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Practical Ways to Reduce Your Spending, Increase Your Savings, and Achieve Your Goals

If you are like most college students, you might not have a budget in place, or if you do have a budget you may find it hard to stick to. Budgeting is one of the most important ways to help you get on track and stay on track to achieve your financial goals. If you can learn to budget well early on, it can help you be prepared for when you begin paying on your student loans, have a mortgage payment due each month, or are trying to determine how much you can set aside for retirement while still paying the bills. So, how do you actually do that? What are some practical ways you can make changes to your budget…and stick to them?

  1. Estimate your current income and expenses

First, in order to have an idea of what you are currently spending, it is important to estimate where you are at financially. This will also help you see what you believe you are spending. You can come in and meet with one of our peer counselors to walk through this first step of the budgeting process together.

  1. Compare those estimates with reality

Once you have your estimates in place, compare those numbers to your actual income and expenses. If you use your debit card for everything, pull up your past 1 year’s worth of bank statements and average out what your monthly expenses and income were. Using a full year helps give the most accurate picture so that you can account for any extra income you may have from a summer job as well as increased or decreased expenses you’ve had in the past year. If you don’t use a debit card or have any past records of your finances, no worries. You can start keeping track through different websites, apps, receipts, or by writing it down. Some websites will allow you to manually enter in your expenses as well as link with your checking account. This can be a great tool especially if you use both cash and your debit card. One great website to use is www.mint.com.

  1. Set SMART goals

Having goals almost always helps us focus on what it is we are wanting. Setting financial coals can also help you stay on track in order to achieve your goal. Whether you are hoping to study abroad next semester, save enough money over the summer for next year’s tuition, or plan to backpack Europe after graduation, you need to have goals to help you achieve these dreams. The first part of making a SMART goal is to make sure it is Specific. If your goal is vague and has no direction, it will be hard to stick to. The next part is to make it Measurable. If you don’t know how much you are needing to have or how much you should be setting aside for a goal, that can make it difficult to contribute toward the funding of that goal. Having Achievable goals are also really important. You don’t want to set a goal that you know there is no way you can attain. Right along with being achievable, your goals need to be Realistic or Relevant. You want to make sure that the goal you have set is something that is actually what you want and something that makes sense for you personally. And the last part of making a SMART goal is to make sure it is Time-Sensitive. All goals typically have a date that you want to achieve them by. Having a set date for when you want to have the goal achieved or having a time increment where you will always save a specific amount of money will make planning for that goal so much easier. An example of a SMART goal is:

I will set aside $20 each week for 3 months to save $250 for my summer break trip to my Uncle’s house.

  1. Determine a budget that you want to stick to

After you have your goals in mind, you can start determining what you want your budget to look like. Just like your goals, you need to make sure your budget is realistic. If you cut out all of the fun stuff, it can make sticking to your budget extremely unsatisfying. Reducing your expenses will likely be more effective than completely cutting them out. Evaluate what is important to you, and allocate the amount of money you think is appropriate. Also, make sure you are setting aside money for savings. It is especially important that you have an emergency fund. If an expense comes up that you weren’t expecting, and the only money you have saved is for a fun trip, it is going to be a huge bummer to dig into that savings. But, if you have an emergency fund in place, you can be prepared for those unexpected expenses and not drain the funds you had been planning for your goals.

  1. Find the tools that will help you stick to your budget

If you found out that you spend $25 on coffee each week, one way to reduce this amount is to start making your coffee at home. Another option to reduce that expenditure would be to only go to a coffee shop 1-2 times a week instead of every morning. Although Redbox movies and vending machines typically don’t seem like much money, if you are a frequent visitor, that money can begin to add up. Ways to reduce this could be to borrow movies from friends and family, or bring snacks from home with you when you go to campus. ATM fees are one expense that can be avoided if you plan ahead properly. Pulling out money from your bank or getting cash back when you go to Walmart can help wipe-out those ATM fees that add up fast.

One area where a lot of students overspend is in eating out. It’s a great way to socialize with friends, and it is also super convenient when you don’t have the time to make a meal. One way to reduce this cost could be to prepare meals on the weekend for the week ahead. If you have quick meals that you can pull out of the freezer or fridge and heat up, it is a fast and cheaper solution than grabbing the 8th box of pizza in 2 weeks. Another option is to go places that have student discounts or send out coupons. Many restaurants have apps or will send emails that can help reduce the cost of going to eat there. The great part about living in a college town as a student is all of the discounts that are available. Check out the local restaurants to find out when and what deals they offer, and have your student ID handy!

If you spend a lot of time with your friends doing activities that cost money, let them know you’re wanting to save for a specific goal and offer some suggestions for a free activity you can do together. Or, if you’re both planning on going on the same trip, it is a great way to hold each other accountable to your savings goals. Another option some people like to use is the envelope method. Once you have figured out how much you are willing to allocate toward each category of your budget, put that amount of cash in an envelope so that you’ll know once the money is gone, you don’t have more money to spend for that particular area until the next month. Make sure you don’t lose it! www.mint.com can also help you keep track and send you updates when you are getting close to your spending allotment for the month.

  1. Revisit and update as your financial situation changes

Budgeting is not just a one-and-done thing. It is something that will continually need to be monitored and updated as your situation changes. If you get a raise at your job or move to a new place that is more expensive than the place you lived in last year, you will need to reflect those changes in a modified budget. Taking steps early on to reflect those changes will prevent you from running into the situation where you run out of money because you made the same amount each month but now had increased expenses.

