Friday, December 21, 2012

Season's Greetings!!

I would just like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers all the best for the Holiday Season.
No matter how you celebrate, I hope everyone enjoys the company of family and good friends.
Merry Christmas from my house to yours! Cheers!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Countdown To Christmas Break!

As we head into the first week of December, students are heading into the last couple of weeks before they get their first major break of the school year - Christmas Break. Along with all the smart thing students should do financially when it comes to buying gifts, there are some general housekeeping items you should keep in mind.
First - are you going to be travelling home for the holidays? How are you travelling? Carpool, flying, bus - getting picked up by parents? If you plan on driving yourself - why not put up a posting at school to see if anyone living near you could use a ride home. It will give you some company on the drive and can help defray the cost of gas.
When you do go home - and all your roomates are gone as well - do the usual things such as unplugging ALL electronics. You'll be gone a minimum of two weeks, if not more. Not having electronic items using energy when nobody is home could save you a little bit on your December electricity bill. I know, I know - frugal this and frugal that!! Trust me, it all adds up in the end.
This is one most people overlook. Your cell phone emergency address should be set to your college address while you are at school. That way if you call 911 the proper address shows up. If you travel home for a couple of weeks or more, be sure to change your emergency address back to your parents home just in case something happens during the holidays. It shouldn't take much effort to contact your cell carrier and make the necessary adjustments. That way emergency personnel can more easily find your location in case of emergency.
Finally, even though you are heading home for a much needed break, there is lots you can be doing while you are home. Foremost is researching and filling out online appplications for scholarships, bursaries and grants for students past their freshman year. It is currently prime time for scholarships and you don't want to waste a few weeks of precious time getting your applications out there. Spend an hour a day doing some legwork on the computer - maybe you'll end up making money over Christmas instead of just spending it!
If you haven't had a chance - please head on over the for a great compilation Steven did in getting the 'Best Holiday Savings Tips' from some of Canada's top personal finance bloggers - yours truly included! Cheers!!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Holiday Tips From The Best

As we hit December and the big run up to the holidays - I am very honoured to have been asked to provide my 'Best Holiday Savings Tip' to the website!

I invite you to CLICK HERE - or below - to see what some of the top personal finance bloggers in Canada say about ways to make the Holidays a little less financially stressful.

I will have more on the subject in a soon to come post of my own. Cheers!

Holiday Tips From the Best

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blog For Financial Literacy Awareness Day!

It is something you are literally going to think about every day of your entire adult life. Sometimes when you think about it your hands are going to start to sweat and your heart will race. It is going to be the source of most of your 'discussions' with your significant other. It is the leading cause of divorce in North America right now. Sounds like I could be talking about sex! In fact - most teenaged boys answer just that. Truthfully - all those statements refer to MONEY! We spend our time figuring out how to make more of it, and how to spend less of it. Sometimes we're successful at handling it - sometimes we are not!
 Today is 'Blog For Financial Literacy Day'. It's part of the overall Awareness Month going on throughout November here in Canada. I am happy to be taking part in posting today on the theme of 'My Best Tip'! A number of personal finance bloggers are taking part and if you check out my first post this month you'll see where you can find a list of everyone participating.

So what is my best tip when it comes to Financial Literacy Awareness? It is one of the words in the title - Awareness! I have written a couple of times here, and I will do it again right now, about the fact that being connected to your money and your overall financial situation is the most important thing to keep on your mind. Everything else - such as where to put your money, how to make your money grow, the best investments, the best credit cards (shudder) - is just part and parcel of the overall concept that you have to be aware of where you stand financially all the time.
There are hundreds - no thousands - of websites all talking about Personal Finance. Many of them have great information on their specific area of expertise. They are easy to find and by using websites such as, you can find the best PF websites all listed and ranked in one place - making the information gathering that much easier. But all that information is useless if you don't get it set in your mind to actually take control of your financial life - and keep control of it at all times. Stay on top of your bills. Pay your debts automatically from your accounts. Sit down with your partner and have a discussion about money as often as you feel comfortable doing so - more often if it makes you uncomfortable. Make a plan and stick to it.
Money can lead to a lot of good things in life. It can also lead to a lot of bad if it is handled improperly or allowed to rule your life instead of you ruling it. Make a vow to yourself, and your loved ones, that you will keep connected to your finances. In doing so, you will have a huge advantage over the majority of the population and you'll be ready for anything that is thrown your way.
I hope we can continue the journey together. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Black Friday Freakout!

