Category Archives: College Life

Optimize Your Budget and Make Your Food Last

When you’re trying to save money, every penny counts. However, one of the biggest expenses we all face is food. The cost of goods including food is constantly rising. If we aren’t careful, our food and grocery bills can end up occupying a larger part of our budgets than we intended.

It’s therefore vital to manage our food expenses economically and develop money-saving tactics. Here are some tips and tricks that you can use to cut down on food costs without sacrificing your health.

Prepare Your Own Meals

You can probably guess what the most common culprit of ballooning food expenses is: eating out. If you’re serious about cutting down on your food spend, start preparing more meals at home. When you stop eating out, you’ll significantly cut down on your food bill and eat healthier meals.

If you’re short on time, try a once-a-week meal prep plan and start with simple meals you can whip up in minutes. You can slowly expand your repertoire of dishes when you start feeling more comfortable and confident with cooking.

Make a Meal Plan

Whether it’s an occasional weekend meal plan or a menu for every day of the week, creating a plan beforehand can help you stick to your planned meals and budget. Thinking ahead and making lists can also help you reduce unnecessary expenses when you go to the supermarket.

Rotate Foods, Don’t Waste Them

When you eat the same food day after day, it can end up being monotonous and boring. When there’s no variety in your meal prep and grocery list, there’s a high chance you’ll waste food.

Hence, your best bet is to rotate different types of food and dishes. Make sure to include a variety of veggies, fruits, dairy, grains, and lean protein in your meal routine to make it more interesting and palatable.

Choose Cheaper Proteins

Protein-rich foods like eggs, ground meat, and dried beans are not just cheap and healthy, but also have a longer shelf life. If you add in other non-perishable items like rice, pasta, and oats, you can have a steady supply of quick and nutritious meals. Moreover, buying these food staples in bulk is cost-effective and will save you frequent trips to the grocery.

Use Your Freezer

Cut down on ready-made meals and TV dinners. They offer little nutrition and are heavy on the pocket. Instead, prepare meals in advance, freeze everything that can be frozen, and defrost as needed. You can make large batches of chili, curry, or stew, and divide them into meal-sized portions so they’ll be ready whenever you need a quick meal.

Love Your Leftovers

Knowing how to recycle or repurpose leftovers into different dishes is a valuable skill if you’re looking to cut down on expenses. Identify and learn recipes that are leftover-friendly. Excess ingredients and food like carrots, celery, and rotisserie chicken can all be thrown into a pasta sauce and enjoyed as a new dish.

Start An Aromatic Herb Garden

The joy of preparing meals from ingredients freshly picked from your own garden is unparalleled. Contrary to what you may think, you don’t need a huge space to have a garden. Greens like herbs, cress, and lettuce can be grown on your window sill. Small vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, and beans can be grown in pots that will easily fit inside your kitchen.

Track Your Expenses

Sometimes we buy food we don’t need out of habit. Tracking our food budget can help prevent this by making us aware and accountable for our expenses. Monitor expenses and your budget to scale back and change previous spending habits.

Shop Smart, Buy Local

Buying locally grown and produced food is fresher, more nutritious, good for the environment, and cheaper. Buying from farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs also help the local community.

You can join a CSA by paying growers a lump sum at the start of the season. In exchange, you’ll get fresh produce at regular intervals that are cheaper by as much as half the price you pay in groceries.

You can also buy meat at the deli instead of the supermarkets’ meat section. They’re not only cheaper, but they’re fresher too.

Eat Before Going Grocery Shopping

When you visit a grocery store on a hungry stomach, you have a tendency to fill your cart with more food than you need. When you’re full, you’ll be less tempted and be able to shop more objectively.

Beware of Coupons

Coupons, cashback, and new customer discounts are great ways of saving extra money. However, exercise caution before you purchase items on discounts as coupons encourage you to buy more items than you need just because they’re on sale.

Budget-Friendly Habits: Start Small

There are many ways to cut down on food expenses and eat healthier, but they entail creating new habits in place of the old. The best way to adopt these budget-friendly practices is by starting with small steps and gradually adding more to your routine.

Whether it’s preparing your own meals, tracking your expenses, or cutting down on grocery visits, ease into it one habit at a time. You’ll eventually find yourself rewarded with healthier, better meals and have more cash to show for it.

How To Build Credit As A College Student?

