A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student

The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

 You are getting ready to send your child off to college. Before you start helping them pack their belongings, there is one thing you need to do.

You need to help them create a budget. You need to teach them how to manage their money so they can learn the tools they’ll use long after they graduate.

WHY DO COLLEGE STUDENTS NEED A BUDGET?

The truth is everyone needs a budget. It does not matter your age. If you are dealing with money, a budget is necessary.

  1. Allows you to control your money. Rather than your money telling you what it wants to do, you get to tell your money where it needs to go. You are always in control when you have a budget.
  2. It teaches financial skills. A budget helps ensure that expenses such as rent, tuition, food, insurance, transportation, and housing are paid – before spending money on the fun stuff. (It also helps to make sure you don’t spend more than you make.)
  3. Makes you aware of where your money goes. When you use a budget, you see how you spend. It is very simple to see if too much is going toward dining out when you should be building your savings.
  4. Helps you track your goals. You need to cover expenses but you should also work on building savings at the same time. Your budget allows you to not only see those goals but track them in real time.

DOESN’T A BUDGET MEAN YOU CAN’T HAVE FUN?

Not at all! If anything, your budget will allow you to have guilt-free fun.

For example, the budget may allow you to spend $50 a week dining out. That means you can go to dinner with friends once (possibly twice) a week and enjoy yourself. You won’t be left wondering how you are now going to make rent.

WHAT TYPE OF BUDGET SHOULD YOUR STUDENT USE?

There are various methods of budgeting such as the 50/30/20 and the zero-based budget. For most college students, the zero-based is the simplest and easiest to follow.

The reason is that you track everything. You give every penny a job. That means if you earn $1,500 for the month that you “spend” the entire $1,500.

You will first cover the needs (food, shelter, transportation) and then your wants. If there is money “leftover” after this is done, it can be added to your savings.

You can use other types but if you have never budgeted before, using this method is the simplest.

WHAT SHOULD A COLLEGE STUDENT INCLUDE IN A BUDGET?

The budget will vary for each person, as the income and expense will be different. However, these are the most common categories that need to be included in a budget:

  • Rent
  • Renter’s insurance
  • Car payment
  • Car insurance (also saving for annual renewal fees)
  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Utilities (phone, electricity, gas, water, etc.)
  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Entertainment (movies, games, concerts)
  • Dining out
  • Emergency fund savings

Again, you may have items that are not included above or see some that you do not need.

However, the most important thing of all is that every penny is given a job. Account for everything you will spend each month so you never have too much month and not enough money.

HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF YOUR BUDGET?

For most college students, apps or digital trackers are the best options.  But, before you rush and sign up, keep the following in mind.

  1. Cost. Many apps are free and they will work perfectly fine. Other apps have a monthly fee attached to them. If you plan to use one of them, make sure you include that as one of your regular expenses. However, do not let the cost alone be a single factor when it comes to clicking the sign-up button.
  2. Security. Your security trumps all else. You need to make sure the app uses encryption as well as two-factor authorization.

Some of the best apps include:

  • Mint
  • You Need a Budget (YNAB)
  • PocketGuard
  • Mvelopes

However, your student may also like the traditional paper and pencil method – and that is OK as well.

Find the right one that works best for your student. That is all that matters.

TEACHING THEM TO BUDGET

Knowing you need a budget and where to track it is just the beginning. You need to teach your child how to budget.

Start by looking at each category that they need on their budget. You may already know the cost for each category but if not, you may need to make phone calls or do research to know.

For example, you know the rent for the apartment is $850 a month but how much are the average utilities? Ask the manager for these costs so you can include them in the budget.

Next, decide how much they want to allow themselves to spend on food. Show them how much a meal costs for a single person at each restaurant you eat at so they can create an average.

You will then have them decide how much “fun money” they want to include as well. You can base this on them wanting to go to the movies two times a month, one concert a month, or attending three events.

Now you can see the expenses for your student. Add their income to the budget and deduct the expenses. They will see if they are operating in the black (money left over) or in the red (spending more than they make).

