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saving money

Adulting Transition

3 Tips to Help You Plan for Home Ownership in College

May 26, 2021

Many younger Americans say they are in no rush to become homeowners, and instead want to focus on enjoying life experiences. However, on the flip side, there is also a growing percentage of younger adults working towards homeownership before 35. In fact, many of them are planning to buy their first home while they’re still in college. If you’re thinking of homeownership, you will need to be careful to avoid making common money mistakes in college. Planning ahead gives you ample time to prepare – if you know where to start.

Weigh The Pros And Cons Of Early Homeownership 

College graduates spend three to six months after graduation job hunting. They are also very occupied with setting up their lives, either renting an apartment or focusing on paying off student loan debt. Adding a monthly mortgage to that list can be tough, and should only be undertaken with proper planning. Renting after college also comes with less financial commitment, which can be a good thing. If you haven’t decided where to live or your career path, it may be difficult to stick to a long-term decision like buying a home.

There are also great perks to getting on the property ladder instead of renting. Depending on the location you choose, a mortgage can sometimes be cheaper than renting. If you’re in a good credit position after college and have little debt, it increases your chances of getting a mortgage in the long run. Lastly, if you purchase a home while you’re in college, you could be better off financially by saving on dorm costs. Renting out your home can be a stable income stream. Consider all of these pros and cons before making your decision to become a homeowner.

Narrow Down The Location Early

The earlier you know where you want to own a home, the better prepared you can be to do so. If you choose to, you can buy a home close to your college and skip the boarding costs on campus. Alternatively, you could rent it out to fellow students to help with paying your mortgage. Another reason to choose your location early is that it helps you track home prices and how much you need to save before applying for a mortgage.

Work On Reducing Your Debt 

Many young people are delaying homeownership because of student loans. In a survey by Clever, half of undergraduate students said they would have to put off buying a home to repay their student loans. Around 43 percent of Americans who attended college have some sort of student loan debt to their names, along with credit card or personal loan debts outstanding. When it comes to credit cards and students, starting earlier is always better. 

To make money, consider getting a part-time job while you’re in college, or launching a side business. There are many earning opportunities for college students, including tutoring or on-campus jobs. Also, learn to stick to a budget. If you are not familiar with budgeting and money management, a great place to start is inquiring if your college offers personal finance classes.

Bottom Line

There are many reasons why buying a house in college makes sense. Equally, there are many reasons against it. While real estate can be a great investment in the long term, it’s not universally applicable. The area you choose, your personal finance habits, and the additional expenses that come with homeownership should factor into your decisions. For some, it may be a great dream. For others, it may be too much too soon.

Adulting Student Life

How to Prioritize (Not) Paying Off Your Student Loans During the Moratorium

May 24, 2021

Student loans have been in the news recently as there has been buzz surrounding some sort of government relief soon. If you are a borrower looking for relief, you may be wondering what your best move is regarding repayment. How you act now could help you gear your finances up for any upcoming legislation on the matter.

What you are about to read will seem counterproductive – but stick with it till the end.

Hold Off On Repayment Until the Moratorium Expires

It may seem crazy not to take advantage of our current relief period to pay down some of those federal loans, but, instead, consider taking what money you would be paying, interest included, and putting it into a separate savings account.

This interest-free period means that the total amount you have to pay back won’t increase in the interim. By putting the money you would typically use for loans aside, you can create a pool of funds that will amount to a significant sum whenever the moratorium is allowed to expire.

The Political Future of Student Loans is Uncertain

President Biden has stated that he is open to $10,000 of blanket student loan forgiveness, eliminating some of the economic strain for many borrowers. However, there is reason to believe that the relief will be much broader.

The last major stimulus bill extended the moratorium until March 2022 and made any future loan relief tax-exempt. Though we are not quite sure what will happen, there is strong evidence that lawmakers are gearing up for some type of comprehensive action regarding student loans. We also know that student loan relief has some bipartisan support, though disagreements exist.