How To Build Credit As A College Student

About a year ago, a friend of mine wanted to obtain a loan from a bank. After going through his application, the bank promised to get back to him. A few days later, I found out that the bank denied his application. It was such a big disappointment as he needed the money badly.

I was angry at the bank for being so inconsiderate, but when I saw his FICO score, my anger died down immediately. No reasonable bank will give him a loan with such a poor FICO score!

In this article, you will find answers to the following:

  • Why college students need to have a good credit rating score.
  • What is a FICO score, and how does it affect you?
  • What should a college student’s credit score be like?
  • What is the best way for a college student to build credit?
  • What are the dos and don’ts of a credit card for students?

Why Do College Students Need To Have A Good Credit Score?

As a college student, having a good credit rating score is almost as important as having good grades. To get access to loans, you need to have a good credit score. Lenders need to have the assurance that you’ll be able to pay back the loan at the stipulated time. Most lenders would usually look to your FICO score to give them an idea of your credit history and how trustworthy you are. If you have a poor score, you won’t be given the loan. You can almost bet your life on it.

You should also improve your credit score as a student because it would help you crash your interest rates on your borrowings, which would help you save more money.

What Is A FICO Score And How Does It Affect You?

FICO score shows lenders how legitimate you are as a borrower. “FICO” stands for “Fair Isaac Corporation.” It is a data analytics firm that was established in 1989. It uses information about your credit history, credit utilization, and payment history to determine your FICO score.

As a student, if you plan on living the American dream, owning your own home, snagging a great ride, getting a good job, or even owning your own business then, you would want to have a great FICO. Your future landlord, auto loan creditor, future employer, and even the bank is interested in your creditworthiness by FICO. 

Now, whether you are a college student or simply an adult, you need to be creditworthy to access funds for most things. And if that is the case, as a rule of thumb, a credit score of 750 and above sounds good. Stay within that range.

So, What Is The Best Way For A College Student To Build Credit?

First things first, own a credit card. The single most important reason to apply for a credit card is to build a positive credit history. So, grow up and get one.

However, if you don’t want to or can’t open your credit card account, then another smart thing to do is to get your parents to make you an authorized user of their credit cards. That way, you can piggyback off your parent’s positive credit history.

Other ways of building credit as a student include:

  1. Opening a secured credit card: This is a smart way of building credit, especially for students with little or no credit history. It’s quite similar to your debit card. Your credit limit is determined by the amount of cash you deposit.

As credit bureaus are aware of every transaction made with a secured credit card, you can easily build your credit score by making small purchases with this credit card.

  • Making payments on your student loan: If you have student loans, start making payments on them while you are still in school. This will improve your credit score as it shows that you can repay your debts on time. Even if it means cutting down on your monthly expenses, you will find out later that the result is well worth the sacrifice.
  • Get someone to co-sign for your credit card: You may find it difficult to obtain a credit card as a student, especially if you’re below 21 years old. Your best bet is to look for someone who is legally qualified for a credit card to co-sign for your credit card.

However, you should ensure that you don’t miss payments as you would be jeopardizing the credit of your consigner if you do. Also, avoid the temptation of overspending simply because you don’t have to pay immediately; always spend within your limits.

 What Are The Dos And Don’ts Of Using Credit Card As A College Student?

  • Do your homework before choosing a credit card company. Choose the card that’s right and best for you. Credit card offers are endless. Just because you received an offer in the mail doesn’t mean you should take the dive. When you receive a credit card offer that piques your interest, do the due diligence. Don’t let freebies tempt you. Do you know how a pretty woman chooses her man from her roaster of chasers? That’s right. Compare and contrast various credit card company offers. Know what’s a great fit and go for it!
  • Do marry your card features. Different cards like different phones do different things. Understand these differences, and they can potentially break or build your overall wallet.
  • Do keep an eye on your purchases. Spend no more money than you earn, period! Differentiate your needs from your wants and evaluate your purchases.
  •  Do pay up promptly. That is how extra fees/charges are avoided. You should also try and get answers to questions on interest rates or annual fees.
  •  Do submit to your credit limit. When you are simply under the confines and boundaries of your credit limit, you’d be kept safe from the temptations of overspending with the consequent interests and charges
  • Do keep an eye on your credit score because your ability to buy a nice car, own a decent home, qualify for a loan, and sometimes a befitting job hinge on that.
  • Do pay more than the minimum payment when clearing your debts. Paying off your debts faster minimizes interest charges.
  • Do use credit card reward programs to your advantage. Once you get acquainted with using your credit card right, strategically using rewards can help you save money.
  • Don’t use reward credit cards when you can’t pay off the balance quickly.
  •  Don’t do free money. Avoid cash advances because there’s no free lunch anywhere.
  •  Don’t use multiple credit cards. Every new credit card application makes your credit score to drop. It’s as simple as that
  • Don’t share your credit card. 

