26
Jan

On Choosing a Major…

Once you start college, the #1 question you will be asked is ‘what is your major’?  Your parents, and every other adult on the face of the planet, seem to think you should know exactly what it is you’re going to do in college and the rest of your life.  Silly people.

But really, it is a big decision; one that deserves some thought.

My Experience
I majored in Marketing…  And I now regret it. There, I’ve said it.  What a weight off my shoulders!   :P

I chose Marketing during the second half of my sophomore year because I figured that it would get me more money.  I didn’t really know anything about it, and it sounded kind of interesting- that was about it.  Thinking back, I really can’t believe how little thought I gave this decision.  I originally started out as an Elementary Education major because I love teaching and working with kids. I switched after deciding that teachers are underpaid and overworked; and the demand for new teachers in my area was very low.  Seeing as I’ve already made this mistake, and hindsight is 20/20, I suppose I could tell you about a few of my ‘should haves’.

So how can you find a major that’s right for you?

First, don’t panic!  Ha, I’m serious.  It’s okay if you don’t have your major chosen within your first year of college.  It’s a good idea to take a wide variety of classes to get a feel for what you like for the first semester or two.  Hopefully that will make your decision a bit easier as well.

Do something you enjoy.  This should be obvious, but a lot people may need to do some searching before they find something they really want to do.  This was my mistake; while marketing may be right for some people, it definitely is not right for me. I would seriously recommend reading What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles, and Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger.  These books are both incredibly helpful when it comes to choosing a career path or finding a job.

Pretend that you already have the degree and you need to find a job. See what kind of jobs are available where you want to live, how many there are, how much experience they want, how much they pay, etc.  This will give you a better idea of what it’s going to be like around graduation time.

*Note: If I had done this in college I would have realized that every entry-level job in “marketing” in my town was a sales position, I would have switched majors so fast my advisor’s head would’ve been spinning. Now I’m stuck with a degree I don’t want to put to use (unless it’s within my own business, or I move).

Get experience.  I don’t mean a full time job.  Volunteer.  Get an internship.  Both will be more valuable than you can imagine.  It is really the best way to truly discover the job and figure out if it’s right for you.  Another added bonus is that both look great on your resume! Check out InternWeb if you’re looking for an internship; or VolunteerMatch if you’d like to find a volunteer opportunity in your area.

Make a game plan.  I know people are always pushing this, but seriously.  It really works.  Where do you really want to be in 10 years?  Most importantly, how are you going to get there?  Having a vision of your life after college will really help you out, even if you don’t follow it to a T.  Not only will it help you get to where you want to be career-wise, but it’ll probably help you avoid financial fumbles after graduation.

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31
Dec

Food – How to Keep it Cheap and Healthy

Buying healthy and cheap food can be really difficult. Especially during college when you have very little time, and probably a very tiny refrigerator.

We’ve all heard of the terrible Freshman Fifteen, and while we try to avoid it, we just can’t figure out how to make it work with our space and schedules.  I fell into this trap, and ended up gaining a total of about 40 lbs during my 4 years of college.  Luckily,  I’ve managed to lose all of that weight in the past year.  It’s definitely best if you never let yourself get in a situation like that.  The good news?

It’s possible to eat healthy and still be frugal.

food.jpg

These foods are all pretty fast, cheap, and easy:

  • Tuna – It has a lot of protein, it’s fairly cheap, and all you need is a can opener.  If you don’t like it by itself, try mixing in some mustard or a little salad dressing.
  • Eggs – During college I discovered that you can make scrambled eggs in the microwave.  It’s very easy and very fast.  They’ll cook in about 1 min, just be careful not to cook them for too long!  Hard boiled eggs are also easy, and make for fast breakfasts.  Just make a bunch and keep them in your fridge.
  • Vegetables – I prefer fresh vegetables, but if you don’t have space in your refrigerator you can always go with frozen or canned.  All are fairly inexpensive.
  • Potatoes, Rice, and Bread –It’s a good idea to go for brown rice and whole grain breads when buying these things.  Otherwise a bag of potatoes is really cheap, and you can easily microwave it for a quick baked potato.  Just don’t forget to poke it with a fork or knife first or it could explode.
  •  Oatmeal- If you like oatmeal, then you’re in luck.  A large tub of plain quick cooking oats is really cheap, and super easy to make.  Add some fruit for better flavor.
  • Bananas and Oranges – Both of these fruits are fairly cheap, and you can easily just bring them to class with you.
  • Dairy Products – While dairy products aren’t that cheap, they are good for you, and they are affordable in moderation.  I always keep skim milk on hand, and occasionally some yogurt.
  • Cereal – Cereal can be fairly cheap, and is pretty healthy as long as you don’t get the really sugary stuff.