Show them how to adjust the numbers by increasing their savings or lowering the amount they can spend on clothes – until the budget equals zero. Zero meaning they are spending every penny they earn.

And making them keep track now will help ensure they stay on track well into the future.

 

 

 

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Source: pennypinchinmom.com

5 Pretty Easy Ways to Save Money on a Vacation

The post 5 Pretty Easy Ways to Save Money on a Vacation appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Do you have high hopes that there will be traveling your family’s future, but not quite sure how you can afford it?

You’re not alone. While Americans will spend an average of 10% of their household income on vacationing this year, a full 74% take on debt for their trips. Each of these tips offers you both an easy and effective way to save a substantial amount of money off your next vacation trip. Use them wisely, and you might even be able to squeeze in some extra travel this year.

1. Make use of grocery store prepared food sections

Some people think it’s crazy to not eat at restaurants for all of your vacation meals. Mostly, they want the entire week off from cooking any food.

I don’t blame them (or you) for thinking this. So, what if I told you that you can still avoid cooking all week, and not actually eat out for every single meal?

While vacationing, find your local grocery store with a prepared food section. You can find hot meals for your family – complete with salads and desserts – for much less than what it would cost to eat out. Plus, there’s’ no need to pay a tip.

2. Plan activities around discount times and coupons

You can easily save a bundle on your vacation expenses by planning your activities around available discounts. This doesn’t have to be as limiting as it sounds, it just means you have to be smart about it. For example, you could:

  • Buy a local Entertainment book and use the tourist coupons that come with it.
  • Purchase discounted tickets to local attractions and activities on group buying sites (such as Groupon.com, and LivingSocial.com) by entering the zip code of where you’ll be traveling to.
  • Plan your trip dates around free museum days (I did this on a trip to France, and got in to see the Louvre on its free Sunday of the month).

3. Change the season you travel in

One of the easiest ways you can save on almost all the costs of your next vacation is by simply changing the season that you take it. The time of year you choose makes a huge difference in how much you’ll pay – it’s a simple illustration of supply and demand.

During summertime when kids are out of school and families want to get their vacations in, you’ll pay more. But if you decide to leave for a trip to Disney World one week before schools traditionally let out? Then you’ll not only save yourself tons of waiting time in lines but a lot of money.

In fact, that’s what personally happened to me over five years ago when my husband and I decided last minute to drive to Disney World. It was May, and there were virtually no people around. No lines, no waiting, and hardly a kid in sight.

We asked anyone we could find what was going on, and they said that it would be all-out pandemonium just one week later when their peak season begins (when the majority of kids are out of school). We had unknowingly hit the jackpot, and our cheap hotel bill reinforced that!

Get creative by using winter breaks, trips during the school year, and long weekends in the off-season to save a bundle without even trying.

4. Rethink traditional hotel stays 

Next to transportation costs to get to your destination, hotel costs will make the second biggest dent in your budget. With an average cost of $133.34/night to stay in a hotel, you can see how a 5-night ($666.70) or a 7-night vacation ($933.38) can really add up.

One of the easiest ways to save on vacations is by rethinking traditional hotel stays.

Consider options like these, all of which I’ve done myself:

  • Staying with family or friends
  • Share a hotel room with family or friends
  • Book a rental with local homeowners instead of with hotels (using sites like AirBnB or Vrbo)
  • Use hotel deal sites to snatch up unfilled rooms (such as  Secretflying.com, and TheFlightDeal.com)

5.  Consider group travel

Traveling in groups allows you to pool your money for better rates. My husband’s family, for example, likes to go all-in on a beach house for a long weekend in Galveston. We generally get a 5 to 6-bedroom rental right on the beach, and the cost is just $200-$300 per family for 3-4 nights. If we were to travel on our own, we would never be able to afford such a nice place.

Not only that, but if your group travel entails a road trip, you may be able to carpool with someone to save on gas costs. And if you split up meal prep duties between families like we do? You not only have to cook only once or twice per stay, but you don’t have to eat out in restaurants the whole time.

