Keeping Those Part-Time College Jobs In Perspective

Many many young adults are starting college this month. For most of them, this also means, starting their first jobs. One common struggle for new college students is managing school, work, and their new found income. This tends to be a great lesson in prioritization and time management. It can be tempting for young college students to focus on making money in their part-time jobs, but their priority should be on studying and finishing that college degree.

For those that have scholarships, they may lose thousands of dollars in scholarship money if grades don’t meet a high average. No part-time minimum wage job in the world could make up for this type of loss. For others, college tends to get paid primarily through student loans and school-based grants. In this case, these loans and grants also depend on the student’s ability to stay in school and maintain a passing GPA.

Income from a part-time job can quickly become a distraction for college students. This supplemental income can start to provide students with spending power that they’ve never had before. However, it’s important to remember that the bulk of college and living expenses are coming from scholarships, loans, and grants, and all these can depend on the student maintaining high grades and or graduating.

In the case of student loans, if the student doesn’t maintain good grades and remain in school full-time, they can be required to start paying back their loans immediately. These loan payments would more than likely put the student in a position where their part-time job would no longer provide the income they need to live.

The point here is if you or your child is starting college it’s important that they keep those part-time college jobs in perspective. Remember that good grades and staying in school are a much higher priority than a part-time job income. Especially if you are using scholarships, student loans or grants to pay for college and living expenses.

Is Financial Stress Affecting Your Health?

It is no secret that excessive stress of any kind can take a toll on your health. But financial stress can be especially damaging as it can have a number of secondary effects across all facets of life.
Take a look at the potential health risks of financial stress and start taking steps to manage them.
Cutting Corners on Food- Trying to make ends meet often means healthy eating takes a back seat to buying food that is cheap and filling. Unfortunately, this can lead to long-term health issues caused by too much processed food and not enough frest fruits and vegetables.A Better Way- You can stretch your food budget to include healthy, fresh foods by:

Shopping with coupons and money saving apps
Establishing and sticking to a food budget
Cooking meals at home
Getting involved in a local co-op or CSA share

Using Negative Coping Behaviors- Drinking alcohol, smoking, or overeating as responses to financial stress are not uncommon, but they are unhealthy. All of these so-called stress relievers are only short term fixes that make the real issue. Plus, they can be expensive and cost you more in the long run in the form of higher insurance premiums and health care costs.
A Better Way- Try Healthier outlets for stress management, such as:

Exercise- Even a quick walk around the block can calm your nerves and clear your head.
Conversation- Talking things out with a supportive friend or family member can help you determine your options.
Get Creative- Try writing in a journal, sketching, painting or other creative pursuits to channel excess stress

Losing Sleep- There are a few things that can keep you up at night, like wondering how you are going to pay all of your bills this month. Not getting enough sleep can have a number of negative side effects, including weight gain, inability to concentrate and weakened immunity.
A Better Way-  Get free help to get back on track. NBP credit counseling will help you:

Determine the total amount of debt you owe
Develop a budget and stick to it
Make a plan to pay off debt
Avoid incurring additional debt

Click here for information on the student loan relief programs!

Getting Organized on a Budget

If you find yourself spending too much time looking for car keys, the right sweater, your cell phone or other necessities, it is time to get organized. A disorganized home doesn’t just cost you time and stress, it also costs money. Think of the times you couldn’t find something and bought it new, only to discover you already had it if you had only known where to look. It is possible to get organized without spending hundreds on a trip to the Container Store. Here is how.
Make Sure Everything has a Place- Designate a specific place for everything- keys on a hook by the door, for example, or the cell phone charger always plugged into the same outlet. After you use an item, take a minute to put it back where you found it. That minute will save you time and frustration you might spend searching for it later.
Sell and Donate to Create Space- While you are organizing, take time to set aside any items you no longer need. These unused items are robbing you of precious spack and making it harder for you to find the items you do need. Consider offering things you no longer use to family or friends, donating them to a favorite charity or selling them. You can host a garage sale or use sites like eBay or Craigslist to easily sell gently used items.Contain the Clutter- Use multi-sized containers and drawer organizers to group smaller items so they don’t get lost or create chaos in your cabinets or on shelves. You can get creative and use shoeboxes, empty tissue or cereal boxes, or plastic tubs to store items. Additionally, you can find low- cost containers at dollar or discount stores.
Practice the “One in, One Out” Rule- A great way to minimize clutter is following the ‘one in, one out” rule. This means that when you bring in something new, like a pair of shoes or a toy, you have to get rid of an item in that same category. It not only helps cut down on clutter, but makes you think twice about what you are willing to give up to bring in something new.
Organizing on a budget can be fun and rewarding. Get creative and find the tools that work best for you. You can also enlist to help of family and friends, and even generate a little extra cash to put towards an emergency savings or paying down a debt.
 
