Find a Budgeting System that Works

When someone says budgeting some people find themselves cringing a little at the thought.

For many, the idea of a budget means less freedom and less fun. But the truth is that having a budget provides a lot more freedom in the long run.

To make things easier, you can use the word “plan” instead of “budget.” Everyone has made a plan at one time or another, whether it’s a small list of things to do, a get-together with friends, or a trip.

Making a budget is simply another form of making a plan. It’s figuring out how much you have coming in (income) and what expenses you have to cover (bills/spending). Your budget is a plan to have enough income to cover all your expenses while ensuring there’s enough left over to do what you really want to do.

Understanding how much money you have enables you to plan ahead for bigger things and provides you more freedom because you’ve already determined what you can afford and how you want to spend your money.

Budgeting can seem overwhelming but there are a lot of great tools and resources to help you get started.

Mint.com is free and does all the work for you. This online tool links to all of your accounts over a secure site and tracks income, spending and overall debt. There’s lot of features, including setting spending limits, email alerts, goal setting, and a mobile app.

Other ways of tracking your spending include resources such as Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar, Feedthepig.org, your bank or credit union’s online system, or a simple spreadsheet. Some people even use the envelope system where cash is added to envelopes each month and bills and expenses are paid directly from there.

No matter what system you find is right for you, it’s important to track your spending and know where your money goes. The more financially responsible you are, the more freedom you will find when it comes time to do the things you really want to do.

Note: some systems, including Aspire Servicing Center’s,  do not support automated integration with sites like Mint.com and may require you to manually input your info.

Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

This is Contributed Content. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information contained in Contributed Content are solely those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of Iowa Student Loan and/or this blog. See the “About” page for additional important information about Contributed Content.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Exploring Careers

This step-by-step guide can help you and your student explore available careers and decide on possible choices that suit his or her interests.

1. Discuss possible careers. Your student may understand what you and other adults in life do for a living, and they are likely aware of many other popular career choices like doctor, lawyer, educator and accountant. But they may not understand the wide variety of jobs currently available or possible in the near future. Here are some ways you can help your student discover more possibilities:

  • Point out less well-known professions as you observe them in daily life.
  • Mention the jobs held by relatives and associates. Be specific about job duties instead of using general descriptors like “She works with computers,” or “He works in an office.”
  • Ask acquaintances more about their careers within your child’s hearing.
  • Encourage your student to research job titles and related duties. Classified ads and job websites can indicate the most popular jobs today.

2. Determine interests. Help your student connect his or her own growing interests with possible careers. One way to do this is through career interest assessments. Some to try:

3. Understand related careers. Once your student better understands his or her current interests and the type of job that they may be interested in, it’s time to look at other related careers. These can be careers within the same field or they may simply share similar characteristics or duties. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook may be a good place to start. For each career, it provides:

  • Starting and median pay
  • Required education, training and work experience
  • Current number of jobs
  • Job outlook
  • Job duties or activities
  • Work environment
  • State and area data
  • Similar occupations

4. Experience actual jobs. To help your student understand whether a particular career would be appealing eight hours a day and five days a week, encourage him or her to work with current employees in that field. Adult professionals are often willing to share information with students who express interest in their jobs. Encourage your student to explore careers through:

  • Job shadowing
  • Volunteering
  • Internships
  • Informational interviews
  • Club activities
  • Online research

5. Connect skills to duties. As your student narrows down possible careers, he or she should think about the skills that can be developed now to prepare for those careers. Some skills are industry specific and can be obtained through academic classes or club activities, while others are transferrable to many different fields. Some skills highly prized by employers are:

  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Leadership
  • Self-motivation
  • Decision-making
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal

6. Make a plan. Help your student come up with a flexible and ongoing plan to achieve career goals. The plan can be revisited as your child’s interests develop and other circumstances change. Some concepts to include in the plan are:

  • Job outlooks
  • Geographical influences
  • Entry level and mid-career salaries for related careers
  • Cost of the education required to obtain a specific career
  • Academic and technical preparation

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Building Time Management Skills

Students of all ages need good time management skills to balance school, homework, activities, family responsibilities and just having fun. Here are some tips for building effective time management practices to last through college and beyond.

1. Figure out what has to be done.

  • Make a list of everything that’s required, such as sleep, school, homework, organized sports and activities, work, and family and household commitments.
  • Add in fun activities.

2. Determine the time commitment for each activity.

  • Plan for at least eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours for meals and personal care each day.
  • Use classroom materials or talk to teachers to determine adequate time to reserve for studying, projects and other schoolwork.
  • Incorporate additional time for meeting improvement goals.
  • Consider preparation for sporadic events like standardized tests, recitals and conferences.

