A New Face - We Love Money Smart Week

Hey everyone! This is Andrew, the Money Smart Week’s design intern.  WP_20140325_001.jpeg

My Work Hovel

Actually, I’m the first design intern they’ve ever had. I have spent the last two months working along side the team creating and updating graphics used by Money Smart Week.Working with Money Smart Week has kept me very busy, from ads to posters, and even odd jobs on the side, I have been constantly kept busy; and I love it!

One of the projects that I really enjoyed working on was the “we love Money Smart Week” poster.


For those of you that don’t know, the “We Love Money Smart Week” poster will be featured in the upcoming promotional video. (another project I worked on, but that’s a story for another time).

This poster was printed at 23’x15’, then pasted to a foam core board. We then shipped them out to some forty-odd Money Smart partners around the country. These partners then took a photo of themselves holding the sign in front of a distinctive local landmark.




Putting these posters together was a fun time. Lucky for us, we had access to a large format printer. This allowed us to print five at a time, rather than just one.

for_print.jpgIf it was just me cutting and mounting these things, I would have been buried under a mountain of paper. Fortunately, I had a hand from Terry, our web site guy. The two of us working together were able to keep up with the pace of the printer. We got the stack of posters piled up pretty high.

I don’t know about you guys, but I find myself getting into something of a trance when I’m working on mindless tasks, like mounting poster boards.  Before Terry came and helped me I was just trying to keep up with the printer, no music, no nothing. Then Terry introduced me to Tiesto’s Club Life, a techno club music pod cast. The music pared with someone to talk to turned the whole situation around! From mindless and boring it became social and fun.


I guess people liked the poster, because a week later we had another order for 30 more! The excitement surrounding this project has been uplifting, and I am looking forward to the final product. Check back with us next week to see the video – and stay tuned for details about other projects I’ve been working on for Money Smart Week.

Andrew Steendam

Money Smart Week Intern

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago 


Summer On A Budget


For me summer break is a time of relaxation and peace!

 “I just want to lay on the beach and do nothing!”

Even though many of us may have a summer internship, a lifeguarding gig at a local pool, or are forced to babysit our intolerable younger siblings while our parents work, summer is ultimately a time to unwind and relax. No more stressing about group projects, no more all-nighters the day before a midterm, and no more research papers to type. As college students, I feel we must take full advantage of our final summer breaks and make sure we have as much fun and enjoyment as we possibly can.

Unfortunately, having an insurmountable amount of fun typically correlates to a huge hit to your bank account.

Going to a White Sox or Cubs game - $75+

A day at Six Flags - $125+

Tickets to Lollapalooza - $250+

Vacation to Florida - $500+

Luckily there a many other less expensive activities available in the summer and will not be detrimental to your bank account!


  • Go to the beach - $10
    Instead of going to a water park or local pool, try spending the day on the beach with your friends. Many of us in the Chicago area live very close to Lake Michigan and should take full advantage of the water! All you need is a train ticket, your sunglasses, a cooler, a towel, and some sunscreen in order to have an awesome summer day!
  • Get Active– FREE
    Get off the couch and get active! Instead of waking up at 2PM and watching TV until 6PM, get up, get out and become active! Summer is the perfect time to jump start a work out regimen, go hiking, biking, and become healthy!
  • Star Gazing – FREE
    Laying beneath the stars on a summer night is the perfect, most inexpensive date opportunity. All you need is a blanket, some bug spray, and a few snacks to make the perfect date night for you and a loved one.
  • Volunteer - FREE

Above all, if you have an ample amount of free time in the summer and want to stay active and make a difference try volunteering. Volunteering at a local food bank, animal shelter, church, or hospital is the perfect activity to stay busy while also helping others in your community who may be in need. In addition to helping others, volunteering is the perfect activity to boost your resume and show potential employers your dedication and superior work ethic!

