Creating Your Own Budget

If you are starting college or moving away from home, one major change is that you have to be responsible for your money. It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new place and lose track of your spending habits! Whether you have recently left home or been on your own for a while, it is never too late to start budgeting. We want to show you how budgeting can be easy and effortless! Creating a budget and keeping track of it may take some groundwork at first, but it is all about building good habits. Here are some tips for how to lay that groundwork and get your budget started!

Discuss your budget and expenses with anyone involved, such as your parents or guardians. If anyone is giving you money each month or semester, you want to communicate with them your needs and set a solid game plan. This is also a good time to figure out the expectations: do they want you to get a job to earn some income, apply for loans for tuition, or put a certain percentage into savings? Establishing the expectations on both ends will lead to a smoother transition and all of you will feel more confident and comfortable!

List all of your income. This is great to do with your family, if they are providing you with monthly income. Take into account all ways you may be getting money: allowance from family, part-time jobs, side gigs, financial aid, savings, and any other place you have income coming from to help you live during college.

Now, list your expenses. Another topic of discussion is how the expenses will be paid for. This is an important step in communicating with family because you can figure out what money is being used for each expense. If you are unsure what all of your expenses are, track them for a month or two and start categorizing them so you can see how much you’re spending on each per month. Some common expenses for college students are:

  • School related: tuition, textbooks, school supplies
  • Living: rent, utilities, internet, insurance, cell phone, basic home and health supplies
  • Food: eating out and groceries
  • Transportation: car expenses, gas, bus system
  • Entertainment and clothing

Make sure your expenses aren’t more than your income! Add up all your monthly income and monthly expenses, and see what the difference is. You’re aiming for either breaking even or having some money left over. If your expenses are more than what money is coming in every, you need to start budgeting and cutting back! An easy way to start this is by monitoring your spending by checking your bank accounts, credit card statements, or apps like LearnVest or Mint. Apps like this are linked to your bank accounts and automatically put purchases in various folders so you can see exactly how much you’re spending on each category. (See the end of the post for a list of great apps for budgeting!) This can help you figure out areas you can cut back on, such as eating out less per month or finding cheaper solutions to your groceries and supplies.

It’s never too early to think about the future! If you are able, it’s always a good idea to start putting money into your savings. This can be an emergency fund, a travel fund, or saving for your future and a family. Even if it’s small, every little bit helps!

Now that you have clear expectations and goals for where your money needs to go, your foundation is set! Building good spending habits and remembering to keep track of when you’re swiping that card are important for maintaining your budget going forward. Here are a few great apps to help with this and keep you accountable, since it is sometimes hard to keep track of it all!

5 Great Budgeting Apps for College Students

  1. LearnVest: This app links to your bank account and categorizes your purchases into various folders like Groceries, Entertainment, Living, or ones you create yourself.
  2. Mint: This app also connects to your bank account automatically updates your spending and allows you to create whatever budgets you want. It also makes sure that you never charge more than what you have on a credit card.
  3. Pocket Budget: This app shows your main budget in a pie chart and also lists your transactions. It is very straightforward and let’s you easily see what percentage of your money is going to each category of expenses.
  4. You Need a Budget: This app does all the work for you! It is based off of your personal income and “assigns” your money to specific categories, like rent, groceries, entertainment, and savings. It doesn’t leave any dollar unaccounted for, so you can make sure you’re being as effective as possible.  
  5. Wally: This app helps you track your income and expenses and shows your remaining budget so you don’t overspend.

20 Tips for Thriving in Your First Semester

College is an exciting time in your life, and with the excitement comes a lot of change! For most people, it is the first time to live away from your family and be responsible for yourself. Your freshman year is important for building relationships, setting the pace for school work, and growing good habits for the rest of your college career! Here are 20 tips to get you started and on the right path for a successful first semester

