An Unconventional Guide to Paying for College

How to Travel Abroad for Cheap as a Student

Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Getting Started | 0 comments

asdasdOne of the biggest myths pertaining to travel is that it has to be expensive. The key to traveling on a budget as a student is to know what to spend your money on and what you should be not spending your money on. If you master this, you will be able to see double the locations in your travels. Here are my tips for how to travel abroad as a low-budget student:

  • The Hostel vs. the Hostal: For those going to the Spanish and Portuguese speaking world and do not necessarily want a low budget hostel, consider a hostal. Many non-Spanish speakers do not realize that a hostel and a hostal are not the same thing. A hostal in Spanish refers to a family owned bed and breakfast that is safe and economically. Additionally, these will give you more interaction with the locals. For example, in Madrid, one can get a Hostal for 25 Euros per night with a private room and bath that is one block from the Plaza Mayor. This is a hidden way to have the low-budget travel experience without having to stay in a room with six bunk beds.

 

  • Consider the Budget Airlines: If you are going to Europe or Southeast Asia, do not be afraid to go on the budget airlines. The key to be careful is with your luggage. Ideally, only bring a backpack and then you will not have to pay to check your luggage. Also, always print a physical copy of your boarding pass in order to avoid the fee by the airline. If you use these sometimes you can get a $1 ticket from Marseille to London or a $200 flight from Kuala Lumpur to Paris. Yes, these deals do exist and with a little creativity and intelligence, you will surely find them.

 

  • Hop-On-Hop Off Bus: These busses are in most cities that range from Europe to African cities. Where they are beneficial to a young traveler on a budget is that they eliminate transportation costs during the day that can save a great deal of money. For example, in Berlin or Cape Town, the sites are very spread out. What is best is to buy the unlimited one day or two-day pass for a set price and use the bus to get to the main sights. Usually, the bus will be positioned to hit the major points of the city and will allow you to get the lay of the land before going off on your own.

 

  • Look For the Menu of the Day: In many European countries they have lunch specials that include an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and a soda or glass of wine. Usually, you can find these specials for 10 EUR. This allows you to eat better, try the local food, and even wine taste in the process. Thus, avoid the fast food and get out there and eat good food for an affordable price.

What is important to remember as a student is that there is a cheap way to travel that is very different from traveling with your family. If you use this to your advantage, then you will absolutely be able to see a great deal of the world at a young age and add a great deal of depth to your life experiences.

Read More

Gamble Smarter, College Boy!

Posted by on May 8, 2016 in Getting Started | 0 comments

Gambling is one of the worst thing you could do for your personal finances as a whole. Nonetheless of you are a student who is struggling financially, or a parent that has to bear the heavy costs of college enrollment. In fact, it is scientifically proven that the “problem gambling” group (people who gamble excessively to a point it has a tremendous financial and mental costs) mainly consists of poor individuals, so the fact you have little money in your possession doesn’t make you any less prone to become an addict.

The above is my “don’t gamble, kids!” disclaimer. I am by no means encouraging anyone to wager their money through gambling (ESPECIALLY if its against the law where they live).

satanofcards

After we have established the fact that gambling can be the root of all evils, we have to withstand the fact gambling is a highly popular recreational activity, and especially for college students who are able to set foot inside a casino for the first time in their life. Although they can develop issues as a result of uncontrolled gambling, it’s no less of a risk than cigarette or drug consumption which incredibly trendy at this age.

Below are 7 tips that will help you control your gambling spending, decrease associated fees, and improve your chances of actually winning something back.

1. Use a set budget

Easier said than done, I know, but you need to have a stringent budget for gambling purposes, else even a one wild night can cost you dearly. The budget should be a number that you would make you feel comfortable to lose in one evening, if you occasionally gamble (once every few weeks or more seldom than that). If your frequency is higher than that, you should decide on a weekly or a monthly budget, but that’s far more difficult to track.

The best tip I have for you is to use cash when you go to a brick-and-mortar casino, without a debit or a credit card. This way, you won’t be exceeding your limits even if you really, really, want to.

2. Spend time playing in demo mode

If it’s boredom that drives you into gambling, and you need endlessly click to slot’s re-bet button, why won’t you play online on demo mode without risking any money? Although it turns things from gambling to gaming, some people can get to similar levels of enjoyment from this activity without putting any money at risk.

3. Online casinos offers lower stakes

Playing online casino games for real money can be quite destructive because you cannot set limits in the same way you can when going to a land-based casino. It’s also a non-social activity, unlike going out to a casino with your mates, which has higher risks of becoming addictive (or so I believe, found no evidence to that). On the other hand, online casinos offer a lot more variety. Variety of games, variety of promotions, variety of competitions, and also variety of stakes. While the average US casino had a $1-5 minimum per hand in blackjack, online casino enable lowballers to wager as little as $2c per hand.

