Building Wealth as a Working College Student

working college student budget

From time to time, I get emails from readers asking questions or looking for a listening ear on a idea that he or she has. One email I got was from a college senior who is working part-time. She’s tired of emergencies coming up and having her sink further into debt.

She asked if I could suggest a few things for her budget and after some back and forth we got a plan down that she can use for the next few months.

A Working College Student’s Budget

Based on the information I was given I created a budget that allowed her to pay her bills and save a bit. First let’s break down her monthly income and then look at her monthly expenses.

Monthly Income working college student budget

She is currently working part-time while going to school, meaning that her paychecks are smaller. The good news though is that she is working in the field she’s majoring in (though not the job she wants). Looking at her past paychecks she told me her take home pay each month is around $1,250.

As she gets closer to graduating (spring 2013) she’ll start applying for positions that her degree will qualify her for. Hopefully she’ll see a sharp increase in her income then, but for now she has to work with what she has part-time.

Monthly Expenses

The good news is that she splits the bills with relatives as she’s going to school and working. She also has no car loans; however there is credit card debt. It’s mainly cards with low credit lines, so she’d like to have one or two cards paid off by the time she graduates.

  • Housing: $200
  • Utilities: $100
  • Food: $200
  • Car Expenses (Gas/Insurance): $150
  • Doc/Health: $50
  • Savings: $100
  • Credit Card Minimums: $250
  • Debt Snowball: $50

Total Monthly Expenses: $1,150

As you can see, there isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room in her budget. However there are a few things she can do help with her financial goals that are fairly simple.

Sell Stuff and Save

One thing that I suggested was to sell some items to jump-start her emergency funds. She had some collectible items that could be sold on eBay or Craigslist for a bit of cash. Selling those items she didn’t really care about anymore would not only put a bit of money into her pocket, but it would also declutter her space.

Tutor Classmates

I wouldn’t recommend taking a second regular job for a full-time college student since time for studying is severely limited. What she could do though is tutor some classmates on courses she’s recently taken; perhaps have mid-term or final exam prep sessions for a small group of 3-4 people. She could get a small boost in cash without having a huge time commitment.

Earning Money with Emergency Fund Savings

Finally I suggested to her to make sure that her banking needs are being met, including having her savings actually earn a bit of interest. Whether you decide to use a brick and mortar option or go with online banking, find an account that works for you.

With an emergency fund you need to focus on 3 things:

  • Easy access to it in case of emergency
  • Safe place to store you money
  • A place where it can grow

Make sure the first two needs are met before you look at the third. for us we use both Ally Bank Online Savings Account and ING DIRECT  High Yield Savings for our funds.

Thoughts on Being a Working College Student

I’d love to get your thoughts and suggestions. How many of you had or are working while attending college? How did you manage your bills?

Ally Bank ® Online Savings Account

Photo Credit: scui3asteveo

Zenni Optical Review – Best Deal for Eyeglasses?

Some expenses that I can’t avoid with my vision are contact lens and eyeglasses exams and prescriptions. With my strong prescription it can get pretty pricey so I’ve been looking for ways to get better deals. For awhile I’ve heard about getting cheap eyeglasses with Zenni Optical.

Getting a Good Deal on Eyeglasses

With my prescription, my eyeglass lens are pretty thick, not something that I’d like to wear on a daily basis. With my eye exams I usually get both contact lens and eyeglasses; contacts being for primary use and glasses for backups. When I order my frames and lens I usually have to pay a lot of money to get them thinned out a bit.

Freebies Included with Zenni Glassses 

When ordering off their site I noticed that Zenni Optical offered some freebies, including:

  • Free Anti-Scratch Coating
  • Thin 1.57 Index Single Vision Lens
  • Full UV Protection
  • Glasses Case and Cloth

They also offer anti-glare coating, sunglasses tint, and fingerprint resistance coating, and more for small fees.

How to Order Eyeglasses with Zenni Optical

Ordering through the site was fairly easy. First I went ahead used the filter options on the sidebar to choose a general style, price range, and size for potential framses.  I also entered my pupillary distance, which if your eye doctor did not provide, you can get by using Zenni’s chart to print out and measure yourself.

