Staff Spotlight : Meet Julia Gwebu!

20 June, 2019

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7 Things to Consider Before Making the Move Off Campus

20 May, 2019

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 lived 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 $6,190. Dividing that rate by 10 (5 months in a semester x2) will determine your current monthly cost. ($619 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. If you're wanting more space but aren't ready to live completely off campus, consider an on-campus apartment through ISU like Frederiksen Court, or SUV. The cheapest apartment in Frederiksen Court (a 4 person, 2 bedroom shared unit) comes out to be around $484 a month. They come furnished, and tenants don't have to pay utilities or purchase a meal plan. 

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.

Financial Aid & Food
With typically signing a year lease, you will need to make sure you get August and January's rent paid in advance because you won't get your financial aid in time to pay by the 1st of the month. Our financial aid office only disburses financial aid the Tuesday before your classes start each semester, which is not in time to make rent if it's due the first of the month. It's really important to start budgeting that financial aid refund properly so you're not shorted on rent money by the end of the semesters! Also, now that you won’t be having a meal plan that provided 2-3 meals a day (or unlimited meals for some), 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 plugging in the quesadilla maker!)

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.

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! Check out this guide that explains everything you need to know about renters insurance. 

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 with their ID card! To get an idea of your nearest CyRide bus stop, click here

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. Here's a handy list of the things you may want to split up with your roommates!

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Summer Savings 101

06 May, 2019

Finals week is here and you know what that means -summer is just around the corner! With summer travel plans, upcoming events, and for some, moving costs for their new jobs, this season tends to be an expensive one. Take our advice on how to save some green this summer!

1. Grow Your Own Food

Growing your own food can really cut down on grocery bills. Growing your own food isn't just for hippies and retirees - see how easy it is to start your own garden (you don't even need a yard!). Growing your own produce is cheap, and it tastes better. Of course, if gardening isn't your forte, make friends with green-thumbed neighbors who will give or sell you their excess produce. Farmers markets are also a great alternative, since they are cheaper and carry some of the freshest produce available. As always try to meal prep during the summer to cut down on going out to eat, which can add up in a hurry! 

2. Summer Fun

For concert tickets and sporting events, we recommend downloading the app GameTime. They make it easy to get the best prices on last-minute tickets to events in your area – including Iowa Wild Hockey or Iowa Cubs baseball in Des Moines! Most last minute event deals can be as low as $6/ticket. If you frequent a water park or pool in the summer, consider buying a season pass instead of buying individual passes every time. In some cases, you may be able to use your student ID card to score student discounts. It doesn’t hurt to ask, so use the student ID to your advantage! When going on summer vacations, try to avoid all the expensive food that comes with traveling. Consider packing lunches and snacks for your road trips, and forgo buying food at the airport if possible. Hotel/Airbnb costs, airfare, car rental, gasoline and other trip expenses can add up quick, so saving on food is a must!

3. Savvy Wedding Guest

With summer comes another popular season...wedding season. Whether you're invited to a few weddings this summer, or maybe you're in a few weddings this summer, it can be expensive. As a bridesmaid or groomsmen, make sure to get fitted properly so you can avoid extra alteration costs. When it comes to being part of a wedding, DIY everything. That means do your own hair, make up, and even party decorations if you are in charge of planning wedding festivities. If you can, borrow shoes from a friend and go in on a wedding gift together.  Try to book your travel ASAP, too. The faster you look into travel, the more you'll be able to avoid last minute booking fees. To easily save money on the day of the event, consider sharing a hotel room with friends to split up the lodging costs. 

4. Monthly Bills

While we have all been long awaiting the warm summer days, we will start seeing higher electricity bills. Consider limiting your AC use to the time of day when you need it most. When you're doing something that involves sitting still, like watching TV, turn on a fan rather than AC. (Freshmen who have lived in older dorms know what it's like to live with a fan and no air conditioning!) When you leave the house, turn the AC down so it doesn't run during the day while no one is home. In addition, make sure the air filters in your air conditioning unit are clean – dirty ones will make your system work harder than it needs to, costing you money. If you don't know how to do this, be sure to check with your landlord. 

5. Moving Costs

While warmer temps and longer days may make summertime the best time to move for most, its steep moving prices are often a serious deterrent for many. From moving companies and moving containers to truck rentals to storage facilities, most moving services are in high demand during the summer months making them especially expensive (and sparse!) from May to September. If your lease is ending this summer and you're planning to make a long distance move, consider getting quotes from multiple moving companies. This will ensure you receive the best price and services available. 

