Tag: College


7 Crazy Things College Students Have Done to Save Money

By Rebecca Lake
August 1, 2019

Being a broke college student is a rite of passage. But that doesn’t mean having no money is any fun. 

When you don’t have a lot of cash to spend, you have to get creative with your funds. And, finding outside-the-box ways to save money can help you stretch every dollar.

If you’re looking for inspiration to help pad your savings account, check out these 7 extreme money-saving stories from some formerly broke students.

1. Recycle for profit

When he was in college LaRon Hayes, marketing manager for Premier International Transportation, discovered that one man’s trash is another’s treasure – literally. 

It started when he came across a Craigslist ad from someone giving away free books. He snagged the lot, then resold them on eBay to make his first $100. From there, he started regularly picking up free items he could resell for a few extra bucks. He was able to use the money he set aside from upcycling to pay down his student loan debt after graduation. 

If you’re interested in reselling, take advantage of all the different ways you can do this to make money. For example, you can sell free or found items on:

  • eBay
  • Amazon
  • Craigslist
  • Local Facebook bargain groups

In addition, don’t count out yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores, consignment shops and used bookstores. These can be great resources for finding and reselling your wares. 

2. Take Extra Credits to Graduate Early

Cutting down what you pay for tuition is one way to save money as a student. Marc Andre, founder of VitalDollar.com, was able to trim a big chunk off his college budget by fast-tracking his way through school. 

“The base tuition was the same for 12-18 credits per semester, so I took 18 credits most semesters because it didn’t cost anything extra,” Andre says. 

He graduated a semester early and saved around $8,000 on tuition and fees to boot. 

If you’re still in school, consider whether graduating ahead of schedule is doable. Check with your registrar and financial office to find out how many hours you can take each semester and run the numbers to see if you’d save anything by getting your diploma a semester or two early.

3. Stock up on freebies

Steffa Mantilla, owner of Plantsonify, saved money in college by building a personal stockpile of free samples.

“My dentist’s office would often let me take multiple toothpastes, toothbrushes and floss,” Mantilla says. 

“Some companies will even send you samples if you email them. Combining this with using hotel shampoos, soaps and conditioners, I rarely had to purchase any toiletry items during college.” 

Assuming you spend $50 a month on toiletries in college, that could add up to $600 a year you could stash in savings. Some other ways to grab money-saving freebies include:

  • Hitting the makeup counter at your favorite department store for free samples.
  • Signing up for birthday freebies at your favorite restaurants and retailers. 
  • Take surveys or watch videos online to earn free gift cards.
  • Join a freebie website like FreeFlys.

Just remember to read the fine print on freebie websites to make sure they’re legit. 

4. Live Harry Potter-style

Communal living can be a great way to save money in college and Megan Robinson, personal finance expert at Dollarsprout, took it to the extreme.

“I lived in a one-bedroom house with two other girls, three dogs and three cats,” Robinson says.

Splitting the rent three ways allowed Robinson and her roommates to each save about $200 per month.

“I’m 90% sure my bedroom used to be a pantry or a laundry room, but the rent was cheaper than anything else in the area.” 

You don’t necessarily have to live in a pantry or broom cupboard, but if rent payments are straining your budget, consider whether taking on a roommate or two might help. Or, think about downsizing altogether and renting a single room in someone else’s home. You can get your own space at a fraction of what it might cost to rent an apartment. 

5. Skip buying textbooks

Buying textbooks can be a financial drain. Becky Beach, founder of MomBeach.com, came up with a creative solution. 

“I read all my textbooks in the campus bookstore so I didn’t have to buy them,” Beach says. 

Now, if you don’t have time to hang in your college bookstore all day, there are a few other ways you can save money on textbooks. For example, you could try:

  • Checking out a copy from the campus library.
  • Buying used textbooks online. 
  • Using digital versions instead of print versions to save money.
  • Renting textbooks on Amazon or another textbook rental site instead of buying. 
  • Sharing textbooks with a classmate.

And once you’re done with your textbooks for the semester, get some of your money back by reselling them. Get a quote on a price from the campus bookstore, then compare that to what you might be able to make by selling your books online or through a student reselling group on Facebook. 

6. Sell real estate in your spare time

Starting a side hustle in college can help bring in some extra cash. Morgan Riddle, interactive media manager at LoveYourMelon.com, took things just a bit further. 

“I was looking for a way to make money and ended up getting my New York real estate license as a junior in college,” Riddle says. 

“I sold and rented apartments on days I didn’t have class or between my classes junior and senior year.” 

When it was all said and done, Riddle ended up making over $15,000 to add to her savings account

Pro tip: If you’re considering starting a side hustle or business, think about whether you’ll need any money up front to get started. In Riddle’s case, it cost $350 to obtain a real estate license but that investment proved well worth it in the end. 

7. Lock up your savings

If you struggle to hold onto your savings, it may be best to make it untouchable. Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful, says he knew a grad student who had a system for this.

She opened a second account at a bank that had no branches nearby and cut up her ATM card for that account. Then when she got paid, she’d write a check to the second account and deposit it using the bank’s mobile app. 

“Her savings were safe there because getting the money out was just too much of a hassle,” Steiner says. 

You could try something similar by setting up a separate account for savings if you don’t have one yet. 

Do you have a crazy savings story?

Saving money can sometimes be a struggle, especially in college. 

Do you have a wild savings story in your past? Or, are you doing something extreme right now to save and earn more money?

Whatever it is you’re doing, keep making saving money a priority. Setting aside money consistently is the best way to end up wealthy long after you leave college behind!


Paying Off Student Loans? Take These 6 Steps Now

By Susan Shain
June 7, 2019

You did it: You graduated from college — a feat that only one-third of Americans have accomplished.

While that should make you proud, another statistic is probably hanging over your head: that 69% of college students who graduated in 2018 took out student loans along the way, graduating with an average debt of $29,800.

