Kansas State University


Powercat Financial

Author: mjflax

Tips and Tricks for Holiday Travel

Its officially that time of the year again, it’s holiday season! Soon enough we’ll be enjoying turkey and giving thanks, followed closely by gift giving and Christmas carols. Your holiday plans may include fun activities, but there are also a lot of not quite so fun parts of traveling during this busy season. Whether you are flying home, road tripping to a Friendsgiving, or perhaps going on a vacation, having the right travel tips and tricks could reduce stress and help you save on expenses. Here are six things to consider before making your holiday travel plans so that you can enjoy a little peace of mind this holiday season.

  • Create a Budget

The first step in determining how much you can afford this holiday season is planning for it and determining the expenses that will occur. Before you start dipping into your emergency savings, figure out how you will get there and how much that will cost, where you will stay, and what you want to do while you’re there. Can you afford that flight, or would it be cheaper to drive? Do your research and shop around. In addition, don’t forget the little things. While airfare, gas, hotel, rental car, and/or food should all be at the top of your budget, don’t forget things such as ATM fees, tolls, coffee/snacks, etc.

  • Travel During the Week

If you are able to adjust your plans, it can often times be cheaper to fly during the week. And if you’re road-tripping, then you’ll face less traffic on the road creating less stress. The date you actually travel could potentially save you money.

  • Travel Light

Instead of spending a large amount of your budget on checked luggage, choose to travel light with just a carry-on or one checked bag, if you must. If this isn’t possible for you, consider shipping your gifts or excess luggage. This can potentially be significantly cheaper and help you save on expenses.

  • Skip Airport Parking

Airport parking can add up quickly if you’re planning to take to the skies this holiday season. Consider saving money by utilizing carpool or rideshare services like Uber or Lyft and skip the airport parking altogether.

  • Consider Travel Insurance

While this might not be at the top of your list, travel insurance can cover things such as trip cancellation, medical treatment, lost luggage or a missed connection. Since this is one of the busiest times of the year for travel, delays and overbooks can be expected as well as winter weather for this time of the year. The extra money you pay for this could potentially save you hundreds in a worst-case scenario. In addition, don’t forget to add this to your budget!

  • Utilizing Credit Card Benefits

If you’re an avid traveler, maybe you have points built up with a certain airline or with your credit card. Accruing points to put toward your holiday trip can help you to save hundreds of dollars. Or perhaps you have great cash back rewards that will you earn you some money on your expenses over your trip. Don’t forget that its important you are using you travel credit cards or any credit cards in the right way. Paying your card off on time and in full is very important to keep you out of holiday debt and not worry about interest payments.

If you need additional help with creating a holiday budget or have further questions, then Powercat Financial is here to help! The peer counselors are available to assist you with any of your financial concerns. Schedule an appointment with us today at www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial/! We look forward to meeting with you.

Emma Drees

Peer Counselor II

Powercat Financial


Retirement Accounts Are Not Investable Securities

Retirement Accounts:

A common misconception I see when interacting with fellow students revolves around retirement accounts. I understand the confusion because, even after majoring in Personal Financial Planning for a year, retirement accounts were still confusing. The hope of this article is to clear up a couple misconceptions and explain the differences between traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs.

The Misconception:

Retirement accounts, like Roth IRAs and Traditional IRAs, are not savings accounts with consistent rates of return. Often, when financial planners discuss these accounts and a client’s potential returns, they state the return as a level percentage. For example, during a presentation, the presenter may say the account has an estimated 8% return. This is the assumed average return over the life of the account. The actual daily account balance and percent return will fluctuate depending upon the investments held within the account. This brings me to my second point, IRAs are investment accounts. They hold investments. You do not simply purchase 1,000 shares of a Roth IRA. Let me provide a simplified look at the mechanics of opening and funding one of these accounts. To begin, you open an account with either an in-person financial advisor or online. There are hundreds of different places where you can open an IRA. Second, you would place funds, most likely cash, within the account. Finally, if you should so choose, you can buy different investment securities within the retirement account. The reason I write concerning these issues is my own past confusion. These are accounts are “buckets” that hold the investments.