  1. Go to orientation. There is a ton of information given at orientation about the campus, classes, various organizations, and helpful resources. The more you know at the beginning, the more comfortable you’ll be!
  2. Explore the campus. Do this before your first day so you know where your classes are and where the major spots on campus are – food places, the library, the gym, student centers, and more.
  3. Get organized! Time management and organization is crucial to keeping everything balanced and orderly. A good, old-fashioned planner is worth investing in to keep you on track! There are apps to help with this, such as MyHomework Student Planner and Trello. Binders and notebooks are great for separating and organizing all of your courses. Google Drive is a lifesaver when it comes to group assignments and backing up your work!
  4. Go to class! I mean, you are paying for it! Avoid the temptation to sleep through that Monday morning 8am class. You’ll be more prepared for tests and assignments, and receive important information from the professor about upcoming stuff.
  5. Use the syllabus. Print off the syllabus or have it easily accessible. This will help you know requirements for the course and due dates for assignments and tests.
  6. Figure out your learning style. Having a good understanding of how you best learn will make you more confident in studying and help you find ways to improve your study habits. Learn more about this in our recent blog post!
  7. Take notes. Find a system for note-taking that works well for you, and stick to it.
  8. Meet your professors. They can put a name to the face, and you’ll feel more comfortable with asking questions throughout the semester. Learn their office hours so you can go if you need extra help.
  9. Have a plan for course registration. Trust me, this time of year can get cutthroat. Talk with your academic advisers often and have a game plan for registering for classes so that you know exactly what to do when it opens. Also, have backup plans for if a class is too full. You don’t want to extend your time in college by another semester or 2 because you didn’t prepare for registration!
  10. Get involved in campus. Explore the various school organizations and find a couple you want to try out. Don’t overwhelm yourself: stick to just a 1-2 that you are passionate about. There are organizations for everyone, so you can definitely find something you’re interested in. These are a great way to build friendships that last all through college!
  11. Find good college student deals. There are so many deals available for college students! Some good ones are UNiDAYS, which offers tons of discounts at local and online store; Spotify Premium has a discount for students; and there are often local apps with food and retail store deals. Also, get great discounts on your textbooks at www.textbooksolutions.com!
  12. Make friends with students in your classes. That way you always have a study buddy or someone to share notes with!
  13. Don’t procrastinate! Procrastinating until 11:00pm on your homework can spiral out and become a habit. Don’t let it get to that point! Use time in between classes to get ahead instead of watching Netflix, or set aside an hour each evening for schoolwork.
  14. Stay healthy and eat right. Don’t get caught up in the lazy Ramen and McDonalds phase of college life. There are plenty of ways to eat right on a budget, you just have to take the time to plan out your meals and snacks and find what works best for you. Take vitamins, get enough sleep, and find ways to stay active – whether it’s going on walks at your local park or using a free gym service at your campus.
  15. Talk to your parents often. Set an alarm on your phone to call your mom and dad once or twice a week – it will mean the world to all of you to stay in touch!
  16. Keep track of your money! Start a budget if needed, or just monitor your bank accounts. If you have a credit card, be smart with it – don’t spend money that you don’t have.
  17. Limit social media time. It is hard to resist the urge, but you can maximize your study time if you don’t get on Facebook or Instagram every 10 minutes. It can also take away time you could use to experience new things and form new friendships.
  18. Find a balance. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the new experiences, but you have to find a way to balance your social life and academics. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help if you need it.
  19. Make time for you! Find hobbies or relaxing activities that make you happy and take time to do them a couple times a week
  20. Stay positive! College may seem stressful and full of change, but it’s an exciting time of life! You can make the choice to be positive and not let situations bring you down.

Resources

https://www.livecareer.com/career/advice/jobs/first-year-success

https://www.collegexpress.com/articles-and-advice/student-life/blog/10-tips-how-survive-and-thrive-your-first-year-college/

https://collegeinfogeek.com/42-things-i-learned-freshman-year/

Traveling on a Budget

Do you spend your time daydreaming of traveling the world and seeing glaciers, jungles, mountains, and beaches, while you’re confined to sitting at home? Or maybe you search photos on Pinterest and Instagram of all the fun cultures and food that you could experience around the world, and all you have is leftover mac-and-cheese in the fridge. Many people are left to wonder and long for fun traveling adventures, and the main thing stopping them is…money! But don’t put that suitcase away just yet, because there are tons of money-saving tips and ideas for traveling on a budget!