If you, too, are saddled with debit in the form of student loans, don’t panic. Tens of millions of young Americans have been in your shoes. The important thing is to learn as much as you can about the process — and then create a plan of attack.

So before you even clean out your dorm, accept a job, switch banks, or move to a new city, take these six steps to get your student loans under control.

1. Take Stock & Consolidate Your Student Loans

How much money do you owe? Who do you owe? Where do you pay your bills? What are your student loan interest rates?

Every new grad faces these questions because, frankly, the system is more confusing than it should be. Even if all your loans are from the federal government, they’re managed by one or more of 10 “student loan servicers.”

To figure out where your loans are housed, pay a visit to the National Student Loan Data System, and then to each loan’s servicer’s site. To keep track of them all, create a spreadsheet that lists each loan’s servicer, the type of student loan, amount, interest rate, and payment due date. You can also try a third-party tool like My LendingTree to compile the information in one place.

If you hold an array of loans from a handful of different servicers, you might want to look into consolidating your loans so you only have one monthly payment. Alternatively, you can consider refinancing your loans with a private lender. Just be warned: It can be difficult to qualify, and this may make you ineligible for certain federal loan protections. Read more about consolidating and refinancing here.

2. Pay Interest During Your Grace Period

Most student loan servicers offer a six-month “grace period” between when you finish school and when your first payment is due. You should be aware, however, that most loans – other than subsidized or Perkins loans – accrue interest during this grace period. In fact, unsubsidized and private loans begin accruing interest since the moment they’re disbursed.

At this point, there’s nothing you can do about the interest you’ve already accrued. But you can attempt to reduce the amount of interest that will be “capitalized.” This occurs when accumulated interest is added to your principal balance, essentially causing you to owe interest on your interest.

On unsubsidized and private loans, student loan interest is generally capitalized at the end of the grace period. To reduce the amount that gets added to your principal, you should strive to make interest payments on those loans over the next six months.

If you have subsidized loans, it’s safe to wait until the grace period ends because you typically don’t accrue interest during this timeframe.

“I wish I’d known how quickly the interest adds up,” says Jen Smith of Modern Frugality.

“By the time I started making payments, my income was too low to make payments that could keep up with what interest was adding on every month,” says Smith.

3. Choose a Student Loan Repayment Plan

When you graduate with federal student loans, you’re automatically enrolled in the “Standard Repayment Plan,” which spreads your monthly payments out over the next 10 years.

To see what you’ll owe each month, use this estimated repayment calculator from Federal Student Aid (FSA).

If the amount seems overwhelming, the FSA calculator will also display other repayment options, which include:

  • Extended repayment: If you have more than $30,000 in debt, you can extend your repayment period to 25 years. You can elect to have your payments remain the same, or to gradually increase, over time.
  • Graduated repayment: Under this 10-year repayment plan, your payments will start low and increase with time. But, since you’re not tackling much principal in the first few years, you’ll pay a lot more in interest.
  • Income-based repayment plans: Several plans cap your loan payments at a certain percentage of your income, and extend repayment over 20–25 years. If you want to pursue one of these plans, you’ll probably have to do your own research.

The important thing to note is that the longer your repayment period is, the more interest you’ll pay. So, when choosing your repayment plan, use a student loan calculator to see how much interest you’ll rack up over time. Although it might be tempting to have lower payments now, you might change your mind when confronted with the interest charges.

As an example, let’s say you have $30,000 in federal student loans at a 5.05% interest rate.

  • With the 10-year standard repayment plan, you’ll pay $319 per month, and a total of $8,272 in interest.
  • With the 25-year extended repayment plan and non-graduating payments, you’ll pay $176 per month — and a total of $22,876 in interest.

Only you can determine whether paying more interest is worth it, and it’s up to you to decide how much you can afford each month. While we’d always recommend paying your debt off as quickly as you can, avoiding default is the most important factor. (If you have private loans, you’ll need to talk to your lender about repayment plans.)

4. See if You Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness

Student loans are extremely hard to discharge — even in bankruptcy. This is why some students have begun to rely on the idea of student loan forgiveness.

The most famous program is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which promises loan forgiveness to grads working in public service (think: nonprofits, government, education) after they make 120 on-time payments.

The only problem? PSLF has made headlines for, well, not forgiving many loans. So before embarking on this route, make sure you’ve read all the fine print, and have the right type of loan and payment plan.

5. Beyond the Repayment Plan: Find Other Strategies to Pay Down Your Loans

Once you’ve gotten your repayment plan lined up, sign up for automatic debits from your checking account to your loan servicers. Not only will that prevent you from missing payments, but it will usually snag you a .25% discount on your interest rate, too.

Now also might be a wise time to think about the possibility of paying off your loans early. Going back to that $30,000 loan at 5.05% interest, here’s how much you could save (based on this calculator):

  • By paying $100 extra each month, you’d pay off your loan almost three years early, and would save $2,496 in interest.
  • By paying $300 extra each month, you’d pay it off in less than five years and save $4,648 in interest.

To make it easier, you can sign up for an automatic savings program, and put the total toward your debt every few months. Or, you can try strategies like the debt snowball, which involves paying off your debts from smallest to largest, or the debt avalanche, which involves paying off your loans with the highest to lowest interest. You can also ask your employer if your company offers any student loan repayment assistance.

If the interest on your loans is fairly low, it might be wiser to invest your extra money than pay off your student loans early. That’s because you could earn more in the stock market than you’d save in interest. Here’s a calculator that will help you crunch the numbers.

6. Make Your Student Loan Payments Every Month

Whatever path you choose, make sure you pay against your student loans every single month. The worst thing for your finances and credit scores is to ignore your loans. As much as you might wish, they’re not going away.

Worse yet, the collections process can start as soon as you graduate, and eventually lead to garnishment of wages or tax returns. Defaulting on your loans will also harm your credit, which will affect your ability to get an apartment, job, car loan, or mortgage.

