Budget Hacks for the Young Professional

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Ever since we entered kindergarten many of us have dreamt of this time in our life: growing up. Growing up has always sounded so glorious. You finally get to have complete freedom to make your own decisions. This time in your life is now only a blink away and reality is starting to set in. You are now able to do what you want, when you want, and live where you want. You are no longer under the constant watch of your parents or instructors. With that comes the filthy truth you are also now in charge of the bills! We all hope to land a kick ass job right after graduation, and if you did, congratulations! But if you didn’t, here are some budget hacks for you, my fellow young professional, to help you through this transition period until you are the CEO of your dream company.

ONE: I’ll do it tomorrow… I’ll do it tomorrow… NO, TODAY!

If there was a degree given for procrastination, I would have my PhD. You might too, I know, I saw you in the library beginning that case analysis at 1 AM the night before it was due. Sure, I have some success stories that resulted from my procrastination, but I also have a lot of stories I never want to think about again. We do not want our financial situations to look like those failed projects, poor test scores, or garbage papers. Money does not grow on trees people! We cannot wait until the night before we leave the comfort of our college town to figure out how we are going to have enough money to get where we are going, to pay the bills, and to put food in our mouths.

TWO: 9-1-1 I need money, right now!

Emergencies happen, life happens. You can never be too careful. Be prepared so if your nightmares become reality you do not have to worry about how you will support yourself during a crisis period. It is vital to have a savings account with money that you do not touch unless absolutely necessary. It is likely that some of us will get fired, quit a job before we have a new one, have a family or medical emergency, etc. It’s not going to be all smooth sailing from here, we’re going to have some waves come and try to take us down. Let’s be prepared. Let’s not add eviction on top of a job which doesn’t work out. Word of advice: when you receive each paycheck put some of that into your emergency savings account. Put aside enough money that you are building up your account but not too much that you are forced to eat Ramen for every meal. This emergency fund should have enough money to at least support your basic needs for two months. Start this fund today!

THREE: Make budgeting your buddy. 

Set a reasonable budget for yourself and stick to it. This will not be easy at first, but it is going to be an important habit for any young professional. Create a monthly budgeting accounting for rent, utilities, groceries, any basic medical needs, and a little bit of fun money. If you have debt, make sure to have your monthly payments included in your budget. If you do not have debt, consider putting that money in your emergency fund. Write your budget down and track it closely. Insider tip: Excel is an easy tool to help you stay organized and on track with your budget. Start a spreadsheet and update it regularly to make sure you are still within your budget for the month. This could also help you to notice trends in your spending and areas where you could cut down your expenses. There are many apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone or tablet for easier budget tracking. There are so many of these apps that different apps may appeal to different users, so you have to do some exploring on your own to figure out which one works best for you. Here are my top three favorite budgeting apps to help get you started; Spending Tracker, HomeBudget, and Mint.com.

FOUR: Debt free with a degree! 

 You may feel as though you’re drowning in debt, but you’re not alone! You’re a young professional and having debt is normal. The task is to tackle this debt so that it does not impact you for the rest of your life. The last thing you want to be haunting you while you’re trying to get your feet on the ground is the big bad debt! College is expensive, I get it. Let’s take care of any debt you have acquired soon, as in start paying it off NOW! Once you have managed your debt you can begin saving for luxuries such as a Michael Kors bag, a weekend away at the beach, or whatever you wish. Be patient, those things will come over time but your debt has to be taken care of first. Also, be reasonable the point of paying off debt is not to accrue more.

FIVE: Credit cards: your best friend today, your nightmare tomorrow.

Credit cards can be fantastic. It might feel like play money, in-fact you might not even remember that you spent it until the end of the month. Sounds great, until the bill arrives and you were expecting a $75 credit card bill that somehow crept up to $750. If you want to use a credit card for the rewards they offer or to improve your credit, make sure you have the money to pay it off when the bill arrives. You do not want to acquire debt and end up paying interest when it is unnecessary. Credit cards can be helpful when thinking about applying for loans in the future for your next car or your first house, but they can also be so very dangerous if you are not responsible. So be very careful! If you cannot use a credit card responsibly, get rid of it until you are in the habit of closely tracking how you spend your money. Remember: as I mentioned previously, two ways you could track your spending would be through Excel or a financial app that tracks your spending.

