Wednesday, August 22, 2012

5 Ways to Help College Student Save Money Once College Begins

It is often stated that it is the little things that add up and cost you a lot.

Well after my first few weeks of college last year, I quickly learned that pizza, mid-day snacks, Starbucks, t-shirts and little items here and there was quickly draining my bank account. I had to take action to save money immediately and here are the steps I took.

1. Stock Up on Food

If you are able to go home during the semester, make sure to stock up on food. It will most likely be cheaper than your stores at school, especially if you go to school in a big city like I do! Plus if your mom is a good cook and have freezer space in your dorm, ask your mom to make favorite dishes and even soup and freeze it. This will save you money, prep time and clean up time too!.

In addition, stock up on cheap favorite foods you like. Ready to eat and simple to cook items are best like pasta, popcorn, granola bars and health snacks are perfect for study sessions and having it in your room will stop you from spending money to order out.

2. Brew It Yourself

A cup of coffee or tea runs $2 or more per cup, but brewing your own coffee or tea is often less than $0.25! So get your own coffee pot, electric tea kettle, or Keurig and a travel mug and instead of making Starbucks part of your everyday routine (trust me it’s easy to do!) brew your own coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

3. Join Amazon Student

Amazon has this great program where you can use your .edu email address to sign up for Amazon student. For 6 months you can get free Amazon Prime benefits that include free 2-day shipping. After the 6 month time period you can also get 50% off amazon prime as long as you are a student.

4. Direct Deposit, Cash & Credit Cards

If you have a job, have them direct deposit your check into your account. This will keep it from “burning a whole in your pocket.”

My view on cash and credit cards is carry $20 or less and only carry your credit card if you know what you are going to purchase. Until you get managing your money under control it is always better to think over a purchase for a few days rather than to buy on impulse.

5. Set a Budget & Track What You Spend

It can be so easy just to whip out your debit or credit card whenever you need it. It also makes it easier to overspend. However if you look at how much you earned this summer and set a monthly budget you can manage you money effectively.

A good way to stay on track is to keep your receipts and log how much you spend or check to see if you bank has an app for your phone to keep track of how much money you have. By checking your spending and comparing that against your budget you will know if you are on track or need to make adjustments to reduce spending.

When you finally get on your own you'll realize that spending money is easy, however learning good money management skills now will help you during your first year in college and throughout your life.

A Special Thanks to our guest blogger
Bekah Troutman of George Washington University

Related Blogs
5 Essential College Dorm Room Tips that Save College Students $100's
5 Overlooked Dorm Items, You Don't Know You Need But You'll Want

The Gift Guy - Visit Gift Idea Center For Unique College Student Gifts and Back to College items.
Gift Idea Center may receive compensation if a product is purchased via blog links.

Monday, August 20, 2012

10 Dorm Items New College Students Will Use

These days it seems like every big store has a college checklist. These lists are great tools to use, but they all seem to differ and every item seems important to your comfort and well being while at school.

As a rising college sophomore, I can tell you from experience that there are items included on those lists that you will never use. To make preparing for college a little bit easier, here are 10 of the most essential items you (a gal) will need!

1. Planner

The college schedule is completely different from that of high school. Classes vary throughout the day, can change times, and even building depending on the day of the week. Add clubs, sports, a part time job, trips to the gym, time for friends, study sessions and maybe an internship to that and you’ve got a full schedule with lots of dates and times to remember. One of the easiest ways to manage it all is to use a planner. Mine became a lifeline throughout the semester.

Not all planners are made alike however. Trying to find an agenda with a monthly calendar, a large enough weekly calendar, and spots for notes and other information can be tricky. I myself went through two planners before finding my personal favorite: The Large Agenda by Lilly Pulitzer. Preferences can vary for everyone so shop around.

