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Spring Time in Springfield

Groundhog-Day-Phil-4Yesterday was Groundhog Day, meaning the beloved groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicted whether there would be an early spring, or six more treacherous wintery weeks. Usually Phil isn’t quite ready to come out of his hibernation and calls for more winter. But this year a miracle happened. Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, which means we have an early spring!

Although this fun tradition may not always be entirely accurate, we have been lucky enough to have some warm, spring time weather in late January. This has brought us all into a spring time mood.

Spring time is great, but what about when you’re on a budget?

Here are a few fun things to do in spring on a budget.

1. Fun Acre

Mini golf. Batting cages. One acre of land. It’s literally the most fun acre there is.

At Fun Acre you can play 18 holes of mini golf for just $2.50. Bring some friends and play for bragging rights. You can also go to the batting cages and hit a few balls for only a quarter.

Fun Acre is a great price and is probably the most fun acre in all of Springfield.

Located at 2500 S. Campbell Ave.

2. Disc Golf

The fastest growing sport in America. And it’s completely FREE (After you buy a disc, of course). You can purchase a disc for fairly cheap at any sporting goods store, or on Amazon.

Disc golf is a great way to have fun for an hour or two and get some exercise while you’re at it.

There are many locations around Springfield including courses in Ozark, Nixa, and even one right on the campus of Evangel University.

To find the locations of disc golf courses in Springfield, visit dgcoursereview.com and search Springfield, MO.

3. Hiking

19(HDR)The Ozarks is home to some of the best hiking trails and scenery in the country. While some of these may not exactly be in Springfield, it’s still close enough to include in this list.

One of the most beautiful locations is Whitaker Point. There have been countless proposals here, and has been dubbed one of the “best places to get kissed.” Whitaker point is about a three mile hike.

Another worthwhile trail is The Goat Trail. This trail is a winding trail that leads to an unbelievable view (pictured). This is about a six mile hike.

Both of these beautiful hikes are located a little down south in the neighboring state of Arkansas. To save on gas money, grab a group of friends and car pool!

 

There you have it. Some of the best activities in the Springfield area that won’t cost you much at all.

Do you agree with this list? Comment and let us know some of your favorite spring time activities in the Springfield area.

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Out of Hock for the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes all of the joy and merriment we have come to expect. This season also brings along the craziness of gift-buying. In all of the craziness it is easy to quickly feel overwhelmed and stressed out. It’s easy to fall into Holiday Hypnosis and spend way more than you expected. You don’t need a big bank account to show how big your heart is.

Here are a few money saving tips for this holiday season:

  • Don’t wait ’til the last minute. Give yourself some time to shop around and find the best deals. You don’t want to wait until  the day before that big family gathering to go out and find the perfect gift. The stores might not have what you were looking for, and you might end up spending way more than you had planned to compensate.7-ways-stick-holiday-budget-1-intro-lg
  • Create a holiday budget. And stick to it. A good rule of thumb is to not spend more than 1.5 percent of your annual income on the holidays. Try out this holiday budget planner to determine how much you should spend this holiday season. It might also be helpful to make a list of how much you want to spend on each person (just don’t let Mom find out you spent a little bit more on Dad).
  • Don’t buy things you can’t afford. Before you go ahead and comment “Thanks, Captain Obvious!” hear me out. It’s very tempting to go ahead and make purchases with a credit card, especially when stores offer savings for using the particular credit card for their store. It’s o.k. to do this, just make sure you have enough money to pay off the bill when it arrives. Don’t fall into Holiday Hypnosis and spend without checking your bank account.
  • Be Creative. A homemade gift can be a refreshing change from the typical store bought gift. It can also show how much a person means to you by the thought and effort that is put into creating something on your own. There are endless possibilities when it comes to creating your own gift. Here’s a list of DIY Gift ideas.fireplace-gas-logs-cleveland
  • Stay Inside. The holidays are all about spending time with family. Rather than going out and spending money on
    restaurants and other fun activities, spend some quality time at home. Put on some pj’s and watch a classic holiday film. Bring out your favorite board game. Make some hot chocolate and decorate cookies. There’s plenty of fun to be had inside the comfort of your own home.
  • Find Free Holiday Activities. If get stuffed up inside your home and insist on going out, find some free activities to do with the family. Drive around and see the holiday lights on the houses in your community, or go caroling in the neighborhood.
  • Donate Responsibly. The holidays are a time of giving, but don’t give away any money that you don’t have. Rather than donating money, donate clothes or food. Go through your closet and find old coats, or shoes, or any clothes that you don’t need and give to those in need. You can also donate cans of food to a local food bank.