Conclusion

To have access to most of the important things in life, you need a good credit score. Aside from being a factor that determines your access to loans, it can also influence the kind of jobs you get, the house you live in, among other things. The above-listed points will guide you in building a good credit score as a student.

How to Eat Healthy in College – Eat a Prepared Meal Kit!

Prepared Meal Kit

Updated with new information Dec 17 2020

Having a healthy balanced diet is the most important lifestyle choice you can focus on – even more so than exercising. No amount of exercise will help you lose weight for example, if you’re consuming even more calories through pizza. What diet and food choices to pick can be confusing, though. There are a plethora of vegan documentaries telling us about the hormone levels in milk, and an equal amount of rebuttals from meat-eaters. 

At this point, these choices are somewhat personal preference still. What we can agree on, is that highly processed foods leads to cancer and early death. No amount of vitamin tablets and hours accumulated on the elliptical is going to offset buying pre-made, highly processed food. Getting enough fruit and vegetables and a wide variety of them, along with enough protein (be it nuts or non-battery farmed chicken) and healthy fats is perhaps the simplest way to look at things. 

How do we achieve this at college though? It is so much effort to cook everyday. Its not just the cooking either, but to eat fresh means to buy perishable foods. These go out of date within a few days, and you’re back down the shops again.

As a result, college students often turn to pre-made meals from the shops. They’re easy to make, and are often actually cheaper than cooking yourself. The allure is real. It’s just unfortunate that they’re highly processed, and are the number 1 type of food that needs to be avoided.

The solution to this, and fast becoming a trend realised by students all the way to large families, is to meal prep. Combing the healthiness of fresh cooking with the laziness of pre-prepared meals is the genius of meal prepping.

Reasons to meal prep

Easy on the wallet

The money we can save by meal prepping can be compared to how a large manufacturer saves money by expanding their output – bulk buying ingredients in larger quantities will lead to cheaper prices per lb/kg. Just hope you have enough freezer space.

We are very often told not to be persuaded by the “3 for $5” pseudo sales but the reality is, it is cheaper per unit than buying just 1. These allure you to buying more than you need, but with meal prepping, the more the merrier. Ultimately, we can make better use of the sales through meal prepping. We also waste less on impulse buys, because meal prepping forces us to plan better, so we tend to stick to it and buy less snacks. Not only this, but sticking to the shopping list and cooking with more attention on the ingredients will result in less waste, which is better for both the environment and the current account.

Time and effort 

Through deferred gratification, meal prepping means we spend some extra time now so we can reap future benefits. 

Very often we find ourselves on Sundays with lots of free time and energy, but none of that on weekdays after work. Meal prepping is a great way to exploit that, giving us a ritual activity to do on the weekend (and it still may only take 2 hours or less), and be able to lazily stumble home from work and chuck our planned hard work in the microwave for 3 minutes. It’s very rewarding! 

Additionally, if large cooking sessions isn’t ideal, then merely doubling up on portions when cooking a regular meal is a great way to feed you for tomorrow, with no real extra time spent (triple it?). 

Health 

No more carcinogenic, high sugar, salty, processed insoluble ready meals! 

Meal kit companies

There’s a relatively new solution to prepared healthy food which doesn’t require as much time, effort and energy to compile. Introducing MEAL KITS which are essentially personal easy-to-cook subscriptions that you get daily, bi-weekly or weekly to your doorstep with all the ingredients and preparation instructions included. The meal kits are tailored to your flavor based on what you have indicated on the app. That seems to be an-ever growing trend, those food boxes or meal kits. The thing is that they are not cheap, especially for college students and whatnot!

I liked the way Kyle from MealKitsCanada described it in his article about the global leader in meal kits, HelloFresh. Meal kits are more of an alternative to eating out, especially during COVID conditions, than a replacement to buying groceries. It’s more expensive but potentially worth it. Here is the article “is HelloFresh worth it”?