The Scenario You Want to Avoid:

Let’s say you owe $15,000, and pre-COVID, you were paying $300 a month, including interest. You decided to make monthly payments throughout the pandemic even though the interest was frozen and payments were paused.

Now we’re over a year into the pandemic, and the moratorium on student loan repayment is extended until at least March 2022. Let’s imagine that the progressive wing of the democratic party can convince Joe Biden to raise the initial offer of $10,000 to $25,000 of loan forgiveness.

You’ve essentially wasted all the money you’ve been paying back throughout the moratorium because your loans were forgiven.

If you had put that money aside, you’d have a significant amount of cash.

What If Nothing Gets Forgiven?

If there is no action taken to combat the student loan crisis, then we can assume payments, as usual, will resume in March 2022. If you had been saving your monthly payment amount, then in February of 2022, you can make a large lump sum payment that puts you back on track as if nothing happened.

Why Not Paying Right Now Makes Sense

Because we know something will likely happen regarding the student debt crisis, and because we don’t know exactly what that something will be, the best course of action is to save that money you would normally use for repayment.

You either have some (or all) of your loans forgiven and have a large sum of money available, or you resume payments like nothing ever happened. By not paying during the moratorium, it’s a win. However, by paying, there is a chance you’ll lose.

BIO: Veronica Baxter is a writer, blogger, and legal assistant operating out of the greater Philadelphia area. She writes for the Law Offices of David Offen, who is a successful bankruptcy lawyer in Philadelphia.

Other Student Life

8 Tips for Eco-Friendly Apartment Living

May 21, 2021

Many college students find living on or off campus as part of the college experience. Student-tenants benefit living away from their families, they gain a sense of independence, financial management strategies and an opportunity to pick a lifestyle of their own. Nowadays, many students have turned to the eco-friendly lifestyle and prefer environmentally-friendly products. This only proves that students have an environmental conscience and are aware of their social responsibility.

Here are a few ways to up your eco-friendly apartment life:

Conserve electricity

Every bit of it. You can start by knowing when to switch off appliances or using the self-timer feature of your television and air conditioner. Cut down electricity usage by switching off lights you do not need. There are many ways to practice conservation of energy. With this, you are reducing your carbon footprint and saving more money. For lights you use frequently, opt for LED bulbs. You will pay more money up front for them, but you’ll quickly see the savings in your electric bill over time.

Eco-friendly technology

When you have the opportunity to make a switch to more energy efficient products, do so. It is much like paying forward to the environment. Solar-powered lights, radio and calculators help you save money and reduce your energy output. You can also buy rechargeable batteries, which will save you money in the long run.

Don’t waste food

Not only is this waste of money but also a waste of landfill space. You can do composting if food waste is really unavoidable. Reduce your food waste by smart shopping. Buy less than enough perishables that you will be able to eat. Sometimes, less is more than enough. 

Recycle

As a student, there are many ways to practice recycling. Separate recyclable and non-recyclable materials. Reuse your shopping bags. You can also buy recycled paper and reuse by printing on both sides.

Try to fix stuff before ditching it

Throwing things away should be your last option! If you have a broken lamp, furniture or kitchenware, try to see if it can still be repaired. The internet can be your guide in practically fixing anything as there are tutorial videos for each household item, you just have to find it. Or, if it’s not broken but it’s not suiting you and your needs anymore, see if you can give it to a friend or selling it online. Remember, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure!

Skip the plastic

On your next trip to the grocery store, don’t forget to bring a canvas reusable bag with you. Avoid single-use plastic bags or buying bottled water. Opt for an insulated water bottle instead. At your favorite coffee shop, give the barista your reusable mug. There are so many ways to cut down plastic usage. Many cities and counties have banned plastic bags from stores altogether. And if you forget your reusable bags, you’ll be charged for a paper bag.

