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Fun in the $un!

As the weather has been warming up, many students are trying to find ways to spend time outdoors! Although sometimes that can come with an expense, it doesn’t have to! Here are a few ways to enjoy the nice weather without emptying your piggy bank.

  1. Hike the Konza

Take some time to visit the Konza Prairie and hike the trails! The six miles of trails are open from dawn to dusk. The Konza provides some of the most spectacular views of the Flint Hills and Kansas River Valley. There are four trail options in which you can hike; Nature Trail Loop, Kings Creek Loop, Godwin Hill Loop, and the Hokanson Homestead. The Nature Trail Loop is 2 ½ miles and hikers should plan for about 2 – 2 ½ hours to complete the trail. The Kings Creek Loop is 4.4 miles long and takes about 3 ½ hours to enjoy. The Godwin is slightly longer at 6.0 miles, taking an additional hour to complete. And lastly the Hokanson Homestead, which is located just off of the Nature Trail! Allow for an additional hour of investigation at this site. A contribution of $2 is appreciated! More information about the Konza can be found at http://keep.konza.ksu.edu/visit/hike.ht. For other various trails around Manhattan, visit http://www.manhattancvb.org/index.aspx?nid=60.

  1. Visit the Sunset Zoo

The sunset zoo was named the best zoo in Kansas by Yahoo travel and is home to over 200 animals! Student admission is just $5! The zoo is open daily from noon – 5:00 p.m. In April the zoo will open at 9:30 a.m. The zoo is located at 2333 Oak Street Manhattan, KS 66502. For more information regarding the Sunset Zoo visit their website, http://www.sunsetzoo.com.

  1. Utilize the Outdoor Recreation area at the Rec!

Enjoy the warm weather and get a workout by utilizing the outdoor sand volleyball pit, tennis court, basketball court, football, softball, or soccer fields at the rec! Be sure to check the schedule located at http://recservices.k-state.edu/outdoorfacilities/ to make sure the tennis courts are not reserved for the K-State Tennis team! The outdoor recreation area will be open on days where the temperature is above 60 degrees from 1 p.m.-dark.

  1. Rent a Kayak/Canoe and explore the Kansas River.

For $12.50 you can rent a kayak or canoe for a day from the K-State rec and explore the Kansas River! Or if you are interested in renting for a weekend trip, it is just $20! If you are planning a big trip and would like to reserve a rental there is a reservation fee of $5. There are many great places to explore around Manhattan, especially the Kansas River.

  1. Play Footgolf!

Have you heard of foot golf?! If not, the goal is to use a soccer ball and try to kick it into 21” holes with the least amount of kicks! Watch out for the rolling fairways and roughs, sand traps, trees, native tall grass, and other hazards! The cost is just $12.25 with a $3.00 ball rental at Wildcat Creek Fun and Fitness. Feel free to take your own soccer ball if you have one though! This is a great way to spend an hour and half or more outside enjoying the weather! http://www.wildcatcreekfun.com/outdoor-recreation/footgolf.

  1. Hang out at Pillsbury Crossing

Pillsbury Crossing is a great place to spend time enjoying the weather. Enjoy the picnic spot, wading in the rock-bottomed creek, fishing, kayaking or canoeing, and view the wildlife! Pillsbury Crossing is located on the south edge of Manhattan. For exact directions on how to find this unique hideaway, visit http://kansastravel.org/pillsburycrossing.htm.

  1. Zip Line the Flint Hills

There’s a new adventure in Manhattan! Wildwood Outdoor Adventure Park, http://www.wildwoodoutdooradventurepark.com/about.html, offers a zip lining across the Flint Hills! This experience can be a little costly, but some budgeting tips from PFC can help! Prices start at $25. Wildwood Outdoor Adventure Park is open Friday through Sunday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Monday through Thursday by special arrangements.

For more help on budgeting or establishing a savings plan, Powercat Financial Counseling is here to help! Visit our website, www.k-state.edu/pfc to make an appointment regarding your financial questions!