Click here for information on student loan relief!

Get a Side Job and Make Extra Money

Finding extra money in your budget to pay down debt, contribute to an emergency savings account or even take a well-deserved vacation can be difficult. But if you think a surprise inheritance from a long-lost wealthy relative or winning the lottery are the only ways you will ever see extra cash, think again. There are plenty of side jobs that offer decent pay in exchange for just a few hours of your time and effort. They key to  making a side job really payoff is putting the extra money you make towards a specific purpose, rather than just rolling it into your regular bank account.
Here are a few money-making side jobs to consider:
Mystery Shopper- Retail stores, restaurants, car dealerships and other businesses want honest, constructive feedback on their products and services, and they hire mystery shoppers to provide it. The most successful mystery shoppers provide thorough, detailed feedback to help business improve. Unfortunately, scammers have capitalized on the popularity of mystery shopping, so you have to investigate mystery shopping opportunities to ensure they are legit. The best way to do that is by starting with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, which requires businesses to adhere to mystery shopping code of ethics.Focus Group Member- If you want to get paid to give your opinion (and who doesn’t?) focus groups are a great way to make some extra cash. Register with a local market research company, and when they have a client who is looking for opinions from those in your demographic group, you will receive a call to come in. Focus groups generally last 1-3 hours and most pay in cash or check the same day.
Tutor- If you are a math whiz or a grammar guru (or just a general smarty-pants) use your brain to make some extra money by tutoring. Register with a local learning center and you will be called on when a student needs some help learning your area of expertise.
Pet-sitter- Everyone with pets has the same dilemma: who is going to care for them when they are out of town? That is where you come in. If you love animals and don’t mind being away from home for a few nights, offer your services as a pet sitter. Do some research into the going rates for kennels and other pet sitters in your area, and price your services accordingly. (Not into pets? Offer house sitting services to those who want their place to look lived-in while they are away).
Artist- Whether it is making jewelry, knitting, sewing, painting or any other creatively crafty endeavor, you can make it pay by becoming a seller on Etsy. This online marketplace for hand-made and vintage goods can be a great source of extra income. And you will get paid to do something you love.
 
Click here for information on student loan relief!

Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Student- Loan Debt

Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Student- Loan DebIf you have student loans, there are likely a few areas you would like the next president to fix. Most Americans are looking for more refinancing opportunities and tax breaks for their student loans, as well as tuition free community colleges.
If student loan debt is one of your top issues on the ballot this year, here is what you need to know about the candidates’ proposals for dealing with the growing student loan crisis.

Save Money in Unexpected Ways

Are you in a savings rut? Or worse yet, have you stopped trying to save money because you got tired of thinking about it?  Even when you have a clear savings goal in mind, the process can become tedious and a little boring if you don’t change it up once in a while.
Challenge yourself to try some of these unexpected ways to save that can re-energize your efforts and help you get back on track toward your savings goal.Use Multi-tasking Products – Cut down on cost and clutter by using a single product for a number of different purposes. Here are some examples to get you thinking outside the box (or can, or bottle):

Employ nature’s dynamic duo of vinegar and baking soda for a number of cleaning jobs.
Shave with conditioner, lotion or coconut oil instead of shaving cream
Polish silver and brass with a dab of toothpaste.