2. Lots of Pillows – Including a Backrest Pillow

You bed will serve many purposes beyond that of just a bed. Throughout the semester, it will function as a dinner table, a sofa (slouchback makes it nice), a spot to relax, and a place to study. The more comfortable you can make this space, the better! Pillows are a big help especially backrest pillows. They provide support, comfort, and can be a creative way to add more color and style to a drab dorm room.

3. Sturdy Laundry Bag or Hamper

In college you will have to do your own laundry if you want to have clothes to wear. Some dorms have laundry facilities on every floor, others in the basement. No one wants to get halfway down the hall and have their laundry bag give out on them and the more clothes you can stuff in a bag, the fewer trips you have to take back and forth.

4. Food Storage

This may not be at the top of your list, but trust me. Food storage is key. First, it keeps your food safe from bugs. Second, it helps store left overs and stackable food storage containers are space friendly and will keep your food fresh for another meal.

5. Basic Kitchen Essentials

Even if you don’t have a kitchen, you will want to keep some basic kitchen items on hand. Simple things like a can opener, microwave safe bowls, a sharp knife, and an ice cream scoop will come in handy over the year. In addition to a few plates, bowls, cups, and utensils.

6. Personal Desk Lamp or Bed Light

Dorm rooms mean sharing and compromise, since your roommate might not share your sleeping schedule a personal desk lamp or bed light for early mornings and late nights when your roommate is sleeping will be much appreciated.

7. Bathrobe

A bathrobe is important no matter whether you have a communal or en suite shower. It gives you proper coverage and is warm and cozy, I recommend a cotton one for the early fall and spring so that it isn’t too hot and a warm fluffy one for winter.

8. Shower Caddy or In Shower Storage and Shelves

If you need to cart your toiletries around with you, a shower caddy is a must. Shower caddies range from basic to fashion like this Vera Bradley caddy. If you are among the fortunate to have a bathroom connected to your room, I still recommend having a over the shower head caddy or the kind that stick with suction cups. They just provide extra storage, and a personal spot for your products.

9. Poster Putty

Dorm rooms are paints over and over again, in order to make sure you can showcase your style and have posters and prints stick to the walls make sure you have poster putty.

10. Drawer Storage

Most dorms have dressers with huge drawers. While these are great for sweatshirts and t-shirts, smaller items such as makeup, brushes, toothpaste and other knickknacks can get messy and unorganized. Small baskets or low flat plastic containers with lids are great for stacking and dividing up space.

While many of these items are on many lists, some that I found to be invaluable were often not on any lists. I hope this helps you move in and start your semester in style.

A Special Thanks to our guest blogger
Bekah Troutman of George Washington University

Additional Related Blogs
5 Overlooked Dorm Items, You Dont Know You Need BUT You'll Want
5 Essential College Dorm Room Tips that Save College Students $100s

The Gift Guy - Visit Gift Idea Center For Unique College Student Gifts and Back to College items.
Gift Idea Center may receive compensation if a product is purchased via blog links.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

5 Overlooked Dorm Items, You Don't Know You Need But You'll Want

It was only a year ago that I packed my belonging and moved into a dorm as a freshman at George Washington University. I can tell you, it was an overwhelming experience at times.

One thing I quickly learned was that just purchasing and packing for dorm life is an education all on its own; but to make the process a little easier.

 Here are my 5 Most Overlooked Dorm Items You'll Want for College

1. Ear Plugs

     After my first two weeks at school, it was apparent that not all the students living in my dorm valued sleep as much as I did. Ear plugs are cheap and one of the best purchases I made all semester! They helped to block out commotion late at night that would keep me awake and usually fell out by morning to make sure I didn’t miss my alarm.

2. Power Strips or Approved Extension Cords
     With four girls living in one dorm room, power strips were a must! Between laptops, phone chargers, lamps, alarm clocks or speakers, hair dryers, a television, fridge, and microwave there were barely enough plugs to go around. Also, with the arrangement of furniture, outlets weren’t always easily accessible. It can be a hassle to constantly unplug and replug you devices, so make life easier by stocking up on a few power strips with long cords. Shop AmazonWalmart, Target for power strips.

