Archive for the ‘ College ’ Category

How to Be a Money-Smart Graduate Student


Whether you’ll be pursuing a master’s degree in English literature or a Ph.D. in chemical engineering this fall, life as a graduate student likely will require a good deal of thriftiness. But that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to a steady diet of instant noodles and cereal for the foreseeable future.

Here’s a look at several sustainable ways that grad students can maximize their stipends or other income and cut costs in the process.

Find a roommate

Sharing a house or an apartment with others may have taken some getting used to as an undergraduate. By now, though, you’re probably a seasoned veteran. And that’s a good thing, since finding a roommate is still one of the best ways to save money.

As well as being able to write a smaller rent check every month, you may also want to divvy up utilities and split groceries. Consider using an app like Roomi to find someone who has similar attitudes toward noise and cleanliness, which can reduce tension down the road.

Catch the bus

Unlike your first college stint, you probably won’t be running back and forth between the far corners of your school’s campus to get to class. In grad school, you’ll probably spend most of your time in one or two buildings. A car, therefore, may not be essential. Instead, use a bike or hop on public transportation. Many schools offer subsidized transit passes to lighten the load on students’ finances.

Use student discounts

It can be disheartening to create a budget only to find that there isn’t much money left over for meals out or nights at the neighborhood bar. But if you take advantage of student discounts — and memorize that bar’s happy hour schedule — having a good time doesn’t have to put a major dent in your wallet.

From movie theaters to museums, many places offer student discounts. Although saving a couple of bucks may not seem like much, it’ll make a difference over time. This extra cash can then be put toward your future, either by eliminating debt or saving for retirement.

Tackle debt, save what you can

Only about 1 in 10 millennials say they feel “very confident” that they’ll have enough cash for retirement, according to a recent survey. If you’re worried about running out of money during your later years, consider starting to set aside some of your income now. A good amount to shoot for is about 10% of your monthly earnings.

You’ll also be doing your future self a huge favor by slashing as much credit card or student loan debt as possible. Also, do your best not to rack up any new consumer debt. Use your plastic only in emergencies.

The bottom line

Pursuing an advanced degree can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but not financially, at least not right away. It’s therefore essential to take advantage of all the breaks you can get, such as subsidized transportation passes and other student discounts. That way, the only thing you’ll graduate with is more knowledge, and not mountains of credit card debt.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


For more information about Graduate Loans and other student loans, visit the our student loans web page or our Student Choice website.

How to Fund Your College Social Life While Maintaining Your Finances


Unlike Snoop Dogg, incoming college students might not have their minds on their money and their money on their minds. But if you’re just starting out on campus and can put some of your focus on your finances, you have a great opportunity: Knowing how to manage your cash can save you endless headaches down the road.

Here are a few things you can do to keep your finances in order.

Learn to budget

Tuition, groceries, dining out, textbooks, rent — the expenses never seem to stop piling up. Creating a budget can help you regulate how much you spend and on what. Use a spreadsheet, a notebook, or a good budgeting tool or app to track what your purchases. And always prioritize essentials before indulging on new shoes or concert tickets.

Know the ins and outs of financial aid

Students miss out on billions of dollars in free government aid each year. Fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, early and you’ll be more likely to receive the scholarships and grants you qualify for. These should always be your first priority when it comes to financial aid.

Private scholarships can also be valuable, even if they’re small sums. Try to spend two hours a week researching and applying for scholarships.

If you still need funding, try federal loans first and private loans last. Neither is free, though it might feel that way now, so borrow only what you absolutely need.

Practice good credit card habits

Horror stories of spiraling credit card debt might have made you wary of plastic. But the length of your credit history is a key part of your credit score. And having a good score can earn you a lower interest rate on a car loan or a mortgage in the future.

Although you’re a student, you don’t automatically qualify for a student credit card; you’ll need income or a co-signer. If you don’t have either, consider a secured card. These require you to put down a cash deposit as collateral, but if the issuer reports your account activity to the credit bureaus, they can help you start building credit.

Develop good credit card habits now. Think of your card as another debit card and charge only an amount you can pay off with what’s in your bank account. And don’t carry a balance from month to month — paying in full will keep your credit score high.

