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How to Stay Debt Free through Grad School

You have probably heard that the Bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma these days. There are so many people getting one that it can be pretty hard to stand out from the competition. Consequently, grad school has become a popular option for students looking to stand out from the crowd of candidates.

While getting an advanced degree can pay big dividends in the end, there are some serious up-front costs, including tuition and living expenses. Here are some ways to make it through grad school without going into serious debt.

Make a Strict Budget

You may have been able to get away with a few impulse purchases when you were out of school and had a decent job, but that won’t get you far in grad school. You need to stick to a strict budget if you are hoping to make it out with minimal debt. Everything from the groceries you buy to the gas you use should be accounted for so you know exactly where your money is going.

Make an Emergency Fund

Most graduate students will agree that having an emergency fund is crucial. After all, rainy days are bound to happen whether you’re in school or not. And if you’re hit with a financial emergency while attending graduate school, then in many ways you’re more vulnerable than if you were employed in the workforce. When saving up for grad school, don’t forget to save enough for a decent emergency fund, too.

Get into a Niche Program

With so many people going into popular fields like sociology or studying law, you won’t find much funding there (and there will be intense competition to secure the funding that is available). And once you graduate from a popular program, you’ll also be faced with steeper competition in the job market. That is why it is important to find a program that is specialized enough so you can leverage your expertise to your advantage once you leave.

When it comes to paying for grad school, you’ll be much more likely to secure funding in a specialized field. You will be one of the few students in such a program, and you may find that there are more scholarships and fellowships available in that department simply because of the limited number of students.

Look at the ROI

Sure, you may want to run off to some big-name school because it sounds good on paper, but what if it doesn’t pay off in the end? Not all grad schools are created equal, and there are vast differences in prestige among programs even within individual universities.

You should look at your graduate education as an investment, with what kind of salary you should expect upon graduation as the return. Do people with an advanced degree in your field make more money than those without? If so, how much more? Does the price of attending grad school justify the expected bump in earnings? Ask yourself these questions and more to determine whether grad school will bring you a positive return on investment. This makes it much easier to find a school that will match your financial needs.

Get an Assistantship

If you are looking to get great experience while helping pay for school, then getting an assistantship could be for you. An assistantship is a program funded by your department to do research, teaching, or another hands-on task. You basically become an employee to the university, and in return they offer you tuition assistance as well as a basic monthly stipend. These positions can also be much more flexible than regular jobs since they are run by the school and typically on-campus.

Before you set out to obtain that advanced degree, make sure you have a plan for funding it. There are millions of students out there who wind up in serious debt because they didn’t plan things out before attending a grad school program. Look over these tips and start applying them when you get into grad school. You will be glad you did when you still have cash in your pocket come graduation day!

For more financial advice, check back with our blog, updated daily!

4 Easy Ways to Give Your Kids Help With Homework

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Lately it seems like we start receiving “parent” homework before the school year even gets properly underway. There’s the little packet of “to dos” handed out at registration. Then another packet of “Spotlight your Child” activities handed out at the teacher Meet ‘n Greet. And if you’re adventurous enough to attend Back to School night, you can bet you’ll pick up another packet of parent homework there too!

Then the school year really kicks off. Sometimes it can feel like we’re drowning in the very schedules we prayed for all summer long. While you’re scrambling to catch up on all the little craft assignments you couldn’t get around to before the first day, the real homework starts rolling in. All of a sudden you’re knee deep in giving help with homework from book reports to science projects, math problems and last minute “Mom! It’s my turn to be spotlighted in my class and I don’t have a cool poster yet!” activities.

Great, only two weeks in and we have a homework situation! Cue the obligatory bout of stinging “parent fail” self-deprecation.

At this point, it can be tempting to jump on Pinterest and see what other parents are doing to maintain the apparently well-oiled machinery of their school routines. But then, if you’re like most people, you’ll just get distracted by some homemade Halloween pumpkin character that would require degrees in engineering, graphic art and interior design to actually produce.