It literally applies to all of us, that when we cook ourselves, our meals become more healthy than when we purchase pre-packaged meals. Even if it was the same meal with the same ingredients, buying the meat from the butchers and the vegetables from a market is a far more sustainably healthy way of making the same meal. It will undoubtedly taste better, too.

Best Checking Accounts For College Students

As a college student, you’ll likely struggle financially. Even if you manage to obtain and work a part-time job, the expenses may seem overwhelming. Every penny counts so it is pertinent to make sure that you properly manage your money. One way to solve this issue is by taking advantage of a checking account.

With a checking account, you’ll benefit from the interest rate and you’ll have a safe place to store your money. Below, you’re going to learn about the best checking accounts for college students.

  • BBVA Free Checking
  • Radius Bank Rewards Checking
  • Chime Free Checking

BBVA Free Checking

BBVA Free Checking

While BBVA is not as well-known as Bank of America and some of the alternatives, it offers excellent free checking accounts for college students. BBVA Free Checking is available across the nation so you can sign up for an account whether you’re at the University of Tennessee or Stanford University. Furthermore, the bank boasts an impressive network of ATMs. There is a good chance that you’ll be able to find an ATM close to your dorm. The bank has 55,000 ATMs across the United States.

Even better is the fact that the free checking option is excellent for college students since the requirements are slim to none. The minimum opening deposit is $25 which is reasonable for all university students. Furthermore, there is no minimum balance requirement and no monthly service charge.

While BBVA has an impressive offering for college students, it has some limitations too. One of the most notable is the fact that it offers no interest so you’re not going to earn any money. There are no ATM fees when you use a BBVA USA ATM but it’ll cost roughly $3 per transaction when using an ATM out of your bank’s network.

Either way, BBVA is a good choice for students looking for an easy online banking solution with the bottom of the barrel minimums.

Radius Bank Rewards Checking

Radius Bank Rewards Checking

Next, you have Radius Bank which offers the unique Rewards Checking Account. It will prove to be compatible with college students because it has a low minimum and a user-friendly banking app. One thing that sets Radius apart from the competition is the fact that it pays interest. If you maintain a balance between $2,500 and $99,999, you’ll receive 0.10% APY. If you maintain a balance of over $100,000, you’ll receive an interest of 0.15%.

Radius also offers 1% bank on all debit card purchases making it a good choice for college students who want to be rewarded for spending money. The bank offers unlimited ATM reimbursements as well as mobile check deposits. This makes it one of the most convenient banks for students at any university. While the Radius Bank Reward Checking Account is impressive, it has a few minor cons.

For starters, students will need at least $100 before they can open an account. While the interest is helpful, it will not be accessible to all. You’ll need a minimum average balance of $2,500 or $2,500 in direct deposits before you can earn interest. Other than that, there are no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements.

If your account drops below $2,500, you don’t have to worry about it being closed. Also, Radius has worked diligently to expand its ATM network over the years. It joined the MoneyPass Network a few years ago so members can take advantage of fee-free ATM withdrawals at more locations.

This provided users will access to 32,000 more fee-free withdrawal ATMs and 3,000 more deposit-taking ATMs. The only real con is the fact that you’ll need $100 to open an account but that shouldn’t be too difficult for the average college student.

Chime Free Checking

Chime Free Checking

Long gone are the days of paid checking. Several decades ago, consumers were required to pay varying fees for checking accounts. The American financial system has undergone many alterations over the last few decades, resulting in free checking. Now, U.S. consumers can combine their savings and checking into single accounts and still avoid fees.

While fairly new, Chime has one of the most advanced, mainstream banking systems. Chime features checking and saving accounts with no fees, which is not unusual in the modern-day financial system. But, unlike some financial institutions, Chime does not require its customers to keep a specific amount of money in their accounts. The no-minimum balance is what draws American consumers to Chime checking but this is only the beginning.

Another benefit of Chime checking is expedited deposits. Chime checking account holders are guaranteed to receive their deposits in as little as 48 hours. This is ideal for college students relying on part-time jobs to pay their living expenses. From the second your employer deposits your paycheck into your checking account, Chime begins to process the payment to ensure the most expedient deposit.

Chime’s SpotMe feature is extremely popular among college students because it offers a $20-overdraft withdrawal with zero monetary penalties. If you are short on cash and need gas to get back and forth to campus, you can utilize your debit card to cover the expense without concern about future overdraft fees. The $20 can be utilized as an emergency fund in between paychecks.