What else can you do to save?

  • Stop drinking soda. Water is the healthiest and cheapest way to go. Buy yourself a water bottle that you can refill.
  • Stop eating out.  Not only is it bad for your waistline, but for your wallet too.  When it comes to getting fast food or delivery, just say no!
  • Learn to cook.  Once you get out of dorms and get more space, this will be a huge money saver!  Keep an eye out for some good healthy recipes from yours truly.
  • Be an example.  Help reinforce good habits for your friends.  Don’t give in when they want to go spend money.  This brings up an important point…

Dealing with the peer pressure of spending is probably the most difficult thing to deal with in college.

My friends were always shopping.  If not that, then they were going out or ordering delivery.  This is a bad habit to get into.  Don’t let yourself fall into it.  I am definitely going to write on the peer pressures of spending for later.  I think it deserves an entire post!

So, back on topic now.  What do you do to eat healthy?  If you have a favorite recipe or idea for cheap and healthy meals, share it with us!

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Photo credit: Gullig

16
Dec

Financial Organization- How Do You Do It?

I have a confession to make.

I am an organizational freak with my finances.

I over-organize everything when it comes to money.  I have so many charts, budgets, graphs, and lists; you would not believe it. I spend entirely too much time thinking about money.  So what’s my point? Feeling organized helps me stay motivated.  Looking at the numbers helps to remind me of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.  I really like making visuals that show my progress.  Seeing how far I’ve come already is a little self esteem booster, and helps me get motivated to make more money.

Here’s an example of one of my favorite Excel charts, created by yours truly. :)

Just click on the pic to download it!

debtreductiondlthumb.JPG

 So, do you  like to keep your finances extremely organized, or can you do without all of the charts and graphs?  What helps keep you motivated financially?

15
Dec

My 2008 FICO Scores: December is My Record High!

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty proud of myself right now.  Today I’ve been struggling with feeling like I’m getting nowhere in regards to my debt payments, and this has been a bright spot for me.  My FICO score is now 747, which is much higher than it has ever been before!  Here’s a screenshot from my account today:

myficodec.JPG

 

It’s nice to see some sort of visual confirmation (from a source other than myself) of my progress.  One of my long term goals is to keep my FICO score above 700 for at least 6 months in a row.  Now I’m half way there!  I think my next goal will be to reach a score of at least 800.

See, now I feel motivated again!  Sometimes the small things can really make a difference when it comes to how you look at things.  So next time you start feeling like you’re just treading water, just remind yourself that what you’re doing may be difficult, but it really is making a huge difference in your future!  I know I will.  Have a great day everyone! :D

11
Dec

How I’m Getting Passive Income From My Photography

Photography has always been a passion of mine, however I haven’t been able to invest in the really expensive equipment needed to make a living from my photos.  This is a problem that many photographers face; how can we make money without putting down a huge investment?

It’s also a problem for those who don’t have time to dedicate hours a day to their photography.  This is where the passive income part comes in!  Passive income usually just requires a one time investment on your part.  Once you’ve done the work, you won’t have to do anything else.  Just make money.

Golden Piano Keys
© Photographer: Jocelynbaker | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Selling your images as stock photos is absolutely the best way to generate passive income from your photos.  All you have to do is take high quality images, and submit them to stock photo sites.  Once your image is approved, you can start making money.I am registered through a couple different sites, and all of them generate different amounts of income for me.  But the one site that has generated the most sales for me (by far) is Dreamstime.I like Dreamstime because they seem to have a higher payout that some of the other sites I’ve found.  If you become an exclusive photographer through them, then you make 10% more on each sale.  The only thing that I don’t like about the site, is that the minimum payout is $100.  So you have to wait until your photos earn you that much before you get any payments.  But, that is part of passive income.  It isn’t about making a ton of extra money, it’s about earning a little here and there.  Before you know it, it really starts to add up!

