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Young Finances

How Much Sleep Does a College Student Need?

College can be a busy time in your life. On top of attending class and doing homework, many college students get a job - leaving them with very limited free time. This also leaves very little time to sleep. Which brings us to a popular question: How much sleep do college students need?

According to experts at Stanford University’s Department for the Diagnosis and Treatment for Sleep Disorders, college students should be getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night.

This article goes on to describe how college students who end up getting less than 8 hours of sleep endure something called sleep debt.

Getting the proper amount of sleep is important and allows your body to have enough time to rest and recharge so you can be at your best focus and energy level for the following day.

Thus, as you can probably tell, pulling an all-nighter every week is not the healthiest habit for your body. Here are some simple ways college students can get more sleep time in to receive at least 8 hours each night.

Schedule a Nap

Naps can do wonders. Even if your schedule is busy, you may still have time for a nap if you schedule it for between classes. Some students like to use breaks within the day to catch up on homework and run errands. I used to use some of my free time in between classes to take a quick nap. Those naps helped me power through the rest of the day.

Most college classes start no earlier than 8:00 a.m. If you go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 6:00 a.m., that will leave you with enough time to get ready for class, go over homework and run an errand all before class. If you are less of a morning person, you can always stay up until 11 p.m. and sleep until 7. There are ways to get 8 hours.

Change your Sleep Environment

If you find it hard to get to sleep at night and you tend to lay awake in bed for some time, you might want to try changing your sleep environment.

Sometimes noise and activity can deter your body from being able to rest and relax so you can sleep. Make sure you turn the television and computer off at least 30 minutes before bed and get in a quiet environment.

If you notice anything about your bed that’s irritating you (like a squeaky or rough mattress or pillows that make your neck hurt) consider replacing said item(s).

Develop a Sleep Routine You Can Stick To

If you prefer not to take a nap during the day and get all your sleep in at night, develop a realistic sleep routine that will allow you to get 8 hours or more of rest each night.

As a college student, it’s nice that you have the power to create your own schedule. Decide whether you like to get more done in the morning or in the late afternoon and evening. Then choose your classes based on that preference.

If you work, most jobs will ask your availability. A lot of students try to get the bulk of their work hours done during the weekend but it’s not uncommon to work before, after or in between classes.

If you have a job that requires you to work late, make sure your classes do not start early the next day so you can get the proper rest.

Stay away from caffeine and coffee before bed. Take 10 minutes to prep for the next day before you lie down. If your routine is new, sticking to it each day might be a bit of a challenge at first, but it will become second nature soon enough.

Getting enough sleep as a college student is crucial to your success. It can help improve your academic performance, give you enough energy to make it throughout the day, and prevent sleep debt habits like drowsiness and oversleeping.

 

If the average college student needs 8 or more hours of sleep each night, how do you compare?

Originally posted 2016-01-20 10:00:33.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

Tips to Save on Your Heating Bill

The chilly winter season can cause your heating bill to spike and turn your budget upside down for a few months. In areas with more brutal winters, it's common to want to blast your heat and just deal with high heating bills. However, you don’t have to deal with expensive heating bills in the winter if you are comfortable making a few subtle changes.

Make Sure Your Home is Properly Insulated

Consider buying double pane thermal windows to help keep the warmth in and the cold out during the winter months. You can also seal air ducts and make sure they are insulated throughout unused rooms in your home. Also, install weather stripping material around doors and windows to keep the cold air out.

Program Your Thermostat

Programmable thermostats allow you to ‘set it and forget it’ when it comes to controlling the heat in your home. According to Energy.gov, a programmable thermostat can save you an estimated 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs. To save money on your energy bill in the winter with this type of thermostat, make sure you set different temperatures throughout the day. When you're gone, consider using less heat. When you're sleeping you may actually prefer the room to be cool.

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Delay Turning on Your Heat for as Long as You Can

One of the most efficient ways to keep your heating costs low is to avoid turning on the heat for as long as you can stand it. During the fall months, you should be able to utilize some of these other tips and techniques mentioned to keep your home warm and comfortable for as long as you can.