It's coming! In less than two weeks the single day all shopaholics have circled in red on their calendars will hit us. It is, of course, Black Friday. Even for those of us who live in Canada, and are close enough to the border with our southern neighbours, Black Friday has taken on a life of it's own. I have co-workers who book the Thursday and Friday off (a year in advance) so they can stay in a motel in the U.S overnight on Thursday - shop their brains out on Friday - and bring back more stuff duty-free because they've stayed a 24 hour period. Wow!
So what are my thoughts on Black Friday? Truthfully - I have to say that I see it as a good opportunity to practice smart money thinking on everyone's part. If you see a store has something you really need, or a gift you plan on getting for someone for Christmas anyhow, at a really good price - go for it! But ONLY IF you can work it into your already pre-determined budget. Don't spend the electricity payment on that 42" LED-HD TV if it will set you back a month on your bills. Also - do not rack up the credit card because then you're just adding interest to the whole equation. But if you've got money saved, this may be a good chance to save a few dollars on already planned purchases.
The key is to be smart about it. I hope everyone knows by now that stores will put just a few items on major price slash to get you in the door. Other items are then only slightly discounted or at regular price but 'labelled' as sale items with an inflated original price. Do your research between now and next Friday and figure out exactly what you are going to buy and stick to your list. It's the impulse items which end up breaking the bank as you walk around the store with your prized purchase already in the cart.
The Black Friday Freakout doesn't have to end up putting you in dire financial straits heading into the holidays. Use it as a chance to set yourself up with a few gifts in the closet and a few dollars saved still in your bank account at the end of the day.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Do The Small Things Really Matter?

Are you a penny pincher? Do you find the best deals and pay the least amount possible for anything you buy? Are you connected to where your money is going every month and taking steps to hold on to as much as you can? If you answered 'Yes' to any, or all, of those questions, you are living a 'frugal' life. The problem is, some of the 'experts' are saying being frugal isn't enough to really change your financial situation. They tell you to focus instead on maximizing your income, getting better jobs which pay more, investing your money where it's going to give you a better return. (I always find that last one funny - considering most people reading personal finance advice blogs probably don't have the extra money available to actually invest in anything) I agree with the idea that you should work on those areas, when it's appropriate and feasible to do so in your life. But for college students, being 'frugal' and money smart is pretty much the only way to control your financial situation.
Let's take a look at the numbers, shall we? I've given almost 100 useful tips and tricks in my book (which I promise not to plug - again - because you can click on the links on the side if you would like more information) (Wait - was that non-plug actually a plug in disguise?) which can save students money while they are away at school. Buying no-name groceries, partying at home, mass transit, etc. etc. - they all add up. Let's use a very, very conservative number and say that using a few of the tips together will save a student around $200 a month compared to what they would have spent otherwise. Students typically spend 8 months of the year away at school (Sept. through April). So a student could very easily save (8 months x $200/month) or $1600 over the course of one school year. Multiply that by a four year programme and that totals $6,400 in savings.
I don't know about you - but over $6,000 in my pocket, or not borrowed, in a four year period is a pretty significant chunk of change. It's enough to potentially make a difference in how much a student needs to borrow,or even if they have to take out a loan at all. Since the average student winds up with @$25,000 in student loan debt - knocking that down to under $19,000 is a good start.
Do the small things matter when it comes to being money smart? Absolutely!! When the only thing you can control is how much you pay out - being frugal and controlling your spending will go a long way to putting more money in your pocket - or less money in the hands of your lenders when you are done school and heading out into the real world. Stay smart - increase your PF IQ - the little things add up! Cheers!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Scholarship Season Is In Full Swing!

In today's post for Financial Literacy Awareness Month, I thought I would talk a little bit about something near and dear to every student's heart - or bank account - Scholarships!
'Tis the season to ramp up the applications and really try to get every possible scholarship, bursary or grant that you can find. There are numerous scholarships which have their deadlines either this month or before Christmas, so it's important to find the ones with the soonest cutoffs and get moving on them first.
I found a great article written today by my friend Jodi Okun. She is a professional Financial Aid Advisor. Her entire business is to help families get through the paperwork and preparations necessary to get financial aid for college. Jodi's article is entitled  '10 Ways to Make Scholarship Sponsors Love You'. It gives some terrific information to increase your odds of being awarded money to continue your education just for filling out some forms.
I have a couple more resources available on the sidebar which will lead you straight to scholarship search sites - and Jodi has many links on her site as well for you to check out. Don't delay! Now is the time to get those scholarship apps in the mail - or the email! Your bank account will thank you in the end. Cheers!

Election Day!

Just a really quick note this morning to wish all my American readers well as they head to the polls today. It's a tough choice for some - others know exactly who they are voting for, or even knew months ago. As my late Mother used to say to me, 'Vote in every election you get the opportunity to vote in. If you don't vote you don't have the right to complain about whatever happens after election day!' May you all have nice weather to wait in and short lines at the polling stations! Cheers!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Do We Really Need an Entire Awareness Month?