The point here: Always make your student loan payments on time. If you’re having difficulty making payments on time, talk to your loan servicer. If you’re experiencing more general hardship, you could even consider applying for deferment or forbearance. Just note you may be on the hook for any interest that accrues during this period.

Relax: You CAN Pay Off Your Student Loans

While student loans can be frustrating, infuriating, confusing, and overwhelming, don’t stick your head in the sand. Do your research, create a plan, and slowly tackle your student loans. But first, take a deep breath.

“When I graduated I looked at my student loans and thought I’d have them forever,” says Smith.

“They gave me so much anxiety. I wish I could go back and reassure myself that student loans are not the end of the world and you will pay them off.”


Here’s What You Need to Know About Your Student Loans After Graduation

By Rachel Slifka
August 31, 2018

If you’re a new college graduate, you’re likely in a transitional stage.

You may be searching for or starting a job, moving to a new city, or unsure of your next steps. Graduation also means you need to re-evaluate your finances, especially if this is the first time you’ve had a significant income. With that higher income, you’ll need to budget for rent, groceries, and other expenses. You’ll also want to get a jump-start on saving as much money as you can.

While you have time to figure out the details, there’s one thing you can’t ignore: your student loans. Making student loan mistakes early on can cost you in the long-run. So, don’t wait – here’s everything you need to know about your student loans after graduation.

Learn how to access your student loans

If you don’t already know where your loans are, the first step is to find them. You can’t create a plan to get out of debt if you don’t know exactly how much debt you have. Hopefully you have received some correspondence from your student loan providers with information on how to access your accounts. But, this isn’t always the case.

If you have private student loans through a bank or other source, you will need to contact them directly to find out more information regarding your balance. If you have federal student loans, there is a step-by-step process for how to find them.

To find your federal student loans, you will need to access the National Student Loan Data System, or NSLDS for short. This is a central database which keeps track of all your federal student loan debt. You can log in at anytime to find out about your accounts, including whether your loans are subsidized or unsubsidized and what the interest rate is on each loan.

To get started, visit the NSLDS website and have your social security number on hand to log in. Once you’re on the website, click “Financial Aid Review” and then click on the link that says “Create an FSA ID.” This is a unique identifier you will need to remember, so write it down and store in a secure place.

Once you are logged in, you should be able to see a snapshot of all your student loans. You can set up automatic payments and create a plan after seeing your loan information. Your account will update with every payment you make, so you will want to check it frequently to keep track of your progress.

Understand when your grace period ends

If you have federal student loans, you will have a six month grace period after you graduate to start making payments.

Just be aware: graduates with unsubsidized federal student loans accrue interest during the grace period. In fact, unsubsidized loans accrue interest throughout your college career, and will continue to do so until they are paid off.

On unsubsidized student loans, the interest is added to the principal balance of your loan. Not only does this mean your principal balance is getting larger, but you have to pay more in interest because your principal balance is increasing. Ouch – that’s a double whammy.

On the other hand, if you have subsidized loans from the federal government, your loans will not accrue interest while you are in school or when you enter your grace period after graduation. Uncle Sam sets the interest rates on Direct Subsidized Loans, and those rates are fixed.

In order to qualify for a Direct Subsidized Loan, students must submit the Free Application for Student Aid, otherwise known as FAFSA. Eligibility is determined based on each individual student’s financial needs. While Direct Unsubsidized Loans don’t accrue interest during your grace period, it’s still a good idea to make payments during this time frame before interest starts accruing.

Know your repayment options

With federal student loans, you have a few repayment options. You will automatically be put on the Standard Repayment Plan, which assumes you will be able to pay back your student loans over a 10-year repayment period.

Even if you can afford to pay the monthly payment on the Standard Repayment Plan, it is worth considering other options that may be a better fit for your needs. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible to change to one of the following repayment plans:

Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR) keeps your monthly student loan payment at 10 to 15 percent of your discretionary income at the maximum. To qualify for the IBR plan, you need to submit an application. Typically, you need to owe more on your student loans than what you are making in a year.

Pay As You Earn (PAYE) extends your repayment period, but it keeps your monthly payments at 10 percent of your discretionary income. If your income increases, your monthly payment will also increase, but it won’t ever be more than it would have been on the Standard Repayment Plan.

Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) is similar to PAYE, but it allows more eligibility. Payments are capped at 10 percent of your discretionary income, but unlike the PAYE, your payments can increase past the amount it would have been on the Standard Repayment Plan if your income increases.

Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) allows borrowers to cap their student loan payments at the lesser of two options: either a fixed 12-year payment plan based on your income or 20 percent of your discretionary income.

Graduated Repayment starts you off with a low monthly payment, but as time goes on, your monthly payment will increase. This is a great option for someone who expects an increasing income or someone with high earning potential.

Extended Repayment allows borrowers to extend their repayment schedule for up to 25 years. During that time, you can make either fixed or graduated payments. The pitfall of this plan is that you will pay significantly more in interest over the lifetime of the loan due to the extended repayment period.

With so many options, you can work with your student loan provider to find the best fit for you and your financial situation. The worst thing you can do is simply not pay your student loans because of financial struggles.

Know what happens if you miss a payment

Missing or being late on a student loan payment may not seem like a big deal, but it can have serious consequences in the long-run.

After you miss a payment, your loan is officially considered delinquent and will remain that way until you make a payment or until you request deferment or forbearance. You may also receive a late fee and see a mark on your credit. After 270 days of a missed payment, your loan is then considered to be in default.

One of the easiest ways to avoid missing a scheduled student loan payment is to set up automatic withdrawals from your savings account. This way, you don’t have to worry about paying yet another bill – it will be taken care of without a second thought.

All in all

No matter what your financial situation is, you have options to figure out how to repay your student loans. The important thing is to create a financial plan so you can ensure you are making as much progress as possible on repaying your debt.


What is Paid Off?

By Ben Luthi
August 29, 2018

You know the student loan debt crisis has reached a new level of insanity when a new television game show is designed to help borrowers pay off their college debt.

