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Parallel Planning: 3 College Expenses to Save for Alongside Your 529

Posted on Mar 16, 2018 with No comments
If you have regularly been contributing to a 529 plan to save for your children’s college education, you may reasonably assume that you have covered all of your bases and are financially prepared to send your children to college. Funds in your 529 plan can be used for tuition, books and even dorm expenses. However, there are some other expenses that you may not have thought about yet. These are a few of the more common and relatively expensive costs that you may need to factor into your college budget.

Transportation and Relocation Costs

The cost to help your child relocate into a dorm or an off-campus apartment can be tremendous. You will need to pay for professional moving services or rent a moving truck to do the work on your own. You will also need to pay for regular travel expenses for your child to travel back and forth to see you, such as air fare. If your child needs to drive while in college, vehicle expenses should also be taken into account.

Insurance Premiums

Your child may need several types of insurance while in college. This may include health insurance and auto insurance at minimum. If your child is leasing an apartment, the property may require the purchase of a renter’s policy. These expenses can easily add up to several hundred dollars per month, so they should not be overlooked.

Special Services

Special services are not essential, but you may prefer that your child use them as needed. For example, a cell phone is not a true necessity, but it may be the primary way for your child to reach you, to call authorities for help if something happens and more. Another type of service that your child may need or want is a gym membership. Staying healthy while in school is important, and a gym membership is an excellent way to encourage physical fitness.

Sending your child to college can be expensive, and you may feel financially stressed after realizing that you have overlooked some of these expenses. Remember that there are multiple ways to pay for all college-related costs. For example, your child can get a part-time job to partially pay his or her way. You could also trim back on your own lifestyle. While paying for college can seem burdensome and stressful, remember that this will only last for a few years. More than that, the effort to make financial adjustments is well worth the end result.


How to Afford Insurance as a Student

Posted on Mar 13, 2018 with No comments
As a young adult, you’re likely aware of the importance of having auto insurance. Not only do you expose yourself to extreme liability without insurance, it’s also against the law to drive without auto insurance.

Of course, understanding the importance of auto insurance and actually being able to afford it are two very different things. Understanding the best ways to afford auto insurance will guarantee that you’re legal and that you won’t go bankrupt if you’re at fault in an accident.

Shop Around

While most things that you buy will basically be the same price at every store unless there’s a major sale, auto insurance rates can vary widely between companies, even for the same coverage. Different companies rank risks at different levels, meaning what might cause your rates to skyrocket at one company might not cause much of an issue at another.

You can shop around as often as you want, meaning every time your policy comes up for renewal, you can do a quick check to see if you can find a better rate.

Pay Fewer Times

Though a monthly auto insurance payment might seem like the easiest route to go, the fact is that you may be able to save hundreds of dollars by paying for six months at a time.

Of course, you’ll need to be able to collect enough money at one time to be able to pay six months’ premium, but if you can, you’ll be able to enjoy big savings. Just be sure you’ve really done your homework to ensure the company you choose is the one offering the best deal.

Drive Safely

Though it might go without saying, another great way to have affordable insurance is to have a safe driving record. Though you can’t change what you’ve done in the past, you can have at least a level of control of what your future driving record will look like.

Insurance companies have to charge those who’ve been in accidents more, or they’d go out of business. After all, hospital bills, accident lawyers, and car repairs aren’t cheap. Therefore, drive safe, at posted speed limits, and you’ll be able to enjoy more affordable rates over time.

Take a Class

A great way to see quick savings on your insurance as a student is to take a driver education course. These courses are offered through insurance companies and third parties and typically include both classroom and on-the-road instruction.

Though it may seem like a waste of time to spend hours learning about something you already know how to do, the tips and tricks you learn during a class like this could prove invaluable in an emergency situation. Insurance companies agree and will reward you with lower rates.

Set a Budget

Though you can do many things to lower your insurance rates, you’ve still got to have the money to pay those premiums when they come due. Since you can’t drive without insurance, it’s important to carefully budget money, putting this in the “necessity” category.

After all, the only thing worse than having high insurance rates is having no car because you got caught driving without insurance.


Financial Tricks to Affording Your First Home After College

Posted on Mar 9, 2018 with No comments
The decision to buy your first home after college can be both exciting and confusing. The special jargon of real estate, the flood of documents and the many legal requirements can be overwhelming. One of the primary considerations is price and your ability to manage mortgage payments and other expenses. You can make the experience of purchasing your first home easier and more affordable if you follow these five tips.

Clean up Your Credit Record

A squeaky clean credit record will help you to get the best interest rate on your mortgage, so take care of any problems you may have left over from an earlier period of your life. If you don’t have a credit record, establish one with a credit card or department store card and make your payments on time.

