Missouri State University
MSU Real L.I.F.E.
Literacy In Financing your Education

Pros and Cons of Getting a Credit Card

While your credit score might not seem important now, someday it’ll determine what apartment you can rent, what loans you can take out, and whether or not you can buy a house. Having a good credit score in our society can really make life easier, and it’s often a good idea to start early.

Good credit will help you:

• Lower your insurance rates.
• Obtain your first job.
• Purchase your first car.
• Purchase your first home.
• Rent your first apartment.
• Sign up for a cell phone plan.

These are all financial activities that you will want to partake in when you’re done pouring over books, writing research papers, and completing scores of problem sets. Every step you take in college helps you build your future, so why not think about credit too? Planning for your financial stability later in life isn’t geeky, it’s brilliant.

However, some people are of the mindset that college students are not ready for the responsibility of a credit card because they don’t understand how much damage simply making a late payment can do. This is not an easily dismissible concern. While credit cards can benefit a college student greatly, they can also cause serious financial harm to their future.

Therefore, before making the decision to open up a credit card, be sure that you know exactly what you’re entering into. Read the fine print. Shop around. Talk to your parents and your local banker, and whatever you do pay your credit card in full on time. While the minimum monthly fee may sound appealing, paying it can destroy your credit and your finances.

Here are some of the pros and cons of having a credit card in college…


What are the pros of a student credit card?

• Having a credit card will allow you to establish good credit early on in life. This will make it easier when you debate between buying or renting a home.
• There are many fantastic budgeting programs available to credit card users that allow you to separate your expenses into categories such as food, entertainment, and clothes. This can allow you to see where most of your money is going.
• If you find yourself in an emergency situation a credit card gives you flexibility when you don’t have cash available.
• Carrying cash is less necessary when you have a credit card, which may make you feel more secure.
• You can make secure purchases on the Internet with a credit card.

What are the cons of student credit cards?

• It’s easy to lose control, overspend, and end up paying off a credit card for years after graduation.
• If you don’t stay up on your payments your credit score will be negatively affected.
• Spending too much on a credit card means they have more to pay back and less money to save for the future. Savings are also a very important lesson for college students to learn.
• Be wary of high interest rates. Often credit card companies take advantage of college students by giving them small perks and then charging the highest allowable interest rates.
• There are often annual fees for credit cards. Most students don’t understand how a credit card works.

What about Student Loans, are they better than credit cards?

Student loans are another important option for college students. Student loans also allow a student to develop good credit once they start paying the balance off after graduation. The benefit of student loans verses a credit card is that student loans are a fixed amount of money and also have fixed interest which is always lower than a credit card. The fallback is that you don’t begin to establish a credit score until after you graduate.

Final thoughts on student credit cards and how do credit cards work…

Take a look at all of your options, read the fine print, and consult with an adult who you trust to guide you in making sound financial decisions. Getting a credit card in college is risky business, but can have its payoffs. Just make sure that you know what you’re getting into before you dive in head first.

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How to lower your food costs

We would all like to save a little bit of cash every month. Luckily, with a little planning, you can keep you budget under control without sacrificing taste and nutrition. Say good bye to Ramen noodles because the following tips can help any college student streamline their monthly grocery bill! 


1. Plan Your Meals

One of the best ways to avoid constantly resorting to buying something to eat is to plan your meals. Over the summer, we got a bit off track with our meal planning, and our expenses crept up on us. Now, though, school has started up again, and the situation has improved. Meal plans are back in action.

Look at what you have handy, and create a meal based around that. There are number of ways to use different ingredients, and raiding the pantry can be a good way to avoid food waste as well. Before you go to the store, sit down and figure out what you want to eat for the upcoming week. Then, list out your ingredients. If you want to glance at the sales fliers to see what’s on sale, so much the better. Stick to your shopping list, avoiding impulse buys.


2. Cook from Scratch

Consider cooking from scratch. The ingredients you use often mean a lower per-person cost than buying something that is already prepped. If you are worried that you don’t have time, make the slow-cooker your friend. I look on my calendar to see what is happening. For days that I have to take my son to activities, or that I am volunteering, or that I have a heavy workload, I plan a slow-cooker meal. I get all the ingredients ready the night before, and put them in the fridge. The next morning, all I have to do is pull the meal out, and turn on the slow-cooker. A from-scratch meal is ready when I am, with a fairly small amount of work on my part.

If something is more involved, I plan that meal for a day when I know that I will have time. I’m not a big fan of cooking (my husband does a good deal of cooking), but when I do cook, I like to be unhurried, and I don’t want to stress about it. So planning my attempts to cook from scratch to coordinate with my schedule is a must.