Visit your local sustainable retail store

This can be an eye-opener for you if you’ve never done this before. In a sustainable store, you are required to bring your own reusable canisters and canvas bags to put in your coffee, sugar, rice and other grocery items that are not in their usual plastic packaging. Items might cost a little more, but produce and products here are mostly non-GMO and organic so you can feel extra good about what you’re consuming.

Make earth-friendly decisions

The next time you are asked to jot down notes, use your laptop or your smartphone instead of paper. Try riding your bike or walking to classes instead of driving your car. Or if you must drive, try to carpool with a friend!

Student Life

How To Find The Best Discounts For College Students

May 17, 2021

Being a college student can be expensive. Beyond the costs of tuition itself, the expenses relating to housing, food, computers, books and miscellaneous supplies can really stack up – and that’s before you throw in any entertainment, travel and the odd coffee or late-night pizza. When it comes to attending college, there can be a whole host of hidden fees.

Whatever can be done to minimize these ‘out of pocket’ expenses, the better. That’s where knowing how to make the most of college student discounts comes in.

Every 10% saved here and there can really add up, as can utilizing offers for free services or products both on and off campus. But, finding these deals and discounts isn’t always easy, so here is a guide to help you.

Here are some of the best discounts that students can access to make their college years a little more affordable.

Tech deals

Tech giants Microsoft offer a variety of discounts and even freebies to students wishing to access their software. For example, for a start, any available Microsoft product can be purchased by a student at a discount of 10%.

Students are also eligible to use their Office 365 software suite for free. This suite includes the most popular applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel. This alone is a saving of $70 per year. Simply head to Microsoft Student Education and have your college email details handy.

Entertainment

There are so many opportunities to save money with college student discounts when you take the time to uncover what’s available. Most movie theaters offer discounts to college students, including National chains like AMC, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark. A college ID is as good as a ‘get in free’ pass for many music venues and museums. New York’s Lincoln Center and Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museums are just some examples of the cultural institutions that offer greatly discounted or free admissions. 

Major League Baseball also offers discounts to students in around a dozen cities, including the Chicago cubs, the Boston Red Sox, the Atlanta Braves and more.

Commerce king Amazon offers a truckload of products favorable to students, and a good deal of discounts, too. These include free books, video and music downloads, free one-day shipping, discounts of books, music and movies, and up to 80% off items like mobile phone cases, USB adapters, packs of ramen noodles, granola bars, and more.

Amazon also offers students a six month free trial and a further 50% of their membership when the trial has ended. Prime Student subscribers can also access Amazon Music Unlimited for just .99 cents a month – a massive saving from what is usually $9.99 per month. 

Transportation deals

There is certainly no shortage of great deals for students when it comes to both public and private transport.

Regarding rail, Amtrak offers a 10% discount on tickets for students who have signed up to their Student Advantage Discount Card. Rail Europe also offers a 23% discount to students taking a semester in Europe, although this does only refer to second class travel.

If you like the bus, the Student Advantage Discount Card gives you 15% off of any Greyhound tickets, for an annual fee of $30. Many college towns also offer low-cost annual or seasonal passes to take subway trains and buses across town. Contact your local town or city’s transport page or ask at your college about local train and bus deals.

Clothing, food, and more

Aimed exclusively towards college students, Unidays offers discounts to members on over 150 brand name products and services. These include companies like Apple, Samsung, American Eagle, Adidas, and more.

Simply by signing up, you automatically qualify for some amazing deals, like a free $20 Costco gift card, $20 off Apple products, and 20% of food deliveries ordered through GrubHub. This one-stop-shop allows you to select the deals you like best when you sign up – and there are plenty to choose from.

Final thoughts

Taking a moment to shop around and source great deals and discounts can save you a surprising amount of your precious student budget – leaving you feeling a little more relaxed and able to save or spend on things that have previously been a little out of reach.