These are just a few tips on how to stay active in the summer when working on a tight budget. You do not always have to spend a lot of money in order to have fun; you just need to be creative and start thinking outside of the box


Giving Younger Americans the “Credit” They Deserve

college_credit_card.pngRack! Rack!  Remember the sound of those manual credit card machines that used to imprint the card info onto a sales slip? Now, with new technology and smartphones, a credit card can be swiped almost anywhere with ease.  Need a new credit card?  Grab your laptop and sign-up for one in 10 minutes.   This accessibility can make “racking” up debt pretty easy if you aren’t careful. This means that almost anyone, those darn irresponsible college students and recent graduates included, can get a credit card.  We all know the stereotype of the spendthrift twentysomething running around maxing out their cards.  However, according to new data and trends, that scenario may be less common than we think.

According to FICO, many younger consumers don’t even own credit cards.  I spent a year out of college before I got mine.  FICO’s data shows that the number of American consumers ages 18 to 29 that do not own credit cards increased to 16 percent in 2012.  This was an 8 percent jump from 2007.  Additionally, the average debt decreased from $3,073 to $2,087 for the same age group.  If you just take college students into consideration, only 35 percent have credit cards in their name. This is down from 42 percent two years ago.

While talking to a dozen of my friends and peers who have graduated recently, I found that only about half currently own a credit card.  However, nearly all of them have a debit card.  My friends who didn’t have credit cards told me they didn’t like the idea of buying something that they couldn’t immediately afford.  Several already have debt from college loans and are aware of others or have parents who are struggling with debt.  A few admitted that these negative experiences have affected their stance on credit cards and they didn’t want to get a card until they felt it is absolutely necessary or until they had a higher monthly income.  There’s a good chance they will be getting a credit card later rather than sooner.   Landing a full-time job with a good salary can feel more like trying to become a member of an exclusive ultra, top secret club for those without three to five years of job experience.  For now, coupons and other special promotions have replaced credit cards and saving has become the main focus

How do these numbers compare to the rest of the population?   The good news is that total credit card debt has gone down in recent years.  According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, credit card balances decreased by $19 billion the first quarter of this year.  The Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances also stated “Overall, the median balance for those carrying a balance fell 16.1 percent to $2,600; the mean fell 7.8 percent to $7,100.”  While this data is from 2010, it tells us that credit card debt has been decreasing for several years.  While the average family’s credit card debt is about $15,000, the lower median hints that this is likely due to a few heavy spenders at the end of the spectrum.  The bad news is that overall debt has increased for consumers over 40.  According to CNN Money,” FICO scores have fallen 1.7 percentage points among the 40 to 49 age group, 1.8 percentage points for those ages 50 to 59 and 3.8 percentage points for consumers 60 and older.”   Conversely, FICO scores have gone up for 18 to 29 year olds. Those with scores of 760 or higher jumped from 8.6% in 2005 to 11.2% in 2012. 

I think it’s great that young adults or “millennials” are spending less and saving more.  Many of us have seen how stressful escalating debt can be when expenses and spending aren’t handled responsibly and we’ve learned from those before us.  Some are even investing and saving for retirement much earlier than our parents. At first, I was surprised to see data showing that young adults spend less on cars, homes and entertainment than other generations. However, most of my college buddies would agree that we aren’t spending less and avoiding credit cards due to a rebirth or a new age of responsibility, straight priorities and good honest conservative spending. Many of us, myself included, are simply too uncertain about the future to spend our money on things we want but can’t afford.    Even for the most spendthrift it’s tough to justify spending money on that sweet LED TV for the new apartment when were not sure if we’ll have a job in three months.  Whatever the motivation may be, the fact is that young adults are spending less.  The ones that do have credit cards are using them more strategically and responsibly.  For that, I think we still deserve a little more “credit”.



Moving Back Home


Hi, my name is Courtney and I am a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In a little less than a month, however, I will be a new college graduate in search of a job! And as graduation rapidly approaches, I find myself heading back to the same house I lived in during the first 18 years of my life. Though I’m a little nervous about living under the same roof as my parents again, I am here to point out some of the benefits to moving back in with your parents after graduation.