Wear thick socks, sweaters and hoodies around the house for a few weeks until it gets very cold. Now that it’s December, this may be more difficult to do. You can even invest in an electric blanket to use every now and then. Also, open your blinds during the day to let natural sunlight enter your home and double check to make sure the heat is turned down when you leave your home or when you’re sleep.

The longer you delay turning up the heat, the lower your heating bill.

Check the Settings on Your Water Heater

Check your water heater to see if you could lower the settings by a few degrees to lower your heating bill. Your water heater is usually on 24/7 and odds are you don’t need scalding hot water the entire time. If you could lower the temperature, it may not even be noticeable and it could save you money on your bill each month.

Extra Tips and Tricks

  • Cook a lot more in the winter with your oven. If you already cook a lot of meals in the oven, then this won’t be a huge change. Cooking your meals at home will save you lots of money and in turn, using the oven will help heat up your home and allow you to keep your furnace low. I have an electric oven so sometimes in the winter I even leave the oven open after I turn it off while as it cools down.
  • Use a space heater. I know that space heaters are not everyone’s favorite, but they are much cheaper to operate if you need to heat a single room or an area of your home that you spend a lot of time in. Be cautious and/or avoid using a space heater if you have a young child who wanders around the house often and could touch it by accident. Many, however, are child safe.
  • Check your furnace’s filter and replace it as needed. Filters help keep dust out of your home. If you maintain and replace the furnace filter(s) in your home as needed, you’ll be saving energy by allowing the furnace not to work so hard to heat your home

All of these tips and strategies are fairly easy ways to ensure you continue to have a warm and comfortable winter without subjecting yourself to an extremely high heating bill.

How do you manage your heating bill in the winter? Which one of these tips work best for you?

Originally posted 2015-12-14 10:00:00.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

Do You Have a Christmas Gift Budget? Here’s Why You Should

Christmas is right around the corner. Have you started considering gifts you will purchase for others? While it’s important to realize Christmas is not always about gifts and money, it is an opportunity to be generous.

In my family, Christmas is a time where we can relax and spend quality time together, celebrate the meaning of the holiday, eat good food and exchange gifts. Since I make it a habit not to spend much money on miscellaneous items during the year, I tend to stock up on things we want during the holidays.

If you're normally frugal like I am, Christmas is a great time to spend a little more than is ordinary. You're not wrecking your finances, you're just splurging a little once a year. Here are a few key benefits to establishing a budget for gift spending.

It Helps To Organize and Brainstorm Gift Ideas

If you are going to make a list of everyone you are planning on getting a gift for, you might as well take the extra step to brainstorm some gift ideas within a budget. Organizing your Christmas shopping list and creating a budget helps ensure you don’t miss anyone. Furthermore, the gifts you purchase are well thought out. Getting organized ahead of time allows you to consider what the person really wants or needs and compare it with how much you have allotted yourself to spend. Which brings me to the next benefit of establishing your budget...

You Can Set a Limit to How Much You Should Spend

Holiday ads and sales can be more than tempting. If you don’t set a budget, you could easily overspend. Or worse, you could pull out your credit card to purchase gifts you can’t afford.

Christmas budgets help you keep your spending controlled. No one likes to feel flat out broke after the holidays. If you budget properly, you probably won’t feel such a financial strain in January. People normally put on weight in December. Don't make it harder on yourself by adding debt as well.

It Allows You to Challenge Yourself to be Creative

Since budgets tend to limit how much you can spend (for your own good), a Christmas budget will prompt you to get more creative with gifts and establish new holiday traditions that are not so costly and help you maintain your budget.

If your budget is tight, you can try your hand at making gifts, baking treats or funding a new experience to enjoy with loved ones. Homemade gift baskets are always enjoyed by many and they’re super easy and affordable to make. Plus, they allow you to get creative and add your own personal touch. Expensive and generic store-bought gift baskets are much less thoughtful.

