Credit union informs: Costs that college students don't budget for

Planning ahead for college expenses is critical to saving as much money as possible. Unfortunately, most college students stop at tuition and living expenses. They don’t take into account the costs that sneak in the back door. When they’re added together, they can be substantial.College students needing money resized 600

1. Textbooks

Textbooks are not cheap. For whatever reasons, professors think it’s a great idea to make their students fork over hundreds of dollars for the latest edition of a book that they will only partially use.

Oh, and if it happens to be written by the professor, even better!

Over time, eBooks will chip away at the costs of textbooks, but for the time being, you will probably have to plan on spending a couple hundred dollars each semester.

2. Health Insurance

This used to be a more substantial cost, but even after the Affordable Care Act, health insurance is a cost that every college student needs to take into account.

The new healthcare law allows people to stay on their parent’s plans until they’re 26, unless they have an employer who offers health coverage. However, make sure you confirm that you are still on their plan.

If your parents do not have health insurance, then you may need to purchase it on your own. Once the Affordable Care Act takes effect in 2014, you will be eligible for Medicaid or for subsidized private insurance, depending on your income.

Whether you are eligible to stay on your parent’s plan or if you need to purchase your own, make sure you get a clear sense of healthcare costs that you will be liable for.

3. Transportation

If you live on a campus where you can walk everywhere, you’re in luck! Your transportation costs will be modest.

If that’s not you, then gas and bus fees will add up as you commute back and forth to class.

Make sure that, when you are budgeting for the coming year, you think hard about these three costs along with other hidden expenses that many college students don’t consider.

Unity One Credit Union has services that can help college students and their parents prepare for the road ahead. One solution is the Saving Cents savings program. It rounds up your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and sweeps the rounded amount into a savings account. It takes the work out of saving.

Dorm rooms: when saving cents makes sense - Part 2

By Kathy Jones, Unity One CUUnity One CU Branch Manager and daughter Branch Manager

Having a well-organized, nicely-decorated room with functionality and personal flair will make it the perfect place to unwind, study for exams and rest. Simplify, and strive to have a clutter-free dorm room.

I have lots of experience with this. I've sent two daughters to college, and here are a few things we learned along the way that can help you save cents and stay stylish:

  • Choose a reversible comforter from a discount store. There is more than one option with a reversible comforter--to suit whatever mood you are in. But make it great. Your bed is the focal point of the room.
  • Crates are a great way to organize and add color. Better yet, purchase stackable crates. They not only save space, but they can also serve as a bedside table. Also, there are a wide array of colors that will suit any color scheme.
  • Make a bulletin board your memory board. Don't use them just for assignments or to-do lists, tack on pictures, tickets stubs or other mementos from your college experiences.
  • School spirit is never out of style. Just don't go overboard. Posters, game memorabilia and even t-shirts are great wall art. And, if you are really crafty put everything in a shadow box, and hang it from your walls. This nostalgic item will last you your entire time in college and beyond.
  • Use your door space. Plastic, shoe organizers that hang on your door are around $10. They are a very inexpensive way to save space. If you don't use all the holes for shoes, store your jewelry there.
  • Think green. Green plant, that is. It will add character to any room. Yet, choose a low maintenance type like an ivy or bamboo.

I hope that you can use these suggestions to save money and make your dorm room your home away from home.

Kathy Jones is the branch manager of Unity One Credit Union's North Tarrant location. She has two college-aged daughters.

Dorm room decorating: when saving cents makes sense!

When I headed to UT Austin in 1996 for college, I had no idea what to expect and was a little worried about leaving home. So, it became really important for my dorm room to be transformed into that home away from home. In fact, I was obsessed! It took many trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond, Walmart, the Dollar Store and Target to find just the right items to create that cozy atmosphere that, in my mind, was essential to my success.

I will admit it now, I spent way too much of my parents' money on a few things, when I could have had a lot more useful items if I planned ahead and got some advice. Here's my advice to dorm room decoraters everywhere--these tips are great ways to decorate your room while saving cents. By the way, foErayne first dorm roomr you Longhorn alums, my first dorm was Blanton (briefly) then I moved to Littlefield (see the picture to the right of me and my cousin Chad helping me get settled in).

