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.

New Year, New You

The start of a new year is often celebrated by resolutions.  Why not make changes to your financial situation in order to reach your goals?  Here are a few money resolutions you might consider to improve your financial well-being.

  • Limit entertainment expenses.  College is suppose to be fun, but the more you spend on entertainment, the less you have towards tuition.  You don’t have to completely eliminate your entertainment, just become more frugal.  Seek out free or low-cost options on campus, and take advantage of student discounts by showing your student ID at restaurants, movie theaters, and more.
  • Utilize your savings account. After each pay period, place some funds (any amount is good) into savings.  If you don’t want to think about making the transfer, set up an automatic transfer or utilize apps provided by your financial institution.  Creating the habit and having funds for emergencies is a good idea.
  • Use credit cards wisely.  Avoid impulse purchases and only charge what you can afford to pay off each month.  Paying down credit card debit over months and years incurs expensive interest charges.
  • Create a budget.  Estimating income and expenses is not difficult, but keeping track of expenses and comparing budgeted to actual amounts take time, and is often the hardest part of the budget cycle.  The advantages to completing the budget process includes personal knowledge of where your money goes and the ability to plan for changes.
  • Check your credit.  Use annualcreditreport.com to check on your credit history once a year.  Although this free site will not give you a credit score, it will allow you to look for errors and discrepancies in regards to your credit.  Often times, the credit report will alert you to any signs of  identity theft.

Pick one, two, or all of the above resolutions and implement a plan to work towards your goals and improve your overall financial wellness.  Take charge of your finances now to set yourself up for future success and freedom.  For more information or to set up a financial coaching session, contact the UWW Financial Literacy Center.


Refunds: What To Do With The Extra Money?

A financial aid refund is excess money left over from your financial aid package after your tuition and allowable fees have been paid.  Although it can be tempting to use this extra money on non-essentials, such as gaming consoles, vacations, or designer clothing, financial aid is meant for education-related expenses. In many cases, the refund check is actually a student loan which will need to be repaid in the future with interest.

Here are the recommended priorities for refund usage:

  1. Pay Outstanding Account Balance. Even though you may receive a refund, your student account may still have charges that need to be paid (see Note below).
  2. Purchase Essential School Supplies.  Depending on your course load, various school supplies are needed for class success such as books, calculators, and other materials.
  3. Pay for Living Expenses and Transportation.  Consider needs versus wants.  Depending on your personal situation, rent, groceries, meal plans, utilities, and basic transportation costs may be necessary expenses.
  4. Place Funds into Savings for Future Education-Related Expenses.  Although it may be tempting to use refund money on non-essentials, such as vacations or designer clothing, financial aid is meant for education-related expenses.
  5. Give Money Back.  If you have over-borrowed, consider giving the money back to reduce your overall student debt.

For more information and resources on financial aid refunds or other financial needs, reach out to the appropriate campus departments.

Note:  Due to financial aid restrictions, your student account in WINS may continue to have non-tuition charges that will need to be paid using personal funds.  Students are encouraged to authorize the Federal Title IV Financial Aid (WINS/Student Center/View Student Permissions) to pay additional charges on their student account such as parking permits, bookstore charges, health center services, and library fines.  Pay plan activation fees and finance charges cannot be covered with Federal Title IV permissions, therefore these will need to be paid with personal funds.