Wishing all of our students a safe, fun and savvy summer!

 

April is National Financial Literacy Awareness Month!

22 April, 2019

April is National Financial Literacy Awareness Month! In efforts to highlight the importance of financial literacy and teach students how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits, our staff at the Student Loan Education Office want to help you! We hope you stopped by the Be Well Hut on campus or took a ride to class on our CashCab to receive some freebies and coupons. We had a lot of fun!

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So what is financial literacy? Financial literacy is the education and understanding of various financial areas including topics related to managing personal finance, money and investing. For some people, it may require knowledge and building new skills. For others, it may mean unlearning bad habits. Like spending your whole paycheck on frivolous things or ignoring your credit card bill! For some it could mean a change in attitude – like choosing to be your own financial advocate. We can help you get there!

Here are a few tips to help you "Spring" into financial wellness.

1. Dust off your credit report
Check your credit report at least once a year to correct errors and detect unauthorized activity. It’s free and it’s yours, so make sure you know what’s in there. Remember, only one web source is authorized to distribute this information to you for free once a year: www.annualcreditreport.com 

2. Learn your federal student aid and repayment options
Graduation is just around the corner. Whether you are just starting your college career, or getting to the end of your four years, don’t miss out on the many federal grant and low interest rate loan options available to almost everyone. File your FAFSA on time, apply for scholarships, and make sure you complete your exit counseling during your last semester at ISU! During this session, you'll explore the payment options for your loans, and create a post graduation budget. 

3. Take a course on personal finance
HDFS 183 is a one credit one-credit introduction to managing your money offered both online and in-class. The course covers the student’s perspective on credit, credit cards, debt, financial aid, savings, insurance, and taxes. The class provides an introduction to basic concepts and budgeting practices for management of resources and prevention of financial problems commonly associated with college, including credit and student loans. There is also a 3 credit course, HDFS 283, which goes into a more thorough exploration of personal finance management but from a family perspective. If your schedule permits, these are great classes to take as an undergrad!

4. Seek help
Navigating the financial marketplace can be overwhelming. Prepare yourself with these helpful checklists and tip sheets before making your next financial decisions. It's never too late to start becoming "Financially Fit!" https://www.nelnet.com/Get-Financially-Fit/ Want to learn more? Attend one of our Lunch & Learn Money Management Workshops this week! These are free and available to all current ISU students! If you would like the slides sent to you, please email Megan Moore at moorem@iastate.edu If you would rather meet one on one, our staff are available on ISUappointments!


Student Loans & Credit : How to pay them off, and build your credit
Tuesday April 23 12:30 – 1:30 PM 2300 Marston Hall
Wednesday April 24 12:00 – 1:00 PM, 2200 Marston Hall


This will be an introductory lesson on the basics of student loans, the repayment process and how loan borrowing and other financial decisions may affect your credit. Students will learn how to find their federal loan servicer, track or monitor their credit, and estimate their future student loan payments. All students are welcome to attend and any personal finance questions you may have are welcomed.

Happy National Financial Literacy Awareness Month!

 

A Mid-Semester Review : Recovering after Spring Break

25 March, 2019

The week after Spring break brings many mixed feelings. Maybe you're still half asleep from that road trip to South Padre, or maybe you are feeling broke as a joke refreshed and excited about finishing your Spring semester! Yes, the end is nearly in sight with only 7 weeks left! With that in mind, you may be starting to add up your attendance and assignment points and calculate your "worst possible grade." By this determination, you may realize your studying habits are paying off well. By giving yourself this mid-semester review, you have determined that you will have no problem passing the course by the end of the semester and are that much closer to graduation!

On the same note, as staff at the Student Loan Education Office, we believe the same mid-semester review process should be applied to your finances. If you did not completely adhere to a monthly budget, it’s time to re-visit your financial budget to see how your actual expenses compare with the amount you had planned to spend each month. It’s never too late to get back on track.

Monitor Variable Expenses

First and foremost, it’s very important to understand where your money is being spent so you can make necessary cuts or adjustments. Yes, there are certain fixed expenses that you won’t be able to cut. For instance, your rent, your car payment, insurance, cell phone bill, utilities, etc. Instead, consider cutting down the variable expenses, like dining out, trendy clothing and entertainment purchases. After all, those are the items that break our budgets the most.