First, it will be nice to be able to save some money. Of course, if you are able to contribute to rent, utilities, and other household expenses you should. But in my case, my parents understand that I will not be able to pay these expenses before getting a job. In the meantime, I will help contribute to household chores such as doing laundry, washing dishes, and going grocery shopping. It’s important that you try to contribute to the household in any way you can so your parents treat you like an adult while you’re living under their roof.

Second, there are some things you just can’t get anywhere but home, the most important of which is a home-cooked meal. I never fully appreciated my mom’s amazing cooking until I moved into my first apartment sophomore year and was forced to cook for myself for the first time in my life. It will be a pleasant change to eat a meal that isn’t take-out and doesn’t have the word “instant” in it. Helping your parents cook dinner can also be a good opportunity to learn some new recipes and develop your cooking skills.

Third, I am honestly looking forward to spending some quality time with my parents. Having lived on my own for the majority of the last four years, I have missed a lot that has happened back home. Though I’ll be sleeping in the same room I have had my entire life, I imagine the experience will be different than it was before college. For example, I will no longer be grounded for staying out past curfew.

If you’re going to be moving back home, it’s important that your parents recognize you are no longer a child—you are an adult that should be treated like a tenant in their house. If you and your parents are able to make this distinction, I definitely think it will help bring you closer (literally and figuratively) than ever before.


CFPB offers resources for college students

Being a college student can be tough on the wallet. To keep costs down, you’ve got to squeeze the most from your financial cfbp_image.pngaid package, manage your college money by avoiding hidden fees and charges, shop for the best student loan deals, and then navigate the loan repayment maze after graduation.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can help you understand your options, make smarter choices when paying for college, and start building good credit.

Paying for College

From start to finish, the CFPB can help you make informed financial decisions about paying for college. Our tools can help you compare college costs and financial aid packages. Our tools can also help you choose the right student loan for you, and give you practical advice on managing your college money.

Repay student debt

While we can’t give you advice for your exact situation, we can point you in the right direction. Check out our Repay Student Debt tool.

Submit a student loan complaint

Having trouble with your student loan? File a complaint. We’ll forward your issue to the right people at the company, give you a tracking number, and keep you updated on what’s being done to resolve your problem.

Managing your student cards and checking

Is your school-endorsed debit card really the best way to receive your financial aid? Check out the real costs of receiving scholarship and student loan proceeds on a debit card. Get tips for choosing a bank account.

Get quick answers to financial questions

Can your credit card company consider your age in deciding whether to give you a card? What can you do when a telemarketer takes money from your bank account without your permission? Visit Ask CFPB for real answers to these and other questions about auto loans, bank accounts, credit reports and scores, credit cards, debt collection, and mortgages.


32 days until graduation

32 days until Graduation



Not that I am counting or anything! But with just those last 32 days to go of cramming for tests, presentations and group projects after all the blood, sweat and tears that went into the last 4 years, we have a lot to look forward too!  The rest of our lives in fact!

But before we get there, there are all of the celebrations and festivities that come along with graduation.  And these festivities can really add up quickly, especially if you have a large number of family members attending like I do. Some of the expenses to consider are: a cap and gown package which start at $200 and go up to $400 at UIUC, gas/plane tickets, hotel rooms (if you were lucky enough to get one in the area), meals, announcements and potentially a party. But that is not going to stop us from going out with a bang!

One way to look at the announcements is as a form of an investment. After all of the announcements are sent out to friends and family, imagine that you will receive an average of $25 back for each one and with a cost of about $2 each that is a pretty good return. Now if you have to cover all of the expenses listed above, this investment income here is a good place to start.

However, if your parent’s are funding the festivities and expenses: then that is where this gets really fun! The options are endless on what to do with all of this money. The responsible person might decide to pay off some debts (like student loans), save or invest it and these are really great options! The more financially stable you are now, the better off you are starting this new chapter in life. But I also do not think that it is irresponsible to do something like plan a trip. Even still, you do not have to spend all of the money on your trip; you could set some aside for a different purpose. I think that it is important to reward ourselves for our hard work. Especially if you have already locked in a full-time job, want a vacation before you have to start taking vacation days, and have planned out your new finances.  Whatever you decide to do, know all of your options and make a smart decision that fits your financial goals.


