Sporting Events on a Budget

15 September, 2017

The weather is starting to cool down (hopefully), students are back in school, and that means Cyclone football and other fall sports are here! If you were not one of the lucky students to snag an All Sports Package, or Football Season tickets from the lottery system, there are still some other ways students can save money while attending their favorite sporting event.

For football games, the best “bang for your buck” is definitely the student pass, which comes out to be about $20/game, or $125 total for football season tickets. With most students not being able to make every single game, make sure to ask around and see if you'd be able to snag a friend's ticket who would be willing to sell their ticket to you at face value (or less!). It is recommended that incoming students enter their name by June 30th in order to be considered for the lottery. Scalping tickets right before kickoff can also be a great way to get a good deal on a ticket. The scalpers are usually willing to bargain with you, but be careful of potential scams! 

There are various reseller websites students can use to buy reasonably priced tickets, such as CycloneFanatic.com, StubHub, or Craigslist. If you wait closer to the date of the game, the seller may be desperate to sell their tickets, so they may drop the price in an effort to get their tickets sold as soon as possible. However, buying the tickets online may include a wide range of "convenience" fees that can, in some cases, double the total cost of your ticket. You can usually avoid these fees by purchasing tickets at the stadium box office. If you can't get to the stadium in advance, order the tickets and have them mailed to you. You may also have some of the fees waived by selecting “Will Call,” or by selecting the option to print tickets from home. These days, it may also be possible to avoid some fees by entering the game using a ticket displayed on your mobile phone.

Timing your purchase can also be important. If you suspect a game will sell out, it may be better to buy early than risk having to pay above face value on a reseller site. This is especially true for NFL games. The longer you wait to purchase tickets for popular games, the more expensive the tickets will become as they are typically in high demand. 

Another budget breaker with sporting events is the cost of stadium food. If you don’t plan ahead of time, you might be stuck shelling out $10+ for a hot dog. We suggest filling up on a big meal before the game to help you avoid food cravings while you're watching the game. (Hello, endless options for tailgate food!) Beverages can also be very expensive. Jack Trice Stadium lets you bring in one 20 oz unopened bottle of water per person. 

As a student, don't forget to take advantage of the free admission offers at other sporting events in Ames! Iowa State students receive free admission to all regular season wrestling, gymnastics, volleyball and women's basketball events (women's basketball excludes holiday break games). All you need is your student ID. 

Use these tips and tricks to help make your next memorable sporting event fun AND affordable!

Save Money Shopping Online - Use Honey!

28 August, 2017

It is a no brainer that online shopping has become consumers' preferred retail method, with e-commerce businesses like Amazon, Walmart, and Apple growing by 10 -12% a year and raking in over $201 billion dollars total, according to Emarketer. In fact, 51% of Americans prefer to do their shopping online. It’s easy, convenient, and gives consumers the opportunity to take advantage of “online only” sales. 

With our email inboxes constantly being bombarded with online shopping coupons and codes, it may be difficult to spot the best deal. What if you could make sure you’re maximizing your hard-earned dollar by using every coupon available? There’s a web extension for that!

It’s called Honey. Honey is a service that automatically finds coupon codes for the site you’re shopping at and applies them to your order when you’re ready to checkout –saving you time, AND money!

Simply install the Honey browser extension and you’ll see the button placed in your browser bar, near the top right corner. While shopping at a supported store, click the ‘honey’ button and you’ll be able to view all available sales and coupon codes. During the checkout, click on “find savings” and honey will automatically find the best coupons that apply. If a store you’re shopping at does not offer Honey, simply make a store request here.

