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You’re most likely looking forward to a nice break after studying hard all year. But summer is also a great time to tune up your finances. Here are five financial “to-dos” every college student should consider in preparation for a smooth and stress-free fall semester.

1. Review Your Spending Habits

Even with the ability to check bank account balances at any time, many of us forget to review where our money is actually going. People think that as long as they have a positive balance, they’re good to go. But taking the time to examine each of your transactions provides important “mental moments” that can remind you of how much you are spending and on what. It can be pretty humbling to see all those trips to fast-food restaurants or late-night takeout orders in writing. Add up a list of all those things that you really could have done without and imagine how that money would help you pay for next semester’s books or build up your emergency fund.

2. Get in a Saving State of Mind

 

Many college students think that there is no way to save while in school, but it’s really more about psychological and emotional hurdles that lead to overspending. Next time you are at the beach or taking a walk in the park, think about two or three mottos that will help you to visualize a more positive financial state of mind, such as “I don’t need things to make me happy” or “I have enough right now.” Place reminders of these sayings on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror to serve as daily reminders that you are working toward longer term goals that may require a little more sacrificing right now.

3. Set Some Personal Rules of Thumb

Let’s face it, we all like to shop or treat ourselves once in a while, and it is important to have fun and enjoy some of the money you may be earning over the summer. However, it can easily get out of hand if you are not careful. In a recent survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Ad Council, over 50 percent of millennials admitted that they were impulse shoppers, meaning they make unplanned purchases of $30 or more on a daily or weekly basis even though they ranked saving as their top financial goal! One way to help avoid these impulses is to set some personal rules of thumb. These “rules” of course will vary depending on how your income, current living expenses, and family circumstances. Here are a few examples:

  • Never spend more than $30 a week on going out with friends this summer
  • Never pay more than $40 for a pair of shoes
  • Bike to work at least 3 times a week to save money
  • Only purchase things you really need and only if they are marked at least 50% off the original price

Again, write them down and display them somewhere you will see them every day. Or set them up as reminders on your calendar or other mobile app.

4. Make a Spending Plan

While it may be the furthest thing from your mind right now, you will thank yourself later on if you set up a budget for next semester before it begins. You can use the information you obtained when you reviewed your spending earlier to estimate what your monthly expenses are likely to be, with an eye on keeping those things you really don’t need to a minimum. You’ll also want to add up all of your expected income, including summer earnings, expected financial aid and other support (i.e. from your parents) and compare that to your expenses. Use a spreadsheet or budget worksheet such as the ones provided by CollegeInColorado.com or Mint.com to help you balance your budget.

5. Increase Your Competitive “Net Worth”

You should also be thinking about ways to increase your chances for landing that dream job after you graduate. If you are not doing an internship this summer, be sure to research opportunities for next year. Many internship programs have application deadlines that are earlier than you might think, so check with your school’s career counseling center for advice. Take time to either create or update your resume (and LinkedIn page) and include any relevant skills and abilities you may be developing no matter what job you currently have such as teambuilding, problem-solving or customer/client relations. Also, make a list of your job supervisors, college advisors and professors who you think would be good job references for you. Be sure to include their titles, contact information, name of the course or job and appropriate dates, and save it on your computer for future reference.

While summer is a time to relax and refresh, reserve some time for these important financial “5s” and you’ll be way ahead of the game for next year.

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Dropping Digm (How-to)

Saving 101

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Photo credit iStock by Getty Images

In the age of instant gratification, it’s hard to think of saving as something fun. But if you start with the end goal in mind, saving is merely the method to get you what you want. Maybe it’s not right away, but there’s a certain pride you exude when you earn something that you worked hard to achieve. You may think that you don’t have enough money to save when you can barely pay your bills, but where there’s a will there’s a way. Here are some simple savings tips to help you find your way to a brighter tomorrow. (more…)

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Dropping Digm (How-to)

Book a Last Minute Labor Day Getaway Without Breaking the Bank

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Photo credit iStock by Getty Images

It’s almost Labor Day – the last official holiday weekend of the summer. A time to celebrate all that hard work you do every week by not working for a day. Your last chance to take a long weekend before the kids are back to school and the fall begins. If you’re looking for some ways to getaway this Labor Day but didn’t plan in advance, don’t stress, we’ve got your back. Here’s our simple tips for how to book a last minute Labor Day getaway that won’t break the bank.

1. Go Local

Local breweries, local restaurants, local parks and beaches are all great places to relax and unwind to bring back your peace of mind. Some call this a “staycation” while others simply call it exploring their own backyard. jump-smYou may be surprised at what you can find to do near you! Another way to get away while staying local is by asking if any of your friends or family members if they are going away so you can house sit…a win win for all!

2. Open Your Mind – Not Your Wallet

There’s a wide range of websites and apps that help you book a last minute trip on a discount, but this will usually only work if you’re not picky. Looking outside of the beach box for a spot that isn’t so popular can also help you cut down on the cost too.

For example, going to a family-friendly location can help you strike a great deal because many families are busy with back to school. KAYAK listed Walt Disney World and Universal in Orlando as their number one pick of least expensive Labor Day destinations, with hotels in Orlando at their lowest rate of $115/night.

3. Use Technology To Your Advantage

If you look on daily deal sites like Groupon or Living Social, they often have deals for businesses that are off-season which can help you save even more. Many of these offers have date restrictions, so if you’re booking last minute, you’ll probably be okay, but check the fine print. One website, Stayful.com, allows you to negotiate with independent boutique hotels in an effort to find you a great deal and experience. One of my personal favorite apps is Hotels Tonight, which helps you find last minute hotel deals easily.