3. Thin Hangers
     This may seem self explanatory, but if it hadn’t been for the box of hangers my Aunt bought me I wouldn’t have even thought about how I was going to hang up all my clothes. Thin hangers were a must because the thinner the hanger the more clothes you could store in a small space. The little attachments that make hangers stackable are a good idea too.

4. Chair Cushion
     Lets face it, the furniture that schools purchase for dorms are not bought based on their comfort levels. This goes for desk chairs as well, even the ones that look like they have a cushion are hard as a rock after half an hour! Not only did this affect where I wanted to study, but I noticed that I was experiencing a stiff back and neck after sitting at my desk for an hour or two. A simple chair cushion, like the ones you can buy at Walmart or Target for outdoor furniture was the perfect solution and made late night cram sessions a little less stressful. Shop Amazon, Walmart, Target for chair cushions.

5. Cleaning Supplies
     At home there was always a Swiffer or vacuum readily available. That was not the case at school. My roommates and I had to make a target run to buy a Swiffer after we made a mess!

To make life cleaner stock up on some cleaning basics like Clorox wipes, paper towels, a Swiffer, or a cheap vacuum before you head to school, but remember space is limited so kep that in mind if you buy a vacuum.  This especially important if you have your own bathroom to clean. No one wants to shower in a dirty bathroom.

The good news is that many of these items can be borrowed from home or purchased for under $20 and they will make a difference on starting your dorm life and enjoying it more.

A Special Thanks to our guest blogger
Bekah Troutman of George Washington University

Related Blogs
5 Essential College Dorm Room Tips that Save College Students $100's

The Gift Guy - Visit Gift Idea Center For Unique College Student Gifts and Back to College items.
Gift Idea Center may receive compensation if a product is purchased via blog links.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

5 Essential College Dorm Room Tips that Save College Students $100's

Would you like to have an extra $50, $100 or even $500 in your bank account in November, rather than spend all that hard earned money right before you go to collge?

Well, I thought so. So here are some great Back to College tips that might help keep hundreds of dollars in your bank account with just a few simple adjustments.

Before Heading Back to College

1. Make A List of Needs and Wants
    Before you even start to buy things for college, make a concrete list of everything you think you may need (you can always add on if you think of something else) and want. Making a list will help you visualize everything you are planning to purchase, help you prioritize what you really need, and prevent impulse buys.

The key is to a. ) Prioritize the List and 2.) Determine whether to Purchase, Borrow or Pass on Items. 

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Hand Me Downs
     When it comes to furniture, bedding and even some electronics look towards family and friends that have traded up to new items. In many cases, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even neighbors may have items that they have been sitting around for years and they will be happy to give it to you rather than those it in the trash.

If you have not luck with family then check out thrift shops and yard sales to find unique items at a savings of 50 - 90% off retail. Lets face it, these items will get beaten up with all the moves back and forth to school so why not save where you can?
3. Shop Around and Wait
    Back to school is a big money maker for stores like Walmart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, The Container Store and others like it. They are all vying for your attention.  All of these stores will have sales, coupons, and competitive prices.

However, if you don’t need the item right away and as long as the item is not crucial to your survival, wait and watch the savings add up! Many times stores bring in special products in July for Back to College / School and once it hits mid-September it is time to mark down and discount those items to make room for holiday merchandise. Savings window Sept. 15th - Oct. 15th.

Also, your school might have special deals or events at big name stores nearby. For example, George Washington University holds a Target Takeover every year and supplies their students with coupons and useful free stuff that saves you money.
4. Team Up to Split It Up
    Get in touch with your roommates before you move in. It is so much easier to split big items like chairs, a fridge, throw rugs and bookshelves up between you before you arrive. It not only saves you money but prevents you from having double or triple of items once you move in.