It’s easy to stay on top of your spending for the holiday season, as long as you plan ahead. Don’t let the holidays get the best of you.

What are some ways that you save money for the holidays? Comment and let us know!

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Saving For a Rainy Day…

rainy day

We all need to save, but the reality is that many of us do not. Roughly half of Americans are saving 5% or less of their incomes, including 18% that are not saving anything, according to a survey from Bankrate.

So how can we stop this? Well there are tons of ways to start saving your money.

Here are just a few tips on how to start saving for a rainy day…

  • Save something, no matter how little.

            This has been a motto of mine for a while. I have always committed to saving something, no matter how big or small. You have to start somewhere.

rainy day

  • Keep it in a safe place

Of course, “rainy day savings” is just another name for an emergency fund. You want to be able to tap this money quickly. For that reason, save the money in accounts that pay a little interest but are safe, liquid, and unlikely to suddenly and dramatically rise or fall in value.

  • Eliminate unnecessary expenses.

Make adjustments to your budget to eliminate unnecessary expenses that may prevent you from saving. This may require cutting some expenses and saying “no” to some items until your savings have grown.

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Saving for the Holidays

The holidays are quickly approaching, and we all know what that means.

Delicious food. Festive lights. Cheerful music.

 

An empty wallet.

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With all of the shopping, decorating and eating, the money supply over the holidays definitely takes a plummet. With the abundance of sales and promotions and the spirit of giving, we find ourselves casually dropping cash on gifts for anyone and everyone!

 

You don’t HAVE to go broke for the holidays. Keep in mind these ideas as gift ideas to protect your wallet this season!

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  • Homemade gifts: they are from the heart and do not cost as much. It’s a perfect way to personalize your present.
  • Services: give someone the gift of service. Offer them a home cooked breakfast, free babysitting, or housecleaning. It doesn’t cost you, and its something they will actually use!
  • Personalized: small gifts count…especially if a heartfelt card or letter accompanies them. Words of affirmation might be exactly what your friend needs in the moment! Do not discount a good card if you’re running low on money!
  • Resale shops: you can find the cheapest things at thrift stores! Don’t be afraid to buy cheap and add a personal touch!

 

Don’t worry if you are struggling to afford the frivolity of the holidays. All of these resources are great ways to save your money and enjoy the Holiday season!

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What Is a Loan Servicer & Why Should I Care?

loan servicer

A question that many students ask often is: Why am I receiving federal student loan bills from a company rather than the U.S. Department of Education? If you have asked yourself a similar question this may help:

What is a loan servicer?

A loan servicer is a company that handles the billing and other services on your federal student loans.  The statement that you receive in the mail is coming from a loan servicer on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education.

How do I find out who my loan servicer is?

To view information about all of the federal student loans you have received and to find contact information for your loan servicer, visit www.nslds.ed.gov and select “Financial Aid Review.” You will then be prompted to log in using your FSA ID, so make sure you have that handy.

Note: If you have multiple federal student loans, you may have more than one loan servicer, so make sure you click through each loan individually for information specific to that loan.

Why does it matter?Student debt

There are several reasons that being familiar with your loan servicer is important, including the fact that your loan servicer:

    • is the company in which you will make payments to;
    • can help you choose or change your repayment plan;
    • can help you learn about loan consolidation or your forgiveness, cancellation or discharge options; and
    • can counsel you on ways to make your payments more affordable.

 

Moral of the story: Keep in contact with your loan servicer!

The student loan repayment process can be confusing, especially if you’re new at it, but your loan servicer is there to help. Make sure you stay in touch with them and use the resources they have available for you.loan servicer 3

 

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All Aboard the Shoelace Express!

Man's hands of a driver on steering wheel of a minivan car on asphalt road

For a lot of college students, getting around on four wheels is the norm. It’s easy to drive to the grocery store when you run out of milk, or bread. It’s easy to drive to the mall when you need to buy some new clothes. It’s easy to get home to St. Louis, or Kansas City, or wherever home might be.

For many other college students, these things are quite the luxury.

As someone who spent the first two years of his college career without a car, I understand what it is like to rely solely on my own two feet (and my friends) to get around Springfield.

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Here are a few tips I have learned to get around town, and still save a few bucks.

