EducationFinanceSkills

Whether you are extremely cautious about how you spend your money or you only check your bank statement once in a blue moon, keeping on budget can be difficult when we least expect it. Maybe you grab dinner with a friend and it ends up costing more than you thought, or you need to make a last minute purchase that you can’t find at a discount. Whatever it may be, here are some ways to help keep you on budget no matter what hiccups come your way.

  1. Buy in “Bulk”. This tip may seem counter intuitive, but hear me out. Think carefully about the things you’re constantly re-purchasing, whether they’re razor blades, toilet paper, laundry detergent, rice, pasta, so on and so forth. If you know that you use certain things over and over without fail, consider buying in “bulk.” That doesn’t mean buying 1,000 units of toilet paper at a time, but instead of grabbing a pack of four rolls every week try buying a 16 or 24 pack online for less cost per roll. It may seem frustrating to spend more money than you’re used to at once, but in the long run you can be saving a lot more. Food can be a bit tricker – make sure you’re only buying non-perishable goods that you can store in a cool, dry space.
  2. Always Make a Shopping List. When you head to the grocery store or mall – or even a restaurant for that matter – without having thought through what you need, you’ll be more likely to throw unnecessary things in your cart that you want in that moment but regret later. Go through your refrigerator and pantry and sort out what you already have so that you don’t buy duplicates. When you go to the mall, park closest to the store you’re going to and make a beeline once you get inside. Don’t let your eyes wander or else your money might, too.
  3. Know What Your Necessities Cost. Sit down and plot out what you need to pay every month. This includes bills, groceries, transportation – the basics that you can’t go without. Add all those numbers up and subtract it from what you’re earning, and you’ll have a more realistic understanding of how much extra money you really have. Consider putting another 10-20% of that “extra” money away in a savings account. Without knowing your bottom line you’re sure to overspend.
  4. Set Aside Spending Money. It’s a great idea to build in spontaneity and fun into your life. Set aside a “fun” fund and keep that money separate from your necessities and savings. It might help to keep this extra spending money in cash form, so that you have a tangible idea of how much there really is to spend each week. Sometimes swiping a card allows us to dissociate from the fact that we are spending money, and we tend to over-do it.
  5. Create a Long Term Goal. Think about your financial goals. This doesn’t need to be super complicated. It can be as simple as “I want to save $100 in the next five months.” That means that you need to be putting aside $20 each month to hit that goal. Maybe there’s something you need to buy for work or school – figure out how much that will cost and set a goal to be able to afford it and in what amount of time. Long term goals can be as basic as you want them to be – the main point is that you’ll be learning how to save little by little and it won’t feel as overwhelming.

Good luck with staying on budget and let me know what your tips are!

Image: Flickr

CultureSkills

It’s the time of year where silver and gold are soon to be decking the halls, and while decorating for the season brings nothing but smiles, the decorations can get a little pricey! There are some great DIY ideas to bring the holiday spirit into your home without breaking the budget.

1. Table Décor

Grab some old bottles or jars and cover the outside of them with some holiday paper. Use a contrasting color to write words such as “Joy” or “Noel” with one letter on each bottle! A paper mache technique works great for these!

2. Favorite Cuddly Snowman

Use a lone, clean white sock to make your favorite frosty friend come to life! Using some clear hair-ties to separate each section of the snowman and some black and orange felt for the buttons, nose, and arms, Frosty will be finished in no time! Add some google-y eyes and you’re all set!

3. Rudolph Candle

Take a candle (preferably of a brown color) and go outside to find some branches to your liking. These will serve as Rudolph’s antlers and can be hot glue gunned to each side of the candle! Grab a red cotton ball to put on the front and voila!

4. Frosty Fridge

Possibly the easiest and most inexpensive of them all would be to make your fridge Frosty inspired! Grab some orange and black construction paper to cut out buttons, eyes, and a nose and tape them onto your fridge! Top it off with some holiday patterned wrapping paper to act as a scarf for your new Christmas friend.

5. Candy Cane Bouquet

This is a simple and adorable center piece for your table: Grab some candy canes, ribbons, and either real or fake flowers. Tie the candy canes around the bouquet of flowers with the ribbon, tie a bow, and you’re done. A cute and polished way to add Christmas joy to your table top!

There are so many ways to add holiday spirit to your home, and with Christmas right around the corner, the decorating has just begun!

How are you DIY decorating this holiday season?

Image: Stephen Nakatani

Culture

Halloween is right around the corner, and with that comes the stress of figuring out what disguise you’ll be wearing for the night! As a college student, you’ll likely find the need to have more than one costume at hand. Here is a list of simple, unique, and money-saving costume ideas to help you this holiday season!

1. Nail Polish

We all have a love-hate relationship with painting our nails, so why not make your costume a tribute? This costume idea is simple and can involve yourself or a group of your friends! All that is needed is a solid colored dress and white duct tape to be used to spell out the name brand “Essie” along the side. If you want to spend a little more money, feel free to invest in a white hat to act as a cap! Another cute addition to this outfit is putting a strip of duct tape towards the top of your dress with a flirty and corny nail polish name (because we all know those are our favorite thing) such as “Plum Play With Me” or “Teal Me Your Secrets”!

2. Sesame Street

Why not give a tribute to your childhood and go down memory-lane this Halloween? Gather your best friend and do a Cookie Monster and Elmo duo with the simple purchase of snapbacks dedicated to the characters as well as a few small temporary tattoos to adorn your cheeks! Pair with a black top and blue or red skirt and some black knee-high socks with Converse to complete the look!

 3. Gumball Machine

We all have a sweet-tooth especially around this time of year! Pick up an inexpensive shirt at the store and glue colored pompoms to it with all-purpose glue. Pair this with a red skirt and you’re sure to be a sweet treat!

 4. Valentine’s

Another simple costume idea involving a simple or solid colored dress is to be a valentine! Use colored paper to cute out a heart and write a phrase such as “Be Mine,” “Text Me,” or “Melt My Heart.” Attach it to a piece of yarn and wear it as a necklace to be coordinating with your friends!

