Five Tips for a Better Financial Future: Stony Brook Edition!
Hey Stony Brook~
Happy 2013! I hope that the New Year brings you peace, happiness, and, oh yeah, prosperity…
Money may not buy happiness, but, admittedly, life seems a bit easier when you don’t have to fret over cash, especially when you’re enrolled in college! Between the cost of student loans, housing, cars, and books, it is easy to see how money concerns can be a major stress. However, as you make your tuition payments for the 2013 spring semester, never fear…I have complied a list of five financial tips that may alleviate some of your stress by saving you money and maybe even allowing you to set aside a few extra bucks to save. This list is compiled of advice that friends, classmates, and I found to be the most helpful…
#1. Apply for financial aid.
Scholarships can be a great way to reduce tuition costs! Stony Brook offers many helpful grants and scholarships.
Visit http://www.stonybrook.edu/finaid/programs/scholarship to learn about the various types of aid that you may qualify for at SBU.
Some scholarships you do not need to even apply for; the University will notify you if you qualify for such aid packages. For instance, the Presidential Scholarship is based on your high school academic achievements, including SAT and ACT scores. If you did well academically in high school, you may be rewarded with lower tuition bills now!
#2. Know your loans.
Personally, I do not advise taking a loan unless it is government-subsidized (which means that it does not accrue interest until after you begin repaying the loan) otherwise you may find yourself drowning in interest. Interest accumulates when you take out an unsubsidized loan (interest is dispersed until the loan is paid in full). If you are able to pay tuition in full each semester without taking a loan, it may mean less money in your pocket in the short-term. However, you can avoid the huge burden of having to pay back student loans (that may have mounted up a lot of added cost through interest) after you graduate, allowing you to focus more on starting your career!
If you must take out an unsubsidized loan, try to pay back the interest as it accrues (since the interest on such loans is capitalized, meaning that you pay interest upon interest that builds up, thereby drastically increasing the amount of money that you will ultimately owe) to reduce your debt in the long-run.
Regardless of which loan(s) you take, ensure that you fully understand the terms and conditions!
#3. Keep on top of your money, and SAVE.
If you haven’t already, I definitely advise creating a savings and checking account at your local bank. If you are coming from off the Island or if you live on campus, consider creating an account at Teacher’s Federal Credit Union (TFCU), as there are a few ATMs located around campus and on Long Island, making it convenient to perform transactions.
If you have a job, direct deposit your paychecks into your savings account instead of depositing each check. This will save you time that would have been spent traveling to and from the bank! Additionally, by not “touching” each check, it is easier to forget about them: you will be less tempted to spend if you don’t think about the money. If you save scrupulously, before you know it, you will have a mountain of cash stocked up in your savings account!
If you have a credit card, be smart about paying off your balance and interest. This will help protect your credit score and prevent additional costs from piling up due to late fees! Try not to use your credit card unless you know you will be able to pay it off. And definitely do NOT impulse buy. Think>swipe.
#4. Lifestyle: it’s where you live and what you do…
First off, how far away do you live from Stony Brook? Is it more economical for you to live in a dorm, off-campus with roommates, or maybe (the dreaded) live with your parents? When I initially considered college, I was dead-set on accepting an athletic scholarship for Women’s Cross-Country and going away to school. However, I found that enrolling in Stony Brook (a top-tier, Division-1, nationally renowned university!) and commuting made the most sense for my budget and lifestyle.
Living at home has saved me some major cash, and because I commute I am able to devote a decent amount of time to working, which allows me to pay my tuition. If you have the time (depending on your course-load and other obligations), you may want to consider a job, if you haven’t already. Even if you live on-campus, there are many great opportunities to make some money (or try an internship!)…just visit the Career Center (located at the bottom of the Zebra Path, near the new Sustainability Studies Offices) or online on ZebraNet. Having a job or internship in college is an awesome way to build relevant job experience and boost your resume!
Additionally, think about what you eat on and off campus. Obviously, eating out all the time will be a major drain on your funds (and may lead to the ‘Freshman 15’). Stick to healthy options, and try to bring little meals or snacks with you to power you throughout your day (And reduce the temptation to buy food between classes! And it’s more ecologically-friendly to bring your own containers of food rather than to keep buying more food, in more packaging!). My friends joke with me and call me the “Tupperware Queen,” as on campus I can be found with a myriad of reusable containers filled with all types of fresh fruits, veggies, and other goodies stuffed in my bag, ready to be eaten!
If you live on-campus or if you commute and always find yourself heading to the Union or the SAC to grab a bite, consider purchasing a campus meal plan…this will save you money in the long run, since if you pay without it, your food will be taxed!
One fun tip for free food: look for campus festivals and gallery art openings…there have been more than one occasion where friends and I have nabbed some fresh sushi or fruit salad from such cultural events! Plus, you can enjoy the fun of the occasion while eating!
#5. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle…
You need not be a tree-hugger to save money. However, it is clear that living a more sustainable lifestyle can help reduce your expenses!
Buy, swap, or find free used textbooks for your classes. I recommend Chegg.com for renting textbooks; it is pretty affordable, and easy to return them once you have used them for the semester. Ask around to see if friends and roommates want to get rid of their books, and you may be able to strike some deals!
Keep organized: look at what food, school supplies, clothing, shoes, etc. you already own, and keep them neat! This will ensure you don’t make unnecessary purchases…you may be surprised at what you find lying around in the back of your closet. You also may find some dollar bills stuffed in your old coat pockets! Try to use what you have before going out and buying more items.
Hopefully these tips will start your 2013 off on a good financial footing!
For those who are really into economics, I suggest the book, blog, and podcast “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner…really interesting, smart, and relevant advice about money!
Put your money where your mouth is! Start thinking, working, living, and saving to a better, more-financially sound future.
peace. love. run.
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