The summer is half over! Have you done your back-to-school shopping yet?
Source: National Retail Federation
Don’t forget to order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students for the new school year!
The summer is half over! Have you done your back-to-school shopping yet?
Source: National Retail Federation
Don’t forget to order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students for the new school year!
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
Going to college? Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!
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.
Going to college? Give yourself the gift of good grades with The Secrets of Top Students!
By Mathew Jade
Education costs have grown rapidly over the years, and students are finding it increasingly difficult to manage their finances. Funding for education is a challenging task, particularly for high school students who want to attend top-notch universities and unemployed individuals who wish to pursue different lines of work. Instead of settling for mediocre alternatives, you can still aim big by paying for your education in the following ways:
You may consider applying for financial grants for educational purposes. Students can acquire educational grants from the financial aid office of their universities. The best thing about grants is that you don’t have to pay them back. The only hurdle is qualifying — which isn’t necessarily easy.
Excellent high school students are frequently awarded merit-based scholarships, which also do not need to be repaid. The qualification for these scholarships varies, but often requires the student to have great grades and high scores on scholastic aptitude tests.
Work-Study Employment Plans
Some students work on a part-time basis to generate funds for their education. To this end, you may consider applying to your university to see if employment opportunities are available. The U.S. Government currently provides a 60 percent wage subsidy to employers of students engaged in work-study programs.
Internships and Trainings
On-the-job training opportunities and internships may allow you to to combine class attendance with full-time work. Although internships do not provide big financial compensation, they do allow students to gain practical experience, enabling them to decide about their major and possibly resulting in a job offer from the company they worked for.
By requesting private education loans from your friends and family, as well as from various other private sources, you may be able to cover hefty fees and pay them back in installments. Student loans can usually be arranged at either fixed or compound interest rates, which normally require a financially sound co-signer and a credit check if the loan provider is not satisfied with or unaware of your credit history. Many people believe that it is nearly impossible to repay students loans, but that’s not true; there are organizations that provide counseling for students to help them with their repayment structure.
Students may be able to get tax deductions in addition to credits towards tuition, costs, fees, and interest from student loans. However, these options are only available after paying tuition fees, and are more like rebates than discounted tuition. You can learn more about education tax breaks on the internet at government tax sites. Families can also qualify for tax breaks for their children’s education.
Mathew Jade is a passionate blogger who loves to write on Economics and finance-related topics. For further updates follow @Mathew_Jade
Going to college? Give yourself the gift of good grades with The Secrets of Top Students
By Alison Stanton
As a college student, you probably feel like you figuratively wear many different hats on any given day. There’s your “in class” hat, your “trying to impress the professor during my oral presentation” hat, the “hanging out in the dorms” hat, and, the ever-popular “heading to my first-ever real job interview” hat.
The trick is to create a stylish wardrobe versatile enough that you’re ready for all of these different situations, without spending a zillion dollars or needing a closet that rivals Ivana Trump’s. Fortunately, it’s more than possible to assemble a fashionable fall wardrobe that won’t require you to take out a massive loan. Here’s where to start.
You looked forward to the freedom that moving away to college represented, but you didn’t consider how many sacrifices you’d also have to make in the name of independence. Grocery shopping, laundry and taking care of your own auto maintenance were all things that you had completely taken for granted. While this newfound freedom is totally worth all of the extra responsibilities, there’s a learning curve to it all.
Here are the auto maintenance basics you need to know to prevent getting stranded on the roadside and keep your vehicle running well.
By Stephen Collins
When headed off to college for the first time, there’s nothing more exciting and scary than getting your very first dorm room. Moving away from home, meeting and making new friends, even possibly sharing your living space with a roommate; all of these things can make a huge impact on your college life. But, the unfortunate truth is that most college freshman don’t have a huge budget for anything beyond school supplies and basic necessities. So, the question becomes, how can you decorate your new living quarters on a budget?
It may sound small, but doing something as simple as changing the arrangement of the current furniture can have a huge impact on the room. Dorm furniture is usually pretty sparse, so moving things into a non-standard layout can both mix things up and create a unique flair and unexpected space. For example, try pushing beds against the walls instead of sticking into the middle of the room to make extra floor space.
Dorm rooms aren’t known for their space. One of the best ways to overcome this deficiency is to make sure that nothing in your living area is just one thing. The back sides of doors make great storage spaces as do the spaces below beds. Companies like DormCo specialize in making the most of all the space in your dorm closet with items like hangers and shelf liners. For additional storage in the corner or under the bed, Dorm Trunks has a variety of trunks that can provide storage, security and—with a little design and creativity—additional seating.