TruTV’s “Paid Off,” airing on Tuesdays at 10/9 central, aims to help contestants win money to pay down their student loan debt faster. Perhaps this is a good time for the new game show as, according to Student Loan Hero, the average student loan balance for Class of 2017 graduates hit $39,400.

Read on to learn more about the show and find out how you can better manage your own student debt.

How “Paid Off” Works

The trailer for the first season of “Paid Off” includes hopeful contestants sharing their student loan balances and answering Family Feud-style questions. Other episodes feature other questions of different styles.

There are four total rounds, three of which pit contestants against each other. The final round offers one contestant a chance to eliminate his student loan debt entirely. In that round, the contestant must answer eight questions correctly in under a minute. However, it isn’t an all-or-nothing prize. Instead, the contestant gets credit for each correct answer.

Those who don’t make it to the final round don’t leave empty-handed, though. The first and second contestant eliminated receives $1,000 and $2,000, respectively. According to Forbes, the makers of the game show hope to give away roughly $500,000 during its inaugural season to over 60 student loan borrowers.

As with any game show, contestants are required to pay taxes on their winnings, even if they use the earnings to repay debt.

How Effective Will “Paid Off” Be?

Handing out half a million dollars to help student loan borrowers will undoubtedly make a difference for each person who wins money on the show.

But, unfortunately, that amount barely scratches the surface. Americans carry more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, according to March 2018 data from the Federal Reserve. So, while the game show does some good, college students and graduates need other solutions to fix the growing problem.

What’s more, incoming freshmen typically don’t get a crash course in student loans or how to use them wisely. The idea of getting what they need today and putting off payment for later is appealing. And, once you graduate, it’s not always easy to get relief. For instance, it’s virtually impossible to discharge student loans in a bankruptcy.

Three Smart Tips on Taking out Student Loans

When planning for college, it’s important to reduce your reliance on student debt. You can do this by looking at ways to graduate without borrowing a ton of money. Read on for three smart options.

Reconsider Your School Choice

You don’t need to attend a college with a household name to enjoy a long and lucrative career. Once you’re a few years into your career, your work record will likely speak louder than your degree. As such, you may be better off attending a less expensive school with a good track record than spending more for a degree that might not offer much more value in the long-run.

Learn About How Student Loans Work

There’s no college class that explores the ins and outs of student loans, but you can find out more about them on your own.

There’s a wealth of information online about student loans, including federal and private student loan options. If you still have questions, set up an appointment with a school’s financial aid office to get the answers you need.

Remember, you may be making student loan payments for as long as 30 years after you graduate, so it’s imperative that you understand what you’re getting yourself into from the start.

Consider Student Loans as a Last Resort

Instead of looking to student loans first, consider other ways you can pay for college. Here are just a few ideas:

Scholarships: Websites like Scholarships.com and Cappex.com can match you with thousands of scholarship opportunities. If you apply for a bunch of scholarships, you may get some cash that you won’t have to pay back.

Grants: Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year before the school year starts. This form helps the U.S. Department of Education determine how much financial aid your family is eligible for.

Also, check to see if the schools you’re interested in offer grants for your major.

Part- or full-time work: By working just 15 hours a week and earning nine dollars an hour, you can earn more than $28,000 in a four year period.

Even after taxes, this can make a huge difference in your need for student loans. If you can manage to work more hours or get a better-paying job, you could reduce your dependence on student loans even more.

Paying Off Your Student Loans Without the Help of a Game Show

If you’ve already graduated and are trying to figure out how to pay down your student loans, winning a game show sounds like an easy solution. But unless you’re fortunate enough to get on the show and win the cash, you’re on your own. Here are some ideas to pay off your loans faster:

Look Into Loan Forgiveness Programs

If you have federal student loans, you may qualify for one or more loan forgiveness programs. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, for example, requires you to work for 10 years for a government agency or eligible nonprofit organization.

Keep in mind that these programs have strict requirements and you typically need to commit to a specific number of years of service. But if that’s already part of your career plan, you could be well on your way.

Consider Refinancing Your Student Loans

The lower your interest rate, the more you can save on interest over the life of your loans. Several student loan refinancing companies offer low fixed and variable interest rates that can make it easier to pay down your debt.

Just keep in mind that if you refinance federal student loans, you lose access to income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness options.

Boost Your Cash Flow

Whether or not you choose one of the other options we’ve discussed, cutting back on other expenses and earning more income is a straightforward way to save money to eliminate your student loan debt.

If you have a hard time saving, consider getting help from an app or savings tool. Chime’s automatic savings program works by rounding up every transaction you make with your Chime Visa debit card to the nearest dollar. The round up amount is transferred to your Chime savings account. This kind of savings tool can help you set aside more money for debt repayment without even thinking about it.

Next Steps

Depending on where you are in your student journey, there are ways to reduce how much student loan debt you take on or to eliminate that debt more quickly.

As you consider these tips, the important thing is that you have a plan. The sooner you get rid of student loan debt in your life, the easier it will be to achieve your other financial goals. That’s what we call winning the game.


We Asked College Aid Experts How to Pay for School

By Holly Johnson
August 2, 2018

While it’s hard to deny the value of a college education, rising costs have made it harder for students to afford their degrees. Average tuition at public, four-year schools surged to $9,970 for the 2017-18 school year and those costs rise to $20,770 per year when you add room and board, according to the College Board. A private school or an advanced degree, will cost you even more.

With these figures in mind, it’s important to know you don’t have to follow the crowd when it comes to earning a degree. You can plot a different path by looking for ways to reduce the cost of admission or by attending a different school.

Many college aid professionals and counselors wish you would consider alternative options. When it comes to paying for college, here’s what the experts have to say.

Pricey schools don’t always pay off

Ben Luthi, college expert for Student Loan Hero, says you can get a quality education without paying a premium. To accomplish this goal, you may have to consider a different school than the one you want to attend.

