Budget Tips for Students

Name: Jaegger Olden

Undergrad: Central Washington University

Hometown: Aberdeen, Washington (on the peninsula, no not by Seattle)

Fun fact: my spirit animal is a hangry Terry Crews

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I have been in college for almost a decade. So you could say I am what comes close to being a professional student. However, with that title comes heaping amounts of debt. Fortunately, I have learned the art of budgeting, scholarships, and sucking up to my extreme-couponing-and-geologist wife so my debt is incredibly low. Unfortunately, most students finish their graduate degrees with six figures of student debt. I am here to share my secrets and help you avoid evil student loans (well, as much as you can).  

Budgeting

I can’t stress this enough: BUDGET YOUR MONEY. This is the key to being able to:

A) know how much money you need in scholarships/loans/income and

B) decide where your money goes

Budgeting is fairly straightforward. Create a spreadsheet with all of your expenses listed out. It is easiest to do this for each semester because, as students, we are charged tuition and given financial aid only 2-3 times per year.

Some of the categories my wife and I use are:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Gas
  • Groceries
  • Internet/Cable
  • Insurance/Medical
  • Car Maintenance
  • Entertainment
  • Emergency Fund

All of this goes into our budget Excel spreadsheet. If you don’t use Excel, then you should start now. There are plenty of tutorials online if you need to refresh on the functions or even through the Regis Library/Learning Commons/Tutoring Center on campus. The best part about budgeting like this is determining how much in student loans I need to take out.

Tip: Avoid taking out your max student loan amount each semester AT ALL COSTS. This is a great way to reach your lifetime federal loan allowance (which is $138,500 with no more than $65,000 subsidized).

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Loan Repayment Strategy

I’m sorry for using the L-word, I promise you it gives me a lot of anxiety just thinking about the hole I dug for myself, but that is just our reality as students. One day, we will need to repay these loans and it’s important to have a strategy to do so.

After plenty of research, my wife and I have decided to use the Debt Snowball repayment plan. This is the famous strategy created by financial expert Dave Ramsey that bases debt repayment on the combination of psychology and interest percentages. Instead of paying off debt based on interest alone, the Debt Snowball creates a system that pays off debt based upon the total value of each individual loan to create a psychological reward as well as paying off debt as quickly as possible.

This method, along with plenty of other financial tips and advice, is featured in his incredibly successful book The Total Money Makeover, which I can’t recommend enough.

Housing

I know too well what “money dump” apartments are and how getting a cheap apartment can come with some hazards. This is typical in Denver. As of today, three students just in my class have had their cars stolen from their apartment parking lots while their managers refuse to install security cameras. Because of this, it actually can be both safer and cost effective to slightly splurge and find apartments in low crime areas. The Denver Police Department maintains a great crime map that is user friendly.
However, if you can manage it, then I suggest trying to buy a house or condo. You’re probably saying, “this guy is crazy!” but you’re putting money into someone else’s bank account every month with no equity. Not to mention a mortgage payment is less than Denver rent. So if you have enough savings to go into a down payment, or can have family help, go for it! If you’re going the family route, then I suggest giving them a return on their investment via the equity upon selling. It is truly a win-win.

Shopping

Shopping is easily the biggest way we save money. I am infatuated with couponing and am getting pretty good at it…to the point of saving up to $30 a week on groceries. I’m currently a part of a coupon club that sends me coupons daily…go figure. I also use the Krazy Coupon Lady. The last major strategies I use is shopping at Costco or Sam’s club for bulk items such as meat to freeze, fruit, vegetables, and nonperishables.

However, if you are really interested in saving money and time on healthy meals, check out my wife’s blog post about eating healthy in college. She goes over our full healthy cooking system and how we save money on our groceries.

Read more about cheap and healthy eating in college HERE.  

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Saving Money at Regis University

Being a graduate student at Regis University does have its perks! Take advantage of the amenities. My favorites are the gym, 10 free local transit passes a week, and 2 free swimming passes a week for any Denver Parks and Recreation’s Aquatic facility. One of the better pools close to the university is the Berkeley pool attached to the Scheitler Recreation Center.

