Archive for June, 2007
For me, college is not only a time of studying, meeting new people, and having new life experiences; it is also a time for being broke, spending outrageous amounts of money on tuition and books, and sometimes being forced to live paycheck to paycheck. I am always looking for new ways to save cash, so I’ve come up with 7 surefire ways to make sure you have some extra jingle in your pocket.
1. Buy used textbooks. If you are silly enough to go to the university bookstore and buy brand new textbooks, I feel bad for you. Too many freshman listen to what their college tells them and think that there’s only one or two places on campus to get the books they need. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Get used books however you can. Look at eBay and Amazon.com (the used section). Research beforehand what books you’ll need for the class before you get the syllabus. Then you can order them early and get them in time for the first assignments. Also, if you have any friends who took the class last semester or quarter, offer to buy their book. Firstly, they’ll get more money; because the bookstores are always incredibly cheap when it comes to buying back books, and you’ll save money because bookstores sell used books for obscene prices. Depending on how hard you work at it, you can save $100-$200 on used books alone.
2. Eat cheaply. This is easier said than done, I know. However, I never cease to be amazed at the amount of college kids ordering pizza after pizza every night, and always going out to bars and just wasting tons of money. Yes, I know cafeteria food at college is terrible, but if you have a meal plan, use it! Eating out is just wasting money. If you can’t stand the cafeteria food, or you don’t have any sort of campus meal plan, than consider cheaper alternatives. It’s hard to cook, but I know that many Dorms on many college campuses have kitchens for students. Take advantage of this. I know it’s terrible for you, but eat Ramen Noodles if you have to. There are actually some pretty good ramen noodle recipes available. It may not be very healthy, but at least it’s significantly cheaper than going out to a restaurant.
3. Use public transportation (if you commute to school). I know commuter students who drive into school every day. I don’t even want to think about how much gas this is costing them. At my school, all students pay a mandatory $9.00 bus fee at the beginning of each quarter and can then ride the public buses for free that quarter. Even if your school doesn’t have a program like that, utilize public transportation anyway, because it’s still cheaper! Not to mention, think about the parking pass situation. How many students have to shell out a significant amount of money just to park somewhere on campus that is semi-close (meaning in the same zip code) as the building where their class is? Avoid expensive parking passes and potential tickets, and avoid burning up all your cash in gas, take a bus, ride a bike, walk, car pool, do whatever you can to change your transportation habits and I’m positive you’ll say a lot of cash.
4. Pay off credit cards in full, on time. Credit card companies charge outrageous interests on balances, and in late fees. Be smart and don’t over use that credit. The credit card companies want you to be in debt, so they will offer you huge credit lines. Don’t ever spend more than you can afford to pay off. If you are sending in or paying your statement online, be sure to do it on time, because the late fees are obscene. If you stay on top of credit card expenses, you will end up with a significant amount of extra cash each month. Unless your a mobster who can “talk” out of debts, you should pay those credit cards. However, if you’re in a pinch, there may be ways to talk down those payments.
5. Take advantage of student discounts. My school offers students a variety of discounts on movies, plays, sporting events, and more. Just for being a student, you can get certain things more cheaply. I am amazed that more people don’t take advantage of the discounts offered. The university is essentially throwing savings right at our feet, and many people don’t use it. If your college has any sorts of discounts, use them. There’s no reason not to, and it will save you money, which can be helpful in the long run.
6. Stop buying CDs and DVDs. Now, downloading copyrighted material is illegal. I’d never suggest it. However, what I will say, is that if someone were to use sites such as isohunt, demonoid, torrentspy, and more in order to obtain CDs and movies, they would probably save a significant amount of cash. Also, many college networks allow for the sharing of music on iTunes, but you cannot download the song, you can only listen. If you really wanted that new song, then you could download OurTunes or MyTunes (for Mac and PC respectively). However, that would be illegal, so I wouldn’t recommend it. The RIAA will arrest 5-year-olds, so a 20-year-old would be fantastic for them. That being said, if you did utilize those sites to get games, movies, and music, you would save money by not actually buying them, but once again, it’s illegal so don’t do it.
