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Preparing for Next Semester

With finals right around the corner and winter break fast approaching, you may not even want to think about next semester yet.  However, it can save money to get ready for it sooner rather than later and you won’t have to worry about it when returning to campus.

There are many things you’ll need to consider when thinking about next semester including budgeting, financial aid, school supplies, textbooks, class registration, and class drop dates.

Budgeting

The first thing to do when preparing for next semester is to determine a budget.  A budget can help keep you on track and set financial goals, such as saving up for spring break.  It can help you know what spending money you have available and where you can work on spending less (and can even help you determine some New Year’s resolutions).

Financial Aid

Part of the budgeting process may involve student loans, scholarships, grants, and fellowships.  Look back over this past semester and see how much financial aid you accepted and determine if it was just enough or if you could have gotten by with less.  This involves taking a hard look at your spending over the past semester and seeing if there were times you could have saved money.  If you could have gotten by with less, then contact the financial aid office (http://www.k-state.edu/sfa/) to ask them to reduce the disbursement for next semester.  This will not only help you learn to control spending, but will also save you money in student loans and interest costs down the road.

School Supplies

School supplies can be relatively inexpensive by themselves, but over time, the total cost accumulates to a big amount.  Some ways to save money on school supplies are:

  • Make a list of what you need and stick to it.  It can be tempting to want to buy some supplies that could be useful, but you may not use them or need them when it comes time.
  • Buy in bulk.  If you know you will be using a certain supply frequently, it will save money to buy the large quantity that’s cheaper per unit.  For example, if you know you’ll be printing a lot of articles, contemplate buying the multiple pack of ink cartridges or the carton of paper instead of a ream each time you run out.  Costco can be a good place to look for bulk supplies
  • Look for coupons.  Many stores have coupons or weekly ads available on their sites and may advertise for upcoming sales.  Before setting out to shop, make sure to look for coupons or sales by going to the stores’ websites. Staples also has a 20-25% off brown bag sale for back-to-school times, so keep on the lookout for when that will be!
  • Think about holiday sales.  Some stores also have sales on holidays such as Boxing Day (December 26th) that can save you money.
  • Look around for what you may already have.  It can be easy to lose pens, pencils, highlighters, etc. Before going out and buying new supplies, scour your room for these missing items.

Textbooks

College textbooks can be a major drain to the bank account.  You can learn ways to save money on them by implementing these few tips.

Book requirements can be found at http://courses.k-state.edu/.  You can click course schedules, then select the year, select course schedule and finally select the department (which are arranged by colleges).  There’s a book icon you can click that will list the required, recommended, and optional books.  The direct link for next semesters’ books is http://courses.k-state.edu/spring2014/schedule.html.

Consider buying used instead of new.  Used books range from like-new to acceptable and are offered at a significantly reduced price.  Used books are sold by bookstores, major companies such as Amazon, and private sellers such as students who took the course previously.  You can compare used book prices at the following sites:

Consider renting textbooks instead of buying.  For some textbooks, you may only want to have the book for the course and won’t use it afterwards.  There are many sites, including Chegg and Amazon, that offer the option to rent the book for a month, a quarter, or a semester.  If you decide that you want to own the book after using it, you can pay the difference between the buy price and rent price and not have to return the book.  Beware when renting to return the book on time.  You may be charged late fees, an extra semester, or the cost of the book if you are late.

And finally, email your professors about buying international editions or previous versions.  Many textbook makers make a few changes and rerelease the book as a new version that can be charged at a higher price for those few changes.  Many times professors use the older version book anyway and would allow you to buy the old version as well.  This can shave a lot off the list price of the new version.  International versions typically have different covers, page numbers, and chapter orders than the United States versions, but contain the same information.  This can complicate reading assignments when you’re given the page numbers or chapter names, but can cut costs sometimes up to 50-75%.  For both of these options, make sure to ask your professors before making the purchases.

For more information on saving money on textbooks, you can visit http://lifehacker.com/5613591/the-complete-guide-to-getting-cheap-textbooks.

Registration/Drop Dates

You probably are already registered for classes next semester.  However, since your tuition is calculated based on the courses you are enrolled in, if you are contemplating adding or dropping a course, it may be helpful to make the final decision sooner rather than late.  That way, you won’t have to deal the complexities of either paying extra for a class added or going through the process of getting a refund to your account for classes dropped.

It’s also important to know when the refund drop dates are for courses.  These dates can be found by going through the academic calendar at http://www.k-state.edu/cgi-bin/eventview/registrar/academic.  For the spring 2014 semester, the last day to drop a course, but still get 100% of the tuition costs back is February 10th.  After that, you will only get 50% of the tuition cost back.  The last day to get 50% of the cost back will be February 17th.  If you are contemplating dropping a course, try and make this decision before these dates in order to get back your tuition costs.