Kristen Payne, Peer Counselor I

 

Thinking About Studying Abroad?

More and more college students from all over the country are choosing to study abroad. Spending a semester or a couple of weeks in a foreign country is both exciting and beneficial to your personal development. A growing number of employers see this as a plus because it can suggest your global perspective and awareness. One might think picking the ideal country to study in is the hardest part, but in the hype of the excitement, many students overlook the costs of financing the trip. Here are a few tips to help you plan accordingly without having to worry about money.

Create a Budget

The first course of action is to determine whether or not studying abroad is feasible months in advance. You’ll need to obtain an estimate of the total costs of your intended countries you may study in (as well as possible excursions you may take while abroad).  This includes, but is not limited to, passport or visa applications, tuition, books, housing, meals, bottled water, plane and train tickets, transit (i.e. metro or taxi), and souvenirs.  Then, you need to figure out how much you currently have to pay for the trip and how much extra you’ll need to save up. The best solution to this task is creating a budget. Start by listing all your monthly sources of income and deducting all your monthly expenses to establish your discretionary balance (the money you have left over). If you are in the red (negative balance), funding this trip might be a difficult task. Don’t fret, though, as there are alternative funding strategies. If you are in the black (positive balance), then you are more likely able to finance the trip.

The next step is to set up a “Study Abroad Fund” and contribute monthly to build up the balance. This fund will be your go-to source of money when abroad. The amount that you can contribute will depend on how much money you have left over to generate on a monthly basis. Being college students, that amount tends to not be significant. Thankfully, there are alternative sources of funding available to students who plan on study abroad and they come in the form of scholarships. Scholarships are free money and you should try to obtain as many as possible. Check with K-State’s Study Abroad Department for more details at http://www.k-state.edu/studyabroad/current-students/funding/scholarships.html. A new and popular way of raising funds comes in the form of crowdfunding. You can set up a campaign on sites like indiegogo, kickstarter, and gofundme and have access to a community of millions of people that can help raise funds toward your trip. You also are eligible to receive student loans during your time abroad if you are enrolled at least half time, which can help with the costs of tuition, room, and board. For more information, you can visit Student Financial Assistance’s page at http://www.k-state.edu/sfa/policies/studyabroad.html.  If you still need more money for your trip, don’t be afraid to speak to your parents and family for assistance.

All these sources of income are better utilized or obtained if you have a thorough budget drafted that illustrates your financial need and capability. You can use PFC’s free spending plan worksheet to help you with this task by going to http://www.k-state.edu/pfc/budgeting.

Does your Debit/Credit card Work in Foreign Countries?

Once you are in the program, have chosen a country to study in, and raised all the funds you’ll need, then you are almost at the finish line of enjoying a financially stress-free trip. What you need to do next is figure out if your debit and/or credit card(s) work in the country you plan on travelling to and if so, if you will incur any fees every time you swipe your card. You can easily check with your bank on this matter and if need be, obtain a card that allows you to do so without any costly fees.  Most banks will charge a flat cost for using international ATMs (i.e. $5) and some will charge a percentage of the withdrawal (i.e. 3%).   Some credit cards won’t have foreign transaction fees, but this only applies to transactions made using the card.  Be aware that many places abroad only accept cash and you won’t be able to use the card with no foreign transaction fees.

Additionally, it’s very important to put a travel notification on each card you may be using abroad, including ones brought for emergencies only.  This can be done by calling each bank or company and letting them know the dates of travel as well as the countr(ies) you will be in.  Failure to place a notification can result in your card being frozen due to a suspicion of theft.  This can last for days and may only be able to be lifted by a phone call to the bank or company.

Do I Have an Emergency Fund?

Lastly, you need to be prepared for any surprises that can financially impact your study abroad experience. You need to have an emergency fund set up that will only be used if something bad happens. Examples include losing your wallet, pick pockets, travel or lodging mix ups, or a medical emergency. It never hurts to be prepared and you’ll have less things to worry about knowing that you have a back-up plan.

