Infographic provided by Online Education Blog of Touro College.
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By Brian Wilkins
A report by The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) found that nearly 70 percent of 2013 college graduates had student loan debt averaging $28,400, up 2 percent from the 2012 average. Student loan payments are just one of the realities for college graduates entering the real world and trying to figure out the whole budgeting-your-life thing. Leader in the business of all-things personal finance, Intuit shares that transportation should account for no more than 10 percent of your net income, which might not seem like much (especially if you’re just out of college and making a not-so impressive salary), but you can still have a nice and reliable car if you exercise due diligence in the decision-making process.
The following tips will help guide you.
We all know car commercials; the best ones are those that advertise brand new sports cars with reasonable monthly payments you can actually afford. But after reading (or hearing) the fine print, you learn that the low payments are to lease the vehicle, not buy it. Well then, should you just lease?
Monthly payments are typically lower when leasing and the advantages don’t stop there if you’re the type of person who likes the idea of a new car every three years. This sounds great, especially since new vehicles depreciate in value as soon as you leave the lot (by 9 percent according to Edmunds). Then after one year of owning the vehicle, its market value drops to 81 percent. Thus buying a new car is a bad investment on the surface, right? Well, not in the long-run.
Owning a vehicle means no monthly payments and lower insurance premiums if you decide to switch from full coverage to liability. Modern cars, particularly Honda and Toyota models, are known to last well into the 250k mile range and even higher with proper maintenance. Leased vehicles also have mileage limits and, upon the end of the lease, you are responsible for any damage deemed excessive to normal wear-and-tear by the dealer.
The 2015 Auto Financing Report by personal finance social network WalletHub found that interest rates on both new and used cars are lower than they’ve been in several years. But not all loans and interest rates are created equal.
New cars provide peace of mind: you are the only owner, so no secrets as to where it’s been and, should something happen, you have a warranty to cover most major mechanical issues. Auto loans underwritten by the manufacturers had interest rates 35 percent below the average and financing via credit unions had rates 25 percent below the average. National and regional banks offered rates at or well-above average in most cases.
Used cars are, of course, less expensive and have already endured the bulk of value depreciation, which happens in the first few years on the road. Financing a used car is also much easier in most cases and much like student loans have income-based repayment plans, there are financing companies like DriveTime that offer customizable payment plans for all budgets. Used cars typically have lower insurance premiums and you may even be able to negotiate a used car warranty if you know your options.
If possible, purchase a certified preowned car that has been thoroughly inspected by the manufacturer. Some used cars companies offer third-party extended warranties, but make certain you thoroughly understand the terms before paying extra for it.
A subprime auto loan, those underwritten for customers with FICO scores of 650 or lower, is something to avoid altogether. To put it in perspective, a $20,000 four-year auto loan with a 3 percent prime rate will cost you only $1,248 in total interest. That same loan at an 18 percent (subprime) rate will cost you $8,200 in interest .
Obtain a copy of your credit reports from the three major bureaus. Your payment history and amounts owed on open accounts make up 65 percent of the aggregate FICO score. Pay down credit cards that are at or near the limit to quickly improve your score. It’s best to pay down/off the oldest accounts first, as length of credit is also factored into your score. A minimum credit score of 700 should be the goal before considering an auto loan at all.
The test drives and haggling with salesmen are the fun parts of buying or leasing a vehicle. Just heed all the aforementioned to get the best deal and make the right decision for what you need and what you can afford.
Brian Wilkins is an Arizona State University journalism grad who has worked as a radio broadcaster and banking industry professional. He is an independent journalist, blogger and small business owner who loves life. He lives off-the-grid and has not owned a TV in more than six years
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By Alison Stanton
Valentine’s Day is the most expensive holiday after Christmas, the National Retail Federation reports. Love birds across the country will spend a collective—are you ready?—$18.6 billion on gifts for their special someones. That averages out to about $130 per person.