“The name of your school might help you get your first job, but it likely won’t matter for the rest of your career,” he said. That’s why you should make sure you include more affordable schools in your college search.

“And if you’re already in school and you’re overwhelmed with the cost, consider transferring. I’ve worked with countless people who went to colleges that I’ve never heard of,” he said.

Joe Orsolini, who serves as president of College Aid Planners, says many students and parents get hung up on college rankings or where a school lands on a best-of list. As a result, they make poor decisions regarding their undergraduate education.

“The reality is that nobody cares where you got your undergraduate degree,” he said. “Do you know where your doctor earned their undergraduate degree?” Probably not.

Focus on your return on investment

Robert Farrington, founder of The College Investor, says too many people think of college as a time to find themselves without thinking of the long-term consequences of their student debt.

“Students need to think of college as an investment, and so they need to focus on the ROI of that investment,” he said. “Why are they going to college? What will it cost? What can they expect to make after graduation in their first job? Based on those answers, students can get a good glimpse of their potential ROI.”

When you focus on your return on investment and think of college as a business transaction, you can avoid borrowing too much to pursue a degree that won’t pay off. Farrington suggests making sure you never borrow more in student loans than you can earn in your first year after graduation.

“That will allow you to realize an ROI on your education and keep your student loan debt at a manageable level,” he said.

You can save if you don’t live on campus

Debbie Schwartz, founder of Road2College.com, says students who have the option to live off campus or at home should consider it (just remember you’ll need renters insurance if you live in an apartment).

“In many cases, room and board can be more expensive than tuition,” she said. If you can live with your parents or another family member or share an inexpensive apartment or house with other students, you can reduce the amount of cash you need to borrow for school.

Take the right courses in high school

Kathy Hart, a California-based scholarship consultant and college coach, says many students assume harder courses will help them get into college. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

“Take classes in high school that allow you to be successful,” she said. In other words, don’t fall victim to the pressure of having to take Advanced Placement coursework if you know if you can’t earn an A. If you can’t, an AP class could hurt your chances of getting into the school you want.

Apply early for scholarships

Jocelyn Paonita Pearson, scholarship expert and founder of The Scholarship System, believes all students can secure scholarships. She also believes they should start searching for grants as early as sophomore or junior year in high school and apply for every scholarship for which they qualify.

“Despite the majority of stories we hear, there are many students out there that manage to graduate debt-free,” she said. The key to earning scholarships is taking the time to find them and applying, and unfortunately this can require a big investment of time and effort.

Pam Andrews, college admissions coach for The Scholarship Shark, says it’s important to think about other types of aid as well – including federal or state grants and merit scholarships. Merit aid can be especially lucrative if you have excellent grades.

“Know what the college offers in merit aid, how you can qualify for it and what it takes to maintain it,” she said. “It is also important to know the application deadlines to apply for merit aid. Sometimes those deadlines are before a college’s application for admissions deadlines.”

Never assume you won’t qualify for a scholarship. Andrews says it’s important to approach the scholarship system with an open mind and without any limiting beliefs.

“If you don’t feel like you can succeed then you’re less likely to act or even think about acting,” she said. “Having the right attitude towards winning scholarships is the first step because it then moves the student to take action.”

Tuition may keep rising, but some states and colleges have made tuition free. Here’s where.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.


3 Ways to Prepare for Student Loan Payments

By Amanda Abella
June 16, 2018

The time has come. College grads are about to walk into the real world.

If you fall into this group, this also means it may be time to start paying back your student loans. According to Student Loan Hero, 71 percent of 2017 graduates carried student loan debt.

And, monthly student loan payments are typically between $200 to $300 a month. That’s a lot to swallow, especially if you won’t be earning much at your first job.

To help you tackle your student loan payments, it’s important that you first understand your repayment options, including the ins and outs of grace periods. Take a look at our primer on preparing to pay down your debt.

Understand your “grace period”

First things first: What is a grace period?

A grace period gives you a period of time after you graduate during which you do not need to make payments. When this timeframe ends, you’re on the hook to start making payments. If you don’t have a grace period, your payments start kicking in immediately.

“The first thing recent grads should do is see if they even have a grace period,” says Adam S. Minsky, an attorney specializing in helping student loan borrowers.

While most undergrad loans do have some sort of grace period, Minsky says the length of time can vary depending on the type of loan you received. For example, direct subsidized government loans have a grace period of six months, whereas The Federal Perkins Loan Program has a nine month grace period.

Got multiple student loans that you’re thinking of consolidating? If you really need a window of time to prepare become making payments, be aware that consolidating loans can make that grace period go away. Yet, there is a way around this caveat: make sure you put a grace period “delay” on your application. This will alert the servicer not to process the loan consolidation application until the end of your grace period, says Minsky.

Weigh your repayment options

Did you know that as a borrower you can choose different options for paying back your loans?

In the case of federal loans, you have seven different repayment options to choose from, depending on your eligibility. These repayment plans determine how much you pay, when you pay, and how long it will take you to completely pay off your loans.

Typically, if you do not request a repayment option, you’ll automatically be placed in the Standard Repayment plan. Under this plan, your monthly payments are fixed and spread out over 10 years. However, there are several other plans that may work better for you.

For example, you may qualify for an Income Driven Repayment Plan, whereby payments would comprise 10 percent of your discretionary income. In order to start the process and be considered, you must first fill out the application on the StudentAid.gov site. Another option is the Graduated Repayment Plan. For this option, your monthly payments start out on the low end and increase over time. Only certain types of federal loans are eligible for this plan. You can find out whether or not you are eligible by visiting StudentAid.gov. To figure out which repayment option is best for you, you can also run the numbers via calculators provided by StudentLoans.gov and StudentAid.ed.gov.

Some types of borrowers – particularly those with government jobs or those employed by a non-profit – can enroll in a repayment program under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). This program forgives the balance on Direct Loans after you make 120 qualifying payments.