Another way to secure travel savings in groups is by going after group discounts. Whether booking excursions, airfare, or anything else with a travel agent or by yourself, be sure to ask about possible group discounts.

Don’t forget to shop around

Pricing for hotels, airfare, and things to do can vary greatly. Don’t just visit a company’s website and assume that’s the best price. Check a number of sites — including discounters like Priceline — and look for package deals. You should also consider looking for less-traditional sources for booking trip. Warehouse clubs Costco and Sam’s Club, for example, offer deals on travel (sometimes very good ones).

It’s also important to use any discounts you have coming your way. Are you in AAA? Does someone in the family have a trade association membership that offers special deals? Check and you might unlock a special deal. Use these “work smarter, not harder” strategies when it comes to saving money on your next vacation, and you won’t have vacation debt lingering for months after your return.

–By Amanda Grossman

 

The post 5 Pretty Easy Ways to Save Money on a Vacation appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Do Warehouse Clubs Really Save You Money?

The post Do Warehouse Clubs Really Save You Money? appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Warehouse clubs have been around for decades, offering members a way to save money on everything from bulk toilet paper and ground beef to big-screen TVs and tires (in the same shopping trip). But even with their cult followings, it can be hard to justify paying a membership fee just to be able to shop there.

Whether you’ve walked the long aisles of your local warehouse club before or are brand new to the idea, here are just a few ways that one of these memberships can save you money on many of the things you buy.

Getting a warehouse club membership

I’ll be honest: one of my favorite perks of being a Costco member is the samples. There’s just something about hot (free) food at the end of an aisle to really make your Saturday shopping experience better.

Of course, food samples alone aren’t worth the cost of my annual membership. To make that expense worthwhile, I have to take a look at how much money I’m saving each time I shop at a warehouse store, and how often those savings really come into play.

I’ll be signing on again when my membership comes up for renewal next month, because I have discovered that I definitely save serious cash with club prices. But warehouse clubs admittedly aren’t for everyone. To make that annual fee worthwhile, you’ll really have to do the math and look at your family’s needs, to see if this style of shopping makes sense.

Here’s a look at some of the things to keep in mind when debating a club membership, and some of the ways warehouse stores really can save you money.

How to save money at warehouse stores

Today, warehouse clubs are ten times better than the way I remember them from my childhood. They offer so many more products and perks, at pretty reasonable membership rates.

With a little strategy, you can save some serious cash at your local warehouse store.

You can buy organic

For years, I avoided buying a warehouse club membership because our family bought mostly organic food. Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that Costco has quietly become the largest organic retailer in the country, surpassing even Whole Foods.

You can buy everything from organic fruits and vegetables to milk, eggs, juices, meats, and more. Whether you prefer conventional food or non-GMO and organic, you can still find what you need at a warehouse store … and often for a much more competitive price.

Shop sales

Did you know that warehouse stores don’t just offer bulk prices? Most chains also publish weekly circulars with sales, promotions, and rebates.

Try to double up on the savings by taking advantage of promotional pricing. If you have manufacturers’ coupons, many warehouse stores will accept those, too.

Save even more on Black Friday

Forget fighting at your local Walmart for deals on Black Friday. Clubs like Sam’s and Costco offer additional promotions on already-low prices, and often have huge discounts that are available in the days leading up to Black Friday — so you don’t even have to stand in line at 4 a.m.

Fill ‘er up

Certain warehouse store locations will offer gas pumps for members. You can easily save a few dollars every time you fill up, just by buying there instead of a typical corner store. (I usually save $0.10 or more per gallon).

Book your next vacation

It was only last year that I discovered the value of warehouse store vacation pricing. You can buy everything from local theme park tickets to Disney passes, cruises, and family vacation packages to destinations around the world, all at a discounted rate.

You can take a look at the discounts available in your local store, or call your preferred warehouse chain’s vacation booking line to price out your own trip. Sometimes, you may still be able to find a better deal elsewhere, but it’s yet another way to potentially save on travel and experiences.

Compound savings with a credit card

By signing up for a warehouse club credit card, you can further compound your savings.