Some of the other ways I save money during class are bringing my own food for lunch, bringing K-cups from Costco instead of purchasing coffee (there are two Keurigs in Claver Hall, which ends up being 34 cents a cup), getting a beer with classmates at Walker’s pub during happy hour ($1 beer), and taking advantage of free food events. I also frequently use the classroom electricity to charge devices and shower at the gym to reduce water-heating costs at home.

Income

One of the most daunting factors about being in graduate school is the lack of income. However, there are plenty of great ways to have an income with minimal time commitment. One of the easiest and best ways to do that is to turn your hobby into a job. One great way to do that is to start a money-making blog! There are countless benefits to creating a blog in college. THIS is a great post that breaks down the reasons why you should start a blog in college and THIS is a great post to help you understand how to do it!

Another great way to make money is to donate plasma. I personally donate twice a week and receive about $300 a month for less than 3 hours a week of sitting in a clinic. All plasma is donated to medical research facilities and nearly everyone at these clinics are amazing and professional people. Despite what the stigma is against plasma donations, it is a requirement that you have a home in order to donate.

Some of my other classmates use their skills as a small income like instructing rock climbing lessons once or twice a week for gym memberships or baby sitting/house sitting for friends.

A small amount of income comes a long way, but take precaution based on your performance in class. You’re a student first!

Utility Saving Tips

I got bills! Of course the more energy efficient your household is the lower the bill. One of the more helpful strategies to adapt daily is running appliances that have a high energy cost during non-peak hours. For Denver (consumers of Xcel Energy), the best times to run your appliances (dishwasher, dryer, etc.) are between 9pm and 9am.

In addition, here is a list of other easy tips:

  • Sealing doors/windows/sinks
  • Running the fan in reverse during winter
  • Don’t use heat dry in dishwasher
  • LED lights in bulk and swap out when moving out
  • Read your electricity statement: Xcel sends personalized saving tips
  • Reduce standby power (printer, TVs, gaming systems)
  • Minimize cooling by opening the windows at night (if safe)
  • Deduce shower time

Having Fun

Now I know it seems like you are not going to have time, but make time to do what you love. This will prevent getting burnt out and being miserable.

Some cheap ways of having fun is getting outside to hike, trail run, rock climb, mountain bike, or cycle. The National Park Service has an amazing yearly pass deal that pays itself off in under 8 visits.

If you’re a skier/snowboarder, then I have heard the Epic pass is fantastic. It has a student pass and pays itself off after 4 times of hitting the slopes. If you like to hangout and watch tv, save money by streaming via Netflix and Amazon Prime. If you get Spotify premium as a student, you save $3 a month and get Hulu for free.

Also, if you’re a book worm, then go get a Denver library card in combination with an app called Overdrive. You can access the ebook library, audiobooks, and most movies currently out on Redbox.

Do you have any favorite budgeting tips? Were these strategies helpful for you? Feel free to comment and share with us!

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How to Manage Your Money in DPT School

Name: Kim Bjorkman, Class of 2019
Undergrad:
 University of Puget Sound
Hometown:
Jackson, WY
Fun Fact: 
I sang the national anthem at rodeos when I was in high school!

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Living as a graduate student does not mean that you must subsist on Top Ramen and canned soup, but it does require taking responsibility for your finances and making informed decisions. I’m here to give some insight on how it’s possible to still live like a normal human being while on a graduate student budget.

First off, the nitty gritty:

Each year of the program, you can accept $20,500 in Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans. You can also apply for a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS loan. The amount of Grad PLUS loans you are eligible to apply for will vary year to year, but expect around $25,000 per year. It’s important to remember that even if the Grad PLUS loans are on your financial aid award letter, you still must apply for them to actually receive the loan!

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Kim is happy to know so much about budgeting!

If you establish Colorado residency right when you get here (before the start of fall semester), you can also qualify for the Colorado Graduate Grant (starting 1 year after you become a resident). The grant pays $5,000 per school year, so be sure to apply as early as possible for residency to make sure you can get the grant for you 2nd and 3rd years of DPT school! Eligibility entails having a CO driver’s license, being registered to vote in CO, and all vehicles in your name being registered in CO. Prior to applying for the grant, you must also update your FAFSA with your CO address and ensure that your state of legal residency is listed as Colorado. Finally, you must ensure that your address in Regis’ system is updated. Remember, you must apply for FAFSA each year to be eligible for the Colorado Graduate Grant.

