Inbox Dollars-Is It Worth It?

Online survey sites bombard the internet advertising that participants can make hundreds of dollar a year by simply taking surveys. Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it? However, they may not be worth your time. I tried one survey site, Inbox Dollars, to see if it was something I’d use to make extra cash in the long run.

Here’s what I found:

1. You Get $5 Just for Signing Up

This is what initially attracts a lot of first-time users. You get $5 for signing up, and then an additional $.50 or so for verifying your account. If you’re bored and on your computer anyway, this can seem like an easy way to make enough money for lunch or a coffee.

However, there’s a catch:

2. There’s a $30 Minimum Cash Withdrawal

In order to actually get cash, users have to accumulate $30. Sure, it was easy to make the first six or so bucks, but after that it’s hard to find surveys to make more money. Unless all you do is take surveys 8 hours a day, it’s going to take awhile to get to thirty bucks.

3. You Have to Qualify for Surveys

This was the most frustrating part of the website. In order to qualify to take a survey, you must first have to take a “pre-survey” to see if you meet the company’s standards to take the survey. After 10 tries, I still didn’t qualify for a survey, which meant I wasted 30 minutes without making any money.

4. Ultimately, It’s Not Worth It

I gave up on taking surveys pretty quickly, mostly because I was getting discouraged from not qualifying for any. There are other ways to make money: watching videos, signing up for special offers, etc. However, none of these options paid much, and signing up for a free trial could cost you money if you forget to cancel it.

By the time I would’ve gotten to $30, I probably would’ve been making way less than a dollar per hour. This simply is not worth it. If you’re looking to make a quick $30, I’d instead consider selling old clothes/home goods, working a few extra hours, or doing a job for a friend/family member.

This is only one survey website review, so if you know of any websites you think are worth it, let us know!

Post written by Amanda Owens, SMMC Program Assistant

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5 Reasons You Should Cancel Your Gym Membership Now

Are you looking for ways to cut costs in your budget? If you have a gym membership, our advice is simple: cancel it. This advice may not apply to everyone, but unless you’re getting the maximum use out of your membership, it’s time to call it quits. Here are five reasons why:

1. You Don’t Use It

Only about half of all gym members actually go to the gym on a regular basis. If you’re not going at least several times a week, you’re simply wasting money on something you never use. You also might not even like going to the gym- find a more enjoyable way to workout instead!

2. The UNL Rec Center is FREE

As a UNL student, part of the fees you pay every year go toward The Rec Center. Since you’re already paying for it, you might as well take advantage of it. Both City and East Campus have recreation centers that are stocked with state of the art fitness equipment.

3. The Cost Outweighs the Benefit

The average gym membership costs between $40-$50 a month, plus an annual fee. Many people spend over $500/year on their gym membership, and only go once in awhile (as stated in reason number one). You could start an emergency fund, pay off debt, or travel with that money instead.

4. You Can Exercise Outside

During the spring, summer, and even fall months, exercising outside can be much more enjoyable than breaking a sweat indoors. Consider going on walks with friends, joining a summer volleyball or baseball league, or playing frisbee golf at your local park.

5. YouTube Has Free Workouts

We use the internet for everything else these days, why not use it to workout? You can look up all kinds of exercise routines in dance, yoga, pilates, and more, that are free online. Plus, you’ll have a fitness instructor to motivate you, which can help you push through your workout.

Post written by Amanda Owens, SMMC Program Assistant

Moving Off Campus Soon? Here are 5 Costs You Need to Plan For:

Are you planning on moving off campus this summer or next fall? As exciting as it might be to get your own place, there are many expenses students fail to consider before moving. Besides the obvious cost of rent, here are five common costs to consider before moving into a new house or apartment.

1. Security Deposit
If you’re renting, chances are high that your landlord will require you to put down a deposit in case any damages occur while you’re living there. A deposit is typically a month’s worth of rent, and you don’t get it back until you move out. Make sure to schedule a walk-through with your landlord before you move in so you don’t get charged with any damages you didn’t cause.

2. Moving Costs/Renter’s Insurance
Depending on how much stuff you have, you may need help moving furniture to your new place. Try to avoid having to rent a U-haul truck by finding friends and family to help you move. You also may need lots of boxes for your stuff. Try to borrow suitcases and plastic tubs from people you know so that you don’t spend money on boxes you’ll just throw away. Once you’re all moved in, you’ll want to protect your items from the potential threat of a fire, flood, or break-in. Ask you parents if you’re covered under their home insurance plan-if not, you’ll need to get your own renter’s insurance to cover your possessions. Most plans are cheap (average is $144/year).

