What do you think?
So, you’ve prepared your child for college, which includes buying him a decent laptop. That’s where he’ll store all his homework, access his assignments and turn in his papers. Should be good to go, right?
Wrong. Imagine this: Your child just finished writing this really great paper and it’s due in two hours. Suddenly, the computer crashes. Maybe it’s a virus. Maybe it was because of the soda he spilled on it last night. The ‘why’ doesn’t matter right now – all that matters is that a full semester’s work was lost in a few seconds.
What’s your kid going to do?
1. Borrow another computer from a friend or the school to…
2. Access his files from the external hard drive in his room or from his cloud backup service, and…
3. Send his paper on time.
If you don’t understand anything in Step 2, read on:
External Hard Drive
This is an external storage device separate from your computer. It’s portable – from the size of a wallet to a small box. You plug it into the computer with a USB cable.
Pros: You don’t need the internet to access your files. It’s portable and you can plug it into any other computer as needed. You pay one-time for the device and not a service.
Cons: It can be lost, stolen or damaged and you need to remember to back up your files.
Cloud Backup Service
In simple terms, this is a service that stores a copy of your files on the internet. It backs up continuously and automatically as long as there’s an active internet connection.
Pros: Backs up for you and you can access your files anywhere on any computer.
Cons: Need to keep paying for the service to access your files. Must have a functional internet connection to access files.
Now that you know the different types, why not both?
That’s cheap security considering you’ll be covered for both hardware and internet related disasters.
This all sounds scary, but what are the chances?
Using a computer for school or work opens you up to some major security risks that I think need to be addressed.
1. The actual item can be lost or stolen. (You should have a locate app installed to increase your chances of finding what’s been lost.)
2. Your computer can be infected by a virus or hacked.
3. It can be damaged by liquids, a power outage, or a simple accident.
4. User error. This is where you accidentally delete or overwrite your file.
With so many security issues, the chances of something happening are pretty big. Dorm rooms are crowded work/living spaces occupied by distracted teens. Things happen… a lot.
And, it’s happened to me – a grown up with my own spacious home. Back in June, I crashed my computer. I was saved by backups and the pros to get me up and running again – but it took at least a week. I can’t thank them enough. Now, not only do I have an external hard drive and cloud back up, I have added an automatic backup systems to be double safe.
If you’re getting ready to send your child off to college for the first time, here is a list of things you need to do, or have them do, before school starts.
Research what it’s like to live on campus. What are the rules and regulations? Where is the best place to do laundry or buy food? What student groups are available? What’s the game schedule? When and where are the plays, the concerts and movies? What stores, restaurants and services are in walking distance? Visit the school’s website and Google Maps to start. From there you may find forums or groups that will help you plan for the place you’ll be living for the next year.
Buy or rent your text books online if possible. Text books are expensive. As soon as your class syllabus is available, start comparison shopping. What options are available to you? Downloadable? Hardcover-used but with shipping fees? The school book store may be the most expensive source, but if you wait until the last minute it will be your only choice. (Always use the ISBN to verify that you have the correct edition.)
Get to know your roommate. You’ll be sharing a very small space with someone you’ve never met. Summertime is the best time to reach out. Find out about them (likes and dislikes), set up of dorm room (who is bringing what) and discuss any issues you are concerned about ahead of time. If you need a roommate off campus (one that’s not assigned by the school), try roomsurf.com.
Doctors and dentists close to campus. It’s time to think about your child’s medical. Set up a physical before they head off to school. Renew prescriptions now so they can take it with them. Check with your insurance carrier to find doctors close to campus in network because emergencies happen. Out of network costs can be a drain on your budget.
Put Orientation on your calendar and go. This is your chance to get to know the school, campus, services and class information. This is a must for anyone going to college or going to a different school.
Technology. In the summer, you can get great deals on laptops, tablets, software, printers, etc. Find out what you need, and get it while the sales are hot.
Don’t wait until fall. Your child will be busy enough trying to handle living on their own for the first time. While the college dorm may seem like a cozy, self-contained environment, it can be surprisingly challenging for the unprepared.
The last word on student loans for this series is about repayment. There are lots of things you need to be aware of. I am speaking about government loans. It may be the same for private loans, but not necessarily. You will need to check with your lender.
