Easy Ways to Save Money Over Winter Break

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As you finish up finals and prepare for a nice long winter break, think about how you can save money over the holidays. These easy tips can help you avoid extra charges next year.

To Do Before You Go

1. Plan a cheaper way home (and back)

If you live several hours from college, consider these ways to save money on transportation.

Carpool. Seek out students from your hometown or a nearby area and share a ride. To find someone heading in the same direction, look at sites like Ride-Share.com. For a fair split of the costs, check out apps and online carpool cost calculators.

Ride the bus, train or plane. Check out Megabus for regional bus travel or Greyhound for long-distance bus trips. Amtrak offers student discounts on train travel, and StudentUniverse advertises low plane fares for students.

2. Go green to save green

Save money on your off-campus utility expenses by reducing the amount you’re billed for while you’re away from college.

Dial back. If you have your thermostat set for toasty temps but your rented apartment or house will be empty over the long break, turn it down to save on utility bills. Just make sure you keep it warm enough—about 50 or 55 degrees—to prevent frozen pipes or other damage.

Unplug. Docking stations, computers, TVs and other items use standby power when they’re idle. Unplugging what you can will save some money on your electric bill and help prevent problems from a power surge.

3. Winterize your ride

Do what you can to avoid the costs—and other complications—that stem from being stranded or in an accident.

Give your car the once-over. Check your battery, wiper and other fluids, wiper blades, heating and defrosting systems and brakes. Also check your oil and, if needed, get an oil change. Plan to always have at least a few gallons in the gas tank while temperatures are near or below freezing. Finally, make sure your tires are not too worn to be safe and consider snow tires if you will be driving in winter conditions.

Prepare for trouble. Make sure you have what you need if you do have a car emergency. Check your spare tire, jack, jumper cables and tow rope. Add winter supplies like sand or kitty litter for traction if you get stuck, antifreeze for gas lines and windshields, a small shovel and a snow brush with an ice scraper. Bottled water, nonperishable snacks, blankets, chemical hand warmers and a battery pack for your phone are also good ideas. While driving long distances, stop often for gas in case you need to run the engine to stay warm. (Always make sure the tailpipe is not blocked and no fuel is leaking before running a stranded car’s engine.)

To Do Over Break

1. Get a checkup (or a few)

Schedule appointments for dental, eye and general health checks, as well as any follow ups you need with specialists. Maintaining your health can help you avoid more costly episodes later, and many insurance providers offer a discount for annual exams. While you’re there, ask your doctors about any alternatives or generics that can save you money on prescriptions and supplies.

2. Use your student ID

You might be in the habit of asking for student discounts around campus, but your hometown retailers, restaurants and other venues may also offer savings if you show your student ID. Many online providers also offer special pricing for students.

3. Gift from the heart

If you’re planning to exchange gifts with old friends or family over the holidays, think about homemade (and heartfelt) gifts that cost less. Simple sewing projects, photo gifts, baked goods or crafty arrangements will be appreciated by all. Alternatively, suggest a group outing where you can split admission fees and costs instead of exchanging presents.

By: Iowa Student Loan

15 Ideas for Making Money During Winter Break

Depending on your school’s calendar, you may have from two to four weeks away from school with little or no academic commitments, which leaves you plenty of time to earn extra cash which could be used to reduce your need for student loans or allow you to pay interest on current student loans to reduce your balance.MoneyOverWinterBreak-infographic

Download a PDF of this infographic

Here are 15 ways you can make money over your break.

1. Find a paid internship

Make money and gain valuable experience at the same time. Check with your campus career services office for available opportunities near campus, or contact companies in your field close to home.

2. Apply for scholarships

Spend several hours researching and applying for the scholarships you were too busy to look at during the academic session.

3. Work retail

Many retailers take on seasonal staff to help with the preholiday rush, post-holiday sales and gift returns.

4. Turn your existing part-time job or internship into a full-time position

Your employer may jump at the chance to give you more hours to offset other employees’ vacation time or to help handle year-end projects.

5. Babysit for busy parents

Besides the extra commitment of holiday parties and travel, many parents also seek temporary, full-time sitters for school-age children at home during winter break.

6. Take care of Fido (and Bessie)

Pet owners who will be away for an extended period of time may prefer to have a responsible person come in to feed, exercise and clean up after their furry friends. If you live in or near a rural area, don’t forget that farmers often need someone to take care of their stock every day. Advertise early to line up several commitments over break.

7. Be a house-sitter

Homeowners will often pay a responsible person to stay in their home, water plants, set out garbage and take care of other tasks while they are away for a long trip.

