saving money

Top 5 Ways to Save Money on Higher Education

As anyone who is currently a student or who is thinking of pursuing a degree in higher education knows, college costs have skyrocketed enormously over the past decade. There are many reasons for this, one being the increase of demand (students are applying to school in record numbers), state budget cuts, and the increased costs of running a university as a whole. Measuring data from 1986, the website cites that the cost of a college education over the past twenty five years has increased by over 400%, while the overall inflation rate has been around 100%. While there is no definite explanation for the astronomic increase in costs, as students or soon-to-be students who are concerned about your financial futures, getting a college or post-graduate degree must be approached with a specific mindset. Follow these five pointers to avoid student debt that can potentially crush your finances.

Save Money on Higher Education

1. Carefully consider whether or not you really need to go back to school.

While going back to school can have many advantages, both personal and professional, it’s best to think about a college or post-graduate degree as a serious investment. If, after doing plenty of research in the degree and school in which you are considering enrolling, you’re career prospects won’t substantively improve afterward, then don’t go. Especially concerning post-graduate degrees, for many, the cost will simply not pay off in the long-run.

2. Consider doing a part-time, online, or evening program that enables you to work while pursuing a degree.

Once you’ve determined that pursuing further education can help get you to where you want to be in the future, see what you can do to minimize your costs without resorting to loans (or at least resorting to as few loans as possible). One way to do this is to enroll in a degree program that enables you to continue working while you go to school. This way, you’ll be working on improving your career and following your passion through education, while still keeping costs down and getting as much necessary job experience as you can get.

3. Don’t just take whatever financial aid package you get offered. Educate yourself about loan repayment.

When you apply for financial aid by filling out the FAFSA form, your school will notify you what kind of financial aid you qualify for. While some schools will give out grants, scholarships, or tuition waivers, much of the traditional financial aid package is filled to the brim with loans, money that you will eventually have to pay back. If you can afford to turn down a student loan then do so. Don’t accept your financial aid package without reading the fine print and learning about each loan you take out.

4. Place greater emphasis on living frugally.

Of course, if you’ve ever attended college before, you know that “living like a student” means living within small means. If you are older now, this sort of lifestyle may seem alien and perhaps even beneath you, but you’d be surprised by how much you can soften the school costs blow by simply drastically cutting down your personal expenses. Put off large purchases. Don’t rack up any other forms of debt. Consider getting roommates who are students also to get a feel for what living on a budget really entails.

5. When you’re finished with school, work aggressively to pay down your student debt first. Pay more than the monthly minimum to avoid added debt from interest rates.

Many newly-minted graduates are rather nonchalant about loan repayment. But more than other forms of debt, student debt in particular can haunt you for the rest of your life. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to sit down with a student loan officer and/or an accountant upon graduating to work out a payment plan that gets you out of debt as soon as possible. After finishing school and getting on with your career, again put off big purchases like a new car or home until you’ve paid down a significant portion of your debt. Always pay more than the monthly minimum, and do plenty of research before consolidating if that’s something you are considering (although in most cases you shouldn’t).

These are just a few ways to help you save money on higher education, both in the short and long term. Above all, remember that, at least during these difficult times, a higher education is a privilege, not a right, and if you don’t stand to benefit from the system, it’s best to do something else until you can afford it.

saving money

How to Save Money On St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s day is a holiday that, in America, has come to mean drinking with friends, getting wasted with strangers or just passing out alone. And oh yeah – wearing green to show off some Irish pride. On the streets of New York City, St. Louis, Boston, Baltimore or Columbus, it is perhaps the best day of the year to watch drunken revelers walk the streets while the sun is still out. For those looking to stretch their entertainment budget, the free show known as people watching is at its best on St. Patty’s Day. But if you want to participate in the festivities, and keep contributing to your Online Savings Account, not spending much money on St. Patrick’s Day can be a challenge. Here are 5 tips that can help you save money on March 17th and may even teach you how to have a great time this St. Patrick’s day.

1) Become a walking monument to St. Patty’s Day in hopes of free drinks.

Everyone is Irish on St. Patty’s day and if you plan on spending the next few (or more) St. Patrick’s Days hitting up bars or attending parties and celebrations, purchasing some great St. Patrick’s day gear is a worthy investment that can pay off for years to come. Here are some ideas for how to look as “Irish” as possible on St. Patrick’s Day:

  • 1) A green hat (The bigger, the better)
  • 2) A green jacket
  • 3) A pair of green pants
  • 4) Notre Dame clothing
  • 5) A red beard (Fake is ok, real is better. Know any gingers?)
  • 6) An Ireland soccer shirt
  • 7) A green tie
  • 8) Shamrocks, lots of them. Get yourself some glasses, necklaces, or other headgear all with some shamrocks on them.