4. Avoid credit and payment fees on deposit

If you are going to a brick and mortar casino, do not use credit card to make payments for your chips as it will incur additional costs in comparison to cash/debit. If you are going to gamble abroad, do not exchange your money in the casino, as the exchange rates will be drastically worse to a standard exchange bureau.  If you are playing online, check the casino’s specific fees for usage of different payment methods, and consider using eWallets that sometimes have unique promotions of if you use them to deposit (eWallets you can use for gambling: Paypal, Neteller, iDebit, Siru and a bunchload more).

5. Utilize bonuses and loyalty club memberships

Online and landbased casinos will go above and beyond to preserve you as a customer. This is exactly why casino membership cards are so great – they accumulate bonus points that you can use in the bar, restaurant or on the felt! The same applies to online casinos. The more you play, the more of your bonus you redeem. The more you deposit, the more VIP points you accumulate. This is free money that you should use, just be sure to read the fine print and understand online casino bonuses can also be a hassle because they limit your withdrawal if you have won any money (until you have fully redeemed the bonus).

6. Focus on low-house-advantage games

If you are indifferent towards the gaming experience in a casino and just enjoy the thrill of gambling on money, why won’t you try games that you have better chances of winning at? Of course that in the long run, you will end up losing money if you play casino games*, but if you play a game like blackjack or baccarat, you are likely to consume your funds at a much more sufficient pace than with slots.

* If you specialize in games like Texas Hold’em poker you might end up even winning! This is not a casino game but rather a skill game with 10-20% lifetime winners (who made more money than spent). Same thing applies to sports-betting – if you are an expert punter using a sophisticated strategy, you might win in the long term.

7. Don’t play to win

If you want to have a night evening out (or in your dorms) playing casino games, do it for the sake of entertainment without telling yourself you can win, because you can’t. It’s not a question of luck, but rather simple statistics. With every single die roll, statistics balance out. If you are playing blackjack that has an advantage of about 0.5% against optimal strategy (assuming you do use it), that means that roughly 0.5% of the total turnover will be won by the casino. So if you bet $10 a million times, you should be  about $50,000. That all there is to it, maths. You can win on a single night, or a week, or a month or even a year, but you won’t be winning in the long term.

 

Hope this was helpful to you young gamblers. Just note that in the USA online gambling is not only prohibited but also quite impossible. Online casinos that accept Americans aren’t the ones you want to be wagering your money in. For concluding words, I will refrain from using the banal “good luck” wish, and just advise you to gamble responsibility.

 

 

Read More

What are the Pros and Cons of Student Credit Cards?

Posted by on Jan 13, 2016 in Getting Started | 0 comments

When children start university, their parents might have bought them a bar fridge, a laptop, and probably some new clothes as well. Many of these freshmen come to university armed with their very first credit card too, and although there are several risks involved with giving a young adult the responsibility of handling their own credit card, there are some advantages too. So, what are the pros and cons of student credit cards?

There are numerous benefits to taking out a credit card as a student, such as:

  • Convenience in case of emergencies
  • It’s a safer way to pay for things instead of carrying around cash
  • More secure online shopping
  • Helps to develop money-management skills
  • Helps to start building a good credit history for later in life, when loans will be needed for things like cars and homes

One plus for parents, is that if they’ve co-signed on the card, they should get a statement at the end of every month too, so they will be able to monitor their child’s spending habits during the month. This will allow them an opportunity to see if their money is being spent irresponsibly, and to help offer guidance through their children’s first few years of financial independence.

The Downsides

Of course, with all forms of lending there is a downside as well. One of the biggest downsides of students having their own card is that the majority of young people graduate with a large student loan debt. This already heavy burden is increased significantly when there is also money owing on a credit card.

These sizable debts can also prevent the student from learning to save while they’re still at school, which can have an impact on their financial situation for years to come. Bills that aren’t paid on time can cause a lot of damage to a student’s credit score, and the same applies too, to parents who have co-signed for the card.

Some credit cards have high annual fees and interest rates, so it’s important to compare online credit cards to make sure you get a good deal. Taking the time to find a good offer could save you a significant amount of money down the line.

How Parents Can Help

Parents give their children credit cards when they start university, mainly for the convenience that the card provides. However, students need to be taught how to use their cards responsibly, to avoid overspending and building up unwanted debt. There are several things parents can do to help their children improve their money management skills.