Best of luck and congratulations!

Blog written by: E. Benson


So long...

I cannot believe how fast time as flown. Today is my last day with my internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. How is this possible?! I guess it is true when they say, “Time flies when you are having fun!” I can honestly say that my experience with my internship is one that will stay with me for a long time. I am so thankful for this opportunity and have learned so much.

The best advice I have for college students is to find an internship in your area of work! Any kind of experience in the working place will bring so many benefits to you professionally. You are given opportunities to meet and learn from professionals and begin to create a network. It is amazing what you will learn about yourself in such a short time. I am excited to move forward as I will graduate in May and then begin to start my career.

I appreciate all of you reading all the tip and tricks to save money. Continue to read our blog through the summer as juniors and seniors from the University of Illinois share financial tips and advice from their personal college experiences.

I wish you all the best as you work towards becoming Money Smart!


Apr 22 CFPB Partners with Chicago Federal Reserve Bank around Money Smart Week

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is proud to be a partner in this year's Money Smart Week with the Chicago cfbp_image.pngFederal Reserve Bank.

The CFPB’s mission is to make the markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans — whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products. We supervise banks, credit unions, and other financial companies, and enforce federal consumer financial laws.
CFPB offers some of the following resources to provide financial education, help consumers resolve problems with financial products and services, and provides data on consumer complaints.
One of our resources is Ask CFPB, an interactive online tool that gives consumers clear, unbiased answers to financial questions. Ask CFPB contains hundreds of easy-to-read, plain-language entries written by the Bureau’s subject-matter experts.
Ask CFPB provides definitions that translate highly technical industry jargon to help consumers better understand financial products and navigate the marketplace. It offers general information and explanations for financial product terms and features and situational advice for consumers interacting with financial service providers. 
Tell your story
We want to hear consumers’ viewpoints on ways to provide effective, safe, and affordable access to the financial services and products. Whether you are a young person moving towards independence or a first-time home buyer, share your experience by telling your story. What you say will provide insight into how we work to protect consumers and create a fairer marketplace.
Submit a complaint
Consumers can submit complaints about issues they are experiencing with a company’s financial products or services. As of April 2013, we are accepting complaints about bank accounts or services, credit cards, credit reporting, money transfers, mortgages, student loans, and car loans. We will forward the complaint to the company and work to get a response from them. If another government agency would be better able to assist, we will share the complaint with that agency. When the company responds, the consumer can review the response and give the CFPB feedback.
Free CFPB Publications
The CFPB has free financial education materials in English and Spanish that are available for bulk ordering. These brochures, bookmarks, fact sheets, fliers, worksheets, and posters cover. Check them out here.

Thinking about summer yet? I Am!

The semester is coming to a close. Soon school will be out for the summer!!

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy summer. Each year it comes just in time! In the final few weeks of the school year, your stress level always seems to shoots through the roof as you try to finish semester projects and study for final exams. Many times you find yourself running on just caffeine and trying to do the best you can. Once summer hits and the sun comes out you finally get to relax a little bit. No longer do you have to worry about homework or group presentations and the sun is hot! At this point, your biggest worry may be planning for fun summer activities. What should you do? How much is it going to cost? Can you afford it?

As you start to plan for your summer it is important to work through a summer budget to give estimates of what kinds of things you will be able to afford. I know that during the summer most college students get a full time job and, it feels like you are ‘rich’ again or at the least feel like they have some money.  Still, money can disappear fast and you will want to have enough saved up to last you through another school year.

Saying that, you want to enjoy your summer and finding ways to cut the cost of summer activities will help. Here are a few ways that could help!

  • Stay local. You may be surprised what great things you have in just driving distance away from you. I know taking long trips to faraway places sounds much more appealing, but that day may have to wait.

  • Carpool! This can be one if the best ways to cut travel costs down. Get a carload of people and drive off to the beach or water park. Everyone can split the cost of gas and parking. Instead of paying the total ticket, you only have to pay 1/5th. Much better deal!