And now the time you’ve spent trying to find ideas for help with homework has actually left you with even less time to spend doing it. And that little homework “situation” has slowly escalated to more of a full scale cataclysm, complete with weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth (mostly yours)!

So how does one climb that mountain of academic tasks and remain on top of it all year long? Well, obviously Pinterest is not a great place to start when you’re already trying to dig your way out of an academic avalanche. Tips are better. So here are some helpful tips for staying on top of homework, no matter how many little people you have contributing to the pile.

1. Homework serves an important purpose. No, really!

Try to keep in mind that the true purpose of homework is first and foremost an opportunity for your child to learn specific skills or information. Most of the time they can do this alone. However, that learning can be enhanced to a level of mastery providing the environment is favorable to it. This means that it is your job as a parent to facilitate this learning, not to do the learning for them. Offering your child help with homework doesn’t really help them if you do it all for them.

Although it is important to help your children complete their homework correctly, it is also important to help them take the lead. Pull the pins out of those incredible Pinterest feats; they make it too tempting to hijack the task, which really defeats the purpose of homework. Step away from the blue prints, hand your child the glue gun (or the Elmer’s glue!) and give them full creative license. Your job here is to encourage (and maybe stifle a cringe or two).

2. Get to know the teacher

Depending on how you look at it, what is required on any given homework assignment can range from pretty basic to “you’re the parent other parents love to hate” over the top! Rather than risk missing the mark, ask the teacher what they actually expect.

Make it a point to attend back to school night and every parent teacher conference, so you can ask them directly what is expected for your child’s homework. Also, ask how involved you should be. This will help you to toe the line between helping your children be successful, doing their homework for them and, let’s face it, running the risk of having other children in the class feel like underachievers!

3. Help your child to set up a homework schedule

The idea here is to keep track of what homework is due, and when. Try to avoid doing this yourself. It’s better to help your child figure out how to do it without depending on you. Help your child to create a homework plan. This is a great opportunity to teach them about time management and realistic deadlines. Then help them to stick to it.

Creating a plan with your child’s help will make them feel involved and invested in the process. It also helps them take responsibility for completing tasks on time. This means they will be much more likely to stick to the plan, and since they work with their teacher directly, they will probably have a better understanding of the expectations.

4. Keep your involvement age appropriate

It should go without saying but, remember to work with your children at a level that recognizes their abilities and limitations. Younger children need more help performing their homework tasks, while older children might just need help staying on task!

A good homework schedule should include the following things:

  • Specific Timeframes for Each Task. By being as specific as possible, and keeping expectations age appropriate, you will help your child to stay on task.
  • Consequences for Positive and Negative Behavior. Try to enforce the idea that a homework task must be finished before your child can enjoy a reward such as play or TV. Other little rewards (like snacks) can also encourage them to stay on task until their homework is complete.
  • Plenty of Time to Complete Assigned Work. Overwhelming your child with too much work in too little time will not help them. Be patient and give them the time they need to successfully complete their projects.
  • Breaks. Watch your child for signs of frustration, boredom or fatigue and give them a break. Remember, they spend all day in school and need time to decompress.
  • Physical Activity: Use breaks to do something physical like jumping jacks or jump rope. It’s a great opportunity to get blood flowing and use up some energy. It’s also a healthy alternative to screens and devices, and will get them back to the homework task faster, and in a less distracted state.

Homework is an important part of success at school, but it can also create stress and anxiety in the home, for both parents and students. Follow these tips to minimize that stress and help your child become much more successful at home and in the classroom.

Great Educational Activities for Kids Beyond the Classroom

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Teachers have a difficult job; I’d dare say one of the most challenging and underpaid professions out there. So why do they teach? Because it is so rewarding to see children learn and grasp new concepts.

You can experience this amazement with your child, too. Learning is not restricted to the classroom!
Children who experience education activities beyond the limits of their classrooms will be much more successful in life. They will have a greater understanding and appreciation for the world in which they live.

Here are some great educational activities for kids to get involved in your child’s education at home.

