5 Ways to make some quick money

1. Sell on ebay. This requires some research, but what I do is scour Best Buy and Circuit City (and other such electronics retailers) for great sales, then buy the product and put it on ebay. Best Buy has some great sales where you can get $100 off retail value, sell it on ebay and get a $50-75 profit easily.

2. Join websites that pay you to fill out surveys and do free trials. The ones with high payout are usually trial offers that require a credit card to join, and if you cancel within the trial, you won’t be billed. I’ve made $80 in two months with Cash Crate. You’ll also need an extra email address for all the spam you will get from the surveys.

3. Do laundry for your friends. It costs me $2 to wash and dry one load of clothes, so charge $4 and you make easy money with a few minutes of work.

4. Bring energy drinks and snacks to all-night study sessions in the university center or library and sell them to the different study groups. This works best during finals week.

5. If you’re decent with computers, start a computer maintenance “business”. Post flyers advertising your services around campus. Offer to backup hard drives, clean up and optimize computers, install new memory…Charge half of what it costs to take it to Best Buy.

Mint – Refreshing money management

Mint.com is a new online budgeting tool. You input your bank and credit card logins for their websites and it gathers the data and pulls all of your financial information together. It simplifies everything because it’s all in one place. You don’t have to login to six different websites to pull up your balances. They also have an alert system to notify you when your balances become low so you don’t overdraft.

I tried it out and was actually very impressed. If you’re not sure how to budget or don’t want to bother, Mint is a great way to keep track of your money. I personally found it a little too simple for me. I have an exact image of the way I want my budget to be and I’ve just had to keep using a spreadsheet do so.

I really like how it breaks down spending and shows trends. It doesn’t always recognize certain charges, but for the most part, it puts them in the right categories. It compares cash and debt, which is nice since apparently it thinks I have more cash than debt (it doesn’t know my poor “cash” is really all debt in student loans.) It does know, however, that my most frequent stop is at HEB (grocery store).

The feature that shows ways you can save money by switching accounts is nice, but doesn’t really apply to a college student with little credit. Mint thinks I could save $424 by switching checking accounts and credit cards, but what it doesn’t know is that I can’t just get another credit card because mine has too high of an interest rate.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to a website like this, the most important being that they have your bank information. As a paranoid person, I just don’t like giving other people my passwords to anything, much less my bank accounts. What with all the security leaks recently, I’m even more paranoid. It doesn’t take much to hack a website and steal all of this information. Other than that, sometimes it seems too simple for me. I have a pretty complicated plan for my budget and have yet to find a program that does what I want.

Student loans

Student loans are the answer to money problems these days, especially because you can defer payments until after graduation, unlike other loans. But if you aren’t careful, you can end up owing a lot more than you borrowed. I was able to get $4000 in scholarships, but the rest of my expenses are covered by loans. I was able to get a subsidized Stafford loan through Wells Fargo (the government pays the interest while I’m in school) for $3500, but all the rest is in a Parent PLUS loan, which has a high interest rate and although payments are differed, it accrues interest now. If you can get Stafford loans, even if it’s unsubsidized, I’d take advantage, even if you need another loan as well. Stafford loans are a great deal.

I didn’t have to get any private student loans, but for some people, this is what they choose to do for whatever reason. Think Financial offers student loans as well as financial advice and resources and a comparison chart. Think Financial is a well-known student loan provider in cooperation with Charter One Bank and their website is very helpful. They don’t require collateral, and you can apply and get an answer in fifteen minutes and you can use the money for all expenses, unlike some providers. Private loans also give you your money much faster than going through a university.

The biggest reason people choose to go this route is because the amount you can borrow is up to $40,000 for one year, which is a lot more than financial aid offices award students. There are other loan companies, such as Sallie Mae and My Rich Uncle, although I personally like Think Financial or Chase.

If you’re going to go this route, I definitely suggest doing a lot of research into the company and the rates. Be sure to read the fine print and make sure you’re getting a fixed rate. Some companies, such as Sallie Mae have allegations against them so beware of that. Also, private loans usually require good credit to be approved so it helps to have a parent or older family member that’s willing to help. But if they’re going to put their name on it, sometimes it’s better to take out a second mortgage or do a home equity loan with a better rate.

Educate yourself on credit

As a student with a fixed income, I’ve been tempted with credit cards. I even have three, although the limits are rather small and aren’t maxed out. But one of the biggest problems I’ve seen is that people don’t know what they’re getting themselves into, which nowadays, I think is ridiculous. There’s so much information out there so you can be educated on credit and not get yourself in too deep.