When you download Honey, you’ll also become part of the Honey Gold Rewards Program. When you shop at any of the 3,700+ participating sites, you’ll earn a percentage back in Gold. The reward you receive will be a randomized amount and the percentage back varies from store to store. Claim your Honey Gold by simply clicking the "Find Savings" button while shopping or by clicking the "Activate" button on the exclusive Honey Gold offers on the Offers page. Then, shop as normal! You’ll be able to see your Gold in your account once you complete your purchase. Once you accumulate 1000 Gold, you can redeem your Honey Gold via a $10 electronic Gift Card at Amazon, Groupon, Sears, and more. Of course, this is only an additional perk of using Honey. You can still save money by just using the extension. 

You may be familiar with the other shopping coupon app – RetailMeNot, which will pull up coupons and deals by searching for a particular store, but honey does a lot of the dirty work for you –they find the applicable coupon codes, and add them to your cart for you without having to search for the store, and deciphering between in store and online coupons. With being one of the most popular online shopping “life hacks,” Honey has grown in popularity, with currently over 4.7 million users and an average customer rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.

There is currently no “mobile” download option, but they have a plan to offer a mobile app in the near future. Here are some reviews from the happy customers who use Honey.

"I don't shop without this app anymore! It takes the hassle out of searching for coupon codes and has surprised me by saving me a good amount of money so far. Even when it doesn't find codes, I'm at least happy I didn't spend time searching for them.” -Catherine R

"Wow! This is effortless. I have wasted so much time searching for coupon codes online. Honey does all this for you. Takes all promo codes and whether they apply or not, tests each one to make sure you are getting the best discount! I'm in! I love it." – Jess B.

Install the browser add-on today, and you'll find the savings will be sweeter than, well... honey! 

Building Your Savings - The Snowball Factor

07 June, 2017

Many of us have heard of the term “snowballing” and may visualize a gigantic snowball tumbling down a hill, gathering more snow as it rolls. The same metaphor can be used to describe our finances. We know what the debt snowball is –the continuous revolving mass that accrues fees and interest and may seem impossible to pay off… But what about a savings snowball?

We can apply the same snowball concept to the act of building our emergency fund and other savings accounts. For most students, the biggest obstacle to saving is getting started. Students typically work part time hours, making it hard to earn enough money to pay for rent, utilities, food, textbooks, etc. They may feel there is absolutely no room for savings in their budget. We are going to prove that false by showing you how contributing as little as $1.00-$50.00/week can quickly grow into a decent nesting egg.

You’ve heard it before –the recommended savings amount is to have 3 – 6 months worth of your monthly expenses saved up in an emergency fund. As for the students out there, let’s start with a more realistic goal. Let's shoot for having $1,000 – $1,500 saved up total. This is an excellent number to start with, as that money could be set aside to help cover a potential car repair, a last minute textbook, or laptop fix.

Everyone can start a savings plan, even if it means initially putting away a small amount at a time. Yes, it is possible to save up $1,000 in a years time, even while working on a tight budget! First, start by saving $1.00 a week for your first week. (Yep, that’s it! Just one measly buck.) Then, increase your contribution to $2.00 the following week, then $3.00 in the third week and so on. Repeat this pattern every week for an entire year, and you will end up with $1,378! How? This snowball method is illustrated in the graph below. However, towards the end of the year, you'll be putting away about $50/week, so feel free to pull the reigns if that is stretching your budget too much. Depending how many jobs you work, or if you work more hours during the week than some throughout the year, this could still be a realistic goal. 