Visits to Your Local Library

Your city library has a wealth of information for FREE! You and your child can discover a new favorite book together or listen to a book on CD at home. Libraries also feature movies and music you can check out as well.
Many libraries offer free, family or age-based educational activities, like parent and child reading groups. In some areas, your library may even provide free preschool or tutoring.

Check with your local library for classes, events, and activities.

Experience Different Cultures

There are so many ways to show your child a different view of the world. Educational activities like concerts, museums, historical sites, national parks, etc. will be exciting and memorable for not only your kids but for the whole family.
Some of these experiences may require a little money and planning, but you’d be surprised at how much you and your family can do for free.

Take advantage of free community activities, like a concert in the park or a science demonstration at the museum.
Look at your city and neighboring cities’ websites for listings of community activities and entertainment. Another good source is local high schools and colleges, who put on plays and concerts that are less expensive than a real Broadway play.
Is there a special cultural event happening? A free art exhibit? A seasonal, low cost event?

Exposing your child to different cultures, places, people, and experiences will provide a much greater learning experience and may even spark your child’s interest in a new hobby or dream.
Who knows, one trip to the museum might create a future archeologist!

Life’s Everyday Moments

Kids are notorious for always asking “why.” Take the time to answer their questions and introduce new ones. Even simple, everyday chores and non-educational activities can be a source of learning!
Cooking as a family can prompt conversations on math, health and physical fitness. During a ride in the car, start a conversation about science and technology. There is always a way to connect an everyday task to a learning concept, and if you can connect it to something your child is interested in, they will be all ears.

Taking small opportunities to encourage your children to talk about educational topics will eventually lead them to inquire about the world themselves.

Technology

It can be hard to avoid the onslaught of technology, but you don’t need to completely hide from it either. Our children need computer skills, such as how to use the internet safely and effectively. Technology and media will be a big part of their world, but you can make sure it is something they are comfortable with and knowledgeable about.
When possible, work with your child to teach them these skills. Monitor what they watch and how much time they spend engaging in media.

By viewing educational videos or playing learning games together, you can teach them about good media habits and appropriate content.

Our children have the world, quite literally, at their fingertips. They can search any question they have and find thousands of answers in written data, charts, videos, etc. It is pretty amazing and a great learning tool if used properly.
Have some educational activities for kids of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

6 After School Activities to Keep Your Children Interested in Learning

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Learning should never stop, even when school is out—it should even extend beyond homework. But sometimes kids get burnt out on school, and all they want to do is play. Play time is important, too and it presents a wonderful opportunity.

To help your kids continue learning throughout the day, and even on the weekends, here are 6 cool activities that deceptively combine play with education.

Have your kids write a play, then act it out

Children’s minds are constantly brimming with creativity just waiting to be tapped. If you encourage your kids to come up with a play, and promise that you’ll all act it out together (that’s right, you should be acting it out, too), you’ll be surprised at the wonderful stories they can come up with.

A fun science experiment with cabbage

All you’ll need is a head of cabbage, some food coloring, water and some jars to illustrate how plants absorb water. Fill some jars with water and food dye, stick a leaf of cabbage in each jar, and before long the cabbage will absorb the dye and transform into new colors!

Decorate non-perishable food items to donate

One of the most important lessons you can teach your children is the importance of charity and giving. Turn it into a fun activity by having your kids decorate cans of food and other non-perishables. Then go on a road trip to your local food bank. Don’t forget to explain how their act of charity is helping feed people who are in need.

Salt art

It’s easy for children to get excited about art, especially if it involves a new medium. Here’s a cool idea: get some colorful construction paper and spread salt across it. Have your children “paint” images or words in the salt—the colored paper beneath it creates a cool effect.

Play a game of “sink or float”

Teach your children about buoyancy with a simple game of “sink or float.” Basically, you get regular household items, have your kids guess whether the items would sink or float, and then toss them (the objects, not your kids) in a tub of water. This is a very basic form of the scientific method—your kids come up with a hypothesis, and then they get to test it out and determine if they were right.

For extra credit, have your kids combine two things and see whether they “sink or float.”

