College

How to Find the Cheapest Textbooks

It is no secret that buying text books for your college courses can really drain your bank account. College book stores boast being the only place you can find the book you need at such a discounted price. Do not believe this! Your college’s book store is not a bad place to pick up a book, but you do have other options. Here are just a few other places to start looking for books before you give in to the book store.

Online

Buy your books off resale stores online. They usually list the books at different prices, depending on the condition of the book. Personally, I have found buying the cheaper, not as pretty, books work just as well as the brand spanking new ones. Sites like Chegg.com are great sources for books.

Friends

Make friends who have been going to your college. Find people who are studying what you are studying and make a deal. Work your schedules so that you are both taking classes that the other will need, but take them at different times. That way you can split the cost of the books and share them. It’s a simple and easy way to cut your book budget in half.

Talk to Your Teachers

Some classes barely use the books that they say are required. The library will almost always have copies of these books as well. Email, call, or speak with your teacher and ask how necessary the book is to your success in the class. Most teachers want you to get through college with as little financial expense as possible. But be warned; check the author of the book before you ask your teacher. There is a good chance that the teacher is also the author. Do not ask them how important the book is if they are the one who put the time into writing it. You will not be one of their favorites.

Kindles, iPads, and Other Ereaders

Not only do these eReaders help keep your book bag light, they save you money. Purchasing your books on one of these is a great way to save some money. However, some students find it easier to use a classic, paperback book so that they can highlight and take notes. You, also, cannot sell back books purchased through eReaders. These are a great option for saving money, but may not be beneficial for all students.

Spending hundreds of dollars in the book store does not have to be your fate! Be on the lookout for places to buy your books for cheap or for options to split the price in half. And do not forget to sell back your books at the end of the semester. If the book store will not buy back the book, sell it online! If you are willing to look for them, there will always be ways to make or save money on your college text books.

Ten Ways to Save at College!

Every college kid knows that college is expensive–and that doesn’t even include the fun parts! While education itself costs a pretty penny, it’s important to think about extra curricular costs when planning and budgeting. Going to school in a city can be particularly challenging, since almost nothing is free. Here are the top 10 helpful hints to getting by in college while still having fun:

Saving at college

1. On-campus Jobs:

Don’t under estimate the benefits of an on-campus job. They are held solely for students, tend to pay above minimum wage, and are conveniently located. Whether you work in the financial aid office or in a dining hall, you can make connections with students, faculty, and staff that will surely benefit you down the line. It may not be your dream career, but on-campus jobs are great for a little spending cash.

2. Use the dining plan to your advantage:

It’s surprising what you can smuggle out of a dining hall. If you are willing to invest in plastic bags or reusable Tupperware, there is no limit to the possibilities of kleptomania that lurk in a dining hall. From apples to zucchini, there is no food (raw, cooked, warm, or chilled) that can’t be snuck out. If you grab a sandwich at dinner and keep it for a late night snack, that’ll prevent you from spending those 5 dollars for the Subway foot long across the street.

3. Thrift store:

There is nothing you can’t find at a Good Will. Whether you’re looking for a set of plates for under $10, or an electronic robot for endless hours of amusement, a local thrift store is sure to not disappoint. A wide range of useful apparel can be mixed in with your high-class Anthropologie dresses for the bo-ho chic look so prevalent amongst trendy college girls.

4. Gifts:

It’s easy to get stuck in the endless-string-of-Birthday’s-breaking-the-bank rut. Don’t let it happen to you. Your new found college friends deserve the best-the best home made gifts! There are countless great gift ideas online that can be made out of supplies in a dorm room. From melting records into bowls, to a clever fortune teller, gifts should be creative and meaningful, not expensive! By saving on the gift, it might be a little less painful to splurge on your third dinner at The Cheese Cake Factory for someone’s birthday.

5. Get a Bike:

If you’re in a city, public transportation can be expensive and unreliable. Craig’s list constantly sells bikes for give-away prices, and it’s most definitely worth investing in to save money in the long term. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the freshman 15 if you’re biking to dinner.