8. Sell your stuff

While you’re at home over break, take the opportunity to go through clothes, electronics, books and other belongings you no longer need. You can take them to consignment shops or sell them yourself online.

9. Be the designated driver

With holiday parties in full swing, more and more people turn to Uber and other driving services.

10. Promotional campaigns

Offer your tech and social media savvy to businesses who want to promote products or holiday sales. A few hours of your time can be worth a lot of money to business owners who don’t have the time or knowledge to set up their own campaigns.

11. Put your creations up for sale

If you’re artistic or crafty, a little time designing holiday cards, decorations or gifts can pay off when you sell them online or at flea markets.

12. Fill in on or near campus

It may sound strange to spend your break on campus, but if you have a place to stay, you may be able to find a temporary position taking shifts for other students who’ve gone home. The bookstore, area shops and campus offices may need help preparing for the spring semester while some of their regular staff is out.

13. Teach a class

Work with local gyms, libraries and shops to set up special classes in something you know well and can teach others — a great workout for sedentary office workers, a how-to for smartphones or apps, creative cooking for the budget-conscious.

14. Do the legwork

Do any local businesses need help distributing fliers or making holiday deliveries? While you’re doing your own holiday shopping, keep an eye out for an opportunity to offer your services.

15. Take care of not-so-odd jobs

Advertise your availability to run errands, wrap gifts, hang holiday lights and shovel snow.

 By: Iowa Student Loan

4 Tips for Scholarships

Scholarships are a great way to help you pay for college, so that you can keep your potential debt down when you graduate. Start with these four scholarship tips.

Scholarship Tip: Start Your Search Online

There are many scholarships available, and the Internet is a great place to start your search both locally and nationally.

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Scholarship Tip: Help Pay for Graduate School

Your scholarship search should not stop after you graduate with your bachelor’s degree. Many opportunities exist for students continuing their studies.

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Scholarship Tip: Nail Your Application

While you may be ready to write a scholarship essay, make sure you don’t miss small details that may or may not make you ineligible.

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Scholarship Tip: Essay Writing

If you’re applying for scholarships, you will undoubtedly have to write some essays. Take your time and do it right to help improve your chances.

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By: Iowa Student Loan

Replacing Non-Renewable Scholarships

As the academic year comes to a close, many college students face a harsh financial reality: Scholarships and grants that made the current year affordable will soon come to an end. Some awards are only intended to be applied to the first year of college; others carry renewal requirements, such as a minimum GPA or a specific major, that go unmet.

If fewer scholarship and grant funds will be available to you or your student next year, start planning now to make up the shortfall. Here are three ways students may replace non-renewable scholarships.

1. Find new scholarships.

Although many scholarships are available to freshmen, you may be able to find scholarships for upperclassmen with a little effort.

  • If you have settled on a major, start with your academic department or college. Search the department website, visit the departmental office and talk to your academic adviser.
  • Stop in the campus financial aid office and see what scholarships are offered to students who have your academic and extracurricular interests.
  • Check with professional and pre-professional organizations about programs to help students in your intended career field.
  • Search online databases for upperclassmen scholarships. Certain scholarships like those offered by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and the Morris K. Udall Foundation are only for upperclassmen, while others allow applicants of any undergraduate level.
  • Look for local and small scholarships. A lot of students tend to compete for national and large scholarships. You may have better luck standing out among applicants for smaller and local awards.

2. Increase earnings.

If you are unable to earn new scholarships, you may want to consider adding work hours.

  • During the school year, you may be able to find positions on or near campus that allow you to prepare for your intended career while earning money. Look for jobs as a teaching assistant, tutor or research assistant.
  • Resident Assistants in the dorms may qualify for reduced room and board costs, while other campus positions may allow you to study during slow times. Businesses near campus often hire college students during the academic year as well. Even part-time positions can pay well over time.
  • Over breaks, you can work more hours to increase income. Summer research on campus or for private, nonprofit and government organizations can help you create career connections.
  • If you need an internship to meet graduation requirements, look for paid positions that will offset your tuition, housing and transportation costs. Some colleges and organizations also offer stipends to help students who have an unpaid internship or co-op.

3. Lower costs.

Especially in combination with increased earnings, lower costs can help you make up for the loss of non-renewed scholarships.

  • Consider living off campus. Carefully weigh the cost for paying rent (most leases run a full year instead of the 10-month academic term), furnishings, utilities, groceries and transportation against room and board rates to determine if moving will save you money.
  • Even small changes can help you save a large amount of money if you are consistent and diligent.
  • Plan ahead when purchasing furnishings, supplies and books to save. Make sure you take advantage of the least expensive option that will allow you to succeed.
  • Stick to a budget to cut costs year-round. Know where you can save the most money with a little effort.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Five Advantages to Working During Breaks

If you need to build up savings for college and living expenses, think about a job during holiday and spring breaks.