Make paper plate birds that actually fly

Cut a paper plate in half, and then tape a plastic spoon to it, with the ladle of the spoon being the bird’s head. Color and decorate the bird (it could be a majestic eagle, or a colorful parrot), and then test it out—it should soar across the living room with ease.

Take one, or a few of these ideas, and get your children excited about learning at home! One of the best lessons you can give is that learning doesn’t only have to take place in a classroom—it can happen anywhere!

Getting Home for Christmas as a Student

Young students, away at school during the year, flock home in droves over the holiday season. These students (or their parents) often fork out good money to get their kids home on time. Don’t waste money on expensive, last-minute flights, gas money, or rescheduling of bookings. If you want to save yourself some money this year, remember the following pieces of advice as you plan your Christmas holiday.

Know your Schedule

Plan in advance. And don’t take gambles. These two simple principles can save you a lot of time, money, and headache. Do not book flights home until you are positive of your finals schedule. Universities post schedules months in advance, often available the first week of classes. Check with your professors to confirm finals schedules, as they often change throughout the semester.

Most colleges are very strict about their finals policies. “But I’m flying home that day!” is a completely unacceptable excuse when asking for a test-taking exception. Don’t bet on them letting you take a final early because of a pre-booked flight. They expect you to act responsibly and with foresight as a grown-up college student. Unplanned or selfish scheduling on your part will find no sympathy at universities.

Book Early

If you can, book your flight or train ticket as soon as possible. The earlier you book, the better deals you can get. If you book within a month of Christmas break, prices will skyrocket. Avoid that if you can. Changing your flight last minute will also cost an arm and a leg in fines and fees, so again, be sure of your finals schedule.

Car Pooling

If you live fairly close to home, try to find people to carpool home with. This is a great way to save money on gas, miles on your car (if you ride with someone else), and a much more enjoyable way to spend a long drive. Many universities offer carpool-organizing services that help students link up and arrange carpools home. Websites like zimride.com post schedules, contact info, and prices for rides that can be much cheaper than flying. There are also private Facebook pages set up to help students from the same community arrange rides. However, make sure you use websites and networks you trust. Be careful in choosing your carpool buddies. Remember, safety first!

Explore Options

Make sure you’ve explored all your options. The automatic plane-ticket home route might not be the best one. Sometimes driving can be cheaper than flying. Bus tickets may be more or less expensive than planes. Trains could also be a good way to go. Each area, method of travel, and time has its specific advantages and disadvantages. Make sure you know what is best for you. Also remember that the cheapest option may not be the best one. The headache and stress of organizing complicated, but cheap, travel routes may not be worth saving fifty bucks on a
plane ticket.

So know what you want. Know your schedule. Know your budget. If you do, you should be able to make it home fine, with a little money left over, and enjoy a wonderful holiday season with your family!

Budgeting While at College

Life as a college student is anything but inexpensive. Budgeting for the cost of living, tuition & books, technology, a car, and social activities adds up quickly, leaving you with little to no wiggle room when it comes to expendable income.

The time you spend in college, while educationally productive, should also include some trips and activities that will become impractical once you have a full-time job and a family. The key to having enough money to have fun while also meeting the financial needs of your education is to budget.

Budgeting is the process of realistically analyzing all your mandatory expenses, your living expenses, and your recreational expenses and then utilizing your financial resources to meet those financial responsibilities. Successful budgeting requires that you create a plan based on your expenses and resources and then follow that budget.

Examine Your Financial Resources

Financial resources are the methods by which you can obtain income. As a student there are a variety of options available to you. Start by making a list of all your current and potential sources of income for the semester.

Many students receive at least a portion of their income from their parents. If you are lucky enough to have this as an option, write down how much assistance you will receive from them and note what the money is to be used for. Additionally most students take student loans out to help cover the cost of their education. You can speak to your school’s financial aid office to get more information about what loans and grants you qualify to apply for.

If you feel that school loans and family help are not quite enough to cover your expenses, you can also get a job. Many students are able to use a part-time job as supplemental income to fund their free time. Part-time employment opportunities may be found through your school’s job board and in the local community. Having even a part time job will open other means of loans up to you such as payday loans or cash advances which you can utilize responsibly when needs be.