  • Plan ahead…..you meals. Food can be very expensive, especially in high tourist areas. You could either pack a lunch before, or scout out restaurants that better fit you budget beforehand. This could save you $20 dollars or more.

  • Pack a water bottle. Not only is this a good idea for health reasons, but it saves you from having to by a drink or bottled water where ever you are. In most locations you can find a drinking fountain or have access to water.

  • Group discounts! Always check out if the place you are going has group discounts. Getting a big group together is always fun, but it could also save everyone some cash!Personally, I do plan to work most of my summer, but I also plan to go camping and to the lake. I am ready to absorb some rays and relax by the water. Its great because it is a cheap summer activity and one I can enjoy with friends and family!



Illinois Economics Challange

econ_il_small_.pngAs Money Smart Week is approaching, I wanted to feature an outstanding program that is available to high schools. It is a great way to encourage youth to be more knowledgeable about the economics behind how our world functions.

Illinois Economics Challenge (ILEC) is an annual competition for teams of high school students in which they test their knowledge of economics at the Advanced Placement level. The ILEC began in 1996 as a statewide Championship event which has grown to include the opportunity for the First Place team to advance to the National Semi-Finals competition with all other First Place teams across the nation.  The top four-scoring Semi-Finalist teams advance to the National Economics Challenge Finals in New York City.

Students currently or previously enrolled in a qualifying econ course may participate in the 2013 Illinois Econ Challenge. Qualifying courses include:

·         Advanced Placement (AP Micro, AP Macro, or AP Micro and Macro),

·         International Baccalaureate (pre-IB and IB),

·         Honors,

·         Two-semester, or any other advanced courses in economics (including courses taught by a secondary teacher where students earn college credit).

           All qualifying courses listed above must be taught by a secondary teacher.

Illinois teachers begin the Challenge by registering student teams online by February 15. The competition is not restricted by geographic location or budgetary constraints. Students from all over the state may easily participate. There are no participation fees and teachers may enter multiple teams.

Ten top-scoring teams from the online round of competition advance to the Illinois Economics Challenge State Finals hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, in April. This Money Smart Week event involves three rounds of written testing with the two top-scoring teams participating in a Quiz-Bowl style fourth round of competition to determine the First Place team in Illinois.

Participation in and entry to the Economics Challenge State Finals is by invitation only.  If interested in finding out more about the program, please contact Beth Metzler: bmetzler@niu.edu or 815.762.8923.  To learn more about Econ Illinois and our resources for K-12 teachers, visit: www.econed-il.org.


College = Macaroni & Cheese?

pasta_night.pngI don’t know about you, but I definitely took for granted the ‘free’ food I got at home.You cannot beat the food at home because 1) it is free 2) delicious & 3) most likely cooked by a parent. You got to skip the whole process of thinking about what to make, buying the food, and cooking the meal. All you had to worry about is eating!

As we go off and begin to support ourselves we start to understand the amount of time and money that goes into making a meal. It’s not as easy has mom makes it look. I think this is where college students go wrong. Often times we resort to making short cuts because either we don't have the money or don't want to put in the time or energy to takes to create a good meal.

This leads to bulk purchases of ramen noodles, hot dogs, macaroni & cheese, etc. I understand why college students do this. It is quick and cheap! Though it’s convenient, it is far from the healthiest choice. I believe the best way to combat this battle is to band together!Find a group of friends and cook together!past_night_2.png

Pick 1 or 2 (or 5) days in the week where you all contribute to a meal and eat together. Structure it however best fits your situation, but one option is to have each of your friends bring an item of food for them meal. For example, say you want to have a taco night. (Taco Tuesday!) One friend cooks and brings the meat, another buys the tortilla shells and rice, and the last brings the toppings. Not only is it fun to cook and eat a meal with your friends, but you will have a well-rounded meal for less than if you bought everything yourself.


College = Eating Out


Take a minute to think about all the types of things you did your friends, family, and/or co-workers this past week. Now, how many of your activities involved food?