Here are five advantages to working during school breaks.

Maintain your regular study schedule.

Because you don’t have classes to take up a large part of your day, you can often dedicate a large chunk of time to your job. If your break also falls between school terms, you can devote even more hours to earning money since you won’t have studying or homework to do.

Build up earnings.

You may be able to work 40 or more hours a week to maximize your earnings in a short period of time. Even better, while you’re working many hours, you have less time and opportunity to spend your earnings, so you’re able to save more to reach your financial goals.

Take advantage of openings.

Many employers need extra, short-time help to deal with the increased workload during the holidays. Besides standing behind a cash register, you may be able to find positions to help with stocking, holiday displays, returns and exchanges, or filling in for others who are on vacation. Seasonal employment is also more widely available.

Gain work experience.

You may find it easier to land a paid internship or co-op position for a short break than you would for an entire semester or school term. Even jobs that aren’t directly tied to your intended career can provide valuable transferrable skills.

Create a relationship.

As a reliable seasonal employee, you may be able to return to the same position, or more advanced positions with the same employer, break after break. You may even be able to land a permanent position or develop a network of mentors who will help you after college graduation.

See additional ideas for making money during breaks.

By: Iowa Student Loan

After the Award: Why Grades Matter for Financial Aid

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You know that awesome feeling you experienced when you realized your grants and scholarships will cover a hefty chunk of your college cost? The relief that now you could focus more on college life instead of solely on your grades?

Not so fast. You should know your grades will likely still matter if you want to keep your aid each year. Here’s why.

1. You may need a minimum GPA to renew certain scholarships and grants.

Many renewable or multiyear scholarships and grants require you to maintain a minimum GPA in college to renew the award. The exact GPA required each semester or term will depend on several factors, such as:

  • The minimum GPA set by the entity that provided the award. Make sure you understand the requirements for each renewable award. Also, check whether there is a probationary period if you fall below the minimum and whether that must occur in your first year or you may use it any time.
  • Whether you need to maintain a certain cumulative GPA or a minimum each term. If you need to keep a minimum cumulative GPA, one semester of poor grades can affect your eligibility for several additional terms.
  • The grading system for your classes. Some colleges award whole grade points only, so an 89% and an 81% course grade are both Bs and are both worth 3.0 points (often called “quality points”) on a 4.0 grading scale. Others award partial points for a letter grade with a + or a -, so an 89% course grade may be a B+ worth 3.33 while an 81% may be a B- worth 2.67 on a 4.0 scale. Still other colleges allow professors to choose which system to use as long as they provide the grading system in the course materials. Know where you need to fall on the scale and whether it’s worth the effort to bring a low B up to a high B in one class versus concentrating on bringing a high B up to a low A in another.

2. You definitely need a minimum GPA to continue to qualify for state and federal aid for additional years.

If you want to receive financial aid, including work-study, grants, scholarships and loans, from the state and federal governments, you need to fill out a FAFSA each year. In addition, you need to show Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). Each school has its own guidelines and process for SAP, but they may include:

  • A minimum GPA.
  • A required number of credit hours each year, semester or term.
  • A warning or probationary period after falling below the minimum GPA.
  • An appeal process for extenuating circumstances affecting your GPA.

The U.S. Department of Education provides more information on how grades affect federal financial aid. Visit your financial aid office or your college’s website for information on its SAP policies.

3. You may need to repay scholarships or grants.

In some cases, you may be expected to repay at least part of the award if you:

  • Do not attend classes or withdraw from school after a certain date.
  • Drop below full-time.
  • Do not pass enough credit hours in a given time period.

If you are experiencing difficulty in college, even if circumstances are beyond your control, make sure you understand any penalties regarding your financial aid. Your college’s financial aid and academic advising offices can help you determine your options.

By: Iowa Student Loan

FAFSA: What You Need to Know

If college is in the picture for the 2019–2020 academic year, it is almost the time to file the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Here are answers to some of the most important questions about the FAFSA.

Why should I file the FAFSA?

Regardless of financial situation, filing the FAFSA is the first step to qualifying for many forms of aid, not just those based on income. Federal Student Aid’s Myths About Financial Aid (PDF) provides more information on why all students should submit the FAFSA.

Whose information goes on the FAFSA?

The student who will attend college will provide biographical and financial information on the FAFSA. Dependent students, whether or not they are financially supported by their parents, will need to provide parent or guardian biographical and financial information.

Is the FAFSA only for federal aid?