Save money where you can

The outside world tries to make up for your sky-high tuition costs with a little something called  student discounts. Big retail chains such as Apple, Banana Republic and J. Crew, as well as movie theaters and museums, offer discounted prices for students. If you don’t see one advertised, just ask.

Avoid paying full price for your textbooks by searching for used copies on websites such as Chegg and Abebooks. Amazon offers a 50% student discount for Amazon Prime accounts.

Build your resume

True, college is expensive, but it’s also an investment. College graduates earned about 63% more than those with only high school diplomas in 2013, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

Make sure you get that degree — but improve yourself in other ways, too. Learn a foreign language and volunteer for leadership positions. These skills will set you apart in a competitive job market.

The costs of being in college might keep your wallet thin now, but in the long run, it could turn out to be the best financial decision you ever made.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


For more tips on planning for college and information about Members 1st’s student loan program, visit members1st.studentchoice.org.

The Cost of Raising a Child From Cradle to Adulthood


Raising a child takes patience, understanding — and about $245,340, based on the latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That’s the average cost to care for a child from birth to age 18 for a middle-income family, as calculated by the USDA in a recent report on family expenditures. The estimate excludes prenatal health care and college costs.

If you’re getting ready to have your first child, your life and your spending will change drastically. Here’s a closer look at how the cost breaks down.

Housing

Child-rearing expenses typically cost couples with two children between just over $9,000 and nearly $26,000 a year per child, depending on household income and the age of the children, according to the USDA.

The incremental cost of housing is the largest expenditure, accounting for about 30% of the cost of raising a child to adulthood, the report says. That estimate is based on the expectation that a family with children will need at least one extra bedroom. And the estimate of housing costs is conservative, the USDA says, because it does not take into consideration the desire of many parents to live in areas with better schools, for example, which tend to be more expensive.

To prepare for buying a home, you will want to have around 20% of the purchase price saved up for a down payment, although lenders do make exceptions. Consult your credit union for help with mortgage qualification.

Child care and education

The cost burden of child care and education has ballooned since 1960, when it accounted for only 2% of the typical costs of raising a child, to 18% today, according to the USDA report. That is largely due to women’s increased participation in the workforce.

To offset the cost, look into benefits such as the federal Child and Dependent Care Credit, which can reduce your taxes by up to $1,050 a year for a single child and $2,100 for two or more. Also look into alternatives to day care centers such as sharing a nanny with another family or hiring a live-in “au pair.”

If your child goes the private school route, be prepared. The average cost for private elementary school nationwide in 2014-15 was $7,331, and the average cost for private high school was almost twice that, according to PrivateSchoolReview.

For higher education, considering opening a 529 account for your child, which allows you to save for college costs with tax-free earnings and virtually no contribution limits. A Coverdell account can help you build savings for private school or college, although the benefits are more limited.

Food

As your child gets older, grocery bills will increase. Food accounts for 16% of child-rearing expenses, the USDA report says. This includes grocery shopping, dining out and school meals. To save money on food, eat as many homemade meals as you can; it’s considerably cheaper than dining out.

Health care

Your child inevitably will get sick, and even if you have insurance, it won’t cover all the costs. Out-of-pocket expenses for medical and dental services tend to rise as your children grow. Out-of-pocket health care expenses account for about 8% of the cost of raising a child in a typical household, the USDA figures. To save money, look into a health savings account or flexible spending plan, which allow you to pay for qualified health care expenses with pretax income.

Bringing a new life into the world comes with a spectrum of challenges and expenses, so be prepared with new strategies for saving money and building assets. As exciting as parenthood can be, it helps to be ready for it financially, too.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


Members 1st is here to help you through all of life’s most important moments and milestones. If you have any questions, please call customer service at (800) 237-7288, visit our website, or visit one of our various branch locations.

How you can save money and make money on college textbooks!


TextbooksNo one likes spending their hard-earned money on textbooks. Unfortunately this is something every college student goes through each semester. Don’t worry though, because there are steps that you can take to save money and even make money each time you go through this process!

First, do not wait until the last-minute to buy your textbooks. Give yourself time to shop around and find the best deals out there.

