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8 Unconventional Tips for Saving Money in College

By Jenna Lee, Social Media Manager at Credit Karma

If youve ever researched how to save money in college, youve probably heard a lot of the same advice like buy used books, or avoid eating out. And while those tips are good and useful, sometimes you need to think outside of the box to make ends meet. How do you stretch what little money you have? Try these eight unconventional tips, straight from a recent (frugal) graduate:

Work the Off-Hours

If youre strapped for cash, working during college is a good idea in general. However, if you can score a job that may allow for some down time and dont mind working early mornings, nights or weekends, you may be able to get paid just for showing up. When I worked at one of the computer labs on campus, I never minded the 8 am Friday shift, as there wasnt much work to do. In many cases, Id get paid just to sit there and study (or catch up on TV shows, if I was feeling lazy). Time is money, so being able to get some of my schoolwork out of the way during work was a sweet deal.

Sometimes these jobs are harder to find, so do your research to get your leg in the door before all the other applicants. Check your schools job board, visit the places youd like to work to inquire about any open positions and make good use of your network. In my case, I was able to score the job because a friend referred me. This bring us to our next tip…

Make Friends

Collaborating with friends can also save you money. Apartments near campus often have inflated rent prices due to high demand, so make living cheaper (and probably more fun) by rooming with one or a few of your buddies. Also, lets face it–youre not going to have your head in your textbooks 24/7. If youre taking a class with friends, try sharing the books and splitting the cost. Even if you do this just a few times, you could save hundreds of dollars!

Visit Home

This wont work for everyone, but if you live close enough and have a good relationship with your parents, visiting home once in a while can save you some dough. Whenever I came home, my parents were so happy to see me that after I finished doing an extra-large load of laundry (instead of paying ~$5 at my apartment), theyd take me grocery shopping and stock my kitchen with homemade meals and snacks. Of course, dont take advantage of your parents or visit home just for the freebies– instead, consider this a bonus for going to school close to home.

Be Active

College can be exhausting, but if you muster up the energy to walk or bike wherever you need to go, you can save a lot of money on transportation. These forms of exercise may even give you a good enough workout to eliminate the need for a yearly gym membership (if your school doesnt have one or membership isnt included in your tuition), especially if your campus is hilly or expansive.

Use Your Phone

You (or your parents) are paying for that expensive data plan- might as well use it to your advantage and try to get some of that money back. There are a lot of great free money-saving apps out there, like RetailmeNot (a huge coupon database), Ibotta (an app helping you score rebates as you shop) and RedLaser (a price comparison app). Instead of filling your smartphone with games and selfies, download and use apps that could help your wallet. The savings could be huge!

Think Short-Term

If youre not planning on keeping your books after the class ends, renting the materials may be cheaper than buying (and definitely less hassle as you dont have to worry about selling them after youre done). Try checking out sites like ECampus, Chegg or College Book Renter. Even better, if the library has copies of the books you need, you may be able to eliminate textbook costs altogether!

Dont Be Shy

Stores and restaurants near campus often offer discounts with a valid student ID. If you cant find any established deals, dont be afraid to ask if theres a student discount — the worst they can do is say no.

In addition, dont be apprehensive about checking out campus activities. On-campus events like movie nights, BBQs and performances are usually free (or cheap), fun and a great way to get to know your fellow students. Even better, sometimes you can get a free meal out of it!

Get Organized

In the end, getting organized may be able to save you the most money.

Did you know that fewer than 40 percent of college students graduate within four years? As tuition will probably be your most costly expense, carefully plan your classes and try to graduate as soon as you can. Make sure you prioritize mandatory classes over fun classes and create backup plans in case a class you need fills up. Doing so can eliminate tens of thousands of dollars off your college bill.

In addition, keep track of all of your expenses and know how much youre spending each month. By understanding what youre spending your money on, you can begin to cut out unnecessary expenses and think of ways to save money on the purchases you really need.

Luckily, organizing your finances doesnt need to be hard or time-consuming. To get a big-picture look at how your accounts are doing, try connecting your accounts to Credit Karma. By using the My Spending feature, you can track your cash flow and see a breakdown of where your money is going, sorted into different categories. In addition, these four apps are also great ways to manage your finances on the go.

