Budgeting around Holidays

With the holiday season quickly approaching, we tend to find ourselves scrambling all over the place, whether it is going store-to-store trying to complete your holiday gift list or cleaning up your house to have friends and relatives over. Yet at a time when individuals should have the most joy, they often find their stress levels at an all-time high. This is due to the desire to be perfect. While we try to satisfy everyone’s wants and needs, we fail to consider a budget. While some are quick to rebuttal claiming “you can’t put a price on happiness”, they are quickly reminded how important budgeting is when they see their bill come January. The purpose of this blog is to help people satisfy the desire to provide “happiness” while staying under a set budget.

According to a recent poll by Gallup, Americans are planning to spend an average of $752 on gifts this year, with approximately 30 percent of the population spending over $1,000 this holiday season. As this number jumps off the screen, we often forget how easily it is to reach this amount, especially when using a credit card. As I discussed in my credit post, it is often misconceived that if the transaction went through in the store, you have the money to pay off the purchase. While this is often the case, credit is money that borrowed so that you can purchase goods and services when you need them. With this convenience often comes the cost of interest. While credit card interests range greatly, a typical credit card has an interest anywhere between 7 and 36% in the US, depending on the bank’s risk assessment methods and borrower’s credit history (credit score). Therefore, a bill of $752 comes with an interest anywhere between approximately $53 and $271. As a result, it is important to follow a budget.

The first step to sticking to a budget however is to set one. The problem most people face is the uncertainty of what your budget should actually look like. Your holiday budget will typically depend on how much extra money you have after your monthly expenses are covered. Ideally, you should save throughout the year (for example, setting aside $50 a month into a savings account). The amount you save each month however will depend greatly on how much you are actually planning on spending. For instance, only saving $50 a month will leave you approximately $152 short of what the average individual plans on spending for gifts this year. It is import that you take a look at your spending patterns to see where you can cut costs. Some factors to consider are identifying if the expenses are either wants or needs or if you could work more to bring in a little more income for the added expends that arise during the holidays. A helpful way to ensuring that you stay within your budget this year is to follow this three-step process.

  1. Apply a spending limit

One of the easiest ways to ensure that you stay within your budget this year is to institute a spending limit. One common way of doing this is by setting a limit on how much you spend on each individual or each family member. While you may start to think that it is trivial to only spend, for instance, $10 on each of your cousins. However, f you have 10 cousins to buy for, that quickly adds up!

  1. Make a gift list

Before you hurry out to the stores to buy gifts for your family and friends, it is important that you make a gift list. While most people make a list, they tend to exclude the price. Therefore, they may at times be fooled by a short list. However, if that list includes new laptops and televisions, you are most likely going to overspend. Therefore, create a list which is separated for each individual listing what you are going to buy and how much each of those items costs. After you complete this list for each individual, tally up the total price and evaluate if you are under your spending limit or not. If over, evaluate what goods are must-haves and which ones you can cross off the list.

  1. Use the 4 Gift Rule

As the years pass by, there are more and more options as innovations continue to improve. As everyone wants to have the latest gadgets and accessories, it is important to stick to a 4-step examination process in determining whether to buy something or not:

  1. They want
  2. They need
  3. They can wear
  4. They can read

By using this list, it helps distinguish goods which are “important” or if you are just buying the gift just to have it. In addition, it helps reduce clutter around your home. While there is a lot of pressure to provide a nice holiday experience for everyone, there’s no reason you need to spend an extensive amount of money to do it. By shopping within these four areas, you can set expectations for the holidays going forward, which means less stress year-after-year.

In the end, by sticking to this three-step process, you should be able to reduce your spending while keeping everybody happy. Budgets may seem restrictive, but ultimately, they are tools to help you live a better life when used correctly. The holiday season should not be about worrying about how much you’ve overspent this season. Rather, it should be spent focusing your time and energy on the people you care about and they should appreciate the effort and thought behind your actions.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about how to shop wisely this holiday season, come to our table on Wednesday, November 29, 2017 from 12:00 to 1:00 PM in Beatty Pavilion where our SALT Ambassadors will be available to answer any questions/concerns you might have about budgeting.

Until next time,

Adam

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Student Discounts

As a student here at Wentworth, we all know how expensive college life can be, between the classes and textbooks, to even food and transportation. Not to mention the temptation of exploring Boston and all the activities/events the city has to offer. What many students don’t know however is that Wentworth and the city of Boston provide numerous amounts of student discounts to make city life cheaper. Therefore, the purpose of this blog is to spread light as to what great opportunities there are around Boston to save a few extra bucks.