SIX: So you’re in love… What about money?

You’ve found the one. He or she is absolutely perfect in every way. Moving in together would help with this whole budget thing too right? Maybe. Here are a few financial issues to consider before you take your relationship to the next level. Do your financial situations and goals match up? Does your partner have debt? If so, how much and is there a plan to pay off that debt? Consider this carefully before you decide to marry your partner and take on their debt.  If you have a serious partner, make sure you are having conversations about one another’s current financial situation and future financial goals.  If you are both on the same page, wonderful! If not, seriously consider the impact of this on your personal future and your relationship. It will be difficult for you to stay focused on your goals when you are around someone who is not as financially responsible.

SEVEN: Grey hair, wrinkles, grandchildren: let’s talk retirement!

Yes, I know, you’re only 20-something. Retirement is so far away but before you know it the time will come. Wouldn’t you rather be financially prepared than having to work forever? Start a retirement fund at your first job. Even contributing a small amount to a retirement fund is a significant contribution to your future. Because retirement funds are not taxed, you often can contribute with minimal impact on your take home pay. The sooner you start, the more security you acquire, so do not delay!

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This blog was written by Anne Hagerty. Anne is a senior graduating from the University of Montana in May of 2016. She is about to take on the real world as a young professional.

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10 Struggles Every College Senior Knows to Be True

By Katie Sears


It’s that time of year: College graduation. For three and half years all you’ve wanted to do is get as far away from campus and school-related responsibilities as possible;  now you’re crying yourself to sleep worried that the ‘real world’ might be a little bit too real for you. Staying focused in school while simultaneously trying to figure out the rest of your life seems damn near impossible, and no amount of ‘You can do it!’s from mom will help.

If it makes you feel any better, we’re all in the same rickety boat.


  1. Finding a job is a Catch 22.
    You’re trying to find a job so that you can make money, but you need money to get to the job. Moving out, storing your stuff, and finding a new place to live all require a significant amount of cash..cash that you probably should have started saving as a freshman, but instead blew on BeatsByDre headphones and 3am Taco Bell runs.
    confused
  2.  Student loans have to be paid back. Like, now.
    Financial aid is great while you’re in school, but the day you graduate marks the day you will forever be indebted to the government and to your university.
    bullcrap
  3. You realize you may never, ever see your college friends again.
    It seems like everyone you know is moving to a far-away state, country or continent. The friendships you’ve fostered over the last four years will abruptly end, and it’s one of the saddest things about being a senior.
    cryingg
  4. Senioritis.
    Imagine the senioritis you felt in high school and multiply it by ten million. Then add 40. I wouldn’t wish the last five weeks of senior semester on my worst enemy.
    living life
  5. Final Exams.I’m not just talking about the exams during finals week that cover the last semester; I’m talking about CapStone classes, major field tests and other exams that will likely determine the rest of your life, like the MCAT, PCAT and the bar exam. It’s even worse when the test costs money. I thought paying to take a test in a classroom was called tuition?
    hate everything
  1. Not being confident about your degree.
    That moment you realize you actually hate your degree and it’s not what you really want to do. And then the moment you realize you are really passionate about your degree and don’t want to work in any other field. The daily back-and-forth is exhausting.
    exhausting
  1. You have a lot of stuff. And only one car.
    While you’ve spent the last three years decorating your home to better resemble the one you left behind, you never really considered the massive amount of space these things take up. Combine that with the fact that you only have one car, and moving becomes a lot more daunting than it already was.
    imdone
  2. Your dream job most likely won’t be your first job.
    You start accepting that your dream of changing the world and becoming one of Forbes’ 40 under 40 might have to wait a couple of years. Suddenly, just being an assistant doesn’t sound so bad if it means you’ll have a paycheck at the end of the month.
    pay day pickitup
  1. Time is running out.
    There are still a million things you haven’t done on campus/in town/ in your state and suddenly you want -no NEED- to do all of them, like that popular hike you passed up on because you were hungover or that weird restaurant that sells avocado-flavored ice cream. FOMO starts to seriously set in at this point.
    nap
  1. We see articles like this:
    Why Millenials Have a Tough Time Landing Jobs – CNBC
    Millenials Have Nothing to Celebrate When it Comes to Employment – Forbes
    40% of Unevmployed Workers are Millenials – MarketWatch
    drinking

All. The. Time.