As you may already know - especially if you've dropped in here in the past week or so - November is Canadian Financial Literacy Awareness Month. A chance for all of us Personal Finance type people to spread our vast knowledge about money to the masses gathered around their computer screens, or tablets, or whatever other device. But do we really need an entire month dedicated to enlightening each other about Financial Literacy? In my humble opinion - Hell Yes!! In fact, I don't think a month is long enough. We need Financial Literacy Awareness Year - every year - for as long as we live our adult lives!
As I sit here writing this today - it is my birthday. Not just any birthday. One of those birthdays that ends in a 'O'! One of those birthdays which makes you sit down, or lay down in my case last night, and reflect on your life so far, the mistakes you've made, the successes you've had and where you think things are heading from this point forward. In my time of reflection I realized that many of the things I thought of in those areas in some way or another revolved around money. Maybe it was my lack of financial literacy when I thought about some failures and mistakes I had made. Maybe it was the extra money I came into when I thought about the progression of my career and where things are heading in that area of my life. Whichever reflection came to mind - there was a monetary aspect to almost each and every one. Even thinking about my kids had me reflecting on wishing I could have taken them more places but being unable to afford that luxury.
That is why it is so important to spend your entire adult life being Financially Literate. Staying connected to your money is something I've been talking about here for awhile. Learning how to handle your money - where to invest it - the best ways to save it - the tools you can use to get the most out of the money you have - these are all things we need to stay aware of all the time. There are thousands of websites all dedicated to personal finance. Some good, some not so good, and some great. Take this opportunity to find a few that speak to you and connect with what you are dealing with right now in regards to money. The Wisebread website listed in my favourites is a great place to start. They rank hundreds of PF websites and put them into categories so you can find one that has the information you need. Use that as a starting point for your own financial literacy.
A month is not enough - make this Financial Literacy Awareness Life! Cheers!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Another Great Site - For Students

Continuing with the theme for Financial Literacy Awareness Month - I wanted to introduce the younger readers (and by 'younger' I mean those in their early 20's) to a great personal finance website. The site is called The sub-title of the blog describes what readers can do if they read it - 'Kill Debt. Have More Money Now. Enjoy Life.' It is written by a young man by the name of Martin whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently at the Canadian Personal Finance Conference in Toronto. Martin is a very funny guy (both in person and in his writing) - and he's also very wise beyond his years when it comes to thoughts on personal finance. The combination of humour and wisdom comes through in his blog in some great posts which will have you laughing one second and taking notes the next.
Studenomics was recently selected the best PF blog for young people at the Plutus Awards handed out at FinCon12 in Denver. Martin does a great job of supplying his readers with useful tools while making it fun to read at the same time. Go ahead and click on over to take a look! Cheers!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An Online Financial Literacy Community

I'd like to begin Financial Literacy Awareness Month by introducing you to a very useful resource available online. There are numerous places on the internet where you can get your questions answered about personal finance. One that I have recently found, which runs the gamut from saving and budgeting to investing, is the TD Helps forum. It's hosted by the TD Bank - but that's where the branding ends. None of the information is given with a sales pitch trying to get you to buy TD products or services. It is strictly a forum for Canadians to ask their money questions and get straight up answers from people who know what they are talking about. Straight up - I'm not getting paid to endorse this site - I just think it can be added to all your other tools when it comes to being smart about your money.
Here's a little blurb from the company regarding TD Helps...
A first among major banks, TD Bank Group has launched a community where people can ask the questions that are keeping them up at night and receive a tailored answer within hours, from an expert and sometimes from someone in the community who’s been there. No strings attached – just personal, expert advice available to anyone with a question. The TD Helps community was originally launched in the spring as an online home financing advice forum. Canadians were so receptive to the “virtual face-to-face” interaction that it has expanded to include a broader range of financial advice, including investing and planning for retirement, saving and managing your money, and borrowing and managing credit. You won’t find a sales push anywhere on the site, the goal is simply to build a community that will help Canadians make better financial decisions. In addition to Canadians asking specific questions to experts who are on-call to answer questions, high-traffic to the site shows Canadians are visiting the forum and using it as a resource, asking for info and reading answers to questions others have submitted. To date, thousands of personal finance questions have been answered on TD Helps.
Give it a look. See if any questions you might be thinking about have been answered. Some of the questions people have asked are specific to TD - but there are a lot of great answers to general financial questions broken down by category. I like the site as a reference tool - plain and simple.
Happy November (WOW time flies!) and Happy Financial Literacy Awareness Month! Cheers!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

November is Financial Literacy Awareness Month!

As we regroup here at Money Smart Students, what better way to get back into it than to focus on Canadian Financial Literacy Awareness Month throughout November. For the next four weeks I'll be providing information and links to resources which - though not necessarily all geared toward students - will come in very handy for people of all ages looking to take better control of their finances.

Then - on November 15th - I'll be joining with many other Canadian PF bloggers for a special 'Blog for Financial Literacy' day. We will all be posting about our one best financial tip. It should make for some very enlightening and informative reading.,, and Canadian Capitalist will all be listing the participating blogs. I am happy to be taking part and look forward to all the great information to come for my own educational purposes as well.
If you have any specific area of personal finance you would like me to touch on this month, by all means please leave a comment and I'll do what I can. If I can't answer your question - I will connect with one of my PF blogging friends who can!
Finally - just because it's Canadian Financial Literacy Month, I will make sure to post links and articles which can be useful to readers on both sides of the border. I hope you will use the next 30 days to increase your PF IQ! Cheers!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Obama versus Romney - The Not-So-Great Debate

Alright - I'm a Canadian - so why would I bother writing about the presidential debate tonight in the United States? The answer is that 90% of the readers of this website are from the U.S. President Obama and Mitt Romney will be debating domestic policy tonight - and I bet the subject of students comes up at least once or twice.
From what I can see from my vantage point just across the border - Barack Obama is the better choice when it comes to policies and ideas for helping students get through these days of skyrocketing tuition and skyrocketing student debt. Heck - Romney said a couple of weeks ago a good strategy for students to help pay for college was to go ask your parents for the money! Really!?
I may, or may not, watch the debate tonight. It will probably be the only one that touches on the subject of education. I can't wait to see what they each say and what students and parents think about what they said. Let the games begin! Cheers!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why Are You Going To College?

