Ideas for a Cheaper Spring Break Trip

As spring break approaches (it’ll be here before you think), students from all over the country are looking for a warm destination to get away from their school work for a week. Most students are on a tight budget and only have a certain amount of money set aside for the week. Obviously, you are going to want to make your dollar go as far as you possibly can, and here are a few ideas on how you can get the most bang for your buck.

The biggest cost saver is to plan ahead, and if you are reading this and haven’t started planning yet, you might be in a little bit of trouble. Planning ahead helps you to avoid peak time pricing, and also relieves stress as the big week approaches. Another thing to consider before you head out is where you are going to be staying. Certain locations might have hostiles which can be rented for a cheap rate per night. Another possibility would be to go to a location with a family member or friend and bunk up with them for the week.

Once you are at your destination, there are a couple more tips to help you save a dollar here and there. The first tip is to bring your student ID and see if restaurants and shops offer student discounts. Not all places offer a discount, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Another way to avoid unnecessary costs is to avoid buying silly souvenirs. While a refrigerator magnet might not break the bank, how many t-shirts or other silly merchandise do you really need? Finally, look for deals whenever possible. Most places have tourist booklets with coupons in them for free. Check out the offers in those booklets and plan some meals or excursions around what is discounted.

Spring break can be an exciting time to relieve the stresses of school as well as get away to a warm destination for a week. However, going far away doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank in order to enjoy your time. Create a budget and do your absolute best to stick to it. Look for local deals and bring as much food and drink with you as you can to limit the amounts you have to buy at your destination. Spring break should be a week full of fun, and there are many ways to do it without breaking the bank.

Exam Week: The Final “Payoff” of the Semester

Exam week can be one of the most stressful weeks of our young adult lives. A semester’s worth of information has to be retained and then applied to exams in 3, 4, 5, and sometimes even 6 different classes. While it is certainly academically beneficial to study hard in order to do well on your exams, there also is a financial aspect to consider.

The average tuition cost for an in-state student in the US is just over $10,000 per year (or $5,000 per semester). If the average student takes 15 credits per semester, you are paying $333.33 per credit, or $1,000 per 3 credit class. I don’t know of too many college students who would want to shell out an extra $1,000 to retake a course the next semester, simply because they bombed their finals and in return failed the course.

Some tips that experts have come up with to help remain calm during exam week can not only help your academic performance, but also your wallet. Perhaps the biggest tip to be offered up is to get some sleep! While cramming until 3 am sometimes has to be done, make sure that you are adequately rested for whatever you have coming the next day. Another way to help you get proper amounts of sleep is to budget out your time. If you section off times for studying, eating, socializing, and sleeping, you should then be able to get all the things done that you need to get done without too much stress. Finally, eating well is key to peak performance. Your body needs to proper nutrients to function at maximum capacity, so while that late night Taco Bell run might seem like a great idea, try eating some fruit and drinking a glass of water.

Exam week is not a fun time for anyone, but you can certainly learn to manage it if you put yourself on a schedule, eat healthy, and get proper amounts of sleep. Having to retake a class because of a poor exam performance not only hurts your GPA and your pride, but it will cost you financially as well.

Gift Giving on a Budget

As the holidays are rapidly approaching, many people are beginning to look for gifts for loved ones, co-workers, or those in need. However, not everyone has the financial resources to give the newest gadget or hottest clothing item on the shelves. There are many ways out there to limit the total amount of money you are spending, yet still give meaningful gifts to others.

A common example of that would be to draw names from a pool of people. Whether there are 5 or 25 names in the pool, if you are able to set a spending limit that is affordable, you only have to worry about getting a gift for one person. Another idea would be to to create your own gifts at home. Something as simple as a picture in a picture frame with a thoughtful note written on it will certainly tell the person you are gifting that you care a lot about them. Finally, the gift of your time is the most special gift of all. Spend the day or the weekend with your loved one doing things that you both enjoy. While there may be no material item attached, they will surly appreciate creating memories with you more than a new sweater or pair of shoes.

The holidays are a time for giving, but that doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank to do it. Putting some time and thought into your gifts means a lot to whomever is receiving them. Hopefully you are able to take something away from these tips and apply them towards your holiday season this year.