  • Big, comfy pillows are the bomb! Not only will your head say thank you, your friends' behinds will too. Pillows are great extra seating. Just make sure that your sitting pillows are durable and easy to clean. Throw pillows are also very nice. Think of your bed as a sofa. Mix solid colors with patterns. Buy your solid colors cheaply and splurge just a tad on patterns. Reversible pillows are also pretty smart.
  • The Dollar Store is your friend not foe! When it comes to saving cents this is the smart choice. Never been to one? Shame on you; my Dad swears by the Dollar Store. Although, I would not suggest buying your clothes from there, as he does. You can find everything from frames to school supplies. They key is to watch your spending; I'll admit, you can get carried away.
  • Get tubs. Buy some tubs to slide under your bed. You can store all kinds are things in there, especially snacks. You can seal the snack tight to keep critters and friends out of your stash. In fact, I still use this tip now. I store all of my six-year-old's school projects in them and hide them away under the bed. 
  • Pictures. Pictures are important, but let me warn you--don't bring too many because you will be making new memories, and you need space for them. Also, thinking about the past won't allow you to enjoy the future. For the pictures you plan to bring, find some funky frames. When shopping, start out at Ross and then hit up Marshall's. Go straight to the clearance section, and look for the red tags. The beauty of buying clearance is that you are savings cents and you are creating an eclectic mix of styles. Matchy matchy looks like you are trying too hard; beside, you have plenty of time for that later and nobody cares.
  • Flooring matters. Now and days, most colleges have the nice and new dorm rooms with bathrooms per room and carpeting. . .In my day, our rooms came with linoleum floors from 1974. I hate linoleum floors. In fact, I couldn't stand for my feet to touch the ground. I coordinated with my roommate and purchased a large carpet square bought from Garden Ridge. Another alternative is to go to any hardware store with your measurements and possibly get a rug remnant (extra left over from a job). There is no need to get fancy or elaborate! You just want something you can throw away later and not feel guilty. Carpeting makes a room comforting and cozy. 
  • Get some lamps! Who likes fluorescent lighting? They are ugly and do nothing for the mood nor your complexion. Lamps are a great way to light a space, and they add great character to a room. I have found some great buys at Walmart, but for flair and personality visit Target. Start off with a standing lamp and a table lamp.
  • Organize your closet and learn how to fold. I wish I had done that. My closet was a MESS! I needed spacesavers and closet organizers to store all the new clothes I bought and the t-shirts I collected. Most dorm room closets are not big at all, and your drawer space is limited. Good folding comes in handy. I absolutely love the FlipFold from the Container Store. It's a bit like cheating.
  • Love your sheets and comforter. If you are going to splurge, do it here. Sleep is sooooo important--you will see. Your bed should envelope you. Think soft, plush and stylish. If you like Vera Bradley bedding -- go ahead and get it, and save cents elsewhere. When someone walks into your room, your bed will be the first thing they see. It sets the tone.

The theme to all of this is to purchase what says "home" to you and think practical, but always keep saving cents a priority. You can do everything you want without incurring huge costs. Remember, your dorm room is temporary, most likely not very big and will constantly evolve over time. You definitely want to avoid having so much stuff that you have to rent a Uhaul to bring it home in the summer. That's wasteful. I can say that because I did it. :-( Can you say embarrassing?

Finally, your credit union is here to help you in any way. If saving money is a challenge, there are several experts at any Unity One location that are at your disposal. As a member-owned financial institution, you pay our salaries. Let us work for you.

Fashion Trends - When back to school loans come in handy!

teen with blue sweaterWhether you are a guy or girl, tween or teen, there are certain fashion trends that will be spotted in the hallways of most schools nationwide. Parents, this may be a good time for saving cents or checking out Unity One's back to school loan sale.

Here are the top fashion trends for 2012-13. Are you prepared?

  • Graphic style leggings - According to squidoo.com, boys are going to be wearing Aztec prints and stripes, and girls are crazy about plaid.
  • Denim - Look for colored denim and stylish vests and jackets.
  • Bold colors - Colorblocking is a huge trend, and don't be afraid of outrageous colors. Even when it comes to your sneakers--the brighter the better. According to chiff.com, the hottest colors are tangerine, hot pink and ultramarine green.
  • Oversized sweaters - Yes, finally comfort is in! Girls, borrowmale teen with sneakers your boyfriend's sweater, and boys don't be afraid of choosing a larger size. Or, guys can opt for hoodies--preferably lined with fleece.
  • Plaid - Crazy but true, experts recommend mixing plaids or at least incorporating it into your accessories like backpacks, jewelry, hats and shoes.
  • Stripes - This fun trend is suitable for both guys and girls. 
  • Vests - Although mainly for girls, leather and textured vests are fall's hottest trend. For boys, graphic styles add a bad boy edge.
  • Chunky Jewelry - From bracelets to rings to brooches, you can't go wrong with the chunk.

Did you answer the question? Are you prepared? If not, credit unions generally offer low cost loans with instant approvals. For an unsecured loan at a great rate, check out Unity One's back to school loan.

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