A new month has dawned. With it, October brings the beginning of the research and application process for millions of highschool seniors preparing for post-secondary education. Believe it or not - there are hundreds of scholarships which have deadlines this month, but we'll talk about that at a slightly later date. The biggest decision students need to make right now is, 'What am I going to study at college?'. I think the more important question is actually, 'Why am I going to college at all?'.
With the spiralling costs associated with college, the decline in the number of well paying jobs in related fields for graduates (How many waiters do you know with a PhD?), and the overall lack of direction many of today's teens feel, is going to college right now really the best option for you? Are you going to spend thousands of dollars studying something which you might decide isn't what you really want to do for the rest of your life? Is there something else you could do for a year or two which will help you better define what your future goals are and the direction you want your professional life to take?
My oldest son, a highschool senior, was born in September. That means he could realistically graduate from highschool and start his first month of college as a 17 year old! I love my son dearly - but I don't believe there is any way that a 17 year old boy can have a firm grasp on what he wants to do for the rest of his life. We've had lots of discussions about what he wants to do. There is a general sense of the field he wants to enter but nothing specific just yet. How do you justify spending the kind of money needed to go to college if you aren't sure what you are studying is what you want to be?
A lack of direction has got to be a major contributing factor to the dropout rates at colleges and universities. Students get into their field of study and then realize they don't really want to pursue that area for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, they've spent thousands of dollars on tuition, living expenses, etc - and for what? The realization that they are heading the wrong way. That's a steep price to pay for a wake-up call.
Don't get me wrong with the theme of this post. I believe that a solid college education is the foundation that terrific careers and lives are built upon. However, I think the time has come for students, and parents, to really start looking at exactly where the teenager wants to head with their life - and decide if going right from highschool into college is the best overall option. Now I'm sure some will say there are studies that show actual enrolment drops off by x% every year a student waits to go to college. I understand that. However, if students and parents sit down early (as in the start of senior year early) and make a concise plan of what is going to happen and when, there is no reason a year or two delay in starting college should be the end of furthering their education. Delaying college can give students, and parents, time to save up some more money. It can give the student an opportunity to really think about what course of study they want to pursue.  It can also give students extra time to investigate all the options available such as overseas studies. It just may save a few years, and thousands of dollars in expenses, when the student decides they are heading in the wrong direction.
A college education can be a stepping stone to a terrific future - but do you really need to go right to college from highschool? That's a question only you can answer yourself!
What are your thoughts on this subject? Did delaying the start of college help you to better understand where you wanted to go with your life? I would love to hear what you think!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's Grocery Shopping Time!

If you are like most students in North America - this is your second full week away at school. This means that the food supplies you initially brought with you from home when you moved are starting to dwindle. This is probably the first chance you are going to have to go grocery shopping for yourself. So here's a few tips to help with that initial solo trip to the food store.
Plan ahead - Make a list of meals you want to have in the coming week or two. Check to see what ingredients you have on hand and which ones you will need to buy. Prepare a detailed grocery list before heading to the store. Studies have proven that we spend more money on impulse buys at the grocery store when we don't have a list of specific items - and stick to it!
Go  generic - Almost all major grocery chains have their own 'store brand' of products to rival the 'name brands'. These no-name products are usually of equal quality to the big names - at a much cheaper price. You can save anywhere from 25-40% on many staples if you buy the store brand. They are always located right beside each other so comparing prices is very easy. Unless you are a brand name snob when it comes to your groceries and household paper supplies, go generic and save some dough!
Don't go hungry - to the grocery store that is! It may be an old saying but it rings true. Don't go food shopping on an empty stomach. Studies prove you will buy more impulse items and bigger sizes of needed items if you go food shopping while hungry. Have lunch first if shopping on the weekend, or wait until after your dinner to shop for food on weekdays.
Finally - Watch the screen - We all know mistakes happen. Combine human error with electronics at the checkout counter and it could cost you extra. Watch as items are scanned to be sure the proper price shows up - especially for sale items. If you use any coupons -save them until the end to be able to watch the discounts get rung through. It won't happen often - but a couple of bucks is a couple of bucks to a college student!
These are just a few things to keep in mind as you embark on your first solo trip to the grocery store. Cheers!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's Go Time!!