It may not be fair that credit is an important part of society now, most people can’t buy a television without it, let alone a car or a house. Credit scores are even looked at during the employment process. Nonetheless, you should still be smart about borrowing money or you’ll end up paying way more than you should.

Credit Me is a large website that has an incredible amount of information about credit cards. They have a list of resources, FAQ’s and my favorite, the Ultimate Guide to Perfect Credit. Also, they have a list of student (and other) credit cards comparing the rates and terms of each one and listing what kind of credit you need to be approved (good, bad, none.)

Tips to build your credit without hurting it first

  • Don’t apply for too much credit at once – this will hurt your score
  • If you take advantage of 0% APR grace periods, which is okay to do, be careful of the fees you’ll incur afterward. Sometimes they’re awful.
  • Don’t take out cash advances. If you really need cash for something, use the money you’d otherwise spend on food, CDs, etc. that’s in your bank account and put those purchases on your card. Regular interest is better than cash advance interest no matter how you look at it.
  • Don’t simply apply for a card just because they’re giving away free t-shirts. You might miss a $50 yearly fee because you’re distracted with presents.
  • If you can’t get credit anywhere else, try a in-store credit card at a store you frequent, but only after carefully looking over the terms. Put a small amount on the card, pay it off at the end of the month to avoid interest. Do it again each month for the next six months and apply for a better card somewhere else.
  • Remember, that if your score is low, there’s nowhere else to go but up. If you play the game right, you can have great credit without paying too much to the companies.

What to do with financial aid

Because I have $50 in my bank account and my parents aren’t helping with paying for college, I naturally had to take out some student loans. After I got my refund check (two weeks after my school got my money from the bank) and then after another week of my bank holding the check, I will finally get my refund of a little under $5000 tomorrow. I’ve already budgeted myself out for this semester and this is just one part of my financial aid for the fall. I’ll be getting another $1750 at the end of September. After I take my cut for this month, I’m putting the rest into an online savings account with a high interest rate.

I’ve narrowed it down to WaMu and CapitalOne. Their interest rates are really good (WaMu 4.89%, CapitalOne 4.88%) and APY for both is 5%. Minimum to open an account is $1. No minimum balance, but for WaMu, you get charged monthly fee of $4 if balance goes below $300. Also, if I go through WaMu, in order to get those rates, I have to sign up for their free checking account, which I was considering doing anyway because Bank of America sucks. Downside to this is there aren’t any branches near me. The closest is two hours away. I am, however, allowed to transfer money online, which is what I’d do anyway. I also get free checks and a debit card so that’s what’s necessary anyway.

A lesson for textbook buyers

This is only my first semester, but I already had to buy seven books. I found a great way to save some money and still end up with all the books needed.

Which edition?
First step is to ask your professor, when they’re going over the syllabus is the best time, if the newest edition is necessary. Most professors, my mom included, don’t necessarily need or want you to have the newest, most expensive edition unless whatever changed is exactly what is needed for the class. Usually the new edition has a few grammatical fixes and a fancy new cover and that’s all.

Bookstore prices
Go to the official campus bookstore and go to the unofficial bookstore(s). My school is smaller, but still has both of these. My mom teaches at a larger university with 30,000 students and they have three off-campus bookstores. Go to each and check the prices on the books you need, make a nice comparison chart that will save your life.

Online prices
Now, go home and check Amazon, Ebay, Half.com, and do a Google search. Add these prices to your chart. Make sure you have the correct edition! I can’t stress that enough. Also, find out what shipping costs and when you will get the books. Find out if the company/person doesn’t ship for up to one week or whatever else their policy is. Find out the return policy, just in case.

Now that you have your nice chart comparing prices/shipping charges, do a little math see which deal is best. Do you actually need these books tomorrow or can you wait until Monday? If you need them now, see about applying for a free trial with Amazon Prime (I got one) or see if your aunt has an account. If it’s cheaper or necessary to get them in the bookstore, go for it. If it’s a better deal to get them online, do that.

This way you get the best deal you can no matter what. All it takes is a little work. It took me an hour total to track down seven books and start the process. Not so bad to save nearly $200. Five books were much cheaper online, one was about $20 less in the bookstore. One book I had to get at the store because it’s one of those ridiculous “customized textbooks” just for my school. What a scam.