The earlier you start making qualifying payments, the sooner you’ll reach the requirements needed for forgiveness. Just be aware: any payments you make during a grace period don’t count, so you’ll have to forgo the grace period by immediately enrolling in a repayment program, according to Minsky.

Start making payments ASAP

Let’s say you landed a job right out of college. If this is the case, you’ve got some money coming in and you may want to start paying back your student loans during your grace period.

“Since 2012, there’s no interest subsidy for most federal loans during the grace period, so you can save money long-term by paying something towards your student loans during this time,” says Minsky.

Even if you don’t have a full-time job lined up, you can still start paying back your loans immediately. Perhaps you can get a part-time job while you’re hunting for a job in your field. Or, you can start a side hustle and take advantage of the gig economy.

You can also sit down and create a budget incorporating your student loan payments.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the more you understand your student loan repayment options, the better off you’ll be. So, make sure you educate yourself on the types of loans you have and your applicable grace periods. From there, you can create a plan to pay back your loans. Once you wrap your mind around this and budget for your payments, you can start saving for your other goals.


6 Things You Should Do Right After Graduation

By Rachel Slifka
June 11, 2018

So, you graduated college. Now what?

Indeed, graduation is a monumental achievement. It’s also a time full of changes and this may cause feelings of fear and anxiety. Perhaps you’re starting your first job or still searching for your dream job. Maybe you’re leaving your friends and family to move across the country. Or, perhaps you’re living on your own for the first time and learning how to save money.

Wherever you may be on your post-grad path, life can feel overwhelming. So, take a deep breath and start planning now for long-term success. To help you get going, here are 6 tasks you should do immediately after graduation. Ready, set, go!

1. Create a Career Plan

Whether or not you have your first job lined up, now is a great time to consider your career plan. Sure, you’ve probably thought about your career while in college. But now it’s time for a reality check: what are your job prospects really like?

As a good starting point, identify your strengths and interests. Not sure what talents really set you apart? Ask your friends and family for their input.

Next, map out your goals. Where do you want to be in 20 years? What about 10? By keeping your long-term goals in mind, you can better evaluate your options. With a career plan, you’ll scrutinize each job opportunity more carefully. Career plans can also help you move forward confidently as you’ll hopefully be taking steps in the right direction.

2. Clean Up Your Social Media

Do you have some embarrassing photos and posts on social media? You’re not alone. Even if your posts are meant to be funny, you never know how a potential employer could react.

According to CareerBuilder, over 70 percent of employers search job candidates’ social media profiles before making hiring decisions. According to the same study, over 50 percent of employers decided not to hire a candidate after viewing something negative on their social media profiles. Whoa.

So, before you start applying for jobs, make sure your social media sites are professional, or at least private. Pro tip: remove any photos of you partying or acting in any way than can be frowned down upon.

3. Update Your Banking

Now is an ideal time to consider your banking options. It may be in your best interest to switch to a bank that is free to sign up and has no fees.

For example, if you are moving to another state to start a new job, you may not have access to your current local bank. Or, perhaps you want a bank account that will help you save money. One way to achieve this goal is to open a Chime bank account. The best part about a Chime account is that there are zero fees and free money transfers.

4. Network like Crazy

You never whether that person you recently met will be the ticket to your next big gig. The bottom line: post-graduation is a crucial time to network.

Just take it from Tom Farley, the president of the New York Stock Exchange. In an interview in Fortune Magazine, Farley stated, “When I think about my own career, I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking.”

If you’re intimidated by the idea of networking, don’t fret. You can begin by simply sharing your professional goals with your friends and family. They likely have connections to people who may be able to guide you in your career. And, social media sites like LinkedIn allow you to make professional connections from behind a screen.

With LinkedIn, you can reach out to professional recruiters and hiring managers, and connect with people in your field. In fact, about 95 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find qualified candidates, according to an article by US News & World Report. So don’t miss out!

5. Create a Budget

Landing your first job and seeing those paychecks hit your bank account is exciting. But, as you enter the post-graduate world, you’ll also encounter a slew of other expenses. It’s easy to spend more than you earn.

To avoid overspending, it’s a wise idea to create and stick to a budget. For tips on picking out a budgeting style that works best for you, be sure to check out our budgeting guide.

6. Understand Your Student Loans

Unfortunately, many recent college graduates don’t know how to deal with paying back their student loans. Some don’t even realize how much they actually borrowed.

In fact, according to a study by the Brookings Institute, only 38 percent of college students know how much money they borrowed to pay for school. Furthermore, 14 percent of students with student loans incorrectly reported having no debt at all, according to the same study. Because of this, many recent college graduates suffer a rude awakening when they find out what they really owe.

So, it’s best to be educated about your loans. Your student loan provider should be sending you information about how to access your student loans and make payments. If you don’t hear from your loan providers shortly after graduation, you should contact them directly.

If you have federal student loans, you can find out who your servicer is by going to the National Student Loan Data System. Start by clicking on “Financial Aid Review,” and accept the terms and conditions. After that, go ahead and login. In order to log in, you will need your FSA ID. If you do not already have an FSA ID, you can easily create one on the web page. Once you login, you will see all of your student loan information, including your total balance. From there, it’s a good idea to figure out how you will tackle your loan payments by factoring this into your budget.


You’ve worked hard to get to this point. Graduating from college is a major accomplishment. So, while you’re setting yourself up for financial success, you should also take advantage of this transition time by relaxing and enjoying the summer. Just remember to budget for your summertime fun!


College Grads: What to Watch out for When Choosing Your First Adult Bank Account

By Chonce Maddox
May 27, 2018

Shortly after graduating college, reality sets in: you’re a real adult now. It can be overwhelming, but it’s time to deal with your financial life and this includes taxes, student loan debt, and mortgage or rent payments. It’s also time to get down to business when it comes to saving money.