Bottom Line:

When money is scarce, there are always ways to cut back. By following these eight unconventional tips, you should be able to free up some money to spend on more important things…like presents for your local Huffington Post blogger. Kidding!

This content is for entertainment and information purposes only. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the authors themselves, and not necessarily Credit Karma, its affiliates, or its business partners. Efforts have been made to present information that is up to date and accurate at the time of its initial publication. However, neither the author nor Credit Karma make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided.

About the Author: Jenna Lee is Credit Karmas Social Media Manager. When shes not working, you can probably find her trying out a new dessert recipe or learning/perfecting any musical instrument she can get her hands on. Say hi @leejennaa!

5 Holiday Spending Mistakes That Can Kill Your Credit

Maxing out your cards. In truth, getting anywhere near your credit limit is a bad idea. Your credit card utilization rate accounts for nearly a third of your credit score, says Charles Tran, founder of This percentage of the credit youve used compared to how much you have available should be at 30% or less, and if youre actively trying to raise your score, you should aim for as little as 10%.

This holds true even if you dont revolve a balance, Tran says. Even if you religiously pay off your credit card balance in full, the snapshot that the credit report captures might show a high balance, which has a negative impact, he says.

Loading up a low-limit card. This is a corollary to not maxing out your cards because your credit is scored based on both your per-card as well as aggregate limits, explains John Ulzheimer, credit expert at The closer your balance is to your credit limit, the lower your credit scores, he says. If you put $1,000 on a card with a $1,500 limit, that looks much worse than putting the same amount on a card with a $15,000 limit, he says, even though the amount youre spending and the total amount of credit you have available hasnt changed.

Ulzheimer notes this is even more important if you plan to pay off your holiday purchases over a number of months, because this maximizes the amount of time youll have a harmfully high ratio on the card.

Mitchell’s Money Minute: Saving Money

Mitchells Money Minute: Saving Money

5 ways to trigger your money-saving reflex

We all know that feeling; you’re at the store and you see something you want but just don’t need. You try to rationalize the expense, arguing in your mind that you deserve to treat yourself or can make up for it by not eating out this week or by skipping your Starbucks lattes for a while. The thing is, not all of us are as good at balancing our wants and needs as we could be. Rather than being caught on the spot determining whether you can afford a purchase, here are some tricks that will trigger your money-saving reflex for you. With these saving money tips, you’ll be able to prioritize your long-term savings goals over that short-term, flashy expense.

5 Ways to Empower Your Savings Habits

1. Create a Paper Chain to Manage Debt or Grow Savings

Get Rich Slowly published an article by a woman who created a paper chain to tackle her debt. Each ring represented $100 she owed. As she worked to pay down expenses, she would tear apart the chain and watch it grow smaller. This physical representation made her progress more noticeable, effectively increasing her satisfaction and motivating her to diminish her debt.

This same tactic can be used for saving money, as well. If your goal is to grow a $1,000 emergency savings fund, adding to a decorative chain can help you find pride in a tangible accomplishment. By the end, you could have a window decoration for your room that represents the positive savings moves you’ve made. Keeping that chain somewhere you’ll see it each day will further motivate you to add or tear off rings as you go along.

2. Build a Vision Board

Pinterest is a popular social media tool for building inspiration and idea boards. If you’re an active user of this site, building a vision board for your financial goals can be a wise motivator when it comes to saving money. If you don’t use Pinterest regularly, I’d recommend a physical poster board to place in your bedroom or office to keep you motivated on a daily basis.

So what are your goals in the next year? What about in five? Stopping to define your goals and envision your future can empower you financially. Do you want a home of your own someday? A car that is fully paid off? This exercise can help you prioritize your goals and, thus, focus on what truly matters to you.