Never ignore any debt, especially student loans. Student loans are not included in bankruptcy. They have to be repaid. Interest charges add up, so sooner is better than later.
Student loans are deferred while you are in school. If you plan on taking a year or a semester off, you will have to start making payments. Will the loan go into deferment again when you return? Contact the lender to find out.
If you are having trouble repaying your student loans contact your loan servicer. Yes, this can be a scary call. Trust me, lenders want their money and most of the time they are willing to work with you to find a solution that works for you and them. Never promise to pay more than you can afford.
Some students have no idea what they owe or how many loans they have. This is not uncommon. As students scramble to make tuition, they may take out loans with several lenders over the years. They may also consolidate some loans while leaving others intact. If you feel like you’re missing the full picture, check your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com to see a complete list of all outstanding debts. If you only want to see your government loans, you can go to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).
Stay on top of all your debt to keep your finances in control.
It’s that time of year again! I’m not talking about taxes.
You DO need your tax return, but that is only part of it. Any guesses?
It’s FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid. I personally applied last year at this time and here are some of the things I learned. If you are returning to school or have a child in going or in college, you need to read this.
Deadlines: There are several deadlines that you need to take into consideration – federal, state and the college you will be attending. The federal deadline is June 30. The Connecticut deadline is February 15. Deadlines for your state can be found at fafsa.ed.gov.
How to Apply: First, you need to go to the FAFSA.gov and start your application. Online application are easy, but as with anything, take your time and enter your information correctly. Don’t hit enter yet.
Double Check Before Submitting! If you didn’t qualify, it could be because of wrong or inaccurate information. Did you know that incorrectly filled out applications is the reason why most government grants are denied?
Do Your Income Taxes Right Now: You will have to link your tax return to the application.
“Sign” Your Application: How can you provide your signature on an internet document. You will use a PIN that is provided for you when you start the application process.
Need Help? Either contact the college or university financial aid office, read the instructions directly on the FAFSA’s website or call the number listed there.
First Come, First Served: Remember, that sometimes award monies are based on first application in – first application out. The earlier you submit your application the better, as the money goes fast.
Some of you may know this already, but I’m taking a few classes to finish my degree. For those of you going to college, have a child in college, or about to go to college, this may help your wallet.
I have talked about the cost of text books before, but this was my first experience as an adult in today’s market.
I took a class this summer. The textbook was $60 used or $40 for a rental. Thinking I’d like to keep it for future reference, I decided to buy used. Imagine my shock when I discovered that the college bookstore didn’t carry the textbook for a class the college was offering. I had to prepay and have it ordered in.
After the class was over, I was shocked again when the bookstore wouldn’t buy it back. The college is offering the same class with the same book, so why not? Wanting to recoup some of my costs, I sold it online for $11.75 (postage was paid by the publisher).
Now I am taking my second class and that textbook was substantially more – $200 to buy new and $100 to buy used. I did my research and checked a number of websites for the best deal (remember to search by the ISBN number to get the correct edition). I decided to rent it for $40. On the first day of class, the Professor mentioned that we could have used prior editions. Knowing that ahead of time would have saved me a lot of money.
1. Don’t shop at the college book store.
2. Compare prices (new, used, or rental) from several online retailers.
3. Check for digital editions depending on your learning preference.
4. Plan ahead so you don’t have to expedite shipping. The cheaper the shipping the better the deal.
A couple of hard lessons learned that I will put to good use for the remainder of my classes. Textbooks are expensive. Learn from my mistakes to cut a nice chunk off of college costs.
You see this happen all the time. You are in a situation with other people and someone mentions his nice vacation plans. What is the first thing that pops into your head? Are you genuinely happy for him or do you automatically think about how much he’s spending (that includes jealous thoughts of the “he must be making more money than me” kind). You know what I mean.
But in the past few years, I have learned to stop comparing my financial situation with friends and family family (I’m not perfect but I am improving). I have come to realize that I am projecting my values and beliefs onto other people. What I think or believe about another person’s finances has no basis in reality. I am not in their shoes and don’t know what their situation is.
People spend money on things that are important to them. I know that some people may think I travel a lot. When one vacation ends, I am already planning the next. I personally always want to have a trip to look forward to. You might be thinking thoughts like “how can she afford it?” or “where does she get the money to travel?” You may even be envious. But you won’t know exactly how I make my little dreams come true because personal finances are just that – personal. .