3. Block out commitments using a planner or calendar.

  • Break big projects down into multiple stages instead of just listing a deadline.
  • Color-coding can be a visual cue for the most important items.
  • Ensure new assignments and commitments are recorded daily or as soon as they’re known.

4. Make a daily to-do list.

  • Put the most challenging or important items at the top to be done first.
  • Think about rewards for completing tasks on the to-do list.
  • Take along portable items, such as a book, notes and flashcards, to stay on track during idle moments.

5. Be strategic.

  • If procrastination is a problem, find out why. Is extra help with homework needed? Is it an activity that has become less appealing over time?
  • Discover the student’s best working conditions for completing specific tasks. Is it better to do math after school or after dinner? Is running better first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening?
  • Stay organized. A clean environment with all the needed materials at hand helps move things along with fewer distractions.

6. Develop a routine.

  • Set aside dedicated study time every day, even if the time of day must change periodically for seasonal or special activities.
  • Be consistent to reach short- and long-term goals.

7. Set priorities and resolve conflicts.

  • Remember that it’s important to set aside time to recharge and relax. Some students need time to read, be with friends, exercise, play games or enjoy other recreational pursuits.
  • Understand the consequences for not getting something done to help prioritize the most important items.
  • Approaching a coach or teacher with alternatives sometimes helps resolve conflicts, but understand that as pressures and commitments build, something may need to be dropped.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Comparing Salary to Debt

How do you know if you can afford a particular college or how much is too much to take out in student loans? One key indicator recommended by experts is a monthly student loan debt-to-income ratio of 8%–12%. An easier way to think of this is that total student loan debt, for all years of college, should be no more than the expected first-year salary.

Iowa Student Loan’s Student Loan Game Plan is an interactive online tutorial that walks students through this concept, as well as several other important points about borrowing for college, including:

  • Stories about the issues faced by real-life borrowers when they took on too much student loan debt.
  • Common choices students make that can affect their overall student loan debt level, including how long it takes to graduate, working during college, living arrangements and monthly spending.
  • A realistic starting salary and yearly borrowing level for specific college majors.
  • The ability to see how making voluntary interest payments during college affects total estimated loan repayment and monthly payment amounts.
  • A sample monthly budget for after college that includes income based on the user’s choice of major, student loan payments and national average expenses.
  • Tips for reducing expenses and the need to borrow to pay for college costs.
  • An action plan to commit to actions students can take before and during college to reduce overall debt levels.

Make your Student Loan Game Plan now.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Five Ways to Prepare for College Financing in Middle School

College may seem a long way off when your student is in middle school, but it’s time to start preparing to pay for education after high school. Use these tips to help you.

1. Know the goal. Although the cost of attendance tends to increase yearly, it’s important to have a realistic idea of the actual expenses your student will face. Discuss the possible types of institutions your student may consider in a few years, and then explore the current costs. A college website generally provides set figures for tuition, fees, housing and meals and average numbers for transportation, books, materials and personal expenses.

The cost of housing and meals can be as much or more than annual tuition and fees. Be sure to understand if the types of institutions your student may attend require students to live on campus or purchase a meal plan for a year or more.

2. Understand—and discuss—your financial situation. Help your student consider and apply to schools your family can afford by being honest about your current and future situation. Know how your assets will be considered when your student applies for financial aid and how much you are able to help your student financially. A college’s net cost calculator will provide an idea of actual costs for your student for the current year, but be aware that certain circumstances, like a family-owned business, may skew results.

3. Evaluate your savings options. Whether or not you’ve already put aside money for your child’s college expenses, learn about the potential savings options and the benefits and advantages of each. The most popular options include:

  • 529 plans, also called college saving accounts.
  • Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), such as Coverdell.
  • Saving accounts.
  • Savings bonds.
  • Certificates of Deposit.
  • Stock, mutual fund and other investment accounts.
  • Employer-sponsored education plans.
  • Trust funds and other inheritance or gift options.

4. Plan to minimize or avoid borrowing. The cost of a college education has risen to a point that it’s often not feasible for a student to finance it completely with student loans. Become familiar with these points:

  • Federal student loans carry an annual limit, with dependent students currently limited to $5,500 in total Direct Loans for the first year.
  • Most private student loans require a creditworthy cosigner, who will be responsible for the debt if the student fails to repay it.
  • Student loans are generally not dismissed through bankruptcy and remain the borrower’s and cosigner’s responsibility even if the student doesn’t complete a degree or obtain a job that pays well.
  • Student loans accrue interest every day, and any unpaid accrued interest may be capitalized, or added to the principal balance, at certain times. The new balance will then accrue interest daily.
  • The total amount to be repaid is usually more than the total amount borrowed, due to the daily accrual of interest and any origination, late or other fees.
  • Experts recommend total borrowing for a student’s education be limited to no more than the expected first-year salary.