6. Drink before going out to a bar:

Keeping an inexpensive bottle of wine or a cheap six pack around is never a bad idea. Sure it’s okay to have one drink at a bar, but who wants to throw down $20 for a few drinks? Start the buzz before you head out (if you’re not driving, of course).

7. Text book tactics:

Text books are expensive, but colleges at making it easier and easier to afford them. From renting to e-books to selling used books, you should never be paying full price for a book. Look on sites like Amazon and Half.com for great deals on text books. When it comes time to sell the book back, don’t go through a third party. Post them directly onto a website where you get to set the asking price.

8. Free Housing:

There are opportunities on many college campuses that allow for free housing. Frequently, a position such as resident assistant comes with room and board, and occasionally, a stipend.

9. Funding:

Colleges have money. If there is something you really want to do, like put on a show or go sky diving, there is probably an organization on campus that could fund it. Students are often in charge of allocating funds, and it’s up to you to make your ideas known. By being part of an already existing organization, or by starting one on your own, your chances of getting funds for something fun is very high.

10. Quickie jobs:

If you’re not willing to make a time commitment to a part time job on or off campus, many colleges post one time jobs available around the community. These can be great if you’re looking for some fast cash, and depending on the job, you may get more than just one time employment for it.

Financial Downfalls of a College Student

Every college freshman is confronted with new finance problems and issues. Out of their parent’s house, not having to report where they are going or explain what they are doing all the time. It is like finally understanding what freedom is supposed to feel like. Cloud nine feels pretty good for a while. You are floating along, going to parties, going out to eat, spending all the money you saved from the summer before or all the money Mom and Dad sent you off with when suddenly, the money and the cloud are gone and you are left sinking into a major money problem, with a bank account sinking as well.
Financial Downfalls of the College Student

Don’t be ashamed. It happens to almost all of us incoming college students. Here are a few helpful tips to keep you in line during your first year and keep you on that cloud and out of debt.

1. Find a job.

This may seem obvious to those who worked during high school, but for those who did not need to, this may seem like a last resort. You may begin looking at all the negatives of what getting a job can mean; less study time, less social time, and more responsibility on top of your school work. Now, push those thoughts out of your mind and look through the positive ones. You will make money and new friends with your co-workers, gain good real world experience, and create new opportunities for yourself. Look for places where you have the possibility to move up, or that have benefits for college students. I currently work for a grocery chain in the Midwest, Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee offers a 401 K plan for everyone ages 19 and over. This is the kind of benefit I am talking about.

2. Find the right bank.

Look at the banking options you have around you. Check out the savings account and checking account options. Which one has the highest interest rate? Do any of them offer start up or joining benefits? Pick the one that seems like the best fit for you and go start a bank account! I highly recommend starting out with a checking account. Once you’ve accumulated around $500, start a savings account. Usually savings accounts have to be started with a $100 deposit. Once you do this, start a monthly automatic transfer of a small sum from your checking into your savings. This way, you will be automatically saving money and not even needing to think about it. A small amount, such as $10, $15, or $20 will not be missed during the month.

3. Create a budget.

This may seem like the solution to all your problems. “Oh I’ll just start a budget and stick with it. No problem.” Well, it is actually a lot harder than it seems. First, take a look at the things in your life that are costing you money, like driving, eating out, groceries, going out with friends, other car expenses, rent, utilities, etc. Then take a look at how many hours you work during a week. This may seem overwhelming, but once you know where all your money is going, where you can cut back, and where you can afford to give more, you will feel much more confident in your financial situation. Make a list of all things you cannot live without, like driving, groceries, rent, utilities, etc. Now, plan out how much you can put towards these items each week. Remember; do not plan out on spending all your paycheck on these things every week. You will want to have a little “random” fund set aside in case of emergencies or something comes up that you had not thought about. If you are planning on creating the savings account with the automatic transfer of money, do not forget to budget that in either.

