How can I save and budget money while maintaining a love life in college?

Students often have had very little experience with budgeting by the time their first semester in college rolls around. It is most likely their first extended stay away from home, and they have the newly found responsibility of making their own financial decisions. College students may also start exploring new relationships and a potential love life once they reach campus. But how can students stick to a budget, save money, and maintain a love life all at once?

It may seem overwhelming at first but there are a few tips and guidelines that make the process much more manageable.

  • Consider free on-campus activities. The Illini Union Board hosts events such as movies on the quad, comedy shows, and trivia night. These free activities are perfect for a casual date or with a group of friends.
  • Keep it homemade. Most people would agree that making homemade meals for a significant other is a kind gesture. You can make them their favorite dish or entrée that they mentioned one time. It shows you listen, care, and will cost much less than a night out on the town.
  • Use daily deal coupons. Websites like Groupon and LivingSocial provide activity-based coupons. These coupons often come in the form of activities like cooking classes, zip lining, sporting events, and much more. These activities provide a relatively inexpensive way to venture out and try new activities in the surrounding area.
  • Try a new restaurant. Despite popular belief, it is possible to spend money and maintain a budget. However, it is important to keep the spending within reason and to limit the frequency of the spending. Want to try that new Thai place on campus with your study partner from biology class? Go for it! It’ll be a fun experience but make sure it doesn’t become a habit. The next date could potentially be one of the three previously mentioned activities. See what I’m getting at here?

The aforementioned tips provide ways to maintain a love life while sticking to a budget. It may be beneficial to allocate a certain percentage of income or spending money towards miscellaneous expenses (your love life expenses may fall under this umbrella). This way you will know how much you can and are willing to spend each month. In addition to budgeting for your love life, make sure to continue to budget for food, books, rent, and anything else that you will need on a monthly basis.

Written by Alex Hoffmann, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension

I spend a lot of money on eating out. How can I reduce those expenses?

While it’s true that one of your biggest expenses will always be food, there are many ways for you to cut down on those costs. Buying groceries and cooking at home can be less expensive and much healthier than eating out, but we all have busy schedules and sometimes don’t have the time or resources to cook. Here are two ways that you can save money when you want to eat out!

  1. Coupons are not just for families. If you live in an apartment or house (and sometimes even in the dorms), many restaurants and chains will send coupons in the mail that can save you a good amount of cash. For example: One national pizza chain’s large cheese pizza regularly costs $12. Use a coupon that was mailed (or even one you found online) and you can get a large pizza plus two toppings for $8!
  2. If you don’t have coupons or need a good deal in a pinch, there are also websites that offer deals in the area. For example, EatCU.com offers deals from over 100 restaurants including “weekly specials” that can help you save even more money. Another online local coupon source is campusspecial.com. You can search for deals at UIUC specifically, or if you’re visiting someone at another university (they have deals at over 500 schools), you can enter that school and get coupons even when you’re in an unfamiliar place.

Even the smallest amount of money saved can add up to something big. Don’t hesitate to spend a little extra time trying to save on your meal–it could end up saving you a lot of money in the long run!

Written by Sophia Mohamed, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension

What happens if I get declined for credit?

So, you’ve gotten declined for a credit card…Now what?

Each time you apply for credit, whether it is a credit card or a loan, it is called a “hard inquiry.” This stays on your credit report for two years. While getting declined credit will not negatively impact your credit score or history, a bank or lender will look at the number of “hard inquiries” you have; the more you have, the riskier you are. However, it is important to note that if you are looking for specific types of credit, like an auto loan or a mortgage, multiple inquiries will count as only one for credit scores.

It’s also important to understand why you were declined in the first place. Reasons can include: having too low of an income, owning too many credit cards, a record of late payments, being in collections, or having limited credit history. If you are denied credit, a lender is required to tell you why within 60 days of your application being rejected according to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA).

If you’re still interested in learning more about this topic, check out these resources: “Credit Inquiries: Hard Inquiries and Soft Inquiries” and “Choosing the right card and what happens to credit scores if you are declined.”

Written by Alex Ziskind & Andrea Pellegrini, University of Illinois USFSCO Student Money Management Center

Where can I get a copy of my credit report?

There are several companies that say they provide free credit report services. However, very few actually do, or there’s always a catch–aka a fee–attached to it. Fortunately, AnnualCreditReport.com is the only website that allows you to access your credit reports from all three credit reporting bureaus for free once a year.

Checking your credit report is a great way to review your credit history and ensure that your identity hasn’t been compromised. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit report now!

Written by Alex Ziskind, University of Illinois USFSCO Student Money Management Center

Why should I negotiate?

One of the hardest parts of being on the job market is negotiating for yourself once you have an offer. The expectation is to feel grateful no matter what compensation you are offered, but the truth of the circumstances is that this feeling only helps the employer. While negotiating can be terrifying for some people, the importance in negotiating effectively rests in what is to be gained, or lost. There is a lot at stake!

Employers expect negotiation as part of the hiring process. Your ability to communicate thoughtfully and collaboratively in the negotiation demonstrates that you will be able to take this approach with your colleagues and clients. Negotiating can also be seen as a respectable and admirable quality when done correctly.

The primary point for most people is the value of their monetary compensation. Salary negotiation has both immediate and long-term benefits. Consider that a two to four percent increase in your initial salary can translate to over one million dollars of earnings over your lifetime. That amount could send your child to Harvard four times over. While the amount may not seem like much at first, remember that subsequent raises will be based off your current salary, and if you decide to leave your job, you can gain leverage on your next salary as well.

While salary is important, you must also consider the entire package within the offer. Does it give you financial support for continuing education, insurance, paid time off, gym memberships, childcare, travel stipends, moving expenses, and help locating housing? These additional benefits can dramatically increase the value of your job offer, and must be assessed correctly when estimating your total compensation. Just remember this: You have more leverage at the time of the offer than at any other point in the job search. Take this opportunity to ask for the things that will make you a productive, satisfied employee. If you don’t, you may really lose out in the end.

Written by Kyle Carmack, Graduate College Career Development Office