How can I prepare my apartment for winter break?

Winter break is here again, and most college students couldn’t be more excited! Some much needed rest and relaxation await as soon as that last final is done, and many are headed back home for well-deserved time with family and friends. While a 3-4 week break sounds great when you’ve been working hard all semester, don’t get too wrapped up in the excitement and then forget to prep your apartment before you leave. Apart from packing clothes to bring with you, there are a few other things you may want to get done before you leave to save money and avoid the potential for headaches when you return for the new semester.

  1. Leave your heat on at least 65 degrees so your water pipes don’t freeze. You may also want to leave sink cabinets open so that some heat can circulate. Nobody wants to come home to inches of water in their apartment.
  2. Make sure all doors and windows are locked. Don’t make it easy for someone to get their hands on your stuff while you’re gone!
  3. Take your valuables with you, just to be sure, if the locked windows and doors don’t deter intruders. The last thing you need is to buy a new laptop for the new semester because yours “went missing” over break.
  4. Clean out your fridge and take out all trash. You don’t want a stinky mess when you come back from break!
  5. Unplug appliances like televisions, microwaves, toasters, and other items that draw energy even when not in use in order to save some on your electricity bill. No need to pay for it when you’re not there!
  6. Be sure to turn off (even unplug) those pretty holiday decorations! While they were pretty while you were at your apartment, there’s no need to waste the electricity and leave a potential fire hazard on when you’re gone.
  7. Pay rent for January! Just because you’re not there doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay. Either pay it before you leave or give yourself a reminder so it doesn’t get overlooked in all your relaxing time. Save some money by avoiding late fees.

Written by Brooke Shrewsbury, Consumer Economics Program Coordinator, University of Illinois Extension, 2018.

Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

What is the difference between a credit score and a credit report?

Many people use the term credit score and credit report interchangeably. Although mistaking them may seem harmless, credit scores and credit reports are very different. As stated in the name, your credit score is exactly that, a score. This score is a numerical value that is calculated and used by lenders to determine the risk associated with giving a borrower a loan.

The formula most often used to calculate a credit score takes into account a person’s payment history, amount owed, length of credit history, new credit and type of credit used. A person may receive a different credit score from each lender or reporting agency because the formula used to calculate the credit score will vary. The reason for the variance is because there are different types of credit score scoring models such as FICO, the most commonly used right now, and VantageScore, which both lenders and consumers are starting to use more often.

On the other hand, a credit report contains a person’s credit history. A credit report includes information such as a person’s social security number, current and previous addresses, and employment history. Besides this, a person can find a list of their lines of credit such as credit cards, student loans and mortgages, the date each one was opened, credit limits, and whether their accounts are past due or in good standing. Bankruptcies will also appear on someone’s credit report as well as the names of people that have recently asked to see the person’s credit report.

Knowing your credit score to know where you stand credit-wise, and to be prepared for any outcomes on your credit applications can be helpful. However, it is more important to remember to check your credit report to prevent identity theft and to make sure that all the information on the report is accurate. A person should also check their credit reports from all three credit bureaus to ensure that the information is the same. As stated earlier, a credit score and a credit report are not the same thing, but they are closely related, as the information on a credit report is used in the calculation of a credit score.

Written by Lesly Luna, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, 2017.

Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

What is ACE 240: Personal Financial Planning?

A great class to learn about the basics of investing is ACE 240: Personal Financial Planning. This class covers the fundamental aspects of compounding interest, risk management strategies in asset management, and principal investment strategies that you can begin to use now or plan to in the future. Furthermore, you will learn about the differences between passive and active investing and the pros and cons of each. A significant portion of the class is dedicated to the Time Value of Money and how you can you use it to your advantage; if you are able to invest early, you will set yourself up for great success.

ACE 240 is offered at UIUC in the Spring, Fall, and online over Winter & Summer break. Not only will you learn about the basics of investing by taking this course, but also about budgeting your money, acquiring financial assets, managing credit, planning for taxes, setting yourself up for retirement, and making decisions in estate planning. The class is open to all majors with no pre-requisites, so go sign up for ACE 240!

Written by Michael Piet, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, 2017.

Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

How can I successfully achieve my goals?

Creating a savings goal is commonly confused with creating a dream. For example, when asked to create a savings goal for a vacation trip or a car, their response is “I want to go to [location]” and “I want to have a [car model]”. This only represents what individuals want (a dream) without creating a reasonable process (savings goal) to achieve the end product.

That being said, we peer educators at the Financial Wellness Extension advocate, within our budgeting presentation, S.M.A.R.T. Goals. When creating a savings goal, it is important that you incorporate all 5 of these components: Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic, and Timely.

Specific: Making your goal well defined where it can be clear to anyone who has a basic knowledge of your project

Measurable: Creating an easy way to keep track of your goals that allow it to be motivational to achieve

Agreed Upon: In cases when your goal involves others, collaborate and make sure that everyone acknowledges the goal

Realistic: This allows your goal to be results-oriented and reasonable seeming accomplishment is within sight

Timely: Create a timeline when this goal will be achieved. Being able to track your progress encourages you to continue and see that the effort is effective

Written by Rex Wang, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, 2017.

Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, Consumer Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

What kind of checking account is best for me: banks vs credit unions?

When it comes to choosing a checking account, it can be rather confusing. For example, different types of banks, offering different deals, with different fees all while requiring you to know what they’re talking about. To make things easier, let’s start with the basics: the differences between a credit union and a bank. Both of these financial institutions offer a variety of services, including a checking account, which essentially works the same way; the institution stores your money and you are able to withdraw it anytime you need. However, credit unions tend to be smaller, local and more focused on customer service while larger retail banks may be easier to become a member as well as have a wider variety of customer resources.

Let’s start by looking at credit unions, shall we? A credit union is unique in that the customers are the owners; anyone who chooses to utilize a credit union’s services can provide input into the union’s management and investment plan. These businesses are non-for-profit organizations and therefore do not work to provide an end of the year profit. However, credit unions are very selective on who may join. Often times a credit union is created to service members of a local community or business. Some, but not all, credit unions are part of the shared branching network, which means that you’re able to withdraw money from any credit union that is a member across the country! Credit unions typically have low maintenance fees for using their services, such as online banking, which is great if you’re still looking into starting that checking account! Overall, a credit union is a great option, but you may have trouble finding a credit union willing to let you bank with them. Search your local community to see if there are any in which you could join.

Next we will look into retail banks. Now there are several different types of banks, however as a college student you’re probably just focused on a personal checking account therefore you need to find a retail bank! Joining a bank is relatively simple; they have fewer limitations than credit unions and are often eager to help students. Large retail banks often have an extremely wide variety of banking options to better suit individual needs; this could include automated spending tracking or monthly rewards for spending money on certain items. However, retail banks may charge relatively high maintenance fees on your checking account for online banking or maintain a minimum account balance, which for many college students can cause a considerable dent in their monthly income. Luckily, banking with a national financial institution allows greater accessibility to your money while traveling.

Now that you know the difference between credit unions and banks, check out our Choosing a Checking Account comparison chart. Regardless of what sort of financial institution you decide to open a checking account with, be sure to check if they have a daily or monthly spending limit and think about what sort of services fit your needs the best.

 

Written by: Rachel Richardson, Financial Wellness Peer Educator.

Reviewed by: Kathy Sweedler, University of Illinois Extension-Consumer Economics Educator.