Once you figure out where all your money will be going, you will feel so much more secure in your financial situation.

4. Take advantage of your options.

If you are attending school in a big town, like I am in Iowa City, take advantage of the buses. Many times the “Cambus,” or the university’s bus system will be free. If you can use their buses, you will save your gas money for the week.

Look for coupons online and at the grocery store you use. I am not recommending that you become an extreme couponer or anything. Just think about what you are buying and where you can afford to save money.

Find the free shows downtown or go to the park and play Frisbee golf with friends! Activities that are free usually tend to be a lot more fun for you and your pocketbook. Jump into your new financial situation with confidence and knowledge, and have a great time doing it! Check back often for more great easy to understand financial advice, that every college student is going to want to know about.

Where to Live at College?

One of the first things students think about when college comes around is, “where am I going to live?!” For some students, living on campus in the dorms is where they belong. The dorms are close to class and student activities, and cluttered with other students just begging for a study buddy or a friend. For others, off campus living holds many benefits. Conversely, living off campus can be a make or break move financially for any young and eager student. There are generally two options a student has when it comes to off campus living; rent an apartment or live at home.
Renting an apartment can be a large commitment for a new student with a full class load. Rent can range anywhere from $500-$1000. However, there are also things like internet and electricity bills, not to mention things like cleaning, which can really take a toll on your checking account and free time. Students who make the decision to rent an apartment usually find themselves working at least a few nights a week, taking up valuable study time.

I, like many other students, have taken option number two; living at home. After moving to Iowa City from a little town in Illinois to attend college, my grandparents graciously offered my twin sister and I one of the apartments they rent out or a room in their basement. I was prepared to jump into apartment living. The excitement of living on my own was almost more than I could handle. I was ready to sign the lease when my sister stopped me and said we should consider living with our grandparents. Forgive me if I didn’t find as much excitement in living with my grandparents as I did with living on my own. Thoughts of curfews and homework checks clouded my mind. But, then I sat down and figured out how much money I would be spending renting an apartment. With a $500 rent, at least $100 in groceries every two weeks, and a little extra gas money driving the extra distance to class, living in the apartment began to lose a lot of its appeal.

My second semester of college and of living with my grandparents is rapidly coming to an end and I could not be happier with the decision I made to live with my grandparents. The money that I saved not renting an apartment now populates the empty space that I once called my savings account. The education I am receiving at college is paid for and I am able to afford filling up my gas tank to visit home every now and then. The choice I made to live with family instead of renting an apartment on my own was one of the best decisions I could have.

Four Great Graduation Gifts

Graduation is right around the corner and that means the parade of graduation parties have only just begun. For many of you, this also means time to begin picking out graduation presents. Here are a few no fail gift ideas that are sure to help make your graduates first year of college a little easier.

Graduation Gifts

1) Gift Cards

Though this may not seem like an exciting gift, gift cards actually can be one of the best gifts for a busy college student. Going off to college opens up a new world of expenses for the student. Anything from rent to gas money can take a huge chunk out of anyone’s income, let alone a student. Grocery store gift cards, gas gift cards, restraunt gift cards, target gift cards, and more allow students to get what they need, when they need it, and not having to worry about the whether they will have enough money for rent at the end of the month.

2) Dorm Room Accessories

Dorm life can be one of the hardest things to get used to in the transition from high school to college. A good gift idea for a graduate is anything that can make life a little easier, such as accessories for their dorm room. Printers, mini fridges, microwaves, towels, toiletries, lamps, even stock piling the student with granola bars, water bottles, chips, soup, and ramen noodles will always be much appreciated and very important.

3) How To Books

This may seem like a boring gift that will get you a fake smile and forced thank you, and at the time, this may be true. But a how to book on resume writing, essay writing, or scholarships could become invaluable to a college student. Many students will begin applying for jobs, internships, and scholarships all that will require resumes, essays, or both. All the help available on topics such as these comes in handy.