Put as Much Money down as Possible

Remember that the greater the amount of your down payment, the less money you will have to borrow, and the better interest rate you will receive from your financial institution.

Special mortgage programs are available that require as little as 10 percent down, but you should try to put at least 20 percent down on your purchase to acquire as much equity in your home as possible.

Get Pre-Qualified for a Loan

Seek out a number of financial institutions to try to get the best interest rate, and go through the pre-qualification process. This action will give you an advantage when looking for desirable properties that could get snapped up quickly.

Put off Big Purchases

Your new mortgage payment may be bigger than your previous rent, so you should try to arrange your finances to accommodate this larger expense. Sit down and see where you can cut your expenses to make paying a mortgage payment easier. Put off large purchases, such as a car or furniture until a later date, after you have gotten settled in your new home.

Choose a Home That’s Affordable

A number of mortgage calculators are online that can help you determine how much you can afford to pay for a home. Stay within a narrow range of this amount, and avoid the temptation of buying more house than you can reasonably afford. A good real estate agent, like Re/Max Alliance - The Diane Stow Team, can help you find the right house for your needs.

Purchasing your first home is one of the biggest financial steps you will make in your life. You can help it to be a success, and the perfect launchpad for other financial decisions, if you learn as much as possible about owning a home, in advance of your search. These five tips will help you to position yourself for this important life event.

Car Costs: 5 Frugal Tips to Make Your Vehicle More Cost-Effective in College

Posted on Feb 21, 2018 with No comments

The costs to keep your car up and running can be substantial. Like many consumers, you might wonder what options you have to decrease those costs. Fortunately, there are some options available to you. Use these five tips to make your vehicle more cost-effective.

Maintain the Car

Preventative maintenance will largely keep you from needing more expensive repairs in the future. Preventative maintenance includes getting your car in for regular oil changes and diagnostics to ensure everything is still running in tip-top shape.

If something is not, your mechanic will point this out to you and you can get the issue repaired before it becomes a costly, significant problem.

Shop for Cheaper Insurance

Car insurance is expensive. Unfortunately, it’s not worth it to cut corners in most coverage levels, because the minimum mandated coverage is not going to go very far in a serious accident where you have to cover medical bills.

However, there are ways to save. Shop around at different companies to see if you can find a better rate. See what coverage you could trim from your policy. If you have an older car, for example, collision insurance might not be a good buy because any damage will likely cost more to repair than what the car is worth.

Watch the Tires

You should check your tire pressure often. Under-inflated tires will wear out faster and waste gas. On the other hand, tires that are properly inflated will give you better gas mileage and work to reduce friction.

Always work with a professional like Evans Tire & Service Centers or someone similar to invest in quality tires. They might be a bit more expensive initially, but they will last longer and generally be safer. Keeping your tires in good condition can prevent costly accidents or needing an expensive tow truck to rescue you from the side of the road.

Increase Fuel Efficiency

Even if you don’t have a hybrid, there are still things you can do to increase the fuel efficiency of your vehicle. Driving slower and accelerating more smoothly will use less gas. Changing your car’s various filters at regular intervals prevents dust and gunk buildup that can decrease fuel efficiency.

Swap for another Car

It is possible to get out of your contract and give the lease on your car to someone else. You can then pursue something more affordable or fuel-efficient. You may also decide now is the time to get rid of your old clunker and get a hybrid car. There will be a greater expense upfront to do this, but it will save you much more money over time in gas costs.

You can save money on vehicle-related costs in any number of ways. Try these suggestions and your pocketbook should soon notice the improvement.


The Cost of College: 5 Frugal Tips for Students

Posted on Feb 6, 2018 with No comments
Unless you’re blessed with a scholarship, college costs can be quite stressful. Fortunately, there are many ways to plug financial drains. Here are a few aspects of student life where you can save money big time.


Textbooks are one of the most expensive parts of being a student. To cut back on this expense, start by ensuring that books mentioned in the course description are actually required. Some professors may not use them, announcing this the first day of class.

If you’d like to know in advance, email your instructors. Also, attend classes before buying books, in case you decide to drop any courses. After confirming necessary books, see if your school library has them on reserve.

Checking books out from a library saves you the cost of renting them, and you can usually check them out for a month or more at a time. Alternatively, the local public library may have some. If you can get your books from a library, you can scan the chapters you’ll be using onto a USB drive or your computer (just be sure not to share them with others to avoid breaking any copyright laws).

If you can’t find your books at a library then another possibility to consider is renting from online sources like Amazon. Most of these sites have set loan periods, but some let you specify.

If you can’t borrow or rent a book, you’ll have to buy them. Buying is almost always going to be more expensive than renting, but it doesn’t have to be. Look for used options, or electronic versions. Those are both likely to be cheaper than a hardcopy of a book. If you have to buy new and physical, then try to see if your school will repurchase them at the end of the semester.