As you’re creating your budget, here are some things to keep in mind:

The loans are distributed at the start of fall semester your first year. This money will be for fall and spring semesters. You will get another disbursement at the start of the summer semester for the same amount of money. This must last you for summer, fall and spring! So, essentially, every semester the financial aid will be dispersed in three equal quantities…but there will be differences in tuition costs each semester. This will result in an imbalance in refunds—be sure to plan ahead.

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These first years are so glad they planned ahead! (Volunteering for the Outdoor CO Trail Restoration Crew)

If you have questions about your particular circumstances, email or make an appointment with our financial aid counselor, James Cesar, at Jcesar@regis.edu.

Now that you have your bank account full of loan money, how do you make it stretch?

While on my graduate student budget this year, I discovered several ways to save money here and there, and it has added up!

Here is the inside scoop to becoming a Master Couponer:

  • Digital coupons: create an online account with your grocery store of choice (King Soopers, Sprouts, Safeway, etc.) and simply load digital coupons to your club card. As long as these are loaded prior to shopping, they are automatically deducted when you checkout. No paper coupons necessary!

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  • Ibotta: this is an app created right here in Denver that provides digital rebates for all sorts of things! You can get money back on groceries, alcohol, Uber rides, Amazon purchases…The possibilities are endless. Once you’ve earned $20, you can transfer the cash to Venmo, PayPal or a gift card. If you access the app using my referral code, https://ibotta.com/r/jtfwknt, you will get a $10 bonus when you redeem a rebate within a week of loading the app J (Pro tip: “any brand” items do not count toward earning this $10 bonus).King Soopers Screenshot.png
  • Other apps: there are two other rebate apps I sometimes use, Checkout 51 and Mobisave, that have less items but can be helpful in saving a few dollars.

 

  • Groupon: get an additional 25% student discount on all local deals. While you can certainly find deals for restaurants and spas, Groupon also has deals for dental care, car maintenance and Costco memberships. Get a bonus 3-10% savings if you access the Groupon app through Ibotta!

Living on a student loan budget does impose some limitations, but when managed responsibly, it is certainly possible to enjoy your time in graduate school. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at kroberts006@regis.edu.

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Summer in Colorado: Dispersed Camping 101

Name: Kate Bostwick, Class of 2018
Undergrad: University of Portland, OR
Hometown: Pendleton, OR
Fun Fact: I actually enjoy doing burpees.

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First thing’s first: the answer is yes…yes, there is time to get away from Regis for a weekend and put off studying for Cliff’s neuroscience class or practicing manual therapy skills until Sunday night…AND you will still pass PT school. One of the biggest fears I had about going back to school was that I would never have any free time. Luckily, that is not the case. If you manage your time efficiently, you always have time to do the things you love. If being outdoors is one of those things—like it is for me—you will have the time to enjoy all that Colorado has to offer. In this post I have reflected (wow—Regis has rubbed off on me!) on some of my favorite weekends spent in the mountains with my fellow classmates and have put together a detailed guide for you to explore these regions on your own!

Something that you should know about me is that I am a small-town gal who gets pretty overwhelmed in the big city. Nothing makes me happier than beating the crowd and enjoying a slow-paced weekend in the mountains with some of my close friends doing some fishing, sipping a nice cold beverage by the fire, and talking about subjects far from clinical prediction rules, dermatomes or goniometry. Personally, I like roughing it a little more than staying in a busy campground for the weekend. In order to do this, my classmates and I have done some pretty fun dispersed camping trips. If you don’t know what the heck dispersed camping is, keep reading; I highly recommend it!

Dispersed Camping: What Is It?

Dispersed camping is the term used for camping anywhere in the National Forest outside of a designated campground. None of the services that are found at a campground (like potable water, trash removal, tables, firepits, etc.) can be found at these sites; they are found on public property off of National Forest Service roads and may require 4WD, depending on the location. Dispersed camping is FREE (yay for free things in grad school!) and requires you to bring all of your own gear. Although this seems like a free-for-all, there are rules that you must abide by:

  1. Place your campsite at least 100 feet from any stream/water source
  2. Leave no trace: you must pack out everything you pack in
  3. Be bear aware: store food in bear canisters…and just be cognizant of those dang bears cuz they’re out there!
  4. Drive on existing roads and try to camp in already designated dispersed areas

    Weekend Getaway to Buena Vista
    (2 hr 40 min from Denver)

If you’re looking for a drive with a beautiful view and plenty of options for camping, fishing, and hiking, look no further than this route to Buena Vista, CO!