Any or all of those are great ways to look the part. But looking or being green is only half the battle. The more you do and the more enthusiasm you have for the day, the better your chances are for free drinks. Here are some famous Irish sayings to get you to talk the talk. With my favorite, “What butter or whiskey does not cure cannot be cured.” And even if you don’t get the free drinks you will certainly be asked to be in pictures, have an excuse to party extra hard and/or have a lot of fun. Plus, you can keep the costume for years to come!

2) Find areas with lots of bars

Saving on transportation costs while out drinking is always a smart idea. But if you plan to be drinking all day and night this St. Patrick’s day, you could run up a big taxi or gas bill (don’t drink and drive!), making saving money here of extra importance.

Research or pick an area you will enjoy for the longest amount of time and stay there as opposed to taking taxi’s or public transportation to many different areas. Further, if you stay at one bar, you may order fewer drinks. How often do you feel compelled to buy a drink at each bar you go to? Staying in one place reduces that need. If going to Google maps and typing in bar or pub doesn’t work well enough for you, try Bar Finder.

3) Don’t get drunk

Before you scream, “Heretic!” not getting drunk can save you quite a bit of money. By toning down the drinking to a minimum, you spend less on beer/alcohol and lower the chance you drunkenly make a huge mistake, spend money on bad tattoos or a brand new pair of beer goggles. Also, if you don’t plan on getting drunk, perhaps you can be the designated driver for the day. The average cost of a DUI is over $10,000 (that’s a lot of 6-packs!). In exchange you might be able to get your friends to pay for the couple of beers you do consume throughout the day.

4) Only drink at night

St. Patrick’s day usually involves drinking all day and into the night, and may begin as soon as you wake up (Note: this is only recommended for the truly hardcore only). But this is an expensive, exhausting and even dangerous proposition (except for expert drinkers). While you may love the excuse to drink during the day, we all know the party really starts at night. By saving your money for later you will probably end up drinking with more friends or already buzzed company and will end up having fun anyway, despite not drinking earlier in the day. Also, the intoxicated usually love company – there may be opportunities to take advantage of a generous revelers call for takers on a round of shots.

5) Invite people over or throw a party at someone else’s house

Bars are crowded on St. Patrick’s day and buying a few six packs at the local grocery store is always cheaper than having a bottle opened for you or beer pouring out of a tap at a bar or pub. By throwing a good house party with some cheap Irish decorations and instituting a BYOB policy (or have guests chip in to cover alcohol costs) you can drink on the cheap but still have lots of fun among friends. Plus, there is nothing like the ability to simply crash on a friend’s couch. Or the ability to retire to your own room for the night if you go too far, something that can end very poorly for you if you’re out and about.

No matter how you plan to spend St. Patrick’s day, or any holiday, there are always ways to do it cheap but still have fun. Here’s to enjoying St. Patrick’s day responsibly (in the fiscal sense, anyway).

saving money

The Psychology of Delayed Gratification: How To Save Even When You Don’t Want To

Everyone has a vague idea in the back of their head that they should be saving money. If it was that easy, though, everyone would be doing it. But they’re not! Most people struggle to save money, for many reasons, and if you have this problem, know that you’re not the only one. The marketing industry keeps up-to-date with psychological research and they are using this research to make it as easy as possible for you to spend your money!

The Psychology of Impulse Control and Delayed Gratification

As babies, we have no impulse control – that is, when we want something, we want it more than anything else and we want it NOW. That’s normal and natural and as we grow into toddlers, children, teenagers and eventually adults, so grows our capacity for impulse control. Delayed gratification – that is, not getting what you want now but instead getting it later – is something which we become capable of as we learn to control our impulses and understand concepts such as not having one marshmallow now, so that you can have two marshmallows in 10 minutes (a study that has been done with young children) – or the adult equivalent, not spending that hundred now, so that you can save it and earn interest into the thousands over time.

Some primal impulses/instincts are retained through to adulthood

The thing is, even though we learn how to control our impulses as we grow, we still naturally retain many emotional triggers as adults – everyone likes sweet things, for instance (nutrient-seeking from berries and honey); another two examples of universal human desires are fun (natural highs from feel-good hormones) and sex (procreation and the survival of the species). These are primal instincts which have been serving our survival and cooperation since humanity evolved.