Get Schooled- Find a barber or beauty school in your area and start going there for haircuts, blowouts, manicures and other grooming. It will cost you a fraction of salon prices and all work is supervised by instructors so you don’t have to worry about leaving with a Mohawk (unless that is what you want).
Take Shorter Showers- Save on water and power by shortening the length of your shower. If you’re feeling extra brave and motivated, try taking a cold (or lukewarm) shower – that’s guaranteed to get you in and out in record time.
Get a Garment Steamer- Save yourself the hassle, expense and chemical exposure of having your clothing dry cleaned. A few spritzes of fabric refresher followed by a thorough steaming will freshen garments and remove wrinkles for just pennies per piece.
Rethink Date Night- There are plenty of ways to spend time together that don’t require a lot of cash. Look for free local events like concerts in the park, community theater productions, student art shows and free admission days at museums. Save pricy restaurant meals for special occasions.
Fight the Phantom- Phantom power, that is. Did you know everything that is plugged into an outlet is using power, even when it is turned off? Chances are you have between 20-40 things plugged in at any given time that you are not using. Start unplugging them to save- and while we are talking about power, remember to turn out the lights when you leave a room.        

What Your Child Doesn’t Need for College

Sending your kid off to college is exciting, nerve-wracking and above all – expensive! On top of tuition and housing costs, your newly minted college student is going to need all of the essentials to create a home away from home. The cost can add up fast. Good news is there are several pricier items that might seem like necessities, but really are not. Take a look at what your child doesn’t need for college:
Printer- Almost all colleges and universities have a print lab and ample opportunities to print documents wirelessly. You will not only save money by not buying a printer, you will save long term by not buying paper and ink refills. Plus, your kid will save valuable dorm room space. TV- Kids might disagree with this one, but having a TB in the dorm is not necessary. With screens on their laptops, tablets, and cell phones, they can stream just about anything whenever they want. If they really miss watching a big screen, heading to the communal TV lounge is a great way to make new friends. Plus, not having a TV in the room means a potentially quieter study environment. 
Single- Use Appliances- Popcorn makers, toasters, coffee makers – they are all convenient, and may seem necessary, but in reality they just take up valuable, limited space. Plus, use of such appliances is against the rules in many dorms. Communal dorm kitchens or TV rooms often have these items and more available to take care of the late night cravings. 
Maxed Out Meal Plans- You don’t want your kid to starve without your cooking, so you sign them up for the most generous meal plan offered. The truth is most kids utilize the meal plans a lot less than you would think. Take a look at all of the plans offered and get together with your son or daughter and see what they think they’ll realistically need. Be sure to re-evaluate at the end of each semester and adjust accordingly based on actual plan usage. 
Car- This is another one that kids might not agree with, but at least at the beginning, there are a lot of good reasons for your kid not to have a car at college. Campuses and college towns are designed for walk ability. It is good exercise, since they have to be in class all the time, and helps them become familiar with their neighbors and local haunts. Plus, not having a car eliminates the need to pay for gas, maintenance and insurance. 
Click here for more information on budgeting!

6 Ways You Can Afford College

A college education is an important, very expensive, investment. While investing in college is worthwhile, financing college isn’t easy. The average American leaves college with a debt of $23,000. This can be a major setback to the personal budget of someone who is just stepping out into the ever so competitive job market. While financial aid is tricky, there are still ways to finance college.
1. Keep an eye out for tuition deals. In the past couple of years, several colleges have introduced tuition freezes. With more universities moving toward freezing or reducing tuition fees it might just be possible to land a good tuition deal. A few cities have begun to offer free tuition to eligible students as well.
2. Earn scholarships. While full academic and athletic scholarships are a smooth deal, these are highly competitive. Consider smaller scholarships. Ranging from ethnicity, locality, university and field of interest, you might just land a few small scholarships that take a huge load out of your student debt. 3. Consider Income-Driven Repayment. IDR makes it easier for federal loan borrowers earning salaries that are low compared to the debt they incur to pay back their loans. Under this scheme you could get student loan forgiveness on up to 25 years of payments. This keeps you from defaulting on your repayment plan. 
4. Inquire into employee benefits. You will find many employers who make student loan repayment plan as part of their benefits. These range up to full tuition reimbursement programs. Some organizations offer this benefit even on part-time jobs. Additionally, if you work at your college, you might just have your tuition paid for. 
5. Make sure your grades stay up. Federal aid for some students is hard to get. However, there is a significant increase in merit-based financial aid. With merit based aid doubling up, it is in the best interest for students to pull up and maintain their grades. Ensuring eligibility is a matter of keeping grades up and starting your search for scholarships early. 
6. Pick your college wisely! How much you pay for college is directly related to what college you go to. Find out which colleges offer aid to students from the same financial background as you. Use online tools to decide which colleges are best for you. 
Financing college is all about planning and staying aware of all information on benefits and student aid. Saving, studying and working smart is the key to putting yourself through college. 
Click here for more information on the income based repayment plans!