3. Write Your Goals on Your Credit Card or Wallet

There’s no better way to remind yourself of your savings goals then to put them right in your hand at the moment you need to think of them most. Say you’re still $850 away from your goal of saving $1,000: Write down that number on a post-it and wrap it around your card. The next time you’re tempted to buy something you don’t need, you’ll see your goal written out and can subtract from that amount whatever you decide not to buy. Walk away from those $50 shoes? If you put that $50 toward your savings goal instead, now your post-it can reflect the $800 that’s left.

4. Pay Yourself Every Time You Decide to Save

Whenever you make good on your promise to save, divide the amount saved to pay yourself a bit for following through. Saving money shouldn’t necessitate denying yourself — that’s just a recipe for disaster later on. Rather than completely withholding from immediate expenses, you could also take the $50 you decided to save on shoes, credit $40 to your account and give yourself $10 to spend however you choose.

It might take a bit longer to reach your savings goal, but this strategy will help keep you satisfied in the process. Set a hard percentage — in this case, 20 percent — and credit yourself that balance as a reward for saving on an expense you really didn’t need.

5. Opt for Another Low-Cost Option

In the same vein, saving money shouldn’t be associated with the pain of denying yourself some fun and enjoyment. If you decide to not buy those expensive concert tickets, go to a free or cheaper show instead. Don’t completely hold out on the things you enjoy. Choose a low-cost alternative to the expense you avoided to prevent resentfulness and to help maintain your resolve to save.

Which monthly bills affect your credit score?

Heres the truth about your credit score: There are more things that can hurt it than help it, and theres some confusion about how that works.

A recent survey from TransUnion asked consumers about a few common bills and whether or not theyre regularly reported to the major credit reporting agencies. Generally, things like rent payments and utility bills arent reported to credit bureaus, so you dont get good credit for making those payments on time. However, if one of those bills is overdue, it might end up hurting your credit, if the company you owe sends the bill to a debt collector.

If you thought paying your rent or electric bills on time helped your credit standing, youre not alone: 48% of those who responded to TransUnion Interactives online survey said they thought rent payments were regularly reported to credit bureaus. Even more confusion surrounded other bills: 53% thought cable and internet payments are regularly reported, 54% thought their utility payments are reported, and 52% thought credit bureaus had record of their cellphone payments. Thats not the case.

At the same time, if you fail to pay those bills, your credit score may be in jeopardy. Collection accounts have a negative impact on your credit standing, and even after you pay the debt, your credit will continue to suffer. The damage will be short-lived if the collection account is an outlier on your credit report, but multiple debts in collection will really hurt your score, and making on-time cellphone bill payments wont directly improve your credit standing. Unfortunately, you dont benefit from doing the right thing, but if you screw up, youre in trouble.

The TransUnion data is based on a survey of 1,001 US consumers ages 18 through 64 who rent their current living unit. Even though the respondents are exclusively renters, its surprising that only 29% knew mortgage payments are regularly reported to credit bureaus and, as a result, have a significant impact on credit scores.

Paying rent on time may not be your path to a high credit score (though its a data point the credit scoring industry is looking at as a potential risk indicator), but its still an important priority, so you avoid late fees and dealing with debt collectors. If youre looking to improve your credit, there are plenty of strategies to consider, and its a good idea to track your progress by getting two of your free credit scores on

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Why It’s Important to Get Your Credit Score Even If You’re Warren Buffett

Theres a reason why the vast majority of articles about the importance of credit scores are targeted at folks who have either credit challenges or no credit at all. If youre a young person who hasnt had a chance to establish a credit history or if you have experienced some financial setbacks that have harmed your credit, tips on boosting that number quickly are most welcome.

Thats because a credit score is a big factor lenders consider when theyre deciding whether or not to loan you money to buy a house or a car or even offer you a credit card. For example, Simmons Bank (one of the featured cards on our site) offers one of the lowest rate cards in the country, currently 7.25 percent. But, as you might guess, Simmons only approves applicants with excellent credit.

