07.17.12 | Things to Do for Free (Or Pretty Close to It)

Posted in College Life by CollegeKid

Beach Chair Sitting in Shade Welcome back readers. I know many of you are working and trying to put aside as much money for college as possible. However, just because you have to conserve your money doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun this summer. Here’s a list of low-budget activities to keep you busy for the rest of the summer.

Go Into the City

If you are lucky enough to live somewhere near one, take the train into the city and hang out there for the day. With everything going on there , you don’t need to spend anything more than the train fare to have a good time. Watch the live broadcast of the Today show in New York City; observe the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.; walk through the San Francisco zoo.  A day spent walking around the city is a day well spent.

Sit Around a Campfire

With such nice weather, what better way to spend a summer night then hanging out with some friends at a campfire? The only requirements are chairs, a fire, and a few friends; s’mores, hot dogs, and music are just a bonus.
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05.23.12 | Save money with your student I.D.

Posted in College Life, Financial Aid by Student Loan Network Staff

Savings AheadJust admit it, you’re jealous of children and senior citizens who get discounts on train rides and movie tickets, aren’t you? Well, you don’t have to be. Wherever you go to school and in any city across the United States, plenty of establishments will offer discounts if you show a school identification card.

College tuition and living expenses take enough of a toll on you and your family’s pocketbook, so it’s only fair students get a discount on daily activities and nightlife entertainment.

For discounts, here’s a list of places and things you should definitely use your student I.D. card for:

  • Airports, train and bus stations
  • Theaters and museums
  • Events, such as concerts, art shows and carnivals
  • Sports stadiums (for games or shows)
  • Electronics
  • Clothing
  • Food

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03.25.10 | Can federal loans cover my off-campus housing?

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid, Stafford Loan by Evan Jacobs

We get a lot of questions in our forums from people wondering how to pay for off-campus housing. More specifically, can the federal student loans you are currently using for a dorm or other on-campus apartment be used for a home not run by the university?

Fortunately, the answer is yes.

Your school’s cost of attendance typically factors in a certain cost of room and board. When your financial aid office receives your federal aid check, they will deduct the necessary amount for tuition and fees and provide you the difference.

So if you’ve been using federal aid for your dorm or on-campus home, you will most likely get the same money for an off-campus pad. One thing to remember is that your federal aid arrives once per semester and virtually every landlord will require a monthly rent, paid on time. So make sure to consider that when budgeting.

One of the smartest decisions I made in college was moving off campus after my sophomore year. Moving off-campus is not only liberating, but it can be pretty good for the wallet, as well. (In my case, my monthly rent dropped nearly $300 per month, and I was able to have my own bedroom.)

But there are some things to consider. Moving off-campus typically means you’re losing your meal plan. If your university provides cable and internet, you won’t have access to that in an off-campus apartment. Most on-campus apartments and dorms provide you with furniture, but you will almost certainly have to furnish any place you move in to.

Image credit to dynamicsonline on Flickr.

06.13.08 | 529 College Savings Plan – Part II

Posted in Financial Aid by Kristin Morris

Last month I blogged about the 529 college savings plan and received some excellent questions that I felt would be beneficial to share with everyone (along with the answers of course).

I pretty much just gave a snapshot overview of what a 529 plan was , but I’m going to get down to the nuts and bolts of it for you today.

Q: David, you are obviously very smart on financial matters and I would appreciate more details about the 529 plan if you get a chance. I live in Vermont; do I have a good plan here? If not, can I get into another state plan?

A: You’re right, I am a financial master, and semi-good looking too. To answer your question Vermont is a Top 5 plan based on performance over the past 3 years. They even offer a tax credit to the residents of the great state of Vermont. Your state’s 529 plan is certainly solid, however, it is perfectly within your province to open a 529 plan in another state if you’d like. Just because you live in Vermont doesn’t mean you can not open a 529 plan in Oregon. Also, your child would not then be required to attend a school in Oregon either as many assume – this would simply mean your 529 account was located in that state.

Q: What are some of the main differences between state plans?