Cell Phone Service

A cell phone is a bit of a must-have, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. The first step to savings is critiquing your current bill. Distinguish unnecessary bells and whistles from must-have services. Are you paying for unlimited data?

Many people think they need unlimited data, but don’t end up using much of it since they have WiFi at home, work, and school. Figure out what’s really essential, and cut out the rest.

Sometimes you can even save money by switching to a different cell phone service. If you’re using one of the big 4, consider switching to a non-traditional option like Flash Wireless or someone similar instead of a traditional carrier.

One non-traditional option is a prepaid service - also known as a month-to-month plan. With this type of plan you can switch carriers at any time, without the penalty fee of a contract plan. Most prepaid carriers don’t check credit, which can be advantageous if your credit history isn’t ideal (or doesn’t exist).

Determine the best talk, text, and data allotments for your needs, and pay in advance. Then, each month, recharge your account for the amount you wish to spend.

The alternative to a pay-as-you go plan is a contract plan. A contract requires you to guarantee to your provider that you will keep using their service for a set amount of time, and in exchange they give you benefits.

Sometimes these benefits mean free phones, or lower rates. Whatever they are, it’s worth weighing the pros and cons of different contract plans with pay-as-you go plans before making a decision.


No matter what your situation is in life, you’ve got to eat. When you’re at school you have a few different options for food. If you’re living in on campus housing, you may have the option to buy a meal plan.

While these meal plans aren’t designed to save you money, they can definitely save you time. For a college student, time can be money. If you don’t have to spend time cooking your own meals at home, you can spend that time working to earn a bit more money, or doing your homework. It makes them an option worth considering.

If you’re really strapped for cash though, you may want to skip the meal plan. You can spend less money by buying your own food at a grocery store and preparing your own meals. Be sure to look for coupons and discounts. Being smart when you shop for food will add up to significant savings.

Don’t cave in to the temptation to eat nothing but Ramen either. It might be cheap, but it won’t sustain you for long before your body begins to wear down from lack of nutrients. Don’t resort to fast food either – even if it seems cheap at the time you buy it, it will become expensive quickly.

If you’re a commuter, pack healthy meals, avoiding the high prices of food at your student union. Are you living in a dorm with a kitchen or off-campus with roommates? If so, consider splitting food expenses, and rotate cooking with your friends.

Stock fresh foods rather than processed meals. For discounted bulk foods and non-perishables, buy a warehouse club membership, such as Sam’s Club, Costco, or BJ’s. At Sam’s Club, get a collegiate membership. Online signup lowers your cost with a $25 e-gift card!


The first rule of saving money is to think before you act. Before making purchases, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” The answer will help you curb expenses, by distinguishing necessities from mere desires. Pay all bills on time, sidestepping late fees and interest rates.

It can also help to compare financial institutions to see if you could save more money by banking somewhere else. Do an online comparison of banks offering free savings and checking accounts. Make sure that the bank you use provides:
  • Free checks 
  • Low administrative fees 
  • Free online banking services 
  • No minimum balances 
  • Convenient ATM locations 
  • Free, unlimited ATM use 

It’s also important to avoid any overdraft fees. If you can, don’t allow your bank to pull more out of your checking account than you have. It’s better for your finances to have your card declined than to pay extra in fees.

In the world today you will probably have a credit card as well. The best practice for living on a budget is to avoid using your credit cards at all, but that can be difficult if you’re paying bills or making purchases online.

 If you do use your credit cards, try to form the habit of not spending more than you have in your bank, and scheduling a payment to your credit card as soon as you use it. These practices will help you avoid overspending, which would lead to interest charges and monthly minimum payments. Two things that will hurt your budget.

College Jobs

As part of a financial aid package, a work-study program can offset some college expenses. You’ll earn at least minimum wage, and be able to study at the same time. To apply to a program like this, all you need to do is to fill out your FAFSA. On average, it takes just 30 minutes. Apply early, since funds are granted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Even if you don’t qualify for work-study, you can work while you’re at school. Try to keep your job to part-time if you can, so it doesn’t interfere with your studies. Look around for on-campus jobs as a TA or a janitor before going off-campus.

While they may not pay as well as some off-campus options, they’ll make it much easier to juggle work and school together. To find opportunities, visit your college Human Resources Department, Career Center, and campus job board. As with the work study, apply as early in the semester as you can – preferably before it starts.

Are you psyched to start saving money? Then put these skills to work! Every situation is different, so don’t worry if you can’t apply all of the tips presented here. The important thing is to find ways to limit your spending, while increasing your income. Remember, be savvy with spending and you’ll tame financial stress!