Understanding how marketing techniques trick our brains into wanting products

Marketing techniques tap into our primal desires and link those desires with products that we’re being tempted to buy. For instance, a beautiful young woman is draped over the shiny convertible, or a handsome young man is shown walking on the beach with a bottle of coke. All the people at the fast food chain are dancing around and having fun to great music. Before we know it, our impulse control is short-circuited and our brains tell us that we need this thing to feel as happy as the people in the ad. With the advent of credit cards with sky-high spending limits, we no longer even need to have the money in our possession to purchase a product, so we are enabled to make the purchase fast while we are in that vulnerable state of having had primal instincts aroused. We can just swipe the plastic and have the gratification of the purchase instantly – and this, in turn, also reinforces the high that we get from acquiring new things, thus consolidating the habit.

Small amounts add up to big savings

One of the reasons we have trouble saving money is because we imagine we need to save large sums of money for a long, long time to actually get anywhere. This puts us off the initial idea of saving because it seems like such a far-off return that we can’t even imagine the end reward. If you can’t envision the reward you’re going to get for doing something difficult, then it makes it pretty hard to get up the motivation and to stick to the cause throughout. And it’s true that if you save money over a relatively long period of time (in contrast to simply spending your income as soon as you have it) you can make a very handsome return: at average stock market rates it is possible to double a sum of money over approximately 8 years for very little effort.

Your vision of the future helps you stick to your saving today

It only takes a small purchase here and a small purchase there to add up: if you buy a coffee every day you’re at work, you can easily spend $1000 in a year just on coffee. Saved instead, that money could have bought a handsome coffee machine and a fancy insulated mug – which would mean you would never had to buy a coffee for the commute again. Armed with your vision of owning a shiny new coffee machine, your rational mind stands a much better chance against your emotional impulse next time you drive past a tempting coffee chop.

Avoid involving your willpower

Of course, it’s not easy to say no to the impulse to buy. Here are some ideas: cancel catalogues, put up a “no junk mail” sign, avoid the mall, refuse to go “social shopping” (try a walk or a BBQ instead), unsubscribe to online store email mailings, never go grocery shopping (or any type of shopping) while hungry, participate in pre-tax government contributions and employer paycheck deduction schemes, create a less-accessible bank account and have a percentage of your weekly pay placed automatically into it, and set up automatic voluntary contributions to your superannuation fund. Freeze your credit cards in an ice block in the freezer, and take cash out your bank account to buy essentials. In short, avoid confrontations with your willpower – your emotional impulses will usually win. Expenditures somehow magically stretch to fill the budget allowed – so simply limit your budget by reducing the amount of money available in your everyday account.

Delayed gratification gets easier

In many ways, delayed gratification is a skill that is learedt and honed over the years. A steady saver who is 5 years older than you may have not been such a good saver 5 years ago. It is never to late to start and you will find that as you go on, it does get easier. Seeing a lump sum grow in the bank and watching it begin earning you a decent amount of interest is exciting and rewarding – your money is making money for you! You will find it increasingly easy to forgo that coffee, or the new computer or car as you know that you can make your money grow by holding on to it.

You will never regret saving money

Also, by saving money, you get the self-satisfaction of knowing that you are stronger than the marketing campaigns which bombard us; you gain confidence and self-esteem knowing that you can achieve something that frankly, many others never manage. You will also reduce your carbon footprint by consuming less stuff, you’ll enjoy a less cluttered home, and finally, you’ll enjoy the security and reduced stress that having savings will bring to your life.

saving money

Using Eco Friendly Kitchen Appliances To Save Money And Energy

These days, saving money is a big concern for a lot of us. After all, the economy is not as good as it used to be in many parts of the world. The costs of running a household can become astronomically high, if you let it to be. Not only that, but inefficient appliances can take a toll on the environment. You do have some options for controlling that, though. One of those options is to use eco friendly kitchen appliances in your home.

Efficient Kitchen Appliances Save Money And Energy

Advantages Of Modern Kitchen Appliances:

  • More Compact
  • More Energy Efficient
  • Less Expensive To Maintain
  • Better For The Environment
  • Top Energy And Water-Saving Technology

Basically, anyone with old appliances in their kitchen is not doing themselves or their environment any good. Nor are they doing their bank account any good. All of the great features of new appliances aren’t just useless “bells and whistles”. So, let’s take a quick look at some of the best eco-friendly appliance choices.


For example, the biggest energy sucker in your kitchen is probably your refrigerator. One of the biggest reasons for that is the fridge is always on. Cook tops, ovens, microwaves and other small appliances are not.