Directions: I-70 W past Frisco, then to CO-91 S which turns to US-24 E.

Fishing: Twin Lakes are home to numerous brown, rainbow, cutthroat and lake trout. It is a great place for shore fishing and has access to the Arkansas River close by. The Arkansas lies just across US-24 E and has public access at several points along this highway.

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Fishing at Twin Lakes

Camping: About 6 miles south from Twin Lakes down US-24 E is Clear Creek Reservoir. Turn right onto CO Rd 390 and travel a few miles west (past private property) and you will see plenty of dispersed camping sites down by the river and up the hill on the base of the mountain. Be aware that there is no cell phone service–so be prepared to have a relaxing weekend without that iPhone 🙂

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Camping up past Clear Creek Reservoir

Hiking a 14er: If you continue down CO Rd 390 you will come upon the trailhead for a trifecta of 14ers: Mt. Belford, Mt. Missouri and Mt. Oxford. While I have not done this hike, it is a beautiful and challenging option for 14er-seekers. Remember to research your trail if you do decide to complete this voyage—it’s a long one!

Hiking to Ptargamin Lake: if you go back on US-24 E and head south towards Buena Vista, turn right on CO Rd 306 and head ~15 miles to the trailhead. This is a 2.74 mile hike with options for backcountry camping at the top–not to mention a large lake full of beautiful brook trout!

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Ptarmagin Lake

Breckenridge Beauty:
(1 hr 45 min from Denver)

Directions: I-70 W to CO 9 S to Breckenridge. From Breckenridge, drive 8 miles south on CO 9 and turn right on CO Rd 850; after a few hundred yards turn right on to CO Rd 851. Quandary’s Peak trailhead will be about 0.1 mi up the road on the left with parking on the right.

Camping: Follow the above directions but go past the trailhead on CO Rd 851 up the hill and there are many spots off of this road that you can camp. If you do a little scouting, there are some pretty sweet spots to set up camp on both sides of the road.

Fishing: Instead of turning right on to CO Rd 851, continue left and head towards Blue Lakes Reservoir for fishing of any kind. There are rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout in this reservoir and it can be accessed right off the shore at the base of Quandary Peak!

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Evening at Blue Lakes Reservoir (Amanda, me, Karlee and Taylor)

Hiking Quandary Peak 14er: 14,265’: highest summit of the Tenmile Range in the Rocky Mountains. The 6.75 miles round trip hike should not be overlooked because of its short distance. This is a challenging hike with exposure and, like any 14er, variable weather to be aware of…so do your research before you head out!

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Karlee and me at the top of Quandary’s Peak (60 mph winds not pictured)

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Buffalo Creek Campin’
(1 hr 10 min from Denver)

Directions: Take I-70 W to CO 470 E to 285 S, travel past Conifer and take a left onto Pine Valley/Deckers Road (CO 126) travel ~14 miles until you see a turn off for Wellington Lake/Buffalo Creek Recreation Area on the right, CO 550.
Camping: Along this road (CO Rd 550), travel until you find a spot that you like. You will see parking signs scattered along the road that have pullouts for your car/truck and campsites around them. You can take your pick of these sites for multiple miles; so if there is a crowd, just keep driving until you have room to yourself.

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Pitstop off of the Colorado Trail near our campsite

Fishing: Cheesman Canyon Trailhead is located 7 miles south of the CO 550 turn off on CO 126. Here, you can hike in to access South Platte River for some of the best fishing on this section of the river. I love this: because you have to hike in to access spots on the river, it’s  a little less crowded on a nice weekend as opposed to fishing right off the road.

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South Platte fishing access in Cheesman Canyon

Hiking: Along road CO 550, there are multiple access points to the Colorado Trail that you can hike any distance on. A few of the dispersed sites back right up to the trail—like ours did—which makes it super accessible.

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Happy campers (Karlee and me)

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