Pros and Cons of an Online Education

Despite significant coverage of online education in recent years, finding a balanced perspective can be remarkably difficult since conversations tend to be highly partisan. Online schooling is either presented as the inevitable and awesome educational wave of the future or talked about as a cheap facsimile of the traditional classroom experience.
For potential students trying to make a decision about their own educational journeys, this can be confusing and even distressing. You certainly don’t want to choose the wrong path for yourself, so how can you know if an online degree program is the right option for you?Here is a list of Pros and Cons to help you make an informed decision.
Pros on Online Education
You have tons of flexibility. Online learning has opened up educational opportunities for people who might not have had them before, whether due to geography, family responsibilities, even being differently abled. With online education, no matter where you live, as long as you have a computer and reliable internet connection, you have options.
Not only that, but you have the convenience of deciding when and where you engage in your online classes. Though there will likely be deadlines for assignments and exams, and you man encounter some live lectures and scheduled group discussions (or hangouts for group projects), with online education, you can generally work through the course material at your leisure. You can also long in and access course work and lectures at virtually any time, which are handy for reviewing the materials for exams.
You have tons of options too. You’ll find practically any type of degree you’d want offered online: associate, bachelors, masters, certificates, and even doctorates. Though there aren’t as many online as in-person college choices, you can still conduct a college search to find the online program that fits your needs, including whether you want a hybrid (online and in-person) or an entirely online program.
The cost is generally lower. No matter what online college program you attend, you will almost certainly save money on room, board, or commuting costs. (Just keep in mind that even some predominantly online programs have an in-person component, such as one weekend on campus a month, which may require you to pay for travel and lodging.)
Online programs tend to be cheaper than their in-person counterparts as well, since colleges can save money on overhead costs. However, this isn’t always the case. You may find little or no difference in tuition costs between a college’s online/hybrid and in-person programs, especially as online education becomes more mainstream (which is good for online ed’s reputation but potentially bad for cost savings).
You can complete the program faster. Going through an online college degree program on your own, you may be able to finish more quickly than in a traditional program. This can be especially helpful to students who want to use online programs to complete a degree, since they may be able to take only the classes they need to graduate, rather than general education. It also puts you into the workforce much sooner.
You will be working with a driven group of peers. It takes a lot of dedication, determination, and drive to earn a college degree online, so although attrition rates still seem to be higher among online classes, the students who do stick with them are the kind of people you want in your professional network.
You will get better at writing and communicating in general. When most or all of your interactions take place online, it’s communicate well or bust. You will be judged primarily on your writing abilities, so you will learn to put forth your best work and clearly articulate your meaning.
Online class discussions are a unique and democratized experience. In an online class, you will almost certainly have to participate in discussions- often for credit. So if a fear of public speaking has held you back in the past, you may enjoy the ability to type out your responses and review them before you post. And when everyone is required to participate, you can read and learn from all of your classmates’ thoughts. Finally, it’s’ harder for one or a few people to dominate the conversation when everyone is required to speak.
Cons of an online education
You need to be highly motivated and self-directed. The freedom that makes online education such a blessing for some can be a burden for others. If you struggle with procrastination and time management – or with school in general, like many students do – it can be hard to get through your online course work on your own.