Strapped for Cash? Try These Tricks to Lower Your Monthly Expenses

Posted on Jan 29, 2018 with No comments
It’s frustrating to see all your money go towards bills every month, and this is a bad habit to get into, as you won’t be able to save much or achieve financial stability. While increasing your income is great if you can manage it, you should also see if there’s any monthly expenses you have that you can lower or even eliminate entirely. If you’re ready to start cutting back, break out your latest record of your monthly expenses and check out these four cash-saving tips.

Choose One Service for TV and Movies

There’s nothing wrong with relaxing with a TV show or a movie that you like from time to time. But you don’t need four different services to do that. Figure out which service you’ll get the most use out of and drop the rest.

If you’re paying for cable, Netflix, Hulu and HBO Go or some similar collection of services every month, that adds up to quite a bit of money just for TV. Your most cost-effective option is to go the cord-cutter route and get rid of your cable package entirely, and then save even more by only choosing one streaming service.

Shop around for New Cell Service

Cell service is one of those things people often stay with for no particular reason. Maybe you got locked into a two-year contract when you bought a new phone, and then you just never bothered to check out what else was available when your contract was up. Whatever your reason, you may score a much better deal if you shop around.

Before you do this, figure out exactly how much data you need, as that’s the key factor in how much plans cost. See what different carriers are offering. Switching to a new carrier, or just switching your plan on your current carrier, could get you a much lower monthly rate.

If you want to save money, consider shopping around outside of traditional carriers and look into companies like Flash Wireless or Boost Mobile. Often alternatives like these can save you money relative to their competition.

Look for Inexpensive or Free Recreational Activities

When you look over your expenses, pay attention to how you’re spending your evenings and weekends. Those movies, happy hours, nights out and concerts can end up costing you hundreds of dollars every month.

It’s fine to have fun, but it’s also smart to switch out some of your pricier recreational activities with cheaper alternatives. Not only will you spend less, but you will also probably enjoy switching things up. For example, instead of going out to eat, you could invite friends for a dinner party.

You can also try going hiking or checking out any free museums or art galleries in your area. Look around and you’ll find that there’s plenty of fun things you can do at a low cost.

Check out Your City’s Public Transportation

Having a car is certainly convenient, but you’re paying for that convenience with your gas, insurance and maintenance costs. See what sort of public transportation your city has. Taking the bus or subway could be easier than you think.

Sure, it takes longer to get places via public transportation, but there’s no reason to consider this time a waste. You could read a book, listen to a podcast or do something else productive on your commute. Even taking public transportation a couple times per week will lower your gas costs.

Cutting your monthly expenses may initially seem like a tall order. But if you consider alternatives to your usual expenses and you’re willing to get rid of some unnecessary luxuries, you could end up with more money to put away every month.


3 Reasons Your College Planning May Change Based on Your Major

Posted on Jan 6, 2018 with No comments
Many college students select a major early in their time at a university, but their experiences and changes in personal goals or interests may cause them to change majors at some point. While you need to choose a major that you are most interested in, you also need to know how this change can affect your college planning efforts.

You may think that a change in majors would not have a significant impact on your college plan, but your major selection can actually have far-reaching impacts on your educational career. These are some of the ways that your college plan could change if you select a new major.

Majors Have Different Educational Requirements

Each major has unique educational requirements. Depending on how far along you have progressed with your previous major, some of the courses that you have already taken may not apply to your new major.

Rather than counting as courses needed to satisfy degree requirements, they may only be used as extra electives with your new major. This could potentially push back your graduation date by a semester or by a much longer period of time.

If you are a business or economics major and change to a finance major, the impact may be minimal. However, if you change from an economics major to an English major, the impact may be much more significant. It’s also important to note the availability of classes at your university.

For example, if you’re at UW Whitewater College of Business & Economics and want to change programs, you can choose from what UWW offers, but you’d have to find another institution if you wanted to pursue a law degree. Changing schools is much more difficult than changing programs so you’ll likely want to get help with it.

You May Want to Take Advantage of an Internship Opportunity

With your new major, you may have different internship opportunities available. These opportunities may be essential for you to gain experience that can help you to land a great job after you graduate, and you may not want to miss out on them.

However, an internship can take up many hours of your time during the week, and you may want to take a lighter course load during the semesters when you are interning.

A New Major May Require More Challenging Courses

Each major has required courses that may be more or less challenging for some people. Each student has strengths in different subjects. Your ability to plan a reasonable work load for each semester will be based on how easy or difficult you anticipate a course to be.

If your new major has many required courses that you perceive to be challenging, you may opt to take fewer classes each semester until you graduate.

As you can see, there are many factors associated with your major that can impact your college plan. If you are thinking about changing majors, you should be aware of these impacts. However, ultimately, you should choose a major that you are most interested in and that you believe will open doors for you after graduation.


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