Some cards offer extra rewards for all purchases made at the warehouse store. Others may reward you for all of your everyday spending. And some may even come with promotional membership fee credits.

Take advantage of return policies and guarantees

Warehouse clubs are notorious for having excellent customer service, great return policies, and satisfaction guarantees.

At Sam’s Club, you can return items opened or unopened within 30 days for a full refund … no questions asked. Hate that new yogurt but bought a 60-pack? Yep, you can return it.

At Costco, electronics are the only returns with a specified timeframe — everything else is open to the staff’s discretion. Oh, and if you’re unhappy with your membership at any time? They’ll refund that, too.

Things to Keep in Mind

Of course, warehouse stores aren’t for everyone, and the fee isn’t always worth the cost.

It probably won’t be your one-stop-shop

Even though today’s clubs offer a huge variety of products and even organic offerings, you’ll probably still need to visit your local grocery store as well. If you’re used to knocking out all of your household’s shopping in one trip, this may be an added pain.

You’re not saving money if you’re wasting

Yes, you can save money per-unit by buying in bulk. But if you don’t need 300 of something — or cannot eat your way through a warehouse store-sized box before the food goes bad — you’re still wasting money in the end.

Don’t fall into the trap of buying more than you need. That dog food might be on an amazing sale, but it’s still not a good purchase for you if you don’t have any pets.

Budget Still Matters

It’s easy to go to Costco or BJ’s and buy a year’s worth of supplies. However, it’s important to still keep your budget in mind, and make sure that you can afford to stock up all at once.

Saving a few dollars a month over the course of the year is great…but not if you wreck your budget in the process or have to carry a credit card balance to do so.

Many warehouse clubs will offer day passes or even have promotional weekly passes for potential members. If you’re considering buying a membership, this can be a great way to look around and gauge your interest.

–By Stephanie Colestock

The post Do Warehouse Clubs Really Save You Money? appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

What It’s Like Living In An RV

Living in an RV is a lot of fun. We sold our house last year and haven't regretted it one bit. Are you thinking about living in an RV?For the past year, me and my husband, as well as our two dogs, have been living in an RV.

Some people think we’re crazy (okay, most people think that), others are extremely interested and want to do it as well, but the most common question we receive from anyone is “What is it like living in an RV?”

Makes sense, as living in an RV isn’t the “normal” American dream.

Just over a year ago, I never thought I’d live in an RV either. It was never a dream of mine or anything like that. I never gave it a second thought.

However, one step into an RV and I knew it was for me. Living in our RV full-time has been the best thing ever, and we truly love living in an RV.

In case you’re new here, below is a picture of our home:

Living in an RV is a lot of fun. We sold our house last year and haven't regretted it one bit. Are you thinking about living in an RV?

In the past year, we’ve traveled around 15,000 miles in the RV, with even more miles put on our Jeep.

We’ve already traveled to many awesome places in our RV, such as:

  • The Pacific Northwest (Wes cycled 1,000 miles from Port Angeles, Washington to San Francisco, California, while I drove myself and our two dogs in the RV). We went to Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Kalaloch and Ruby Beach, Hoh National Rainforest, La Push Beach, and many other beautiful places. This was the trip of a lifetime!
  • Utah (many times) – Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, and many other places.
  • Colorado (many times) – Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado National Monument, Dinosaur National Monument, and many other places.
  • “Home” in Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Arizona – Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Sedona, and many other places.
  • California – This was a part of the Pacific Northwest trip, but we continued on and hopped along beaches all the way to Los Angeles.
  • Wyoming – Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park

And much, much more.

If you’re interested in RVing, check out these other blog posts on Making Sense of Cents:

  • The Ultimate Guide To Getting Started RVing
  • Becoming an RV Family – How We Travel Full-Time With 4 Kids and 2 Dogs
  • How To Make Money While RVing
  • How Much Does It Cost To RV?
  • Common RV Questions – Yes, I Even Talk About What We Do With #2
  • Beginner RV Tips – Dreaming Of A Life On The Road?

Here is what it’s like living in an RV.

 

You can park your home wherever you want to.