An additional benefit of Chime’s SpotMe overdraft waver is its customizable capability. Chime checking account holders have the option to customize their SpotMe overdraft limit from $20 to $40 or $60, $80, or $100. To qualify, your account must be in good standing.

Conclusion

Ultimately, college students from across the United States need a reliable checking account. However, choosing one will prove to be very difficult since your options are plentiful and all banks are unique. So, which checking account is best for modern college students in America? While BBVA Free Checking has some cons, it is likely the best choice for college students. It is impossible to beat the minimum opening deposit and the minimum balance requirement is outstanding. Plus, there are no monthly fees to worry about.

The only downside is that members of BBVA Free Checking will not benefit from interest payments. While Radius is better in this regard, most students will never have enough money to meet the interest threshold. So, BBVA Free Checking is the winner of the pack.

Should you use a Challenger bank over your bank?

digital Challenger bank

Challenger banks are what they say on the tin: a challenge to traditional banks. They pose as a challenge, or a threat because they’re up and coming with a different approach to banking.

By nature of being rebellious, they’re young businesses. They threaten the status quo of banking because they offer a new take on banking procedures, infrastructure and services. Generally, you’ll find much cheaper currency exchange fees, more tech-heavy usability and much faster sign up processes. 

Start-ups in this field have a very good understanding of what ticks us off about traditional banks, and they’ve engineered a way to overcome such bureaucracy, high priced and ancient UI.

With incredibly easy sign-ups, super speedy transactions and innovative technology, it’s not difficult to see why they’re on the rise. There’s no doubt that traditional banks are becoming extremely weary of this trend, and it may be the threat they need to evolve a stuck-in-the-past, complacent service.

How popular are challenger banks?

To no surprise, there are a growing number of challenger banks. Of course, they’ve not replaced traditional banks in either quantity or userbase (yet?), but they’re on the rise nonetheless.

What’s interesting though, is that this has been the story in Europe. In America? Not so much.

They’re popular in most of the world in fact, particularly in Europe in places with a strong fintech scene. London is perhaps the birthplace of the most prominent challenger banks, with Monzo, Starling and Tandem being situated there. With a 5 minute in-app sign-up process, these are becoming extremely popular and seem to be slowly replacing traditional banks.

It’s strange then that the US hasn’t really welcomed them with open arms, and haven’t been producing many themselves. It’s thought that US companies are focused on payment solutions instead of bank accounts, as they have more scope for profits and fewer regulations. This surely applies to most countries, though.

The real answer lies in the distrust of startups. In Germany and the UK, customers don’t think twice about trusting fintech’s with their money, in conjunction with having faith in government-backed deposit protection regulations. Americans it seems don’t have the same trust. 

It seems that although payment startups are trusted, a little more time (or value offered?) is needed for mobile banks.

Despite this, one of the largest challenger banks, N26, has launched into the US (with 100,000 wait-listed US customers ready to pounce), along with Monzo set to enter the US too. There already some domestic US challenger banks to choose from, although they’re certainly not in their stages of maturity yet.

The advantages of challenger banks

The thing that challenger banks have over traditional banks is their lack of infrastructure. This sounds like a disadvantage, but it means they can react faster to changes. Traditional banks have huge sunk costs, with many different departments to attend to, making them always a bit behind. When tech is at the foundation of a business instead of brick and mortar capital, you can be fluid in the market.

The innovation of technology has perhaps been its strongest point so far. The services they provide are highly customizable. You can find yourself creating saving spaces – virtual spaces that are safe from spending. These can be saving pots for different areas of your life, allowing you to budget better.

And it’s secure because you can freeze your card with a simple click in the app, as well as limit certain spending like gambling or ATM withdrawals. There are fewer fees, more transparency, and an overall feeling of clean efficiency because they don’t have their hand in a million different departments.

The largest benefit for small companies and those who like to travel is the cheap fees of challenger banks. For Americans (and Europeans), N26 is one of the strongest options. If we take them as an example, then for no monthly account fee, you can benefit from free card payments in any currency. This is profoundly advantageous, and completely embarrasses traditional banks which charge flat fees on top of huge 4% currency spreads on any foreign purchase.