The next thing you must do is make a list of each book you will need. Look over the books and decide which books you will rent and which books you will buy to keep for long-term use. Often times if the textbook contains information you may be able to utilize for your major, it is a good idea to hang on to the book as you may need it again.

Now you can begin shopping around! Avoid your school book store if at all possible. Amazon, a major online retail store, carries hundreds of textbooks that you may find easily by simply entering your textbook’s ISBN. If the book is in stock it will appear with price options for renting, buying used and buying new textbooks. Other websites that offer the same services include Chegg.com, BookRenter.com and Textbooks.com. These are just a few examples of companies that offer these services, as there are dozens available online.

Another option to save money is by sharing textbooks with friends. If you and a friend are taking a class at the same time it may be a good idea to split the cost of the book and share. Keep in mind that everyone in the same major takes primarily the same classes, so ask around and see if anyone has some old text books lying around that may be of use to you. EBooks are also becoming popular with college students, as they can also be significantly cheaper and are available instantly upon purchase.

Finally, when the end of the semester rolls around (which will be quicker than you think) look into selling back textbooks that you will not be using again. Just like buying textbooks, it is a good idea to avoid selling back to the bookstore, unless you’re okay with only getting a few bucks back. I don’t know about you, but I want to make as much money back on the book as I can!

Many online textbook retailers offer services to buy back books as well. After all, that is where all those cheap used textbooks you bought came from anyway. Selling back is simple and painless. On Chegg.com you simply click the “more” button on the upper right hand corner of the website and hit “sell back” to get a quote on the textbook you wish to sell by entering the ISBN number. Then, you simply agree to sell the book, enter your information and ship the book!

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Guest Blogger: Megan Lopez, Marketing Intern (student at St. John’s University, New York)

Move-In Day Will Be Here Before You Know It!


College-MovingInIt’s that time of the year again, so grab those boxes and bins and toss them in the car. With so much to do in so little time it’s hard to know where to begin. The following tips may be of some use to you while you prepare to head off to college!

Be prepared and make a list. You basically need to pack up your entire life into a few storage bins. Make sure that you pack only the things that you need. If you are going home over Thanksgiving break you can probably wait to bring your winter coat.

Order large items online. It’s difficult to pack everything in one vehicle. To make this easier on you and your parents order larger items like; comforters, mini-fridges and microwaves online and have them sent to your campus mail room. There may even be a store location near your campus that you can pick the items up at when you arrive, which can help you to avoid shipping fees!

Pack a bag of necessities. Your first couple days in the dorm are going to be hectic between getting situated and meeting new people. Pack a bag of clothes and toiletries that you will need for the first few days so that you can find everything without dumping your entire suitcase.

Coordinate with your roommate. Talk to your roommate before moving in day. There may be items that you can share, such as an area rug, a mini-fridge, gaming console, or a TV. See who is bringing what to avoid having duplicates and spending money unnecessarily.

Arrive early. Many colleges assign specific move in dates and times to help control the chaos. Be sure to check with your housing department on campus for the exact time that you will need to arrive. Also, keep in mind that there are a large number of people moving in on the same day. Checking in can be a hassle, try to beat the crowds. Remember, which ever roommate gets there first gets to pick which bed they want!

Take breaks. Move-in day can be very stressful. Not only do you have to move in but so do hundreds of other students. There are people everywhere and tons of things you need to do (like the oh-so-exciting paperwork). Make sure you give yourself time to eat and regroup.

Follow your schedule. It may seem odd to have tons of activities and presentation scheduled for move-in day, but colleges do it like this for a reason. Most importantly there is a lot of information that they need to relay to you. It is also to get students out and about; they do not want people to be alone in their rooms all day.

Socialize.  Going hand-in-hand with all the activities scheduled, this is a great chance to socialize and meet people. There are hundreds of students who want to meet new people and make new friends as well so this should be the easiest part of the day, not to mention the best part of the day!

Have fun! This is an exciting time in your life. It’s the beginning of something completely new to you and all your classmates. Take it all in and have fun!

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Guest Blogger: Megan Lopez, Marketing Intern (student at St. John’s University, New York)

 

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