For high school and college students on a tight budget, spending $130 on their sweetie is simply not possible. Although there are no hard-and-fast rules to how much you should spend, the following tips can help you decide when you should splurge and when you should cut back.
So how’s it going? If you two argue more than you get along or are spending less time together, this might not be the time to present some huge and spendy gift. Have an honest talk with your boyfriend or girlfriend and discuss how you’ll celebrate it, if at all. Maybe in the interest of saving money, you’ll just treat it like a regular day. You could also decide to exchange nice cards and maybe a small fun gift like his favorite candy bar or her favorite blended coffee drink.
If you’ve been dating for a few short weeks, treat Valentine’s Day a bit more casually than if you have been going out for a few years. Again, an open and honest approach is the way to go with someone you haven’t known that long—simply say you aren’t sure how to deal with a day that expects you both to act like crazed lovey-doveys.
On the other hand, if you have been together a while and are in love, it’s appropriate to spend a bit more on Valentine’s Day. You don’t need to take out a loan or rack up a huge credit card bill, however. Ask some of your closest friends who are in similar relationships what they expect to spend and see if it correlates with your budget and gift ideas. If your girlfriend of two years has been dropping hints about how much she would love to receive flowers at work, you could certainly splurge a little on that. For example, FTD sells a variety of beautiful Valentine’s Day arrangements that are in the $40-$50 range. Other gift suggestions for couples who are in solid and loving relationships include dinner out at a favorite restaurant and then watching a movie together all snuggled up on the couch, a nice wallet or purse that your sweetie has had his or her eye on, or a pair of designer sunglasses.
Between classes, jobs and other responsibilities, it might be challenging to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14. If you do decide to celebrate with your sweetie, figure out ahead of time when and where you’ll get together. Above all, try not to feel like you have to spend a certain amount just to get through the day—just be honest with yourself, your sweetheart and your wallet, and the day will go a lot smoother.
Alison Stanton has been a freelance writer for the past 14 years. Based in the Phoenix, Arizona area, Alison enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, but especially loves meeting interesting people and telling their stories.
By Roxy Barnes
It’s been said before and it’s true. College will leave you with a lifetime of memories. But if you’re not careful it will leave you with nearly a lifetime of debt. That is why students should take advantage of the discounts available simply for being students.
And they are everywhere. Many of these discounts are often listed on your school’s site. But don’t limit your search to just that. By putting your Internet skills to work, you can find discounts on nearly everything you’ll need, and some you wouldn’t expect, like this student carpet cleaning discount.
But that’s not all. Let’s start with a big way to save money in school – scholarships.
Paying for college is the top concern for the vast majority of college students. Many students may not realize this, but universities often have long lists of private scholarships from businesses and organizations listed somewhere on the financial aid section of their website.
Private scholarships come from every corner of the marketplace and often vary widely in their requirements for entering the scholarship contest. For example, this Halloween costume site offers a cash scholarship for designing a Facebook Cover image for their home page. If you’re more expressive in words, many businesses only require a 500 word essay (or less).
Most of these scholarships aren’t particular about what school you attend. So if your school doesn’t offer very many outside scholarships, check out the pages of some larger universities.
Books and Supplies
Way back in the day students had to buy all of their books from the university bookstore. You paid whatever price they charged and sold them back to the same store when you were done for next to nothing. Talk about buying from the company store – ouch! (Sometimes the good ole days were not so good.)
Now you have choices aplenty for buying your books and supplies. Online sites like Bookbyte.com open up the marketplace so you can shop around for the best deal. Don’t forget to check if your book is available as an eTextbook and save even more.
You probably already realize the savings you can get on software purchases with a student discount, but do some searching for student discounts on computers, tablets and other electronic devices.
If there is a product or service that a student can use, you can bet some company is offering a discount on it. Businesses aren’t just doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, they are hoping to win your loyalty now and keep using them for years to come. So even if you don’t see a student discount advertised, don’t hesitate to ask if they have one. What’s the worst they can say?