Although in a few weeks,, I will shed some light on how we travel.
The other side of comparing your finances is the presumption that you are somehow morally better or worse than others. Grim tales of credit card debt are all over the news, often mixed with stories of foreclosure and homelessness. You may feel good about yourself because your debt is lower, but do you know why the person on the news has the debt? Was it really insane overspending, or was it a medical emergency or a layoff. Maybe the credit cards were used as a last resort to pay bills?
I have heard it said that “to compare is to despair.” This thought process of judging others is detrimental to you. You have no idea whether another household spends more money than they have, is in debt to their eyeballs, or has planned ahead to achieve their desires. You don’t know how much they earn or how much they give to charity. It is much easier to judge someone else than look inward at your own spending habits.
In the budgeting process, people track their daily expenses to see how much they spend and in what category. This can be a great exercise. Once you see where your money is going, you can make life-changing decisions. Where do you want to spend? What do you want to save for?
There are no right or wrong answers. There are only personal choices. Maybe you choose electronics over vacations. Maybe you choose decorating and entertaining over both. Maybe you choose to give your children spectacular holidays or birthdays over everything else. These are the kind of choices your neighbors, friends and family members made when they did something that impressed you and made you envious. They simply chose to spend their money in a different way than you.
So the next time you see someone order an expensive meal at a five star restaurant, purchasing the latest greatest electronics, or buying a designer outfit, don’t judge them. Not only is the thought process destructive, but it is a total waste of your time.
Where do kids learn about banks and credit? I have gone into many schools and spoken with many teens about money. There are always a handful who say things that startle me. I have heard things like…
- Do I really need to pay credit cards back?
- If paying bills bothers people, why don’t they just throw the bills away?
- I know I have money left in my checking account because I still have checks.
- Why do people need to work when they can get money anytime they want with an ATM card?
Sound unbelievable? Not only are these ideas commonly believed by kids, but there’s a logical thought process behind each one. If you don’t explain what you’re doing, your kids will make assumptions about money based on what they hear you say and what they see you do.
Take the idea that money from the ATM is free for you anytime you need it. The boy who believed that probably heard his parents complain about not having any money, then watched as they took money from the ATM. What other conclusion could he have drawn?
The idea that you don’t have to pay your bills back comes from a general assumption about the world based on ideas of fair play. You don’t have to run laps in gym if you have a sprained ankle. You can take a make-up test if you have a sick day. Why can’t you just put off the bills if you don’t have money because you got sick? If you can’t pay, they shouldn’t expect you to. That’s fair, right?
But kids grow out of these crazy ideas, don’t they. It’s not like they hold them onto them into adulthood. Trust me, they may not believe the exact same things, but their misconceptions and ignorance can still hurt them.
Here are some scary facts about college kids and credit cards from credit.com:
- 91% of undergrads have at least 1 credit card
- Undergrads have an average of 4-6 credit cards (that means more than half have more)
- $3,173 is the average amount of undergrad credit card debt (that’s not including student loans)
- 25% of undergrads have paid late fees
- 15% of undergrads have paid over limit fees
Does this scare you? It scares me! Don’t let your kids make assumptions. Teach your child about money and credit by speaking with them. You don’t have to be perfect (no one is), but showing your child the process behind your decisions can be eye-opening.
You’ve figured out how to cover the cost of tuition and room and board, and you think to yourself, “Now I can coast through the school year on a small budget.” Think again. College costs can continue to add up. Here are some things you may not have considered.
Don’t underestimate the cost of books. This is not high school. They don’t come free with the course.
It’s not unheard of for a text book to cost $300 new. Some courses require multiple books. Multiply that by 5 classes and you’ve got a big dent in your budget. If you want to save time, you can buy your books at the college book store. If you want to save money, do your shopping ahead of time and try these options:
- Buy Used. You can find used text books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and eBay. Not to mention, online stores like ecampus.com, and bookbyte.com.
- Rent. If you know you’ll never open the book again once class is over, you can rent from websites such as bookrent, bookrenter.com or chegg.com.
If you do rent or buy used, double-check your course requirements and the ISBN number to make sure you get the right edition of the book.
