5 Ways to Improve Your Finances Over Break

Congrats! You survived finals week and made it to semester break. If you happen to have a lot of free time on your hands over the next three weeks, here are five ways you can improve your financial status before next semester begins.

1. Create a Budget

Never had a budget before? The new year is a great time to start one! Or, if you already have a budget but haven’t looked it over in awhile, consider updating it and try to cut back on certain “want” categories such as entertainment, eating out, and clothes. If you’re not sure where to start, come in and see us!

2. Check your Credit Report and Score

Check out freecreditreport.com to review your credit report. You’ll want to make sure that everything is accurate and report any mistakes. To find your credit score, check with your credit card company to see if they offer your credit score for free. If not, you can look up your score through Discover.com or Mint.com.

3. Apply for a Credit Card

Disclaimer: this is only advised for students who currently have and stick to a budget and are confident they can pay off their balance in full each month. Responsible use of a credit card is a great way to build a high credit score, which is important when applying for future loans. We strongly suggest only using your card for small purchases, such as gas or groceries, that way it’s easy to pay off each month.

4. Write Down Financial Goals

If you’ve been considering going on a trip next summer, or anticipate needing a new car within the next few years, now is the time to start writing down financial goals. You’ll need to know how much your goal will cost and when you want to achieve it-then you can determine how much you’ll need to save each month. Consider opening a separate bank account to help make it easier to save.

5. Give Your Wallet a Vacation, Too

Christmas vacation is a great time to unwind and recharge between semesters. Try doing the same for your bank account! If you’re going home, take advantage of free home cooked meals. Instead of going out to the movies or bars, invite your hometown friends over for a couple nights in. If you get money for Christmas, use some of it to pay off any credit card debt you might have or put it in savings.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the SMMC!

Post written by Amanda Owens, SMMC Program Assistant

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Dead/Finals Week Survival Guide

It’s everyone’s favorite week of the year: Dead Week! Okay, not so much, but if you follow these tips you should be able to dominate your finals while staying sane and maintaining your budget.

1. Set a Schedule

Take time to list every project and final in order of when they’re due, and then write down a detailed study schedule and stick to it. For extra motivation, reward yourself with something small like your favorite treat or an hour of Netflix each time you finish something major on your schedule.

2. Turn off Social Media

Consider deactivating your Facebook account or temporarily deleting all social media apps from your phone.  During these next two weeks not much will be going on anyway, so don’t worry about missing out.  Remember, you’ll have almost an entire month for winter break to check social media!

3. Stay Healthy

December is when cold/flu season starts to kick in, so you’ll want to keep your immune system strong.  Make sure you are eating nutritious meals and staying under budget- this means avoiding expensive convenience foods and sugary energy drinks.  Also, try to avoid all-nighters and get those 8 hours of sleep!

4. Stick with Coffee

Need an extra boost of caffeine? Your best bet is to stick with coffee!  Coffee is much healthier than energy drinks, especially if you avoid adding sugar and whipped cream. Avoid taking drugs like Adderall unless you have a prescription because of its potential hazardous side effects.

5. Take Advantage of FREE Events

There are tons of free events going on these next two weeks that are dedicated to helping students de-stress.  Check out the UNL Events calendar to see what’s going on:

Good luck, Huskers! We believe in you!

Post written by Amanda Owens, SMMC Program Assistant

Review of the rebate app Checkout 51

We have another review of a rebate app for you! This time we are reviewing the app Checkout 51. With this app, you can earn money by buying food, personal items, and cleaning products listed in the app. You upload a picture of your receipt and then money adds up in your account. Once you reach $20, you can “withdraw” the money. The app is free and is available for apple and android users.

1. Most offers are available at any store

Unlike the app Ibotta, most of the offers are available at any store. If the offer is only available in one store or a few stores, it will say above the item “Walmart” or “Multiple Stores.” If it doesn’t say anything like that above the item, you can buy it at any store to get the rebate.

2. Offers are only good for a week

The offers run from 12:01 am on Thursdays to midnight on Wednesdays. That means that you have to purchase the offers and upload your receipt to the app to claim the offers during that time period. After the week is up, new offers are added. Sometimes offers can be carried over to the next week, but don’t count on it! Offers also may run out before the week is up, so you want to upload your receipt as soon as you buy something that qualifies for a rebate.

3. This is not a quick way to make money

Just like the Ibotta app, you’re not going to make very much money on this app, and you’re not going to get it quickly, either. However, it can be a way to get some rewards for things that you already buy. Just make sure that you aren’t buying something just because it’s on the app. Look at the price and determine whether or not you want to purchase the item- any rebate you might get from the app is just a bonus!

6 Low or No Cost Gifts

As a college student, money often runs tight, and the thought of shelling out tons of money on holiday gifts can increase the stress of the already stressful end of the semester. Here’s a list of alternative gifts that will cost you little to nothing – but your loved ones will enjoy them just as much!

1. Do housework/yard work

This is a great gift for parents and grandparents who can be difficult to shop for! Offer to scoop their driveway this winter every time it snows or clean their house every couple of weeks until spring.

2. Babysit

If you have family or friends with young kids, offer to babysit once or twice a month free of charge. Every couple needs a date night once in awhile, but babysitters can be pricey – it’s a gift every family will love!