What’s the Difference?

The investments inside of each account receive different tax treatment because they are sheltered within the account. When you place money inside of a Roth IRA, you are contributing on an after-tax basis, meaning you already paid taxes on the cash going into the account. The benefit comes when you withdraw money from this account. When you make a qualifying distribution from the account, you do not need to pay taxes on the money you originally put in or on the gain made by your investments. Look at this way, if you buy $1,000 worth of stock and it grows to $1,500, when you sell the stock you would ordinarily be required to pay taxes on the $500 in gain. If this stock were sheltered in a Roth account, you would not have to pay any taxes on the gain so long as you made qualifying distributions from the account. You just generated tax free money!

If you place money into a Traditional IRA, you usually are putting in pre-tax money. Money that goes in pre-tax avoids federal income tax until you withdraw the funds. Assume you placed $5,000 of tax-deferred money into a Traditional IRA and it grew to $7,500. When you make a qualifying distribution, you will pay ordinary income tax rates on the whole $7,500. Outside of this tax-deferred account, you would normally have bought stock with after-tax money and, when sold, paid capital gains taxes on any gain made with your investment. Traditional IRAs provide the benefit of helping lower your taxable income today. The other hope is that your income will be lower in retirement, so you pay less taxes on said income.

Are you concerned about your financial future? Consider coming into Powercat Financial where we provide free and confidential advice to all K-State students. If you are ready to more efficiently use your money, schedule an appointment at https://www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial/. We would love to help you develop healthy financial habits!

Philip Wegman

Peer Counselor II

Powercat Financial



Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

Cold and flu season is upon us. It won’t be long and everyone will be missing class or work because they are feeling under the weather. Although catching a cold or getting the flu is an awful experience, you likely won’t suffer financially to get better. Sometimes you can get by without visiting a doctor; all it takes is rest, over-the-counter medicine, and plenty of fluids and in a few days you start feeling better. Other times, you may find yourself in a doctor’s office if you have trouble getting rid of it. Even so, your expenses likely won’t be drastic.

But what happens if you end up in a hospital for a more serious reason? What if you are diagnosed with an illness that requires serious treatment? What if you get in an accident and are hospitalized or are faced with expensive surgical costs? The average one night stay at a hospital can cost you $3,949 according to Debt.org. If your visit to the hospital requires surgery, your costs can set you back tens of thousands of dollars. No wonder 60% of all bankruptcies result from medical expenses! For more information on medical care costs, visit https://www.debt.org/medical/hospital-surgery-costs/

Because of these reasons, obtaining a good health insurance policy can be one of the most financially sound decisions you can make. It’s similar to having a 3-6 month emergency savings account; it acts as a cushion in case something bad happens in life. Choosing the right coverage can be hard if you don’t understand the terminology behind it.

A premium is a payment you make to keep the insurance policy in force. It is usually monthly payments for health insurance. A deductible is an amount you have to pay out of pocket before the insurance coverage kicks in. After you hit your deductible, you may have to pay what’s called coinsurance. If you have to pay coinsurance, you pay a certain percentage of health expenses. For instance, you may pay 20% of all costs after your deductible and the health insurer will pay 80%. You are required to pay this percentage until your out-of-pocket max. At this point, the insurance pays for all covered health expenses. Copays are a flat fee that you pay out of pocket for certain services like a visit to the doctor’s office or a prescription.

Private health insurance plans are expensive. The average monthly premium in 2018 for an individual that is 18-24 years was $257 according to ehealthinsurance.com. The average family plan was $1,168/month.

There are ways to save on health insurance, but you need to evaluate your risks before cutting corners on health plans. First, if your parents have a family health plan, you are covered under that plan until your 26th birthday. Increasing your deductible and the amount of coinsurance you pay can reduce your premiums but will also increase how much you will pay out of pocket for expenses. You can also save by choosing a plan that isn’t as flexible. This type of plan requires you to choose a single physician that you will go to every time you need care.