4) Alarm Clock/Watch

When Mom is not in your dorm room waking you up every day, an alarm clock can be the difference between making it to class or failing. Get an alarm clock with the biggest and brightest digital screen possible and tell the graduate to plug it in across the room from their bed. They’ll have to get up and get in and, in the process, wake up! Watches can be a great gift as well. Nowadays, students check the time on their cell phones. College professors, however, do not allow cell phones in their classes and will often times ask a student to excuse themselves when they see them paying more attention to their cell phones and not the class. Watches are a much easier and college approved way to go.

Take some time to look into these gifts before you begin hiking through the mountain like pile of graduation parties that are sure to be heading your way. These gifts are guaranteed to help make the first year of college life successful. Your graduate will thank you!

Family Considerations When Planning a College Education

Cost, unemployed highly educated people, skilled high paying jobs not requiring a degree. The perspective we will consider when looking at the question of a college education will be the most common, that is, the parents who basically plan the education of their children and also, because of their position as the bread-winner and heads of the family, plan the family’s expenditure and future.

A college education has often been considered to be vital to one’s future. It is almost written in stone for most people, despite the fact that most billionaires do not actually have one. A college education’s benefits of course cannot be ignored, even if you are interested in an entrepreneurial career.

Apart from the obvious skills set you may acquire, it also gives you something to fall back on in case entrepreneurship or any other career not involving a college education, like music, sports or acting, does not pay off.

There however, are a number of reasons why more and more often, the decision to get a college education may need to be taken a little more thoughtfully (apart, of course, from the fact that most millionaires do not have a college degree).

It has gotten more and more expensive to get a college education. Some people go through their whole lives saving up for the education of their children and this is a considerable financial and stressful burden for parents all over the United States and indeed, the rest of the world.

It also does not guarantee one a job. The press and web are full of stories of janitors with first degrees, Masters and Doctorates and with the economy globally being largely unpredictable, a college education is no guarantee to future financial stability.

Another notable statistic has developed over the last eight to ten years, especially in the United States. More and more jobs, rather well paying jobs at that, do not actually need a college education. The skills-set for these positions can be acquired in a shorter and cheaper period through more accessible vocational institutions, while for some of them, on the job training is preferred. To give a few examples, some of these include Casino Gaming Manager ($67,000), Web Surfer ($86,000), Elevator Installer and Repairer ($69,000), Industrial Production Managers ($85,000), Ship Captains ($87,000), In-flight Service Managers ($72,000), Illustrators with advertising agencies ($60,000), and Locomotive Engineers ($70,000). If you factor in the debt burden that is represented by student loans which people often resort to in order to get a college education, as well as the interest accumulated before those loans are paid off, a rather grim picture emerges.

Inevitably of course, one cannot ignore socio-economic factors like the fact that a lot of families in the United States are single parent families, which makes saving for a college education even harder than it used to be for the once typical two-parent house-hold.

As such, the decision on whether to get a college education today is no longer simply an automatic one. It involves a family, the parent or parents in this case, taking a close and prudent look at their financial position and having a greater understanding of economic global trends, particularly those influencing the preferred or stated careers of their children and the socio-economic environment they exist in.

What is the Best Way to Save for College?

So you, or maybe your child is about to embark on one of the most fulfilling, enriching, and maturing (not to mention almost a prerequisite to nearly all lucrative jobs). Awesome! But oh wait….you have to pay. With the average cost of college somewhere in the ballpark of $33,000 for a four year degree from a public school, or $119,400 for a private college (savingforcollege.com), being educated seems like it’s almost not worth paying. WRONG. Education is always worth it, as long as you know how to go about it. Below we cover some of the best ways to save for college!