If you need further assistance in planning for your trip, feel free to set up an appointment with PFC by going to www.k-state.edu/pfc/services.

Resources

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexadavis/2014/07/10/6-ways-to-cut-the-costs-of-your-study-abroad-program/

Gerald Mashange
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Preparing Your Budget for Spring Break

In case you missed PFC’s “It’s Spring Break NOT Spring Broke” event yesterday, here are some tips to help you stick to your budget during spring break. Start planning what you will do, how you will get there, what it will cost, and any additional spending money you will need for it.

Compare flight prices in an incognito browser (aka private browser). An incognito browser won’t release your IP address to the site, which can prevent sites from raising prices on a second visit in order to pressure customers into buying too quickly or without further research. In Chrome, click the menu button on the top right. In Firefox, click on the drop down menu in the top left. On Safari, click on Safari in the top task bar. And in Internet Explorer, click on the safety tab on the menu. Some sites to look at for comparing travel prices are:

  • http://www.kayak.com/
  • http://www.expedia.com/
  • http://www.priceline.com/
  • http://www.amtrak.com/
  • http://www.greyhound.com/
  • http://us.megabus.com/ (though there’s no stations in Kansas, it can help with a connecting trip)

Oftentimes, taking a bus, train, or driving will be largely cheaper than taking a flight, but will take longer. Consider cutting costs by sacrificing a little time. Also keep in mind that prices tend to go up as the date of the trip gets closer. Getting a jump on buying tickets can save you a lot of money.

Compare hotel prices. Most of the travel sites listed above also offer hotel comparisons and discounts. Make sure to research the cost it would be to buy them separately before assuming that the bundle is cheaper. http://www.hotels.com/ is a good site to compare prices. They have deals every now and then for certain hotels and offer a punch card system for booking through their site where you get a free stay after ten nights booked. Since a hotel can sometimes just be a place to sleep at night, consider booking a lower-cost hotel instead of one that has a lot of amenities.

Make SMART goals to save up for the trip. They should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Determine how much you will need for the trip and set a specific amount of money to put away for a specific period of time (each month, each paycheck, etc…), that can fit in your budget and get you the amount needed in time. This will require a good budget to know how much you can afford to set aside each month. Consider stashing away any holiday or birthday money towards it as well.

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

Top 5 Hidden Costs of Your First Job

1. Clothing

Your favorite jeans and college t-shirt work great when you’re heading to class, but once you enter the workforce you may have to beef up your wardrobe. Depending on the industry you go into you may be required to wear business professional or business casual attire every day. Purchasing these types of clothing doesn’t always come cheap.  About.com estimates that men will spend $125 a month on their professional work wardrobe. That totals up to $1500 annually.

2. Transportation

Depending on what city you work and reside in, other costs of your commute may arise. After you graduate you may need to upgrade your vehicle which will increase costs of auto insurance, loan payments, etc. Transportation costs may also include stress and time away from family or other activities depending on the distance or traffic of your daily commute.

3. Eating out

Even though you may plan on bringing lunch to work most days, you may be obligated to go out to lunch. Many employees treat lunch as a time to network with clients or discuss business. Spending a minimum of $20 a week on business lunches or dinners can end up costing you $1,040 a year. This being a low estimate increasing lunch outings can really add up over time and end up decreasing the amount of money you have to spend on other discretionary items.

4. Travel

With some jobs you may be required to travel. Whether this means traveling locally to meet clients, or traveling across the country, these costs can reduce your discretionary income.  Many firms will reimburse you for travel expenses, but you may have to pay the upfront cost. There are also expenses associated with traveling that your firm may not compensate you for such as time away from your family, meals, and traveling essentials.

5. Taxes

Most people don’t consider taxes when they enter their first job but it is something to be aware of. When you earn more money you may be pushed into a higher tax bracket. This is especially true for students entering their first job who have formerly filed as dependents of their parents. In 2012 those filing as Single on their tax return earning $8,700 to $35,350 were taxed at a rate of 15%. If you earned $30,000 last year you would have been taxed roughly $4,500. As your income increases your tax bracket increases, which means you may end up forking a good chunk of your income over to Uncle Sam.