Even storage companies are getting in on the game, offering student discounts on storage units over summer break. The list goes on, including companies like AmTrak, hotels, clothing stores, even credit cards offering discounted student rates.
If you think searching for student discounts on everything could turn into a time consuming obsession, there are a number of sites that are doing the searching for you. One of the more popular sites is Student Universe. They not only help you find deals on travel and lodging, but have categories of discounts ranging from clothing to food and health.
College is expensive. If you can use your student status to save a few dollars here and there, over the course of a college career the savings adds up. Don’t let that money go to waste. That way, when you look back on your college years, hopefully all you’ll have are great memories, not ones tempered by the specter of debt.
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By Tess Pajaron
During the last few years, online learning has become a viable alternative to traditional learning environments. This modality of studying helps students to save both time and money on commuting, but prospective learners should remember that its specific nature radically differs from regular classroom learning styles. In order to make the most from their online courses, students must boast excellent time management skills, have clear study goals and stay organized throughout their period of study.
Since online learners bear much more responsibility over their learning process, they require a high level of motivation for completing their coursework. Here are 6 practical tips on how to stay motivated and enthusiastic when attending an online course.
There is nothing more important for staying motivated than following your passion, which you also consider significant to your life and career. When choosing an online course, consider your options carefully and go for those learning opportunities that will help you achieve the career you want. This awareness will help keep you on track – you will see your activities as a meaningful part of a larger whole.
2. Establish realistic goals
This is another important point that can significantly affect your attitude towards your studies. If you’ve always struggled with writing, don’t expect to create a great essay in a couple of hours. This way you’re just setting yourself up for failure, and it’s safe to assume that every failure will also negatively affect your motivation.
Be realistic, set reasonable goals for yourself in appropriate time frames. Once you accomplish them, you’ll immediately feel a sense of achievement. This feeling will keep you going, helping you realize your full potential over time.
3. Track your progress
Keep a journal or a calendar filled with small weekly and monthly goals. Make sure to closely track your progress by ticking off every accomplished task – seeing so many little goals achieved will boost your self-esteem and help you stay motivated, even when the amount of work starts to stress you out.
4. Talk about your learning materials
Don’t shy away from commenting on your study process. If this is a challenge, make sure to keep in touch with your instructor through a designated e-learning platform or simply by e-mail – you can share your insights and ask for additional resources.
It’s important to stay connected with your trainers and assessors as well as other students who are studying your course, or within your course area. Many online education providers now have specialized learning platforms that are designed to connect students with each other. Often, there are dedicated social media groups such as Facebook groups, Pinterest share boards and even blogs that are included as part of your online course. Make sure to keep in touch with your trainers through a designated e-learning platform or simply by e-mail – you can share your insights and ask for additional resources.
5. Think positively
Positive thinking is an important part of the whole motivational process. Feeling fatigue or stress can affect your perception of the class and the subject itself, making you miserable and unproductive. Try to think positively and talk with your instructor or other students. Their advice might help you through hard times. Remember to reserve some time for yourself once in a while – no one can be expected to manage all their daily tasks and education without a break.
6. Reward yourself
Consider all the work you’re doing – objectively speaking, you absolutely deserve to have your success acknowledged. When you accomplish one of your goals, be it a minor or major one, make sure to reward yourself with something that will make you happy. Each and every one of these rewards will help you stay motivated in the long run.
It’s safe to say that online education demands just as much self-discipline on the part of learners as traditional education settings. It does, however, bring immense benefits to both your personal and professional life – so choose your path, believe in yourself and stay on track. With enough self-conviction and motivation you’ll be able to reach your goals.
Tess Pajaron is a Community Manager at Open Colleges, an online learning provider based in Sydney, Australia. She has a background in Business Administration and Management.
For more tips on motivation and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!
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