Tips on Managing Your Christmas Gift Budget

  • Use a separate checking or savings account for Christmas spending
  • Take advantage of holiday sales and doorbuster deals
  • If you have a big family or a long list of people to purchase gifts for, suggest doing a secret Santa.

 

Do you have a Christmas gift budget? How is it helping you stay on track financially during the holidays?

Originally posted 2015-12-07 10:00:24.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

Buy Nothing Day Challenge: Got the Urge to Spend? Save the Money Instead

Saving is the foundation for building financial stability and being able to reach any financial goal. Whether you want to buy a house, get out of debt, get married or go on vacation with your family, you’ll need to save your money.

If you feel like your budget and spending have both spiraled out of control, now is the perfect time to get back on track right before the holidays.

There are tons of tips, tricks and techniques out there will help you save money, but it’s no argument that the absolute best way to save money is to just do it. Once you commit to your cause and understand that spending money each day is not necessary, you’ll be ready to plan a no spend day, weekend, or undergo even a week without spending.

Buy Nothing Day is actually an official holiday in Canada that kicks off in the fall. There are plenty of ways to celebrate not spending no matter where you live. Here are some tips to help you get started with your Buy Nothing Day challenge.

Determine Your ‘Why’

Before you even get started with your challenge, determine why you are doing it and what you hope to get out of it. Of course your focus will be on saving more money, but do you want to change your spending habits, squeeze out more of your income to put toward debt, cut out emotional spending or work towards another goal?

Figuring out what your ‘why’ is will help give you a clear focus about what you’re doing and why it’s necessary.

Lay Down Some Ground Rules

The next step is to define your rules. While spending absolutely nothing the entire day or week would be ideal, you may have some mandatory bills due around that time or other commitments. If this will be your first Buy Nothing Day challenge, try to schedule it during a time where you don’t have any major events or commitments going on that would cause you to spend money.

Remove credit cards from your wallet, pack a lunch to bring to work and commit to doing free things with friends and family that will help you avoid having to spend money. Set stricter rules that won’t make it so easy for you. This is a challenge after all.

My rules generally consist of paying bills and putting gas in my car when I have to but spending on nothing else.

Ban Temptations

Temptations will sneak up quickly during your challenge. This is why it’s so important to define your ‘why’ and let it motivate you. To avoid being tempted to spend, ban your favorite stores and unsubscribe to all mailing lists for popular retailers. That way, you won’t be setting yourself up for failure.

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Email coupons and offers can be super tempting so it’s best to just avoid receiving those types of emails altogether by temporarily unsubscribing (or sending them to a hidden folder). Whether your guilty pleasure is Target or Old Navy, spending all your extra money at retailers will not be helping your bottom line. The no spend challenge will maybe even help you develop a no-spending habit.

Get Creative and Involved

The Buy Nothing Day Challenge is not meant to be boring and dreadful. You can still do some of the things you love and have fun with your friends and family as long as it doesn’t require that you spend money. It will definitely call for some creativity though.

During your challenge, you might want to try out new recipes from items in your pantry and diversify your meal planning, make gifts for others, attend free neighborhood events or just invite a few people over to play cards.

Ask friends and family to join in on the challenge so you can all keep each other motivated. The creative ideas you come up with during the challenge will certainly continue to help you save more money in the future.

Calculate Your Savings

This is the best part. Since you most likely won’t have any spending to track, it should be easy to calculate how much money you were able to save along with the new money saving habits you developed during the challenge.

Imagine how much extra money you could have to build up your savings account, invest and pay off debt if you did a few no spend challenges throughout the year...

Have you ever gone a day or week without spending money?

Originally posted 2015-11-25 10:00:34.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

30+ Things Frugal People Don’t Do

Frugality is a lifestyle. Spending less so you can live more appeals to a lot of people. Practicing frugality often gets referred to as being cheap but there are distinct differences between the two.

Being frugal involves optimizing what you have by being creative. You want to establish a lifestyle that doesn’t revolve around spending and obtaining more things to be happy. Frugal people value experiences over things but don’t sacrifice the health or welfare of themselves or their family just to save a few dollars.