10 Backpacking Hacks: Travel Like Indiana Jones

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By Joshua Harper

Everyone loves to travel. You see spectacular places, meet amazing people, and make memories you’ll never forget. As it turns out though it’s a pretty expensive hobby to have. After an accumulated one year abroad spanning some twenty-one different countries I’ve learned a few things about traveling and how to do it right, but more importantly how to do it cheap. Being homeless for two weeks in Northern Europe and sleeping on beaches across Southern Europe are great character building experiences but my tips will help you avoid them.

Disclaimer: Backpacking is not vacationing. Anyone that’s ever properly backpacked knows you’re in it for the experiences and not the comfort.

1. Travel Light

If you go two weeks without touching something in your bag, take it to the nearest lake, river, or ocean and throw it in (please don’t actually do this). You’d be surprised how many people lug around a 62 liter backpack while also wearing another small backpack backwards. This is WAY too much. It’s a fact you’re going to be doing a healthy amount of walking during your trip so do your shoulders a favor and stick to a 42 liter backpack and one other small bag for easy access. If there’s no way you can fit everything you need with this setup then take less. You want to be prepared but don’t over do it. You probably don’t need the fifth snap back or more than 2 pairs of shoes and don’t take camping gear unless you think you’re actually going to camp. Remember you can always buy most anything you’ll need wherever you are. For those that still can’t make it work stop reading and go buy a suitcase. Here’s a list of a few useful items to take:
-Norwood mini LED flashlight
-REI Multitowel Quick Dry Towel
-Alpine Collapsable Spork
-Travel Journal
-Simple first aid kit

2. Airports=Cheap Hotels

airportsleep

You have a flight from Heathrow airport to Istanbul leaving at 7:30 AM. You could spend the night in an expensive hostel just to wake up at 3 AM and pay an exorbitant rate for a forty minute shuttle ride, or you could just sleep at the airport. You’ll save on transport, you won’t have to pay for a hostel, and let’s be honest you really wouldn’t have gotten much of a last night in with that 3 AM wake up call anyway. You can attempt the party all night, crash on the plane method but weigh the consequences, missing a two or three hundred euro flight when you’re already broke could be detrimental. Besides there’s nothing like getting drunk with your travel mates in an airport (Again I’m not officially advocating this). It may not be the most comfortable night but then again you’re backpacking not vacationing.

3. Exchanging Currency is for Rookies

Never…Ever…EVER bring all your money planning to exchange it upon arrival. Besides not wanting to carry that much cash you’ll get taken over the exchange rates offered by most banks. Travelers check are a thing of the past and prepaid cards are the worst of all because if they’re stolen and you’re having trouble reporting it, the process is difficult, you often can’t get the money back. They also have the added handicap of not being as wieldy as cash. Whenever travelling take two debit cards so you can incrementally withdraw local currency from ATM’s. Sure, most banks charge a withdrawal fee if you’re out of country, but it’s usually pretty comparable to the fee you pay for exchanging anyway. Also you only have to withdraw as much as you need so you won’t end up in Thailand with one hundred thousand Cambodian Riel. As a backup take a credit card and one or two hundred US dollars that should only be exchanged in case of an emergency. Oh, and it should go without saying but notify your bank that you’re leaving so your cards don’t get cancelled the first time a charge from Phnom Penh, Cambodia shows up.

4. Kindle for the Win

You might think you’ll be too busy trekking through jungles, taking in the culture, and meeting interesting people to read. You’re wrong. While you’ll do all those things the truth is there will also be endless hours of transit and more than one night where all you’ll want to do is curl up in bed and take it easy. Traveling is one of the best times to catch up on your reading because that’s just what you have, time. A thirty-six hour trans-mediterranean ferry provides a great opportunity to finally read Game of Thrones like you’ve been saying you want to do since season one. Most likely the one book you thought would get you through six weeks will be done in three days and you’ll be stuck deciding between the Hunger Games in Turkish or an an abandoned copy of Crime and Punishment to occupy the rest of your trip. Just bring a Kindle and have access to as many books as you want while taking up barely any space in your bag.