The federal government uses the income, family size and other information provided on the FAFSA to award federal aid in the form of grants, work-study and loans. You need to file the FAFSA to qualify for federal work-study and federal student loans. In addition, many states and colleges and some private organizations use the information to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships and other aid.

When should I start?

The 2019–2020 FAFSA opens Oct. 1 and is available until June 30, 2019. Some types of aid have limited funds, so the earlier the FAFSA is completed and submitted, the better the chances of receiving more financial aid from those programs.

Remember to complete a new FAFSA the fall before each new college year.

What information will I need?

The student should create an FSA ID to make it easier to complete and access the FAFSA. You can also gather identifying information (Social Security numbers for student and parent, driver’s license number, and Alien Registration number if applicable); federal tax information or returns from 2017; records on any untaxed income; and balances for cash, savings and checking accounts, investments, and business and farm assets for both the student and parents.

Note: You may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to pull in applicable tax information while you complete the FAFSA, but this information will not be displayed on the online FAFSA or your Student Aid Report.

If you have any questions on the information you will need to provide, start by reviewing the Completing the FAFSA guide (PDF).

Where do I start?

You can complete your FAFSA online at https://fafsa.gov.

You may also download a PDF form to print and complete or call (877) 433-7827 to request a form be mailed to you. Some colleges may allow you to file your FAFSA at their financial aid office.

Do I need to do it all at one sitting?

You may save the information entered into the FAFSA online if you need to stop before completing it. Then, when you’re ready to finish, log back in to complete the form, sign and submit it.

What will happen next?

Within three weeks after submission, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report, which summarizes the data you submitted. You should review this report carefully and follow the instructions for correcting any mistakes.

Your Student Aid Report will also tell you if you’ve been selected for verification. This is not necessarily an indication that something is wrong; verification may be based on a random selection or because one or more of the schools listed requires all FAFSAs to be verified. If you are selected, follow the instructions to verify your information with the requested documents.

Federal Student Aid also shares the information you submitted with the colleges you listed when you completed the FAFSA, your state and the states of colleges you entered. Each college you have been accepted to will follow its own timeline to send you a financial aid award packet detailing the financial aid available to you if you choose to attend that school.

More information is available from Federal Student Aid.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Addressing Financial Aid Myths

Have you heard that applying for financial aid isn’t worth it because your parents earn too much or because it takes too long to complete? Don’t be tempted by these common myths to skip completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You could be passing up free money. And that’s the last thing you want to do when it comes to paying for college.

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Financial Aid Myth: You need to have your taxes filed before starting the FAFSA.

The FAFSA now requires tax information from the “prior prior” tax year, so the deadline for filing the required taxes is the April before completing the current FAFSA. If you or your parents missed that tax filing deadline and you still need to file taxes, you should estimate tax and income information for the FAFSA and correct that information by logging in and updating your FAFSA after filing the appropriate tax return. For help with questions about required income information, call (800) FED-AID.

Financial Aid Myth: You won’t receive financial aid because of how much money your parents earn.

Income is not the only determining factor when it comes to whether or not you’re eligible for federal student aid. And there is no income level that automatically disqualifies you for aid. Taking the time to complete the FAFSA is the only way to qualify for federal student aid and you won’t know if you qualify until you do that step, so completing the FAFSA every year you are in school is important.

Also, did you know that the FAFSA is used for more than just federal financial aid? State and school aid is also awarded based on your FAFSA results. If you don’t complete the FAFSA, you could also be missing out on these other sources of financial aid.

Financial Aid Myth: The FAFSA is difficult to complete.

The FAFSA has changed a lot since it was first introduced, and the application is revised often to make the process smoother. The online process uses logic to limit questions to ones that are relevant and completing it online instead of filling out a paper application lessens the chance for mistakes. According to the federal government, completing the FAFSA now takes less than 21 minutes on average. That’s not too bad if the outcome is grants, scholarships and other funds to help lower your college expenses, is it?

Financial Aid Myth: You only need to complete the FAFSA once.

If you complete the FAFSA before starting college, you may think you don’t need to file it ever again. But you should file the FAFSA every year as soon after Oct. 1 as possible if you intend to enroll in classes during the next academic year. This is especially important if your family’s circumstances change because you may be eligible for new or more aid next year. Even if there are no major changes to your family, though, other factors such as how financial need is calculated may mean you are eligible for different options next year. And, once you complete the FAFSA the first time, it will take even less time to complete the following years.

Financial Aid Myth: Your parents are not supporting you financially in college so you don’t have to include their information on the FAFSA.