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Here are 30+ things frugal people usually don’t do.

1. Fail to Implement a Budget

Budgeting accurately helps keep your finances in order. This allows you to control where your money is going. Frugal people remain frugal and spend less because they implement a budget in some shape or form to remain on track.

2. Spend Money Every Single Day

There are some days when you don’t have to spend a dime. Having a ‘no spend day’ or a ‘no spend weekend’ is a financial challenge that requires creativity and a clear focus. But the more you do it, the easier it will become.

3. Choose Wants over Needs

Frugality helps put your needs before your wants by prioritizing what is most important to you. It's also important to be content with what you have. Greed and frugality do not mix well.

4. Have Enormous Cable Bills

Cable doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint. If you don’t even have time to watch television nor the money to fork over for a rising bill each month, try going without cable and using a cheaper alternative to watch shows and movies. Consider Netflix ($8/month), Hulu ($8/month) or Amazon Prime (with free two-day shipping on items for $99/year).

5. Waste Food

Wasting food is something everyone should try to avoid. Food is a privilege in some countries. It’s important to be mindful of what you eat and the food you buy so you can avoid waste. Throwing away food is almost identical to throwing money in the garbage. Frugal people eat all of what they buy.

6. Make Impulse Purchases Based on Emotion

Frugal people try to keep their emotions in check. They realize that retailers tend to create a sense of urgency with their products and appeal to consumers’ emotions in order to increase sales. Asking yourself if you truly need the item can bring your shopping impulses to a halt.

7. Buy Brand Name Items and Clothes to Make an Impression

The idea of buying expensive name brand and designer clothes really serves no purpose in the life of a frugal person. Clothes that look nice, fit well, and are on sale (bonus) will suffice. Why spend money over and over again if you can buy timeless?

8. Shop as a Form of Entertainment

Shopping as a habit is expensive and is usually done to fill a void. Frugal people try not to associate spending money with fun and entertainment. Frugal consumers find more enjoyable ways to lighten their mood and have fun.

9. Drive Cars They Can’t Afford

Driving a car that you can barely afford to make payments on is not a wise decision and will often leave you drowning in debt. Frugal people practically despise debt and some even drive older, more economical cars to avoid going into debt over a depreciating asset.

10. Ignore Vehicle Maintenance

Failing to maintain your vehicle and schedule timely repairs can result in having to pay thousands of dollars to fix big things later on. The frugal way to keep your car running well for longer is not to avoid maintenance and repairs, but rather budget for these expenses ahead of time. This way, you can take care of them quickly without causing financial strain.

11. Go the Most Convenient Route

Convenient practices like ordering dinner to avoid cooking it, paying for valet parking, or driving when you can walk or bike will eventually start to add up and deplete your funds. This is why frugal people try to avoid 'convenient' money traps.

12. Avoid a Great Deal

Frugal people don’t sit around all day staring at their bank accounts and thinking of ways to avoid spending any money. They know how to spend. They just wait for a great deal and snatch it up as fast as possible!

13. Use Credit Cards To Inflate Their Lifestyle

Using credit cards to spend more than you can afford will lead to greater money problems. You can use credit cards frugally by optimizing them for points, spending on items you would normally purchase, and paying off the balance in full each month.

14. Ignore Giveaways and Freebies

Whether you consider yourself a frugal person or not, we all should appreciate an occasional freebie or giveaway. It only takes a few moments to enter a giveaway or respond to an advertised freebie offer. It's typically a really good return on your invested time.

15. Run the AC or Heat When It’s Unnecessary

Frugal people are all about conserving energy and keeping utility costs low. They know that paying attention to the thermostat is worthwhile. There are several things you can do to avoid running the heat too soon and running your air conditioning too much.

16. Spend a lot on Gym Memberships

A gym membership can be a great source of motivation to help you get fit. However, a lot of people don’t fully utilize their gym membership given the amount of money they spend on it each month. On the low end, a gym membership generally costs around $58 or $696 per year. According to recent studies, about 67% of people with gym memberships don’t even use them. If you don’t go to the gym at least two or three times per week all year round you could be wasting quite a bit of money.