Week  Deposit Amount Account Balance Week Deposit Amount Account Balance Week Deposit Amount Account Balance    
1 $1.00 $1.00 10 $10.00 $55.00 19 $19.00 $190.00  
2 $2.00 $3.00 11 $11.00 $66.00 20 $20.00 $210.00  
3 $3.00 $6.00 12 $12.00 $78.00 21 $21.00 $231.00  
4 $4.00 $10.00 13 $13.00 $91.00 22 $22.00 $253.00  
5 $5.00 $15.00 14 $14.00 $105.00 23 $23.00 $276.00  
6 $6.00 $21.00 15 $15.00 $120.00 24 $24.00 $300.00  
7 $7.00 $28.00 16 $16.00 $136.00 25 $25.00 $325.00  
8 $8.00 $36.00 17 $17.00 $153.00 26 $26.00 $351.00  
9 $9.00 $45.00 18 $18.00 $171.00 27 $27.00 $378.00  
Week Deposit Amount Account Balance  Week Deposit Amount Account Balance Week Deposit Amount Account Balance  
28  $28.00  $406.00 37  $37.00  $703.00 46  $46.00  $1,081.00  
29 $29.00   $435.00 38 $38.00  $741.00  47 $47.00   $1,128.00  
30 $30.00  $465.00  39 $39.00  $780.00  48 $48.00   $1,176.00  
31 $31.00  $496.00  40 $40.00  $820.00  49 $49.00   $1,225.00  
32 $32.00  $528.00  41 $41.00  $861.00  50 $50.00  $1,275.00   
33 $33.00  $561.00  42  $42.00 $903.00  51 $51.00  $1,326.00   
34 $34.00  $595.00  43 $43.00  $946.00  52  $52.00 $1,378.00   
35 $35.00  $630.00  44  $44.00 $990.00         
36 $36.00  $666.00  45  $45.00 $1,035.00         

It’s up to you where you decide to stash the cash. Traditionally, if you are saving cold, hard dollar bills, you’ll want to purchase a small safe, or keep the money in an old Folgers coffee tin. While the coffee tin idea may be the most cost efficient option, it is probably not the most secure option –especially in the event of theft or fire! In addition, the more accessible you make the money, the more tempting it will be to spend it. It’s a good idea to keep the money in the bank. Students can look into setting up an auto-deposit option with their current bank, too. This is the most secure and preferred method from our standpoint.

Happy ‘Snowballing’ and enjoy these first few months of summer!

New credit score calculation - What you need to know

26 April, 2017

If you’ve heard anything in the news lately about changes to the way your credit score may be calculated, you haven’t heard wrong. This update will now benefit the conservative spenders, but may also affect those who are riskier consumers. Meaning, those with low scores may benefit from the removal of certain items with this new calculation, such as civil judgments, medical debts and tax liens, which are current factors brought into your credit history. 

This new method is being implemented later this year by VantageScore, a company created by the three major credit bureaus –Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. This is different from the more commonly known “Fair Isaac Corporation” aka FICO score, which has been traditionally used by all financial institutions.

What are the upcoming changes?

This method will now be utilizing “trended data” which means credit scores will now take into account the trajectory of a borrower’s debts on a month-to-month basis. Whereas, if you are actively and responsibly paying down your debt, you are now likely to be scored higher than a person who is just making minimum payments and slowly accumulating more debt.

Another big change affects the utilization factor in your credit score. Remember how 30% of your credit score factors in how much you owe on each account, and how much credit you have utilized? VantageScore will now mark a borrower negatively for having excessively large credit limits. The reasoning behind this infers the consumer’s opportunity to run up high credit card debt quickly. If you have an excellent credit score, you may be hurt the most, since you are most likely to have several cards open at a time with larger credit limits.

For example: A person with $5,000 in credit card debt with a $50,000 limit across several cards could score better than someone with $2,000 in debt on a $10,000 limit because of that ratio.

With taking civil judgments (1. is the situation when there is a ruling against you in a court of law pertaining to non-criminal matters, and often includes requiring payment of damages) medical debts, and tax liens out of the equation, people may see a bump in their credit scores by as much as 20 points. However, negative marks such as delinquencies and debts sent to a collection agency will not be removed. In addition, very few mortgage companies are using VantageScore and will still require a FICO score for eligibility.

Some lenders are pulling credit scores for other reasons, for example, when people are applying for an apartment, opening a credit card or applying for an auto loan, the lender may choose to use VantageScore. About 8 billion VantageScore credit scores were used between July 2015 and June 2016, up 40 percent from the year before. This new scoring model also should not affect what consumers are doing to boost their credit score.

