College Students and Credit Cards: How to Avoid the Debt Trap

Most college students don’t have a lot of cash for extras; the rising costs of tuition, books, and related fees often requires a strict budget, even for the student that carries a part- or full-time job in addition to their schedule of classes. For this reason, having a credit card can seem like a godsend, allowing for additional funds to eat out, take a trip, or hit the clubs with friends. Unfortunately, it can also spell disaster for a kid that is away from home for the first time and has no idea about the trap that the common credit card can spring on the unwary shopper.

When you rack up debt, max out your card, and pay the minimum monthly fee (which is all you can afford on your salary), it could take you several years to pay off the debt (assuming you don’t make any additional charges) and you’ll end up paying way more than you ever intended to for your purchases. There’s no trick; it’s all in the fine print. It’s just that so few people really understand what they’re getting into with credit cards. Here’s how you can avoid the trap. Click to continue reading…

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Planning for Post-Grad: Take a Break or Jump Into a Job?

You’ve spent the last four (or more) years learning a trade (at least in theory) and now that you’re about to receive your diploma, you may be wondering where you go from here. If you were lucky enough to get an internship, you may have a job waiting for you. Ditto if you’re going into the family business or you happen to be top of your class and graduating from a very pricy law school.

But for the majority of students leaving school with a piece of paper that qualifies them for work, all that awaits is a lot of hustling (application and rejection). Click to continue reading…

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How to Avoid Bad Professors

In primary school, it is more or less impossible to effectively avoid teachers that are known to be awful. You either get assigned to their class or you don’t. Once you’re in, you’re stuck. Although many a parent has complained about a teacher being “unfair” to their child, it is the policy of most schools that unless there is abuse of some sort, a kid will stay in the classroom they are assigned to.

But now you’re in college and things are a bit different. You not only get to choose the classes you want to take, but even general education courses that are mandatory often come with several time slots and teachers to choose from. And once you get to your major study, you’ll be limited to a smaller department and faculty, but you still have some latitude when it comes to selecting the classes and teachers you prefer. So how can you tell which teachers to avoid? There are actually several ways to find out. Click to continue reading…

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Creative Ways to Save Money While You’re in College

Image by Ben Rollman

Trying to balance the cost of living with tuition, car payments, and basic living needs while you are going to school can be tricky. With all of the different expenses students are responsible for, it is often necessary to cut back on some items and get creative with your budget. Setting ground rules and goals is imperative to putting away some extra cash.

The first rule of thumb is to eliminate excess. Excess can be defined as any extraneous or unnecessary items that you can live without. For example, do you really need cable TV? With programs like Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, you can often stream television on your computer for free or with a small fee.

Additionally, reduce the number of times you eat out during the week. Eating out can cause an enormous drain on your budget. Get creative with your meals and try new things. If you have a stove available in your dorm or rental, host an ethnic foods night. Foods like lentils, rice, and beans are very cheap and easy to prepare. Sharing with other people means you won’t waste anything and you may be able to get your friends to host on other nights saving you both time and money.

Shop at discount stores. Hit up thrift stores for vintage clothing or discount racks for reduced price items. Look for bulk bins at grocery stores or co-operatives or try to buy non-perishable items like toilet paper and paper towels in bulk. You’re going to use it at some point, so you may as well buy it at a good price.

A car can be a source of major financial drain. Click to continue reading…

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Entertainment for the Week (on a Budget)

Times are tough. Most people find themselves tightening their belts in more than one area of their lives, and leisurely activities are usually the first to go. The economic downturn doesn’t have to mean all work and no play, though. All that’s needed for a thrifty week of fun is a few dollars and a bit of imagination.

Monday – Frugal Film Night

For an inexpensive film night, all that’s needed is a library card and a few friends. Movies that are checked out from the library don’t cost anything (as long as they’re returned on time!) and each friend can be responsible for bringing one “concession stand” item. Choosing a theme for the movies and the evening can make the night even more fun, and friends can get creative with the snacks that they bring.

Image by Ishikawa Ken

Tuesday – Wallet-friendly Philanthropy

Whether it’s offering to babysit a friend’s kids for free or working at a school bake sale, volunteering is fun, free, and fulfilling. Click to continue reading…

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