 5. Retro

Everyone loves a throwback, and the easiest way to do this is to grab an old boa from your childhood dress-up wardrobe with a simple dress and bold lipstick! Top it off with some winged liner and you’ll be throwing it back to Gatsby!

Have fun, be creative, and enjoy the Halloween spirit in the air (and don’t forget to scare a friend while you’re at it)!

Image: Lenore Edman

CultureSkills

Before Macklemore made it cool, hipsters used to roam the empty aisles of local thrift shops, handpicking hidden wardrobe gems as the occasional indie tumbleweed rolled by. Fast forward a few years and a catchy chorus, and everyone wants to be a thrifter.

This new trend is really fantastic, because it means: less waste, less sweatshop labor, support for local non-profits and, of course, killer jumpsuits, sweaters, hats, and bowling shirts galore. Self-expression rocks.

Of course, with so many new thrifters on the block, finding those coveted diamonds in the rough has gotten more difficult, and prices have even gone up.

That’s why I’m here to share some tips that will have you poppin’ tags and takin’ names.

1. Patience, friends.

Sometimes you’ll have to search high and low before you find something you want. Other times, nothing will call your name. It’s ok to go home empty handed. Collecting as you go will allow you to slowly build up a collection or wardrobe of items you love.

2. Be willing to get dirty.

If you really want to find something worth writing home about, sometimes you have to go the extra mile. Sift through the entire wall art section; dig through the book bins and clothing piles. I know, it can be a battlefield in there sometimes, but stick it out and you might go home a very happy camper.

P.S. dress comfy and even consider wearing close-toed shoes if you’re heading to a massively popular store on restock day.

3. Research first.

Many thrift shops have great clearance events; call ahead to see if any are coming up. Additionally, ask what days the shop generally restocks its selections. Show up on those days! Be warned, they’ll get hectic at good thrift shops (see item #2).

4. Pay attention to the tags.

Many thrift shops have tiered pricing, meaning they will put an item out at one price, and then lower it a bit if it hasn’t been sold in a couple weeks. The price will continue to drop until the item is discarded to a clothing recycler. If you love that funny floor lamp but don’t want to drop $15 this week, check out the dates on the tags or ask someone working how long it has been out and if/when the price will drop. Just be aware – anything you’re not holding or don’t already own is fair game. That lamp may be gone tomorrow. It’s all about making the tough judgment calls.

5. Budget yourself.

A good way to make those judgment calls is to allocate the amount of money you’re willing to spend. Macklemore only goes in with $20 in his pocket. How much are you going to take? I like the cash thing, because it not only eliminates credit card fees, it allows me to control what I spend. Leave the cards at home or in your glove compartment, and walk in with your allotted cash as your only form of currency.

6. Throw out the gender stereotypes.

By this I mean that a large portion – we’re talking at least 60 percent – of my winter wardrobe consists of sweaters from thrift store men’s racks. They’re oversized and awesome. Don’t limit yourself to your gender’s section only. Gender stereotypes belong nowhere in this day and age, and thrift shops are no exception to that rule.

 7. Use your imagination.

Turn old drawer pulls into wall hooks, and key chains into necklaces. Get super DIY. A good way to get imaginative without losing control: when you see something you might want, envision its purpose in your room, wardrobe or wherever you plan to put it. Does it work? Does it serve a purpose of some kind? If no bells ring, don’t buy it.

8. Keep an open mind.

You may find clothes that scream “I’m weird!” But they could also turn out to be the coolest clothes you’ve ever worn. Don’t be closed off to finding things you didn’t expect to want. While shopping for my new apartment, I went to a thrift shop in search of a lamp. I left with a super cool bed. It happens.

It’s great to see thrift shopping growing in popularity, and it’s even better to see people rocking outfits that match their own individual styles. It’s also an incredible way to save money on clothes that you’ll be able to spend on other experiences. All in all, good things come from thrifting. Do you have any thrifting tips?

Image: Sabrina Dan Photo

EducationHealth

College is pretty expensive and not just because tuition is ridiculously high or because our wallets cry every time we purchase a textbook. Being a college student requires us to spend a lot of money because there are other expenses that tuition and scholarships don’t cover. For those of us who are dead set on avoiding the freshman 15, the sophomore 20, and any other amount of weight gain that comes with the mostly sedentary college life, then one of the most important things to have on campus is a gym membership. But for those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to go to a university that allows free access to the gym, I’m here to give you some alternatives.

  1. Walking/running: The good thing about living on or near a college campus is that there’s a lot of ground to cover. It doesn’t matter if your campus is huge or small, you can easily use the layout of the land to your advantage, and walk (or run) a few laps to get some cardio in. Bring a few friends along with you both for safety reasons and so you won’t get bored on your walk.
  2. Buy weights/kettlebells: You can easily find deals on personal workout equipment online or at any store that sells weights, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. Whatever you end up paying for weights will be a lot less money than what you’ll pay purchasing a gym membership at a university. And if you’re not sure what to do with the weights or whatever equipment you chose to buy, this next alternative will be of use to you.
  3. Workout DVDs/YouTube: There are many $5 dollar workout DVDs that are available to rent or purchase. Or if you don’t want to buy one just yet, get on YouTube and search for some workout videos there. They have a variety to chose from and a lot of them will get you started using any equipment that you bought. If you’re interested in yoga, you can find a variety of yoga videos and workouts that help target a specific area that you want to work on.
  4. Bike riding: Remember that bike that collects dust in your family’s garage? Not only is it a great form of transportation, especially on a large campus, but it will put those leg muscles to work.
  5. Sports: You don’t have to try out for an official team if you don’t want to, but you can get involved in club sports and intramurals to stay healthy and in shape.

Choosing any combination of these alternatives will get you into shape in no time and, more importantly, it’ll save you money in the long run. Exercise with a friend both for support and for safety, especially if you choose to walk or run around campus. Also, drink plenty of water and remember to stretch before and after every workout. Working out outside of a gym might take a little more effort, but that’s okay. Your health and body will thank you at the end of the semester.

