Browsing Category: Budgets and Bills

The Broke Student’s Handbook: How to Be Thrifty

Smiling young man showing a piggy bankAccording to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 50 percent of college students join the labor force. Even so, the BLS’ Time Chart for a full-time college student shows that most of those students only work about three hours a day. With the federal minimum wage set at $7.25/hour, a student who works three hours a day, five days a week might only bring in $435 a month. This gives you a yearly gross income of $5,220. Translation: Learn to be thrifty. Here’s how.

1. Give Yourself a Head Start

Take advantage of living at home by saving whatever money you earn and receive. This can make your transition to college life easier. Learn to live prudently even before you head off to college. Ask for practical birthday and Christmas gifts like gift cards, a microwave, slow cooker, coffee maker, Mini Fridge, electric grill, toaster oven and printer. If you are purchasing some of these items yourself, visit PriceBlink, which offers the ability to compare prices in your browser. It’s different from other comparison shopping sites because it stays in the background until it finds you the best price on the product and/or coupons for the retailer you are shopping.

2. Learn How to Cook

Learn how to cook inexpensive meals. Grilled cheese, tuna burgers, chili, hamburger stew, tuna casserole, taco salad and scrambled eggs are all cost-effective meal options. You can find easy, inexpensive recipes at to help stretch your buck.

3. Take Advantage of Student Discounts

Many establishments in college towns extend discounts to students. For example, Thursday nights the AMC Theatre chain offers discounted tickets with your student ID.

Other retailers that commonly offer student discounts include:

  • Entertainment: Cinemark Theatres
  • Food: Subway, Burger King, Waffle House, Arby’s, Dairy Queen, McDonalds, Buffalo Wild Wings
  • Technology: Apple, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Co.
  • Phone Service: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile

4. Consider Taking Online Courses

Consider online courses at sites like CollegeOnline LLC, where you can find a variety of online college courses from reputable educators like Kaplan University, Thomas Jefferson School of Law and Bay State College Online.

Online courses offer the flexibility of working more hours to earn and save more money. They may also be less expensive than traditional universities.

5. If You Go Away for College, Leave Your Car at Home

Lynette Khalfani Cox is the author of “Zero Debt for College Grads.” She states that students who leave their cars with their parents save an average of $200 a month on gas.

6. Become a Member of Online Reward Programs

Swagbucks is a loyalty program that offers compensation in the form of Swag Bucks for your everyday online activity. These Swag Bucks are similar to the loyalty points that credit cards offer clients. Redeem these Swag Bucks for entertainment coupons and gift cards from popular retailers like Target.

7. Free Samples/Manufacturer Coupons

At, you’ll find free samples and coupons on everything from hand sanitizer to brand name cereals. Just fill out the requested information to receive your free sample or coupon.

5 Steps to Overcoming Bad Budgeting

caution budget problems and fixes

caution budget problems and fixesMany people who budget wonder why they are still not attaining financial security and are struggling to make ends meet. Often the reason for this is bad budgeting.

One of my favourite quotes by a former US politician goes something along the lines of ‘It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it’ and if that’s what a budget is to you, then it’s obvious where the problem lies. If you have bad budgeting habits now is the time to break them by using these strategies:

1. Be realistic not opportunistic: A realistic budget is an accurate one and if you are 100% honest about your spending habits and debt you will enjoy greater financial freedom. Avoid opportunistic budgeting by only working with your fixed income and never add additional money such as jackpot winnings from your favorite games  to your earnings. By budgeting with a set amount of revenue each month you can achieve a far more realistic idea of your financial situation.

2. Set fixed targets not estimates: A budget is designed to help you control your money and to curb your spending in areas where you are prone to debt. Set a fixed target rather than an estimated amount when paying off a debt or saving to ensure that you know how quickly you can accumulate funds.

3. Do more than think about emergency savings: A major factor of successful budgeting is to expect the unexpected and to be prepared. Being aware of needing emergency funds but not actually saving for the unknown is a common budgeting mistake. Include an emergency fund in your budget and deposit the funds into a separate account if need be.

4. Keep track, not trails: There are so many free online budgeting apps and programs that can help you keep track of your spending and expenses. Rather than having to sit down with a paper trail a mile long, use technology to help you keep on top of your budget and manage your money more effectively.

5. Keep it simple: A complicated system or unrealistic budget will see you abandoning your goal very quickly. A straightforward and concise plan will help you stay on target and protect you from hurting your financial freedom.

Have you overcome bad budgeting? Or are you still making costly mistakes that can easily be avoided?

Is Homebrewing Frugal?

homebrewing raleigh

We started a new hobby this week – homebrewing. We were looking for a productive hobby that both of us could enjoy together. Since my husband works in software development and I’m an online content manager, homebrewing offers us an activity that allowed us to try something different than our regular day to day routine.

