7 Tips for Looking Good on a Budget

23 July, 2019

Your physical appearance is usually the first thing people notice about you. As a college student, when you're starting to interview for internships and full time jobs, a great first impression goes a long ways. A lot of experts say looking good on the outside starts from the inside. Remember to drink enough water, eat a balanced diet, and get active for at least 30 minutes a day. Multivitamins are also a good way to make sure you are getting the extra nutrition you need for staying healthy. 


The first step to looking good on a budget is pretty straightforward -create a budget. Start by looking at your income versus expenses and needs versus wants. Once you have all your expenses and needs paid for, the left over money can help you splurge on the wants. In some months, your expenses will cost more and that means less money to splurge on and you may have to forgo that trip to the salon. However, when you do have left over money, use the tips below to get the most out of your budget.



1. Buy the basics. If you have a collection of basic pieces, like a plain colored shirts, you can wear them with virtually any colored or patterned bottoms. Or you can buy plain colored bottoms and go for fun tops. Basics are necessary in changing up your outfits so you don’t feel like you are constantly wearing the same thing all the time.

2. If you need a specific piece of clothing for a special event or for a job interview, start by looking at reasonably priced department stores (Dillard’s, J.C. Penney’s, Marshalls, and T.J. MAXX.) These stores get name brand clothing items for less which is a good way to get high quality pieces without paying the price.

3. Finally, thrifting is a great way to save money. It can be kind of frustrating to have to dig around racks of clothes that have no order, but it feels like hitting the jack pot when you find something cute for way less.



1. Join reward programs at places you shop frequently for makeup or skincare. Reward programs are free to sign up for and give great benefits. Places from Sephora to CVS all have reward programs that give points that can be redeemed as a discount on later purchases. Also if you join reward programs they tend to send coupons in the mail or via email. Combining the points and coupons can lead to great savings.

2. Only buy what you need. Facemasks that have glitter in them may be screaming “buy me,” but it isn’t need on a daily basis. Splurging every once in a while is fun, but they make as great gifts for holiday or birthday presents.

3. Finally, shop around. Places like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls have started carrying makeup and skincare in their stores. Their stores may be hit or miss when it comes to finding what you need, but if you find what you are looking for you will save a lot of money. Ulta and Sephora are known for their variety of beauty products, but they can be pricey. Make sure you buy when they have a sale or if when you have redeemable rewards points.


Written by: Lillie Perry, Peer Mentor

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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.

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.

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

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!



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!


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