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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What to Do When You Get Into PT School

 Name: Davis Ngo, Class of 2020!
Undergrad: 
University of California, San Diego
Hometown: 
San Jose, CA
Fun Fact:
My favorite animals are manatees because they’re just the chillest.11071038_10204929466588479_4501112845883243502_o.jpg

You’ve gotten into PT school! Now What?

This is it. You’ve done it. You were accepted into Regis University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

It makes sense you got into a few of your other top schools as well (who knew having choices could be so stressful?!). But now you’ve done the research, toured campuses, spoke to all pertinent parties, and finally you’ve come to your decision. A bit anticlimactic, don’t you think? The countless hours of hard work, stress, and uncertainty that lead up this pivotal moment…Funny that the culmination of all this—and the decision that would shape the course of your next 3 years (not to mention the rest of your life)—could come down to just a couple of mouse clicks.

Click.

Click.

Deep breath. What next?

Step 1: Take a moment.

There is no elaborate display, no grandiose announcement, no surprise party.

Just those tiny triumphant mouse clicks (and a hefty hole in your bank account from the deposit).

Anticlimactic? Perhaps. Fitting? Definitely.

You are the reason you’ve gotten this far. You are the one who accomplished all of this. YOU did this—it only makes sense that you get to experience this minuscule moment— all on your own.

You’ve been accepted by one of the finest DPT programs in the nation, and with your click-click of intent you’ve officially committed yourself to a fulfilling and rewarding life of service and learning in the field of physical therapy. The veil of uncertainty cast over your future has been lifted and you know exactly where you’re going to be. Take a moment to think back at all you’ve accomplished: anticlimax aside, this surely was no small feat.

You are intelligent. You are well-rounded. You are hard-working. You are determined and resilient and strong. You are exceptional. You are kind.

This is your moment. You deserve this.

Step 2: TREAT. YO. SELF.

After you’re done patting yourself on the back, here comes the time we’ve all been waiting for… In the immortal words of Tom Haverford, TREAT YOSELF!

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Take yourself shopping. Buy yourself a drink. Go on your favorite adventure. Eat your favorite meal. Take yourself to a movie. Sit in and binge watch your favorite show and, when you’ve finished that, binge watch another. Spend time with your loved ones. Have them shower you with compliments. Buy that thing you’ve always wanted to buy. Do the thing you’ve always wanted to do. Have that cake, and eat it too. At this point you might be thinking: do I really NEED all that? The answer is TREAT YOSELF. YOU ARE AMAZING.

How did I treat myself? One of the first things I did was go on the Patagucci website and buy myself an overpriced, super gaudy fleece. I call it my “treat myself” sweater, and I love it.

After that, I took some time to travel the East Coast (I had never been). I ate, drank, and danced my way around the major cities there, and experienced my first “real” winter ever. It was awful, and beautiful, and just the grandest adventure.

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Brooklyn Bridge!

I came home and decided that I wanted to spend the months before school doing the things I love most: mainly climbing, adventuring, traveling, and being with my loved ones. I put in my two weeks notice at the physical therapy clinic and hit the road.

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Soaking up the sunshine in the Mammoth, CA hot springs.

In the weeks that followed, I spent much of my time climbing and soaking up the Eastern Sierra sun in my favorite place on Earth: Bishop, California. I even got to met up with fellow DPT Class of 2020 student, Annie Govig, and took her on an adventure out in the mountains!

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Met up with Annie Govig on her spring break road trip!

I was lucky to be able to save my money while living at home so that I could take this time off. I also specifically planned to work hard during the application period so I could play hard. If you don’t have this luxury of time, I still hope you find a way to treat yoself. It only takes a few seconds to buy yourself a treat yoself sweater. That cake is just a trip to the store away. Treat. Yo. Self.

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Step 3: Back to business.

Alright, alright. We knew it couldn’t all just be fun and games. You’ve got business to attend to.

By now, you should’ve received an email (or several) from Regis Compliance with detailed information on your list of compliance tasks (shots and immunizations, background check, CPR requirement, etc). These things are important and must be done or in progress before your start date, so get started early! Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time as long as you stay on top of it.

This is also a good time to think about your financial situation and figure out how you’ll be paying for your time at Regis. Look into applying for financial aid, research loan options, calculate your budget and cost of living, etc. It’s best to stay well-informed and have some sort of budget in mind before jumping into the world of grad school loans; start thinking and planning now!

Finally, it might be a good time to start thinking about your upcoming living situation. Do you want roommates, or do you like having your own space? Where in Denver do you want to live? For those coming from out-of-state, the process of finding proper accommodations remotely may be daunting and difficult, so try to get started early to get your bearings.

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Step 4: Freak out…But only a little!

“Wait, but I’ve never lived outside of California before. What will it be like to leave my home and my comfort zone? Wait, where are my immunization records? A CPR class costs how much? Do I REALLY need a new laptop and iPad? Holy moly how much money am I going to have to borrow? I haven’t been in school full time for years; am I even ready for this? Where am I going to live? How do I find a place close to school that is also nice that is also cheap and also has great roommates? Oh my goodness; there are only six weeks left before I leave. What about all the things I wanted to do? Who will I be able to see before I leave? How will I get all this done in time? Am I just going to live out of my car? Will I even have friends? AHHHHHHHH!”

It’s okay! Cálmate! Tranquilo! Take a deep breath! It’s okay to freak out a little. Lots of big changes are about to happen and it’s natural to be anxious. Try not to stress too much, though. I know it all may seem a bit overwhelming, but try and take things as they come.

Get things done slowly, one thing at a time. Remember that you now have a whole new support system at your disposal. The counselors and administrators at Regis University are there to help you, so don’t hesitate to call or email with any questions you may have. You also have a whole list of classmates, entering and current, who are eager to help so reach out to them as well! You are not alone in this.

You’ll be okay. I promise.

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Step 5: Breathe, relax, and GET PSYCHED!

You’re about to begin a rigorous academic journey that will eventually lead you to the rest of your career in physical therapy. Soon you’ll be in school full time, five days a week—not to mention the hours spent practicing and studying outside of class and lab.

So, be kind to yourself. This is your time to relax. To breathe. To fully enjoy the calm and the free time you have before becoming a full time graduate student.

Go soak in the sweet sunshine of your last summer. Go play hard and be joyous. Spend quality time with your family and friends. Daydream about the future. Think of all the beautiful and wonderful new opportunities and possibilities that lie ahead. Connect with your new classmates. Be happy for yourself. Get psyched.

This is the beginning of the rest of your life. 

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