As we head towards the Labour Day weekend, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the best to each and every one of the millions of students heading off to school. or already there. These are the times of your lives. Enjoy everything about the experience. Get involved in your school. Attend events and rallies. Volunteer your time and skills to worthwhile causes. Say 'Hi' to somebody new everyday. But most of all - study your brains out and get what you paid all that money for - a fantastic education which will set you up for an amazing career.
Keep your eyes on the prize! Cheers!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Final Financial Prep For the Coming School Year!

The countdown is on. Depending on where you live on this great planet you could either be at school already, settling in to your living space - or you may just be getting the finishing touches done on things at home before heading off to college next week. Either way - now is definitely the time to put those last minute preparations in place financially for the coming academic year.
First things first - do you have a bank, or credit union account, either right at your school or as close as possible to where you are going to live? Dealing with your 'home' bank can save a lot of time, energy and money throughout the year. If something goes wrong with a money transfer - either into or out of your account - you can deal with it right away. Taking money directly out of the branch, or your 'home' ATM will save you extra service fees - double fees most likely since you won't be getting the convenience charge from the other institution or the fee from your own bank for using someone else's machine. Having a close-by branch will also come in handy if you need to access your 'Emergency Fund' at any point in the year. You do have an Emergency Fund - right? If you've ever read this blog before - I know you do!
Are all of your accounts set up for internet banking? Although most financial institutions are completely on board the technological revolution - believe it or not, some still don't offer online access to accounts, transfers of funds or bill paying. If your bank is one of the rare ones still in the dark ages - find another bank! Being able to check your accounts with a couple of clicks can give you great peace of mind.
Parents - it is essential you have the ability to transfer money into your student's account - should the need arise. Make sure you have linked to their account if you are with the same bank - or make sure you have everything you need if they are with a different bank (branch number, transit number and exact account number). With any luck - your student is going to be so financially responsible, you won't need to send them money - they'll be paying you back some money at the end of the school year!!! Keep hope alive!
Does your student financial office have your proper information? Have you changed banks - or even account types since filling out your scholarship and financial aid forms? Make sure you get the proper account information into the hands - or email account - of the people who are going to be giving you money to keep going to school.
The idea of going away to school is to enjoy life on your own - take in all the experiences you can at your school - and, of course, get a fantastic education. Being set up to handle your finances in the easiest way possible will allow you to enjoy everything about your new situation - without 'sweating the money'.
I would like to wish the millions of new college and university students all the best for the coming year. Live it - Love it - and Learn It All!! (and stay a Money Smart Student to the end) Cheers!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer Savings Time!

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer so far. It's been a hot one in my area without a lot of rain - which is great for activities but not so great for the lawns or crops. A little rain in small doses might be just what the doctor ordered to help get things growing again.
Speaking of growing - I hope my student readers with summer jobs have been growing their savings accounts! Now is the time to sock away every bit of extra cash you can. The more you can save now the easier it will be for you as you begin another school year in September. I would recommend one of the following two formulas - either 35-35-30 or 50-25-25. What do those numbers mean, you ask? I don't know...just kidding. That would mean the ratios of your income when it comes to saving for long term - saving for short term - and money to live on now. If you make under $500 every two weeks from your summer job - save 35 percent for long term (maybe for your emergency fund while you are at school), 35 percent for short term (supplies, and anything else you will soon need to get set for school), and 30 percent to live on right now for things like gas, entertainment (it is summer after all!), and immediate bills. Change over to the second formula if you make more than $500 every two weeks because you can afford to save a little more.
I know it's hard to keep on top of your school year finances while you are enjoying your summer. Doing a little planning now, however, will make life so much easier for you when you do head off to school in September. Keep up the great work. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Go Ahead - Borrow For College!

I've just finished reading an interesting article on regarding student debt. The authors - two economists - argue that students should ignore all the hype and go ahead and borrow whatever they need for their college education. Overall - I think I have to agree with them - but with an explanation.
As the authors state - numerous studies have shown that college educated workers earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more in their lifetime compared to their non-college counterparts. They are more likely to have health care plans and retirement funds - which is good because they also live longer. So the proof is out there that having a college education pays off in the long run.
Any of you who have read this blog in the past may have the idea that I am totally against the idea of borrowing money for college. I am not naive enough to think that every potential college student is going to be able to save up enough money, or get enough scholarships, to pay for their entire post-secondary education. With the skyrocketing cost of tuition and other college related expenses. it is virtually impossible not to need some sort of outside funding to pay for it all. But this is where being a Money Smart Student comes in.
My advice is to take steps to minimize the amount that needs to be borrowed. I've posted many articles on the subject so I won't get into the details here. There are hundreds of ways students can save money before heading off to school, and spend less money once they get to college. *Shameless Plug* - Just get my book - 'How To Be A Money Smart Student' - and you'll find a multitude of ways to reduce how much money you will need to borrow to make it through to your degree.*End Shameless Plug* There are also numerous websites available - all with the sole purpose of helping new college students survive financially. Some of my favorites are listed over on the right side of this page.
So overall - go ahead and look at what you need to borrow for college. Just do everything you can to keep the student loan debt as low as possible. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Student Insurance?- Better Safe Than Sorry

I'm pleased to present a guest post dealing with insurance - one of the many financial issues parents and students need to think about as they transition from home to independence.