TRAVEL

One of the biggest roadblocks to pulling the trigger is the airfare. But there are quite a few tricks to saving money on flights:

  • Sign up for a credit card that earns points towards flights! This is a super easy way to earn cash towards that dream vacation, and you don’t even have to change your spending habits. Some credit cards good for this are the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Capital One Venture Rewards card. You could also do an airline-specific credit card, like Southwest. Start racking up points as soon as you want!
  • Travel in the off-season. This is typically November-March, although it may depend on the country you want to visit. Peak season is June-August, so avoid these times if possible.
  • Pack light to avoid checked luggage fees. Some airlines, like Southwest, let you check a bag for free. This is not often the case, so research before you go!
  • Tuesday is the cheapest day to travel, so try to book flights on this day.
  • Check prices often! Look at websites like Travelocity or Kayak that compare flight prices.
  • If it is not somewhere you have to fly to, consider road-tripping with family or friends! This is more cost effective than flying and you can split the cost of gas with others.

LODGING

Now that you know how you’re going to get there, you need a place to stay! This can also be a big cost, so here are some ways to stay in budget:

  • Travel with friends or family so you can split the cost of wherever you stay (this will also save in other areas, too)!
  • If you’re okay with sharing a space with other people, try a hostel! Hostels are world-wide and provide accommodations for big groups of people, such as students, workers, or travelers. You rent a bed for a low price, and often share a bathroom, kitchen, and living area with others. They are great for low budgets and meeting new people! You can easily find a local hostel in the country you’re visiting by searching online or going to websites like Hostel World.
  • Opt out of a hotel and instead choose a local Airbnb or VRBO. These are both popular forums that let you find lodging for a wide range of needs, and are very well-priced!
  • A FREE option is Couchsurfing! This website gives you access to free lodging in homes in almost any area.You can meet and stay with locals from all over the world who have an extra couch, bed, or air mattress for you to stay on for free. It is common courtesy to do something in return for the host, such as take them out to dinner or bring them a gift, but the entire experience is free!

FOOD

This is one of the best parts about traveling – all the food! While you want to enjoy the country’s cuisine and experience all the fun dining, it can take a toll on the wallet. Here are some ideas:

  • Stay in hotels or hostels that offer a free breakfast. Then, one third of your meals are taken care of! You can usually find this information online wherever you are booking.
  • Buy cheap snacks and easy-to-prepare meals from a grocery store instead of eating out for every meal. That way, you can splurge on dinner without feeling guilty. Take these snacks with you when you go out to avoid the urge to buy more expensive things throughout the day.
  • Eat local! Local food is a big pull to most places, and if often some of the cheapest options. Street vendors offer a great addition to any cultural experience, and are well-priced!

ACTIVITIES

Last but not least, you have to plan all of the fun adventures you’ll go on! Here are some tips for keeping activities budget-friendly:

  • Ask local residents what their favorite activities and deals are. Often, they will know the best places to go that may not always be on the beaten path.
  • Rent a bicycle for transportation instead of renting a car. Other good transportation methods are the local public transportation system, Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing sites. If possible, don’t use a local taxi – these are overpriced and add unneeded expenses to your trip!
  • There are lots of free entertainment options available, such as art galleries and museums! Some places offer free walking or biking tours, which allow you to visit all the must-see landmarks in the area. You can usually find music or art festivals at local parks, or vendors performing on popular streets. These are all great experiences with the culture and easy on the wallet!
  • If you are a student and have a student I.D, many places in the United States and abroad offer student discounts! Research what discounts you can get with your student I.D, and look into getting an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) because this is valid across almost all countries.

These are only a few of the many tips and tricks you can find on traveling. There is nothing stopping you from having the experience of a lifetime anywhere in the world – now start packing!

Resources

What Kind of Learner Are You?

How do you learn best? Is it by taking notes on your professor’s lecture in class, going through flash cards of information, or maybe by getting some hands-on practice? You have probably seen that there are many different ways that people learn information, and not everyone uses the same methods. Maybe you’ve wondered how your roommate can study for their exam when they are blaring loud music, or how someone could possibly concentrate on a textbook while sitting still in the same position for 2 hours! There is no one-size-fits-all answer for learning, and there are hundreds of studying tactics to help you. Research by an educator named Neil Fleming suggests that there are 4 main categories of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. These are called learning styles! Learning styles are important because they help you better understand what environment you work best in, and how to ensure that you study well to make that “A”!

Visual Learners

Do you like seeing graphs and charts in a textbook that better explain the content? Do you remember things best when you can see them, such as on a flashcard or diagram? You might be a visual learner! Visual learners would rather see information given in a visual form, such as graphs, videos, handouts, or images. You may often find yourself closing your eyes to picture a random fact, or are distracted easily when listening to a lecture where there is nothing to look at.

