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Here's Your Bill: That student loan money doesn't last forever

 by Lucia Bill  published on Thursday, February 9, 2006


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We know that going to school is expensive -- we pay tuition, too. But we doubt that anything we write is going to enlighten the Arizona Board of Regents and make them lower tuition costs. Instead, let us to try to ease the financial burden with these suggestions for fiscal decisions you can make in order to save a few dollars and prepare for the future.

1. Budget the semester
For many college students, Christmas really comes in mid-January when financial aid is disbursed. There is nothing sweeter than seeing that money directly deposited into your bank account. But those numbers that appear on our monthly statements tend to be misleading, and we forget that pretty figure is supposed to last us an entire semester. Unfortunately, many of us realize this somewhere in the middle of April, when food and gas money gets short and paying rent becomes a struggle. Encouraged by the initial sum of our loans or scholarships, many of us overspend during the first few months of the semester, buying such college "essentials" as dorm decor, spring fashions and Xboxes.

To avoid scrambling for cash at the end of the semester, budget your entire semester now. Web sites like www.financialplan.about.com/library/blsemcolbud.htm provide printable tables that are designed especially for students who want to allocate their resources wisely.

2. Start working on your credit
Living with three other guys who love to play Halo is great, but one day you will want to get a place of your own. In order to do that, you have to have an established credit history. One of the best ways to go about getting a good credit rating is to open a student credit card.

"Use the card for small purchases that you can pay off at the end of the month, like groceries or gas," says Danielle Walker, a personal banker at Bank of America and an ASU graduate. But Walker warns against falling into the trap of having a credit card. "If you max it out, your credit rating is hard to increase, and if you're not in good standing some financial institutions won't even talk to you," she says.

If you're not sure about your current credit rating, you can easily check it with the help of Web sites like www.TrueCredit.com. Contrary to popular belief, checking your credit rating, called "soft inquiry," does not lower your score.

3. Shop till you drop -- as little cash as possible
Don't buy an item when you know you can get it cheaper at another location. This seems like a "no-duh" observation, but judging by the number of people who spend $22 on a plain American Apparel tank top they could get for $8.99 at Target, this is a revelation. Check out local re-sale stores, like Sunset Clothing Exchange (1628 E. Southern Ave, Suite 7) and Buffalo Exchange (227 W. University), for great deals on high-end jeans, including 7 for All Mankind and Rock and Republic. As Is Fashions, (1290 N Scottsdale Rd Suite 129) a department store outlet in Tempe, is currently selling women's Lacoste polos for $19.99. And fashionista favorite Last Chance in Phoenix (1919 E Camelback Rd Suite 1) is known for its selection of BCBG Girls shoes priced for under $20. Until wearing price-tags on the outside of your clothing becomes a trend, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't get more bang for your buck and still look like a million.

4. Pay attention to small expenditures
I admit you look super cool walking down Cady Mall at 8 a.m. sipping your Venti caramel macchiato with extra whipped cream, dragging on a Camel cigarette. It clearly tells the rest of us that you had a long night and that you need your fix.

But spending $4 a day, five times a week on designer coffee means that within a month you spend $80, roughly $320 a semester. That's, like, two textbooks. Here's a great tip: Go to Walgreen's, buy a $10 coffee maker, get your ass out of bed 10 minutes earlier, and make your own coffee. You can buy syrups and flavored creamers at most grocery stores these days, so you have no excuse.

Thermos cups are pretty spiffy, too. You can even get one at your favorite corporate coffee joint, just so you have the warm, fuzzy feeling of having a logo on your beverage.

Reach the reporter at lucia.bill@asu.edu.



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