First things first: you’ve got find a bank that is free and will help you manage your money efficiently. If you had a student checking account at your college bank, it’s time to get rid of that and instead open a bank account that suits your new adulting lifestyle.

Luckily, opening your first adult bank account isn’t as difficult as it seems. Here are 5 tips to help you get you started.

Consider Accessibility and Convenience

If a brick-and-mortar bank is important to you, make sure that a branch is easily accessible should you need to make deposits, withdrawals or talk to a teller. This doesn’t mean your bank has to be on every street corner in your neighborhood. But, you also don’t want to travel far if you have an issue with your account and need to speak to a representative.

With this in mind, make sure your bank is open during the hours you can get there. For example, if you have mostly evenings available during the week, you may want to consider a bank that can accommodate those hours.

Another tip: you may want to consider an online bank account, especially if you never go into a branch and prefer to deal with banking issues online or on the phone. With an online bank, you’ll have 24/7 access to your account. You can also manage your account from home or on the go on your mobile device.

Check the Fees

Banks fees are one of the most important factors to keep in mind when choosing where to open your first adult bank account.

For starters, miscellaneous fees can eat up your account balance fast. In fact, the average U.S. household pays more than $329 in bank fees every year! Some of the most common bank fees include:

  • Monthly maintenance fees
  • Minimum account balance fees – charged if your daily account balance falls below a certain threshold
  • Overdraft fees. These can run you up to $35 per overdraft incident
  • ATM fees. These are charged when you use an out-of-network ATM
  • Refunded deposit fee – charged for a bounced deposit check
  • Paper statement fee
  • Lost debit card fee
  • Foreign transaction fee

The good news is that most of these fees can be avoided depending on which bank and account you choose. For example, Chime makes banking faster and has no fees, ever. That’s right. No overdraft fees, minimum balance requirements, monthly service account fees, ACH bank transfer fees, card replacement fees, or foreign transaction fees. In addition, Chime members have access to more than 30,000 fee-free MoneyPass ATMs located all over the U.S.

Read the Fine Print

Before you open a bank account, be sure to read the fine print in order to fully understand the terms and details.

For instance, it’s important to read about any applicable fees associated with your account, as well as other terms and conditions. In addition, make sure you understand the bank’s privacy policy and familiarize yourself with features you can take advantage of as an account holder.

Consider the Saving Account Benefits

While you may be mainly focused on opening a checking account, it’s a wise idea to open a savings account as well.

Pro tip: it helps to keep your spending money separate from your savings. As part of your savings plan, you may want to start a fund to cover emergencies and unexpected expenses. Plus, you can begin saving up for big purchases in advance. This will help you steer clear of racking up credit card debt.

When it comes to choosing the best savings account, you may want to consider a bank that will provide an interest-bearing account and automatic transfer options. And, just like with a checking account, you’ll want to examine the fees and read the fine print. One major rule set by the Federal Reserve is that banks cannot allow you to withdraw money from your savings account more than six times per month. Some banks may even have an excessive withdrawal fee, so make sure to check on this.

Comparison Shop and Choose Wisely

Post-graduate life is full of changes and new beginnings. And, your first bank account after college marks a new start on your adult financial life. By following the advice above and comparison shopping, you’ll be one step closer to finding the best bank for you.


Why Career Planning is Important and How to Do It

By Ben Luthi
May 2, 2018
Millennials are more than three times as likely to switch jobs than older generations, according to a recent poll by Gallup. But with all the job hopping going on, it can be difficult to craft a long-term career strategy.

A solid career plan is important in that it can provide a roadmap for your future. This, in turn, helps you make informed choices about your current job situation as well as future career moves. A broader career plan is also important when it comes to helping you stay inspired.

Interested in creating your own career plan? Here are three reasons why you may want to do this right now.

1.  You’ll leverage your strengths

People who tap into their strengths at work are six times more likely to be engaged, according to Gallup. So, if you want to enjoy your career and collaborate more with your co-workers, it’s key that you understand what your strengths are. Once you know this, you can leverage those strengths.

If you’re now thinking that this flies in the face of the common advice that you should work on improving weaknesses, well, that’s important as well. Yet, when it comes to enhancing your career, focusing on your weaknesses shouldn’t be your main strategy, according to BiggerPockets.com.

2. You’ll take steps in the right direction

No one is going to develop your career for you, and a successful career doesn’t happen by chance. In order to succeed, you’ll need to know where you want to go. This way you can work on developing skills to help you achieve your milestones.

For example, if you’re a customer service agent but want to become the CEO of the company, you need to know what steps it takes to get there. For example, it can start with becoming a supervisor then working your way up to a team manager. From there, you may want to develop additional skills so that you can jump from middle management to the executive team, and so on.

When you have a career plan in place, you will be more apt to take steps in the right direction. With this mindset, you’ll also be less likely to blame external forces when things don’t pan out as you planned. Instead, you can take a step back, make a course correction and get back on track!

3. You’ll develop more confidence

If you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up lost or in the wrong place. In addition, if you don’t have a clear goal in mind, it’s harder to gain the self-confidence needed to take advantage of opportunities when they appear.

For example, if you want to become a team manager but you have no plan to achieve this goal, you may not be prepared to compete with others for the job. This, in turn, can be disheartening. Bottom line: you need a plan to both give you a direction and a sense of purpose in your daily work life. This makes it easier to be intentional about your work. For example, if your goal is to replace your manager when she gets a promotion, you may choose to ask her to mentor you. This then becomes part of your career plan.

Three tips for creating your best career plan

Now that you understand why it’s a good idea to have a career plan, let’s discuss how to go about putting it into place. Take a look at these three steps and you’ll be on your way.

1. Think big

Don’t sell yourself short with your career plan. If you don’t currently have the skills necessary to land your dream job, that shouldn’t stop you from aiming for this goal. Plus, by looking at your written out plan, you may gain more motivation.

Also, don’t restrict your career plan to your current job or path. If your dream job entails doing something that isn’t related to your current career at all, spell out the steps that it would take to make the switch.