This is probably one of the best things about living in an RV. Going on vacations is nice, but I love being able to bring my entire home with me. This way I’m not forgetting anything, and because my home is always with me, I still get to live comfortably.

We get to park our home wherever we want. This means that we can follow great weather, visit family and friends whenever it’s convenient for everyone, move to awesome new places whenever we want, and so on.

Following the weather is something that we truly love. We really only have clothes for one season, so we avoid places that are cold.

I pretty much wear flip flops, shorts, and tank tops year round, which is really nice.

 

It’s exciting living in new places all the time.

You cannot beat the kind of views we’ve had out of our RV window.

And, there have been a lot of them.

We’ve seen beautiful national parks right outside our window, amazing mountain ranges, all different kinds of landscapes, and more.

This means that there are always plenty of things to do. Boredom is a thing of the past, and I really cannot remember the last time I said I was bored. We can go on hikes all the time, paddle board, try a new restaurant, go Jeeping, biking, and more.

 

Not seeing friends and family all the time is different.

I’m not going to lie, when we first started RVing, I was a little sad.

Not seeing friends and family as much as we were used to was hard, especially knowing that we’re missing out on big life events and all of the little things in between. We still try to go home as often as we can.

However, this feeling has passed a little bit. I no longer get that FOMO (fear of missing out) feeling as much as I did in the beginning.

Now, we really just try to enjoy the times when we do go back, even if they are brief.

 

Working while living in an RV is a great thing.

Living in an RV has taught me to better manage a comfortable work-life balance, work ahead, as well as seek ways to increase my passive income.

Due to all of this, my business income has significantly increased, and I now manage everything much better.

Working while living in an RV is super nice, as you can probably tell!

Plus, having great views while you work is very motivating. It’s really refreshing to sit in the passenger seat up front, and just work while glancing at the scenery right outside our front window.

Also, I’ve had a lot of you ask what I’m using for internet. I am using a Verizon MiFi Jetpack. I also have AT&T for our cell phones so that we are always covered. This may sound crazy, but every RVer we’ve met has the same set up.

Note: Read more about how I earn a living on the road.

 

Watching scary movies in an RV makes them even scarier.

If you’re a fan of scary movies or TV shows involving zombies (like The Walking Dead), everything becomes even more enjoyable (i.e. scarier) when you’re watching it in an RV.

Note: Good luck letting the dogs out at night after doing this.

 

Driving an RV can be fun, but also stressful.

Wes always drives our RV, and I’m always sitting up front with him so that we can have a second set of eyes watching the road at all times.

Driving an RV isn’t necessarily hard, but there are a lot of bad drivers out there who are especially bad around RVers. Plus, you have to watch for construction areas, big dips in the road, and so on.

Due to this, we limit our driving to 250 miles a day on travel days. However, because we travel fairly slowly, travel days don’t come around too often.

 

Making friends when living in an RV is interesting.

Whenever we make new RV friends, it’s like we’re long lost best friends. There’s always an instant connection, lots of laughs after just a few moments of meeting each other, and going our separate ways (a normal thing in RV life) is always a little sad.

One time we had a young couple knock on our RV door and ask us if we wanted to hang out with them for drinks that night. We had never met them before, but they said they saw us roll into the campground and that they wanted to hang out.

This is a completely normal thing when living in an RV, haha!

 

Downsizing is liberating.

Living in an RV means that you’ll have to downsize. While some people dread this, getting rid of nearly all of your stuff is extremely liberating.

When we sold our house and moved into an RV, we donated and got rid of a lot of our belongings. At first it was difficult to get rid of so much, but it became easier as time went on.

These days, all we have is what we have with us. We have a small amount of everything, and we like it best this way.

We are much more mindful of what we buy, we waste hardly anything, and this is allowing us to save money as well.

Plus, when you’re RVing, you no longer have a need to buy as much stuff because the outdoors take up all of your time. Whereas before we would waste time by going to the mall, Target, and other stores- we hardly ever do that now. Now, we spend a lot of our time exploring new places.

Read more at Downsizing Your Home? Here’s How I Went From A 2,000 Square Foot House To An RV.