Image: morguefile

SkillsTravel

There are a lot of ways to travel. For those of us who are perpetually short on cash, our travel usually won’t consist of beach resorts, luxury cruises, and designer shopping sprees. We won’t ever sit in first class and chances are we’ll get used to bunking in a hostel’s shared room.

For me, that’s part of the beauty of it all. Backpacker hostels or locals’ couches, public transportation and street food make for authentic experiences. Tiny obstacles, like bumpy night buses and confusing street signs, create challenges; they make you a little more vulnerable and open you up to asking for help. The opportunities that come with travel on a budget are so much more fulfilling than the ones that come with all-inclusive, first-class vacays.

I’ve certainly traveled on a budget. As a semester exchange student in Singapore, I survived on my savings, traveling about every other weekend. I had a few close calls, and by the time I arrived back on U.S. soil at the end of it all, I had $34 to my name. There were a lot of mistakes and lessons learned, along with some budgeting successes.

I recently shared many tips on traveling on a super low budget; aka, almost no money. Those involved a lot of working abroad. These tips, though, are all about spending every ounce of your free time soaking in your journey, and doing it on a dime.

Some of these tips are conventional, others you won’t exactly find in travel magazines. In the end, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. First of all, travel must be your priority.

If you want to travel but don’t have the money, it’s because you’re spending yours on other things. Every job I’ve ever held has paid me hourly, sometimes below minimum wage. But, I saved all of my money because I knew I wanted to do something sweet with it. I didn’t buy clothes, get my nails done, go out to eat nightly… I saved.

Take a page from my book – buy some wardrobe staples that you love, preferably from a thrift or consignment shop, and don’t spend on clothes for the rest of the year. Invest in some nail polish and remover and never get your nails done (or do it like me and have cavewoman nails year round). Invest in things that keep you from spending money long-term. It works, my friends.

2. Make every flight count.

Enroll in frequent flyers and rewards programs with an airline. You can end up redeeming your miles or points for free flights.

3. Night buses and trains are your friends.

Only fly regionally if you absolutely have to, and when you do, use Skyscanner.com to find the best budget fares. Chances are, though, you’ll be able to ride a bus or train from location to location, and night transportation doubles as transportation and lodging: score.

4. Similarly, public transportation is key.

For the love of money, don’t take cabs. Find a subway or public transportation map and get out there. It can be intimidating to step on a bus or train for the first time in a new city, so a few minutes of preliminary research can help – know the fares, which lines to take and which stops you want. If you’re going to be somewhere for a week or more, investing in a multi-day or -week pass is your best bet.

5. Rent bikes.

Many cities offer bike and motorcycle rentals. Depending on the length of your stay, this can pay off. You will save on cabs, bus fares and other transportation costs, besides gas if you go the motorized route. Plus, you aren’t at the mercy of a tour group or driver, and can go wherever.

6. Take a granola bar.

Or five. Plus a refillable water bottle (a simple way to save, unless your destination’s water is unsafe for you to drink out of tap, then you’ll have to splurge on bottled water). Pack small snacks that can double as meals. I’m a foodie – I really am, but eating bars for breakfast has never ruined any of my trips, and it’s freed up a lot of cash. Speaking of…

7. Buy groceries and use the local food markets.

Because you should be staying in hostels or locals’ apartments (more on that in a second), which almost always have kitchen areas. If they don’t, buy no-cook items, such as bread and lunch meat. Foodies, you can get creative with local ingredients, too, because local food markets have great deals on ingredients and staples that often aren’t available fresh or authentic in the U.S.

8. Make friends.

Local friends or friends who have been in your location for an extended stay (a couple weeks or so) can often recommend or take you to the best cheap restaurants, connect you with their cousins who can get you drink deals (or some similar scenario), even give you a place to stay or cook.

9. Speaking of drink deals. Facebook groups.

Join them. Facebook groups, such as Hazel’s Guestlist in Singapore, provides incredible deals, discounts and even VIP access for its members. It’s free to join these, and there are usually no strings attached. They just want foreigners checking out their nightlife and attractions.  Obviously use your best judgment; it’s pretty easy to tell if the group is a weird scam. And don’t post any of your personal information or whereabouts in these groups.

These groups are often promoted to exchange students because they’re easy to reach, so do a little stalking on Facebook. Find exchange student groups in your area; if they aren’t completely private, you may be able to see what discount websites and Facebook groups the students post between each other or that promoters post within the groups. Then, join them. Easy as pie, and it’s safe and allowed.

10. Stay in shared rooms in hostels.

This requires you to get comfortable with a little less privacy. It isn’t as invasive as it sounds, though. Most hostels offer the option for same-gender rooms and you will almost always receive a locker to stow your belongings. These rooms are usually very cheap, and in many regions and countries, cheap doesn’t mean dingy or unsafe. In fact, in most of Southeast Asia, we found sparkly clean, well-managed, very safe hostels for a few dollars a night.

The amenities are generally basic; you may have to bring your own towel and Wi-Fi is often non-existent. This is budget travel, we can’t have everything, and usually at good hostels you get way more than you expect for the price. Besides, friendly people, clean running water and a cozy roof over the head for a couple bucks a night is a true gift. Ask around, use Trip Advisor, or invest in a travel guidebook to point out the best hostels in your area.

11. Better yet, couch surf.

Couch surfing is free. I mentioned it in my previous article, and it really is a fantastic resource. Many of my friends have done this and spoken highly of their experiences.

12. Utilize hostel resources.

A good hostel won’t scam you. Obviously do your math when the front desk guy offers you a tour package, but excursions are often offered at discounts at backpacker hostels. Befriend the front desk people, too, because they can very easily get you some sweet deals and discounts. Just let them know what you’re into and get to know them. It’s fun anyways, because people who work in hostels are usually pretty interesting and magical.

13. Student IDs.

If you are a student, or still look young and have your student ID (pretend I didn’t say that), use it. There are student discounts and freebies everywhere. Be aware, though, that American student IDs may not be recognized in all the countries you visit; still harmless and worth a try.

14. International Student Identity Card.

You can register for these online and they come with discounts on travel and excursions.