Set down the rules and regulations and stick to them. By letting them know what the card should be used for you can establish the ground rules. If the rules are broken, the card can easily be taken away.

Limit the card’s usage to only school expenses such as books and so forth, rather than entertainment, and let your child know too, that you expect them to use it to pay monthly bills regularly.

Talk to your child about using the card wisely to avoid high interest rates by paying off the balance in full each month. Make them aware of identity theft and the things to be aware of when using the card online and in stores.

Students must understand how important it is to only use the card to charge for amounts that they can afford to pay, and that the key to responsible credit management is to keep their charges to at least 30% lower than their credit limit.

Students must learn that using their credit card wisely while they’re still in school will help build strong credit record. This will open many doors for them in the future, such as when they need to borrow money to buy their first house or car, making their financial future much more straightforward.

Read More

The Costs of a College Education

Posted by on Oct 19, 2015 in Getting Started | 0 comments

College education is not cheap; the cost seems to increase each year and the level of debt as recorded by student loan statistics confirm this. The $1 trillion involved is truly staggering. That of course excludes details of the money lent to students by their parents and other revenue raised to allow students to complete their education as a prelude to career. The chances of a successful career are perceived to increase for graduates but they mostly face repaying their debts as their pay checks begin to come in.

It is essential that a student and his or her parents do some research to obtain the money required unless it has already been safely saved anticipating the future needs. That can be difficult and the recession certainly destroyed many family’s savings.

Alternative Loans Specific to Education

The Federal Stafford Loan is competitive. Those who qualify get subsidized; the interest is paid by the Government for the time the student is still at college. Unsubsidized loans are available to all and interest deferred. The loan rate is capped at 8.25% but is variable. The amount that can be borrowed varies from student to student but is never more than $31,000 in total. Parent PLUS Loans and Perkins Loans are two other avenues of finance while private loans generally require a co-signatory. The latter are particularly aimed at needy students and their numbers have also increased since the recession struck a few years ago.

Other Revenue Sources

Parents can re-mortgage their homes as another alternative though the problems that the real estate market experienced during the recession has meant that the level of equity that many families owned was reduced and is just recovering. There is sometimes a cash element to an insurance policy or the chance of withdrawing a sum from the 401K Retirement Fund though the latter has an impact on retirement provisions and that can be a dangerous move.

That should be a last resort. Everyone needs to make proper provision for retirement and keep making contributions. That is a discipline that should lead to a comfortable retirement and that is less likely to happen if people draw money back out for other use.

Pay Off Expensive Debt

If you have a child in his or her mid-teens who is almost certain to continue on to college before starting to work then you should be making the suitable preparations to ensure their time can be funded. If recent years have been difficult because of the recession then it may be a challenge. What is certain is that if you are to help in any significant way then you need to look at your financial position and make some appropriate decisions. Certainly you need to get rid of any expensive debt you may currently funding. A common example is a credit card balance that incurs a high rate of interest each month. You can pay such amounts off with a personal loan at a much lower rate of interest if you have a regular income and appear capable of making the repayment instalments throughout the agreed term of the loan.

A Good Budget

It highlights the absolute need for everyone to have a budget and the discipline to follow it. It must show you are ‘balancing the books’ to start with mindful that if there are imminent education costs to add there may be the necessity to make economies elsewhere. The personal loan is one part of that. Certainly other household expenditure may be reduced by seeking more competitive utility suppliers, insurance premiums and telephone network costs.

The budding student can perhaps contribute as well? There are part-time jobs available now that the economy is improving. Those parents who have instilled the value of money into their children at an early age may well find that as teenagers they are more than willing to do a little work and they may have saved money themselves in addition.

There is certainly great merit in continuing education and with a little financial prudence it should be affordable. The benefits should come in the future with the prospects of a higher paid job as a result of graduating before going into the jobs market.

Read More

Book Review: Share or Die – Voices of the Get Lost Generation

Posted by on May 22, 2013 in Getting Started, How to Pay College Tuition | 0 comments

I was recently given a copy of the anthology – Share or Die – Voice of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis. The book is a collection of stories, mostly written by young adults, about what it is like to grow up in Generation Y (Born after 1985) and try to find employment post-graduation.

I don’t normally review books here at Money for College Project, but this book is an exceptionally interesting read. Many of our readers are in Generation Y, or are just outside of it and can find very relevant lessons in this book. If you are interested, you can pick up up here: Share or Die: Voice of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis

Never a Better Time to Become and Entrepreneur

I have said this many times before: During college, or the period right after graduation, is the best time to start a business. Your expenses and responsibilities are as low as they will likely ever ben in your life, and a business started in your early twenties can set the tone for the rest of your life/career.