Sure, traditional college programs require a hefty dose of time-management skills too, but because online courses are primarily self-directed, you need that much more motivation and self-discipline. You’ll get all the same lectures, readings, essays, homework, and group projects as an in-person class, but you’ll be expected to work your way through it largely on your own.
Self- discipline is also a finite resource, and it takes a lot of it to carve out time to watch lectures and work on projects, particularly if you are letting them into the end of a busy day or workweek. And, obviously, the more responsibilities you have to juggle, the harder the balancing act becomes.
You’ll have limited face time with professors and peers. Even though your online college professors might hold digital “office hours”, you still may find it difficult to engage with them, whether you have questions about the material or are looking for some professional advice or mentoring. Professors are also much more “hands off” in teaching online classes, so if you’re looking for extra help or one-on-one time with them, you’re going to get very little (if any) of it.
As for you peers, forget about old-fashioned socializing. You’ll be relegated to chat rooms and online hangouts. Opportunities for study groups and networking after class are hard to come by too. Again, it’s not impossible, but it’s definitely going to take extra effort, like organizing a meet-up in a central location.
You lose the campus experience. No study sessions in the library. No joining campus clubs and gaining extracurricular experience. No running to the academic or career center for help. No college computer labs with their plethora of fancy (and expensive) software. No hitting up a frat party on the weekend. Your house is your lecture hall, and your neighborhood is your campus. Again, this might be part of the appeal of earning your degree online. But if you think you’ll regret missing the on-campus experience, especially if you’re coming straight from high school, you may want to reconsider attending an online program.
You need to have the right technology. You need a fast, reliable, and up-to-date computer and internet connection. Most online schools will post the technology recommended- or required- to take their courses. If you don’t have it, you’ll need to get it, which can be an extra financial burden. And depending on the online school and their IT services, you may not have much support if you need help.
Your peers and professors may not be as good at communicating as you would like. Online learning is probable a new undertaking for your peers and perhaps eve your professor, so you may need to be patient with them when your online-only interactions are not quite as fast/helpful/friendly/easy to understand as you would like.
You may encounter misconceptions about online education. The reputation of online education has been steadily improving, especially as more and more “traditional” schools like UNC Chapel Hill, Taxes A&M, and University of Florida get in on the online education game.
Still, a lot of people think of online education as easier and less reputable than an in-person education. That’s simply not the case. To be sure, there are some lower-caliber online degree programs out there- and that’s not including scam “schools” or diploma mills. But online education programs vary in their selectivity and rigor just like brick-and-mortar schools do. And their course work is just as challenging as it would be in person, if not more so, given the self-discipline required to complete an online degree.
You need to beware of online education scams. Though the government and law enforcement and cracking down on diploma mills and other online degree scams, they’re still out there, preying on students. Red flags included a guaranteed degree, guaranteed scholarships, lack of accreditation, super-short programs (we’re talking a couple months or even weeks), and virtually nonexistent admission requirements. Basically, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
This is also why it is so important to conduct a thorough college search, regardless of whether you want to get an online or in-person college education. This means you should know the overall reputation of the school and your intended major; its student outcomes like job placement, student debt, and graduation rate; and how its mission and values jibe with your own.
Your major might not be covered (or covered well) online.  Not all majors are available online, and even among those that are, some work better in a virtual setting than others. If you’re interested in a more hands-on major, like those in the health profession, you may be better served by an in-person degree program.