To begin with, being a junior here at Wentworth, I find myself constantly trying to keep up with my coursework. However, whenever I get a chance, I try to attend as many events/venues around Boston as possible. Being a big sports fan, I look to attend every home game that I possibly can. However, I often have to resist due to the hefty price of the tickets. This all changed however when I found out about the numerous discounts that are offered to students around Boston. Teaming up with the city of Boston, the Bruins, Red Sox, and Celtics all offer very reasonable discounts to various sporting events. This includes $9 tickets to various Red Sox games as well as $20 tickets to certain Celtics games. Using these deals, I have found myself saving at times $20 a ticket to each sporting event.

To add on, discounts are also offered on admission to other venues and attractions around Boston. Most notably, students can purchase Blue Man Group tickets as low as $30 and $8.50 tickets to Regal Cinemas. $5 tickets are also available to go to the Museum of Science as well as $10 to attend the New England Aquarium. For people who like art, free admission is offered to the Museum of Fine Arts as well as to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for all Wentworth students. I mean, who doesn’t like free things?

In addition to the discounting venues, the city of Boston also provides discounts on various forms of transportation for students. For students who use the MBTA frequently, students here at Wentworth can receive a semester t-pass at a 15% discount. In addition, a 10% discount is also offered on shuttle services to Logan airport.

While not as advertised, many restaurants and retail stores also offer significant discounts as well. Students can receive a 10% discount at places such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Dairy Queen, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, and the Waffle House at participating locations. In addition, a 15% discount can be received at locations such as Banana Republic, Vineyard Vines, J. Crew, Express, and Ann Taylor.

Most notably however are the great technology and membership discounts that Wentworth students receive, which allow us to be well prepared for our classes. This includes discounted laptops and tablets at Apple and Dell to 50% off a membership to Amazon Prime, which includes free 2-day shipping.

These are just some of the thousands of student discounts that are available throughout Boston. While college life may be expensive, it is important that you take advantage of these discounts which can save you hundreds of dollars.

All the best,

Adam

What is Credit?

As many of you may well know, the holiday season is right around the corner. As the holidays approach, we often find ourselves constantly in stores looking to buy gifts for our friends and loved ones. While we may not think twice come December and put the charges right on our credit card, these transactions quickly add up. As you read the bill in January, you may find yourself scratching your head wondering how you might have possibly ended up in so much debt.

It is often misconceived that if the transaction went through in the store, you have the money to pay off that purchase. While this is often the case, credit is money that is borrowed so that you can purchase goods and services when you need them. This credit comes from a credit grantor to whom you agree to pay back the amount you spent as well as applicable finance charges in the agreed-upon amount of time.

With that being said, you may ask yourself, “Why do people use credit?”. While you certainly could stick to using only debit cards or cash, good credit is necessary if you plan to use credit to make a major purchase such as a car or a home or even want to be able to take advantage of the convenience that credit can provide. Therefore, unless you have a lot of money in your savings to pay off these major purchases immediately, you will need to have credit in order to make these transactions.

However, while you may have credit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can purchase any good that you would like. Credit is very similar to loans in that the credit grantor reviews each individual buyer to ensure that they are trustworthy in paying off their purchases in the allotted time. This is done through the use of a credit score. Generated for each individual person, your credit score is a three-digit number that that is designed to predict risk, specifically, the likelihood that you will become seriously delinquent on your credit obligations in the 24 months after scoring. While there are many credit-scoring models in existence, the most dominate market is FICO credit score, which operates within the range of 300 to 850. Within that range, there are different categories, from bad to excellent which are categorized as listed below:

· Excellent Credit: 750+

· Good Credit: 700-749

· Fair Credit: 650-699

· Poor Credit: 600-649

· Bad Credit: below 600

While these scores provide a good foundation on where you stand, the categorized scores are not set in stone. That’s because different lenders all have their own opinions as to what they view as a good credit score. With that being said, don’t assume you have a good credit score just because you always payoff your bills on time. Some of the factors that can affect your credit score are as well as how much weight each aspect carriers are:

· Payment History- 35%

· Amounts Owed- 30%

· Length of Credit History- 15%

· New credit- 10%

· Types of credit is use- 10%

Therefore, paying off all your bills on time only accounts for approximately 65 percent of your credit score. What most people fail to consider are the length of your credit history, new credit, as well as the types of credit in use.

In result, people fail to acknowledge the importance of establishing a credit early. As a student in college, it is crucial that you have an established credit. Accounting for 15 percent of your score, a long history is helpful. However, a short history is acceptable as long as you have made your payments on time and don’t owe much.