3. Furniture
One perk of living on campus is that everything is fully furnished. However, many apartments and houses don’t come with any furniture, so you’ll have to provide your own. Communicate with your roommates before moving in to see if anyone already has furniture. If not, it’s time to hit up as many garage sales and thrift stores as possible! Ask family and friends if they have any old furniture they don’t need anymore.

4. Utilities
The cost of utilities depends greatly on where you choose to live. Many apartments cover the water and trash bills, but not gas, electricity, cable, or internet. If you rent in a house, many landlords don’t cover any of these costs. Utilities average about $50-$100 per person for a three-bedroom home. You can call Black Hills Energy (gas) and Lincoln Electric System (electricity) to ask for the average cost for that apartment’s bills so your can plan ahead.

5. Groceries/Kitchen Supplies
This one might seem obvious, but many students fail to realize just how expensive groceries can be if they don’t properly budget for it. It’s important to meal plan before heading to the store to avoid impulse buying and wasting food. Don’t forget to budget for buying kitchen supplies and basic food staples when you move, otherwise you’ll be limited in what you can cook. And remember- eating out everyday will catch up with your budget!

Moving off campus and need help comparing living spaces, budgeting, or saving money? Schedule an appointment with us today at:http://www.unl.edu/smmc/sessionrequest.shtml

Post written by Amanda Owens, SMMC Program Assistant

Don’t Miss These 5 Opportunities for Automatic Savings

By Janet Alvarez, Wise Bread

Most of us understand that saving regularly is one of the simplest ways to reach our financial goals, but we don’t all take advantage of easy ways to automate our savings. As part of America Saves Week, we’ve devised a list of five automatic savings opportunities that are often overlooked. These go a step beyond mere automatic transfers from checking to savings. They’re easy, straight-forward ways to save money automatically that most of us don’t take advantage of yet, and they increase your chances of reaching your goals even faster.

1.  Direct Deposit Your Tax Refund Into Savings
According to the IRS, the average American’s tax refund now stands at over $3,100. Don’t let that windfall slip through your fingers. Deposit all or part of it into your savings account, instead, and watch your money grow. Plus, the IRS allows direct deposits into one or more accounts, such as a checking and savings account, which means you can choose to spend a portion and save the rest. (I’d recommend saving all you can.) Conveniently, you can also direct deposit all or part of your refund into your Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or use it to purchase up to $5,000 in U.S. Series I Savings Bonds. You can split your refund using tax preparation software, or Form 8888, if you use paper filing.

2. Don’t Forget Bonuses or Commissions
Do you get quarterly or yearly bonuses? Are commissions a part of your earnings? Then don’t forget to direct deposit all or part of these funds into your savings. Consult with your employer about direct depositing the funds into your savings account, or set up automatic transfers from your checking to savings accounts when you expect the funds.

Another alternative? Increase the contributions on your employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), during those times you receive extra earnings. It’ll help you max out your contributions faster and earn any applicable company match to boost your savings even further. Consult with your HR representative or your company’s online retirement plan portal to manage your contributions.

3. Save Your Spare Change
Some banks and credit unions offer programs which automatically round up to the next dollar on any purchases you make, and transfer the spare change from your checking to savings account. These programs are free, and provide a fool-proof way to jumpstart your savings and always pay yourself first. You probably won’t miss the spare change in your checking account, but your savings will sure be glad for the extra boost. Even small amounts saved over time add up.

4. Credit Card Rewards Can Boost Savings, Too
Many popular credit cards rewards programs offer several rewards options, ranging from airline miles or hotel points to cash back. Sadly, many credit card rewards perks often go unused, making them less than rewarding. But if you choose to receive rewards in the form of cash back, instead, many cards will deposit the rewards sum directly into an account of your choice. If you’re limited to receiving the funds into checking, you can always transfer the funds to savings. Either way, you’re boosting your savings painlessly. Don’t forget to pay off the balance on your card at the end of every month to avoid costly interest fees, otherwise you’ll spend more on interest than you’ll receive in rewards.

5. Set Your Savings Rate Higher
So, you think you’re a savings pro now that you’ve got regular transfers or direct deposits into your savings account? Well, you can go a step further still by periodically increasing your savings rate, whether to your employer-sponsored retirement plan or your savings account. Many 401(k) plans allow users to opt-in to periodic increases in their savings rates, such as a 1 percent increase in their contributions per year. If you prefer to contribute to a savings account or other savings vehicle, consider increasing your contributions regularly, such as every time you get a raise.