15. Groupon.

It can be hit or miss, but if you find something you really want to do on Groupon’s site, it’s fantastic. Most countries have their own Groupon site. As a hint, read the fine print. I recommend not using Groupons for travel deals, because travel agencies and other involved parties usually hide the massive extra fees. Other stuff is fair game.

16. Set a budget.

Know what you want to do, and plan a little beforehand. You don’t need to map out a detailed itinerary, but know generally how much transportation costs within and to/from the places you want to go, where you can find cheap lodging, etc. Allocate the amount you want to spend per day, or per activity, and stick to it.

Generally, travel’s main expenses come in the form of lodging, transportation and food. Hopefully the tips above help minimize those expenses while allowing you to have an incredible journey.

Bon voyage!

Image: Buck Lewis, Flickr

SkillsTravel

Last week I talked about choosing a study abroad location. Choosing where in the world to go is exciting, but nothing can kill a study abroad dream quite like a look at the program price tag. Money doesn’t have to be your deciding factor, though. There are some things you can do to get funding and minimize – even eliminate – what you’ll have to spend on your program.

1. Scholarships

Study abroad scholarships are offered in a variety of capacities, including merit-based, student-specific (i.e. minority scholarships), destination-specific, program-specific (your home or destination school or program may offer scholarship options), and subject-specific (very common for language study, but also available for almost any area of study).

Studyabroad.com offers an extensive database of study abroad scholarships, and the Institute of International Education offers good search options for destination and subject-specific scholarships.

It’s important to pay attention to deadlines; many study abroad scholarships require early action. There are, of course, some that you can apply for on a rolling basis, with little time before you leave.

2. Study Abroad Loans

You can find a database of study abroad student loans here. The great thing about study abroad loans is that transportation and cultural excursions are eligible expenses.

3. Crowdfunding Websites

GoFundMe – This website is amazing. It allows you to quickly and easily set up a fundraising page with a goal, photo and description, and makes it easy for people to donate to the page. Another great crowdfunding website is GoGetFunding.com. Once you’ve created your page, share it via social media and email to all your family and friends, asking them to support you in your dream to study abroad.

In your email, it will help to lay out what exactly your expenses are, what their donations will be funding, and your study abroad goals/things you want to experience. Providing a suggested amount (keep it low so people aren’t deterred), and list what exactly that amount will cover (i.e. a week of groceries, an unlimited train pass, etc.) And of course, be sure to thank everyone and offer the option to pass on donating. You can even request that they share it with other friends.

You can select either a personal funding campaign or an all-or-nothing campaign. The all-or-nothing contains a goal and time limit, while the personal funding does not. With all-or-nothing, you only get donations if you reach your goal, whereas you get all donations from a personal funding campaign.

4. Find an exchange program

I did this, meaning my school exchanged me for a student from the school at which I studied. The reason this option rocked so much was that I had no added costs to my university tuition (besides my flight); my costs actually were lower because I didn’t have to pay my university’s housing or meal plan, plus all of my regular university scholarships still applied in addition to an extra study abroad one. Check with your university to see whether it has exchange programs, and how fees are allocated.

5. Holiday Gift Requests

Send out a mass email, e-card or letter to all family members and friends who typically give you birthday or Christmas gifts. Let them know that in lieu of gifts, you’re asking for funds to go abroad.

Like GoFundMe, list your expenses and goals, and why it’s so important to you to go abroad. You could even list interesting facts about your university and location; that gets people excited.

6. Local fundraising

This works well in smaller towns or suburbs. Ask local restaurants or businesses, particularly those that you spend time at often, to place a donation jar at the counter. While this won’t earn you outrageous amounts of cash, it is an effortless way to earn some extra spending money.

Be sure to leave an info sheet by the jar or can explaining what the fundraising is for and why it’s important to you.

7. Garage sale

Any type of sale is great, but I hosted a garage sale before my trip and made $600 from it. That paid for two months’ rent (my student housing was cheap) and it also helped me de-clutter, so it was a win-win. Hosting various sales, like art sales, bake sales, book sales etc. may, again, not earn you mass sums of money but can get you some good spending money.

If you really have a lot of stuff and your sales do well, you can even earn enough to cover your round-trip flight to and from your host country and more.

8. Odd jobs

Walk dogs, mow lawns, photograph events, babysit… anything you’re good at that can bring in some extra cash. All it takes is a little simple networking and some flyers.

So, between scholarships, loans and personal fundraising, you may be able to raise enough to study completely cost-free.

What tips do you have for funding a study abroad experience? Any creative ways to make money?

Image: Kristina Zuidema, Flickr

CollegeFinanceSkills

It’s time for college. It’s also time for budget crunching, piggy bank breaking, as well as money saving. Our wallets tend to go on a diet when we go to college, but here are some tips to keep your wallet saturated with healthy greens and to make yourself happy with those few extra bucks.

1. Price Comparisons for Textbooks

Unless you cannot find a book anywhere on the Internet, go to the student store on your university campus. Word on the street is that the student store charges more than the retailer themselves. Use websites like SlugBooks to buy cheaper priced books.

2. Go for Paperback Books

Paperback or hardcover, you’re still getting the same information, aren’t you? You don’t need the hardcover book. Find a paperback and use it whenever you can. Besides, paperbacks are much lighter on your back.

3. Renting Textbooks

Have a general education class such as Economics 101 that you’re taking to fulfill some requirement? Never going to open that book again once the class will have finished? Rent the book. Do not buy it. Though you cannot make too many marks (or any, depending on the rule), renting your textbook can save you over a hundred dollars. You can use it and access it at any point after it is delivered to you, and then you just have to ship it back on the due date, so make sure you take note of that!

4. Use Public Transportation or a Bike

Do not bring your car with you to campus, especially if you are a first-year. Paying for parking is quite a hassle, and can drain your wallet instantaneously. Use buses; they’re quite popular on college campuses, especially with universities that are small cities, such as Chapel Hill. Students usually ride for free, which is awesome because who doesn’t like free services and goods? Also, you’re doing the environment a huge favor by not emitting exhaustion gas into the atmosphere. Bikes are another good idea, as this investment can go very far, literally and metaphorically. Bikes are street safe and walk path safe, and you’ll be on-time to class almost every time.