Whether you want a gym membership or not is your preference. But it would be wise to avoid a costly one and stick to free and natural workouts that you can do out in nature or in your home. There are plenty of mobile apps and YouTube videos to utilize. Used and affordable gym equipment is usually plentiful any time of year.

17. Believe Entertainment Is Expensive

A big part of being frugal is the ability to override the myth that you need to spend lots of money on entertainment. There are tons of free and low cost ways to entertain yourself and your family. Look around your neighborhood, research events and take advantage of deals.

18. Pass up a Thrift Store or Garage Sale

Garage sales and thrift shops are thrilling for the frugal shopper. Garage sale and consignment shop items that are in good condition beat department store prices every time.

19. Try to Overcompensate by Giving out Elaborate Gifts

This ties into the idea of trying to impress others with name brands. Sometimes it’s best to make gifts and provide the recipient with something they need instead of trying to impress them with a popular brand.

20. Purchase Work Lunches Each Day

When you work for an employer (especially in an office) lunch time can be a much anticipated release or break from the work day. If you go out and buy lunch each day though, you could easily waste more than $1,000 per year. Frugal people choose not to purchase work lunches each day. They bring a lunch from home to save that $1,000 for a vacation, home repair, or a memorable experience with loved ones.

21. Buy Snacks at the Movie Theatre, or Meals at Carnivals and Fairs

It’s not about being cheap. Who really wants to spend $5 on a soft drink, $4 on a box of candy and $7 on a bowl of popcorn that might be fresh? If you don’t want to avoid going broke just by snacking, it’s best to eat a large meal before you go out and drink water if you need a beverage. This allows you to focus more on the experience rather than the overpriced, subpar food.

22. Take Luxurious Vacations Without Reward Points

Many frugal people still go on vacations. Dropping $5,000-$10,000 on a vacation each year though is often not in the question. Instead of charging vacation expenses to your credit card and returning home with debt, you can churn credit cards and use the reward points and cashback to fund your travels.

23. Ignore Their Health Needs

Maintaining an adequate amount of medical coverage is very important, no matter the cost. Eating healthy foods and going to regular check-ups can help prevent costly medical problems in the future.

24. Spend Copious Amounts of Money on Summer Music Festivals

Frugal people might wonder why someone would pay hundreds of dollars to meet up with friends, camp outside and listen to music for a weekend. That's because there are tons of free music festivals happening all over. Although frugal people may use credit card reward points to help pay for tickets to an occasional concert.

25. Buy Brand New Electronics Each Year

Keeping up with the newest versions of electronics is exhausting, not to mention financially draining. Frugal people try to keep up with their electronics for a few years at least instead of buying something new the moment it comes out.

26. Throw Away Broken or Old Electronics

When electronics break, instead of tossing them out and creating more waste, frugal people may try to fix up and sell older electronics for cheap or sell their parts if the item is broken. A broken iPhone is still worth a lot of money.

27. Put Off Investing

Putting off investing can put you in a rough financial situation when you get older. Some people who are nearing retirement age can’t even leave work because they failed to invest and save early. Frugal people love setting money aside for their future.

28. Buy Coffee Every Morning

Drinking coffee every day is normal. But buying it each day from a café or coffee shop is a bit much for frugal people. They usually make coffee at home and buy an occasional drink at Starbucks every now and then. This saves big money.

29. Pass up a Side Hustle

People who live frugally are always looking for more ways to earn money easily on the side. This is why it’s hard for a frugal person to pass up an opportunity to use their skills to earn extra money on the weekend, help a friend or start a side business.

30. Go on a Road Trip without Bringing Food

Road trips are very fun and they’re the perfect frugal getaway for a family or group of friends. To make the trip even more frugal and save money to use for attractions and other activities, bringing food along is a must. It's also easier than stopping the car for a snack.