7. Buy less beer, or cheaper beer, and don’t buy much liquor. Why is the cash always gone? For those college students who are lushes that like to go out every weekend, and always keep that fridge stocked with beer and liquor, I have one thing to say, SLOW DOWN. I wish someone would conduct a study on how much college students spend on alcohol yearly, I bet Budweiser has done one. In any case, think about curtailing your spending on beer. Even though it’s very terrible, buy cheaper beer like Natural Light, Keystone, and Bush if you can’t live without beer on a Friday. Better yet, only buy liquor on special occasions. One of my buddies would always keep his place stocked with Goldschlager, Hypnotic, Absolut, Everclear, and a bunch of other stuff that he didn’t need. The last idea is to just spend a few weeks or weekends out of the month not drinking at all. I know this may seem like a daunting task for some, but I’m sure you can have plenty of fun without it. I’m sure that your G.P.A. and wallet will thank you. Save your money whenever you can. If you have to, split costs among friends and buy cheaper stuff. Trust me on this, you’ll have a lot of extra cash for doing other, more productive things.
So there you have it, some financial tips to make sure you have extra cash at the end of each month. If that’s not enough for you, consider 180 tips to turn your life around. The best way to save money is to not buy things (I know, a startling realization). If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. This applies to everything, CDs, movies, luxury food, and even clothes. Hopefully you take my advice, and don’t think I’m a control freak because I love saving money in every way possible.
June 22 2007 | Financial Advice | No Comments »
If you talk to anyone about college, you’ll probably hear some credit horror stories. If you ask your elders, they’ll probably say that credit is insanely important. If you talk to the credit card companies, they’ll probably tell you to get as many credit cards as possible. However, credit cards can be a good thing if used properly. Here are some things to think about when selecting a credit card in college.
Yes, you should get a credit card. I know too many people who are terrified to get a credit card in college. While many college students do get into a scary amount of debt, there’s no reason to be afraid of credit. Just HAVING a credit card doesn’t make you go out and buy everything in the world, thereby throwing yourself into an ever-deepening pit of financial chaos. Too many people blame all their financial woes on credit cards when they probably shouldn’t. Also, getting a credit card and making the payments is a fantastic way to increase your credit score. With my credit card, I generally use it for small purchases, and pay it off in full every month. The bottom line is that if used responsibly, credit cards can be quite helpful. Just be sure to avoid those pesky late fees.
When getting the first credit card, outrageous percentages are unavoidable. Here’s another thing, credit card companies LOVE offering you more credit. It’s really quite amazing how when I was paying my balance off in full every month, very few companies were bothering me. The second I just started making minimum payments (and therefore carrying debt), I started getting tons of credit card offers. Companies want me to get a new credit card and pay off the old one. In a perfect world, everyone wouldn’t be attempting to take all your money. Alas, we do not live in a perfect world. In any case, I’ve found that there’s little difference in percentages for starting credit cards. Do your research, and find credit lines, and APRs that work for you.
Take advantage of rewards. I am a big fan of reward credit cards. There are all sorts of rewards available out there. Commuting students should consider a credit card that offers gas rewards. Frequent flier mile rewards are also fantastic (especially if you go to college far away and have to finance the trip home by yourself). I use the Citi mtvU Platinum Select Visa Card, which offers ThankYou® reward points that can be used on many different items including frequent flier miles, gas cards, gift cards, electronics, and more. Currently, I almost have enough to get a digital camera. Credit cards also offer rewards in the form of bill payments and student loan credit. Read into what the credit card company offers before you make your final decision.
Start with one credit card, and stick with one. Too many people in college get multiple credit cards. My sister signed up for 10 credit cards in college just to get the special offers, and then canceled them promptly after. This destroyed her credit. Start slow, with only one credit card. If you feel that you need another, then consult your finances before making a decision. I find it’s best to ignore all that junk mail you get once you have the first credit card. After you establish your credit, you can think about getting a lower interest credit card. Until then, be smart and stick with one.
All and all, you shouldn’t be too scared of credit cards. You may consider it a bad thing, but I find my credit card to be extremely useful. If you manage it, make payments on time, and don’t let your spending get out of control, you’ll probably have a good credit building experience. If you are hitting a rough patch, why not try setting some financial goals? Selecting your first credit card can seem like a daunting task, but if you do your research, I’m sure you’ll end up fine and the debt monster won’t eat you up. If you’re still unsure, I’d suggest seeing where you stand credit-wise. Credit reports can be obtained once every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com, which follows the U.S. Governments mandate of a free credit report for persons once a year. Whatever you do, don’t go to freecreditreport.com, because it’s a scam. I am a firm believer that one of the fastest ways to build credit is to have a credit card and use it responsibly.