11
Dec

Consolidating My Student Loans is Saving Me $110 per Month!

debt.jpgI got my student loan consolidation verification forms in the mail yesterday, and I am officially saving myself $110 per month on my loans.  Yay!!!  :D

This means I will be able to pay off the rest of my credit card debt within the next 6 months or so.  I’m so psyched about having ZERO credit card debt!  It seemed like an impossible task just a year ago, but I’ve kicked ass in the last 9 months and paid off $7,500 in non-student loan debt.

Once I’m done with my credit card debt, I am going to build up a small emergency savings fund.  After that, I am throwing everything I have at my student loans.  I am finally starting to feel like I have everything under control regarding my finances.

I found this great Debt Reduction Calculator at the Vertex42 site.  This spreadsheet gives you an excellent idea of your debt payments, including estimated pay off dates for every account!

Photo credit: Daveybot

01
Oct

Where’s Your List of Goals?

success.JPGLast year I made a list of 101 Things in 1001 Days.  That is, a list of 101 specific goals that I want to accomplish in 1001 days.  Here’s my list.  It has been a huge motivator for me in the last year, and I’m definitely planning on starting another list as soon as my 1001 days are up!  (Want to start your own list of 101 Things in 1001 Days project?  Look here to get started!)

How can just sitting down and making a list of your goals really help you to start living the life you want?

Writing your goals down will help you get a clear idea of exactly what it is you want to accomplish.  Putting it down on paper or the computer will help focus your I think you’ll be surprised at how much of an effect it has on your motivation when you are always thinking about what you want to accomplish.

Goal Setting Tips

  • Make your goals specific; write down  exactly what it is that you want to do.
  • Make them achievable.
  • Break your goals into categories.  My categories are: finances, health, hobbies, travel, work, learning, and personal growth/relationships.
  • Give yourself a time frame for accomplishment.
  • Set goals that YOU want to achieve.  Don’t make goals just because someone else thinks it’s a good idea.
  • Keep your list handy, so you will be reminded of your goals.  (Remember: Out of sight, out of mind!)
  • Revise your list if necessary.  I’ve changed quite a few of my original goals since I first made my list.  I realized that I didn’t really want to do some of them, or they just weren’t realistic goals.  Doing this is okay :)

How to Make Goals Work for You

  • Visualize yourself achieving your goal.
  • Update your progress often.
  • Tell people about it!
  • Map out your way to achievement.  Making a plan for your goals will really help.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments!
  • Just Do It.  Sometimes you just have to get tough with yourself.

What Now?

My challenge for you is to sit down and list your goals.  Make plans for achieving them, and get excited about it!  Feel free to share some of your goals here.  And feel free to ask questions.  Good luck, and have fun!

 

Good thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless they be executed.  -Ralph Waldo Emerson

10
Sep

Make $25 in Under 20 Minutes

*Updated 01/12/2009*

At the beginning of this year I opened a high-yield savings account, something that has been a goal of mine for a long time. After much research on the best high-yield savings programs, I chose to open my account with ING Direct.  Thanks to their great referral progam, I got $25 free for opening my account with $250.

To get the $25 bonus:

  • Either leave a comment with your email or use my contact form.  I will send you a referral within 1-2 days.  (Please note:  don’t type your exact email, otherwise bots will pick it up and you’ll start getting spammed!  It should look something like janedoe @ youremailserv dot whatever)
  • Once I receive your request, I’ll email you a referral link.
  • Use the referral link in the email, and complete the application.  (don’t worry about entering a promotional code; the links have that information built in)
  • Deposit a minimum of $25o when you open the account and leave it there for 30 days.
  • Get your free $25!
  • Start referring other people!

Another great thing about ING is that there is no minimum balance requirement and no annual or monthly fees. Interest on your savings account is accrued daily, compounded monthly and credited to your available balance at the end of each month.  The current Annual Percentage Yield is 2.5%.

By using one of my referral links, I will also get a $10 bonus, which will go straight into my new emergency fund.  So thank you ahead of time :)   Once you join, then you can start referring more people and earning more money!