The academic calendar will also inform you about the last days to drop a course before receiving a W or a WF.

Resources

For other money saving tips throughout the semester, check out these sites:

http://www.shmoop.com/college/save-money-in-college.html

http://moneyfor20s.about.com/u/ua/studentloans/best_college_savings_tips.htm

http://collegelife.about.com/od/moneyfinances/a/ManagingMoney.htm

http://blog.chegg.com/2013/08/02/on-a-budget-top-10-ways-to-save-money-at-college/

Christyne Stephenson
Peer Financial Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Brewing Up a Challenge

Powercat Financial Counseling is giving away two Keurigs! To put your name in the drawing for the raffle, all you need to do is complete a 10-question online scavenger hunt. The answers can be found on our website, www.k-state.edu/pfc. The form was an attachment on an email sent out to the student body by Jodi Kaus on October 22nd. The completed forms are due by 5:00 PM on November 11th. To submit the form, you can either email it to powercatfinancial@ksu.edu or physically drop if off in Union Room 809 in the Office of Student Activities and Services.

The winner will be announced at our Thrifty Gifting event held on November 14th at 4:30 in the Flint Hills Room of the Union. Come have fun and learn about ways to save money during the holiday season while also getting the chance to win other prizes.

Do you really want to win that Keurig? You can increase your chances by earning additional entries into the drawing. Scheduling a counseling session and signing up for one of the websites that are linked on the PFC website each gives you a better chance to win. More details of the bonus entries can be found on the scavenger hunt form.

Good luck!

David Biggs
Peer Financial Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.ksu.edu/pfc

It’s almost time to graduate! Money tips for college graduates:

If this is your last semester at Kansas State University then there is no doubt that you are busier than ever.  You are sending out résumés, preparing for interviews, applying for graduation, and finally purchasing your cap and gown!  Everything you are doing now is exciting and your life is about to change dramatically as you transition from being a student to being a full-time employee.  As you’re building your career and life outside of college there will be many financial decisions that you will need to make.  Here is a list of a few things to consider as you prepare for graduation and beyond.

How are you going to manage your debt?

Many students will graduate with student loans that need to be paid off.   The first step you will want to take as you get close to graduating is to find out who your loan servicers are and set up accounts with them.  Your loan servicer is the company that hosts your loan and who you will be making payments to.  After you have set up an account you will want to decide what kinds of payments you will want to make, such as standard or graduated.  Powercat Financial Counseling has brought SALTmoney.org to Kansas State University students and alumni and this is a great interactive website to use to understand what your loan payments will be.

Do you know your credit score?

Your credit score is a number representing your creditworthiness based on past and current credit files.  The range of credit scores is from 300 to 850 and new graduates need to be aware of the dangers of a poor credit score.  Bad credit will make it hard to get an apartment, car loan and even a job.  There are many ways to build your credit score, but one simple way is to make all payments on time and never miss a single payment.  You can view your (unofficial) score for free anytime at www.creditkarma.com.

Do you have a budget?

Upon graduating college and obtaining a job you will start to have a lot more income, but also more expenses.  It may be hard to begin managing your money and new expenses so it is a good idea to start sticking to a budget.  A budget is not meant to have a negative connotation; it is simply a way to control your money instead of letting your money control you.  If you would like to start forming a budget Powercat Financial Counseling has spending plan worksheets available online at www.k-state.edu/pfc/budgeting.

Will you start saving?

Hopefully when you graduate you will begin to have money available for savings, and your employer is likely to offer retirement plans such as 401(k)’s.  If your company will offer to match your contributions to your 401(k) then you should take this opportunity, it’s basically free money!  Another reason to think about saving as soon as you graduate is that interest on your savings grows exponentially so the sooner you start saving, the more you will have when it comes time to retire!

Are you insured?

Students used to be removed from their parent’s health care insurance immediately after graduation; however under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, parents may now keep their children on their insurance until age 26.  This may be a relief to a few of you because it gives you a little more time to build up income before you must pay for your own insurance.  As you graduate and accept a full time job you will want to assess your company’s health care plan and talk with your parents about whether or not you will stay under their plan for a little longer.

 

There are many other decisions that will need to be made around graduation time and countless other questions that you may have, but hopefully this list will help you get started thinking about your financial future! For further questions, please request an appointment at www.k-state.edu/pfc!