And with many challenger banks, you can also withdraw from a foreign ATM for no extra cost, and receive a second-to-none exchange rate. This on its own is what sets them apart, and is the reason why expats are in love right now. Many companies (such as Transferwise in the UK) even go as far to call their debit cards as “borderless cards”, because that’s exactly what they are – complete and utter frictionless foreign spending and money transfers.

Disadvantages

For many users, it can be difficult to author some drawbacks of using them. Of course, though, the reality is that nothing is perfect.

Firstly, they’re smaller companies. This smaller, more malleable infrastructure is their greatest asset, but it also means they’re less reputable. They feel less safe. They’re of course fully regulated, but their smallness means they might not inspire credibility.

They’re somewhat limited too. Many people like dealing with one entity and building a relationship with them. Traditional banks may have debit cards, credit cards, mortgages, various savings and student account and so on. Challenger banks are very much for one job and whilst they do it well it may not be suitable for those who want to go in-store, build a relationship and rely on them for all financial aspects of their life.

Personal preference is one thing, but what’s important here is that it’s important for the US to be more accepting of challenger banks. Choice is at the core of free America, and what better way to increase that than to threaten traditional banks with innovative technology?

How to Create a Simple Budget While in College and to Tweak it so it Will Fit ME

create a simple budget

Every student could benefit from a budget. When in college, money is a particularly scarce resource, as is your time. Working side jobs can be difficult, and working too many hours will only compromise your grades. Whilst you need enough to survive, a better way to look at it might be how to reduce your spending rather than how to earn more money. Afterall, money-making can be done once your degree is in your hands.

Budgets are the best way to achieve this. Following a spending plan can help minimize debt and overspending on less-than-necessary things. It may even lead to mindset differences, such as becoming more minimal and more appreciative of the smaller things in life.

The problem with researching the topic of budgeting

The issue is that everyone’s circumstances are different. Finding budgets online is a nightmare. Templates are an issue because they will likely consist of a bunch of things that you don’t have, like mortgage repayments and rental income. Whilst you can adapt them, you will have to add in things specific to you as well as remove items (and perhaps whole sections). The process is kind of pointless.

What’s more important is to really understand your own situation and spending patterns, and then making a budget from scratch, bespoke to you, will not take very long. Plus, filling in manually every type of spending that you have might be a wake-up call that’s needed.

How to create your own budget

Creating a budget doesn’t have to take long. In fact, it can be done in an afternoon with just a few steps. If you have more time to spare though, you can add in some extras (step 5) that will make your life easier and enhance the effectiveness of the budget.

Step 1: Income

The first step is to determine what your income is. This is easier to calculate than your spending, so it comes first. It should be a relatively steady number: living cost loan income, income from working, parental help, and so on. Find out what your income will be for the near future, or until the end of college if possible. Of course, use your after-tax income here for simplicity, unless you have a small business in which you want to track expenses within this same budget.

Step 2: Track spending

This isn’t about guessing what things you’re likely to buy next month, this is about tracking what you actually buy. The issue with forecasting items is that you’re prone to underestimating. Things constantly pop up, whether it’s getting college books or new clothes. It’s best to just track what you actually spend for a couple of months, then you’ll know for sure what the average month looks like. 

This doesn’t have to mean delaying your budget creation either. You can literally just open up your bank statements and reconcile them. Go through and write a note next to each spending. Even if you can only identify 75% of them, this means that you will need less time tracking them physically, meaning you can get started sooner.

Step 3: Goals

The point of a budget isn’t the budget itself, it’s to better reach a goal. Think carefully about why you want a budget. Is it so you can pay off more of your college debt? Is it to save up for a 6-month traveling experience? Whatever it is, write down a handful of meaningful goals.

SMART goals are best, too. This means making them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. For example, a poor goal would be to “have lots of savings in the future”. A better goal would be, “build a $4,000 emergency fund by July 2021”.

The reason this is step 3 and not 2 is because “track spending” is a function of goal-setting. In other words, your goals must take into account of your spending. It’s impossible to completely turn your spending on its head and set unrealistic goals. 

Step 4: Set parameters

This is the fun/daunting part; the budget itself. Now that you have an idea of what you actually spend, and what your fixed, unavoidable costs are, you can start to set parameters on your variable costs. 

If you have optimistic goals though, don’t shy away from being ruthless on your fixed costs. For example, running a car may seem like an unavoidable fixed cost, but you should think carefully about whether it really is. 

Most college students live close to or inside the campus. Having a bicycle may be the more healthy, environmentally friendly lifestyle choice that could save thousands per year.