Adulting Other

Easy Ways to Start Investing

May 14, 2021

As a college student, you have some unique challenges. There’s a lot on your plate between attending classes and homework, but also studying and balancing a social life, too. You should also devote time to your own wellness.

In this post though, we are not talking about physical or social wellness. Instead let’s focus on a more neglected wellness aspect – financial wellness.

Here are five easy ways to achieve that glow in your investments while being sensitive to a college student’s lifestyle.

Open an Interest Generating Savings Account or CD

Got some cash? Here are two easy, super safe ways to earn some interest:

  • High yield savings account from a bank that pays you a variable interest rate.
  • CD (certificate of deposit) guarantees you an interest rate if you leave your money in for a certain amount of time.

Both offer some return for your money, so they do count as investments. Be prepared to let this money sit in these accounts for a while. After a few years, you will start to see some real return, more than you would see if you let it sit in a standard bank. Work for your money, then let your money work for you!

Modern Brokerage Account

Back in the day, brokerage firms were stodgy and cumbersome to deal with. You had to physically call a broker or use a desktop computer. Not to mention the fees that came along with it.

That’s changed. The internet is not just for cat websites or eating challenges. In today’s investment landscape, there’s a plethora of free online brokers with slick interfaces that work on phones, tablets, or desktops.

Names like Robin Hood, Webull, or M1 Finance come to mind. These apps have truly introduced a large group of “retail” investors to the markets.

Index Funds

Now armed with a modern broker app, you can start diving into the more “traditional” investments like stocks and funds – the kind of stuff you hear about on CNBC (but never paid attentioned to).

For a busy student, simple is best. And the simplest is to buy an index fund, a fund that holds ALL the stocks in a given market. This is less volatile since you are well diversified and exposed to many stocks. Over the long term, America’s stock market only goes up.

Basically, if you are not interested in individual stocks or sectors of the market, just investing in the whole market is the way to go. It’s generally a safer way to get your start in investing. But again, this won’t make you a lot of money quickly, unlike how you may be able to make a quicker profit through riskier, more volatile trades.

Retirement Account

“Retirement accounts” once made my eyes roll. I know the last thing on your mind is 40 years from now.

But hear me out. Basically, IRA’s and Roth IRA’s are just accounts or vehicles that your investments live in. You contribute to these accounts, then decide what funds or stocks to buy from there.

With a Roth, you contribute money you’ve already paid taxes on, and when you withdraw, it’s tax free! With an IRA, you contribute pre-tax dollars, then pay taxes on it when you withdraw.

For a busy college student, there are two things to set up. First is an automatic monthly or quarterly withdrawal from your checking or savings into one of these. Second is to reinvest dividends from that fund back into the fund. Something to look forward to in the future is to look for employers who match employee 401K contributions. That’s something you’ll definitely want to take advantage of — it’s basically free money.

That way, time and compound interest helps grow your account, hassle-free. Even contributions of a couple hundred dollars a month, over 30 years, end up massive!

In Closing

When I started “adulting,” my knowledge of financial products was minimal. I freely admit I did not know the difference between a checking and savings account, much less investing.

Now with modern apps, investing is easier and more accessible. Get started with a few of the top tips above!

Adulting Student Life

Tips to Save Time in College

April 20, 2021

Going to college is all about learning new things and expanding our horizons toward new opportunities. Many college students falter in the early semesters because they don’t have a plan of action to help them transition from a child’s world to a grown-up world. You can waste a lot of time in college if you don’t approach it with the right frame of mind. And wasting time in college generally equals wasting money.

Learn How to Send Email

One of the most grown-up things you can learn in college is how to send an email. You may have gotten through high school sending emoji-filled texts, but that’s not going to fly when you get into your 20s. If you’re interested in getting internships or applying for work-study programs, you need to be able to craft an email that makes you sound intelligent. In other words, check your spelling, watch your format and use capital letters found in standard English. Take a tip from a successfully written sales email and learn how to stick to the point and send emails at a time when they’re likely to be noticed, i.e., not at 2 AM. If you are sending emails in the late night hours, Gmail and other email platforms typically have a feature to schedule them for later.