  1. The most important thing you can do as a college student without a car is to make friends. Specifically, make friends who have a car. If you’re a little shy, this is a great reason to step a little bit out of your comfort zone and meet new people. When I was a freshman neither myself or my roommate had a car, so if we were ever going to make it home for Thanksgiving, or winter break, we were going to have to find a way. This didn’t give us much choice but to ask around on our residence hall. Sure enough, we found someone who passed through our town in St. Louis while on his way home and was willing to take us.

    Friends are also a great way to get around Springfield. If you need a ride to the store, don’t be afraid to ask a friend to take you. You never know if they need to make a Walmart run as well!

    Don’t forget to chip in a few bucks for gas money!

  2. Utilize campus resources. Missouri State is a very “no-car friendly” campus. You can find most of what you need right here. We have multiple convenience stores on campus. You can find them in the Plaster Student Union (We call it the PSU around here), at Bear Park South, and in Hammons House. These convenience stores are a great place to go if you need a snack.

    There are plenty of fun activities to do on campus that are either free, or only a few dollars. You can head down to the Level One Game Center in the PSU for some free ping-pong, pool, and bowling that is only $2 for students, with a $1 shoe rental. You can also head to the Betty and Bobby Allison Recreation Fields and play sports with friends. And don’t forget about Hammons Student Center. Here, you can play racquetball, basketball, and volleyball. All free for students!

  3. Know your surroundings. If campus doesn’t have exactly what you’re looking for, there are plenty of places within walking distance of campus that probably do. Downtown is just a BearLine ride away. Take the green or red route up to Bear Park North, then switch over to the gold route to take you downtown. Here, you’ll find lots of local shops and restaurants that will definitely meet your needs.

    You can also find grocery stores, and fast food restaurants close by. Price Cutter is just a few blocks north on National. Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonald’s, Steak ‘n’ Shake, are all fast food restaurants that only take a short walk to get to.

Make sure you don’t walk alone. Grab a friend or two to go with you!

Not having a car is not the end of the world. It’s really easy to make due without one. It’s also a great way to save money by not having to worry about car insurance, or gas.

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Don’t let not having a car stop you from getting around. Tie up those laces and get moving!

 

 

 

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A Coffee Catastrophe

 

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Well, it’s finally Fall, and honestly the first thing I am thinking about is the seasonal Starbucks drinks.

I know, I know…so much goes on, and all I can think about is the Salted Caramel Mocha and the Pumpkin Spice Latte? This is a serious problem that not only plagues myself, but thousands of students campus wide.

Why do I wait 45 minutes in line among a sea of students just for 12 ounces of espresso and artificial flavoring? Is it really worth it?

 

Not to mention I am now down five dollars…and it’s only Monday.

Well, I wish I could say that I can help. I wish there was a cure to this beautiful coffee epidemic that is ravaging my wallet daily.

While there may not be a cure, there is hope. I do not have to spend so much on coffee…I have options!

  1. Campus Dining provides coffee. Is it as good as a caramel macchiato? Probably not. It is however, free to anyone with a meal plan, and can be flavored right in the cafeteria! This is an offer you can’t pass up. I frequently use the excuse; “I need this extravagantly flavored cup of goodness to wake myself up.” FALSE. I do not need to lose five dollars when I have free resources available to me.
  2. Bear Necessities has coffee! This on-campus store has so many varieties…espresso shots, iced mochas, flavored lattes, and even hot cocoa you can mix in. You can usually get a cup for under a dollar. AND it’s delicious! You simply cannot go wrong with coffee as cheap as this.
  1. MAKE IT YOURSELF. I know. In don’t have the energy in the morning either. It takes so much effort to plug in the coffee pot and press a couple buttons. But in all seriousness, it is a really simple way to save money and time every morning. Even investing in a nice coffee pot may save you money in the long run!
  1. Finally, the answer you’ve all been waiting for…enjoy that Starbucks (every once in a while)! When you purchase in moderation, that Toasted Graham Mocha is going to taste all the better. It is okay to indulge every once in awhile, as long as you are aware of your budget!

In the meantime: stay classy, stay caffeinated, and stay confident in your money saving skills. You and your macchiato can do anything you put your mind to!

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Inexpensive Summer Vacations

We all want to occupy our summers with fun, but often that gets very expensive. While your friends are jetting off to some expensive island, you can take a small vacation that will cost you almost nothing! Take a look at these close-by vacation spots that will not disappoint!