Saving for College

First things first, before worrying about saving for college, consider your options. A cheap alternative to enrolling in a four year university for all four years, is spending your first to at a technical or community college. The cost of tuition is nearly always less than half that of public school tuition. Be sure to check with an advisor or dean though before registering because not all credits transfer. The best way to ensure your courses will count toward your degree is to call both schools, and find some common ground. Many community colleges have a transfer program in place.

Next, go to your state education homepage, and see what sort of grants and scholarships are offered for you. The best way to make sure you qualify is to do your FAFSA, by going to www.fafsa.ed.gov. This will automatically tell you what sort of financial aid you qualify for. Next, check with your school’s financial aid office. Check early! Many schools have scholarships from the institution in place, and they’re highly competitive, so the earlier the better. After you have exhausted those methods, check the web. Are you very tall or under 5’0″ tall? There are scholarships for that. Some of the best web sites to check are fastweb.com and finaid.org. These will give you information on many scholarships compiled by their databases. Also, many people never apply for scholarships because of the dreaded essay you many times have to write. College is a lot of essay writing, and the worst part? You have to pay to write them! Scholarship essays may seem drab, but consider this. If you are applying for a $1000 scholarship, and you have write your essay in say , three hours. If you get the scholarship, you basically just got paid $333.33 an hour. Way better then that theater major will ever get you.

On a last note about scholarship sites, remember all this information is available free. Any site trying to charge you for it IS A SCAM. Once scholarships are done, the dreaded job. You can try a work study through the school, which may or may not directly go to your tuition. Check with financial aid for employment. Also, many jobs offer scholarships after an allotted amount of worked hours. Some examples are Chick Fil A, which offers a $1000 scholarship after 2 consecutive years of part time work, or roughly 2000 work hours.

An Introduction to Online Banking

Online banking has many online benefits and may be one of the best financial moves a student can make. John Schickedanz, a personal banker and consumer lender for MidWestOne Bank in Iowa City, has given his insight and advice when it comes to this new mode of banking. Online banking establishes many benefits. “After you establish your online banking account,” Schickedanz explains, “you can transfer funds between accounts, set up automatic payments and transfers, access Bill Pay, view all statements within the last 18 months, view images of the checks you’ve written, and place a hold on a check you’ve written.” The account holder is able to check their account 24 hours a day. This allows you to better protect yourself against fraud. In his professional opinion, Schickedanz believes this to be one of the best features of online banking.

One common misconception of online banking is that it will be difficult to maneuver. College students, however, tend to find the process extremely easy and usable due to their advanced knowledge of new and different forms of technology. Schickedanz highly recommends online banking to all college students. College students are busy; there is no denying that. Between work, classes, exams, social lives, we can hardly find time to breathe, let alone make it to the bank. “Online banking gives them a resource to review their banking history from the convenience of their own homes,” Schickedanz says. MidWest One bank also offers Mobile Banking Services. Through this program you can view your account through a smart phone as text message, downloadable application, or mobile webpage. This service even has a built in protection plan, allowing you to access your account safely while on the go.

As an avid user of online banking, I discovered just how much I need my online account when my debit card was stolen out of my car three years ago. By checking my online account, I was able to see where my card had been used and how much was spent. After cancelling the card over the phone, the thief was no longer able to use the card and the rest of my money was safe. If I had not had my online banking account, I would not have realized my card had been stolen as soon as I had and would not have been able to take the steps that I did to protect myself.

Through my online account, I take advantage of the automatic withdraw that comes along with online banking. After transferring a specific sum into a new savings account, I set up a monthly $25 withdraw from my checking account into my savings account. I can view the growth of both accounts through my online banking account. This route of savings also comes highly recommended by Schickedanz.

“We have become a society that finds it very difficult to save money. Let’s be honest, we all enjoy going on shopping sprees and don’t have time to come in to the bank to set aside money. By establishing a free, recurring, automatic transfer, you can ensure that money is automatically put aside for a rainy day. In addition, if you establish Bank Your Change at MidWestOne, each transaction made using your debit card is rounded up to the next whole dollar. Then the rounded amount is transferred to your savings free of charge. By creating this type of transfer, you save money without even thinking about it.”