To add on, 10 percent of your score is based off how many new accounts you have applied for recently as well when the last time you opened a new account was. The score assumes that if you have opened multiple new accounts recently, you could be a greater credit risk. This is because people tend to open new accounts when they are experiencing cash flow problems or are planning to take on a lot of debt. Lenders can’t determine what to lend you based on something you might do, but they can use your credit score to analyze how much of a credit risk you might be.

In addition, 10 percent of your score is based off the types of credit you are currently using. There are 4 types of credit: revolving credit, charge cards, service credit, and installment credit. Revolving credit is where you can make purchases up to a set credit limit, at which point your credit card will then become void from making other purchases. Most credit cards are in the form of revolving credit. Another form of credit is charge cards. While they often look like revolving credit cards as well as are used in the same way, they differ in that you must pay the total balance every month. Service credit on the other hand is where your agreements with service providers are all credit arrangements. However, not all service accounts are reported in your credit history. Lastly, with installment credit, a creditor loans you money at which you agree to repay the money with interest in a given amount of time in regular installments of a fixed amount. Since this is a small component of your score, don’t worry if you don’t have accounts in each of these categories. In particular, don’t open new accounts just to increase your mix of credit types as this could result in a decrease in credit score in result of new credit.

It is important that you check your scores regularly to ensure that you maintain a good credit score. While you may not be making a large purchase right now, it is crucial that you establish credit immediately to ensure that you have a credit history when it comes time for you to purchase a home or even a car. It is recommended that you make a couple of small purchases a month using a form of credit and then pay off the purchases right away to ensure that you are establishing a good credit.

Therefore, don’t wait. Establish credit right away to prepare you for the future. If you have any questions or would like to know more, come to our credit event on November 1, 2017 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM sponsored by Leopard Cents, our new money management program on campus!! Our Ambassadors will be available to answer any questions/concerns you may have about credit.

~Adam, LeopardCents Ambassador

Hi, my name is Adam Leclerc and I am a junior here at Wentworth Institute of Technology. As a student in college, we all know how difficult it is to pay off our tuition payments. While we work hard during the summer to pay off as much of our tuition as we possibly can, we often find ourselves having to catch up. Yet as we try to stay on track with our bills, we find tuition costs increase from year to year. Therefore, to deal with these financial struggles, it is very important that you fill out your FAFSA.

A FAFSA (The Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the first step in applying for your share of the billions of dollars in student financial aid that are available each year, which includes scholarships, grants, low-interest loans, as well as work study programs. This application is used by aid providers to ultimately determine how much they expect the student’s family could contribute toward paying off the student’s education. Eligibility requirements for federal student aid include:

  • Financial need
  • Being a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen
  • Being in good standing on any federal student loans you may have
  • Being in or accepted for an eligible degree or certificate program
  • Maintaining adequate academic progress

While FAFSA has been in existence for a number of years, a recent change has been made to the application in terms of timeline and availability. Instead of the January 1st launch day for FAFSA, the FAFSA will now be available October 1st. Instead of using prior year income (meaning for 2016 FAFSA you used 2015 income data) the FAFSA calculation will utilize income from two years prior. Therefore, your taxes will already have been filed when you go to do the FAFSA. This eliminated the hassle of having to estimate your income information and then going back into the FAFSA after you’ve filed to update your information.

As one of the two college tuition my family is currently being billed, I have benefited personally from federal student aid. In my first two years of school, I was the only one in my family currently in college. While paying for a single tuition was quite frightening, my family was able to make adjustments in the way spent our money. However, recently this fall, my brother went into his first year of college. Now facing the tuition from two private schools, I sought out help through federal student aid. Therefore, when FAFSA became available last year I was quick to apply. After my FAFSA application was thoroughly reviewed, I qualified for federal work study. After applying for various positions on campus, I accepted a position as SALT Ambassador. Pursing a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, I was initially a little concerned on how I would balance my course work with a job. While at times I may have a lot of course work, federal work study on campus provides flexible hours where at times your able to coordinate your hours to times that work best for you. Only working a couple of hours a week, I have found more than time to be able to balance my course work with an on-campus job while still being able to do maintain a social life.

Of important note, it is beneficial that you complete your FAFSA application as early as possible as there are only a limited amount of loans, scholarships, and work study that the school is allowed to hand out.