4 Questions You Should Ask Before Deciding on Graduate School

So you have a bachelor’s degree, but you’re wondering what comes next. Maybe you want to unlock the door to your dream job. Maybe you’re ready for a promotion and a raise. Or maybe you think the job market is still too weak in your field. There are lots of reasons to consider a graduate degree, but be financially wise about it. Here are four questions you should ask when making this important – and potentially costly – decision.
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1. Do I need a graduate degree for my career?
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The first thing to ask is whether your dream job even requires a graduate degree in the first place. Doctors, of course, have to attend medical school, lawyers _almost _always have to grind through law school (though legal apprenticeships are allowable in some jurisdictions), and top-notch academics generally have PhD’s. But, for many high level jobs, graduate degrees aren’t needed, and relevant work experience can be just as good.
We crunched some federal labor market data on management occupations (which are generally the highest paying jobs) to show you just how wide the differences are across industries. If your career is in education or health, you may want to seriously consider grad school to advance: 36 percent of managers have a master’s degree or above. It’s different in the hospitality industry, where only 7 percent of managers have been to grad school. Of course, the numbers are just the beginning of the story, and even within industries the needs vary widely. So do your homework, including talking with people in your industry who can attest to a degree’s value, and figure out what the norm is for your career.
2. Will graduate school give me a salary bump?######
Next, ask yourself how a graduate degree will likely impact your salary after graduation. Again, every situation is unique, but we recut the federal labor market data to show you a typical “salary bump” from an advanced degree. If you work in government or health services, having an advanced degree can open up jobs that pay you 50 per cent more. For all you urban farmers out there, be mindful that your graduate work on Socrates doesn’t necessarily make you a successful avocado grower: the typical advanced degree holder in agriculture takes jobs that pay less. So don’t assume graduate school will always translate into a huge — or immediate — raise.
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3. What does graduate school cost – both in money and time?######
Many students rush to graduate school for the benefits – but make sure you carefully understand the costs too. Obviously there’s tuition (may range from $30k all the way up to $120k!), books, fees, and in some cases the room/board that you otherwise wouldn’t be paying. But there’s also what you give up to attend (what economists call opportunity costs): your old salary and career advancement. If you have to take out student loans to finance your education, these add interest costs and could impact your credit after school. Of course, you can lower the burden of these costs with scholarships, fellowships, and working in school.
Working while getting your graduate degree may mean you’ll be in school longer, and not every institution offers evening and weekend classes, but they don’t involve sacrificing salary or career advancement. Some companies may even set aside financial assistance for employees going to school; it never hurts to ask your HR department.
Think hard also about the length of your desired degree and the number of years you plan to work after graduating. A typical master’s is two years, while the typical PhD is around seven years. So even if a doctorate gives you a bigger weekly salary bump (which it doesn’t always), you still might make more over your whole career with a master’s because you spent less time in school. For similar reasons, you should investigate programs that meet on nights and weekends, letting you earn a regular salary and make progress to an advanced degree. Financially, this might be the better choice.
4. Are there better alternatives?######
Today, there are many alternatives to traditional grad school. If you explore these routes, consider their unique risks. Be particularly careful with for-profit universities or for-profit companies. Some are pioneering the future of education, and some are just making a quick buck.
A fast growing option is the online degree, many now offered by accredited and prestigious institutions. An online degree could give you the flexibility to earn credits while in school or taking care of a loved one. But also consider that you won’t get all of the benefits of in-person study groups, on-campus research facilities, and the ability to network with classmates. Taking classes online is also a different learning dynamic than in-person and may not be right for everyone.
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) through sites like Coursera or edX are often low-cost and taught by faculty from top universities. These sites have also begun to offer certificates in specialized fields, which may be useful in demonstrating command of specific skills (such as a programming language). But so far these credentials aren’t really equivalent to a comprehensive graduate degree, and there isn’t reliable data yet if they affect your salary or your career advancement.
Skill-based boot camps are intense, on-site, 8-12 week programs that help you learn a discrete skill (particularly coding) fast. If you’re thinking about graduate school through the lens of _changing _careers then a boot camp may make sense, though understand that they are predominantly for-profit and still largely unregulated.
It may also pay off more to build up your portfolio of work on sites like Dribble, Github, or a personal blog. To some employers, especially in startups, real projects speak more than fancy degrees. Your personal projects also let you explore your passions, and passion can push many people to learn more than the fear of a bad grade.
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There are many reasons to go to graduate school – professional, intellectual, personal, etc. But whatever motivates you, a careful, clear-eyed weighing of the financial costs and benefits should be part of your decision.
 
Shouvik Banerjee is the Founder and CEO of AverPoint, a platform to bring crowd-verified evidence into editorial and marketing content. AverPoint’s mission is to empower authentic, evidence-driven brands like Mint.com give individuals the information to make better choices.