Whenethai_food.pngver my friends and I make plans, we always seem to include going out to grab some food. It doesn’t always have to be a full meal. Sometimes it is coffee and a muffin at a coffee shop (Many great talks have happened in coffee shops). We all have to eat anyways, so why not go out and enjoy a meal together?! J
I personally love going out and socializing with my friends. Yet, it is always a bit of a stinger to get the bill. Eating out is not cheap and like everything else, adds up very quickly. As college students it can really be a struggle from time to time to balance out your social life with your checkbook. Instead of totally giving up on your social life, consider these tips to help ease the cost for eating out.

Doggie Bag

Plan to have leftovers to take home! Most of the time the serving sizes at restaurants are quite large and could really provide for two meals. I purposely try to make this happen! Whatever I order I try to consciously only eat a little over half. This is good for two reasons. 1) It also helps me eat less in one sitting. It is so easy to overstuff yourself. I am sure everyone has experienced the feeling of wanting to just be rolled out of the restaurant because you are so full. If you are consciously thinking that you need to save some for tomorrow, you are more likely to eat a normal amount. 2) As I get the bill, I can divide it by two. Say the meal totals $16, but in my head this delicious meal only cost $8 today and then $8 tomorrow. That is food you don’t have to buy tomorrow.
Of course this doesn’t always work, depending on what you order. Make sure not to waste anything. Even fries! Reheat them in the oven (maybe add cheese) and they are still yummy.

Find restaurants with college discounts!

You can always find a restaurant that understand our lack of funds! Take some time and research some good ones. In my Deep_dish_pizza.pngcollege town, Pizza Ranch always gives a discount on the buffet for college students. Since I have been in Chicago, I have heard of a place called Flat Top Grill that gives a college discount. Who knows what you will find! It could be your new favorite restaurant.

Coupons! Coupons! Coupons!

Take advantage of Coupons! They could be in newspapers, magazines, online, etc. If you were planning to go out anyways, you might as well go somewhere that gives you a deal.

Set guidelines
Since we know this is part of our social lives, make room for it in your budget. Be realistic and stick to it. It is the best way to avoid the surprise of a very low bank account.

(Photos are of the new foods I have tried this semester.)


College = Coffee


I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know that I loved coffee until I started college. All those late nights of studying (or just hanging out) made 8:00am class difficult to stay awake through. Yet, we all know that the cost of coffee can add up quickly! This is especially true if you prefer to have a latte over a cup of regular black coffee. So what’s a college student to do with a small budget?

Short term solution: Get connected into a coffee shop. See if they offer punch cards, awards card, etc. Follow them through Social Media. They may post daily deals or ways to win free stuff.

Medium solution: Make your own! Pinterest is a great place to look for recipes. This can be tricky if you don’t have the right equipment at home or are willing to put in the extra effort. As long as you have is a coffee pot, you can always add some specialty flavored creamer. There are so many delicious flavors to chose from! My favorite is Almond joy! (hint: if you put the creamer in the blender it will get frothy like a latte.)

Long term solution: Learn to acquire the taste of regular black coffee.

If you have any great recipes, please share by commenting!


Graduation!... and Student Loans?!

In less than two months I will be graduating college! I can’t believe how fast time as gone. The thought of graduating is very ‘bittersweet.’ I think the ‘sweet’ part is to finally use the education and skills I have learned through those long hours of class and homework.

I am excited and earnest to head into the workforce and start to make a living. Yet, I also have a ‘bitter’ feeling as I will be leaving behind my flexible college schedule, social life, and most of all… I will have to start paying off my school loans.It was just the other day I was hit with the finally bill of my short four years of college. The initial response is shock of how much the bill can accumulate in four years. My emotions quickly changed to fear, “How am I going to pay this off?!”

Through conversations with others, I was reminded that I am not alone. There have been many before me and many after me who will go through the same process. Even though the paying off loans is somewhat painful, it is very doable. You just have to be mindful and commit yourself to paying them off as soon as you can. I actually came across 5 helpful tips to pay off those loans once you graduate. This may mean you have to limit yourself in other areas, but it’s for a short time and will be well worth it!

