporary. Check out what happens when the initial ‘new card’ phase is over before applying for a card.

Know the Basics

Before using your card, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the card’s key criteria.

Annual Percentage Rate
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the yearly rate of interest on your credit card. Determined by using an index (such as the U.S. Prime Rate) and adding the bank’s margin, the APR is a method of assessing fees on credit card usage.

The APR for a card can change over time. For example, the card might have an introductory rate or a promotional rate (applicable to balance transfers).

Higher APRs are assigned to individuals with lower credit scores. As both your credit reputation and score improve, see if you can get a lower rate.

Start by talking to your bank and requesting a lower rate. “It’s a simple phone call, and the worst they can say is no,” says Patricia Hasson, executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

Interest Fees
By calculating the Daily Periodic Rate (the APR divided by 365), credit cards assess fees based on the amount charged on your card. These fees can vary, based on card polices and variable APR rates. Some cards offer an initial grace period for interest fees or offer one year of low interest as an incentive to use their card.

Minimum Payment
The lowest amount of money a cardholder is required to pay each month is known as the minimum payment. Each card has its own formula for determining the minimum payment due, specified in the card agreement.

Card Smarts

Unchecked spending can lead to financial disaster. Before you start swiping the card, make a plan of action.

Use Your Power Wisely
The secret of successful credit card usage is understanding that just because you CAN charge something doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. Credit card use should be filtered through a need vs. want criteria. Taking your credit card out of your wallet when the purchase is a legitimate need will help prevent excessive credit card debt and abuse.

Cash Advances Can Really be a Set-Back
Sometimes, you really ‘need’ some cash. That cash advance option on your card is tempting, but what are the long-term effects of hitting the ATM? Interest rates on cash advances are calculated differently than on purchases, resulting in higher fees and a reduction in your available credit.

Rich Bialek, a credit card industry expert, said, “A cash advance typically would involve a higher APR than a retail purchase because the card company doesn’t earn a merchant fee on a cash advance.”

Keeping an Eye On the Bottom-Line
Most cards come with a credit limit, a maximum amount that can be charged. Spending over that amount can result in additional fees and fines, which can quickly add up. Keep control of your card usage by paying attention to your credit limit and staying under it.

Know Your Chargeback Responsibilities
Chargebacks are a consumer protection mechanism. If you experience fraud, either from a business owner or a criminal, you have the right to a refund. A chargeback is a forced credit card refund, facilitated by the bank that issued your card.

However, chargebacks should only be used in extreme circumstances as a last resort. You should always try to get a refund from the merchant directly before contacting the bank. If you dispute a transaction with the bank instead of dealing with the merchant, you’re engaging in something called friendly fraud. Merchants consider this illegitimate use of the chargeback process to be cyber shoplifting.

There are major consequences for businesses when chargebacks are filed. A credit card expert, Monica Eaton-Cardone, said:

I don’t think the majority of consumers who file friendly fraud chargebacks are doing it to create a consequence. I think… they are ignorant to what really happens behind the scenes. They think that it is just their bank giving them the money back.

Don’t be ignorant of your credit card responsibilities and liabilities.

Paying Off Debt

Using your credit card is easy, but paying it off just doesn’t have the same ‘fun factor.’ However, it’s a necessary part of the credit card system.

Save the date
Many credit card companies allow you to choose your own due date – a feature that can come in handy for planning purposes. Choose a date that is just after payday to ensure that you have funds available to make your credit card payment. Making your payment on time is an important factor in building your credit and preventing additional fees for late payments.

More Than the Minimum
Your credit card statement will tell you the ‘minimum payment’ that you must make to be in compliance with your cardholder agreement. As long as you pay the minimum amount due each month, your account will stay in good standing.

The reality, however, is that by making the minimum payment you may end up paying for items years after your initial purchase. Your interest is calculated on the amount of credit used on the card, increasing the amount you’re actually paying back by sometimes hundreds of dollars. To maximize your credit, make more than the minimum payment each month. Ideally, you should pay the entire balance off every month.

Anisha Sekar, a contributor to Nerd Wallet, also points out that paying the minimum can hurt your credit score:

Thirty percent of your credit score is determined by how much debt you carry… This means that accruing charges on your card and failing to pay them off is like putting a dent in your credit score every month; over time, this adds up to a lot of damage.

Check Your Status

Using credit cards is both good and bad. Used wisely, credit cards can be helpful in an emergency or for making large purchases. Used improperly, however, these cards can have a negative effect on your credit – a result that can haunt you financially for years.

Monitoring your credit is important. Credit bureaus offer consumers free credit reports annually and many credit card companies offer credit reporting as part of their services. Checking your credit report not only lets you see what your financial habits look like, it allows you to keep an eye on any fraudulent activity on your accounts.