But do ultra-wealthy folks like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have to worry about credit scores, too? OK, maybe those guys dont need to fret, but there are still plenty of reasons why the wealthy among us should pay close attention to their credit score, which is determined by a variety of factors, including the timeliness of bill payments and the total amount of money someone owes. Unfortunately, no amount of money can help increase your score as your income does not influence how high your score is. :)

Here are just a few reasons why the well-heeled shouldnt ignore their score:

Getting the Best Rates

People can argue about the traits and qualities required to get rich: Vision, determination, hard work and luck are usually somewhere in the mix. But one that is definitely not common is financial carelessness. Lets face it, acquiring wealth generally entails being smart about earning, saving and spending money.

And that includes getting the best interest rate possible whenever there is a need to borrow money — and yes, plenty of wealthy people have mortgages (think jumbo mortgages) and even car loans. Part of the equation for lenders who determine the sort of interest rate theyll offer you is a credit score.

If you let your credit score slide, youll pay a higher interest rate. And nobody, rich or poor, wants to do that.

Insurance Premiums

Another area where a poor credit score will harm the wallets of financially secure people is with insurance premiums. Simply put, just like with mortgages and car loans, bad credit translates into higher rates. Rates are almost double for consumers with the worst credit compared to the rates offered to consumers with the best credit, says Amber Stubbs, managing editor at If you think you dont need to worry about your credit because you have no need to finance anything, think again! And since wealthy people tend to have greater insurance needs, they can certainly expect some sticker shock if they allow their credit to slip.

Business Needs

Rags-to-riches stories are as American as apple pie. Often, a central piece of that tale includes starting a business. And once someone has achieved a level of financial comfort, its unlikely that entrepreneurial bug will just disappear.

When thats the case, a good credit score can really matter. For a bank or some other financial institution to lend you money for a business venture, theyre going to want to be sure that you are low-risk. And, unless you have established business credit, your lender will likely want to review your personal credit.

A good credit score does just that. Investment opportunities may present themselves where a wealthy person might not want to put all their own money into the venture, says Dr. Mary Ann Campbell, a certified financial planner and president of A good credit score allows loans at a very attractive interest rate (and doesnt tie up your cash flow).

Getting a Job

Upper middle class and wealthy people usually dont just lounge on a beach day-after-day. High-powered careers and job changes often accompany financial success. More and more these days, the ability to get that next job can include having a solid credit history.

Indeed, according to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, nearly half of employers conduct a credit background check on potential hires. While its true that prospective employers have to get permission to examine a job applicants credit report, would you really want to tell them no? Especially when some employers want to take a look at your credit to make a judgment about how well you can be expected to manage company finances.

Even if you are wealthy and have good credit, it still makes sense to keep a watchful eye on your credit. It only takes one mistake to significantly hurt your credit, says Amber Stubbs of If you suddenly go (for example) from excellent to good credit, you could feel the impact sooner than you might think.

Where to Get Your Score

The good news is that its easier and cheaper (yes, rich folks like to save money too!) to get your credit score than its ever been. Sites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and Wise Piggy are truly free and dont require a credit card. These sites also typically include tips on how to increase your score.

On a related note, if you havent obtained your credit report in over a year, then you should also visit to get free copies of your reports from the three major credit bureaus. Good luck!

Curtis Arnold, a nationally recognized consumer advocate, is the founder of, which provides ratings of prepaid cards and secured credit cards. He also founded almost 20 years ago.

FICO update expected to improve credit scores


Fair Isaac Corp., commonly known for the widely used FICO credit score, is revising its scoring formula. Experts predict the result will improve credit scores for some groups of consumers.

Patrick Stoy, President of Marketing Consulting Mortgage in Wilmington, said consumers will notice three major changes to the latest generation of FICO, known as FICO 9; medical debts, non-traditional credit checks and the removal of settled collections.

The first is that medical debt will not carry as much weight anymore, Stoy said. Right now if you have medical collection, it can really hurt your score because of that one thing that was out of your control.

Previously, all collection debts were equally damaging to a consumers credit score, regardless of the type.

Consumers who let one or more of their accounts fall into collection would see their credit score knocked down significantly even if they paid or settled their debt. However, FICO 9 will ignore any collections that have a zero balance even though they will still appear visible on consumers credit reports for seven years.

