USC Credit Union Blog

USC Credit Union Blog

Smart ways to save money at school without ruining your college fun — or going hungry

Posted by Cal on Oct 17, 2014 3:27:20 PM


Don’t worry – this isn’t going to be one of those posts that tell you you’re a big boy/girl now, and have to stop being irresponsible with money.

I won’t tell you to stop buying overpriced lattes, $11 nachos at midnight, or comfy college sweatshirts because those things are largely what college is all about.

What I will tell you is that the post-college years can really stink when you’re broke. Actually, worse than broke — so far in debt that you feel like you’re working for nothing but your bills.

So here’s how to give your future finances a fighting chance, and get through college without making those clichéd money mistakes of running up credit card debt and blowing through all the summer job money you earned folding shirts at The Gap…

Learn to beat the system

You don’t have to follow the “rules” at college when it comes to spending money. For starters, don’t buy your textbooks in the school bookstore. Don’t pay for the meal plan (unless you actually think you’ll like/eat the food). And avoid joining clubs and organizations that are notorious for spending a ton of money, and expect you to do the same. Here’s what to do instead:

  • Consider textbook rental services like Chegg.com or see if there’s a digital copy of the text available. Ask around or Google for people who might be selling those same books used for a fraction of the price.
  • On the food tip, set some limits and boundaries for yourself and stick with them. If you must have your Chai Tea and Friday night pizza, have it, but make it a rule that you’ll prep your own meals/snacks on most days. And when it comes to grocery shopping, it’s a good idea to channel your mom and start paying attention to sales, coupons, and adding those loyalty cards to your keychain. Dorky, yes, but those savings add up.
  • As long as we’re talking coupons, if you’re not signed up for Groupon and LivingSocial alerts for your college town, you’re missing out on discounts at local restaurants, salons, and other budget-draining activities. Repeat after me: Paying full price is for suckers.
  • Don’t join any frats or clubs right away. Meet people, hang out with them, go to their parties, and then pick which ones are worth a real investment of your time (and money).

Take advantage of your student status.

A lot of people in the world feel bad for poor, starving college students, so go with that. In other words, whenever you’re making a purchase, looking into travel options, planning an outing, whatever, whip out the ol’ student ID and see if it can get you some money off.

Here’s another thing to do right now: Sign up for Amazon Student if you like to order stuff online. It’s free for 6 months, and then $40 for the rest of the year, but you’ll get all the same perks as Amazon Prime customers (free 2-day shipping, which is epic when you really need something to get to you quickly, free streaming of TV shows, movies, music, free Kindle book downloads, etc.).

Speaking of TV… You don’t need one.

Or if you already split one with your roommate, don’t waste your money paying for any cable service of any sort. Pick 2 of your favorite streaming services (i.e. Netflix and Hulu Plus… plus, you’re already getting Amazon’s free stuff, remember?), and keep your entertainment bill below $20 a month.

If you ask nicely, you can piggyback on your dad’s HBO Go or other cable on-demand subscriptions, even your little brother’s WWE Network if you like that sort of thing.

On the rare occasion when you must watch something live, like a football game or the season premiere of The Walking Dead, it shouldn’t be hard to find a place on campus – a common area or another friend’s room – where you can watch it.

As for music… You’re not still buying music, right? Stream Pandora, Spotify, or iTunes Radio on your university’s free WiFi, just don’t pay for it.

Stop being lazy

You know how to really avoid the so-called Freshman 15? If you’re schooling in a big city, stop paying for all those cab rides because you couldn’t get up a half hour earlier for your early class, and walk instead. Or at least walk to the nearest public transit station.

The same goes for when you venture off campus with your friends. Exception: If it’s late and dark and you have no ride, then splurge on a cab or Uber in the name of safety. Otherwise, hoof it.

Don’t be a super senior

While we’re on the topic of laziness, enjoy sleeping in as a treat, not as a regular part of your routine. Pull all-nighters when necessary. In other words, don’t tank your classes or ditch your study group in favor of sleep because nothing will hurt your financial big picture more than having to spend an extra semester (or three) in college because you had to repeat chemistry and economics.