Think Long Term

Incorporating basic financial principles into your college education will help establish a reputable credit history that will benefit you for years to come.

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Gap Year After College: Yes or No?

gap-year

By Jack Amick on Flickr

After the four years of hard work, late nights, long essays and meeting deadlines that is college, it’s no wonder that so many people are drawn to taking some time off before jumping into another commitment (careers, grad school etc.). But is a gap year really the best option with regards to your long terms goals? A year is a long time, and if not planned correctly, a gap year after college can end up doing more harm than good. Here are some of the pros and cons of taking a gap year after you turn the tassel and throw your cap into the air:

Pros

1. Time to enhance alternate skills and pursue your passion

A gap year gives you a whole extra year after college to pursue your passion before you jump into a regular routine. This could be the perfect opportunity to further develop an interest you discovered in college. For example, say you realized you were deeply interested in theatre during your four years of college. You could use a gap year to enhance your acting skills, or maybe even research and write a play. Being able to enhance skills separate from those you learn in a classroom environment, that align with your passion, is one of the ways in which a gap year can be most rewarding.

2. Certifications to further build up your CV

A year is time long enough to get a few additional certifications under your belt. These will make you more marketable to potential employers, and could even help you earn a better entry-level salary when starting your career. Online certifications in Microsoft Office, or computer programming are very in demand these days. Other programs such as online medical assisting, emergency first response, CPR and more are very useful to have and could even determine your career.

3. Explorations/Volunteering abroad

One of the most common reasons to take a gap year is to explore the world. Taking a year to travel to different countries, experience various cultures and meet new people can be a very inspiring and amazing experience. It’s one thing to read about different cultures in books and talk about them in a classroom setting. It’s another to be fully immersed within that culture, and truly experience a different reality. In the long term, your experiences traveling or volunteering in countries and “making a difference” so to say, will give you plenty to talk about in interviews and make you stand out as an individual. If the wanderlust bug hit you in college, then this might be a great option should you decide to take a gap year.

Cons

1. Lack of a steady income

Chances are your gap year wouldn’t entail you working full time. This means you won’t have a steady income – or any source of income at all. Getting started with your career after graduation is more likely to yield an income, with the potential to increase as time goes on.

2. Potential to waste time

Having a year at your disposal is a long time, meaning there is lots of time that can be wasted. Gap years taken on a whim without prior planning can work out, but only in rare situations. To make the most of your gap year, it should be planned in advance, so that most of your time isn’t wasted in trying to plan something that will only materialize at the end of the year. Another factor is laziness. Knowing you have a whole year ahead could make you lazy at the start, and cause you to put things off. If you are the type of person that easily gets lazy, be aware that before you know it, the year will be over and you will find you will have accomplished much less than you wanted. Ultimately, this will just look like a giant waste of time on your CV, and be detrimental to your future goals.

3. Expenses

Gap years can be expensive. Depending on the type of gap year you choose, you may have to budget for hefty expenses. For instance, traveling involves paying for plane tickets, accommodation and food. Similarly, getting a certification or taking a course to improve your skills is rarely ever free. Budgeting is paramount so that your gap year doesn’t end up leaving you high and dry.

All in all, a gap year can be a wonderful experience. All it needs is some advance planning and being aware of the potential obstacles you may face along the way. If you take this into consideration, you are more likely to have a fulfilling and purposeful gap year after college.

This article was contributed by guest author Akshata Mehta.

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Student Loans, Continuing Education, and Entrepreneurship

loans

Image by www.gotcredit.com on Flickr

Chances are, if you graduated from college, you have at least one student loan to pay off.  If that’s the case, my condolences.  However, you’re not alone.  All the better to budget with.  If you’re forced to save a set amount of money every month, you’re more likely to learn how to budget, and learn fast.  There are a number of ways to cut costs in your daily life. 

The first step is to make a budget that allocates a set amount of money toward bills, food, rent/mortgage, and daily expenses. Then, figure out how much is left over based on your income. If you’re in the States, find a tool that calculates whether you qualify for income-based repayment — via President Obama’s William D. Ford Direct Loan Program — and go from there. However, a warning: there are a number of different options for student loan repayment now, so beware of private companies that want you to refinance with them so that they can make a profit.  Here’s an infographic with a flow chart that’s easy to understand:

Students picture

While it may be tempting to simply allow your student loans to go into default, it’s probably not wise in the long run.  Defaulting can result in wage garnishment, tax refund withholding, even the revoking of your driver’s license!  That’s nothing to fool around with.  Better to go with the twenty-five year plan, if you’re short on cash — as many of us are these days.  There are a number of steps you can take to gain more control over your finances, even if you don’t feel like you have a lot of expendable income.