College students are tomorrow’s best consumers. Because college graduates tend to make significantly more than high school graduates, it is likely they will have more money to spend over the course of a lifetime. That is why so many companies spend time, effort and financial resources courting their business.

As any parent knows, transitioning from child to self-sufficient adult is a challenge. Although it is still possible to piggy-back children on the credit history of parents, eventually, children must strike out on their own. College is one of the best places to do that. In an effort to capture these potentially lucrative future customers, many companies are willing to overlook the fact they usually have no credit or bill-paying history of their own. So this is a good time to establish accounts for the kinds of products and services that will, ultimately, be necessary. Insurance is one of the most important.

Vehicle insurance – If a college student has a vehicle, this is a good time to establish an individual account. A good driving record will result in a less expensive premium.

Renter’s insurance – Make no mistake, colleges are not safe places. There are those who rely on the “college atmosphere” to move about, undetected, while they find out where the neatest toys are. Chances are, your college student has a fancy cell phone, flat screen television, expensive laptop, and a host of other electronic gadgets that are easy to steal then sell or pawn. While it is possible to add a student to the family homeowner’s policy, that can present some problems. Claims will go against the family policy, and the deductible may be unmanageable considering only belongings are covered at the student’s residence. While it may cost more, renter’s insurance will address the real need for coverage. It also lets the student establish an insurance account that can translate to a full homeowner’s account in the future.

Health insurance – Chances are, at least for the time being, children are able to stay on their parents’ health insurance policy until their 26th birthday. Regardless of the reason, if this is not the case, purchasing a health insurance policy is critical. While many colleges assess a student health fee, it is good for very little. It may provide a doctor’s visit for a cold or dressing of a minor wound, but anything serious is going to be referred to a hospital or regular doctor.

Life insurance – If your child is not already covered by one of the many life insurance policies designed to grow with a child, this is a good time to start one. A child in good health should have no trouble getting a good rate especially if the individual does not smoke and is at a healthy weight. While it may seem that term life is appealing because it appears to be so inexpensive, the purchaser of such a policy must pay forever and no cash value is ever accrued. This is a good time to look at different kinds of policies that will provide an investment and future but might not require the kind of financial investment associated with whole life insurance.

Identify theft insurance – There is probably no other community with a higher percentage of tech savvy people than a college campus. With a highly mobile population, identity theft may be not only more likely, but college students probably pay less attention to their accounts than those who have already encountered the problem on a small scale.

There are other kinds of insurance, but once an individual has an established financial life, these kinds of policies can be added if there is a need. The basics are enough to protect college students and keep them safe, and that is the purpose of considering insurance.

Ellen Langford is a work from home contractor for and a mother of two college students. She has heard the horror stories and makes sure her own are safe.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Back With A Vengeance!

You may have noticed I've been pretty quiet for the past couple of months. Not too many updates here, or on my Facebook page, or on Twitter. I've been trying to use the time to re-focus on the direction this entire Money Smart Student program is taking. I am glad to say that I am now back and ready to completely rock the student money info world! I will be posting very regularly on all the various platforms. I will also be working with a number of guests to provide interesting content from outside sources.
I'd like to start the comeback by announcing that my first book - 'How To Be A Money Smart Student' - is now available in both e-book and paperback formats. You can find the links on the right side of this page to either book if you would like to check it out.
I would like to thank everyone who has supported me, and this program, since it was started just over a year ago. I look forward to providing you, and our new followers, some very useful information in the future. I hope you will join me! Cheers!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Student Identity Theft

I have just found a very interesting, and scary, article dealing with the subject of identity theft from children. It seems strangers, and sometimes desperate family members, find children easy identity theft targets because of a lack of financial history. All they need is someone's social security, or social insurance, number and accounts are created and abused.
The reason I think this is something worth posting here is because of the risk to families who may be looking to obtain a student loan in the near future. It appears there have been cases where someone went to apply for a student loan only to find out they have a problem with identity theft.
The article gives some ideas to help reduce the risk and be proactive in protecting a child's financial identity. Better to find out ahead of time if there is a problem.

Student Identity Theft Article

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Read an E-Book Week!

I am very happy to be supporting 'Read an E-Book Week' from March 4 - 10, 2012. Click on the banner to the right and use code 'REW50'. You can pick up my e-book 'How To Be A Money Smart Student' for just 99 cents!
This book would make a perfect gift for the high school junior or senior in your life who is getting ready to head off to college in the next year or two. Once you order it you can view it and download it in multiple formats.
Thank you for your support. While you're there check out the numerous other books available for free during this special promotion period. Cheers!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

But I Can't Cook!!