5. Sell Your Old High School Stuff

I, for one, had a lot of old Advanced Placement (AP) guidebooks left over from high school. Though some are still useful references to me, a lot of them were not, especially for the classes that have nothing to do with my intended major and that I had placement credit for. I just sold it on Amazon and made almost a hundred dollars. Don’t limit yourself to just books—sell anything that you simply cannot use anymore (within reason of course).

6. Make a Budget

Try organizing your spending and income into a table such as this one:

Money Spent Item Bought Service Spent on Earnings
$3 2% Milk
$40 From Tutoring
$10 Getting Eyebrows Done
$100 Selling things
$50 Textbook

This is just a neat way to help you keep track of everything! You will never have to wonder where that one dollar went, and you’ll feel more in control of your money.

7. Work Study, Jobs, and Internships

This is perhaps the most obvious way grab ahold of fortunes during high school. However, it should also be remembered that jobs teach you the value of money. For some people, it’ll send the message of “Do I need to buy that Sephora lipstick? I have to use MY money.” You’ll rethink buying some of your coveted material objects, but in the end you will be glad you thought some of your monetary decisions and purchases through.

Money is all around us. We just have to know how to hold on to it. Learning how to be responsible with your money now can truly benefit you in the future. When there’s an economic crisis in the future, you’ll know how to handle it from your experiences during your youthful years. Best of luck to those of you going to college or are in college, and always have a positive mindset!

Image: 401kcalculator.org

Health

Many of us have started eating organic food because of the pesticides and herbicides used on fruits and vegetables. From Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” to the first U.S. organic standard, to the establishment of the first Whole Foods Market, the organic food industry has become an increasingly integral part of our lives – and our wallets.

Be it a difference of 10% or 200%, the price of an organic product compared to its conventional equivalent reveals its superior quality. Do price-makers take advantage of this? That’s your call, but that total number at the very bottom of your receipt speaks for itself. Many say that having a complete set of organic groceries is worth the purchase, but others can’t keep up because of the lack of access to organic products or the financial strain when living on a budget. It turns out that there are ways around this! There are some products that are worth buying organic, and others that just don’t make any difference.

“The Dirty Dozen” is a list that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) came up with that indicates exactly which fruits and vegetables are most pesticide-rich – in the order from most to least. The following 12 fruits and vegetables contain the highest percentage of pesticide residue in comparison to other produce.

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes (and raisins)
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Nectarines (imported)
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap Peas (especially imported)
  12. Potatoes

On the other hand, EWG also created a list that makes picking conventional produce much more relieving. It’s called the “Clean Fifteen,” and this list provides the produce that is, in fact, a safe conventional pick in the order of least harmful to cautious. This is either because they did not require the application of as many synthetic chemicals or the skin is thick enough to block off most of the harmful substances and can be removed before eaten.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet peas (frozen)
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet potatoes

Be aware that this is a fairly specific suggestive list of what produce to buy organic and non-organic. You can always remember a simple rule of thumb: if the fruit or vegetable has a thick skin, buy it conventional, and if it has a thin skin, go for organic. If the product has a thick skin, or even better, if you remove it before you consume it (like a banana or an onion), the pesticides are trashed with it. However, thin or bare-skinned fruits and vegetables (like blueberries or broccoli) scream “organic!” as they do not provide sufficient protection from the pesticides. Passionate scrubbing can always help, but the truth is that when these chemicals are applied directly on the surface you will later eat, they seep into the fruit and become a part of it. In turn, your best bet would be to buy them organic.

Conscious buying is undeniably important, but so is being a knowledgeable consumer. Buying organic doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing deal. When regarding produce, fruits and vegetables vary in their amount of pesticide residue. The premise of buying organic is to avoid these synthetic chemicals at all costs. Keep this information in mind the next time you are at a grocery store – it will be beneficial for not only your health, but for your wallet!

ExploreFinanceSkillsTravel

Most of us want to travel the world, yet so few of us actually do it. We plan to save up, but somehow we just can’t stretch our dollars; we spend them on stuff before we can spend them on trips.

Having traveled through much of Southeast Asia (and a few other countries) on a very limited budget, I have met travel experts with lots of advice, and developed my own money saving tricks. Next week I will share my budget travel tips, but this article is about traveling with almost no money and either cutting out certain expenses (accommodations, food and transportation), or earning money while traveling.

I read a very accurate quote that went something like, “if you want to travel, you either have to spend time or money.” If you’re willing to sacrifice a little time so you can soak in unfamiliar cultures, see the world, meet new people and grow, these options could be for you.

1. Hostel Work Exchange

These jobs often offer free housing (and sometimes meals) in exchange for work, or they will simply pay you hourly. Hostel jobs are fairly competitive, so if possible, it is suggested to arrive in a location a bit before peak seasons for less stress. (i.e. before May or June in New York)

This site offers forums for job seekers and hostel employers to post opportunities. Hostel Management is another good hostel job search site.

2. Teach English Abroad

Teaching is quite a commitment, so this option is not for those who are iffy about that.

Most salaried positions last at least a year. Many schools will pay for housing among other amenities, and some (primarily in Asia) will even cover the flights to and from the host country. Some locations pay better than others. I have friends who have paid off student loans and traveled Asia with the salaries they made in South Korea.

Getting a certification to teach English (TEFL) is not always required but will both prepare you and bump up your salary. The following sites can get you certified and/or placed:

Oxford Seminars: Awesome. Pricey TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification, but it includes classroom instruction, a practicum, a massively extensive database of schools in hundreds of countries and three textbooks to help you along the way. Plus, awesome like-minded classmates that can become travel buddies. As a former Oxford Seminars student, I recommend this wholeheartedly.

CIEE: I haven’t used this, but it’s a very reputable and reliable program that many friends have used to both teach and study abroad. They provide training and an optional TEFL certification.

People Recruit: This sends people directly to South Korea. A friend’s brother used this and had a great experience with it. It does not include a TEFL certification as Korea doesn’t require it.

3. WWOOFing

WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It pairs travelers with hosts and allows them to work on a farm, co-op, garden, or related space in exchange for food and accommodation.