Another big energy problem, when it comes to refrigerators, is their age. A lot of people have fridges that are several years old. Older models simply don’t have new energy-efficient technology. They drain energy far too quickly. Newer models, on the other hand, are much more able to conserve energy. In fact, many of them have Energy Star ratings, which show that they conserve energy up to 50 percent better than other models.

A lot also has to do with the size and type of refrigerator that you have. Try not to buy a refrigerator that is bigger than what you need. Empty space in your fridge is just more space that needs to be kept cold for no reason. It’s a waste of energy. Also, ice and water dispensers built into the fridge or fridges with freezers on the bottom, rather than the top, tend to be real energy hogs.

So, if you’re going to pick a fridge, keep these things in mind:

  • Size
  • Energy Star rating
  • Layout
  • Extra Features (Like Water And Ice Dispensing)

Gas And Electric Stoves And Ovens:

There’s some debate over what is better, gas or electric. They really both have good and bad points. Gas stoves produce unwanted gases, like carbon monoxide, though. So, if you’re concerned about both saving money and saving the environment, you’re much better off with a newer electric model. In fact, there are electric stove models now that instantly cool down the burners as soon as they are shut off. That saves energy and it’s also a wonderful safety feature, especially if you happen to have children.

Of course, each stove also usually comes with an oven. Gas and electric models, again, are going to cost about the same, usually. From a energy standpoint they use about the same, it’s really how to use them efficiently. For example, don’t use a huge oven to cook one piece of meat. If you’re planning to cook or bake with your oven, especially in the summer, make sure that you cook or bake enough items at a time to make it worthwhile.

Toaster Ovens:

That brings us to the next great eco-friendly appliance that could save you money, the toaster oven. Toaster ovens are much smaller than standard ovens, of course. That means that they use a lot less energy. So, it’s not just about the amount of energy the toaster oven uses, but also the energy saved by not using the bigger oven.

Toaster oven technology has really improved in recent years. So, these days, a newer toaster oven uses even less energy than an older model. Also, toaster ovens don’t just save money and energy. They save time, too. You don’t have to spend as much time cleaning them and you don’t have to spend as much time waiting for them to preheat as you might spend with a big oven.

If you live alone or find yourself eating alone a lot, especially in the warm weather when you don’t want to heat up your house, those are all great reasons to use a toaster oven. They’re cheap, convenient and easy to use. They’re also much better for the environment than larger gas stoves.

So, when you think about a toaster oven, don’t just think of making toast. Some of the best toaster ovens can:

  • Heat Large Items (Pizzas, Chicken Breasts Etc.)
  • Save Space
  • Save Electricity
  • Reduce Unnecessary Heat
  • Adjust To Any Setting You Want

Basically, that means that it can pretty much replace a regular oven and save you a lot of money and energy.


Finally, consider the dishwasher that you have. Most people don’t want to live without their dishwasher, these days. After all, it’s much easier to just pop your dishes into a dishwasher than to be up to your elbows in dirty dish water and wash everything by hand.

Unfortunately, older dishwashers, like other older kitchen appliances, eat up a lot of energy. They also waste a lot of water. Newer dishwashers, on the other hand, are equipped with the latest and greatest in water control systems. Many of them have sensors that tell them exactly how much water they have to dispense per load. So, they can adapt for the changing load size.

Using the appliances:

To save money and the environment you need to consider your own appliance use, too. A fridge that is larger than you need, an oven that is only being used to cook one thing or a dishwasher that is running with only a partial load is going to waste time, energy and money. So, if you want the best possible outcome, you need to invest in newer energy saving appliances and remember to use them wisely.

saving money

Top 5 Ways to Save for the Future (Despite the Recession)

Thinking about your distant financial future can be difficult when you’re struggling just to make ends meet right now.  With the global economy mired in a long-term recession, unemployment levels plateauing, and people everywhere trying to stay afloat in the stormy sea of government bailouts, corporate disillusionment, and a housing market that has tanked, now does not seem like an opportune moment to start planning for your retirement.  And yet, the earlier you start, the more you stand to set aside for your twilight years.  Not only will you be putting more funding into your future, but you will also be earning more by the time you draw your final paycheck and exit the working world.  So even if you can only contribute a few bucks here and there, you can find ways to invest in yourself.  Here are the top five methods of saving for retirement.

How to Save Money in a Recession

Savings Plan
Savings Plan

1.       Set a budget, cut debt, start saving. The reason so many of us fall behind is that we’re spending more than we’re earning (making saving impossible).  Take the time to balance out your finances so that you can start paying down your debt, and then you can begin to save in earnest.  As a bonus, you’ll also be improving your credit score along the way, meaning you’ll have the ability to buy a house or start a business later on.