As a college student, my online banking account has not only saved me time, it has also saved me money. It is a feature that all students should look for when choosing and opening a bank account.

The How To’s of Paying Off Student Loans

Congratulations! You graduated. And you, like countless of other graduates, have pretty outstanding student loans to pay back. Although there is no magic button, there are a few smart money tricks to help along the process.

Firstly, take advantage of the fact that many loans do not need to start being paid until 6 months after graduation. This alleviates some pressure, but not all of it. Depending on the type of loan, interest may or may not accrue during these months. There is never any harm in paying both interest and principal before you need to.

Secondly, you may qualify for a loan deferment of forbearance. Deferments and forbearances mean that you do not have to pay off any of the loan for a specified period of time. Interest may or may not accrue, depending on your loan company. You must apply and qualify for a deferment. Reasons for qualifications include economic hardship, unemployment, enrollment in school, teaching certain under privileged populations (such as Teach for America), working in health care professions, or certain volunteer services such as Americorps.

Thirdly, there are a few ways to receive debt forgiveness. Programs like the aforementioned Teach for America often forgive a percentage (albeit not a very large percentage) of student loans. Of course, it is important that they offer forgiveness as the salaries are not competitive enough for you to be able to pay off your student loans and live comfortably.

Fourthly, try to pay more than the minimum. The more you pay per month, the less you pay over all. A huge part of making this possible is living slightly below your means. Having an inexpensive rent, not eating out frequently, and limiting unnecessary spending are all factors that help you put a little more towards loans. Paying off loans in a shorter term period of time is like investing in your long term future. The more principal you pay off monthly, the less amount of interest you pay off in the long run.

Lastly, never be afraid to call your loan company to see what they can do for you. They are there to help–and to make sure that you do not default.

What are the Best Jobs for College Students?

Most people understand the importance of going to college; however, upon arrival many students will quickly discover that they are going to need to find a job to cover their living and entertainment expenses. Even the best jobs for college students do not pay a lot of money, but students do not need to make as much money as most of them believe. Even though a lot of these jobs do not pay a lot, many of them offer other benefits to their employees.

Getting a Job

Retail Stores

Many college students discover that working at a retail store, whether it be a grocery store or a clothing store, is relatively easy work. All that the management really expects is for them to have a positive attitude, show up on time and assist the customers. While these jobs typically do not offer commission or any kind of great pay, most of them offer some extra incentives. For example, many clothing stores will allow the employees to buy their stylish clothes for a substantial discount, so the employee will feel like they are making more money. This actually works out better, because the student will not have to pay income tax on the clothes.

Bars and Restaurants

Students who have an out-going personality and enjoy conversing with others should consider applying for a job at a restaurant or bar. Employees will work a little harder in these jobs than they would in a typical, minimum wage job, but the tips can be very good. It is typically easier to get a job serving at a restaurant than it is at a bar, since bartenders typically have more responsibilities, but servers can typically work their way up. Another nice thing about working for a bar or restaurant is that everyone enjoys being in this atmosphere anyway, and this will allow them to get paid to do so.

Sales

College students may also have an opportunity to work in certain sales job, with electronics being the most popular. Students will be able to work around and learn about the technology they love, but they will also have the ability to earn a commission on their sales. A lot of these stores will also give their employees a really good deal on electronics, such as cell phones. Receiving a cell phone and plan for a few dollars per month can make this job an excellent option.

Internet

Students who are really motivated and good at time management could start an online business. One of the most popular options is freelance writing, because it does not require any financial investment. If students want to invest a little money, they could buy some products and sell them online. The possibilities for working on the Internet are endless, but it takes the right personality to be successful.

These are just a few options for college students to choose from. The key thing for students to remember is that they need to determine what type of work sounds the most appealing. It is also important to note that some college towns may not have the same number of choices, so some students may have to take any job they can get.