While this may seem like a huge change, this new model shouldn’t be met with panic when it goes into effect later this Fall, regardless of your credit situation. As always, you should know where your score stands. You can get your FICO score for free today through Credit Karma! Get started here and get access to your VantageScore as well.


Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2017/04/22/major-changes-coming-how-your-credit-score-calculated/100653342/

5 Financial Tips to Prepare for the New Year

28 December, 2016

As the Holiday season is coming to a close, there has never been a better time to start a personal financial checkup and consider what you want to accomplish in the upcoming New Year. A recent study completed by LendEDU determined that over half of Americans (52.85 percent!) consider saving more money as their most important financial resolution for 2017. If you’ve already started thinking about your own New Year’s Resolutions, chances are, a few of those goals are money-motivated! Here are our 5 financial tips for you to consider as you financially prepare for the New Year.

1. Eliminate Credit Card Debt (or other kinds of debt!)
The average American carries $7,000 in credit card debt. You already know that the money you spend on interest is simply wasted money, and that can cause some serious financial stress, especially when debt can prevent us from reaching other financial goals! Make a list of your current credit card balances, with the interest rates for each account to get an idea on what you owe so far, and what debt needs to be tackled first. A good debt management trick is to focus in on the credit card with the highest interest rate first, then work your way down.

While students may typically not be among this group who carry a high amount of credit card debt, make a commitment to pay off other debts you may have, like a high interest rate student loan or a car loan. To make a payment on your student loan, simply register your account with your student loan servicer and designate the bank account you want to make payments from. (There is no penalty to pay early on your student loans!) Find out who your federal loan servicer is by logging into this website with your FSA ID and password. If you have any private loans, you will want to register with your lender through their website. 

As always, the key to being successful with eliminating any kind of debt is to review your monthly bills and spending habits and cut back wherever you can. Yes, it is going to take some diligence and sacrifice but you can do it! After the credit card is paid off, be sure to never charge more than you can pay off in full at the end of the month.

2. Start an Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is an absolute must have when it comes to being financially prepared. This is money that is set aside in a separate savings account to be used for any unexpected expense, like car and house repairs, medical expenses, or a loss of job. Experts suggest having at least 3-6 months’ worth of your normal living expenses saved up in this fund. 

As a student, it’s still important to have an emergency fund established. While the 3-6 month guideline may seem a little intimidating at first, consider starting off with a smaller savings goal. Let's say you want to have $500 saved up in an emergency fund by the start of next Spring semester. Setting aside $42 a month will help you accomplish this goal within a year! 

3. Reduce Monthly Bills
Break out your monthly bill statements and review them for fees or “extras” you didn’t know you were paying. For instance, if you’re paying to rent a router for your internet service, consider buying a used one instead or installing one yourself that may be lying around in a closet. Contact your cable provider to be placed on a more basic package, or eliminate your cable bill all together. (Hellooo Netflix!) Another tip is to scale back on the data plan you have on your cellphone. This is a feasible possibility if you primarily use your phone while connected to Wi-Fi at work or home. Traveling a lot? Apps like Boingo and Devicescape help your phone automatically connect to available public Wi-Fi!

4. Improve your Health
We all know a common New Year’s resolution is to get healthy! Whether it’s hitting the gym more or watching what we eat, a healthier lifestyle can lead to fewer medical bills! During cold and flu season, it’s smart to be extra cautious by washing our hands often, and making sleep a priority. Start thinking of plans you can implement to improve your health this New Year.

5. Set your Goals
Write your financial resolutions down and set 30, 60 and 90 day checkpoints to ensure that you stay on track. Consider rewarding yourself for staying on track and achieving your resolutions –like going out for a Fro-Yo date! (Plus, Frozen yogurt is way healthier than ice cream, right?) There are also great apps out there that can help you track and monitor your financial goals, too.