Stoy said the last noticeable change to the score will affect a large number of young people freshly out of college who have not built up any form of credit. He said the older FICO model perceived a borrowers lack of credit to be a red flag, but now lenders will be able to track nontraditional methods of credit that many young people already use.

Now, we can actually start putting trade lines on the credit bureaus including your insurance, cell phone and the other normal things that people have as soon as they come out of college, Stoy explained.

Stoy said its more important than ever now to pay bills on time because FICO will take this into account when monitoring non-traditional credit lines.

The credit scores in almost any industry effect what kind of interest rate youll get, which of course is what your payment is, Stoy said. So, an interest rate is really just a risk factor. The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate youre going to qualify for.

He hopes the newest generation of FICO will lead to more qualified home-buyers in Wilmington and predicts consumers wont notice any changes to their scores until at least spring 2015.

Copyright 2014WECT. All rights reserved.

How to Improve a Poor Credit Score

by John Ulzheimer, Credit Expert for

Its one of the most common questions regarding credit scores and indicates that you understand the considerable value of having solid credit. How in the world can I improve a poor credit score? The answer, despite what you may have already read on the web, isnt as simple as pay your bills on time.

Paying your bills on time and thus avoiding any derogatory credit reporting entries is a great way to build or improve your credit scores. But, that only goes so far. In the FICO scoring system, paying your bills on time accounts for 35 percent of the points in your scores. In the VantageScore credit scoring system, paying your bills on time accounts for 40 percent of the points in your scores.

What this all means is that even if you pay your bills on time, all the time, you still have to figure out a way to earn the remaining 60+ percent of points in your credit scores. And if you are in score improvement mode then simply paying your bills on time isnt going to help much. Once derogatory information hits your credit reports it doesnt just go away. Most derogatory items can remain on your credit reports for seven years. Some derogatory items can remain for 10 years. And, a few more derogatory items can remain on your credit reports indefinitely.

One Size Fits All Advice Doesnt Work with Credit Scores

The best and only way to improve your scores is to identify why they are lower in the first place. We all dont have a 600 FICO or VantageScore because of the same reasons. There are different paths to lower credit scores so the one size fits all advice simply doesnt work here.

Yes, drawing a line in the sand and paying your bills on time from this point forward is a great place to start, assuming you have up to seven years to wait and your scores are poor because of derogatory credit entries. If youve never missed a payment in your life then paying your bills on time is great, but its not going to improve your credit scores.

Focus on Your Score Factors

A better way to strategize your score improvement path is to listen to what the credit scores are telling you. Each time you receive a credit score it is accompanied by up to four score factors. These factors identify the top four reasons why your scores arent higher. They remove any ambiguity about why your credit scores are poor and what you can do to improve them.

I can tell you that most of the time the fastest way to improve your credit scores is by lowering or eliminating credit card debt. And, that doesnt mean paying it in full by the due date. That means paying it in full before it hits your credit reports and that means paying it off by the statement closing date, which is a full 21 days before the due date.

Your debt load is worth 30 percent of the points in your FICO scores and roughly 34 percent of the points in your VantageScore credit scores. That means the amount of debt on your credit reports is almost as influential to your credit scores as whether or not youre actually making the payments. And while your credit card balances arent worth that entire amount, theyre certainly worth the lions share of the points represented in the debt category.

When it comes to credit card debt your target utilization ratio should be less than 10 percent of your credit limits on as few credit cards as possible. That means if you have $5,000 of credit card debt showing up on your credit reports then you really need to have over $50,000 of available credit across all of your cards. Keeping that debt-to-limit ratio below 10 percent will certainly help your credit scores. And if one month you know youre going to incur a large balance, perhaps because of multiple large purchases, then you can rest assured that the impact to your scores will only last as long as it takes for you to pay off/down the debt and your credit reports to be updated, which is generally once per month.

This post originally appeared on John Ulzheimer is a nationally recognized expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. He is twice Fair Credit Reporting Act certified by the credit industrys trade association and has been an expert witness in over 140 credit related cases to date. Since 2004 John has been interviewed and published over 3,000 times on the topics of personal finance and consumer credit. Formerly of Equifax and FICO, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.