WWOOF website for more information.

4. Odd jobs

These include working as a server/bartender, laborer, au pair, tour guide, and more. When you arrive in a location, look for “hiring” signs. Hop into restaurants and offices, bring your resume and be prepared to spend a little time unemployed and searching. Business cards help, too, but be sure they’re simple and universally useable. Additionally, highlight language and professional skills, and ensure you’re easily reachable within your host country (local phone number, provide email, etc.). This option requires more spontaneity, but it’s very doable and will offer some pay to live off of and travel with.

5. Working Holiday Scheme

Several countries offer working holiday visas and the opportunity to take on low-wage, seasonal jobs. The visas are available for people under 35 and typically last up to a year.

6. Skill-based jobs

You can do more than wait tables or answer phones if you want. It may take more digging, but will pay better and utilize your skills and any education you’ve received.

Alliance Abroad offers work placements before departure and provides accommodations. I’ve never used it but have heard it recommended before. They provide placements for business, event planning, food preparation and other skilled positions, as well as internships and general service positions.

7. Couch Surf

Couchsurfing allows you to link up with hosts in any country in the world and stay with them for free. Be sure to check up on the local culture’s etiquette so you know whether to bring a gift, buy meals, etc. Couchsurfers and hosts are generally open-minded travel-lovers who enjoy making new friends and helping others enjoy their cities. The database offers extensive reviews on hosts and ways to connect with other surfers.

8. Home Exchange

Swap apartments or houses for a trip. This allows you to stay, rent-free, in someone else’s home in your travel destination. HomeExchange is a good option for this.

9. Yacht or Cruise Ship Jobs

These are paid positions that include free room and board, meals and other expenses. These opportunities often go overlooked. While not a piece of cake, it is easier than one would think to find a safe, reputable job on a yacht or cruise ship.

Some good sites for finding service jobs on yachts or cruise ships include Crew 4 Crew, Jobs on Yachts and Cruise Ship Jobs.

Traveling with little money requires the traveler to let go of hard plans and remain open to sudden changes. It means time spent. It also often means no frills: hostels, street food, homestays, and sometimes a lack of western amenities. Challenges are part of it, though, and the memories and growth that travel create are incredible!

Plus, who knows? You may find your passion is teaching, farming, boating, or something you never dreamed of!

(Aside from friends and personal experience, Nomadic Matt had some great tips that helped with this article. He’s a fantastic budget travel blogger.)

What are your tips and resources for traveling paid or without significant expenses?

Image: Garry Knight, Flickr

EducationSkills

It’s almost that time of the year! In about a month or so, everyone will be lugging their boxes and suitcases  to their respective campuses. You more than likely have thought about the things you want to bring with you, and you probably have even made a list that is about ten pages long. When you realized you couldn’t move your whole house into your dorm room, you shortened that list to two pages. Either way, you’re all set to go to college. The only thing left to worry about are the textbooks you’re going to need for your courses.

Compared to finding a store that hasn’t yet sold out of Twin XL sheets, buying books might seem like the lesser of two evils. I mean, they’re just books, right? Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought when I waited until the last minute to buy the ones I needed for my classes freshman year. To make a long story short: I ended up blowing more than $600 on textbooks when I really didn’t have to spend that much.

Don’t make the same mistake I did. And don’t, I repeat DON’T, feel that the only place you can get your textbooks from is your campus bookstore. I’m not saying that you should avoid it like the plague because, though expensive, it may be your only option.

I am, however, here to tell you that you have quite a few options to consider before you resort to purchasing your books from the bookstore.

Here are alternative options for purchasing your college textbooks:

1. Chegg.com

Chegg is a website where you can rent and buy textbooks in both physical and digital format. Buying books off of this site will nine times out of ten save you a lot more money than buying from the bookstore. The same goes for renting, which is the option I highly recommend you consider. Chegg allows you to keep the book for the entire semester and they also provide you a prepaid shipping label to put on your box when you return your book, which means you don’t have to pay to ship your books back to Chegg. If you want to know more about Chegg, check out the website and see if it’s a site you’d feel comfortable buying from.

2. Amazon

One of the things I love most about Amazon is the fact that they give you a variety of price options for books. Don’t want to buy your textbook new because it’s about $200? No problem! Check out the used book prices. Whether it’s a hardcover or a paperback also factors into the price. Sift through the different prices, review each seller, compare ratings from their customers, and see which one has the best deal for you.  You might even find your $80  history book for a penny!

3. Campus Facebook Page

At the end of each semester or before the start of a new one, people will be trying to get some extra cash. One way people earn extra cash is by selling their textbooks. They may even post about it on Facebook, so check out any comments people leave on the college campus page to see if anyone is selling a book that you need. Better yet, post the list of books that you’re looking to buy and someone might be able to offer a good deal. You never know!

4. Book Loaning Program

If you can’t afford to buy textbooks, see if your campus has a book loaning program for students in great financial need. Find out what the process is to join and go about taking the necessary steps to getting involved with the program early. Programs like this may or may not have a limit to how many students they can accept, so don’t wait until the last minute to sign up!

5. Library

The campus library has a lot of books, including the ones you need for your classes. If you’re waiting for your books to arrive to your campus or if you can’t afford to buy books at that moment, check to see if the library has the books that you need. Chances are that the library will have them, but you have to be quick! The downside to relying on the library is that there may only be a few copies of a particular book and other students might be in the same bind as you are, which means they are more than likely going to be using library books to help them stay on top of their coursework as well.

There are a handful of sites like Chegg and Amazon that will allow you to save money on your textbooks. If you want to buy from them instead of using any of the options I’ve listed  above, make sure you do your research on the site before giving them your credit card information. See if you can find reviews about the site’s customer service because not all websites are legit or are reliable, so be careful.

Also, to be on the safe side, copy and paste the ISBN numbers of the books you need into the search bar of the site you decide to buy from instead of using the title. Textbooks tend to be offered in many editions because the companies who write them may update their books on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, each edition will more than likely have the same name. Using the ISBN number will guarantee that you’re buying the correct books for your classes.