 

We still get along in close quarters.

One of the top questions I hear is “Do you guys get along even though you’re in such a tight space?”

Yes, we do. If we didn’t, RVing would be near impossible. We’ve been near RVers who’ve gotten into heated fights, and let me tell you- fighting in an RV isn’t fun, haha.

Everyone can hear you, and there’s really nowhere to escape to.

 

Yes, RVers take showers.

For some reason, some people believe that RVers don’t take showers or use the bathroom. We have both a shower and a bathroom in our RV, so you don’t have to worry about that any more 🙂

Showering in an RV isn’t as nice as showering at home. We have to watch the amount of hot water we use, but we haven’t really had any problems with that so I don’t have any complaints.

 

Food tastes better when living in an RV.

Me and Wes always talk about this, but it’s true – meals in an RV always taste better. I think it has to do with always having great views.

Are you interested in living in an RV? Why or why not?

 

The post What It’s Like Living In An RV appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Move Like a Minimalist: How to Avoid New Nest Syndrome

Spring is a common time when people start buying new homes, or simply moving to new apartments across town. Moving by itself is an incredibly stressful time, and no one needs to add additional financial stress into the mix. Moving tends to be expensive, transporting things across town (or further) and getting everything settled can put a major dent in an established monthly budget. Once you get to your new place, it’s likely that the layout of the furniture won’t be the same, and you’ll need to figure out how to best fit everything in while very likely buying some new furniture to make everything work.

When you’re starting the moving process and getting settled into your new place, don’t let the expenses get out of control. Here are some tips to help prevent the new nest instinct from taking over and ruining your savings and budgeting progress.

1. Walk The New Space To See How Things Will Fit

Take some time to walk through your new home, make and record some measurements and roughly plan where things will go. Doing so will allow you to declutter the things that you either don’t need or simply won’t fit in the new space. There’s no sense moving something that you’ll just end up getting rid of shortly after. This preparation will allow you to save money by potentially renting a smaller, less expensive moving truck.

2. Wait To Buy New Things Until You’ve Lived There For A While

While it’s tempting to go to your favorite furniture store and buy everything you think you’ll need in your new home, I’d highly suggest waiting until you’ve lived there for a few weeks. Unless something is absolutely essential, you will benefit from waiting and seeing what things you actually need. This gives you the opportunity to find the small quirks and needs of that specific home and you won’t waste money buying things before you know you need them.

3. Take Your Time And Acquire Unique or Interesting Pieces

Just like number two, if you’re willing to wait a little bit and acquire things more slowly, you’re more able to find interesting and unique pieces of furniture to bring into your space. These pieces will add more character to your home, and really bring it to life. If you’re the DIY type, you can make some custom solutions that will perfectly fit the space you have. Even if it’s repurposing and upcycling an antique piece by painting or refinishing it, it’s guaranteed to be cheaper and likely more durable than something from a local superstore.

4. Remember That White Space Is Perfectly Fine

Especially if the space you’re moving into is bigger than your previous home, remember that you don’t need to fill up every corner of every room. It’s okay to leave big open spaces in your new living quarters, for a clean, uncluttered look. If you don’t feel the need to fill in all the space, you’ll save a ton of money on potential furniture and decorative purchases along the way. Focus on fewer, more meaningful purchases and you’re good to go.

5. Don’t Buy Everything Right Away

When visiting the homes of parents and other folks that have lived in their homes for a long time, it’s easy to feel like that level of furnishing is expected. Don’t go into debt immediately buying furniture for your new place! The reality is that most people have had years (sometimes decades) to furnish their home and have done it over a very long period of time. Relieve yourself of the pressure to have a perfectly decked out home and feel free to leave some rooms open, undecorated, or even unused if you want. It’s your space, and you get to choose exactly how you use it.

If you follow these tips, you’ll significantly cut the cost of moving into a new home whether it’s an apartment, a house, or anything in between. While you might feel pressure to get everything set up right away, take your time and make everything work to your advantage.

The post Move Like a Minimalist: How to Avoid New Nest Syndrome appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com