First, focus on what you can control.  How much money is left after you put aside your basic monthly expenses and student loan expenses?  As difficult as it might seem, try to set aside a little each month for a savings account.  You’ll be grateful when an unexpected expense comes along.  And try not to rack up a lot of excess credit card debt.  If you can’t afford to pay for something, maybe it’s not worth the additional expense every month.  If there isn’t enough money at the end of the day to simply get by, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your career path and consider setting a goal to get a better job or return to school for a specialized certificate or a different career altogether.

A good rule of thumb in selecting a program of study is a) Are you passionate about this subject and, b) Is it practical? That is, are you going to school for a position that’s highly in demand?  An example of a field that is always growing and expanding is healthcare.  (I would say education too, but there are the salaries to consider.)  To give you an idea, here’s a visual with some useful numbers as ball park estimates.  Basically, you’re looking at 90K a year, at minimum. With that kind of salary, you should be able to pay off your student loans fairly quickly — within ten years, as opposed to twenty-five years. If you’re concerned about choosing between a second degree and quitting your job, fear not: there are now a plethora of online programs in nursing and healthcare for you to choose from.

If, on the other hand, you’re a burgeoning entrepreneur looking to think outside the box and go the route of starting a business rather than working for a company, you could always begin building your business while still in school.  If you go this route, you’ll likely have other types of loans to contend with: business loans.  How do you go about juggling student loans and business expenses, all while trying to raise enough capital for your business to grow?  Well, nowadays we have the Internet, and along with it come innovative crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Interestingly enough, crowdsourcing is fast becoming a mainstream source of capital generation for startups, considering the increasingly important role social media is assuming in effective business marketing campaigns.

So take heart and have courage: you can do whatever you set out to do with your money or your career.  Just take things one proverbial step at a time, and you’ll be fine. If you have ideas to contribute about successfully balancing college, money, and career goals, either in or out of school, post them in the comments below.

This article was contributed by guest author Daphne Stanford.

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6 Tips That Help You Save Money and Time While at College

college students

The concept of a starving student is not new. In fact, the majority of college students struggle to make financial ends meet. College students are also known to be extremely busy juggling all of their classes, homework, and other responsibilities. However, there are certain things that students can do to save money and time while at college.

Make a Budget

It sounds simple, but the truth is that not having a budget is the number one reason why college students do not have enough money. It’s easy to go to a nightclub with friends or go out to eat, but before you know it, there is not enough money to pay for books and other necessities. It is essential for college students to have a clear idea of how much money they’re spending each month and use this as a guideline for knowing when they can spend and when they need to cut back.

Be Smart with Textbooks

It is estimated that college students will spend in excess of $1,300 every single year on textbooks. Many are frustrated to learn at the end of the semester that the textbooks they spent hundreds of dollars on can only be sold back for just pennies on the dollar. So save money by borrowing textbooks from college libraries or local libraries if that is not an option. Purchase textbooks secondhand, online, or from other students. Keep your textbooks in good condition so that they can be resold when they are no longer needed.

Take Advantage of Student Discounts

In most college towns, businesses, restaurants, and other venues will offer discounts to students who attend local schools. Before buying anything, ask about a student discount. The worst-case scenario is that they will say there is not a student discount available. Best case scenario is that you will find yourself saving hundreds of dollars every year.

Save Money on Food and Drink

If your college offers a meal plan, use that before eating at fast food restaurants. Minimize the amount of money spent on alcohol consumption. Learn to prepare inexpensive meals at home or in your dorm. Purchase a nice coffee maker as opposed to spending four or five dollars on a coffee at your local coffee shop. Be on the lookout for freebies that are offered at school. Become a frugal shopper. If you’re going to go to the grocery store or to a restaurant, first check online for coupons or promotions to see if you can get a percentage off of your meal or even a free meal.

Take Online Classes to Save Time and Money

One of the most modern ways to save money and time during your tenure at almost any college is to take online classes. The control that you have over your schedule will be sure to help you hold a part time job and manage stress levels during the semester. Online courses, like an online Masters of Law, can be less expensive and more rewarding than ever before.

Skip the Gym

Gym memberships are expensive. Most college campuses offer free fitness classes or intramural sports. Use these as a free way to keep in shape as well as a way to save time. These options are usually much more accessible to students, leaving time for essential activities. Here are some other free exercise ideas.

Going to college is expensive, and it is getting more expensive every year. By following the five suggestions above, a college student can guarantee that they save time and not break the bank while at college.

This article was contributed by guest author Anita Ginsburg.