5. Negotiate!

Don’t underestimate how much money you can save by negotiating and I don’t just mean over souvenirs in a market. Negotiate for everything from tour guides to renting rooms in a hostel. Maybe you hate it and think your chances of success are low but you’ll get better and find that more often than not people people would rather drop the price a few euros than see you walk away. Getting better at this process is essential to backpacking especially in certain countries like Morocco where everything is negotiable and simply saying “no” to vendors sometimes feels like it requires a business degree.

6. Live Together, Die Alone

If you’re traveling with friends for any extended period of time you’re going to get sick of each other eventually. If you travel alone you’ll get sick of the alternate personalities you make up to keep yourself company. Either way, other people are going to be your saving grace. Not only will you get to spend time with anyone other than who you’ve been stuck with for the past five weeks but you’ll save money too. Group rates are very real and it’s a lot harder for a hostel owner to say no to your negotiations when there are five rooms on the line instead of one. Most importantly traveling is all about meeting people and sharing your cultures and experiences. Dont be shy! Go make new friends and build that international network so you’ll have a couch to crash on no matter where you go.

7. Bread for Days

One of the best parts of visiting somewhere new is trying the food and restaurants know it so anything even remotely related to the local cuisine is going to be sky high expensive. You need to come to terms with the fact that every meal in Italy won’t be gourmet pasta or pizza. Allow yourself one nice meal a day and scrape by the rest of the time on freshly baked bread. It’s dirt cheap and made fresh every morning, so learn to love it. Oh, and don’t forget to eat fruit every few days. You don’t want scurvy.

8. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

You’ve probably heard that a Eurail pass is the best way to traverse Europe. This is definitely true if you know the exact countries you plan to visit and order the pass months before you leave. If you’re like me and travel more spontaneously (or anywhere other than Europe) you need to master the art of finding cheap transit. This might mean cramming shoulder to shoulder into a rickety bus, praying it doesn’t topple off a cliff as it chugs along winding roads through the Luang Prabang mountains in Laos. Your wallet will thank you and if you survive you’ll have a great story to tell. Talk to the locals and find out what they use to get from place to place because though it can be tough to find it’s almost always going to be cheaper. For example MeinFernbus is a bus company in Germany that offers rates at nearly one fourth the price of trains but can’t be easily found in a Google search.

9. Go With the Flow

Things are going to go wrong. That’s the nature of traveling so you need to be ready to pivot and make the best of a bad situation. If you’re island hopping in Greece there’s a decent chance you’ll stop somewhere for a day only to learn the ferry to the next island you want to visit doesn’t leave for a week. If this happens don’t get caught up trying to stick to your plan. Go with the flow and pick a new destination even if it’s only to connect somewhere else. Maybe you want to go North but you meet a cool group of backpackers heading East. Be flexible and don’t live or die by your plan so you don’t miss out on an unexpected, spontaneous adventure. If you planned to spend five days in Athens but feel like you’ve seen everything you wanted, talk to people and pivot, you might end up trekking to the clifftop monasteries in Meteora.
10. Timing and Planning

In essence this tip boils down to being knowledgeable about where you’re going and what’s happening while you’re there. A few friends and I planned a four week road trip through Morocco and upon arrival learned that Ramadan had just started. For those of you that don’t know, Ramadan is a month long holiday where members of the Islamic faith fast while the sun is up. We could eat but it made finding a meal during the day more difficult. Normally bustling streets looked like a ghost town during the day as everyone, not eating or drinking, took shelter inside to avoid the blistering heat. Where once we would have seen many backpackers we only met a handful for our first few weeks there. Although I enjoyed the cultural experience it was a very different trip than we had planned and it would have been tough to do alone and nearly impossible, or at least quite expensive, if we hadn’t rented a car. Don’t give up your spontaneity just do a little research before you leave. Trust me, you don’t want to miss a full moon party in the Thai Islands by a day because you booked your trip months in advance without ever looking into it.

