Student loan rates dropping
June 9, 2008, 10:34 am
Filed under: College, Money Basics

Thanks to the failing economy, as of July 1st, federal student loan interest rates will drop over three percentage points. This will be the biggest one year drop in the Stafford loan program’s history. For Stafford loans in the grace period, rates will be 3.61% and for Stafford loans in repayment, rates will be 4.21%. For those of us with multiple student loans, now would be a great time to consolidate.

I have my student loans through Sallie Mae, who, interestingly enough, has stopped their federal consolidation program. I guess they feel like they would lose too much money if they continued to offer the program through this economic rough patch. The government’s Federal Direct Consolidation Loan program, however, is still going strong.

Three of my loans are at 6.8% and the other two are at 4.875%, so reconsolidating them would save me a good chunk of change over the life of the loans. I need to look into the Federal Direct program a bit more closely to see how my monthly payment would change and if they offer payment options.

Are you planning to consolidate your student loans?

Graduation and our next apartment
May 12, 2008, 4:36 pm
Filed under: About me, College, Frugality

Hi again. I’m all rested up and ready to get back into the swing of blogging.

My college graduation went well, overall. Despite the rain, the ceremony was still held outside so everyone got muddy and soaked. I’m pretty sure my shoes are ruined from all the mud and I have to go get my silk dress dry cleaned again because of all the water stains and mud spots on it. I threw my graduation gown away once I got home because there was just so much mud down the back of it (because my shoes flung around mud with every step I took). I also had to throw away my cap because the cardboard got all warped from the rain and the fabric came unglued. Quality items, let me tell you. It was wonderful to see all my friends and professors again though and I really don’t regret deciding to walk with my class.

Jake and I had a tough decision to make this weekend, but we’ve finally decided on and secured our next apartment. Jake had gone and seen a house for rent while I was at work a few weeks ago and I had gone and seen an apartment for rent while he was at work last week. After reviewing our applications, the two landlords offered us the two places at about the same time.

The house is a few blocks away and, from what I can tell from the pictures, it’s adorable. 2 bedroom, washer and dryer, back yard, front and back porches, and dog friendly. $850 a month, plus an extra $200 security deposit as well as $10 extra a month for having a dog. No utilities included.

The apartment is the first floor of a duplex and is a mere block away. We can almost see it from the front of our current apartment building. It’s nice enough, but nothing spectacular. 2 bedroom, washer and dryer, back yard, front and back porches, and dog friendly. $750 a month. No extra deposit or monthly increase for having a dog. No utilities included.

Both landlords are super nice and seem to have their stuff together. We went for the apartment because $860 is slightly more than we feel comfortable paying for rent and we want to make sure that we’ll have enough money after rent and utilities are paid every month. If I get one of the full time positions I’ve been applying for lately, the house would be affordable, but we can’t rely on something that may not happen. When in doubt, choose frugal.

We’re really excited to move even though it won’t happen until the beginning of July. We’re probably going to be getting Jake’s parents’ sectional for the living room (since they don’t have room for it at their new place and our futon is on its last legs) and I’m going to keep my eye out for some cheap/free chairs and tables for the porches. Ah, the joys of moving.

Broke!: A College Student’s Guide to Getting By On Less
May 1, 2008, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Books, College, Money Basics

Written by Trent Anderson and Seppy Basili, two contributors for various Kaplan guides, Broke!: A College Student’s Guide to Getting By On Less dishes out some common sense approaches to managing your finances in college. The bulk of the book is advice real college students have on topics that affect just about every coed. Credit cards, budgeting, food, traveling, and entertainment are just a sampling of what is covered. I have mixed feelings about Broke!, but my overall impression is a positive one.

But first, let me tackle the negatives:

Because the majority of the text is quotes from college students, you get a mixed bag of advice, some of which contradicts itself. If I were a financially confused college student, this approach would cause me more confusion, not clear up my worries.

The book is quite short and only offers a few quick tips on each topic before moving on to the next. While some things can be summed up quickly, I feel that other points should have been fleshed out more in order to really seem plausible for a college student. For example, when discussing budgets, Anderson and Basili just scratch the surface and kind of throw up their hands when it comes to the details. What if a college student doesn’t have any money left over after he draws up a budget? How does he adjust his budget to make it work? “Well, kid, just figure it out,” seems to be their answer. If they’re taking such a flippant approach to explaining budgets, how do they expect their readers to take budgeting seriously?

