Tag Archives: financial

Financial Aid, Part 4: Saving Your Money in College

Every situation is unique and different, but I want to discuss possible options for students to save money.

Ways to Save Money
Basic Savings Account
A lot of banks now offer ways for students to open a “student savings account.” The goal of a “student savings account” is to allow students with limited funds to open a savings account. They usually have low minimums and as a deterrent, it has penalties for withdrawing too much money.

Money Market Account
Usually have higher interest rates but require more of a student than a basic savings account.

Certificate of Deposit (CD)
This requires that you leave your money in the bank for a pre-determine period of time. In exchange for “lending” your money to the bank, you receive a promissory note that indicates the rate of interest you will earn on your deposit. However, if you need to take out a deposit on your CD, you may be required to pay penalties.

Money Market Fund
If students are interested in the opportunity to invest and explore the world of the stock market, this is a good option.

Spending Money Wisely

Textbooks
There are ways to save money in college. For example, buying used books may be a good way to save money. Some colleges even allow you to check out textbooks through the library (I wouldn’t always count on that though, if you desperately need that book before the final exam, it may be gone!). Maybe you can borrow the textbook for a friend, or search for the textbook on sites like amazon.

Transportation
If you’re close enough to campus, could you walk? Or how about riding your bike? Are their options for public transportation? In some areas, if you have a valid college ID, you can ride the bus for free.

Consider carpooling for class, and look for gas promotions (I personally love gasbuddy.com!)

Food/Meal Plans

How about food? It’s important to eat healthy in college. Meal Plans are great if your school offers them.

Try to not use your credit card for food purchases and if you can, clip coupons. Remember, just because an item is on sale at the grocery store, doesn’t mean that you need to buy it. Try to stick to a list of items that you need at the grocery store and only buy those items.

I found this neat website that you can eat cheap for $3.00 or less! Or this other website specializes in cheap cooking.
Farmer’s markets or other types of produce stores are usually a good way to save money, and the produce is fresher.

Get Organized

  • Always keep track of  your spending. Save your receipts and keep either your checkbook with you or a small notebook to write down totals.
  • Bouncing checks is costly, and may result in criminal charges.
  • Always remember to check your receipts to make sure that you weren’t overcharged.
  • Paying your bills on time also avoids any fees that may damage your bank account.
  • Plan your weeks ahead of time to avoid being bored and “spending” money on entertainment.
  • Plan your grocery trips ahead of time by creating a list of items that you’ll need. This will help you avoid a drive for an item or two. It’ll also help you plan out your meals better.

Leisure Time
Try spending your leisure time volunteering than out at the mall or other places you may spend money.

Always check to see if a place has a student discount. A lot of places such as museums, zoos, restaurants and movie theatres give discounts, even if it isn’t listed.

Shop Around
Always remember to shop around. If you’re shopping for a new computer or laptop, search the internet and store flyers for good deals.

Internet
If you have the option to, skip internet at home, if you’re close enough to your school or to a library that offers it to you for free.
Also, you can use free software like Skype to make computer to computer phone calls.

There are many ways to save money while you’re in college…

Live like a college student while you’re in college, but don’t force yourself to live like a college student the rest of your life.

Exchange Traded Funds – Better than Mutual Funds

Anybody who has read my blog for any length of time knows that I’m not the biggest fan of mutual funds.  They are large, obnoxious and clumsy.  Not to mention expensive.  At the same time, their maximum drawdown (the amount you can lose in a bear market) is virtually the same as a basket of 20 randomly selected stocks.  However, I am a fan of ETFs, or Exchange-Traded Funds.

Why?

Well, they are less expensive and can be more nimble.  In addition, they trade like stocks on an exchange, allowing for stop loss trades that will prevent large drawdown.  Basically, everything that regular mutual funds are not.  Where they have similarities with mutual funds is that they allow for varying forms of diversification.  There are sector ETFs, index ETFs (similar to investing in an index), country ETFs.  Wherever you need exposure, there are opportunities to use ETFS.

ETFs have opened up a broad market for individual investors.  Access can be gotten without very much headaches.  However, navigating the ETF market may be a little bit of a headache.  If you are investing on your own, it might not hurt to bounce some ideas off of an advisor.  Just like any investment, if you are not careful, it can come back to bite you.

They’re Down, They’re Up. Who can handle the volatility?

Scary stuff, isn’t it?

The Dow Jones drops 1000 points in a matter of minutes, and you can feel the panic from investors.

To be honest, I actually didn’t see it.  The market appeared to be having a really bad day without mistakes, so I went to the gym to blow off some of the volatility.  I came back to emails and videos of mass hysteria.  Technology certainly does nothing to calm the nerves as it relates to the markets.

What ended up happening is the markets logged their worst week in a long time (the excuse was Greece, but I’ve already been over that enough).  Just looked like the markets were in the mood for a pullback.  Still, the large increase on Monday and then the swing upwards yesterday could also exasperate investors.

This is where long-term investors tell you that it is important to stay invested.  And they are right.  The average investor loses out for precisely one reason:  They sell in a panic, rather than with a disciplined approach.  If you are a long-term investor who has no discipline, the best thing you can do is never, and I mean NEVER turn on CNBC, or Fox Business, or CNNMoney.  These programs will give you a coronary, whether you are prone to them or not.  Further, don’t check your account balances daily.  The feeling of euphoria on “up” days, is half as strong as the feeling of despair on “down” days.

Seriously, stay away from looking at it.  Even if you do it yourself.  It’s not going to help you.  If you have a plan, stick to it.  If you don’t, get a plan.  Because it is a sure bet you’ll fail if you have no plan.  Once you have a plan, and don’t look at things on a microscopic level, you will be the one who can handle the volatility.

Waiting on Divorce

Tre Morgan is a Raleigh, NC-based family law attorney who is trained in Collaborative Law.  Any article he writes is not intended as legal advice.  More information about Tre Morgan can be found on his blog at www.tremorgan.com.

As discussed in this Washington Post article, there are a lot of couples that simply cannot afford to divorce right now.  So, they are living in the same house, waiting for their financial picture to improve before moving forward.

This situation presents some problems for North Carolina residents.  First, like the Maryland couple in the article, North Carolina residents have to live in separate homes for one full year before they can ask the court for a divorce.  So, the period of living together while waiting out the economic downturn only adds to the time required to obtain a divorce.

This waiting game also impacts separation agreements (settlement agreements between married parties that resolve legal issues surrounding finances, child custody, child support, etc…).  North Carolina law  requires that a couple begin living in separate homes very soon after reaching a separation agreement.  If a couple executes a separation agreement but continues to live together for too long, then the separation agreement can be voided by the court.  There is no exact deadline for moving out after reaching a separation agreement.  But, 30 days is probably the maximum period.  After that a couple risks invalidating the separation agreement.

If you are living with your spouse because you do not believe that you can financially afford to seek a divorce, you have options.  There are many processes for resolving the legal issues of a divorce.  Choosing a more efficient and economical divorce process may end your waiting game.