I hope this article was of help to you! Remember, you don’t have to burn a hole in your wallet. Look for the deals that work for you. They’re out there, you just have to find them!

Image: mcconnors

EducationSkills

Growing up means independence. However, there is also new responsibility. An easy way to simplify your life? Create a budget. It sounds boring, but honestly it requires almost no maintenance and very little time to actually do. Here’s a simple way of creating a budget:

Find Out How Much Money Is Coming In

This is the easiest thing to do. Total up your paychecks, or if you are receiving money from your family, total up how much they are giving you. It is worth knowing how much you have saved in case of an emergency.

Total Your Old Bills

This one is a little less fun. Go through your old bills. Look back every month or every three months at everything you have spent money on. You will notice trends and and can figure out the average or the most you spent in the span of a few months. This way you can determined how much money you need to save every month.

Think of Upcoming Expenses

If you have tuition or a trip coming up, that will use up a chunk of the money you are making. You don’t want to spend what you don’t have. Plan for the future so you do not overspend and get blindsided.

Find How You Can Save

If you are spending more than you are bringing in, you will be out of money before you know it. The bonus of looking at your old bills is to see if you are spending too much money, and if you are then you can cut back. It’s always good to see where you’re money is going. If you don’t like what you see, you can change how you spend. Also, you can figure out a percentage of your money to save for later.

Set A Goal For Your Money

Now that you know how much money you have and how much money you are spending, you know how much money you have left. This could be spent on going out to dinner or for a more ambitious goal like buying a car or going on a trip. Plus, it never hurts to have an amount set aside in case of an emergency. 

This will keep you out of trouble with overspending and ending up in debt. More importantly, you will know how much you can spend having fun. Once you have a budget, you don’t have to worry about it and you just adjust with the big changes in your life.

Image: Sumall

EducationSkills

Debt. And debt. And then some more debt. We all know it’s waiting for us at the end of our four years in college, but that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice a new college wardrobe, right? Though it may be hard to part with your over-flowing closet of endless outfit options, here’s what you really need for your college wardrobe to stay up-to-date without breaking the bank:

1. Leggings/Yoga Pants/Sweatpants

Every college student knows that life revolves around leggings, yoga pants, sweatpants, and the life of comfort that comes with them! There’s a simple way to break down these basics that you’ll likely be wearing 75% of the week:

  • Leggings: When you want to be comfortable but still want to look nice. When paired with the right shirt these can totally be dressed up!
  • Yoga Pants: More casual and perfect for when you’re on the run from class to class but still want to look somewhat put together.
  • Sweatpants: Typically worn on those roll-out-of-bed mornings, sweatpants are the ultimate comfort luxury for when all you want to do is curl up in your bed and sleep the day away.

2. Shorts

As much as leggings, yoga pants, and sweatpants are the staple of every college wardrobe, the long pants just aren’t going to cut it during the warm weather that comes around during the beginning and end of the year. Shorts, particularly jean shorts since they match virtually anything, are the go-to wardrobe fix for this problem.

3. Jeans

There will be days, most likely around once a month, wear you decide to break out the jeans and look a little nicer than usual. Jeans will also come in handy when you want to go out but don’t feel like getting completely decked-out in a skirt.

4. Plain Shirts

Another absolute staple, plain shirts – both long-sleeved and short-sleeved – are going to allow you to get the most out of your wardrobe and money. These can be paired with any variety of bottoms and layered with the right cardigan, scarf, or jewelry, and they can be worn on any occasion.

5. Crop Tops and Skirts

Whether or not the party scene is for you, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience at least one during your four years. Crop tops and skirts are items that are typically worn, so it can’t hurt to have one or two of these stolen away in your closet or dresser!

6. Scarves

In order to dress up those plain t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts and to keep warm, scarves are a necessity. They’ll allow you to get the most out of your basics by making an already worn outfit appear brand-new while also keeping you cozy as the weather cools down.

7. Cardigan/Jackets

Like scarves, these add-ons can be a life saver when it comes to getting the most out of your college wardrobe. They’ll also help big time with transitioning into fall and winter weather. You can get the most out of those summer tops without freezing and still look stylish.

8. Flip flops

Two words: flip flops. The ultimate necessity that every college student needs. There are three very important uses where flip flops come into play.

  • In the Shower: Whether you’re in a suite or in a communal bathroom, sharing a bathroom with any amount of people is tricky business. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a pair of cheap flip flops to solely wear in for your bathroom adventures.
  • At Parties/Social Gatherings: There will be drinks and there will be spilling of drinks. Do yourself a favor and wear a pair of (preferably black) flip flops so you don’t have to go through the heartbreak of having your favorite (or worse—brand new) shoes ruined.
  • Everyday Convenience: As mentioned earlier, you’ll definitely have your roll-out-of-bed mornings and those mornings require no-hassle shoes. Flip flops are the perfect solution!

9. Flat/Fall boots

As the weather gets colder, you’re no longer going to be able to wear your beloved flip flops going from class to class. The smart choice that every college student should make is to have at least one pair of flat boots for everyday use. No wedges, and definitely no heels, are needed when it comes to trudging your way across campus!

10. Undergarments

This may seem extremely obvious, but I felt like this was a necessity to put on the list either way. Pro tip: stock up. Being in college calls for a lot of hours to do the three S’s: study, socialize, and sleep. That leaves little time to do laundry and even when you do have the time, you’re really not going to want to do it. Also, don’t forget to have a surplus of socks (we all know we’re bound to have multiple lone socks in the drawer after a month or so)!

Overall, these 10 categories should save you a lot of hassle when it comes to deciding what you need for your college wardrobe! Happy shopping!

SkillsSpotlightTravel

Welcome to the second installment of Dizzy Bats: Road to LP. By now, you all know Connor Frost, manager and lead singer and guitarist of Dizzy Bats. Dizzy Bats plays their first show tonight in Los Angeles to kick off their West Coast tour! In honor of their West Coast tour, Connor gives an in-depth look at what it takes to put a tour together, how to book venues, and shares photos from their Fall 2013 tour. 

tour poster

 

What goes into planning a tour?