Apart from being a fantastic budgeting app, Mint has the capabilities to set and track your financial goals. You will first choose a goal from their list (For ex: Pay off Credit Card Debt, Take a Trip, Save for an Emergency Fund, etc.) or you may create your own. Next, you’ll set the goal with either an end date or monthly amount in mind, and you can link your goal to an account so it’s easy to track.

For those students who are looking to save more money this New Year, the app Quapital lets users customize their ability to automate savings transfers. They can set up rules so money is moved into a savings account after a certain purchase or time period, and the app also lets users insert images of what they’re saving for to help them stay motivated. Cool, huh?

What financial resolutions are on your mind for 2017?

8 Things to Consider Before Moving Off Campus

21 November, 2016

You’re not alone in wondering if you can save money by moving off campus. However, it’s important to weigh the costs that go along with renting your very own place. Here is a list of factors to consider before making the big move.

Rent
Consider your monthly portion of the rent –whether you’re living alone or sharing with roommates. How does that cost compare to your current housing contract? For example, let’s say you and your roommate currently live in a double Buchanan suite and you’re looking to find a cheaper off campus apartment. The yearly rate for a double suite in Buchanan is $5,732. Dividing that rate by 10 (5 months in a semester x2) will determine your current monthly cost. ($573 a month). In this scenario, finding an off campus apartment and sharing with more roommates could very well be a lot cheaper, but it will depend on where you live on campus.

You will also want to keep in mind that most off campus leases are yearlong leases, meaning they don’t go by the semester and are not paid via your Ubill. If you don’t plan on staying in Ames over the summer, or will be on internship during the semester, be prepared to find a subleaser who can take your spot on the lease until you get back.

Utilities
In addition to paying your own rent each month, each rental agreement will most likely require you to pay some sort of utility bill –whether it’s gas, electricity, water, internet or cable. Depending on the utility company, you may need to pay a deposit if you’ve never held an account with them in the past. There may be some extra costs that come with paying for your own internet service, such as buying a router or paying a wiring fee if your apartment doesn’t come with sufficient hook ups. Don’t be afraid to ask the previous tenant or the landlord themselves to get an idea on how much utilities typically run for that specific unit.

Food
Now that you won’t be having a meal plan that provided 2-3 meals a day, you will need to factor in the cost of buying groceries and preparing your own meals. While ramen noodles may seem like the perfect college staple, learning to cook also can be a valuable skill! (Even if your version of cooking just means firing up the Pizzazz!)

Security Deposit
When you sign a lease for a new apartment, you will need to be ready to put down a security deposit. This is money you pay the landlord at the beginning of the lease, and is usually the equivalent to one month’s worth of rent. This is money your landlord will keep as collateral to cover any damages to unit they may find when you move out. As long as you keep your apartment in tip top shape and honor the other agreements on your lease, you should receive your entire security deposit back at the end of your lease.    

Credit Report
Your future property manager is likely to run a credit check on you before deciding whether to rent to you. Most students may or may not have a credit history built up yet but the landlord could use a different method to verify your credibility, like your employment history or your most recent pay-stub.

Renters Insurance
In order to protect yourself and your possessions in the event of an apartment flood, fire or theft incident, it is a good idea to get a renters insurance policy. This can usually be added on to any existing policy, such as your car insurance, and is very inexpensive. The average renter’s insurance premium is $12 a month!

Furniture
If you’re moving to an apartment off campus, you’ll need your own furniture, dishes, cooking utensils and other household items. The list of needed essentials can be long, so it’s always a good idea to check with your roommates first before you commit to buying anything. Thrift stores and sites like Craigslist are a great places to look for affordable furnishings.

Transportation                                                                                                                                                                   Depending on how far away your new digs are, you'll want to consider any transportation costs. With limited parking availability on campus for students, it's best to find a plan to walk, bike or take the CyRide bus. All routes in Ames are free for ISU students!

      

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