5. Prepare for student contributions. Your student can help pay for college in several ways, beginning now. Discuss these with your student to get started.

  • Earning money before college. Will your student be able to work during high school? Consider transportation issues, available time outside of school and activities, and the student’s abilities.
  • Earning money during college. Again, your student’s ability to earn money during college will depend on several factors.
  • Earning scholarships and grants. These sources of college funding don’t need to be repaid. You can help by investigating scholarships that are currently available and reviewing the eligibility requirements. Your student can then take any steps needed during high school to ensure consideration.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Reading for Success

Even with modern technology and the changing pace of the world, reading — and understanding the text — still plays an integral role in success in college and career. But, more than half of the 2016 high school graduates who took the ACT standardized test didn’t meet ACT’s college readiness standards for reading.

These tips can help ensure students are ready to read for success.

Have books and reading material handy. This is easier than ever with e-books, online blogs and magazines, and apps for handheld devices. Whether you prefer electronic or print materials, keep them close to you at home and away to pick up whenever you have a free moment.

Make reading a family activity. Seeing others read for pleasure and information encourages students to do the same. In addition, family members who read can discuss what they’ve been reading and connect ideas and themes to what’s happening in their own lives, an important skill.

Spend time around books. Although it may be handy to shop for new reading material or reserve a book through the local library online, many lifelong readers spend time browsing through physical books at libraries and bookstores. This activity can raise awareness of unknown authors, different genres and new releases.

Get the most from your reading. Interact with reading material by posing questions as you read, making connections to your own life and the world, and rereading any passages that leave you confused. Other tips for reading textbooks or other research material include:

  • Check for comprehension by testing yourself and discussing with others.
  • Learn to properly take notes or highlight text to call out the important points.
  • Look up words you don’t know to increase vocabulary and understanding.
  • Try the SQ3R method of survey, question, read, recite and review.
  • Tutors are available to help improve reading comprehension for testing and schoolwork.

Read a variety. No matter your reading goals, one of the best ways to become a better reader is to read a lot of different types of material. Choose some easy reading and some challenging reading for fun, knowledge and discussion. Several different lists of books to read before college are available online, and fiction and nonfiction bestseller lists can also be a good guide. But don’t be afraid to pick up anything that piques interest.

Know how to find what you want. Library and research skills are important to discern reputable sources for research or studying, locating enjoyable materials and expanding horizons. A librarian or media specialist can help students, and classes that require independent reading, writing and research is a good way to continue to build on these skills.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Getting Involved: Nine Reasons Why

Opportunities to become involved in extracurricular, athletic and work activities abound. Here are nine reasons you should take advantage of at least a few of those opportunities.

1. Discovering new possibilities. Involvement in an activity could spur a lifelong passion, introduce career options and help define identity. For example, many students first find a love for debate or technology through school activities

2. Easing transitions. Moving from elementary to middle school, or from middle to high school, can be a big change in routine, relationships and environment. Continuing or discovering activities can help make the change go more smoothly.

3. Relieving boredom. Being involved in an activity often means hours of practice, preparation and, sometimes, travel, which leaves less time for boredom or less-desirable activities.

4. Relieving academic pressure. As the school work load increases, it may seem counterintuitive to spend more time on other activities, but the outlet is often a needed break from homework and studying.

5. Increasing academic performance. Research indicates that being involved in activities outside the classroom may play a role in improving grades and standardized test scores.

6. Building important skills. No matter what the future brings, skills like teamwork, cooperation, creative problem-solving, decision-making and leadership will always be important. Many extracurricular activities allow the development of these skills that are transferrable to school, family and future life.

7. Making connections. Whether it’s a coach, a teammate, a parent or a judge, involvement in many extracurriculars brings students into contact with others who may become valuable connections later.

8. Improving college applications. If college is the next step after high school, a record of involvement over several years can demonstrate a continued interest in a particular cause, activity or event. Colleges and universities appreciate seeing applicants who demonstrate that they are successful outside the classroom and will become active members of their academic communities.

9. Finding something for everyone. A variety of activities are available for students of all backgrounds and circumstances, including:

  • School, club or community sports teams
  • Special interest clubs like card or chess clubs
  • Academic-related activities such as competitive math or science teams
  • Fine arts groups, like newspaper or social media, drama, dance or music
  • Student government
  • Volunteering for nonprofit and service organizations
  • Career-related internships and jobs
  • Other jobs such as retail, babysitting and tutoring

By: Iowa Student Loan

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone
1 2 3 21