Bonus Tip – Put the Camera Down

Pictures are a great way to remember the amazing experiences you’ve had while traveling. Despite this it’s important to remember you still need to live those experiences. With so many social media networks we spend a disproportionate amount of our lives being social online rather than in the real world. Take advantage of down time to send pictures and give updates but don’t try to instagram every photo you take as soon as you take it. Don’t view the world from behind the lens of a camera.

How to (Financially) Cheat Your Way Through College

By Katie Sears


If you’re anything like me (a woefully and eternally poor college student), you know that not even JC himself could make you pay $160 for that textbook or $9 for that cocktail. Or maybe you’re the parent of a student like me who only calls to chat when they need something. Something green. Preferably with Benjamin Franklin’s face on it. Or, maybe you’re one of the lucky few who miraculously managed to trick an employer into hiring you right out of college (we’re all glaring at you, btw) but don’t have the funds to relocate. Either way, there is no denying we’re all in need of some sound financial advice now and then.

Although I am a meager marketing major who struggles to fill out her 1040 EZ tax form, I am exceptionally proficient at keeping my wallet from hating me (too much). When it comes to penny-pinching and being cheap to the point of embarrassment, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Here are my tips and tricks for getting through college with just enough money leftover to take your SO out to Chipotle. 

Get two for the price of one
Commonly known as ‘Two for Ones’, this is a promotional deal where you can get two drinks for the price of one. It is also a lifestyle. Granted, the drinks are smaller and contain (what I’ve decided) is far more ice than usual, so who knows if we’re really getting a deal. It’s the thought that counts, right?
big storm

Find that loophole
Here’s a lesser known fact: McDonald’s charges a small fee for dining in as opposed to ordering to go. So, order to go then eat in. So what if the charge is only 10 cents, I’m in college remember?
help me im poor

Avoid the campus bookstore like the Plague
Three words for you: Amazon Book Rental. Seriously. Never forget it. One semester I paid $600 for textbooks from the University bookstore. This semester? $75. BAM.
obama

Dorm it up
If you are coming to college as a freshman, try to live in the dorms. Not only will you have 40 friends willing to give you emergency Ramen, but there is usually a ‘donate’ or Goodwill box on each floor. I’m pretty sure half of my clothes came from that box. As well as a lamp. And a rug. And a fridge. Which brings me to my next point…
treat yo self

DORM RAID!!
Once you lose the luxury of living three feet away from another sweaty human being, the dorms are the number one place to scour through on freshman move-out day. Freshmen don’t yet realize the realities of not having a meal plan and will throw away just about anything.
bob ross

Turn your coffee into money
One of my ex-boyfriends did (what I used to think was) the most horrendous thing: he re-used the coffee grounds in the pot for days on end. Turns out, he was just being brilliantly economical.
itsbetter

Part ways with your plasma
If you haven’t given plasma yet at BioLife, you’re truly missing out on a chance to save the world. Or just pay your rent. Whatever.
logical
Get creative
Most adults use tables as, well, tables. And desks as, um, desks. But in college that just won’t do. My roommate and I use a mini-fridge as an end table. I have a crate that I use for a bedside table. A friend of mine once used cinderblocks and an old door as a desk. Waste not, want not.
beyonce
Free + Food = True Love
One thing I discovered early on in my college career was that free food rules all. Join clubs you’re not interested in, attend lame campus events and talks. Free food is like a beacon of light in the darkness that is your grocery bill.
gillmoregirls

Invest in your Netflix relationship
Most people get the completely wrong idea about the first week of classes, especially freshman. While it is common practice to spend this time meeting new people, what you should really be doing is meeting new Netflix accounts. Friendship only lasts so long, free Netflix is forever.
could you not be here
Oh, Canada!
My last and most ingenious idea is something I have been doing ever since I went to Canada three years ago. When paying in change, I use Canadian dimes instead of American ones. No one has ever noticed and although I’m technically losing money thanks to exchange rates, I figure I won’t be going back to Canada anytime soon.
wait