Step 5: The spreadsheet itself

Now that you’ve created your budget, you want to represent it on a spreadsheet effectively. Downloading templates and copying them is one way to do this, but alternatively, you can play around with it yourself and learn some valuable Excel skills.

For example, you may want to use conditional formatting to change the colors of the cells depending on their value. This is how you make your balance appear in red when it goes below zero, for example.

Likewise, you want to set borders around sections, instead of having prose of messy information. You could use different pages for different sections too, and have the main page that represents and pulls in all the data together.

If you want an easier way to input data into the sheet (i.e. input each purchase you make as you go), then you can make use of forms. Google forms (inputted into Google Sheets) are an easy way to do this — you simply make a small Q&A where you type in the data and hit enter. This will be submitted to the budget. The link to the form can even be placed on your mobile home screen.

Lastly, formulas are important to learn too. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you want to automate the calculations as much as possible so there are few mistakes. “=SUM” will perhaps be your most used formula.

Why Student Loans Are Poison

student loans

Student debt has almost become a pejorative term at this point, and is denounced by many as being not worth the degree. Whether or not the debt is worth it is to be discussed, and ultimately to some extent a matter of personal preference, but there is no getting away from the fact that student debts are mounting and becoming increasingly difficult to justify. Debts to the level where it can have poisonous effects on the rest of people’s lives, and all from a decision we make at such a young age.

Americans in 2018 graduated with an average debt of $29,000, with some of those having parents who took out debts of around $35,000 in federal parent plus loans. This is a significant amount, which doesn’t include the costs of food, studying resources and housing. Graduates are expected to have double lifetime earnings on average than high school graduates, though it can vary widely depending on the major. However, when opportunity cost is factored in – the time during college that could have been spent working and gaining experience – then suddenly gaining $80,000 in debt for higher future earnings may not always be the right choice.

Regardless of which option has a greater monetary outcome on aggregate, there is also a cost to our creativity. When 60% of student debt recipients are expected to finish paying off their loans in their 40s, then steady employment, particularly once already gained, is the sensible option. Ultimately, one is less likely to start up a company when you have student debt. The burden of debt tends to be a driving force towards traditional careers, which can be either good or bad depending on the person. Entrepreneurship though is something that we should place a greater value on. Not only is it an expression of hard work, creativity and ambition, but small businesses are the basis of most developed economies and heavily drives demand. Taking risks is a great way to grow as an individual as well as being great for social mobility, but the appetite to take such risks is stifled by debts.

In this sense, taking on student debt is the antithesis of the American dream, and is to concede to a life (for the most part) of employment. While this may be fine for some, it’s strange that this is incentive for the brightest youngsters in an economy – a perverse paradigm. It also goes against the new movement of financial independence, which promotes living debt free in order to save up enough wealth to retire, and be free from.

If the loan repayments weren’t already enough of a burden for your future self, then just dealing with lenders can be off putting enough. Student loan recipients complained to a federal watchdog over 12,000 times in 2017. Such problems were surrounding things such as attempts to consolidate federal loans and accessing promised rewards from companies, such as lower interest rates.

With student debt in America reaching $1.25 trillion in 2018, the accumulation of debt is drawing parallels to the 2008 mortgage crisis. Much of the premium on the student loans is actually the risk of the student not graduating, too. It is entirely possible scenario to mount up $10,000 in student loans, fail to graduate, cannot turn to bankruptcy yet only have the wage opportunities of a high school graduate.

It is objectively a risk-seeking attitude that taking on large amounts of debt without substantial capital and highly probable future earnings in place. Conventionally, the narratives around this behaviour is to determine it as highly risk-seeking, but it is strange that this isn’t the case when it is framed as student loan debt. The power of it being a culturally normal thing to do can blind us from an objective and rational decision about it.  The probabilities of not acquiring a high paying job should be more realistically analysed, and coupled with the opportunity costs. It also seems the possible direct and opportunity costs of college loans are drastically underestimated, and are suitable for a fewer number of individuals than commonly believed.

Staying Away From Debt in College – A How To Guide

debt in college

Life in America is more expensive than it ever has been. Food, healthcare, transportation – the costs of these necessities and others have shot up considerably over the past generation while wages/salaries have remained stagnant.

This hasn’t stopped Americans from living their best lives, though. Where incomes are not able to afford things outright, credit cards have filled the void. Near zero interest rates and subprime mortgages/car loans have convinced people to buy properties/vehicle they couldn’t otherwise afford.