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How to Plan Your Finances so You Can Afford to Study Abroad

Image by Newton Free Library, Flickr

Image by Newton Free Library, Flickr

Jennifer Fonda* is currently pursuing her MS in computer science from Oxford University in the UK, which is deemed to be one of the most expensive universities in the world. Even though she comes from a middle class family, she made it to one of the most expensive colleges in the world without having to worry. She says,

For me it really was not hard to come up with the required admission fee. I had already saved quite a lot during my undergrad. My parents inculcated the habit of saving every penny I could since a young age. It really helped me pay off my tuition fee.

Being short on funds is the permanent state of every college student. But if you have bigger dreams in mind and want to go study outside of the US to gain global exposure, you need to start planning early. Jennifer knew her parents would not be able to afford the expenses of living abroad, but that didn’t deter her from pursuing her dream. If you want to study abroad, you have two options: either give up or go through the hard work of earning and saving money. It is up to you which one will you choose.

Planning throughout the four years of your undergraduate course will help you save money during grad school. Here are a few points which will not only help you save money but also guide you on making some:

Manage your money

  1. Set a monthly budget – This doesn’t have to be a difficult task. An Excel spreadsheet will be enough. You need to keep track of your monthly expenses and stop any unnecessary spending habits. List your fixed expenses like transportation costs, food etc, and keep money aside for these. Put aside some for saving, and the remaining balance can be used for unplanned expenses like shopping or gifting.
  2. Plan your expenses – Has buying expensive things left you cashless? Simple math and bit of planning can help you avoid this situation. Cut down your expenses by a certain amount for a couple of months and save the leftover money. Planning ahead is the easy way to avoid bankruptcy. Keep your eyes open for clearance sales at big-box stores – you may find some great deals there.
  3. Save money for emergencies – For students without a regular source of income, it is mandatory to have a fund for emergency situations. Rather than borrowing from friends or family, save money yourself by making small adjustments like skipping a movie or a trip to help you prepare for an unexpected crisis.
  4. Open a savings account – Rather than going for a regular bank account, go for an account specifically designed for students. Student savings accounts have other benefits apart from zero-balance facility which make them better than any other no-frills account.
  5. Avoid misusing credit cards – As mentioned above, if you open bank account for students you may get a credit card with low interest rates – but you want to avoid paying interest as much as possible, so if you are going to use a credit card, make sure you can pay off your bills on time and in full every time.
  6. Choose prepaid plans for your phone – Choose prepaid plans instead of pay-as-you-go for your phone will help you avoid surprises at the end of the month.

Increase your savings

  1. Be patient – If you want to buy a new iPhone, wait for a few months – gadgets’ prices fall as soon as there is a successor of the same model in the market. Postponing your purchase for some time can get you a reduced price.
  2. Watch for online discounts – If you are shopping or booking shows online, Google discount coupons, codes, or deals. Discount sites are the new money-saving method, as you can easily get a discount of 20% or free shipping with using a coupon code. You can get good bargains at restaurants, movie tickets, clothes, gym memberships, etc. Get an Amazon Prime account to get the best deals and discounts.
  3. Make shopping lists – A good way to control impulsive shopping is to make lists before going to the market. Though the market is filled with options, stick to your requirements, and you will save more money at the end of each month. Or use the wish list option many websites offer while shopping online.
  4. Save, save, save – Buying course books often leaves your pockets empty. Instead of buying, borrow them from a library or purchase them at a second hand bookstore. Once you graduate, the secondhand books can be re-sold and the money can be put towards your savings.
  5. Try getting cheaper accommodations – As a college student, you can save a lot of money on lodging. Rather than living in a studio apartment near college, try getting a shared apartment in the suburbs. It could cut your rent money in half. Or try sharing your apartment with 3-4 roommates, which further reduces your share load.
  6. If you’re in the city, don’t rent a car – Big cities like Toronto or New York have a good public transportation system in place, so you can save a lot of cash by not buying or renting a car to move around the city. Invest in a train pass or student pass to save more on travelling.

Earn some money

  1. Turn hobbies into careers – If you love to bake, or are great at painting, you can always turn this passion into earning. Form your own music band or start a blog or vlog. If you have talent, you can make it a career even before you finish college.
  2. Work part-time – Get a part-time job to earn some pocket money. Many jobs have a constant demand for interns. Remember, at this stage no job is small or big; you need to do what is required without feeling embarrassed of your job. Many job search engines are specifically designed for college students, and can help you look for temporary jobs. You can also talk to your college placement cell and consider the options available in your city.
  3. Participate in college activities – Be part of cultural societies and participate in competitions which offer cash prizes. Find out about scholarships offered by your college. If you are eligible to apply, do so! If your professors are involved in some research work, ask them if they need some assistance. You may get a stipend for doing so.

This article was contributed by guest author Harleen.

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