Let's talk a little bit about a subject that is near and dear to my heart - FOOD! Everybody needs it. Everybody has their favourite kinds. But not everybody knows how to make it.
As a soon-to-be college student living on your own for the first time, the thought of having to actually prepare your own meals can make you a little nervous. You've been used to having most, if not all, of your food prepared by somebody else (ie - MOM). Soon, though, you will have to fend for yourself and actually make meals at your residence. You do not want to be the stereotypical college student living on Instant Noodles 7 days a week. You will need to be able to prepare even some basic meals in order to survive.
There are lots of ways to get ready for this momentous shift in your world. Learn how to cook from your Mother between now and this coming September. Copy out her recipes so you have your own to take with you. Search online for easy to follow recipes or subscribe to one of the numerous food websites which will send you an email every day with a new recipe you can try.
If having an actual step by step guide is more your style - I've found one on Amazon which just might help. It's called "I Don't Know How To Cook". It includes some very basic instructions on very easy to make meals. Get it for yourself or get it as a gift for the student in your life. There are numerous other 'beginners' recipe books available in various formats - so don't say you couldn't find anything when you are having Kraft Dinner for the fourth time in a week! Bon Appetite! Cheers!
Click Below to Check Out The Cookbook!
The "I Don't Know How to Cook" Book: 300 Great Recipes You Can't Mess Up!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Book is Published!

I am thrilled to announce that my first book, 'How To Be A Money Smart Student', has been completed and is published as an e-book on
I have tried to put together a useful tool for students to help make the transition from their parent's house to living away at college a little less stressful financially. The book is filled with practical money saving tips and resources to help save money while surviving as a full time student.
The book is available at the link below for a very reasonable (If I do say so myself) $1.99 - HOWEVER - as my book launch gift for you, my faithful readers, use coupon code MB94J at checkout and the book is yours for just 99 cents! After you pay for the book one time - it is yours to use and download in any of the formats available. You can also preview the first 25% of the book to see what it's all about before you buy the rest.
Smashwords also has a way to give the book as a gift. Feel free to give it as a present to any students you know who are getting ready for life on their own.
I am honored by the support the Money Smart Student community has given me as I have built this program. Thank you all so very much and I am looking forward to even better things in the months to come.
Click below to check out the book.

How To Be A Money Smart Student

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I'm a Guest Post Provider!

It's great when I meet people in the business of helping students as I spend time on the internet. One such person is John Carpenter. John has a website, devoted to helping students, and their parents, with their questions about the college admissions process - and pretty much any other question they can come up with.

That's why I'm honored to have been asked by John to provide this week's guest post for his popular blog. I decided to talk to his readers about something I've talked about a time or two here - student finances. Here's the link to the full entry on John's blog. I hope you'll take a look.

Brian's Guest Post on Ask John About College.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Money Smart For The SuperBowl!

This Sunday marks the end of another great season in the NFL (except for MY team which will remain nameless) with the SuperBowl between the Giants and the Patriots. Millions of football fans will party it up for the big game - including students everywhere. There are a few ways to make sure you don't blow the budget when it comes to enjoying the game this weekend.
First, and foremost, don't go to the local sports bar to watch the game. You'll be paying inflated prices for food and 'refreshments'. Never mind the cost of the cab ride home since I KNOW you'd never drink and drive! A better idea would be to arrange a party with friends, either at your place or somewhere which can hold a few more people. Everyone brings their own drink of choice and do a pot luck on snacks so that everyone's contribution is shared by everyone else.
Second - unless it's just a friendly wager (dishes for a month, etc) don't place any kind of bets on the game. That money could be put to better use somewhere else. Do you really think you can predict who's going to win the coin toss anyhow?
Having a party with friends for the big game will save you money, and it's usually at gatherings like this that somebody does or says something which will become legend in your circle for years to come. Enjoy the game...and if I have to pick one team - go Pats go!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February - Time to Focus on Finances!

Are you ready? It's February already! That means it's time for high school seniors to really start thinking about what's up with their finances for next year. Time to ask yourself, and your parents, some very important questions.
What is it really going to cost me to go away to school next year? Where is the money going to come from for tuition expenses? Have I applied for every scholarship I could possibly qualify for - and if not, what are the deadlines for some more? Where is my book money and living money coming from? Have I got a plan in place to save the money I need from my current job - or the job I plan to get in the summer? How much will I need to save each pay to set up my Emergency Fund for when I'm away?
It's all about being connected to your finances and knowing, or finding out, the answers to these questions, and more. It may seem daunting trying to figure out all the possible money situations you might run into. But it would be even more challenging if you went away to college only to find out halfway through the year that you really can't afford to be there - or that you didn't plan properly and there's too much month left at the end of the money.
Answer the tough questions now and, I promise you, your first year away at college will be that much more stress-free and enjoyable.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Scholarship Season is Here! - with Special Guest Jodi Okun - part 2

In part two of my discussion with Financial Aid expert Jodi Okun – we're going to focus on scholarships. Jodi explains exactly what scholarships are all about.
Scholarships are a form of student financial aid that does not need to be repaid. Foundations, philanthropists, non-profit organizations, businesses and colleges help students pay for college award scholarships.
Some scholarships are awarded for academic merit, while others may focus on artistic or athletic talent or other personal characteristics. There are even a variety of unusual scholarships based on more obscure talents. A professional financial aid advisor can help you to determine if any of these are right for you.
The National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA), the national professional organization for scholarship sponsors, supports national Scholarship Month. NSPA promotes student access to higher education through scholarships.