There are many reason people make their beer; one of them being costs. Some people find that homebrewing is a frugal option that allows them to enjoy craft beer at a fraction of the price that it is typically sold for at stores and pubs.

Since we decided to try this out, I’ve been keeping

Getting the Homebrewing Supplies

We went to American Brew Masters, a local brew supply shop right here in Raleigh. They had everything that we needed and suggested a more affordable setup than one that we had seen online. They figured that we should try it out a few times and then decide if want to upgrade later. Since their prices were very reasonable should we need to grab some more equipment, we took their advice.

  • 2  6.5 gallon heavy duty fermenters with drilled and gasketed lid.

    homebrewing raleigh
    We made our first batch last night.
  • Bottling spigot
  • 3 feet of bottling tubing
  • 2  Three piece fermentation (air) locks
  • #2 drilled stopper
  • Deluxe double lever bottle capper
  • Bottle cleaning brush
  • Automatic bottle filler
  • Triple scale hydrometer
  • 6.5 gallon heavy duty food grade bottling bucket
  • Auto siphon with 5 feet of 5/16 tubing
  • Lab Thermometer
  • Heat Resistant Spoon
  • Home Beermaking guidebook
  • Extract Recipe Kit

In addition to equipment that comes with this set up, we also got a second recipe kit for brew day. With everything included the total came out to $230. Is this cheap? No, but with every batch that we make the cost per use will decrease.

Testing and Making a Small Batch

Perhaps you don’t want to jump all in and put that much money down. There is another option that may work well for your budget. I also got a small all grain equipment kit from Brooklyn Brewshop that allowed us to get started last night. It’s $40 (free shipping with my amazon Prime account) and the kit includes most of what we needed for the brew, with the exception of 4 chestnuts, a funnel, strainer, honey, and a brewpot. We had picked up a funnel and strainer at the store and had the pot and the honey already at home. Alas chestnuts were nowhere to be found.

  • beer making mix (grain, hops, and yeast)
  • 1 gallon glass fermenter
  • chambered airlock
  • glass thermometer
  • racking cane,
  • tubing, tubing clamp
  • screw cap stopper
  • packet of sanitizer

The kit is usable so you can simply order another mix bag from them or you can go to your local brew supply shop and assemble your own ingredients. I think it’s an affordable to get started and it is easy to prepare.

Got Any Tips on Homebrewing?

Now it’s just the waiting game with our first batch as it’s fermenting right now. I will definitely write something up when it’s bottled and ready to drink. We’d love to get your tips and stories if you have home-brewed in the past or are brewing now.

UK Population Told to Deal with their Debt

The latest figures from Credit Action reveal that the levels of personal debt were down in 2011 from the level experienced in 2010. While this is good news, debt problems still plague many in the UK and every day 331 people are declared bankrupt or insolvent. Personal debts have gone down but are still in the trillions of dollars. People wishing to avoid having to declare bankruptcy often take advantage of an IVA. An IVA is an Individual Voluntary Arrangement that allows individuals to make repayment proposals to a creditor using the services of an Insolvency Practitioner.

An Individual Voluntary Arrangement Can Help Your Finances

Taking advantage of an IVA is a way to preserve your credit score and help you avoid a blight on your financial record. The IVA was established in 1986 as part of the insolvency act. An IVA has been used successfully by many people to get control of their debts.

Besides using an IVA there are other things that can be done to help repay debt and avoid having to file for bankruptcy. One of the most important things is to keep up with payments. Credit cards, especially, should be paid down as quickly as possible. This is because credit cards are often the debt that carries the highest interest charges. Switching over to a lower interest card is a good way to make inroads into paying off the balance.

Missed payments are noted by credit reporting agencies and each time this happens, your credit score goes down by a few points. Having a low credit score makes it difficult to get loans such as mortgages and car loans. If you do obtain a loan while your credit score is low it means you will only get sub-prime loans which come with sky-high interest rates.

It may be possible to consolidate the most expensive debts into one large loan since this is likely to have a much lower rate of interest than debt such as credit cards. When the debt situation is dire, the only loans that should be taken out are the ones to pay off existing high-interest debt. If you are having trouble making monthly payments to your creditors, it is essential to call them and let them know.

It may be possible to arrange for lower monthly payments or to have the interest on the account frozen. There is another option that allows you to freeze the account for an agreed upon period. During this time you could pay only a small fee, such as £1 per month, until your finances have been sorted out.

Free Credit Counseling

If your creditors are not receptive and you are still struggling to pay your debt, there are charities that can help. Consumer Credit Counseling and asCredit offer free and confidential advice and they can be contacted via Freephone. When you contact these charities they help you through a range of solutions that are appropriate for your level of debt.

This may include a DMP or Debt Management Plan that is paid directly to the charity or another company that has arranged this plan for you. They will then distribute the payment amongst your creditors in agreed upon proportions. All these services should be free of charge to you and you should never have to pay a fee for this type of debt advice. Taking these types of actions should help get the debt under control before it is too late.