Tips for Saving Money on Utilities in the Winter

During the winter months, utilities seem to be more expensive when constantly heating your home or apartment. However, there are a lot of ways to save money on your utilities when the weather gets colder. One very simple way to cut down on expenses is to bundle up while you’re at home. Wearing warmer clothes allows you to keep your house at a lower temperature. Another way is to use limit the use of space heaters as they consume a lot of electricity and drive up your bills. To combat this, use your space heater to only heat a single room and keep your door closed to keep the heat in. Instead of leaving the heater on for long periods of time, turn it off once your room is warm and wait as long as you can before turning it back on.

There are also a few other ideas that some people don’t typically think of. For example, if you are using the oven, leave the door open once you are done and have turned the oven off. There is a lot of heat that stays inside of an oven that gets wasted, but if you were to open the door, that residual heat can be used to heat your house. Another way to help heat your house is to keep your ceiling fans on low. This setting allow for warm air to be circulated downwards to help heat larger areas.

For more information on money saving tips or if you have questions or concerns related to your personal finances, contact the Financial Literacy Center to schedule a coaching session.

The Importance of an Individual Retirement Account

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a type of investment account that is built for retirement savings. As fewer Americans have money saved away for retirement, I think that it is important to inform those who are looking to start saving, at some of their options. There are two main IRA’s; a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. A traditional IRA is an account that you can put up to $6,000 annually ($7,000 if you are over 50) and that money can be deducted on your taxes for the current year. A Roth IRA is similar in the sense that you can contribute $6,000/$7,000 annually, however the money is not tax deductible at the time you put it in, but your qualified distributions on the back end are tax-free.

Why are these tools so important? The answer is time! The power of compound interest is incredible. These retirement accounts are easy to set up and easy to contribute to every month. You can also take any amount of the principal that you put into these accounts at anytime. The only amounts that have to stay in until you are 59.5 (without paying a 10% penalty fee) is the growth. This allows you to even use an IRA as an emergency fund if needed. If you suddenly were to need some money, and you had it invested in an IRA, go ahead and take out as much principal as you need (with the plan to replace the full amount). Take advantage of retirement accounts as soon as you can, and you will reap the benefits in the future.

Starting Repayment of Student Loans

Congratulations to our recent UWW college graduates!  Your time and talents have resulted in a well-deserved diploma, but along the way, many have acquired student loans and are now wondering about the repayment process. Let’s break down the steps for our new graduates, and in addition, you are encouraged to utilize the Federal Student Aid’s repayment checklist:

  • Direct Federal Loans offer a 6 month grace period before entering repayment, which means repayment will not start until later this year.
  • During this grace period, you will need to select your repayment plan.  The standard repayment plan is 10 years; however, there are other plan choices.
  • Once a repayment plan is chosen, your lender(s) will provide you with a loan repayment schedule, the first payment due date, and the amount of payment.
  • You can choose to set up electronic payments or make payments by postal mail.
  • Payments can be made before they are due and can be more than the amount due each month.  Be sure to communicate the extra amount paid each month should be applied to the principal to ensure the loan is paid off faster.
  • If you are having trouble making your loan payment, contact your lender, and you may be able to change your repayment plan to allow for a longer repayment period or one that is income based.
  • If you do not make your loan payment, your loan becomes delinquent and will eventually go into default.  This will damage your credit, negatively affect your borrowing ability, and may lead to legal action resulting in garnishment of wages and withholding of tax refunds.

For more information on student loans, you are encouraged to schedule a coaching session with the UWW Financial Literacy Center.

 

 

Student Debt: How Much Do I Owe?

Although not every student has to borrow money for college, most leave school with some level of student debt. It’s important to keep a running total in order to make future debt decisions and to develop a repayment strategy.

Finding the Balance on Federal Student Loans.  The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is managed by the Department of Education, and gives information on how much you owe in federal student loans.  You can use the NSLDS to obtain your original loan amount, current balance, interest owed, and name of loan servicer. When accessing information, you will need your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, which is the same ID used when completing the FASFA.

Finding the Balance on Private Student Loans.  There is not a national database for private student loans, and finding balances on these types of loans can be more challenging.

  1. Ask the original financial institution.  If the loan has been sold to a different entity, the lender should have contact information on which company currently owns your loan.
  2. Ask the financial aid office:  If your original lender is unable to track down your loans, call the Financial Aid Office, and they can assist with identifying who is currently managing your debt.
  3. Check your credit report.  A credit report will list all of your current and past credit obligations, and this should include your student loans. The credit report lists the amount borrowed and loan servicer, and any further information can be obtained by contacting the loan servicer.  You can obtain a free credit report from the three main credit reporting agencies using annualcreditreport.com.