The biggest lesson to remember is this: Playing the part of a broke college student by practicing a frugal lifestyle at least some of the time will help you transition into the role of less-broke graduate.

No one expects you to be an investment guru or extreme couponer at 18, but building good habits early on will mean less stress later

Source: Dawn Papandrea

Papandrea, Dawn. "Save Money without Ruining Your College Fun -- Bargaineering.com." Bargaineering. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.

Savings is made even easier with the USC Student Account Package.  As a member of the Trojan financial family, we want to make sure that you start your financial future off on the right foot!

If you’re a USC student, USC Credit Union offers this basic checking account to you FREE while in school. It’s simple to open and simple to keep!

The Student Checking Account requires $0 minimum initial deposit, and offers:

  • No service charge
  • 120 free checks
  • Free cashier’s checks/money orders
  • Free access to non-proprietary ATMs (up to $10/month)
  • Free incoming wire fees (up to 3 per year, then $5 per wire)
  • One-time, lifetime membership fee of only $9
  • Savings account ($1 minimum balance) required for membership

To learn more and open a new student account, click below!

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Topics: Students, college, usc credit union, usc, financial future, savings, living with debt, join a credit union, new account, student account package

Financial Capability and the Young: We Are Not Doing Enough

Posted by Cal on Oct 13, 2014 3:58:47 PM

1 in 5 American students do not exceed a baseline of proficiency in applying their financial knowledge to everyday situations. In other words, young Americans struggle to understand the most basic of financial concepts, documents, and transactions that are central to personal financial management. 

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Topics: usc credit union, usc, financial education, education, seminars, financial education seminars, financial capability, events

ATM, Overdraft Fees Surge to Record Highs

Posted by Cal on Oct 9, 2014 3:50:05 PM

Fees for using out-of-network ATMs rose 5% over the past year and are up 23% over the past five years, according to Bankrate.com’s 17th annual checking survey. The average cost to consumers going outside their network is now $4.35 per transaction, a new high, and the eighth consecutive record-breaking year.

The average ATM surcharge jumped 7% to $2.77 per transaction, also a record high. The average surcharge has increased for 10 consecutive years. The most common fee is $3. Every institution Bankrate surveyed charges non-customers for usage.

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Topics: Credit Unions, credit, usc credit union, usc, overdraft fees, atm fee, join, surcharge, atm, join usc credit union, no withdrawal charges, no fees, fee

What About Financial Education in College?

Posted by Cal on Oct 1, 2014 10:12:00 AM

More good news on the financial education front! The Council of Graduate Schools is pushing for universities nationwide to step up when it comes to financial education for students. Fifteen institutions are taking part in a 3-year project to “enhance the financial literacy of graduate and undergraduate students.”

This project is coming just in time. Student loan debt is surpassing $1 trillion, and many students have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.

Sonya Britt, an associate professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State College of Human Ecology, says,

“Most of the students who enter college don’t get financial literacy courses when they’re in high school, so many students aren’t familiar with basic money management skills such as making payments and the awareness of how fast credit card debt accumulates. There’s a lot of need but not a lot of resources for college students.”

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Topics: Financial Literacy, Students, Debt, student debt, finances, credit, usc credit union, usc, financial education

Retirement Saving Options to Consider

Posted by Alexa on Sep 15, 2014 12:21:00 PM

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When it comes to retirement savings, you have options to consider. Here is a list of some of those options and information that can help you make the best decision. It’s USC Credit Union’s goal to be your financial partner for life and to empower you to own your future. Let’s get started!

Traditional IRA
An IRA is an Individual Retirement Account. Deposits to a traditional IRA are not taxed and your contributions will grow “tax-deferred,” meaning you will pay taxes on the money when you withdraw it.
• Income limits: Anyone with earned income (younger than 70½) can contribute.

• Tax-deductible? Yes, on both state and federal returns for the year you make the contributions.

• Withdrawals: Qualified distributions can begin at 59½, but the first distribution cannot occur until
five years after the first contribution. Also, contrbutions (but not earnings) can be withdrawn penalty- and tax-free anytime.

• Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): Begin at age 70½ 

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Topics: Retirement Planning, savings, retirement, Traditional IRA

Friendly Credit Unions Are Now 100 Million Members Strong

Posted by Alexa on Sep 8, 2014 1:52:00 PM

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There are now 100 million credit union members across the U.S., the Credit Union National Association announced Tuesday. Combined, credit unions have $1.1 trillion in assets. And credit unions are attracting millennials at a rapid pace, which is good news for the future.

But even if they are no longer a tiny corner of the banking universe, credit unions remain small when compared to commercial banks, which hold $14.8 trillion in assets. Despite their rapid growth, credit unions still represent only 7.4 percent of banking assets. To put things in perspective, JP Morgan Chase (JPM) and Bank of America (BAC) have combined assets of $4.5 trillion: two banks have four times the assets of all the nation's credit unions combined.

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Topics: Credit Unions, credit, usc credit union, usc, join a credit union, member

How Much Is Too Much To Spend on Your Hobbies?

Posted by Alexa on Sep 3, 2014 10:50:00 AM

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Thanks in part to the time I spent serving in the Army, I have tons of friends with unusual hobbies. Friends who skydive every weekend, with hundreds of jumps under their belts. Helicopter aviators who are learning how to fly airplanes. Endorphin junkies who register for triathlons and adventure races every chance they get.

On the more sedentary side, my parents collect wine and have a cellar full of bottles. And I've been taking guitar lessons for years. But there's a problem with all of these hobbies: the cost.

All the fun pastimes are expensive, or so it seems. Army officer and adventure racer Robert Kurtts agrees. "Adventure races and triathlons not only have entrance fees," he says, "they also have the cost to travel to the race and stay overnight before an early morning race start."

Those entrance fees can range from $20 for a short local race to more than $500 for a national or international class event. Beyond that, Kurtts notes, some races are gear-intensive, and all the necessary equipment can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Kimberly Paine, aka Misfit Merida of the Providence Roller Derby team, says that her sport is putting unexpected pressure on her home life. "Gear, dues, insurance, after parties ... the expected and unexpected costs of playing roller derby have strained our wallets and our marriage," she says. "One pair of skates can cost between $300 and $600, and a set of wheels can cost over $100. The average roller derby player spends about $600 a year on her favorite pastime."

Hobbies like these can get quite costly, and that's not even taking into account the value of a person's time.

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Topics: Retirement Planning, budget, hobby spending, financial planning

3 Ways 20-Somethings Can Get Debt-Free

Posted by Alexa on Sep 1, 2014 10:18:00 AM

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Getting debt-free in your 20s can be more than just a dream. It can become your reality if you are willing to work hard, pay your debt obligations as agreed and spend less than you make.

With planning and willpower, following these guidelines can help see you through to your goal.

1. Know Your Budget

Before you can make a plan for paying down debt, get a handle on your monthly budget. How much are you making each month? What are your current monthly expenses? How much are you paying toward your debt obligations each month?

Are there quick ways you can slash your spending? Visit the public library for free Internet access and free books and movies. Stay in and cook more and eat out less. Make your coffee at home.

Apply the money you save to paying down debt.

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Topics: Students, Debt, student debt, credit, usc credit union, usc, budget

Unable to Pay Off Debt?

Posted by Alexa on Aug 27, 2014 9:34:00 AM

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A look at two different methods of paying off debt: the Snowball Method and the Avalanche Method. Click "read More" to watch. 

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Topics: Debt, usc credit union, usc, living with debt

It's Never Too Early to Prepare for Retirement. Start Planning Today!

Posted by Alexa on Aug 22, 2014 11:30:00 AM

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Generally speaking, financial experts say you’ll need 70% of your annual pre-retirement income in order to maintain your standard of living in retirement. That statement may have you wondering when you should begin saving, and the simple answer is now. As with any big project, it’s easy to become overwhelmed when you look at the big picture. However, by breaking your retirement savings goal into manageable steps no matter when you start, you’ll find that the process becomes less intimidating. In fact, armed with information you gather along the way, we even propose that the process can be an exciting adventure! It’s USC Credit Union’s goal to be your financial partner for life and to empower you to own your future. Let’s get started!

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Topics: Retirement Planning, savings, retirement, future planning, Investment

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