Having the foresight to automate your savings can help you beat temptation and stay ahead financially. And the techniques described above are easy ways to take your savings to the next level.

Janet Alvarez is the Executive Editor for Wise Bread and a contributor to TheStreet.com and U.S. News & World Report.

Simple Steps to Save Successfully During America Saves Week 2017

By Tammy G. Bruzon, America Saves

America Saves Week (February 27 – March 4, 2017) is an annual opportunity for individuals to assess their savings and take financial action. Each year, we encourage savers – or potential savers – just like you to set a goal, make a plan, and save automatically.

This America Saves Week, try these five simple steps to help yourself save automatically – and successfully:

1. Assess Your Savings
Like your health, you should assess your savings annually to make sure your savings priorities are on the right track. Complete this simple 12-question assessment to find out your current standing and help you plan for the future.

2. Evaluate your Savings Preparedness
Check off your savings accomplishments on the Saver Checklist to further evaluate where your savings habits need strengthening for your future goals.

3. Take the America Saves Pledge
Those with a savings plan are two times as likely to save for emergencies and retirement than those without one. Join more than 500,000 American Savers who have already committed to save. When you take the pledge, you can choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save towards your goals.

4. Share Your Savings Goal
Take part in the 2017 #ImSavingFor photo contest. Share a selfie or video that shows what you’re saving for on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Then check americasaves.org to learn more about contest entry details and prizes. Savings never looked so good.

5. Make Your Savings Social
Are you on Twitter or Facebook? Join America Saves and the American Savings Education Council in encouraging your friends, family, and colleagues to save this week. Better yet, join one of the many Twitter chats that America Saves will be a part of this week to get real-time savings tips and advice.

America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

NEW 2017 Summer Tuition Grant

Many students need to take summer classes in order to graduate on time or catch up on coursework they may have missed during the spring/fall semesters. Unfortunately, less financial aid can be available for summer classes. UNL is beginning a 2017 Summer Tuition Grant for low-and-middle-income families to address this need.

Here are the qualifications:
-Complete the Summer Aid Application available to students in MyRED beginning mid-March
-Be a resident of the State of Nebraska for tuition purposes
-Be an undergraduate student in a degree-seeking program at UNL
-Have a valid 2016-2017 FAFSA on file with an Expected Family Contribution of $11,000 or below (deadline: June 30, 2017)
-Enroll in 3 or more summer credit hours (any combination of sessions and instruction modes)
-Be a freshman, sophomore, or junior grade level (fewer than 89 earned/completed credits, including transfer, by summer)
-Be a Title IV financial aid-eligible student (see http://financialaid.unl.edu/eligibility.shtml)
-And not be receiving a summer tuition award from any other federal, state, or University program

Students can receive up to $1,400. Here are the maximum award amounts depending on how many credit hours are taken:

6 or more credits: $1,400
5 credits: $1,100
4 credits: $900
3 credits: $700
0-2 credits: $0

Contact the Office of Scholarships & Financial Aid to find out more:
402-472-2030 or financialaid@unl.edu

Saving Money on Valentine’s Day

Is your budget still recuperating from the holiday season? Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, so it’s time to start planning ahead now to avoid overspending on another holiday. Here are some tips:

1. Avoid Buying Roses

High demand for roses on Valentine’s Day means insane price increases, sometimes over 50% or more. Consider buying a different type of flower instead, or even creating your own bouquet. Not only will it you save money, you’ll get points for creativity as well.

2. Make Dinner at Home

Many couples want to go out for the holiday, but it can be tough to get reservations. Save the hassle of going out while saving cash by making a romantic dinner at home. Bring out the table cloth and candles to supplement the feeling of eating out. If you choose to cook together, it can make for a fun night in.

3. Agree on No Gifts

Talk to your significant other before Valentine’s Day and agree not to buy anything for each other. If you still want to celebrate the holiday with your loved one, consider making something instead like a playlist with her favorite songs or his favorite dessert. You shouldn’t have to spend much to show your love.

4. Check out our Pinterest Board for Ideas

If Valentine’s Day is your favorite holiday and you want to decorate, bake, or make a DIY gift to celebrate, make sure you check out our Pinterest page for tons of budget friendly ideas!

Post written by Amanda Owens, SMMC Program Assistant