Where can I find out more about funding study abroad?

Illinois offers more than 300 study abroad programs that range in cost. Many program costs are comparable to studying for a term at Illinois and some are less. There are also a variety of ways to financially support your study abroad experience, including grants, scholarshipsfinancial aid, and loans. Planning ahead is key.  Below are links to the Illinois Abroad & Global Exchange website, where you can find additional information about funding your study abroad experience.

Funding Study Abroad Resources

Why should I build an emergency fund?

It’s easy to spend all the money in your budget (even if you don’t have one), but what happens when you have an expense you can’t anticipate? Whether you have a flat tire or need to make a surprise purchase, having an emergency fund can be a financial lifesaver.

Of course, some emergencies don’t impact the amount of money that you spend, but the amount that you earn. A common issue people face is losing their job. Suddenly, you have little or no income, but your fixed expenses stay the same. Any surprise that causes you to spend more money than you earn is an emergency.

So, what is an emergency fund? Simply put, an emergency fund is an amount of money that you set aside to cover expenses that you can’t anticipate. Generally, an emergency fund is kept in a bank account to accumulate interest until it is needed, as well as to ensure that the money is safe, both from being lost and from accidentally being spent. The best part is that starting an emergency account is easy!

  1. Know your Needs and Wants: The first step is knowing how much money you would need if an emergency occurred. If you lost your job, how much would you need to live your life for a month? Two months? Also, be realistic about your needs. You might be able to cut back on your trips to the movies if money is tight, but it’s unlikely that you can instantly move to pay lower rent.
  2. Know How Long to Prepare For: Do you feel safe having one month of expenses on reserve, or do you need more? After the Great Recession, many people agree that you need between three to six months of expenses to be completely safe.
  3. Get Started: This is the hardest part. Start with small goals and add to it over time. If you can only start with a few dollars a week, it will grow over time and be a lifesaver when you need it!

Written by Collin Smith, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, 2017.

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

What are some ways to reduce spending in college?

The first way to reduce expenses is to avoid making impulse purchases when shopping. People can be subject to impulse buying when they are upset, feel pressure from their peers, or even when an item is on sale. Before making a purchase, ask yourself if the item is something you need, if it will last for a significant amount of time, and if this item will off set your financial goals or budget. If the answer to these questions is anything that will make the item not worth purchasing, then don’t.

Another tip to help reduce spending is to keep track of your expenses with an app on your phone. Often times, mainly in college, we are too busy to write down a list of everything we have spent and this can make it very hard to manage our money. An app can make it very easy to track income and expenses to make sure you are living within your means. If you see that you are reaching your spending limit for the week or month, re-evaluate your budget to fit your needs.

The last spending tip is to take advantage of what your college campus has to offer. Instead of going out to bars and spending an excessive amount of money, spend time with friends in an apartment or dorm. Go to your campus gym instead of paying for a membership at a gym in town. Many stores and restaurants offer student discounts, so make sure to take advantage of your status as a student in regards to saving money. A great tool to reference that offers even more saving tips is the 55 Ways to Save Money handout that can be found by clicking on this link! http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/fwcollege/5402.html

Written by Jessica Rosenberg, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, 2017.

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

Is it better to pay your monthly credit card balance in full, or just the minimum?

There are pros and cons to both choices, as each can affect your overall finances and credit score.

Advantages of paying the entire balance at once include not paying interest fees, not maxing out on your credit card’s limit and the decrease of your credit utilization ratio. The credit utilization ratio is how much you owe compared to your credit limit. The lower the ratio, the better your credit score.

Unfortunately, paying off your entire balance means not having money for other purchases. If you are low on cash or have any major expenses coming up, paying your entire balance might not be the best idea.

What are the advantages of paying only the minimum credit card balance? It allows you to focus on paying your current finances and bills. If you’re short on cash, you only have to pay a small amount of the balance.

When you don’t pay off your total credit card bill, interest costs as high as 25% or more (depending on your credit card’s policy) will be added to your balance. This will likely take more time to repay depending on the minimum amount and the total balance.

As noted, there are multiple advantages and disadvantages towards paying only the minimum or the entirety of a credit card balance.  In the end, it is your job to decide which option is more ideal.

Written by Solomon Lowenstein, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

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

How can I lower the cost of my utility bills?

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, energy use for air conditioning has doubled since 1980, and U.S. households currently plug in more appliances and electronics at home than ever before. Natural gas and electricity are the most-consumed energy sources in homes as the home electronics market is constantly innovating new products integrating to our modern lifestyle. While certain appliances have long been standard in homes, such as refrigerators, stoves, and cooking equipment, owning other appliances like dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers has increased over the past 30 years. One reason for high utility bills may be due to unawareness of energy use that could be easily avoided. Although it is almost impossible to completely eliminate any of these three from your utility bill, there are several methods to assist in reducing utility costs:

  1. Turn off lights when you are not using them
  2. Unplug chargers while not charging
  3. Increase/decrease the temperature of your thermostat by a couple degrees depending on the season
  4. Use natural energy such as sunlight for lighting
  5. Wash clothes in cold water
  6. Hang-dry clothes instead of machine drying them
  7. Replace traditional incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs

Being aware of your energy usage may be the greatest step you can take to help lower your utility costs!

Written by Rex Wang, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

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