Create a Budget and Stick to It

Now that you know how much money you can expect to receive for the semester, you will want to create a detailed list of all your expenses. Start with the non-negotiable fixed expenses. List the cost of Tuition, books, rent, and any bills like a car and phone payments.

Next take a look at additional non-negotiable expenses like electric and gas bills, internet, food, and clothing. Estimate the monthly cost of these expenses and add them to the budget. Only after you have included all of your essential expenses can you look at budgeting for social activities, trips, and other pastimes that you enjoy.

You now have a sum total for income and expenses for the semester. Do your expenses exceed your income? If they do, you need to reexamine your expenses. Look for ways to trim your budget down. Do you need the latest phone and most expensive plan? Can you eliminate the cost of going out to eat often? Can you purchase used books instead of new ones? Can you take public transit instead of paying the high cost of fuel for your car?

If you ever find yourself strapped for cash and in need of money on short notice there are a few options available. You can check with your school to see what emergency loan options are available. Additionally, Check City offers online payday loans which can provide a quick, easy solution to unexpected expenses between paychecks.

Work to make your expenses fit within your income and create detailed plan of how much you are able to spend and what the money should be spent on. Take care to set aside some money for emergencies, and don’t forget to spend at least a little bit on yourself.

3 Tips to Wean Adult Children into Independence

With the new school year starting young adults are moving out on their own all across America. If done incorrectly the process of teaching your young adult how to be self-sufficient can be difficult. In this post we’ll cover three of the best ways to wean your young adult or adult children into independence.
Many adult children are still extremely reliant upon their parents for financial needs. Even into their mid-twenties, mom and dad are still paying for absolutely everything. And although this can be helpful to get through college, it isn’t always the healthiest approach.

Many students don’t take their education seriously when they’re not paying for it themselves, and others find it difficult to adjust to independent life after they graduate.

If you’re one of these parents but want to help your kids become independent, the following are three great ways to help wean them off of your bank account.

First, the joke, “he probably lives in his mother’s basement” is truer than a joke these days. Considering how cheap it is to live at home, many adult children default to a parent’s basement rather than pay for an apartment. It’s easy to do because mom loves to have her kids around, and it saves them a lot of money. The crazy thing is that it’s not just single children who are doing this either.

Many children move in with their spouses. It’s true that they first years of marriage can be difficult, especially where finances are concerned. These children will sometimes nest in for years to come. They have children and stay at home. Their children head off to elementary school, from their grandparent’s home. These families should be sheltering their kids under their own roofs, especially when they have a job that could be paying for their lives.

If you’re housing a single guy, a girl’s not going to want to find out that he’s still living with his mom. He has a much better chance at a social life outside of the home than he does where he’s at. He may even get married.

If this has happened to you, and you’re ready to have your kids get a move on with their lives, be up front with them. Reaffirm your love, but make it clear that they should be working on finding a place for themselves. It is your house. These are your rules, and you can still lovingly talk to them about how much better it is for them to seek their own life style.

After they move out, a great way to show love for them is to invite them over for dinners once a week. Show them that your home can still be a safe haven from the worries of the world with a free meal and familiar company, and that can give them encouragement during their time of adjustment.

Second, if they still rely on you to pay for their lifestyle, adjust that. You don’t have to drop every financial responsibility in the book on them all at once. That kind of adjustment would be extremely hard. It can be extremely good for them, but they might resent you for it and you might even hate the idea.

Wean them off instead. Set up a plan. Tell them that in three months from today, you no longer intend to pay for an expense: tuition, books, car, food, title loan payments or cell phone bills for example. In six months you will no longer pay something else. In a year, you won’t pay for something else, etc., etc. until they are finally financially independent.

You can help them find ways to support themselves though. If they’re not working, they will need to learn to find a job. If they have a job that isn’t making enough, encourage them to find a better one. If they are going to school and aren’t sure how they’re going to pay for tuition, encourage them to get a scholarship or grant. Student loans are always another option. You can guide them on a path to financial independence, helping them to grow up and helping you to gain financial independence as well.