Similarly, easy access to student loans has helped young people to overcome the soaring cost of education.  Costing less than $1,000 USD/year in 1980, today’s students shell out more than $20,000/year on average. If education tracked inflation, students would be paying approximately $2,100/year to go to school.

As a result of this lofty numbers, many students graduate with five or even six-figure debt burdens. This is a troubling trend, as student loans are exceptionally difficult to discharge through bankruptcy. In this post, we’ll define the student debt problem, discuss ways to keep this number low, and you can pay down your balance as quickly as possible post-graduation.

College has never been tougher

Unless you have wealthy parents, you’ll probably have to apply for a student loan. The days when you could pay for your tuition by working a summer job are long gone – average tuition costs at public universities have now crept above $10,000/year. Good luck finding a gig that pays $2,500 per month, never mind one that allows you to save that amount.

The stakes have never been higher. The employment market, despite low unemployment rates, is a tough one, as Millennials and members of Generation Z are competing for an ever-shrinking number of lucrative positions in fields like tech and engineering.

Unsurprisingly, students are under an enormous amount of stress these days. They devote as much time as possible to their studies, only taking time for extracurricular activities that complement their resume. To score a decent-paying entry-level job, getting top grades is a must.

Those who miss out are left to take whatever jobs they can find. Many of these positions are only available on a contractual basis, are poorly paid, offer few (if any) benefits, and have schedules that don’t guarantee set hours from week-to-week.

These are just a few of the factors working against students nowadays. Yet, given the paucity of opportunities for those with high school diplomas, many young people feel like they have no other choice but to take on a five or six-figure debt load – and hope it all works out in the end.

Keeping the debt monster in check

So, you need to take on debt to finance your post-secondary education. This doesn’t mean you are doomed to a life of wage slavery, though – by adopting a few crucial habits early on, you can avoid drowning in an ocean of red ink after college.

(1) Avoid credit cards – Avoid credit card peddlers like the plague. These predators lurk in student centers and unions at the start of every school year, hoping to prey on the ignorance of those who lack life experience.

Listen – you’re already tens of thousands of dollars in the red. Going deeper in the hole will only make things worse. When you look at the fine print, you’ll find that these cards charge absurd interest – 20-30% annual rates are not uncommon.

Fail to pay off your balance once (one crazy night at the bar is all it takes), and charges will add up faster than you could ever imagine. Live within your means – if you don’t have the cash for something, don’t buy it. 

(2) Get a part-time job – As discussed earlier, some students feel the need to devote themselves fully to their studies. As a result, they don’t think they have room in their schedule to accommodate a part-time job.

It’s possible to excel in your studies, belong to a club, and be employed – it’s all in how you manage your time. Parkinson’s Law states that any task will expand to fill the time frame allotted for its completion. Working 15-20 hours per week will limit the amount of time you have to write papers, do homework, and study, forcing you to focus on the essentials.

This will not just improve your finances, but your grades as well. According to a study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, students who worked 20 hours per week or less logged an average GPA of 3.13, compared to the 3.04 achieved by their jobless counterparts.

Pair that with the $150-$200 per week a good part-time gig can get you, and you’ll get through college in better shape than many of your classmates.       

(3) Refinance your loan – Most young people have little to no credit history. As a result, interest rates charged on student loans can be shockingly high. Fortunately, this can be fixed soon after graduation; about a year into your first job, shop around for a financial institution that will refinance your student debt. Having your rate dropped from 6% to 4.5% will save you about $750 per year in interest payments, amounting to $15,000 over a 20-year repayment period.

Good habits key to a prosperous future

Adopting solid financial habits in college will set you up for the rest of your life. By keeping yourself busy in school, you won’t be fazed by work projects that overwhelm many fellow entry-level workers. This will help you stand out to your superiors, paving the way for a promotion early in your career.

Additionally, there is enormous pressure to keep up with the Joneses post-college. By resisting the temptation to have the latest cars, clothes, and gadgets, you’ll have all the money you’ll need to pay off your student debt ahead of schedule.

Habits, good or bad, have a ripple effect. By sowing the seeds of responsible time & financial management, you’ll reap a bountiful harvest in the years and decades to come.

How to Travel Abroad for Cheap as a Student

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.

Gamble Smarter, College Boy!

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.