1.       Create a Budget!

It is so important to keep track of where you money is going. Reserve a slot of time every two weeks or for sure every month to check in on how you are doing with your budget. It is easy to lose track, but you will be grateful you stayed on top of it!

2.       Sell?

Yes, sell! It seems like at the end of each school year when it’s time to move again, you are amazing by how much have way more stuff you have compared to when you first moved in.  It is so easy to accumulate stuff over those four years. Take the time to go through it all and re-evaluate what things you actually need. Use Craig’s list, eBay, or bring your stuff into a consignment store. You may be surprised how much you can make by selling the stuff that is only taking up space.

3.       Don’t buy a new car

This one is a bit of a downer. After all that hard work of school you deserve a new car, I know! Yet, it is best to postpone it as long as you can. A new car means more monthly loan payments. The longer you can wait, the more money you can funnel towards your school loans, which results in getting those paid off faster. Less fun, but worth it!

4.       Always be on the lookout for ways to save

There are always ways to save money. As college students, we should already be pro’s at this. It is again about being mindful. Some examples would be carpooling, couponing, and eating more home cooked meals. This takes some effort, but each dollar saved gets you that much closer to being debit free.

5.       Stay Focused but Positive

In order to achieve your goal in the least amount of time possible, you will have to stay focused and limit yourself with some things. Yet, remember this is not forever! College is a good investment and it is worth the time to pay off the loans now. Keep looking to the end goal. Just think how great it will feel to be student debt free!


Dating on a Budget: Birthday Gifts

cupcake_candles.jpgToday is my Birthday!! Another year older and another year wiser, I’d like to think.

Birthdays are great, but I am reminded of how difficult it is to decide what to give your boyfriend or girlfriend for their birthday. If you are anything like me, I am always on the hunt for something different or unpredictable so that it is special. I want to surprise my boyfriend with something he will really love. Then on top of that I have to consider my small, college budget. Yet, over time I have discovered that asking a few questions can open up your mind to different kinds of ideas. Then just splash in a little creative thinking and you have a cost effective, useful gift.   


1.       Be Practical: What is something he/she needs?

I am going to assume that many of your boyfriends and girlfriends are also on a limited budget. This means that there could be some things they need, but don’t want to purchase right now.  To clarify, when I say needs, I don’t mean the basic needs like bread and toothpaste, but a broader term of needs. For example, they may need a new pair of jeans or new headphones because their old ones just gave out. It will be a gift that you know will be utilized!

2.       Think “Couple”: What is something we could enjoy together?

Doing things together is always special. It makes for a gift AND a memory. Try to think of events happening in the area or create your own. Events like a live concert, a sports game, or a play production can be fantastic options, but not normally in the budget. A low-cost event could be a concert in the park, tour a brewery, or a free museums visit day.  Research and find something you would enjoy together.

It also doesn’t have to be an event; it could even just be an activity you like to do together. For example, my boyfriend just got me season two of Duck Dynasty. I loved it! We both love to watch this show together and I am super pumped to visit him again to watch the season.

**Tip: Join Groupon or Goldstar for discounted prices on events.

3.       Try DIY: What special thing could I make?

DIY is great because it will fit your budget and it seems to be a more heart-felt gift. Yet, it can be very tricky to think of something they will enjoy. Pictures is often the go-to for DIY. You could make a frame with your favorite picture together or even create a whole scrapbook out of your pictures. Don’t forget food! Food is always a win-win in my eyes. Make a favorite recipe or try something new. Either way, you skills and efforts will be greatly noted.

4.       Last Resort: What could be my last resort?

If you are still stumped or all your ideas have falling through, remember, there are always gift cards! What a wonderful creation and really everyone enjoys getting a gift card, because it gives them a little freedom to get whatever they would like. Worried it is too boring? Then get a gift card at a unique store or restaurant. For example a cupcake shop like Sprinkles or a local boutique. You could even create your own personal gift cards like, “One from Back Massage” or “One free Laundry Service.” Your options are endless.

Happy Birthday Shopping!