For more information, you are encouraged to schedule a coaching session with the UWW Financial Literacy Center.

 

Become Money Smart!

Money Smart Week® is coming to Whitewater! The campus community, both in Whitewater and Janesville, are invited to attend several events during the 2019 Money Smart Week, April 1-5.

Money Smart:  Adulting 101.  Monday & Tuesday, April 1-2, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, UC Concourse Tables. Test your knowledge of personal finance topics! Stop by our table in the UC to see if you can correctly answer a money question, win a prize, and more importantly, learn about free financial resources available to you on campus.

Cooking on a Dime. Monday, April 1, 4:00 pm, UC275B. Are you looking for ways to save money when preparing meals and purchasing groceries? Amanda Kostman, the Family Living Educator from Extension Walworth County, will be on campus to present and demonstrate ways to ‘Cook on a Dime’. Food samples and door prizes will be available to those in attendance.

GeoCache for College Cash.  Tuesday, April 2, 4-6:00 pm, UC Concourse Tables. GeoCache for College Cash is a contest that operates similar to a scavenger hunt. Using a smart phone or tablet, players read and respond to quiz questions for a chance to win prizes. This fun campus event features personal finance info every student should know. Prizes include a chance to win a $500 national prize, along with local prizes including a Beats Pill, wireless earbuds, gift cards. and swag.

Understanding Credit & Credit Scores.  Wednesday, April 3, 12:00 pm, UWW at Rock County, HS120.  Understanding credit can be challenging.  Summit Credit Union will be presenting a seminar at the UWW at Rock County campus during Money Smart Week to help students understand credit and breakdown a credit score.

Financial Crimes: Awareness & Prevention.  Wednesday, April 3, 2:00 pm, UC264. A loss prevention specialist from UW Credit Union will share relevant information on current financial crimes and how to prevent them from happening to you.

Help, It’s Almost Tax Time!  Wednesday, April 3, 3:30 pm, Hyland 1302. Do I need to file taxes?  If I am a dependent for my parents, should I still file? What is an education credit? Where can I get help to file my taxes?  Get all your tax questions answered by the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) providers at UW-Whitewater. 

Homebuying 101. Thursday, April 4, 3:00 pm, UC262. Are you interested or considering the purchase of a home?  Attend our Homebuying 101 seminar to obtain information and resources from both a local real estate agent and a mortgage lending institution.  They will give guidance and clarity (no sales pitches!) to the many steps of the home purchasing process. 

Paint-A-BankThursday, April 4, 3-5:00 pm, Andersen Library. Get creative and come to Andersen Library to paint a money bank.  This is a make and take event, and banks will be available until supplies run out.

All events are free and open to all.  For more information about these and other nearby events, visit www.moneysmartweek.org.  Money Smart Week® events on campus are hosted by Andersen Library and the Financial Literacy Center.

4 Reasons You Should Check Your Credit Report

When is the last time you checked your credit report?  Sadly, far too few people are taking the time to request their reports.  At a minimum, you should be requesting your free credit report every 12 months.   Here are a few reasons why this is a good idea:

  • Free.  When using annualcreditreport.com, you have access to your credit report for free, once each year, from each of the three credit bureaus – Transunion, Equifax, and Experian.
  • Identity Theft Indicator.  When looking over your credit report, if you find names you don’t recognize, social security numbers that do not belong, or accounts that are not yours, you might be a victim of identity fraud.
  • Monitor Credit.  Just like you monitor credit card bills and bank statements, it’s a good idea to keep track of credit accounts.
  • Correct Inaccurate Information.  If any information on your credit report is incorrect, both personal or account related, instructions are included on how to correct those inaccuracies.

For more information on the process to check your credit report or if you have questions or concerns related to credit, contact the Financial Literacy Center to schedule a coaching session.

It’s Tax Time!

Do you need help filing your taxes? UW-Whitewater provides free tax preparation through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to low to moderate levels of income.  Supervised by accounting faculty, certified student preparers assist members of the campus and area community with their tax preparation and filing.

On Wednesday, February 20 and April 3, representatives from VITA will be available in Hyland Hall, room 1302, starting at 3:30 pm, and all undergraduate and graduates students are encouraged to attend to have their tax questions answered.  In addition, UWW VITA tax clinics are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays through April 10.  Click on the link for specific details.

For other personal finance questions or to set up an appointment to speak with a staff member, call (472-4947), email, or visit the UWW Financial Literacy Center today!