7 Tips for Effective Financial Planning for Traditional College Students

College Students

Face it, students, there’s more to college than beer and parties. If you find yourself hunting for change in the depths of your couch — among the potato chip crumbs and perhaps an old sock or two — chances are you’re not handling your finances the right way. Being broke and living on campus can go hand in hand for most students, so it’s important you manage your money, and prepare for all your educational expenses.

With that being said, here are seven tips for effective financial planning for resident students.

Get a Student Checking and Savings Account

When you’re a college student, you’re eligible to receive plenty of discounts and benefits. Among the most advantageous of these benefits are free checking and savings accounts. Banks like to nickel and dime customers who have too many ATM withdrawals or who write too many checks. As a student, you can avoid these seemingly petty charges that add up quickly over time. Remember to sign up for overdraft protection, too.

Buy Used Books Online or Rent Them

As if tuition wasn’t expensive enough, now you have to worry about costly books. Depending on your major, your books could mean the difference between filling up on Hamburger Helper throughout the semester or starving on ramen noodles. To help cut costs, consider buying your books used from an online retailer like Amazon or renting them. If you buy them used, you can make some of your money back if the edition remains relevant (cross your fingers). And if you’re pursuing an online degree, you might have the advantage of digital materials for your courses which can save you money.

Here are few resource sites for textbook rentals:

FreeTextbook.com

ValoreBooks.com

Neboo.com

Study Hard and Earn Good Grades

If your parents hammered it into your head since day one that your grades would matter, they were right. Not only do good grades result in high academic honors, but they can also lead to financial rewards — and not just in the future when you start your career. Studying hard and earning good grades will make you eligible for a plethora of scholarships and grants that can potentially take care of your tuition, leaving you with more money in your pocket and less debt after you’ve graduated.

Take Advantage of Your Summers

OK, so maybe you haven’t been studying hard and earning good grades. If that’s the case, then you’ll likely spend your summers in the classroom trying to catch up to students who have been on top of things. If you’re not tied down to your college campus during the summer, consider getting a part- or full-time job. Spending the summer at home shouldn’t just be about hanging out with your family and friends; you should work and save up, too.

Internmatch is a good website to check out if you’re looking for a paid internship or an entry level job. If you’re worried that your summer job can hurt your Financial Aid, here is a great article on how your summer gig most likely won’t affect your aid.

Skip the Coffee Shop

Do you know what students rely on when they party too much, don’t get enough sleep, and try to ace that unexpected test first thing in the morning? That’s right, coffee. Although it might seem like a lifesaver, buying your coffee from a big coffee chain, like Starbucks, adds up. To find out just how much you’re spending, check out this coffee calculator. You might think you’re saving time by not brewing your own; however, think about how long you’ll wait in a line to order that Trenta coffee.

Avoid Eating Out All the Time

Another expensive luxury while in college involves eating out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. OK, so maybe you’re not eating the recommended three meals per day, but that doesn’t mean you should spend your money at lavish restaurants like you’ve already graduated and moved up the corporate ladder. Like coffee, make your meals in your room or get a meal plan to enjoy the campus restaurants.

Find Compatible Roommates

Finding and living with roommates is a part of the traditional college experience. Believe it or not, you’ll save money by choosing people with whom you’re compatible. Although there’s no foolproof way to make sure you do, you should carefully pick your roommate(s). Not only will this selectivity help you avoid expensive and aggravating moves, but you’ll avoid running into problems that result from a roommate who eats your food or runs up the utility bill.

Earning a Bachelor’s degree while scraping by is no fun. Keep these tips in mind to help you save money.

The author bio:  Lizzie Wann is the Content Director for Bridgepoint Education. She oversees all website content and works closely with New Media, Career Services and Student Services for Ashford University

5 Things Small Business Owners Can Do to Save Money Every Month

Small Business

Sure, you love your small business; it allows you to work on your own terms, control your hours, and pursue your passion. But there’s one problem: you constantly worry about money at the end of each month. If you can’t manage your expenses, no amount of passion can save your business. Try these tips to avoid overspending and get back to the work you love.

Change Your Workforce

Think about it: do you really need permanent staff? Salaried employees incur more liabilities and taxes (and even more office drama) simply by working with you every day. Hiring outside workers allows you to customize skills and labor to each project without committing to long-term employees (and if one doesn’t work out, you deal with fewer hard feelings, too). Temporary workers come in many forms; try virtual assistants for administrative tasks, independent contractors or temp employees for specialized projects, interns for menial or hands-on work, and commission-based workers for sales jobs.

Take Marketing to the Web

If you haven’t made an effort to build an online presence yet, drop everything and start now. Many of the best outlets for reaching your customers online cost little or no money — plus, you can react quickly to business trends and talk directly to regular and prospective clients. Build your own website and reference it on company letterhead and emails (and anywhere else people will see your business name). Speaking of email, abandon your paper mailers and send email newsletters with sites such as MailChimp. Build social media accounts to reach customers on their level instead of using outdated print ads. If you need money for big projects, try crowdfunding through sites such as Kickstarter. And if you only run a physical storefront, consider selling items online with the help of PayPal or Amazon.

Slash Small Expenses

Image via Flickr by reynermedia

The little things do add up quickly — and if you paid attention to them, you could avoid hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in monthly expenses. Before you make any cuts, check your monthly budget for wasteful activity and ask staff where they see leaks in company spending. Don’t neglect the minute details; some business owners found savings by replacing bottled water with a water cooler, using scanned documents instead of faxing them, or substituting Styrofoam plates with dishes and silverware. These small changes can greatly reduce your environmental impact while lowering monthly bills.