If you’d like to use my personal promo code [DMELESKO] to get $25 off your first booking, be my guest! (Yes, pun intended. If you use my personal code, I’ll also get $25 in credits to use.) Another option is to check out the social media pages for airlines and travel blogs, as many times they will run contests and offers thru these channels.

4. Change Your Departure Date to Save

If you move your departure date, you may be able to save even more by flying and staying during the week vs. the weekend. Farecompare.com says that the cheapest days to fly are usually on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, while the more expensive days to fly are on Friday and Sunday.

5. Be Flexible when You Fly

Another way to save on travel expenses is to be flexible with the time of day that you want to fly, and also where you’d like to fly out of. You can save money by taking a red eye or early morning flight because the airlines don’t have as much demand for those time slots, making the prices drop.

You can also strike a deal by leaving from a different airport than the one closest to you. You’ll have to account for driving further and parking, so make sure to evaluate those when you are comparing.

Lastly, taking a flight that has a transfer can also bring the cost down vs. going non-stop. Just make sure that you have enough time in between to give you a cushion in case there are flight delays so you don’t end up missing your next flight and losing out on a day of your vacation if the next one isn’t until tomorrow.

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Dropping Digm (How-to)

Fitness for Less: Get in Shape Without Bustin’ Your Budget

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Did you know that being overweight can actually cost you money? Let us explain…The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition reports that the annual cost for being an overweight woman is $524 and the cost for men is $432. And if you fall into the obese category, you’re looking at a cost of $2,646 as a man and $4,879 as a woman. They also report that less than 5% of adults get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

When it comes to sticking to our daily fitness routine, we’re definitely not perfect either (trust us!). So we totally get that it’s not always that easy to stay motivated and absolutely know that many times the cost of cardio workouts, exercise equipment, or a personal trainer can be too high for many people’s budgets. That said, we came up with some ways to enjoy fitness for less and have a little fun while we’re at!

7 Ways to Enjoy Fitness on a Budget

1. Add some adventure

Spice up your fitness routine by skipping the treadmill. Sign up to do a glow run, color race or adventure race instead! This is one of the latest fitness trends popping up all over the country.  But, how do you save money? Well, there are  a few ways, including putting together a team so you can get the team discount, using your military or student ID, or doing a quick online search to find a promo code. Not to mention, many of these runs are featured on budget-friendly apps like Groupon or Living Social and often post discounts on social media when registration goes live.

2. Go bowling, or hiking, or biking…you get the drift.

Raise your hand if you love getting in a workout without feeling like you’re working out? When you join a team, league or group, you can get fit, make friends, and have fun simultaneously. There are seriously so many opportunities around the country that you can find online; you have to be willing to look. To get you started, here are two of our faves: meetup.com and eteamz.com All you have to do is type in your zip code to find active groups in your community.

3. Workplace fitness

Another new fitness trend that you can take advantage of is participating in or starting, a workplace fitness challenge at your office. A lot of employers are hosting fitness challenges, and some will even pay you to get fit—either in dollars or healthcare credits. If your employer isn’t offering a fitness challenge, be a fitness for less leader at your office and suggest starting a weekly or monthly challenge to improve overall employee well-being and/or get a group together to start an after-hours fitness sesh. And if you enjoy having an added mission for motivation purposes, consider finding a worthy cause or charity to give back while you get fit.

4. Find a free fitness program or class

Many communities are now offering free fitness classes. All you have to do is check your local listings to see what’s available in your area. For all of our New Yorkers out there, check out Shape Up NYC to find free fitness classes each week. And if you don’t live in NY, you’ll most likely be able to find a free class at your local YMCA or YWCA or on your local Parks & Recreation department’s calendar of events (simply Google “your town/city name + recreation” to find those calendars).

5. Free trials, friend passes and more

Gyms and fitness centers are in the business of finding new members every day. So why not use that to your advantage by taking them up on their free trial week or by tagging along with your friend to use their free buddy pass? If you’re not into the gym and are more of a yoga type – opt to purchase a class pack instead of paying the extra to drop in on a random class. It will force you to go more often and save you money in the long run.

Fitness on a Budget Analysis: If you already forked over the cash for a gym membership and aren’t sure if it’s worth the cost, do this quick analysis to figure out your actual cost per session, and compare that to the cost of doing a class instead.

Monthly fee + (initiation fee ÷ 12) ÷ (number of visits per month) = the true cost of each gym visit

6. Free workout videos and fitness plans

Instead of hiring a personal trainer, find a fitness routine that you can do from the comfort of your own home. There’s ton of options available, including online videos, apps, and websites that offer free workout plans and routines. Here are some of the top YouTube fitness channels to give you a taste:

And if your favorite fitness craze isn’t listed, you can look to buy or borrow workout videos from your local store, online shop or library. Or do a search via your cable provider and DVR your favorite fitness show so you can watch it on demand when you’re ready to sweat.

7. Start a fitness fund

Even with all of the free to low cost fitness opportunities out there, you may find that the fitness that works best for you, the fitness you wish you could be doing instead or an item that you’d love to add to your arsenal of fitness items (that could save you money in the long run), is just a bit out of your budget right now. Don’t fret fitness on a budget friend—we have a solution for everyone who falls in this category, too. We encourage you to start a fitness fund and begin saving for items on your fitness wish list.

The Fitness for Less Takeaway

Getting fit doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Skip the expensive exercise equipment and personal trainers and find a way to get moving without going broke. You don’t need fancy workout plans to get in shape. Try out a few different classes, teams or videos to see what you like and then stick with it to get results. Fitness on a budget really isn’t so bad when you know where to start.

Do you have any other fitness for less tips or fun workout routines that you can share? Post them in the comments below!

 

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