Keep Up With Paperwork

Another big time-waster is hunting for lost paperwork. Create a clearly labeled filing system to keep track of your most important papers. This can include course syllabi, university programs you’re interested in, car maintenance and health care records and membership cards. Papers that get lost most often are the ones that you don’t need all the time. It costs you time to have to hunt through piles of paperwork, and it will sometimes cost you money to replace what you’ve lost. The sooner you get organized, the quicker you can find what you need and move on to another activity. 

Create a Routine

Every semester in college will probably look different from the one before it. The college years are a great time to learn about flexibility. However, within each semester, it’s important to create a routine, even if it changes every couple of months. Add your classes to a calendar and then start looking for chunks of time to mark off for studying and whatever else you need to do such as working or exercising. If you don’t have it written into your calendar, you are more likely to view it as free time. Too much free time can lead to too little study time. Poor grades might mean you have to retake a class. In other words, by wasting time, you’ve wasted money. To make sure that doesn’t happen, check out Truliant’s College Savings Calculator that is specific to helping college students save money.

Get Help

If you’re struggling with a particular class or concept in college, don’t spend too much time trying to figure it out on your own. By the time you understand, it may be too late to save your grade. It’s far better to seek help early either with a private tutor or through your university. If it’s early in the term or semester, you can probably drop the class without penalty or losing money, to take it at a later time or another class altogether. Many campuses offer writing centers or low-cost math and science tutors. Don’t be shy or too prideful to ask for help! Use what’s available to give yourself an advantage before you have to play catch-up.

There is much to learn when you go to college. There is plenty of content knowledge you will need for your post-graduation job, but there are also basic time-management skills that will be invaluable to know for your future. 

BIO: Brett Clawson has a degree in Business Management and has started a couple of small businesses. When he’s not focusing his time on those, he spends time with his wife and two sons. His oldest son has entered the wonderful realm of college, and he now enjoys sharing tips that he and his son have found essential for college life.

Adulting Student Life Transition

6 Common Money Mistakes New College Grads Make

March 25, 2021

College graduation is a time of celebration for students and a jumping-off point for the next chapter of life. It’s a time to make important decisions, whether you’re continuing your education with a higher degree, starting your career, or taking a moment to regroup.

But it’s not the time for making poor financial choices. Here are a few common money mistakes recent grads make and how to avoid them.

1. Thinking retirement is too far off to start saving

Retirement may be years away, but it’s better to start saving for retirement as early as possible. The earlier you start saving, the more time your investments have to grow. As you add money to your retirement fund, interest also starts to accrue. Over time, you start earning interest on the interest you’ve earned. This is called compound interest, and it’s a powerful savings tool. The earlier you start saving and earning compound interest, the better.

2. Missing student loan payments

Right after graduation is the time to focus on your financial future, which includes keeping up with student loan payments. This will help ensure you continue to build a positive credit history and possibly improve your credit score. A positive payment history and healthy credit score could open up more money-saving financial opportunities down the road, such as lower interest rates on an auto or home loan.

3. Overspending that new paycheck

If you have a new job in your chosen career field, you could be making more money than ever. But before you go spending your paycheck on the luxury items you’ve always wanted, consider the impact these purchases will have on your budget.

Necessary expenses — like rent, utilities, and groceries — should come first. Less obvious but important expenses like building an emergency fund or having enough for auto insurance coverage should also be considered before splurging on “wants” versus “needs.”

4. Banking where your parents do

The bank your parents use (and now you probably use) is likely a suitable location for storing money in FDIC-insured accounts. It’s not a bad thing to have access to brick-and-mortar locations, but most traditional bank accounts can’t compete with the benefits of online banking.