There is a ton of planning and coordinating that goes into booking a tour. When booking the first couple of tours, you email a ton of venues in hopes that just a few get back to you. Depending on the venue you may have to get in touch with local artists in that particular town to fill out a night of music, or if you’re lucky, the venue/talent buyer will be able to fit you in on an appropriate night. Once you have a couple of shows locked in, then you can start to work from those dates and route your tour. You obviously want to limit the amount of miles you put on your vehicle, so you do your best to come up with a route that makes sense. Promotion is also crucial, namely getting on local radio to promote your music and show. Finally, lodging is the last piece. Most of the time you try to pick cities that have a friend or two, and thus, you have a place to crash.  That said, couch surfing and sleeping in the car are always options.

How do you determine where to tour?

It depends on what you are looking to do. If you’re a band starting out like we are, generally it makes the most sense to stay as close to home as possible and expand out your fan base in a concentric circular fashion. However, I myself have used touring as an excuse to travel to cities that I simply want to see, or to places that have warmer climates. It’s easier to do that when it’s just a solo tour because expenses are not as high. We also tend to pick cities where we know people so that we can A) have friends come out to a show and B) have a place to stay afterwards.

How do you book venues for each city?

I almost exclusively use this one website, indieonthemove.org, which is an absolute savior. They have a large and detailed database filtered by cities, ratings, etc. Once you’ve been on the road a few times, you start to make connections with venues you’ve played at and bands that you’ve billed with, so you can start booking shows through those contacts. It becomes much easier to book tours after you’ve been on three or four of them.

How much do you practice before touring?

It’s hard to quantify. It’s become a part of my everyday life, something I’m constantly doing and am completely immersed in, so I don’t think about it all that much. Before I hit the road I might run my set a few times I guess. For full band tours, we stick to practice once or twice a week which has seemed to work.

When on tour, do you still practice?

I consider writing to be practice, so yes!  I also see each show as an opportunity to better myself as a player and performer, so I also see that as a very important form of practice. If you’re talking about a set routine where I run my set, then no. I like to keep it fresh for the performance.  I do warm up vocally, however. For full band tours, we will literally sing our parts on our way to the show; usually not the whole set, but songs that we think need more attention. We’ll also go over game tape and talk specifics.

Why is touring important?

It’s not necessarily important for everyone, it really depends on what your goals are musically. For us, I believe touring is crucial for the expansion and growth of our fan base.  The internet is a wonderful tool for band development, but there is something magical about the live experience and personal connection that it provides for performer and listener that can’t be replicated on a computer. It’s the one true way to connect to a potential fan, and I don’t think that’ll ever change, which is a beautiful thing. Additionally, crafting and developing your skills as a performer is extremely important and can only be improved through playing and touring. I used to get really nervous before shows, but now that we’ve played almost one hundred shows in our tenure, it’s become second nature.

What is your favorite part about touring?

Meeting new people. When a stranger comes up to you after you’ve played to introduce themselves and compliment you on your set—there’s nothing more amazing that. That, for me, is why I do this.

How do you determine your set list?

It depends on whether or not it’s a full band or solo tour. For a full band tour, we like to mix it up with a different order for each show, and for solo gigs, I generally just play our newest songs. It keeps it fresh for me and I can see how the audience responds to these young tunes.

How do you budget for a tour?

Eat cheap, come up with a feasible route, and crash with friends.

 

CultureEducationSkillsTravel

Welcome to week two of Carpe’s “Travel Series.” This week, I share my best tips on how to travel on a budget. Having just returned from a semester in Denmark, I had the opportunity to take several trips and learn some important lessons on how to cut down costs while on the road.

TRAVELING ON A BUDGET

1. Create a budget. Before you buy tickets, book accommodations, or reserve tickets, consider how much money you will also need for food, transportation, and purchasing appropriate clothing if you do not already own it. Take in all of these factors and shape your budget around what matters most to you. If you care about staying in a hotel that is centrally located, you might need to spend less on dining out or on event or sightseeing tickets. If you care more about excursions, plan your budget around those activities. Create a simple budget spreadsheet and email it to yourself or print out a small version for easy travel access!

2. Stick to your budget! It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of being somewhere new, but if you are careless about your spending then the end of the trip will feel more like a headache than a vacation. Keep a small notepad or note in your phone documenting how much money you spend each day so you can calculate how much you have per day going forward.

3. Consider a hostel. Hostels can be a great option for cutting costs, especially if you are traveling in a group. The key element to traveling safely while staying in hostels is to check the ratings from previous guests, and to make sure that there are lockers with locks that you can rent to store your valuables. This option also works well if you are traveling with a group of 5-10 people, as most hostels have community rooms that are filled on a guest-to-guest basis. And remember to bring shower shoes, as bathrooms are often co-ed and shared by an entire floor.

4. Split with a friend. You learned it when you were young, and you’re about to hear it again: sharing is caring! Splitting meals and accommodations is great way to cut down on cost. Also consider coordinating outfits so that you can both bring half the amount of clothes and share along the way. Agree specifically on what you are willing to share before you leave for the trip or you might find yourself in an awkward position, whether it be not wanting to lend a favorite sweater or not being able to wear a pair of shoes you were counting on wearing. Talking beforehand clears up most of these problems and helps you pack more appropriately.

5. Bring a water bottle. Rather than continually buying bottles of water, bring along your own durable water bottle that you can fill with safe/clean tap water. This trick not only saves you money but helps you help the environment! Remember: you are not allowed to have any liquid in the container while going through security at the airport.

6. Use Space Saver Bags for clothing. Tip: Avoid “vacuum-seal” brands. Using space saver bags allows you to bring more variety of clothing, meaning you are less likely to splurge on an essential item you forgot to pack because you didn’t have space. I love these bags because I can fit more into a smaller space, bring a smaller bag, and travel more simply and conveniently. I’m not as worried about whether or not I will be able to fit my bags into the overhead if I’m taking a train, and having less stuff to keep an eye on means that there there’s more time for fun and less time for stress!

 How do you travel on a budget? We’d love to hear your tips!

P.S. How to stay safe when traveling.