2.       401K. There is absolutely no better solution for your future financial needs than a 401K.  Most businesses offer you the opportunity to contribute pre-taxable income to a retirement account, and whatever percentage you elect to donate will automatically be withdrawn from your check.  You won’t even notice it’s gone!  Plus, companies that offer matching programs will equal your contribution to the account, generally up to about 5% of your earnings (but you have to put the money in first).

3.       Stocks and bonds. These can be a bit more risky than other types of investment, but they offer the best chance to grow your money.  And as long as you hold a diverse portfolio, you won’t lose your shirt just because one area hits a wall.

4.       Invest in a home. These days it may seem like investing in property is a useless endeavor.  If you’re looking to buy and sell quickly, you’re probably right.  But if you plan to hold onto a house for several years, you have time to make upgrades the smart way, increase the value of your property, and wait for the right time to sell for a sizeable profit.

5.       Keep working. Who says there is a time limit on viability in the job market?  Frankly, if you’re looking for a paying position at the age of 65, you’re bound to have a pretty hard time finding it.  But there’s no law that says you have to give up employment just because you hit a certain age.  By continuing to work (with all the opportunities available on the internet and no way for employers to know your age, you level the playing field) you can continue to add to your accounts, or start new ones, instead of simply siphoning off your retirement funds.

saving money

Four Common Cell Phone Plan Mistakes: How to Avoid Them

It seems almost everyone has a cell phone nowadays, so it seems being able to obtain a good plan to go along with it should be fairly simple. While you may have to do some calculations to determine what exactly you need your plan to cover, they are pretty basic and certainly nothing that would require a finance degree. Yet for some reason, when it comes to finding a phone plan, most people are unaware of how to find a phone plan that fits their needs. Due to this lack of knowledge, people end up settling for a plan that doesn’t suit them and find that they are unhappy with it in the future. However, at this point there is little the person can do, since most companies require people to stay under contract for at least a year, if not two, or pay a penalty. Read on to discover the five most common mistakes people make when purchasing a cell phone plan, so you can avoid making them yourself.

4 Common Cell Phone Plan Mistakes to Avoid

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they are searching for a cell phone plan is simply not knowing what the plan entails. Oftentimes people go with the first plan that they see and do not thoroughly consider all aspects of the plan. However the California Student Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) points out that when shopping for plans, people should make sure to be looking at the price of the plan as well as what the plan includes, such as the number of daytime minutes, roaming charges, and how many long distance minutes the plan allows. The buyer should then compare the different plans they have an interest in and chose the one that best fits their needs. Asking friends about their plans can give you a good idea of what you may want to look for as well.

Secondly, most people are unaware of what will show up on their bill when they purchase a phone plan and are surprised when they receive a bill in the mail with unexpected or unrecognizable charges. According to CALPIRG, billing mistakes are the number one complaint people have about their phone plans, and in many cases the person is being charged for things that they were told were included in the plan. In order to minimize the chances of having billing related problems, then the person must understand their bill and make sure that the charges correlate with their initial contract on the plan.

The third mistake that people make when purchasing a cell phone plan is being unaware of what they need in terms of minutes and data. As such, people may feel forced into getting an unlimited plan and paying hundreds of dollars each month, only to realize that they are spending tons of extra money on unlimited minutes that they do not need when the bill comes at the end of the month. On the other hand, others may get the cheapest plan available and then go over their minutes and end up with huge overage charges. So what can you do to prevent this? According to an article on Computerworld by Bob Brewin, the best way to accommodate this problem is to view your plan and then adjust it according to your needs. In this case the problem is finding a carrier that will allow people to switch their plans without incurring a fee.

Finally, people often end up picking a certain plan just because it includes a free phone. Most of the research that has been done on this suggests that people who buy plans that come with the free phone people are actually paying more for their plans in the long run. Carriers use this tactic to offset the price of the phone that is supposedly “free.” To avoid this, it is recommended that you find a phone that you want, and then choose a plan that suits your needs.

While good cell phone plans do exist, it can be tricky to find the perfect plan for you. In order to make sure that you are getting the most out of your cell contract, ensure that your carrier will allow you to change plans without incurring fees. Yet most importantly of all, write down exactly what you need in a phone plan before even going to the store, that you way you can make sure you’ll find something that meets your needs and you can avoid having to switch plans altogether.

About the author: Kate Manning is a business major who has worked under others and as a self-employed entrepreneur. She currently owns and manages her own business in Washington State.