Plus you can also opt to buy things together after you move in. My roommate and I split the cost of the rug and cleaning supplies after we knew where we wanted everything in our room to go.
5. Textbooks
    First of all, I recommend that you wait to buy your textbooks. You may not even use them in some classes, and they might also be listed incorrectly online. At the very least, wait until your Professor either post their syllabus online, or gives it to you in class.
    Second, do not purchase your books from the bookstore. You will be overcharged! When your books are listed, and ISBN number will usually be provided and this can then be used to find the exact textbook online. My personal favorite place to buy books is Amazon. You can buy them new or used for less and they have competitive prices.

Besides Amazon, check online. There are a plethora of website that sell used textbooks. You can even buy the international version of the book, which is usually almost identical to the American version, and also cheaper. (Just be wary, because the international versions are usually harder to sell back).

Another option is to check your school’s Facebook page (although this is better for the second semester of the year). I guarantee many students will be looking to sell their books and there will be no shipping charge. While shopping around, make sure you pay attention to what addition the book is, professors can be picky about having the latest addition.
    Third, sell your books back at the end of the semester. Unless you will need it for another class as reference, or particularly liked it you do not need to keep your old textbooks. The sooner you can sell it back the better, before your professor changes the addition for the next year. FYI - Amazon buys used textbooks too.

A Special Thanks to our guest blogger
Bekah Troutman of George Washington University

Additional Related Blogs
5 Overlooked Dorm Items, You Dont Know You Need BUT You'll Want

The Gift Guy - Visit Gift Idea Center For Unique College Student Gifts and Back to College items.
Gift Idea Center may receive compensation if a product is purchased via blog links.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

5 Back to School Items Sure to Cause Alarm

Back to School is an annual passage and with every new school year comes a rash of items that raises eyebrows, this year is no exception as we feature 5 Alarming Back to School Items.

Organ Transport Lunch Cooler1. Human Organ Transplant Lunch Box
To what extend will people go to protect their lunch. Well the Human Organ Lunch Box is sure to raise red flags and either avoidance or interest.

We recommend making sure that you place raw liver on ice the first day you use this lunch box just to make sure lunch thieves get the message.

Highly Caffeinated Brownies and Cookies2. Highly Caffeinated Brownies and Cookies
We know it's hard to stay awake through History, Chemistry, English and any subject where the lights go off to watch videos, but sending your kids to school with caffeinated brownies and cookies is just wrong. Not only will this send your honor roll student bouncing off the walls, it could also stunt their growth.

Products then involve caffeine should only be available in the teacher's lounge or safely in an office drawer.

Rubber Bandit Rubber Band Shooting Pen3. Rubber Bandit - A Sure Way to the Principal's Office
When the teacher turns their back, who knows what evil lurks or their shoulder? Spitball, phone checking and rubber band shooting, well for those competitive kids that aim to raise the bar every school year, the Rubber Bandit Rubber Band Shooting Pen is your ticket straight to the Principal's Office.

Classmates seen with such evil are sure to be cause for alarm and enemy against education.

Spikepak Backpack4. Spikepak Backpack
Want to identify the kid that is going to be the first kid in class to get a tattoo or multiple body piercings, well look for the kid with the Spikepak Backpack as it is a sign of rage within.

While not only poking peoples eyes out as they walk down the hall this backpack looks like a weapon and is sure to be owned by a rebel. Parents stay vigilant and don't let backpacks like this make it into your school.

Sonic Bomb Alarm Clock with Bed Shaker
5. Sonic Bomb Alarm Clock with Bed Shaker
Cause for Alarm, well it will be if this alarm clock with 113 decibels doesn't wake up your slumbering teen. No worries there is a back up, the bed shaker will rattle their bones to help them wake.

While this alarm clock appears to be extreme, getting up and getting to school on time is much, much, much more important than their forever slumber.

We find exception with many of these items and find many of them Alarming and Anti-Education, but our efforts to keep school safe and focused on education will continue.

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