31. Compromise the Safety and Welfare of Others

Frugal people don’t opt to save money at all costs; especially when it comes to the expense of other people's health or safety. They are not like the people you see on shows like Extreme Cheapskates. Since frugal people place needs and necessities above wants, it allows them to live a life that doesn’t compromise the safety and welfare of others.

32. Care What People Think about Them

Frugal people are judged a lot and sometimes negatively referred to as 'cheapskates' or 'penny pinchers'. After you’ve been frugal for a while and you see the positive affects your choices have had on your lifestyle and your bank account, it won’t matter what other people think. Frugal people always have the last laugh. While others think they are cheap or poor for bringing lunch to work each day or living a different, simpler life, they are busy saving, investing, and living a fulfilling life.

Do you consider yourself frugal? Can you think of anything else that frugal people might not do?

Originally posted 2015-11-09 10:00:15.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

4 College and Education Related Tax Benefits

Investing in your education is important even though tuition costs keep climbing. College tuition, fees, and room and board average $42,419 at private institutions and $18,943 at public institutions, according to College Board.

While it can be difficult to keep higher education costs down, there are plenty of tax benefits to be gleaned.

Here are 4 college and education tax related benefits every student should be utilizing:

Deductions

During college I was able to benefit a lot from education related deductions. On behalf of yourself, your spouse or your dependent, you may be able to deduct qualified education expenses paid during the school year. This deduction can reduce the amount of your income that is subjected to tax by up to $4,000 if you're single and can't be claimed as a dependent.

If you graduate college with student loans and your modified adjusted gross (MAG) income is less than $75,000 (if filing single) or $150,000 (if filing jointly), you may receive special a special deduction. You can get student loan interest deducted from your taxes.

Tax Credits

Education tax credits can help reduce the amount of income tax you have to pay each year you're in school. If the credit reduces your tax to less than zero, you may actually get a refund. Hooray for tax refunds!

The American Opportunity Tax Credit (formerly known as the Hope scholarship credit), can be claimed in tax-years from 2009 through 2017. The credit applies to educational expenses including tuition, fees, course materials and more. Expenses related to room and board, transportation, insurance, and medical expenses don’t qualify unfortunately. But students can receive a tax credit up to $2,500. 40% of the credit is refundable. To learn more about this specific tax credit, visit IRS.gov.

The Lifetime Learning Credit is another tax credit that can be utilized school expenses while in attendance. The credit helps students pay for undergraduate, graduate and professional degree courses. The credit is limited to $2,000. However, it can be used for as many years as enrolled. To learn more about eligibility requirements for the Lifetime Learning Credit, click here.

Scholarships

Scholarships are great because even though they’re competitive, you don’t have to pay them back. A fellowship can also be earned. It's similar to a scholarship. But it’s paid to a student to pursue a certain type of research.

I earned quite a few various private and public scholarships during college. Sometimes I got worried that the money I desperately needed to pay for college was going to get taxed and counted as income. The best thing about scholarships and fellowships is that they can be tax-free if they meet the following conditions:

  • You are pursuing a degree at an eligible institution.
  • You use the scholarship or fellowship funds to pay for qualified educational expenses.

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To learn more about tax-free scholarship and fellowship requirements, check out this information from the IRS.

College Savings Plans

Qualified tuition programs, also known as 529 plans, are maintained by states. They allow you to either prepay tuition or contribute to a special savings account for future expenses. Either option is convenient. However, consider opportunity cost before you prepay for education. Earnings in a 529 plan are tax-free when invested and tax exempt when withdrawn for qualified higher education expenses. Qualified expenses include tuition, room and board, fees, books, supplies and materials.

State sponsored college savings plans are very popular for parents. While contributions are not deductible, there is also no income limit for contributors. This is an option everyone can consider.

Getting a head start on college prep is a great idea. No one enjoys last minute panic. Use one or many of these programs and your finances will thank you.

Higher education may always be pricey. But these tax benefits will definitely help. For further assistance, see our Ultimate Tax Guide and consult a tax professional.

How have you/how will you pay for college?

Originally posted 2015-10-14 10:00:25.