3. Preserve What You Can for Later

Whether you are growing your own food (gardening can be a great way to save money on food), or buying in bulk, preserving what you can for later is a great way to save money in the long run. Buy foods that are in season, and then freeze, bottle, or dry them for use later. One of my favorite money savers is growing my own herbs. No need to even spend by buying in bulk. During the summer, we use fresh herbs with our meals, and then dry the extra so we have inexpensive herbs year-round.

You can preserve fruits and vegetables as well. Even if you don’t grow your own food, it’s possible to save by purchasing produce in season, and then preparing it for use later. You’ll spend less buying in season, and when it’s out of season, you’ll be able to go to your stores without heading to the grocery store. You can also freeze meat and other products that you buy on sale. We often freeze cheese for later use.

With a little planning, and creativity, you can save a good amount of money on groceries over the long run, and you don’t even need to spend the time clipping coupons.

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Have you heard of Zip Car?

Love to drive but hate paying for the gas, insurance, maintenance, and depreciation of a typical car? Zip Car is here to help offset the burden of being mobile. Zip Car is a new way to get around the city of Springfield! College students that live in the dorms and didn’t bring a car with them to college can rent a car from Zip Car!

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How to rent a car:

-Go to www.zipcar.com and create a profile.

-Pay a yearly $25 membership for the service


What is “the catch?’

There really is no catch.

-You go online to www.zipcar.com and reserve the car for when you need it.

-Pay a flat fee of $7.50 an hour to use the car on weekdays. It is $8.50 an hour on weekends.

-If you run out of gas while using the vehicle, there is a gas card in the car that you can charge it to.

-Cars are located behind Hutchens House Residence Hall.

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A little introduction

The MSU Real L.I.F.E. Program is a financial literacy program on campus whose purpose is to use ‘real life’ scenarios to help students develop an understanding of how to successfully manage their money and finance their education.

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                     Services Provided: 

  •  Presentations on money management and financial aid
  • Budgeting
  • Opening a Checking Account
  • Choosing a Savings Account
  • Credit and Debt
  • How to Choose a Credit Card
  • What Affects Your Credit Score
  • Saving and Investing
  • Starting a Savings Plan
  • Student Loans
  • One-on-one Peer Financial Counselors available for individual meetings
  • Online information available for students and parents on wise spending
  • Information for graduating seniors about beginning student loan repayment

Make sure you “like us” on Facebook and follow us on twitter!

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6 Starbucks hacks that will save you money!

Below are six ways you can save on your next Starbucks run!


1. Get Creative

Don’t limit yourself to the standard drinks. There are plenty of options that are well under $4, such as iced coffee. If you think that spending less means boring drinks, think again. Check out some the most creative Starbucks mystery menu concoctions under $3.

And if you must go the latte route, try the caffe misto, which is made of of half coffee and half milk. It is not only cheaper, but also has less calories!

Speaking of getting creative, you can score yourself a cheap “iced latte” if you order a triple espresso over ice in a Venti cup. Head on over to the condiment area to fill up your cup with milk.


2. Refills

Refills For 50 Cents

Sometimes one cup just doesn’t cut it. Any time throughout the day and on any size, you can refill your cup with brewed coffee for just 50 cents during the same visit. Not a bad price for an extra pick-me-up.

More specifics on refills:

  • They have to be either hot coffee, iced coffee, hot tea, or iced tea.
  • You can get a refill even if your original drink was not one of the ones mentioned above.


3. Bring you own cup

You’ll save 10 cents on the price of your drink when you bring in your own reusable cup, mug, or travel tumbler.


4. Ask for no water

Ask For “No Water” With Your Tea

According to one barista on Quora, “Iced Teas are double-strength in pitcher and watered down for your final recipe.”

To get more a bang for a buck, request “no water” with your tea, and it won’t be watered down.


5. Get a Starbucks card

If you’re a frequent Starbucks customer, there’s no reason not to get a Starbucks Card. At no cost to you, a registered card will get you lots of freebies. Here’s what you can expect:

Welcome level (which you attain after using your card once)

  • Free drink or food on your birthday

Green level (which you attain after using your card five times)

  • Free refills in store
  • Welcome level rewards
  • Specialized email offers

Gold level (which you attain after using your card 30 times in 12 months)

  • Free drink or food reward after every 12 purchases
  • Welcome and green level rewards
  • Personalized offers and coupons
  • Personalized gold card


6. Order a short

There’s an even smaller size than “tall,” and it’s called “short.” It’s smaller than a “tall,” but it’s also less expensive. The “short” cappuccino, will have the same amount of espresso as the as its “tall” version.



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Dont waste your financial aid refund

Here are three things you shouldn’t do to make the most of your financial aid refund.

1.   Treating the refund check like it’s free money.

Get in the mindset that this is a loan instead of free money. The best way to do this is to sit down with a financial aid officer and discuss future student loan payments for the amount you borrowed so far and compare it a post graduation salary.