 

KANSAS CITY

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  • Kansas City is two to three hours away from Springfield, and boasts a plethora of exciting opportunities.
  • A huge summer hit is the Plaza shopping center downtown. Here you can find many upscale shopping stores, boutiques, and restaurants. Not to mention the setting of abundant fountains, horse-drawn-carriage rides, and occasionally lives music.
  • Right around the corner you will find Union Station, located conveniently near Crown Center Shopping, Science City, and the Coterie Theater. All of these tickets are inexpensive and worth a day of exploration!
  • Not to be topped is the power and light district in the heart of downtown. Here you will experience live music, pulsing nightlife, and a vibrant theatrical scene. Home to Kansas City Repertory Theater in H&R Block, you can see a show followed by a delicious dinner in one of the five-star dining locations.
  • If theater is your thing, don’t forget about Kansas City’s amazing assortment of theaters. Located near the Kansas City Zoo, Starlight theater hosts several Broadway shows each year. If you’re looking for something a little less expensive, be sure to visit Shawnee Mission Park’s The Theater In The Park. Here you can spread out blankets to watch top-notch community theater from the comfort of the lawn.

CHICAGO

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  • Chicago might be a bit of a drive, but you can also take an inexpensive bus or train to avoid dealing with crowded highways and streets. Once there, you can purchase a temporary EL ticket and use their elevated train transportation system to visit any location of your choosing.
  • Popular tourist sights are available, such as the bean, Navy Pier, or the Chicago Theater. However, there are many other activities you shouldn’t miss!
  • Shedd Aquarium and the Art Institute both host amazing sights, and have inexpensive admission. Downtown life is always bustling, and it is not hard to find festivals and events to attend.
  • If you need a break from city life, you can take a short trip on the EL to Evanston, a quaint town home to Northwestern University. A truly quintessential college town, this community boasts cute boutiques, amazing local and organic dining, and quieter access to beach time on lake Michigan. Fun fact about Evanston: Several scenes from the movie, Home Alone were filmed here. You may recognize some of the houses and churches that are featured in the film.

MILWAUKEE

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  • Also nearby, this city has a unique arrangement of activities to occupy your time. The Harley Davidson Museum is renowned, and definitely worth a visit.
  • In addition, you can cure your wildlife curiosity by stopping by the Mitchell Park Horticulture Conservatory. Another popular tourist location is the Pabst Mansion. This mansion is open to the public and displays the late Pabst family and their contributions to the town and society.
  • There are many beautiful churches to look into in Milwaukee, specifically the beautiful Basilica of Saint Josephat.
  • If you are in the mood to shop, stop by the amazing Southridge Mall. Don’t forget to be wise with your spending!
  • And above all, be aware of Milwaukee’s amazing community life. Summer promises many festivals in the parks in the beauty of the downtown area, often of which are free.

All of these amazing locations provide inexpensive vacation options that will save you time and money this summer. Don’t waste your money or drop loads of cash. Look into the opportunities that these can provide!

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Interest Rates Could Be Your Worst Enemy…

Loans are hard enough to take out, but once we have them, we can forget about them for a little while. We tend to not think about the debt piling up and instead live in the finances of the moment.

This is a dangerous tactic, because many factors make loan interest your worst enemy!

The current interest rate is fixed at 4.66%. While this might not seem like much, it is slowly accruing each day you are in school. Consider beginning to make small payment to pay this off so interest does not build on top of interest.

You are going to be required to start making those payments the second you graduate or drop below half time enrollment. You can even surpass the price of your original loan if you don’t begin payments while still in school.

Despite annoyances it may cause, paying a small amount each month to take care of the accruing interest will help save you hundreds of dollars.

Be smart with your money and your future!

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After the FAFSA: What’s Next?

By now, if you filled out the FAFSA for the 2015-2016 school year, you should have received your Student Aid Report (SAR) and most likely got back information on what financial aid you are eligible for.

So what’s next?

Now you need to decide what aid to accept and how to accept it. First things first, you must understand the aid you are being offered (whether it’s grant money or student loans), decide what aid you really need, and then respond to Missouri State’s award letter within the deadline. You should always accept free money first (scholarships and grants) before you accept a bunch of student loans you may not end up needing. Once you accept your financial aid, every school is different, so make sure you call (417-836-5262) or visit the Financial Aid Office in Carrington 101 to find out what to expect and how long it will take to be disbursed to you.

After contacting the Financial Aid Office, you will find out if you need to fill out more paperwork or meet other requirements for your financial aid. If you are receiving a federal student loan for the first time you are required to sign a promissory note and go through entrance counseling.  This can be completed at www.studentloans.gov. If you are ever lost or confused about entrance counseling or signing a master promissory note, contact Real LIFE at 417-836-3186 or visit Carrington 419 to have any questions answered. Our peer financial counselors are here to help you!

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