Making the switch to an online bank could help you earn more interest, avoid unnecessary fees, and still have FDIC insurance. In addition, your current bank might not offer other perks that come with the best checking accounts, like getting your paycheck early or having easy access to your money through a mobile app.

5. Misusing credit cards

Credit cards can be a helpful tool for building credit and having cash flow when you need it, but using them irresponsibly can offset their benefits.

Keep in mind that building your credit history and improving your credit score means following some accepted best practices. This typically includes making your payments on time, using less than 30% of your available credit line, keeping your oldest credit accounts open, having different types of credit accounts (for example a credit card and an auto loan), and not opening too many credit cards too quickly in a row.

6. Skipping renters insurance

Whether you’re back studying on campus or off to live on your own, renters insurance can offer you essential financial protection. This type of insurance can include coverage for clothing, laptops, bicycles, and other belongings in case of unexpected events like vandalism, theft, or fire.

If you keep these six tips in mind, you could avoid some of the common money mistakes that recent college grads make. This will help you take proactive steps to secure your financial future.

BIO: FinanceBuzz’sVP of Content, Tracy Odell, also held the same position at Student Loan Hero and has expertise in this subject, as well as all things related to college finances.

Adulting Student Life

Making Green Decisions in Your College Apartment

February 8, 2021

College can be a stressful period of life that leaves you little extra time to work with. Things like living sustainably and making eco-friendly choices can often be pushed to the backburner as you attempt to keep up with your assignments and attend classes on time.

On top of that, renting a dorm or apartment can make it feel like you have little-to-no say on how your living situation impacts the environment.

Nevertheless, there are still many small, yet powerful ways that you can make green decisions while you’re living in a college apartment.

Consider the Temperature

The easiest way that you can do your part in the fight for a cleaner planet is by adjusting your thermostat. If it’s hot outside, turn up the temp by a few degrees. If you’re experiencing wintry weather, bring the thermostat down a few degrees. If the weather is nice, open the windows up and turn the HVAC system off entirely.

This won’t just reduce the amount of pollution you’re putting into the air, it can also lower your utility bill. This can be a great first step in helping you save money, address debt, and increase your financial independence.

Embrace Thriftiness

Thriftiness is another way to better the Earth and bolster your finances at the same time. By shopping for second-hand clothing, you avoid much of the dramatic wastefulness that comes with fast fashion. You can also get gently-used furniture, sports equipment, and even electronics.

By trying to reuse rather than buy new, you will naturally reduce the quantity of garbage that you’re creating. It is also a great way to save some cash as you tighten your belt and try to get to graduation day.

Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Even if you’re renting, it’s still up to you to clean your space. Fortunately, you can even turn the act of mopping a floor or scrubbing a toilet into an eco-friendly activity by using green cleaning products.

This can reduce the number of chemicals that you’re using, protecting both the Earth and your own health in the process.

Cook for Yourself

This one can require a little more time, but if you plan things out it really doesn’t have to impact your schedule much. By purchasing food in bulk and then cooking it yourself, you can dramatically reduce the amount of packaging that you’re throwing away.

You can even take things one step further by using reusable shopping bags each time you head to the grocery store.

Bike to Class

Finally, if you live on or near campus, consider ditching your car. Instead, get a bike or walk. By opting for a fuel-free mode of transportation you can avoid putting unnecessary carbon emissions into the air.

The extra exercise is also a great way to stay fit, especially when you’re spending so much of your time sitting behind a desk.

Going Green in College

You don’t have to be the king of your own castle to make a difference. On the contrary, there are countless smaller steps you can take to do your part in the battle to protect our planet, even when you’re renting on a college campus.

So put down your textbooks for a minute and take a moment to consider where and how you can put some extra effort into creating a brighter future.

BIO: Sam Bowman has a passion for learning. As a seasoned professional writer, he specializes in topics about people, education, tech and how they merge. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.