I next selected frames that suited me, with over 4,000 frames to choose from on the site it I had plenty of options. The frames themselves start at $6.95 with the high end ones around $50. While you can not buy designer/name-brand frames, you can get some gorgeous ones at really low prices.

I finished my order by giving my prescription information and adding on a few extras including the tinting option and thinning out my lenses a bit more. It’s one price for shipping in the United States ($4.95). I received my glasses in about a week. Compared to my last pair, I saved about $100 and I got glasses that tint, so it’s a win for me.

Zenni’s Return Policy – 1 Star

I do want to mention that while Zenni has some great deals, the return policy for the company looks to be a bit lacking. My order came out fine, so I had no need for a return. However I’ve seen some customer complain about the hard time they’ve had with the return/exchange service.

Thoughts on Zenni Optical for Eyeglasses

I’d share my own experiences with Zenni Optical; now I’d love to hear from you. For those who have ordered from Zenni, how was your order handled? Did you get a great deal on your eyeglasses?

Get Rid of Junk Mail

get rid of junk mail

One of the annoying things we receive in our mailbox are dozens of credit card offers and ‘deals’. I can’t even imagine how many trees have been used considering how many people get them each week. In addition to credit card companies, many of the big banks send promotional material, hoping to get more business.

How to Toss Out Junk Mail

If you’re tired of getting this garbage here are some things you can do to reduce, and in some cases get rid of, junk mail. get rid of junk mail

  • Get rid of the pre-approved credit cards. Most times if you’re sent a pre-approved card, it’s a bad deal. Check out to  submit a form to get out of the junk mail for 5 years. It’s quick and it’s free.
  • Change the Direct Mail offers you get. Another site you’d want to check out is The Direct Marketing Association runs the site and you can adjust the amount and type of Direct mail you receive.
  • Be selective with contests you enter. Whenever you see those cruise or trip contests with the sign up sheets at the malls or other retail places, just pass. You’re unlikely to win anything and instead you’ll be adding yourself to a call center list or direct mail list.
  • Talk with your bank. If you want to get rid of the promotional offers from you bank, call them up and request to get off their mailing list for credit cards.

While an ideal world would have you opt-in for getting offers rather than having to spend your time to opt-out at least you can get some of your mailbox space back.

Thoughts on Getting Rid Junk Mail

How about you – do you get a ton of junk mail? What are some are of the worst offers that you’ve seen?

Photo Credit:  Oran Viriyincy

Your 33 Day Money Action Plan Review

One of my favorite things about being a personal finance blogger is discovering a new author. Every week I get emails from others about a new book about finance, but many times, it’s not that they are bad, it’s just most of them are the same old.

“Spend less than you earn”

“Get out debt!”

“Invest for retirement”

The advice is fine, but many books don’t show you how. That’s why I’m excited about reviewing 33 Day Money Plan from Nathan W. Morris.

Basic Book Info 

What’s Inside

If you’re curious about what the 33 Day Money Action Plan actually covers, here are the first 7 days:

  1. Tap Into Your Brain’s Natural “Money Genius”
  2. Establish Your Reason Why
  3. Set Up a New Savings Account
  4. Make a List of Expenses
  5. Optimizing Your Expenses
  6. Establish Your Emergency Fund
  7. Toss Out the Junk Mail

Morris offers a book that doesn’t just inform, but motivates others to get their money situation straight. Each day there is ONE activity  that you can do to improve your finances. Of course you can do more than one thing a day, but Morris structure this book for people to  get a sense of accomplishment each day, which can be incredibly motivating.

Who is The 33 Day Money Action Plan For?

Nathan has done a wonderful job creating a day by day plan to take people interested in changing their finances in a month. While the book has plenty of information, Nathan has streamlined it into actionable daily activities that most people can do.

This book is a relatively quick read – you’re giving enough to do something financially productive without being bogged down with information paralysis.

I recommend grabbing this book and going through the plan and then as you prefer looking deeper at your finances and getting into the details that matter and interest you.

Thoughts on Having a Money Action Plan

If you grabbed a copy of Nathan’s book, what are your thoughts?