 

Although that new job offer may sound great, it is always good to look into the hidden costs. Comparing these costs and your compensation is a great way to find out if you need to further negotiate your salary. When looking at an offered salary it is important to analyze the extra costs that take away from your discretionary income in order to accurately evaluate the offer. Budgeting for these extra expenses can help you in not being caught off guard when they arise.

 

Sydney A. Henderson
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Changing Your Name After the Wedding

The BIG day is approaching and you realize that a name change will most likely need to be made.  Although you are not required to change your name, somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of brides take their husband’s last name when they get married according to recent surveys. A marriage license with your new last name does not automatically mean you’ve changed it.  In fact, you shouldn’t change your name before the honeymoon because your new name has to match all travel documents and, most importantly, your passport.

1. Get your marriage license
Before you can change your name, you’ll need the original (or certified) marriage license with the raised seal and your new last name on it. Go to the clerk’s office where your license was filed so that you can get several copies.  You should get at least 3 certified copies of your original marriage certificate so that you will have enough for all the changes you are making.

2. Change your Social Security card
Visit the Social Security Administration’s website and fill out the application for CORRECTED Social Security card. You’ll keep the same number — just your name will be different.   You cannot make the change online; you either mail in the forms or take them to the local Social Security Administration office.  You will also need to show them proof of current identity (DL or Passport).
http://ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5doc.htm

3. Change your license at the DMV
Take a trip to the local Department of Motor Vehicles office to get a new license with your new last name. Bring every form of identification you can lay your hands on — your old license, your certified marriage license and — most important — your new Social Security card.  They are usually closed on Mondays, so plan ahead.  Be sure to smile for your new picture!
http://www.ksrevenue.org/dmvproof.html

4. Change your bank accounts
This is an important one, especially if you’re setting up a joint bank account, or if you have one already set up. The fastest way to change your name at your bank is to go into a branch location — bring your new driver’s license and your marriage license. You should request new checks and debit and credit cards on top of changing the name attached to your accounts.  Some banks charge a fee for requesting a new debit card.  Personal note: if you and your spouse are each getting a debit card, request you each get a card with a unique number and PIN.  That way if one of you loses your card, the other can still use their card while you are waiting on the replacement.

5. And a myriad of other places
Once you have a social security card and driver’s license in your married name, other changes should be fairly easy.   It might be easiest to make a list of all your different accounts and mark them off as you get them done.  Some places may only require a phone call; others may ask for a copy of your marriage certificate or social security card. Here are some examples of places you will need to notify:

  • Employers/payroll – talk to your Human Resource person about adjusting your withholdings as you may now file “Married Filing Jointly” on your taxes
  • Post office – remember change of address for all your mail and magazines
  • Electric and other utility companies
  • Credit card companies – (also a good idea to have unique cards like the debit cards)
  • Student loan servicers
  • Schools and alumni associations
  • Landlord or mortgage company
  • Insurance companies (auto, home, life)
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Voter registration office
  • Investment account providers
  • Your attorney (to update legal documents, including your will)
  • Passport office
  • Remember all of your social media sites as well (those realistically got changed as quickly as your status on Facebook J)
  • E-Commerce sites where you have accounts set up, PayPal, eBay, Amazon etc.
  • The next time you complete your taxes you will also show your name change – name on your tax return must match the name on your Social Security Card
  • Beneficiary: an item often overlooked.  If you have life insurance, disability, or other insurance policies, you generally select a beneficiary and will now want to list your spouse.

I am certain that this is not an all-inclusive list, however it should take care of most of the key changes.

 

Joel V. Reimer
Peer Financial Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

 

**Most of this information was gleaned from the web at http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/planning-a-wedding/articles/name-change-101.aspx?MsdVisit=1 an article by Amanda Black. Other sites were also used.**

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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