A: One of the biggest differences between plans is who is running the plan. For example in Massachusetts you have but one option, Fidelity. In Nebraska it’s the Union Bank and Trust Company of Lincoln, Nebraska, and in Indiana it’s JP Morgan.*

Another thing to keep in mind is what types of fees are involved with each plan. Are there monthly/yearly maintenance fees, program management fees, or start-up fees? Obviously the higher the fees the less desirable the plan, unless of course that plan is performing at a very high level to overcome said fees.

Q: Is their a contribution minimum? I can only afford to put $50 per month away?

A: These differ greatly from plan to plan and for residents vs. non-residents. For example in Kansas the minimum contribution is $1,000, but only $250 for a Kansas residence. Each subsequent contribution is $50 per month, but just $25 for Kansas residence. In Louisiana it’s just $10 total to open an account while in Illinois, Nebraska, & Utah there are no minimum payments at all! Keep in mind that some states also offer lower contribution minimums if you set up ACH.

Other things to keep in mind are state tax deductions. For example, residents of Arkansas have a deductible in computing Arkansas taxable income up to $5,000 ($10,000 for married taxpayers) when they contribute to their state 529 plan.

Also, about half of the state 529 plans offer rewards programs as well. For example, Massachusetts has partnered up with American Express and offers rewards points that go directly into your child’s 529 plan.

I hope this information is helpful! If you still have further questions or just want to tell me how fabulous I am, fire away! I love to hear that I am a financial mastermind, look out Bernanke – I have some thoughts on this countries monetary policy too.  Happy Saving.

*This information was accurate as of June 13, 2008 – but is subject to change.

05.28.08 | Stop & Smell the Roses

Posted in Student Credit by Kristin Morris

What do you do with your tax return money, unexpected bonus, or $20 bucks Nana kicks you when you come to visit? Do you catch up on bills? Do you buy clothes? Do you go on an eating safari and hit all your favorite bakeries? My buddy Brian joked with me recently that he’d be getting back just barely enough from his government stimulus check to fill his gas tank once. I actually heard this week the national average may hit $4 per gallon by the summer, yikes! My southern friends have it right; saddle up and take your horse to work. I wish I could do that. In Boston that’s not a realistic option unfortunately. Although I suppose if I had to pick up after them like dog owners with a scoop and bag that would be an unpleasant “Jurassic like” experience.

What I do when I have a surplus of money is sock 60% of it away. I start a car payment fund, rainy day fund, or vacation fund. It’s amazing how fast that adds up. You can do the same thing with loose change too. It all adds up so quickly.

The other 40% I spend on me. I buy that golf shirt, take the Mrs. to dinner, or just buy an ice cream cone. Ah, life’s simple pleasures.

It’s really a balancing act of sorts. You’re living for today but planning for tomorrow. Spend too much money and you may end up on the streets if you lose your job. Spend too little and you’ll think you’re missing out while your friends get to have all the fun.

Once you find that healthy balance you’ll feel a lot better. Saving is nice, but you have to live too people. To quote Ferris Bueller, “Life move’s pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it.”

05.06.08 | Pay Yourself First

Posted in Student Credit by Kristin Morris

Monopoly

What do you consider your most important bill each month; mortgage, automobile, cell phone? We all have mountains of bills to pay, but the most important bill you will ever pay is the one to yourself. My Dad taught me that a long time ago. I want you to stay ahead in the game of life which is why I am passing this wisdom along to you. Those other bills are certainly important, but not as important as number one.

Think of life like a game of Monopoly. Sometimes you land on Go and collect that $200 while other times you get sent directly to jail (and no one looks good in pinstripes). And think about it, if you get sent to jail you can’t take that ride on Reading Railroad, visit St. Charles Place, or advance to Boardwalk. You’d be relegated to a passenger in the game of life – no fun!

My suggestion is to set an account aside and put money in each week or each month as you deem fit. You are far more important than any other bill that comes your way. No one is going to do this for you. You need to take action to make this happen. Remember, it’s not the denomination that is the important thing here, so don’t get discouraged by that, it’s the act and mindset behind it. As you get older you may be able to contribute more, but for now just start with a $1.

We are always going to owe money to someone, that’s just life, but owing money to yourself is an investment in you. Everyone else can take a number and get in line.

Follow my simple but rich advice and you can’t go wrong. In fact, I’ll even save you at seat at the Boardwalk Cafe. The view is breathtaking.