Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Saving money, investing in good habits

One thing I will admit to anyone who asks is that I’m not great with money. Sure, I have a little in my savings account right now, but that wasn’t always the case.

Take this past fall for example; in September alone I spent almost $600. Looking at that bank statement broke me to tears. How in the WORLD had I spent that much money? What could I possibly have spent it on? The answer: complete and utter nonsense.

Having a budget is a great way to keep yourself from wasting money and makes you feel a little guilty when you do. Through a lot of trial and error, I've created a simple way to chart my spending and even save some of the money I’m making.

Here’s how it works

Start by looking at your bank statement from the last month. Categorize your spending and write down how much money you spent in each category.

Create as many or as little categories as you want, don’t be afraid to be specific. Don’t forget to include any money you receive from your parents, working a job or taking out of your savings. I suggest making a chart that looks something like this:
  • Gas: $30 
  • Groceries: $50 
  • Going Out: $25 
  • Takeout: $15 
  • Coffee: $10 
  • Necessities (books, utilities etc.): $100 
  • Total money spent $230 
  • Total money received $250
Next, estimate how much money you will receive in a certain amount of time, whether it be monthly or bi-weekly. Add this amount to the bottom of your chart so you can keep track of the money you have leftover at the end of your set time period:
    Total money made: $250
Look at the list of categories from last month. Condense, remove and adjust these categories so they’re realistic to what you can afford. Do you really need to budget in a Marshalls trip every week? Probably not. Do you need groceries? Definitely.

Taking into account the money you’ve spent in these categories in the past, set a dollar limit that you’ll allow yourself to spend in each category. For example, if you spent $50 on groceries, it’s probably a good idea to give yourself a little cushion, so set your limit to $70.

At the end of the time period, your chart should look something like this:
  • Gas: $15/$30 
  • Groceries: $70/$60 
  • Going Out: $10/$15 
  • Takeout: $5/$15 
  • Necessities: $100/$100 
  • Total money made $250 
  • Total money spent $200 
  • Total money leftover $75
With this budget in place, you should be able to save money and start good habits for when you graduate and have bills (and student loans) to pay. Get started early! If I could do one thing in my college career differently, it would be this.

— Danielle Backowski, senior mass communications major #HuskyLife

Friday, January 26, 2018

Making the most of your last semester

All of my sorority sisters know that I am the friend that leaves a party as soon as I'm ready to leave. My roommate even calls me Houdini, because my classic move is being somewhere one moment and being in bed five minutes later.

Now that I'm in my last semester, I want to make the most of it. But with classes, an internship, a job and extracurricular obligations, I'm constantly struggling to live each moment to the fullest without spreading myself too thin.

Since the first week of senior year, I've been feeling the pressure to always say yes to things. "This is your last (fill in the blank), you HAVE to go", is something I hear almost daily. I've come up with a few tricks of the trade to cram in as much fun as possible without falling asleep in my classes the next day.

Do your work EARLY

One of the easiest things to do is get your work done ahead of time, yet since my first day as a Summer Freshman it has been one of the most difficult tasks. My advice is to take it one day at a time. No, you don't have to finish that project that's due in two weeks the day it's assigned. Focus on what's due tomorrow and get it done early in the day. That way you're not stress-eating late night wings thinking about all the work you should be doing, but aren't.

Use your planner

Buying a planner at the beginning of the year always makes you feel like you have your life together. The key to actually having your life together is to USE the darn thing. Grab a cubby in the library, get your syllabi out and put every significant task or paper into your planner. Then add all of your social events.

Look at it, change it, make notes. This way you know when things are coming up and you're not scrambling at the last minute. There's nothing worse than watching Snapchats of your friends having fun while you're stuck at home because you waited until the last minute to write a ten page paper.

You don't always have to say no

Being a responsible student doesn't mean saying no to everything. Go to half priced apps, go see a movie or go to trivia. Just give yourself a curfew, go to bed and wake up early to get your work done. Having fun doesn't have to mean staying out into the wee hours of the morning, and working hard doesn't mean locking yourself in your room all Friday night.

We're not perfect, some nights we'll skip doing homework to grab wings and sometimes we'll stay in because we just need some sleep. Enjoy every minute you can, because it really is the last time we'll get to live the #HuskyLife.

— Danielle Backowski, senior mass communications major #HuskyLife

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A thirst for future adventures

Crazy to imagine we’re six days out from flying home, but time went quickly when the third module came to an end. That doesn’t mean we haven’t made the most of what time we have left, though.

In November, I spent a weekend in Guanacaste Province, famous for its stunning, wide-open Pacific coastline. Sámara Beach was exactly that, a huge spread of white sand with an endless horizon before me. Guanacaste draws all kinds of adventurers and beach rats from around the world; in the span of two days I met travelers from Spain, France and Scotland, plus one guy selling ice cream who was originally from Holland.

We celebrated Thanksgiving Day with a ten-hour bus ride from Heredia to Granada, a lively colonial city deep in the heart of Nicaragua. La Calzada, Granada’s version of a main street, is jammed with restaurants that cater to tourists from every corner of the planet.

The City Market is only a few blocks away, a chaotic maze of wooden stalls and tables lined with pretty much every vendible thing imaginable. It was easy to get lost among the mounds of fruit, fish, spices, plastic toys and prescription drugs, but the Market is the cornerstone for all of Granada. The market is always the heart of the city, our directors told us, and the local culture beats strong in Nicaragua.

After a boat tour on Lake Nicaragua (nineteenth-largest lake in the world, by the way), we dragged our tired selves all the way back to Heredia. Soon it was time to get cookin’ on our Thanksgiving dinner dishes, since we’d be serving them to our host moms for a massive American-style meal at the end of the month. We all brought our culinary A-games and made it a Thanksgiving dinner to remember (I was mainly thankful I didn’t burn the two apple pies I whipped up five hours beforehand).

The last module has been all about Latin American Literature: poetry, essays, short stories and books that spearheaded literary movements and inspired generations of writers and artists. We’ll come home soon with sunburns, opened minds and a thirst for future adventures.

Joshua Lloyd is a junior Spanish and Interpersonal Communication major spending this fall studying abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica. Through SOL, he is studying Latin American culture and civilization.