Do you need a printer?
Even though a few courses will be (mostly) paperless, you should plan on having to print some of your course work. But, you don’t have to buy a printer, because most colleges have printers for campus use. (Check with your college).
However, you may want a printer if you’re the type who does homework at the last minute, or if you’re taking courses that require a lot of writing. Let’s compare your options:
- Using the campus printers: There may be a charge per page, but it’s usually pennies. Compare that to the cost of buying your own printer, paper and toner.
- Using your own printer: If this is the option that works best for you, you’ll want to find good deals on paper and toner. Consider buying paper by the box and using recycled toner cartridges.
Meals and Snacks
Cafeteria meal plans. Colleges usually offer multiple meal plans. You can have 3 meals a day 7-days a week, or you can have a plan that covers lunch and dinner but not breakfast, or weekdays but not weekends. You need to choose a plan that fits your course schedule and weekend plans.
Snacks and food in the dorm room. Many college students feel that a small fridge, popcorn air-popper, and coffee-maker are essential. Check with the college to see what types of appliances are allowed in the dorms. If keeping simple foods in your room is part of your budget strategy, you’ll need to have cash and access to a grocery store to keep your fridge stocked.
Consider your class schedule. This is especially important if the cafeteria isn’t open all day. Will you miss an important meal each day if the cafeteria is only open from 7am-9am, 11am-2pm, and 4-7pm? That could make the small fridge in your dorm an essential instead of a luxury.
The cost of books, paper, toner and food can really add up. Thinking ahead will save you money.
Did you know that 1 in 4 college freshman fail to return their sophomore year? Some say the number is even higher.
A lot of reasons have been given for the high dropout rate. It may be that college itself isn’t a good fit. But the fact is that many first year college students have difficulty living in a new and stressful environment.
There’s a big difference between what 18 year olds expect from college and what they get. They look forward to the freedom and luxury of being away from home for the first time. Instead, they find that…
- The dorms are crowded, noisy, and smell a like a gym locker room.
- Homework and studies take most of their time and living in a dorm is distracting.
- Every little comfort has to be paid for. Little things that helped them deal with stress are suddenly expensive or inaccessible. Little pleasures like a soda, snack food, fresh laundry, and a movie require cash and transportation.
Here are some thoughts and tips to make their lives and budgets easier.
Make a checklist of the items your child will need. The college and retail stores will help.
- The college itself will have a checklist. Read it over carefully. It should tell you what size sheets are needed, and make recommendations based on the amount and type of storage in the dorm room and whether your child will have a private bath.
- There are independent websites online that have good lists as well. But, each college living situation is different so check it against the list the college provides.
- Stores such as Bed, Bath and Beyond and Target have online lists with sale prices.
Buy the supplies at stores near the college.
You won’t have to lug the items yourself (no need to rent a truck). If you buy at the store, you can avoid shipping costs (more money saved).
Prepare your child for medical emergencies.
All it takes is the flu, a slip on an icy sidewalk, or a broken filling, and suddenly your child will have to see a medical professional in an unfamiliar town.
A little research now can save you money later. Your child should know where the nearest doctors, dentists, and hospitals are so that they know where to go if they need the services. Knowing which doctors are in network for your insurance will save you money in the long run.
Set up an account at a local bank.
Which bank has ATMs on campus? If your bank doesn’t have an ATM location convenient to campus, consider opening a bank account with one that does. Even if that bank is not convenient for you at home, you can always transfer money electronically between banks.
Life coaching for college freshman
You can be your child’s life coach by making sure your child knows what to really expect from college. In movies and on TV, dorm rooms are spacious and nice looking. The people you meet are exciting, and there’s plenty of time for socializing. All the studying is done in a 5 minute montage with a catchy song track.
In reality, a shared dorm room is about the size of a walk-in closet, most of the people living there are stressed and annoyed, and studying non-stop. The small amount of socializing offers a nice but needed break at the end of a long day or week.
Colleges do offer counseling. Make sure your child knows that. If you think your child is especially unrealistic about school, or is either shy, or too social for his or her own good, you might consider life coaching. If it makes the difference between dropping out and graduating, it could be worth the cost.
Sending your child to college is expensive. Preparing your child realistically will benefit your budget and your investment.