June 20 2007 | Credit Cards | No Comments »
I received an interesting e-mail yesterday from a reader asking about what they should major in. The advice I gave was pretty simple. I suggested considering the options, and talking with an academic advisor. However, choosing a major is a big step, and one should consider financial implications when deciding what you are going to be educated in. Just be sure you don’t regret anything or miss out on classes and majors you wish you’d considered.
Do always think of future education. Too many people select majors as undergrads and then realize that they can’t actually get a job out of undergrad. When you select a major in Art History (for example, no offense to Art History majors) you should consider the fact that you may have to go to graduate school. My cousin graduated from a liberal arts college with a degree in U.S. History. He then realized that he couldn’t really be hired anywhere with that degree alone. He ended up working at Applebee’s for a while in order to finance his graduate school tuition. Had he thought ahead, he may have been more prepared to go to grad school. My girlfriend goes to Kenyon College, which is a great school, but it comes with a hefty price tag. She’s considering her options and factoring in the fact that she may have to go to grad school. As much as it would be great to be able to just get a great job out of undergrad, it’s not always the case. Financially, when you take student loans out, make sure you are thinking about where you’ll be 8 years down the road.
Do think about what interests you. Don’t simply choose a major because you think you’ll be able to get a job straight out of undergrad. While an English major may have to go to grad school to become a teacher or Law School, they at least did something they enjoyed in undergrad. College is supposed to be one of the greatest life experiences, so taking classes you hate, or being in a major just because your parents like it is not sensible at all. At first, I was really unsure about being a Business Major. It seemed like the sensible thing to do, but I found some of the general business classes to be very boring and pointless. If you like accounting, then that’s great. I personally hated it and it almost made me quit business. That being said, I stuck through the class, and now I’m taking marketing classes that fascinate me and I find very enjoyable. Always be prepared to take the good with the bad and don’t give up on any major simply because there’s one class you hate.
Do talk to people and ask questions before you dive into a major. It’s so basic, but so few people do it. Don’t just get one opinion. Ask your academic advisor about the major, the requirements, and potential job opportunities. Many schools also offer career advisors. Take advantage of the resources! If you know anyone who graduated with the degree you’re going for, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you simply take your parents’ word for it, you’re limiting yourself. Talk to other family members. Almost everyone has an opinion (trust me, my grandfather used to attempt to plan my life out in college); so don’t hesitate to find out what it is.
Do your research, and see what the job market outlook is like. If it looks like there’s going to be a labor surplus, and the average salary for someone with your degree or job is going down, you might want to reconsider. Once again, think about those college loans you may have. If you have taken out $100,000 to finance your education, you better get a job that can help you pay off the loan and live comfortably. There’s just no substitute for solid research.
Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Changing majors too many times is a bad thing, yes. However, if you change your major once (or even twice), that’s perfectly fine. In fact, many college students today end up changing their major at least once. If you hate everything about what you’re doing, then try something else. Remember, while making money and getting a good job is the ultimate goal of college, it’s also a time to learn, grow, and have fun. You can’t have fun if you’re a Chemistry major who hates science. If you take classes you’re interested in, your grades will improve, and you’ll be a much happier person.
Don’t just major in anything. This is so common among college students today, that it’s almost scary. Someone will go into college and take a bunch of random classes. They then will get bored of school, and just tell their advisor, “I’ve taken these classes, what kind of degree can I get?” College is supposed to be enjoyable, and if you are just taking classes for no reason and just trying to get out of college, you aren’t getting the full benefit. Remember my earlier post about how much classes cost you money. You are certainly wasting cash if you are just taking random classes in a random major. I am also willing to bet that you’ll end up getting a job you dislike, and then you’ll be one unhappy camper.
Bottom line: do your research, ask questions, look at what interests you, consider finances and the future, and have fun. If you do all that, I’m sure you’ll have a major you can be proud of. Of course you don’t have to just take my word for it, ask questions! Just make sure you don’t end up an angry undergrad.
June 18 2007 | College Advice and Financial Advice and Majors | No Comments »
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