Travel Smart

If your business requires extensive travel, you know that costs can add up quickly — but a few small changes can dramatically cut your monthly travel expenses. If you fly out-of-town often, you may benefit from airline and hotel loyalty programs, as well as credit cards that accrue points or miles. For road warriors, try rent-as-you-go services like Zipcar instead of purchasing a company vehicle that sits idle for most of the month; ride-share programs such as Zimride can also lower gas and maintenance fees. Research extra tax breaks outside of typical travel expenses, since you may be able to make partial deductions from meals or tips on the road. Of course, staying at home cuts more travel costs than anything; try video chats with Skype or FaceTime to avoid a suitcase altogether.

Manage Money Online

Between credit cards, everyday expenses, and taxes, losing track of payments could land you in trouble. By using your computer and smartphone to watch your monthly funds, you’ll ensure you won’t forget a single dollar. Download FREE financial apps like Mvelopes in order to help you stay on top of your personal finances and always be on the same financial page with your spouse, regardless of where you are!

Turn that passion for your small business into action; you can make dozens of adjustments to lower your monthly costs without sacrificing excess time or money. With changes to your employees, marketing, travel, and finance management, you can get back to focusing on more important work.

 

Save $1000 in 5 months with this one tip

$400 Monthly Grocery Budget

Limit Your Grocery Budget to $400 a Month and Build Your Emergency Fund!

Most Americans spend anywhere from $600 – $720 a month on groceries–that’s according to a recent Gallup poll. Food is, by far, the second largest expense for most of us, outside of our rent or mortgage payment.

Over 60% of us don’t have a $1000 emergency savings fund; hence, we are not prepared to face even a small financial emergency. Building a $1000 cash reserve is a critical step that will help you move towards financial freedom. So how can you do this without having to spend endless hours on reworking your budget?

One, easy way to start building your emergency fund is to take a fresh look at this second highest budget category, your food budget, and find ways to put a hard limit on how much you spend every month on feeding your family.

You may be thinking that this will require you and your loved ones to live on bread and water, but that’s really not true.

We’ve compiled some great resources to help you limit your food budget to $400 a month for a family of 4. if you’ve been spending $600+ on groceries before, this one small change will free up $200+ a month that you can start setting aside for your $1000 emergency fund. In 5 months or less, you can be sitting on $1000 of savings you never knew you had!

Aldi + Meal Planning

You already know this, but going grocery shopping without a firm list is a big no-no. What’s even better is planning all of your meals ahead of time and going shopping with your weekly menu in hand. Combine your weekly planning with a great discount store like Aldi, and you have a winning combination. Keep in mind that, because Aldi is already deeply discounted, you won’t be able to use any coupons while shopping there.

We found one mom who’s able to feed her family for less than $50 a week by buying groceries at Aldi. In her post, she provides you with a list of groceries as well as 6 dinner recipes. If you have limited time, you can follow this mom’s meal plan, or make your own, if you have as little more creative energy. The bottom line is this: spending one hour a week planning can save your $200 a month or more. We think it’s a great investment of your time.

Make Your Breakfast (less than $0.50 per serving or $15 per month!)

If you’re in the habit of stopping by to grab a “quick” muffin or biscuit in the morning, you should start making your own! You can get 6 english muffins and a dozen eggs for less than $4 total. If you ate one egg muffin a day for the entire month, your breakfast would cost you a whopping $15!

Other extremely cheap and nutritious breakfast options include oatmeal, cottage cheese & fruit, and making your own pancakes or waffles during the weekend, which you can freeze and use for the entire week.

If you plan your menu well, your breakfast items for a family of 4 should not run you more than $60 – $70 a month, and that includes occasional splurges on bacon, breakfast sausage, etc.

$7 Dinner Challenge

Dinners, by far, will be your most costly meals, but what if you could stick to a price-tag of $7 / dinner for a family of four? If you can do that, you’ll spend $210 a month on your dinners.

You may be thinking that $7 is not enough, but let me assure you, you can make really good, well-rounded meals for $7. We’ve started a Pinterest board dedicated to Meals on a Budget where you can find tasty recipes for as little as $5 for a family of four! Follow us on Pinterest and you can get regular updates with tasty, budget-friendly recipes.

Here are a few tips on making thrifty dinners:

– Be careful which cuts of meat you choose. Buying 4 chicken quarters is much cheaper than purchasing chicken breasts. So you can still have chicken dinners but for half the price!

– Soups are insanely cheap. You can pick one day a week and call it your “Soup Sunday,” for example. Serving a bowl of tomato basil soup with a simple grill cheese will be delicious and inexpensive.

– How about introducing meatless dishes? Veggie fried rice is super easy, super delicious and super cheap to make. You can even make enough to have leftovers, and all under your $7 budget!

Between keeping your dinners at $210 a month and your breakfast at $60 or $70, you’ll have $120 left for lunches!

BOGO + Coupons + Loyalty

If you don’t have an Aldi or another deep discount store close by, i’m sure your traditional grocery store is running BOGO (Buy One Get One) sales all the time. If you are not taking advantage of BOBO’s, you should! They can save you a ton on food and toiletries, especially if you combine them with coupons.

If you don’t have the time or the energy to cut out coupons, that’s OK! Make technology your friend. Consumer Report released a list of best coupon apps for both Android and iPhone that will help you save additional dollars without a whole lot of effort on your part. Check those apps out and let us know how they perform for you!

As always, combine your savvy shopping with Mvelopes budget planning, and you will be on your way to save your $1000 in no time, just by changing your meal strategy.

With Mvelopes, you can create one envelope for groceries OR you could create 3 envelopes, one for breakfast, one for dinner, and one for lunch items. It would require a little more managment, but this way you could track your spending in more detail, which makes it a lot easier to make targeted adjustments to stay on track.