Many employers offer health insurance plans as part of your compensation. With most of these plans, you can get pretty good coverage for little cost. If your employer does not offer a plan, you may qualify for a subsidy from the government known as a premium tax credit. It’s meant for those who may not be able to afford health insurance. There are certain rules for this subsidy, so make sure you understand each.

It is important to never risk more than you can afford to lose. A lot of people look at the costs associated with owning health insurance and choose to go without. In reality, the cost of NOT having health insurance could be 10 or even 20 times more than your premiums if you were to get sick or injured. If you’re worried about how to fit health insurance premiums into your budget, or curious about how you can be better prepared for emergencies, visit a Peer Counselor at Powercat Financial! You can schedule an appointment at https://www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial/

Morgan Flax

Peer Counselor II

Powercat Financial








As the fall season begins and we all start to focus on the many important dates around the corner there may be one that slips your mind, the FAFSA application opening date! The FAFSA application became available on October 1st and the priority deadline to complete the FAFSA is December 1st. You can complete the FAFSA online or through the myStudentAid mobile app. This process can be a bit difficult and frustrating to complete at times so, here are some helpful tips to get your FAFSA complete!

Apply Early

While December 1st is only the priority date and not the actual deadline to complete the FAFSA it is highly recommended to complete it by that date. Some reasons to get it done early include other aid options being dependent on FAFSA information and that the priority deadline is when they will start to make the aid packages with the limited funding.

FAFSA Checklist

There are great FAFSA checklists that go through the items you will need to have with you when completing the forms. Some of these items include:

  • Your Social Security card
  • Your driver’s license
  • Your 2018 W-2 forms
  • Your 2018 federal income tax return.
  • Your 2018 untaxed income records.
  • Your current bank statements.
  • Your parents’ federal income tax return.
  • Your parents’ 2018 W-2 forms.
  • Your parents’ bank statements.
  • Your parents’ 2018 untaxed income records.
  • Any current business and investment records

Common Errors

Errors can cause the application to be delayed or even cause a limit on the amount of aid you are eligible to receive. Which means it is very important to try and limit the errors made on the application. Some common errors to look out for are :

  • Leaving blank fields
  • Using commas or decimals in numeric fields
  • Mistyping your social security number or drivers license
  • Not using your full name as it appears on your social security card
  • Entering in any incorrect tax information
  • Forgetting to count yourself as a member of the household

Finally, remember you can always get help with the FAFSA through their website, https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out/help, or come make an appointment with us! You can schedule an appointment with one of our peer financial counselors at www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial.

Rebecca Kuderka

Peer Counselor I

Powercat Financial



Resources used



Make Your Budget Stick

Once you’ve gone through all the steps to create a budget and determined where your money will go, you’re done, right? Not exactly. Even the best budget plan can get derailed when you go back to daily life and stop actively thinking about your finances.

College students are busy and oftentimes pulled in several different directions. No one can blame them for struggling to stay aware of their budget or for occasionally overspending. If this sounds like you, there are a few hacks you could try to avoid slipping up or making major budget mistakes.

Set Up Automatic Transfers

If you know that you have a large expense coming up or you have a savings goal you’re working toward, consider setting up automatic transfers. This way, you won’t have to actively choose to set money aside every week or month. When you automatically transfer money where it needs to go as soon as you get paid, the money is never there to tempt you or make you think you have more than you do. Once your transfers happen, the remaining money is yours to use however you’d like. Setting them up is likely easier than you think.

Leave Your Cards at Home

If you have a habit of stopping at coffee shops, convenience stores, or fast-food restaurants on your way to and from class or work, it might be helpful to stop bringing your entire wallet with you to those places. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re covered for emergencies (carry your ID and maybe some gas money), but you probably don’t need all of your credit and debit cards with you everywhere you go. If your vending machine habit is hard to break, maybe it’s easier if you simply don’t have the money with you to spend.