If you have any questions about FAFSA or would like to know more, come to our Pumpkin Painting event on October 25, 2017 from 5:00 PM to 7:00PM in the Alumni Room where you can paint your own pumpkin as well as ask our SALT Ambassadors any questions/concerns you may have regarding FAFSA.

All the Best,

Adam

National Financial Aid Day

National Financial Aid Day has been celebrated annually on the third Wednesday of October since 2011. The Day recognizes the hard-working, dedicated and amazing individuals who help millions of financial aid recipients every year realize their college dreams.  For the Academic year 2016-2017, there were 13,210,305 students and families across the nation that filed a FAFSA!  That’s a LOT of FAFSAs!

All too often aid administrators days are absorbed in compliance, audits, student frustration, and general misunderstandings about financial aid—but the positive moments in our jobs include celebrating the success stories of students who we can help find a way to fund their education.  Phone calls and emails are rarely made to the FA office when paperwork is processed quickly or aid is disbursed on time. It is for these reasons that you need to take time, not only today but every day, to recognize the hard work and good job that is done by financial aid professionals. We are in the industry to help students, educate them, and make the dreams of higher education a reality.

Thank you to the WIT Financial Aid Team– Shannon G., Rae, Kim, Shannon B., Lisa, Katie and Erica—for all the amazing things you do each and every day to support and educate students.

Best,

Anne-Marie

What is SALT?

At first glance, you might instantly think of the preservative that you may frequently use to season your food. While that is certainly another meaning of SALT, I am here today to talk to you about the SALT financial literacy program we have here on campus. SALT, a free online financial literacy program for both students and alumni, helps you manage your money and loans more effectively. With a combination of helpful tools, tailored information, and unbiased expertise, SALT allows individuals the ability to manage their finances in a way that works for them.

As a student here on campus, I have found using SALT to be very helpful. As I discussed in my last blog, keeping up with the costs of college can be quite difficult. We do our best to keep up with payments through working various jobs on and off campus. However, on top of having the tuition payments, there is also the added costs of living such as food and rent. As expenses continue to build, you may often wonder how can I effectively manage my money. SALT becomes very helpful in that it provides lessons and tools that allow you to calculate the best way to budget your money in order to pay off your student debt quicker as well as prepare yourself for life outside of college. SALT even directs you to available scholarships for each month to which may be applicable to you.

In addition to the helpful budgeting tools that are available, SALT also provides assistance in other areas such as finding a job. As we go to college to gain more knowledge toward our majors, the ultimate goal is to set us up with a job upon graduation. However, getting a job is not as simple as walking through the front doors of a company and showing them your diploma. After all, there are hundreds of thousands of other individuals that may be looking for a job in the same major upon graduation. Therefore, the key is to be able to sell yourself to the company. In addition to the great assistance that we receive on campus from the Co-ops and Careers Center, SALT also provides tutorials in how to create an effective resume and cover letter as well as how to prepare for a job interview.

While the tools and tutorials provide great assistance in steering you in the right direction, sometimes you may have more personal questions. What makes SALT great in my opinion is that it provides online customer support where you can ask whatever questions you may have to an expert counselor. Unlike other websites where your questions are publicly available for everyone to read or cost a given fee, SALT Support is private and free. Therefore, SALT allows you to receive the answers to your questions in a short amount of time.

Overall, with SALT you can:

  • Keep track of your student loans
  • Get load advice from an expert counselor
  • Learn about loan repayment
  • Look for a job or internship
  • Search for a scholarship
  • See how to save money wisely

Take advantage of this opportunity and sign up for SALT. For students and alumni of Wentworth, the cost is free for life and sign-up is only 30 seconds. Just go to https://www.saltmoney.org/wit

If you have any questions about SALT or would like to know more, come to our pumpkin painting event on October 25, 2017 from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM in the Beatty Pavilion where you can paint your own pumpkin as well as ask our SALT Ambassadors any questions you may have about SALT.

Adam, SALT Ambassador

 

 

Being a student and trying to find time to travel can be a tricky task. Good thing Wentworth has Study Abroad programs that give you the opportunity to see the world while earning college credit.  Unfamiliar with what your options are? No problem! On October 4th from 2:00pm-3:30pm Wentworth is hosting a Study Abroad Fair in Watson Hall. Stop by and speak with representatives from academic departments, Financial Aid and Wentworth Study Abroad alumni!

Learn about the different kinds of study abroad options that Wentworth offers:

-Faculty Led programs

-Exchange programs

-Third Party Programs

If you want to see the world, start exploring your travel options on October 4th from 2:00pm -3:30pm in Watson Hall!

Hope to see you there,

Shannon B.