Tips and Tricks for Visual Learners:

  • Avoid studying or working in areas where there is a lot of movement or things to visually distract you.
  • Create flashcards to learn new things.
  • Highlight or color code important information.
  • Find or make your own diagrams, lists, charts, or drawings of what you are trying to learn.

Auditory Learners

Different from visual ones, auditory learners learn best when they can hear information. Do you remember things better when you say them out loud? Do you enjoy bouncing ideas off of professors or fellow classmates? These may be signs that you are an auditory learner! These learners would rather listen to a lecture or to a recording than read a textbook. It may be helpful for you to read words out loud to memorize them, or to ask questions and verbalize your thought process.

Tips and Tricks for Auditory Learners:

  • Sit where you can hear the lecture or class.
  • Repeat facts or vocabulary words out loud to yourself.
  • Have a friend read you practice questions and answer them out loud.
  • Record class lectures or review sessions so you can play them back later.

Reading/Writing Learners

Have you always done better in school when teachers use PowerPoints with their notes or when you write important information down? If so, you are probably a reading/writing learner! This is exactly what it sounds like: you learn better when things are displayed as words or when you write them yourself. Reading a textbook or PowerPoint slide is more effective for these learners than hearing or seeing.

Tips and Tricks for Reading/Writing Learners:

  • It may seem straightforward, but take notes during lectures or while reading a textbook!
  • Make your notes in bullet form, and only include important points: you will retain it better if notes are in condensed, “bite-size” pieces.
  • Work in a quiet area where nothing will distract you from your reading.
  • Practice for tests with multiple choice questions.

Kinesthetic Learners

“Kinesthetic” means motion or movement. Kinesthetic, or tactile, learners thrive when they get hands-on practice and can physically apply what they are learning. If you find that you need to take frequent breaks during lectures to move around, love working with manipulatives when in class, and learn best by doing something, then kinesthetic learning is for you! You tend to learn best when some sort of movement is involved, rather than by hearing or seeing information.

Tips and Tricks for Kinesthetic Learners:

  • Participate in hands-on activities like art, building things, acting out, or moving/manipulating objects.
  • Give yourself study breaks where you can stretch or walk around to clear your mind.
  • Trace words, letters, or numbers that relate to what your studying to better remember.
  • Work in study groups and review by playing various trivia games or asking questions.

Remember, not everybody falls into one box! You may find tips from multiple categories useful. Whatever your learning style(s) are, find what helps YOU learn best!

Resources

New Year’s Traditions Around the World

Every culture has different traditions to celebrate the season. These traditions are looking to bring luck into the new year, or just spend time with those around you. Here we look at just a few of the traditions that people celebrate throughout the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Denmark

In Denmark, they literally destroy their problems that have been saved up throughout the year. They do this through saving up unwanted glassware in preparation for New Years. They then smash this glass against the doors of friends and loved ones. They do this as a symbol of smashing the troubles of the past year.

Spain

Folks in Spain participate in the 12 grape challenge. During each of the bell tolls at midnight, people will put a grape in their mouths resulting in 12 grapes in their mouths. This is because of the superstition that each grape equals one wish for the year.

Brasstown, NC, USA

In this North Carolina town, they engage in a possum-drop. On New Years Eve, they lower a possum in a clear box over a crowd to ring in the upcoming year. Recent years have been forced to use a fake possum due to a lawsuit from an animal rights group.

Chile

People in Chile like to begin their year with loved ones, alive or dead. They spend New Year’s Eve graveyard camping at the graves of their lost family members. The graveyards open late and these folks spend the night surrounded by candles and classical music.

Hungary

Food in Hungary is a large aspect in the traditions of New Years in their culture. Hungarians will avoid eating chicken and fish in favor of pork. This is due to the popular beliefs that the winged fowl are a symbol of luck flying away and fish symbolizing the luck swimming away.

Southern USA

Like Hungary, food has a large impact on the traditions in many of the southern states of the United States. These folks in the south will eat black eyed peas on New Year’s day. They do this to gain luck for the upcoming year. If they want even more luck, collard greens are added  to the meal for the symbol of money.

Many of these cultures New Year’s traditions revolve around the ideas of gaining luck. How these traditions have come to pass is not always known. Regardless of how they came about, these traditions give the folks celebrating around the world a sense of community and fellowship with those around them.