2. Define your strengths and what you enjoy

Building wealth is a main motivator when it comes to career planning. With that said, money shouldn’t be your main objective. Why? Focusing on money alone can lead to an unhappy job experience and early burnout.

Instead, focus on what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at. If you’re having a hard time pinpointing your talents and what you love about your job, don’t be afraid to ask family members, friends, or even a trusted co-worker. They may have some insight based on past conversations.

This exercise may shed some light on talents you weren’t aware you had. Better yet, you may discover that there aspects of your current job that you want to carry over to your next position – regardless of whether it leads to a windfall of money in the form of a higher salary.

3. Be adaptable

There’s no guarantee that your career will turn out exactly as you planned. Another thing to note: as you take steps toward your dream job, you may notice your preferences have changed over time. So, don’t be afraid to adjust your career plan. Doing this doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on your dreams. It simply means that you’re recalibrating.

When I first graduated from college, my goal was to start at the bottom of a large corporation and work my way to the top. But when I couldn’t find a job for six months, I had to come up with a different plan. Instead, I got an entry-level job at a bank and started blogging about personal finance in my spare time. While I didn’t make much money from the blog itself, it launched me in a different direction. My writing career was born.

As you go through your own planning process, you can determine what to tweak and what to keep status quo. An added perk: if you remain adaptable, you may be surprised at the doors that open for you. Perhaps you’ll even find yourself in a brand new career. When and if this happens, you may want to go back to your original career plan and add in new goals.

The bottom line

Career planning is important because it can help you leverage your strengths and build confidence. More importantly, it encourages you to take ownership of your career. The guidelines here are just that: guidelines. You can use these tips and tools to help you create the best navigation system for you. Are you ready to map out your career path and enjoy the journey?


How to Choose a Bank Account After College

By Kim Galeta
October 1, 2017

After graduation, the world of adulting offers exciting possibilities. But it also presents unique challenges – and a host of unexpected expenses. If you’re like many recent grads, you may be wondering how to make decisions that will put you on the path to long-term financial success.

Although there are many roads leading to a positive financial future, an easy way to start your journey is to establish a bank account that will help you achieve your savings goals. Take a look at our 4 tips for choosing a bank account after college.

Set realistic financial goals

Before we go any further, it’s important to define your money goals. You don’t have to get as elaborate as a vision board if you don’t want to. The important thing is to set goals that are SMART. This means they should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

Let’s say that your goals include paying off all your student loans and starting an emergency fund in the next few months. It’s going to be pretty hard to achieve this without putting together a framework using the SMART goal strategy. Here’s an example of the “smart” way to turn your debt-free dreams into an action plan:

Goal: You’d like to build up a $3,000 emergency fund within six months.

This may seem lofty but once you have a goal, you can start working toward achieving it. And, the right bank account can help you get there faster. For example, you can choose a bank account that encourages saving and makes it easier for you to sock money away seamlessly. More on this topic soon.

Explore your options

If you currently have a student checking account with no fees, make sure to read the fine print because those fees might kick in once you graduate. The good news is that you aren’t obligated to stick with your college bank and there are many other options available.

One option is to look into credit unions. If you’re not familiar with credit unions, they function like banks, but instead of being privately owned, they are non-profit member-owned organizations.

When I bought my first car a few years ago, using a credit union allowed me to get a more favorable interest rate than at a traditional bank or through the car dealership. I also ended up opening a bank account at the credit union because the fees were low.

However, one drawback of using credit unions is that they can sometimes are behind the curve when it comes to technology. For example, last year, I needed to make some changes to my account and had to send a fax with my request. I then had to go to FedEx to get this done after I Googled “How do I send a fax?” An online portal would have made my life much easier.

Online banking can meet your needs without the hefty fees

Why are online bank accounts gaining so much popularity? There are a few reasons. The first is that the future is now when it comes to doing business online. And that includes financial services such as banking.

Think about it. When was the last time you set foot inside a bank? If your answer is “when I opened my bank account,” then it probably means it won’t be too difficult to make the switch to free online bank account. In fact, most millennials prefer to bank online.

However, apart from the convenience, banking with traditional “big banks” can cost you a lot of money in unnecessary fees.

About two years ago, when I got serious about my finances and created a budget that fit my personality type, I reviewed my bank account statements for the previous 90 days. Apart from revealing one too many Target runs, I was shocked to realize just how much I paid in banking fees that I didn’t even know about.

Here’s a breakdown of the fees I paid each month:-

  • Minimum Balance Fees: $15. Upon further digging, I realized that my “free” checking account came with strings attached. If my account dipped below $100 at any time during the month, I ended up paying a fee.
  • Overdraft Protection Fees: $35.
  • Service Fees: $1. Not a huge amount but when you are a 20-something, every penny saved counts.

This all added up to hundreds of dollars each year – money I paid to maintain a big bank that I rarely set foot in. Money that I could have used to pay off debt or to save toward a vacation.

If you want to start off on the right foot after graduation, then fees should be a deal breaker when it comes to choosing a bank account. To avoid unnecessary spending. look for an online bank account like Chime that doesn’t believe in unnecessary fees. In fact, if you attempt to make a transaction that is greater than the amount in your Spending Account balance, Chime will actually decline the transaction and immediately send you a push notification through the app to let you know why it was declined. You will always have a real-time update on your finances at your fingertips.

Automate Your Savings

One of the best ways you can win at adulting is to automate your life starting with your savings. Chime makes it easy for you do this in two ways. The first is to help save as soon as you get paid. If you open a Chime bank account and select Automatic Savings, Chime will automatically transfer a percentage of every paycheck directly into your savings account.

Another awesome Chime benefit is that you can save every time you spend. Chime actually rounds up each transaction made with your Chime card to the nearest dollar and transfers the round-up from your Spending account into your Chime Savings account.

How’s that for a bank account that has your best interests in mind?

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