And now the positives:

The quotes from college students keep the book light and readable. You get the sense that you’re not the only one going through a money crunch and that you can survive because others have survived before you. That in itself can alleviate some of your worries. Anderson and Basili have advice of their own mixed in, adding some authority to the book, as well as lists of helpful websites at the end of each chapter.

All the topics covered are relevant to college students and are presented in such a way that keeps your attention without taking up all of your time. College students are busy people and the last thing they want to do is spend a nice chunk of their time reading a personal finance book instead of doing their homework or partying. Even though the advice that is given isn’t life altering, it will do in a pinch and offers a helpful nudge in the right direction for students.

Broke! was a bit fluffy for me, but I can still see it’s merit for Anderson and Basili’s target audience. I would recommend this book to college students who don’t have much experience managing their money and haven’t read up on personal finance already. If you’ve previously read PF books and have a good handle on your money (not to mention if you’re post-college), I would choose a book that’s more detailed about specific areas of money management.

The cost of graduating
April 1, 2008, 6:54 pm
Filed under: 20something, About me, College

This post was included in the April 7th Carnvial of Twenty Something Finances over at The Baglady.

…because all of that student loan debt isn’t enough! 

While I did receive my college diploma this past summer, I have yet to walk in a graduation ceremony. My alma mater is quite small and only has a yearly commencement in May. I’ve been collecting all of the papers my school has diligently sent me over the past couple of months regarding commencement. This morning, I finally sat down with all of them and took care of the preparations.

Before I even spent time with the documents though, I needed to consider if I were even going to attend the ceremony. I mean, the whole thing will be pretty anticlimactic as I’ve been a college graduate for almost 9 months now. Plus, there’s something about a college graduation that isn’t as universally poignant as a high school graduation. Regardless, I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t attend my commencement. To miss seeing my college friends one last time, in all of our academic splendor, would indeed be a shame. My family would also be disappointed if I cut off one of their last chances for them to be a public cheerleader for me.

All signs pointed to yes. I picked up the order forms for the regalia and announcements. My eyes went buggy when I read the price list. $68 for a gown I’ll only wear once?! $62 for notecards and envelopes?! Am I really sure I want to do this??

I took a deep breath and considered my situation. My graduation day is going to and will mean a good deal to me. To shell out a small-ish wad of cash for a memory I’ll have for the rest of my life doesn’t seem like such a bad trade off. No matter how great it would be though, I wouldn’t have that much money to spend on anything that isn’t a necessity if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve been making enough extra money lately to cover the additional expenses.

I’ve picked up 4 figure modeling jobs over the last couple of months, netting me $144. I also picked up a few extra hours at the library this week, giving me 80 more dollars than usual. That gives me $224 to spend towards my graduation.

With taxes and shipping added to my regalia and announcements, my credit card was charged a grand total of $147.20.  But, those announcements aren’t going to mail themselves. To send out all 25 of them will cost me $10.25 in stamps (the only reason I bothered with announcements is because of the possibility that I will get some of the money back from any congratulatory checks that will be sent my way from family and friends). I decided against buying honor cords for an organization that I was a member of, but wasn’t actively involved in. Why pay for something that never meant that much to me? I will need to drive to my alma mater to attend the rehearsal and ceremony. Luckily, I only live an hour away from campus. I plan on driving up the morning before commencement to attend the rehearsal and convocation. I will crash at one of my friends’ apartments that night to save on gas and any hotel expenses. The trip there and back usually uses up a half a tank of gas. If gas prices stay around the same price they are now, I’m looking at about $20 in gas. I already own a nice dress (that hopefully doesn’t need to be dry cleaned…) and shoes that I can wear with my gown. That leaves me $46.55 to spend on any meals I may need to buy while I’m in town.

I think the few extra hours I’ve worked to make my attendance possible at my graduation are well worth this opportunity in the long run. After all, I would much rather spend my money on memorable events than on material things that only wind up being replaced by other useless things. Permanent wins over temporary any day in my book.