Budgeting will take some discipline and habit, especially when you are first starting out. Over time, it will become more routine and manageable, so stick with it. If you would like help starting the budgeting process, please make an appointment with us. One of our peer counselors would love to meet with you and walk through these steps with you. For more information on budgeting, feel free to visit our website and click on the budgeting tab for a copy of our budgeting worksheet and other budgeting tips. Other topics we would be happy to assist you with include student loans, evaluating job offers and employee benefits, and credit. Make an appointment by going to www.ksu.edu/powercatfinancial to set up a free and confidential appointment.

Lindsay Adams – Peer Counselor II

5 Reasons Why You Should Use Your Salt Account in April


Happy Financial Literacy month! When it comes to finances, there is always something more to learn or improve on. Have April be the month you finally get all your questions answered! K-State has provided the opportunity for every student to have an account on www.saltmoney.org. Salt is a free financial website that can answer various financial questions as well as provide students with tools to enhance their financial fitness. Here are 5 reasons you should use your free account during the month of April.

New Interface

New year, new Salt interface! The website, www.saltmoney.org has updated its look to be more aesthetically pleasing as well to help tailor the Salt experience to each individual user. All of the same assets Salt has are located in the new webpage, but may be in a different place than before. However, they are not hard to find—spend 5-10 minutes exploring the new page!

Goals

The new Salt goals tool are what is helping Salt know what information will be most valuable to the user. When you sign onto the website, it will have you select your goals and their order of importance. The goals are: Manage Money, Repay Student Debt, Find A Job, and Plan School Costs. At least one of these goals can apply to anyone; more than one may be applicable to you! By defining your goals, you are one step closer to achieving them. Once you elect the order of importance to you, Salt will direct you to your first step in tackling each goal. As previously stated, anyone can benefit from this tool!

Scholarship Search

I could use less scholarships”, said no college student—ever. As we each prepare with our strategy for paying the next semester of college, scholarship money is yearned for. Salt has a very helpful tool to help find scholarships unique to each student’s location, education, background, work, and activities. To access the scholarship search, sign onto your free Salt account, click the Menu button followed by the Tools and Calculators option, and you will find the scholarship search under the Plan School Costs heading. If you would like further help on deciding how to pay for your college experience, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with Powercat Financial.

Job/Internship Search

There is one thing we all have in common as college students: the desire to be employed upon graduation. As May approaches and you still find yourself not knowing what to do after graduation or for the summer, save some time of your day to use Salt’s job and internship search! To access the job/internship search, sign onto your free Salt account, click the Menu button followed by the Tools and Calculators option, and you will find the tool under the Find A Job heading. This tool will help you narrow down jobs or internships depending on your major or area of interest and desired location.

Scholarship Giveaway

The final reason you should either log onto your free www.saltmoney.org account or create an account with Salt is because you can win either a $200, $125, or $75 scholarship provided by Powercat Financial! In order to qualify, you must complete Salt courses. These can be found under the Menu button on the Salt homepage. The courses are over various financial topics that either apply to your life currently or will apply to you in the future. The more courses you do, the better chance you have to win! The courses must be completed and passed between April 1st and April 30th in celebration of April being Financial Literacy Month. In order to win, you must be a currently enrolled K-State student with a Salt account. To sign up for a free account, go to www.saltmoney.org/k-state. Your account will be free for life, even upon graduation!

If you would like more information on any topics discussed above, please don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Powercat Financial. Any peer counselor would love to help you out!

Allison Becker – Peer Financial Counselor II

Planning for a SMART New Year

Image result for new years and planning

As we approach the end of the year, we often reflect on what we have and have not accomplished throughout the year.  When we set our goals and New Year’s resolutions, we have grand ideas and plans.  One way to achieve our plans is to set SMART goals rather than general ones.

Be specific.  It is difficult to achieve a vague idea.  For example, set a definitive goal of I would like to take a vacation in June to California instead of I would like to take a vacation someday.  Not only does this give you a time-frame, it allows you to research what you need to achieve this – such as costs.

Next, your goal should be measurable.  By knowing the details, you can set incremental goals to achieve the bigger, overall goal.  Take my trip to California – I need to know the cost I plan on spending and when I am going, so I can start saving now.  For instance, if my trip is going to cost me $500, and I plan on going in 6 months, I need to save just under $85 per month.  I will be able to measure my progress each month as I save money.

Your goal should be achievable.  If I currently have no income, it will be very difficult to save $85 per month.  A better goal at this point would be to find a job, so I can have the money to save for a vacation.

Having a relevant goal is important.  If it does not matter to you, you will not be motivated to achieve it.  Personal values and aspirations are necessary components of setting goals that matter to you.  Why do I want to go to California?  For me, it is not just a fun vacation, but I have family there that I haven’t been able to see for a while; therefore, I am more motivated to save money each month.

Finally, having a time-frame will help you reach your goals.  While I would love to go to California next month, I will not have the time to save the money by then.  Also, setting the time-frame far enough out (June), but not too far (such as sometime in the future) gives you more specific direction.

Whether your ambitions are financial, related to school or a future job, as you approach goal-setting next year make sure you set SMART goals.

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Time-frame

Fulfilling your New Year’s resolutions will be within your reach!

Shari Humbard
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling

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