Nothing is more boring that white walls, bare windows and plain floors. Consider mixing things up with a unique rug from Dorm Rugs. Add posters, pictures or easy-to-remove wallpaper to cover plain walls. Or, pick up custom blinds from The Shade Store to add add a personal flair to your windows. These also can provide lighting control and privacy for you and any possible roommates.
Finding little ways to personalize your living space can add some style while continuously re-energizing you as you face the everyday struggles of college life. Custom bulletin boards from The Container Store can be regularly updated with your dreams and goals or pictures from home to keep you focused when times get difficult. And, for that additional little touch, consider putting a message board on the outside of your door for fun communication with all of your neighbors.
Lighting can make a huge difference on the personality of your dorm and doesn’t have to take a bite out of your wallet. Using Christmas lanterns and lights can highlight various wall decorations or add a unique flair to your ceiling and furniture. Plus, companies like IKEA have a huge selection of inexpensive lamps to fit every style and room decoration.
Whatever you do, keep it uniquely you. You are going to be living in this space, so make sure it is somewhere you want to go at the end of the day.
About the Author: Stephen Collins was born in Phoenix, Arizona and has spent most of his life in the Southwestern United States, playing among the cowboys and aliens. This admitted lover of sci-fi and fantasy developed a passion for the written word early in life and began writing at a young age, mostly for the thrill and joy of the experience. He is currently working on his second book while continuing to weave his wordsmithing magic as a freelance writer.
Heading off to college? Give yourself the gift of good grades with The Secrets of Top Students!
By Ray Holder
The popularity of vocational schools is on the rise. In the past, once you were done with high school, you had two options.
1 – Get into college
2 – Get a job
In most cases the ones who went to college were the lucky ones who could afford to do so either by means of scholarships or their own financial reserves. The few who weren’t so fortunate were forced to get minimum wage jobs as a way of earning a small income. Today, things are much different.
Over the past decade there has been a significant rise in vocational training institutes. People are slowly realizing that they have a lot to offer. In fact, students are now leaning more towards vocational schools than colleges even though they seem to have the money to be able to pay for a college education. And here’s why:
1. Vocational schools save time
If you decide to take the traditional route and get a college degree, you would have to spend 4 years on learning the basics of your area of interest. After 4 years, you are free to study further if you wish to specialize. Depending on what you choose to study, you will end up spending 6 odd years on just getting educated.
On the other hand, should you choose to go with a vocational school you would have quite the opposite experience. Vocational courses last for anywhere between 4 and 18 months, depending on what you wish to study. By the end of the course you are more than ready to land a job. There is never any need for further specialization because vocational courses by design are specialized courses.
2. Vocational schools save money
Since vocational schools don’t go on and on for 4 years they don’t cost as much as college. On an average a vocational course from an accredited vocational training institute would probably cost between $14,000 and $20,000. Don’t be daunted by this figure. This is an estimate of total educational costs taking into account all additional costs. Besides, if you enroll in an online vocational school, you will not have to worry about additional costs like cost of living and accommodation.
College tuitions are through the roof nowadays. In addition to tuition you have to consider living costs and accommodation as well. So all in all, it is cheaper and a lot more convenient to attend a vocational school.
3. Get hands-on experience and be job-ready
Vocational courses are highly specialized courses. They are designed to do one thing and one thing only—prepare you for your vocation. There are no additional irrelevant classes that you are mandated to take. The entire duration of a vocational course is spent in training and preparing students to ensure that they are job ready by the time the course is complete.
You are given a whole lot of training along with practice time and plenty of opportunities for hands-on experience. You needn’t worry about gaining experience in order to land a decent paying job. Vocational courses will give you all the experience you need.
4. Land a job easily
Because vocational courses are so specialized and produce highly skilled and well trained individuals, there is a high demand for vocational school graduates in the job market. Also, a lot of vocational schools have placement programs that set their students up with interviews which always result in employment. Some schools also have ties with companies so a certain percentage of students are hired by those companies after every course. Porter and Chester Institute, a vocational training school that is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) is one such institute that has a placement program for all students who are interested.
With college, there is never a guarantee that you will land a well paying job or any job at all for that matter. Students struggle to gain experience and this puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to finding employment.
So there you have it, the 4 reasons why you should pick a vocational school over a college education. If you are interested in saving time and money and landing a job in as little as 18 months, you know just what to do!