Let’s imagine you have met your allotted entertainment budget for the month. You’ve gone out to eat with friends, bought a few video games, and a concert ticket. If you went on a Spring Break trip, your entire entertainment budget has probably already been spent and then some. As part of maintaining your budget and staying on track, you must forgo any other entertainment type expense until next month. This may seem inconvenient and difficult at first, but it will become easier overtime to say no to those discretionary purchases. Ultimately, these potential savings will carry over into next month’s budget and keep you from coming up short every month.

It's also a good idea to check on that financial aid refund you received a few months ago. Do you have enough to get you by for 7 more weeks?

Find Ways to Increase Your Income

If limiting your expenditures each month seems too daunting, or you want to find a way to afford certain purchases, and you don't want to ask mom or dad for money, consider finding a part time job. The earned income from a part time job can help buffer both the cost of tuition and daily expenses. There are many part-time employment opportunities available for students, both on campus and off campus. We recommend working during the school year because students who secure part-time jobs gain valuable experience to aid in job placement upon graduation. By having a part-time job, students can also help reduce their own loan indebtedness. One of the first places to start looking for job opportunities is the Student Job Board on your Access Plus account.

For many students who already work, taking a week off from working can be detrimental to their budgets. You may feel shorted by the time you get your next paycheck. If you don't have savings, discuss with your supervisor if you are able to pick up a few extra hours to help catch up, or make the decision for the next couple weeks to eat ramen every day to be very frugal with your money.

Review and Forgive

Remember, maintaining a budget is not an art to be mastered overnight. It may take several trials until you feel completely comfortable with tracking your monthly budget. Regular review and maintenance of your budget will keep you on top of your finances and can help you plan for bigger, unexpected expenses months ahead. If Spring Break left you feeling drained, try to better plan for your next trip. Yes, even the savviest savers have slip ups. It’s important to forgive yourself for small spending mistakes and get back on track. It may seem like learning a foreign language at first, but sticking to a monthly budget is key to a successful financial future. #adulting 


Still feeling lost? Set up a budgeting session with one of our counselors through ISUappointments and see how easy creating a personal budget can be!

How to spot a student loan scam

11 March, 2019

With all the robo calls and suspicious emails, how can you know for sure that you are being contacted by a scammer? Student loan scams are becoming more widespread and we don't want you to fall victim. In general, you should never pay for help with your student loans. Free assistance with managing your loans is provided by your federal loan servicer. However, some private companies provide (or claim to provide) student loan management services for a fee. Often these companies are not reputable and are working to scam you out of your hard earned money. Here’s how you can spot a student loan scam!

1) They request an upfront fee or charge for their services. This is red flag number one. Many of these fraudulent companies promise that they can save you money on your student loans but you must pay a fee to “activate” their services. Do not give your bank account information over the phone or through email! Free assistance is available through your federal loan servicer if you need reputable information on managing your student loan debt. We can also help you disseminate whether a company is scamming you, AND we can help give you some student loan debt saving tips! For. Free.

2) They promise loan forgiveness or loan cancellation. This is red flag numero dos. Basically, if it sounds too good to be true –it probably is. There are two federal programs for loan forgiveness, including Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. You will work with your servicer on becoming eligible for these programs, and not a third party. Loan cancellation is very rare with federal student loans. Ultimately, unless you die or become permanently disabled, your loans will never be cancelled. We’re sorry to be blunt, but these are the facts. More information on that here.

3) They ask for your personal information. This ties back to the golden rule of identity theft prevention. Never give out personal information over the phone or through email. The Department of Education or your loan servicer will never call you and demand your FSA ID and password, just like the IRS will never call you to ask for your social security number. These scammers are successful because they can get personal information from consumers very quickly over the phone. These are phishing scams and it's best to not take the bait!

Think you’ve already been a victim of a student loan scam? Act quickly. You may report this fraudulent activity online via The Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They have already taken legal action against many student loan debt relief companies. If you’ve already given out your information, be sure to change your account log in credentials, contact your servicer to revoke access to any third party agreement that may already be on file, and contact your bank to stop payments if they are being withdrawn. 

If you need assistance with any of the above information, let us know! We can help you identify the loan scammers, and let you know who you can trust. 

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