Unfortunately you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, even if you are paying for all your college expenses yourself. You will need to answer questions in the FAFSA to determine if you are considered a dependent student or an independent student. If you are considered a dependent student, you will need to report your parents’ information on the FAFSA. If you are unsure how what type of student you are, contact your college or university’s financial aid office for assistance.

By: Iowa Student Loan

12 Ways to Get Involved

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You may have heard that you’ll have plenty of things to do outside of class once you get to know others in your dorm or classes, but if you’d like to be more involved or if it’s been hard to make connections with other students, think about trying something new.

1. Join (or start) a club

Your school may offer an activities fair or have a special office or website where you can see what clubs exist and get connected with members. Check postings around campus as well. If you don’t find an organization that interests you, consider starting one. It might just take a faculty sponsor or manifesto.

2. Work for the school paper or social media sites

Even if you don’t have a writing background, these organizations are often looking for correspondents and bloggers.

3. Participate in student government

You can choose a level you’re comfortable with — from a floor representative in the dorm to student body president. Explore opportunities to test your leadership skills.

4. Become a tutor or teaching assistant

Put your skills to work and earn some money while meeting other students and faculty.

5. Participate in intramural or club sports

Never played dodge ball? Been awhile since you swung at a softball? Don’t worry; you’ll find all levels of competition and you may find a new activity to love.

6. Look for opportunities to serve your campus and community

Blood drives and classroom outreach are common activities on college campuses and may help you establish connections in the larger community.

7. Join a sorority or fraternity

Greek organizations exist for a variety of purposes, from community service to academic excellence to social and professional aspects.

8. Attend campus events

Go to the big game on Saturday afternoon or the picnic on the quad. If you don’t want to go alone, ask someone from a class or your dorm floor to go with you.

9. Get a campus or community job

Serve coffee in the union or pancakes at the diner.

10. Join a preprofessional organization

Many professional organizations have student societies that can help you achieve experience, network and meet mentors in your field.

11. Participate in research

Whether you become a lab assistant or agree to participate in surveys or studies, research involvement can help you meet others and gain valuable insight.

12. Go to lectures, performances and presentations on campus

Many schools offer special events like author discussions, professional panels, comedian or theatrical performances and guest lectures.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Building Good Credit as a Student

Credit is a tool and, similar to wielding many other types of tools, using credit can have both positive and negative results. Using credit positively can help young adults build a history that may enable them to get better terms for future credit, such as car or home loans.

Federal regulations limit the amount of credit available to teens and young adults. But, it’s difficult to qualify for loans or other consumer credit without a credit history. Here are some tips for students who want to ensure they’re building good credit.

Opt for a student card

Many national credit card companies offer a student credit card for college students, or those soon to be in college. These cards often carry more lenient requirements and low annual fees, and they may offer incentives for certain actions. For example, you may qualify for cash back for achieving certain grades or discounts on purchases.

Don’t go it alone

Work with your parents to become an authorized user on an existing credit account, like a credit card. This means you have a card with your name on it, but the account holder is still responsible for paying the bills. Be sure you understand the card issuer’s policy for reporting credit for authorized users.

Alternatively, look into credit cards that will allow a cosigner. A cosigner would be responsible for any debt if you don’t pay your own bills, so parents or other close relatives are generally the best people to ask. The cosigner must also have good enough credit to qualify on his or her own.

Create a solid work history

A steady record of income from employment indicates that you‘re more likely to repay debt over time. Generally, you need to demonstrate full-time or near-full-time employment to qualify for a credit card or other credit before the age of 21.

Make a deposit

A secured credit card allows you to make a deposit to secure a line of credit. Even if the deposit must be equal to the credit limit, using the card instead of cash and then making regular on-time payments will build credit. Some credit card issuers may offer an unsecured credit card after you demonstrate good use for a period of time.

Take on bill paying

If you share housing with other students, consider holding a lease or utility in your name. This means you will be responsible for collecting your roommates’ share of the bill each month and making the full payment from your checking or savings account. Demonstrating your ability to pay bills on time each month will help build a positive credit history.

Pay early and pay often

Once you qualify for a credit card or other consumer loan, be sure to make payments. Although you may be required to make only a minimum payment, it’s better to pay a credit card balance in full each month to minimize interest. Making more than the interest payment is also a good idea for other types of loans. To help ensure you can make payments, limit your use and carry a low balance.

Check your results

As you build credit, monitor your credit reports and scores for errors and signs of fraud. Each year, you qualify for free credit reports from the three national consumer reporting agencies from www.annualcreditreport.com. (Never pay for a credit report.)

Educate yourself

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides resources to learn more about credit reports and scores, building credit and what to do if you suspect fraud or identity theft.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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