Gen Y is graduating into a very unique economic climate. The world is trying to upright itself after a global economic recession and traditional jobs markets are still faltering. The barriers of entry to starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur are lower than they have ever been.

The Internet has brought the world together, and therefore you are able to connect with like minded people from around the world to share ideas, brainstorm, and plan. You can reach targeted customers quickly and efficiently through online advertising and social media. You can sell digital products online or become an affiliate for someone else’s products. Start-up companies are even partnering with large corporations to head their research and development wings. Did you catch that? Large corporations are outsourcing the future of their business to the sharp minds of Gen Y!

It is our time!

Pack Up and Travel the World

Another main point in many of the stories shared in this book is the call to to pack-up your things and travel while you can. There is a lot than can be learned from travel, and from personal experience, I can attest that many important life lessons and perspectives can be gained by getting outside of your comfort zone. In particular, I learned a great deal about how the U.S. is viewed in other parts of the world.

I think it is very important to understand that there is value, beauty, and power in the world outside the shores of the U.S. It is very easy to get an superior imperialist attitude living here, and this perspective will aid you in your career moving forward. it may also open up opportunities to connect with new and exciting people and places. It might even turn into a job if you meet the right people along the way!

The Bottom Line

graduating from college and striking out on your own in 2013 is not easy, but there is hope. In fact, the future is brighter than it has been for some time and now is as good a time as any to start your future.

Start a business, travel the world, pursue your goals, just please….don’t sit around and feel sorry for yourself.

Get up and make it happen!

Read More

Lifestyle Inflation and Greedy College Students are Driving College Tuition Higher

Posted by on Apr 27, 2013 in Getting Started | 2 comments

lifestyle inflation

The news is filled with stories and data of rising tuition on college campuses. I have written about this very fact a number of times here on the blog. The talking heads on every major news channel mention it at least once per day and each person you listen to may spout out a number of various reasons why college tuition is continually on the rise.

“Experts” are so divided on this issue because there is not a clear cut answer. There literally could be a million internal factors that influence the cost of a colleges’ tuition, as well as the external factors of our national and global economy.

In researching this phenomena  and from working on a college campus, I have a hypothesis of why college tuition has risen so dramatically in the past decade: Lifestyle Inflation and Greedy College Students!

Lifestyle Inflation

I believe that “lifestyle inflation” or the 21st century version of “keeping up with the Joneses” is to blame for driving college tuition prices to unprecedented heights. College students are simply no longer satisfied with musty dorm rooms, and uncomfortable classroom chairs. College students expect to have multiple Starbucks locations on their campus. They want manicured grass and climate controlled buildings. They want spotless restrooms, and state of the art laboratory facilities.

Today’s college students expect to have sports stadiums which rival (or far surpass) professional teams. They want to have a gym facility with an indoor climbing wall, olympic size swimming pool, Zumba classes, and enough ellipticals to entertain an entire sorority.

College students also expect to have a car on campus, they expect to have access to social activities at every hour of the day, they expect their professors to bend over backwards to accomodate them within their office hours, and they expect to have private showers.

None of these conveniences and amenities are cheap.

To attract new students, colleges are forced to cater to these demands. The sad thing is that you will likely never get a student to admit that they crave the above luxuries. Even though they may not voice this opinion, their voice is heard loud and clear through their actions. They choose to go to colleges and universities which offer these amenities. The better the amenities, the higher the enrollment.

A Vicious Cycle

Many colleges are driven by their enrollment. Their budget is directly determined by the number of students they admit each year, and they do not receive funding from the state or other external entities. Colleges who live and die by the number paying students they have on campus each semester must do whatever is takes to attract their quota of students. Attracting new students means building bigger and nicer facilities, and providng all of the amenities mentioned above.

When college students (and parents!) walk onto campus for their college tour, they expect to find these things. Unfortunately, many students base their college decision on the level of the amenities offered by the college and not on their academic prowess.

Here is the vicious cycle: Colleges must provide these high priced amenities to attract new students, these amenities and facilities cost a great deal of money, thus driving up tuition costs, parents and students complain about high tuition costs and demand that colleges find ways to lower their costs.

The standard of living on a college campus has expanded to a level that colleges simply cannot keep pace with. Their attempts to keep pace have resulted in the skyrocketing of tuition rates.

As college tuition prices are driven higher by the insatiable desire of students for high priced amenities, student loan debt also continues to skyrocket. This is the predicament that we find ourselves in today.

Let’s take a step towards halting the rise of both college tuition and student loan debt, by eating more ramien noodles and accepting a moldy dorm room as your right of passage!

 

Read More