Three, sit down to discuss their long-term goals. Have a good chat with your son(s) or daughter(s) about what their future goals are for independence. Ask them questions. When do they see themselves becoming independent? How long do they intend to live with you? What do they want out of life? See what goals for independence they’re trying to achieve and offer your help to get them there. Sometimes just talking about the issue can help them meet future goals much sooner than you expected. They might just need a bit of support from an interested parent.

Take these three ideas to heart and give them a shot. Your kids will have the best chance of success in this world when they’re introduced to financial independence, not sheltered indefinitely. Although you don’t need to kick them out and cut them off, you can go a long way to help your adult children seek complete financial independence starting today.

5 Ways to Reduce School Loans Before They Happen

The new school year has officially started and for many high school Juniors and Seniors that means it’s time to decide on which school to go to. In this post we’ll cover several ways that you can start planning now to be able to save tens of thousands of dollars over your college career. Post-secondary education is more expensive now than it ever has been before. The price of a good education is inflated to tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. And many believe that every penny is worth it.

These high prices come with an opportunity that makes it all possible: student loans. Student loans are a blessing and a curse. They allow you to pay for an education that will spring board you into a career, but at the same time, with prices as they are, they can put you into debt for 5 – 10 years at a time. And that can be very hard to pay off with an entry-level job.
Fortunately, you can avoid too much debt before they begin by implementing the following strategies before you even enter the college arena.

First, participate in concurrent enrollment. At many community colleges throughout the nation, you can take classes that count for both High School and College credit. These classes are often much cheaper than you would pay if you were just at college. Get some of those generals out of the way early and save yourself hundreds of dollars in your future tuition costs.

Second, start working as soon as you can. Get a job that you can work throughout your high school years. While you live under such luxury, i.e. your parents pay for everything, you can earn and save a lot of money now that you can put towards your college education. Keep a bit of money to spend on yourself (for food, clothes, and other hobbies), but try to save as much as you can while you aren’t forced to pay for much of anything. After just nine months of working 15 hours a week at $8 an hour, you can earn a gross total of $4,320. That’s equivalent to nearly two full-time semesters at an in-state college. Add on full-time work for the same wage over a summer and you wind up with a gross income of $8,160 on the year. Do that for two or three years before college and you take a significant chunk of debt out of your future. So when you can work, do it.

Third, take AP classes. Like concurrent enrollment, AP classes offer you the chance to earn college credit from High School classes. The curriculum is a bit more intense, but if you take and pass the AP test, you can earn instant credits for your college career. The only thing you to need to be sure of is that you check with the colleges you want to apply to in order to discover if they take the AP credits or not. Some are selective as to which classes they accept. What’s the point in paying for a test if you’re just going to have to take the class anyways right?

Fourth, when you do get into college, move to the state soon after graduation. Find someone to live with or live in an apartment early so you can declare residency there. In-state residents often pay much less on tuition (thousands less) than normal students. If you can declare your residency there, then you’ll immediately become benefactor to the benefits. Consider getting a full-time summer job there the summer you’re supposed to move in so you can try to hit minimum requirements for “time lived in-state.”

Fifth, in many schools, after you hit a minimum “full-time” requirement in credits, you can add more without paying an extra dime. Take advantage of those opportunities. Take more credits than the bare minimum so you can essentially get one or two classes free every semester.

Now many schools often cap the total number of credits you can take in a single semester to about 18. With special need and a compelling argument, e.g. great grades, you can sometimes get special permission to take 19-21, adding an extra free class to the list.

The only con of this style is that 12-15 hours is often more than enough class time and homework to keep you always busy. 18 credits of work are usually considered crazy, and anything past that is pure genius. Students who attempt this route will save more money in the long run, but they’ll be forced to put their nose to the grinder if they want to do well.

Sixth, claim free money. Grants and scholarships abound. Find them and apply. People will pay you to go to school.