3. Make Dinner

Growing up, your parents or grandparents probably spent most of the holidays preparing food for you to eat. Now it’s your turn to prepare dinner for them! If you have siblings, have everyone chip in on food to make it even cheaper.

4. Download CD’s to Itunes

I’ve done this for my parents before and they absolutely loved it! It may take a bit of time, but this is something you can accomplish while doing homework or browsing the Internet. Then upload the songs to your loved one’s smart phone or Mp3 player.

5. Host a Game Night

Have each of your friends bring a board game and beverages to your place, and then you supply the snacks. Have each friend take a turn hosting – after all, food and time with friends is better than a gift!

6. Offer Your Skills

Are you handy with cars or a sewing machine? Offer to change your friend’s oil or fix your sister’s torn dress. Maybe you’re into fitness and can offer a couple free personal training sessions to a friend who wants to get in shape for the new year. Whatever you’re good at, try finding a way to help out a friend or family member in need!

Check out our Holiday Hub webpage for more money saving ideas!

Post written by Amanda Owens, SMMC Program Assistant

Review of the Rebate App Ibotta

If you enjoy earning cash back on purchases, Ibotta is an app you might consider downloading.  Ibotta is a rebate app that enables users to earn cash back on both in-store and online purchases.  Here’s some info you should know about the app before downloading.

1) There’s no coupons, just rebates
Unlike a coupon that discounts the price of an item at the time of purchase, you have to pay full price for the product and then redeem the rebate later.  To redeem cash, you must have at least $20 accumulated in your account, and the money is sent to you via Venmo, PayPal, or a store gift card. *Note: It can take weeks, if not months, to accumulate $20. This won’t be a way to make money quickly.

2)  Bonuses get you more cash
If you sign up and redeem a receipt within 10 days, you get a $10 bonus.  Ibotta also offers a referral program, so you get $5 for each friend you sign up as long as they redeem one purchase.  There are other ways to earn bonus cash available on the app (typically around $2) which is a great perk.

3)  Only certain stores participate
One of the downsides of the app is that there are limited stores to choose from.  Luckily popular stores such as Walmart, Walgreens, and Target are included on the list, in addition to many others.  Also make sure to keep an eye out for restaurants, as many popular eating establishments offer rebates on drinks.

4)  It can make you overspend
It might be tempting to want to rack up more dollars in your account by buying more things, but this just leads to overspending.  Ask yourself if you would buy the item if you didn’t have the app.  You should always make a shopping list before heading to the store – then check Ibotta to see if any of your items are listed. Think of it as a way to make a little extra money, not as a coupon, because you aren’t actually saving money at the time you make the purchase.

Overall, Ibotta is a great way to earn cash back, even if it’s just a couple bucks every time you go to the store.  Just make sure you aren’t making unnecessary purchases and you can make a little money in the long run!

Post written by Amanda Owens, SMMC Program Assistant

Four Steps to Dealing with Debt

The school year is in full swing, and the thought of student loans, credit card debt, and other personal loans may have you stressed out. Here are four key steps to deal with your debt:

1. Determine exactly how much you currently owe and what the interest rates and minimum payments are for each debt.  An easy way to do this is to write everything down on our Debt Load Worksheet. Make sure to include all outstanding debt, including credit cards (including store credit cards), car loans, mortgages, personal loans, and student loans.

2. Try your best to make at least the minimum payment on each debt every month to avoid late fees and interest rate increases. If you can’t make every payment on time, try making payments on the loan or credit card with the highest interest rate.

3. If possible, commit extra income to accelerate your debt repayment. Once again, the best strategy is to put extra money toward the debt with the highest interest rate (after paying all of the minimum payments).

4. When one debt is paid off, use the money you were using to pay that debt to increase the monthly payment on another debt. This is called the snowball method. Continue doing this until you are eventually debt free!

If you have any questions or need help creating a debt repayment plan, schedule a free appointment with us online: https://unlsmmc.youcanbook.me/ We love helping all students, faculty, staff and alumni!

Post written by Amanda Owens, SMMC Program Assistant

Halloween on a Budget

Nothing is scarier than checking your bank account the day after Halloween and realizing you blew all your money on costumes, candy, and decorations.  Here are some tips for keeping your Halloween fun, spooky, and under budget.

1.  Avoid Costume Stores
If you’ve ever been to a costume store, you know just how expensive costumes can be.  Most costumes come with little or no accessories either, so you’re likely to drop more cash on those as well if you want to perfect the look you’re going for.  Try making your own costume with what you or a friend already have or check out thrift stores for cheap finds.

2.  Plan your Costume ASAP
Between midterms, projects, work and activities, it may seem impossible to find time to plan a costume two weeks in advance.  However, the more you put it off, the more likely you’ll be to desperately purchase a pricey costume at the store three hours before the party you’re going to.  If you think you’re too busy, consider giving up social media or television for a day and decide on a costume instead.

3.  Get Decor from Dollar Tree
Do you love decorating for Halloween?  Fortunately for you Dollar Tree has tons of fun and festive decorations for extremely cheap. If you’re hosting a party and need decor as well as food/drink supplies, this is the place for you.  The best part about shopping here is that everything is only a dollar!

4.  Check out our Pinterest page!
We have tons of pins on our page with ideas on costumes, decor, food, and more!  Here’s the link: Halloween pinterest board

Post written by Amanda Owens, SMMC Program Assistant