Bad Credit Auto Lender Answers “What are Auto Title Loans?” in New Article

The trusted auto lender, Complete Auto Loans, helps buyers learn about auto title loans.

Seattle, WA (PRWEB) November 07, 2014

Many consumers find themselves in need of a loan and using a car as collateral to get the needed loan may seem like a good idea. The bad credit auto lender, Complete Auto Loans, shares what auto title loans are and whether or not they are a good option.

Get approved for a car loan in as little as 60 seconds:

“Auto title loans also charge high interest rates, and they are not typically regulated in the same way that other parts of the lending industry are. An auto title loan might have an interest rate of up to 20%, making it even more difficult to stay on top of your payments,” says Complete Auto Loans of some things to watch out for with auto title loans.

To help consumers save even more, Complete Auto Loans also offers an online credit score tool that has saved many borrowers thousands of dollars. Upon completing the 60-second car loan application on their website, consumers will be given yet another chance to save thousands of dollars on their loan. For more information, visit Complete Auto Loans’ website.

About Complete Auto Loans

Complete Auto Loans is a Seattle-based company that is dedicated to helping their customers acquire national car financing. They design and develop customized no credit financing, bad and good credit loans. Voted the best for Quality Customer Service and Best National Service by thousands of people, their finance experts focus on providing their customers with the following: information and tools available for different loan offers, how to choose the best loan that fits their budget, as well as related eligibility guidelines.

For the original version on PRWeb visit:

Millions of Consumers to Gain Access to Credit Scores

Millions of consumers are about to gain access to their credit scores.

Citigroup, the fourth-largest credit-card lender by purchase volume in the US, is partnering with Fair Isaac Co., the provider of the credit score most widely used by lenders, to provide its customers with their FICO score beginning in January.

Consumers with Citi-branded credit cards will be able to see the FICO score that Citi has for them–and that it uses to make lending decisions–on their online accounts.

Citi is the largest credit-card issuer so far to join a program that Fair Isaac, often called FICO, launched last year. Participating lenders agree to provide the exact FICO score they have on their customers. Prior to this program, consumers weren’t able to view those scores, unless they were denied for a mortgage.

FICO says its credit score will be available on some 32 million credit accounts by the end of this year, up from eight million when the program started in November with Barclaycard, a unit of Barclays , and First National Bank of Omaha, a unit of First National of Nebraska.

Since then, additional lenders that have signed on include Discover Financial Services ; SLM Corp., the largest private student-loan lender, better known as Sallie Mae; and Pentagon Federal Credit Union, the third-largest credit union.

The moves come as the federal government has been upping pressure on lenders to provide credit scores to their customers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sent a letter to the largest credit-card issuers in February urging them to take this step. It has since been in discussion with several issuers to begin providing this service.

On Friday, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to help protect consumers’ financial security. In a speech at the CFPB, the President expressed his support for credit-score transparency.

For the most part, the score disclosed by Citi will only help borrowers to know where they stand with that lender. FICO scores can vary by lender, in part because lenders may be pulling the FICO score from a different credit-reporting firm. There are three main firms: Equifax , Experian and TransUnion.

Moreover, more than 45 types of FICO scores are available to lenders, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at, a credit management  site, and a former manager at FICO.  FICO has various scores that lenders can choose among based on their preferences and for different purposes. There are FICO scores that assign more weight to how consumers manage their credit-card debt, others that focus more on car-loan debt and others on home-loan debt.

Lenders use FICO scores in 90% of consumer- and mortgage-loan decisions, according to a study this year by CEB TowerGroup, a financial-services research firm.

Credit-card issuers check the credit scores of their existing cardholders to determine whether to increase or decrease their credit line and whether to change their interest rate.

Customers who have continuous access to their credit score are likely to notice if they are victims of identity theft. For example, if fraudsters open accounts in their name, rack up debt and don’t pay it, the victims’ credit score will decline.

While people could check their credit report for such evidence, few do. Fewer than one in five Americans check their credit report in any given year, according to the CFPB.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified John Ulzheimer as president of consumer education at, a previous employer.


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