Prepare for your freshman year intelligently. Earn money before coming. Move to the state early. Take extra credits. Get as many credits out of the way in high school that you can. Make a claim on the free money out there. Your final bill of debt may still be high, but it’ll be much less than those that didn’t prepare.

United Way Day of Caring

Check City is always looking for ways to help within our community through different community outreach projects. Today Check City is happy to be helping out with the United Way Day of Caring. The United Way does an amazing job of giving citizens an opportunity to improve the community through service and today’s opportunity is no different.

Today is the 21st annual Day of Caring and we were able to participate by donating our time by helping out the children of our community in the Clearfield area. We had the opportunity to visit a Clearfield area elementary school and sit down with children to listen to them read.

Everyone involved had a great time and we’re already looking forward to next year!

3 Expensive Mistakes College Freshmen Make

College is an exciting time of life. For many, it represents the freedom of living on your own: a chance to be independent. Many of those have really been given the boot too, expected to survive on their own without the financial aid of parents. Consequently, many of these students are thrown into the sometimes frightening world of financial independence without the experience or knowledge to find the most frugal opportunities out there.

Common Freshmen Mistakes

They make mistakes. They invest in apartments, insurance policies, and other necessities that they don’t realize are costing them a financial arm and a leg to pay for.

There are so many opportunities out there for cheaper living that they don’t often catch on to until it’s too late. They sign a year contract before playing the field for better opportunities. It hurts at first, but the students learn in the long run.

Wouldn’t it be better if they could be armed with this knowledge before they sign their contracts though? Shouldn’t they know what to bargain hunt for and how to identify a good deal? They’d definitely be happier in their first year of adjustment if they did. The following are five of the most expensive mistakes college freshmen can make coming into their first year at the university.

Don’t Pay Too Much For Housing

First, they sign at the first place that looks nice. They pay way too much for their first year of housing.

Coming from a home where the parents paid the bills, it can be easy to fall into the financial trap of caring about appearances first, and then bills later. They think they need the apartment with the new couches, built-in big screen TV, and private bedrooms. They feel they can’t live without the finer things in life and turn down some of the more “shabby” opportunities, preferring to pay the extra $50 to $200 a month for a better place to live.

It’s only a hundred or two extra a month right? It’s not that hard to come up with? It’s worth the price for not boarding up in that “dump” across the street that merely provides a solid place to live (not of repute), clean quarters (that aren’t clean enough that you can see your reflection in), and a lousy 20” TV (that doesn’t even get ESPN2 or the Bachelorette).

What they miss with this mindset is that the thing they called a dump will turn out to be a palace in the coming years, because they realize that the bare necessities of living don’t require the finer things in life (nor the higher rent that comes with them). In the end, they may find themselves needing the help of a cash advance or two to help make ends meet.

It’s College, Forget the Car.

Second, they take out a loan for a car. Paying just a hundred a month for five to ten years doesn’t sound bad when you don’t have to pay for everything else quite yet. Once you get into the heat of tuition, books, housing, food, entertainment, gas, and car insurance though, it becomes far too expensive to maintain easily.

Unless you have enough money to buy it outright, it’s in your best interests to hold off on purchasing a vehicle quite yet. Wait until your finances are stable and then look into it again.
Luckily you are surrounded by people that have access to a car in your first year. You also likely have access to a public transportation system that for an affordable flat fee and a bit of patience, can get you anywhere in the city.

Save on Insurance

Third, those that do own their car don’t do much digging on their car insurance opportunities. If you are a good student, then it is a buyer’s market for you. Start by shopping around every insurance place you know of, seeking quotes. For each quote, ask about a “good student” discount opportunity and see what companies can offer you. Drop that monthly premium as far as you can so you can save money over time.

These are among the most common financial blunders that incoming freshmen make when they’re trying to find their way in the world. They sign for too nice of an apartment, too big an auto loan, or too expensive of auto insurance that they end up spending $300 – $400 more than they could have been. That may not seem like much to one that has never been financially independent before, but in the long run, that’s going to cost them $2,400 – $3,200 extra for an eight year span. And when you’re counting pennies to meet tuition and book needs, you just don’t have money to be wasting that much.

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