 

Wende Witthuhn
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

SALT- Become Financially Savvy

Powercat Financial Counseling is proud to introduce SALTmoney.org, a FREE financial literacy and budgeting tool, to all current students and alumni!!

Did you know that salt was one of the earliest forms of currency? In today’s times, we are noticing a trend of rising student debt. Unfortunately we can’t bust out the salt shaker to pay-off our student loans, but you can log-on to Salt Money at www.ksu.edu/salt and become more financially savvy.

Once you have register within Salt you will have access to a multitude of functions that will allow you to better your financial awareness. Some of the main features include:

– Crunch Your Numbers – Here you can import your student loans from the NSLDS (National Student Loan Data System) and learn information regarding your monthly payments and repayment plans. Also, see the bigger picture, which includes; a tool that helps students evaluate the cost of living in different regions of the country and plans out a tentative monthly budget based on estimated income. Student loans aren’t much fun to repay, but Salt will simplify the process for you and show you how to fit repayment into your life.

– Save and Make Money – Here you can access a search engine that will help you locate scholarships, internships, and jobs that fit your specific needs. Salt also provides deals that are solely for members of the program.

– Get Money Smart – Here you can complete interactive activities to become more educated on many topics regarding personal finances. How do you choose the right bank or credit union for you? How can your credit score keep you from getting a job? When is student loan deferment a good idea? Log-on to Salt to learn the answers to these questions and many more.

Managing finances is one of the largest stressors that college students face, and Powercat Financial Counseling is expanding their services by proving SALT to all members of Kansas State University. Look for SALT events occurring on campus in the coming semester. PFC will be putting on a launch event on February 7th from 4:30 to 6:30 in the Rec. Stop by after your workout to put some SALT in your financial diet. We will be giving away prizes such as t-shirts, fruit smoothies, and a Mr. Coffee’s Self Brewer. Log-on now at www.k-state.edu/salt.

Bret Eisenbarth
Graduate Assistant & Peer Financial Counselor
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Income Based Repayment (IBR)

Graduating soon with an overwhelming amount of debt?  Will your salary not be enough to cover it?  You might be able to qualify for the Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan.  The repayment plan is a new way to make your federal student loans more manageable.

The idea behind IBR is to allow for lower monthly payments based on your income and family size.    The loan payments are capped at 15% of your discretionary income.  This is decreasing to 10% in July 2014.  Discretionary income is defined as Adjusted Gross Income (income before taxes) minus 150% of the poverty line for your family size.  You may have a payment of $0 if your income is less than 150% of the poverty line!

You must reapply every year to stay on IBR.  However, if you do so for 25 years, your remaining debt and interest will be forgiven!  For new borrowers starting July 2014, this time period will decrease to 20 years.

If you have a public service job, IBR has more benefits for you.  You may qualify for public service loan forgiveness after only 10 years.

For more information, see www.IBRinfo.org.

 

Kari Christensen
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Moving Abroad With Student Loans

It seems as though many students are considering moving abroad to live and work after graduation. Some plan on staying forever, others just for a few short years. No matter how long one is overseas it is important to know how to handle student loans while out of the United States.

Repayment of student loans is still possible by paying online, but the student will need a US bank for the payment to draft out of. All repayment options that are offered for students living in the United States, including extended and graduated repayment, are still available. Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is also a possibility even if salary is being paid in foreign currency. Foreign paystubs along with the Alternative-Documentation-Of-Income Form will be required. In addition, deferments and forbearances should also be available to the student. Public Service Loan Forgiveness is not an option unless it is work for a US entity.

The type of service and assistance one will have while overseas will depend on who the loan servicer is for the federal loans. Some servicers have upgraded their website to allow for recognition of foreign addresses.  In essence, this will open up all of the aspects of repayment assistance that have currently only been available to domestically domiciled borrowers.

Payments on Commercial FFEL loans can be made by credit card payments. However, Direct Loans cannot be paid by credit card; the borrowers would still need to have a domestic bank account to facilitate payments on the online payment system.

Another option would be to designate someone you trust to act as an authorized payer. They can quickly and easily make payments on your account through the online payment system, but you would obviously need to set them up as an authorized payer on your loan servicer account. The authorized payer would only be able to make payments; they would not have access to your account information or loan servicer messages.

The most important piece to start and finish with is to stay in contact with your loan servicer. The more that is communicated with them, the more they will be willing and able to help with your specific situation.

Lastly, here is a link to a directory of International Banks: http://www.gbanking.com/international-banks/

If you have further questions or would like to talk to a peer financial advisor about other financial matters, please request an appointment at www.k-state.edu/pfc or call us at 785-532-2889.

Roxanne Martens
GTA & Peer Financial Counselor
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc
 

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