Name your bank accounts

It is much easier to convince yourself that it’s okay to withdraw money from “Savings Account” than it is to withdraw it from “Student Loan Repayment” or “Spring Break Fund.” If your bank allows you to nickname your accounts, try labeling them with your own goals. You might even decide to open a separate account to work towards a certain goal to make it easier to track your progress.

Use Cash Instead of Cards

It can be so easy to hand over your debit or credit card without even thinking about what you’re doing or how much you’re spending. If you find yourself doing this, try using cash for spending money instead. Start the week with a certain amount of cash and try to make it through the week without taking out more or using your cards. This can make you more aware of how much you’re spending and when you’ve gone over the amount that you had planned.

Use a Budgeting App

If cash isn’t your thing or you pay high ATM fees, consider using budgeting apps like Mint.com that will automatically track your spending for you. You can use these apps to categorize your transactions and see what kind of trends emerge in your spending habits. You can even set up alerts for when you spend more than your budgeted amount in a certain category. Just bringing your awareness back to your spending can help you stop making mindless choices and spending more than you can afford.

Every person is different, and it can take a while to figure out what system works best for you. Setting up a budget is a great idea, but make sure not to stop there. Tricks like these can help you stick to your budget by minimizing the number of times you have to make a money decision, which means giving yourself fewer chances to sabotage your plan.

If you want help setting up a budget based on your financial needs and goals, set up an appointment at Powercat Financial. The Peer Counselors can help you work through the process and find a plan that works for you. To schedule an appointment, go to https://www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial/.

Jordan Wolf

Practicum Student

Powercat Financial



Financial Freedom Abroad

It has now been a full month since we have been back at school. How are you feeling? Maybe you’re doing just fine, maybe you’re a little overwhelmed, or maybe you just want to leave the country. If that last one is you, I have good news! There are steps you can take to make studying abroad affordable. In fact, there are some programs that cost less than a semester at K-State!

First, before you even go abroad, picking a program can be what makes or breaks the bank. Make sure you utilize the Education Abroad Office and meet with an advisor. There are multiple types of programs, and they have experience sending students to a multitude of countries at several price points.

A major way to lower the cost of your education abroad is through scholarships, and there are tons of options. Given the fact that only around 10% of college students study abroad, there are 90% of students you won’t have to compete with for these scholarships! Some great places to find these scholarships are the Education Abroad Office website, websites like GoAbroad.com, local organizations. I also suggest checking with the Office of Student Financial Assistance to see if any K-State scholarships you receive could be used for education abroad.

GoAbroad: https://www.goabroad.com/articles/scholarships-abroad/scholarships-for-study-abroad-around-the-world

K-State Education Abroad scholarships: https://www.k-state.edu/abroad/current-students/funding/scholarships.html

K-State Financial Assistance:  https://www.k-state.edu/sfa/

Building a budget is one of the most important things to do before you leave. There will surely be expenses you have abroad that you don’t have in Manhattan, like public transportation and extra travel costs. You may also need to account for some lost income while you’re abroad because you won’t be working like you might be in Manhattan. Feel free to set up a meeting with a Peer Counselor to set up a savings plan to help pay for your program or a budget to use while you’re there.

Tracking your spending while abroad is also very important. While abroad, I met a student who brought $800 for 6 weeks, but after 2 weeks he only had $200 left. Don’t let that be you! You can use Mint, Microsoft Excel, or even the notes on your phone to track your spending. This will help you stay on track with the budget you created before leaving.

One last piece of advice would be to check your credit cards and bank to see if there are any foreign transaction fees. Exchange rate fees and ATM fees can really eat into your budget if you haven’t properly planned.

Studying abroad can be a great experience and doesn’t have to be a financial burden. If you have any questions about budgeting or saving for your study abroad, consider coming into Powercat Financial where we provide free and confidential advice to all K-State students. You can schedule an appointment at https://www.k-state.edu/powercatfinancial/.


Thomas Meek

Peer Counselor II

Powercat Financial




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