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/

Top 10 Video Games of 2018

Throughout the year, many video games have been created and given many entertainment and a relief from everyday life. This list contains just a few of the amazing games that have been created this year.

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1.  Red Dead Redemption 2

After 8 years, Red Dead Redemption has finally made a sequel and it’s a detailed masterpiece. This game is set in the vast landscape of the American wild west of 1899 toward the end of an era. You control the outlaw and gang member, Arthur Morgan, making choices and exploring the world. I mentioned that this game was detailed and in my opinion that is an understatement. The game seems to have not missed a single detail that would make it more realistic and visually impressive. It was worth the 8 year wait!

2.  Celeste

Celeste is a platforming gem. It is a challenging game that sucks the player in as you help your character, Madeline, on her journey to the top of Celeste Mountain. It’s an intense challenge that is very rewarding once you finally complete a level. After you beat the game, you get another set of challenges that are even more difficult than the main game levels. There are many techniques you can use and things to do in this simple but visually appealing 2D platformer.

3.  God of War

God of War features the relationship of father and son with Kratos being a mentor and protector to his son throughout the game. Featuring a new setting, characters, monsters, and gods in the gameplay of the game. The story within this game is masterfully crafted and allows the player an enjoyable experience.

4.  Marvel’s Spider Man

In this game, you play as an experienced Peter Parker balancing his life as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and as Peter Parker. This game has hours upon hours of content allowing you to experience the story, explore, and fight. The swinging through the city is more than satisfying. It is visually appealing and has expertly crafted boss fights. Insomniac Games brings the world of Marvel and Spider-Man beautifully into your hands, making it worth for this list.

5.  Dragon Ball FighterZ

This 2D Dragon Ball fighting game follows up the success of the Xenoverse series. It has endless spectacular fights with high end anime graphics. The gameplay is easy to learn yet difficult to master. The amount of entertainment due to the endless nature of the fights and the incredible anime graphics created in a partnership with the talent at Arc System Works earn it this spot on the list.

6.  Super Smash Brothers Ultimate

Although it has not released yet, this game deserves a spot on this list. With 71 characters and 103+ stages, the possibilities are endless. This game has so much hype around it that the hype alone makes it a top game of the year. Story mode of this game will not be the end with the multiplayer of this game testing the limits of Nintendo’s new online service. The only thing that could make this game better would be Waluigi.

7.  Dead Cells

This action-platformer is tough yet fair game where you explore a large ever-changing castle. There are many ways to build your character and choice the path that best fits you. This game has the personality and the hours of entertainment. The speedy combat, amazing system for progression, and great music make this game worthy of being called one of the best of the year on this list.

8.  Pokémon Let’s Go: Eevee and Pikachu

Many seasoned Pokémon players were skeptical about this game from before its release. The main worries were that this game would be too easy or the new Pokémon go style catching mechanics were not the same as the wild Pokémon battles of the past. This games main plot is in fact easy, however post game and player created goals create a larger level of difficulty. With master trainers sprinkling the land and shinies to be found this game is enjoyable with a large amount of time to be spent in the Kanto region. On top of all of this, the game is just flat out ridiculously adorable.

9.  Super Mario Party

Super Mario Party takes its mechanics back to the days before Nintendo introduced the car that bused players around the board. The boards are not as imaginative as they potentially could be and the online component is fairly underwhelming. However, the team boards are interesting and add a great addition to this party game. It is a great game to play with friends and family over the holidays or just in general. The simple mechanics make it easy for anyone to understand and the minigames included in this title are fun while maintaining the awkward nature of motion controls.

10.  Return of the Obra Dinn

This mystery game is set in 1809. You play as an insurance claim agent investigating a bit that washed up to shore empty one day. Throughout the game, you make insurance claims of the boat while piecing together the story of the boat and what happened to the crew. The story of this mystery game is has an incredible narrative and surprising art style. This game is a true surprise and thematically wonderful earning it a spot on this list.

Cautions For Using Professor Review Sites

When I go to create my class schedule for the coming semester, I tend to look for a few things. The required classes for my major and minor, the time of the class, and the professor that is teaching the class are the top three factor I take into account when choosing my classes. The one thing I have found the most problem determining is which professor I should take the class with. Enter professor rating sites.

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Sites such as ratemyprofessors.com are a staple to students choosing classes in today’s college environment. However, are these sites really accurate?

Extreme Posts: These posts on this site are very much in the fashion of sites like yelp and other review sites. Many of the posts I have found on my professors have been subjective and seem to be mainly written from the extreme ends of student opinions. This lends itself to extreme reviews either highly praising or critiquing the teacher.

Outdated Reviews: While using these sites, the date that the review was created is also important to take into account when deciding the validity of the review. The professor’s curriculum can change very frequently in the college world as well as professors changing their teaching styles to try and reach their students in a more effective way. This means that a review created in 2008 will likely not be as reliable as one created in 2018.

Relying solely based on reviews of professor rating sites is not recommended, as this information can be a hit or miss in accuracy. Here are some suggested actions in addition to using review sites:

Email the Professor: It’s possible to email the professor and as them questions personally or even get a copy of the syllabus if they have taught the class before. Although these sources are convenient, it does not always provide the best information on the professor.

Ask Others: Check around with students you know to see if they have taken the professor you are checking. Because it is a student you know, you can better understand and trust their advice.

How to Choose Your College Classes

It’s that time of the year…. time to decide what classes to take this upcoming semester! It’s important to know how to pick your classes so you can graduate on time, and get the most out of your college experience and your money!  Here are a few tips to guide you in the process of choosing your classes.

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1. Start the process early.

Avoid the stress, and don’t wait until the last minute, or else… well, let’s just say, you may end up with one crazy schedule!

2. Check your graduation requirements.

Review your school’s course catalog. If you have already declared your major, choose some courses that fulfill general requirements in that area. If you have yet to declare a major, get your core requirements out of the way or pick some classes in subjects that spark your interest. Some classes require pre-requisites, therefore make sure you have met those requirements before enrolling.

3. Read RateMyProfessor reviews.

Head over to ratemyprofessor.com and read through the reviews.  You can’t always trust the reviews on this website, but they give you an insight of what the class/professor is like. If you have friends who have taken those professors before, ask them about the course workload and the experience they had in the class.

4. Balance the types of classes.

If you can avoid it, don’t take multiple classes that similar or with the same professor. Needless to say, it can get a little overwhelming studying for similar subjects throughout the semester. Variety will keep you sane!

5. Count your credits.

Be aware of how many credits your classes are and add them up, to ensure that you meet the full-time student requirements. You don’t want to be short a credit or two!

6. Create different schedule options.

Now that you have your list of classes you are interested in, it’s time to work them into a potential schedule. Here comes the really the tricky part, you will need to decide whether you want to take your classes in the morning, afternoon, or certain days of the week, especially if you currently have a job or are involved in any school activities. Create at least two different versions of schedules to consider. [Feel free to print out our handy Class Schedule Planner Grid to assist you build multiple schedules.]

7. Visit your advisor. 

I must admit, some advisors can be cluessless and useless, or definitely help you get your life together! If your advisor falls into the “helpful” category,  he/she will likely have advice about what they think works or doesn’t work and may even suggest classes you hadn’t even considered. If you feel like your advisor isn’t much help, try talking to a different advisor in your department.

8. Schedule as soon as possible.

Once you have your final draft, go sign up for your classes. You definitely don’t want to miss out enrolling in a class you MUST take this semester. Remember, classes have a limited seat capacity, therefore they can fill up very quick.

Best of luck this semester! 🙂