From my own personal experience (my son is involved) I know there are almost 200 scholarships which are only available to students who were members of their school's USFirst Robotics team. Look far and wide to find as many financial aid opportunities as you can.
But it's not just the money involved which makes the scholarship process important. Jodi explains that there are other benefits as well.

Scholarships not only make it possible for students to pursue a college education by improving access to higher education, but they also provide the recipients with greater flexibility. This allows students to choose the college that best meets their needs, without the demand for large student loans.

College scholarships also offer other benefits for students beyond the gift aid. The act of applying for a scholarship can help the student clarify his or her goals and decide upon a career path. Winning a scholarship can be a mark of excellence, opening doors for the student to new and exciting educational experiences.

Many scholarship sponsors provide their winners with long-term advocacy and support through mentorship and other services. Scholarship recipients often also get to interact with each other, building life-long friendships and creating a synergy that challenges and inspires them to strive for excellence.

If you take the time, do your research, and follow the process you never know how much free money you can find in the scholarship world.
My thanks to Jodi Okun of College Financial Aid Advisors for helping my readers with the important subject of scholarships and financial aid. If you are having difficulty with the financial aid world, or have any questions, you can contact Jodi through her website which is listed on the right.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An Expert's Take on Financial Aid - with Special Guest Jodi Okun - part 1

As students get back into the swing of their studies following the Christmas break - now is also the time for students to get into the swing of things in regards to financial aid for the 2012-13 school year. Whether you are a high school senior getting ready to head off to college, or a college student looking to cut down the cost of your next year, now is the time to be filling out forms - especially one in particular if you live in the United States.
I had the opportunity recently to ask Jodi Okun, the founder of College Financial Aid Advisors (see link on the side), some questions about financial aid. For U.S. students. the FAFSA form is a very important document. It sets you up for all kinds of federal, state and private funding. Jodi warns that errors or omissions on FAFSA could be costly.

A mistake on your FAFSA can delay processing of your application by up to three weeks. One in seven FAFSA forms are returned due to errors. It could happen to you!
To avoid errors, get started early. Use the Pre-Application Worksheet located on the FAFSA home page to insure you've gathered all the necessary information. Be sure to proofread your application before you submit it. Fill it out right the first time and you'll have your financial aid letter in no time.
As with all forms and applications, make sure you read the instructions and questions carefully.

Besides FAFSA, this is also the time of year when things really gear up in the scholarship world. Jodi gives some tips on how to be on top of your game when it comes to scholarship season.

Begin reviewing your finances. Take an hour or two to get a sense of where you are and how your finances will be at the end of this year.
Take a look at college costs and try out some of the new cost calculators on each college website.
Start writing scholarship essays. Scholarships season really begins in earnest in January of each year, and the sooner you begin to hunt down scholarships and fill out applications the easier it will be to apply for the next one. Research which scholarships are a fit for you, go to the website and download their applications.
Set scholarship goals. Try to apply for one scholarship each weekend. Set up a calendar so you don't miss any deadlines.
Begin to get familiar with college deadline dates and identify what information colleges request.

In part two of my interview with Financial Aid expert Jodi Okun tomorrow – a look at the benefits, besides money, of scholarships and why financial aid is so important.

Friday, January 6, 2012

FAFSA - Step by Step Help!

I've mentioned numerous times here, and elsewhere, that there are so many resources available online for students and parents when it comes to finances. One of my online friends - Jodi Okun - the founder of College Financial Aid Advisors, has just created a resource which is a must-see for EVERY student and parent getting ready for college in the United States.

Jodi has taken the time to create a video in which she walks you through, step by step, the entire process of filling out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms online. By doing this, Jodi is going to potentially save you hours of trying to figure out exactly what to do, and what information you need to fill out.

The link to the video is found on Jodi's latest blog post - but she's sort of hidden it a little. Click here to go to Jodi's blog - after you read it through, look for the blue words 'FAFSA 2012-2013' in the second paragraph. Clicking on the blue words will take you directly to the video. Again - for those of you who have never filled out the FAFSA forms before - watching this video through before attempting the process will be invaluable to you timewise and sanity-wise!

To my Canadian readers - thank your lucky stars you don't have to worry about this!

Now is the time to get your FAFSA forms filled out and filed. I hope Jodi's video helps you make it through the process a little easier. I'll keep bringing you any other resources I can find. Cheers!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Is Grad School Worth The Extra Debt?

If you're entering a field of study which will most likely lead to grad school once you've finished your undergraduate degree, there is a new study out of Georgetown University you should read about.
The study looked at the additional cost of various majors as compared to what that graduate degree means in terms of extra income in your new field. Some of the results surprised me even. Some grad school graduates made less than 1% more than undergrads starting in the same field. But a few made over 100% more than undergrads in their field just starting out.
The details can be found in the following article I found at

Grad School Math: Which Degrees Are Worth The Debt?

While it's still a smart idea to try and have as little debt as possible once you're finished school - spending that extra money for certain grad programs may actually be worth it in the long run.