2.  Not budgeting from the start

Student loan refund checks are supposed to be for basic college expenses such as textbooks. At the beginning of the semester, students should develop a budget. There are plenty of people on campus who can help students think about needs versus wants within their budget. Some colleges have peer counselors for budgeting in a student money management office. Others, will help students in the financial aid office. Credit unions on campus are also a great place to get help.


3. Skipping part-time work because the student loan refund check covers expenses

The main goal of college is for students to become employable post-graduation. Even if a student had no need for the money, a near impossibility, having some work experience is a big part of the employability equation. Career services counselors can help a student make sure the jobs they can take on will help them towards their post graduation careers. The other bonus to part-time work is college should also be a fun experience. If working part-time, set aside part of the money earned for trips home, going out with friends or new electronics. Missouri State offers many Work-Study options on campus. If your FAFSA award letter says you are eligible, you can begin searching for part time student employment on the Missouri State website.

The downside of part-time work should never be lower grades. Before taking on a part-time job, students should talk to their professors about how much time is expected to be spent studying and working on projects outside of class. Then students can work out how much of their time budget is available each semester.

And what do students do with the money left over from their student loan refund check if they end up not using part of it? Save it and then borrow less the following year. One year’s student loan refund check leftovers can also serve as a student’s emergency account in case of unexpected expenses. What way the money is spent or saved, the main goal is that students are aware that this money will have to paid back with interest.

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Inexpensive Things You Can Do Over The Summer!

 We don’t have much time before summer break sneaks up on us. So before the summer arrives, here are some great activities you can do by yourself or with friends. They are inexpensive, fun, and will cure any boredom you might have this summer.


1. Get in shape with a friend: It’s been proven that people who have a workout partner are the ones who stick to their goals, so burn those calories together! Make a goal, and when you meet it, treat yourself!


2.Teach yourself how to cook: Find a simple recipe and have fun in the kitchen. Tell your family you’ll prepare dinner and have them taste your creation. This also allows time for family bonding.


3.Cool off with some fun water activities: Find a pool and jump in, have a water balloon fight, get water guns and have a blast!


4. Go Geocaching: If you haven’t heard of Geocaching, it’s basically a treasure hunt using GPS. You go to the website www.geocaching.com and enter your zip code to find little treasures that people have hidden in the area. Once you locate their treasure, you replace it with a new treasure and write about your experience on the website!


5. Learn about a different culture:  Learn a different language, watch a movie from a different country, look online and learn about any cultural festivals. Attend them!


Most importantly, remember to have fun!

(…and feed the pig!!!)

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How To Save For Summer Vacation!


Summer is swiftly approaching, and after spring break you might be concerned about how your funds look. Here are some ways you can start saving money for summer vacation now:

  1. No more big spending – You’ve already had a blast on spring break so put the debit card or credit card to rest. I’m not saying don’t have any fun, but really think about purchases long term before making them.
  2. Cook at home- Eating at home can save you tons of money. You may think, “But it’s only from the dollar menu!” Don’t be fooled. Those items add up!
  3. Put money in your savings account – It never hurts to have one. If you make weekly contributions you’ll definitely see the numbers grow.
  4. Pre-Plan – Budgeting how much you can spend weekly will also help you save! Get in to the habit of making lists… then buy only what you need.
  5.  Make use of budgeting and saving apps – There are great apps in the app store that can help you:  Mint Personal Finance, Ebates, and Smarty Pig to name a few.

If you have questions on saving, budgeting, or anything financially related, come see one of the Real LIFE counselors in Carrington 419

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Do You Know The answers?

Last semester Paris and I went around campus and asked a few of our fellow peers some financial aid related questions. Due to technical difficulties we weren’t able to post the video until now, but this is valuable information so we decided to post it anyway.  Take a look, Did they know they answers?

Watch the video and see!


The Answers!

1.  What is the priority deadline to apply for financial aid?

Answer: March 31st. This applies to the F.A.F.S.A to ensure your aid.

2. What grants, loans, and work study opportunities does this college offer?

Answer: Missouri State University students can obtain the Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan and Unsubsidized Stafford loan, the Pell grant, Parent plus Loan, Private with cosigner (fixed), Private with cosigner (Variable), Private (fixed),and Private (Variable) loans.  Missouri State also offers numerous work study jobs. In order to hold a Work Study job on campus you must have received Work Study through your Financial Aid Award Letter. Your award letter will say you received a Federal College Work Study Program and have a dollar amount. You cannot apply for work study positions unless this is on your award letter. You can receive more information on all of this in Carringtion Hall 101 or on the financial aid website http://www.missouristate.edu/FinancialAid/default.htm

3. How does the financial aid package change from year to year?

Answer:  The F.A.F.S.A determines your need-based financial package. Typically a change in your parents or your personal salary and assets will result in a change of need.If your family financial circumstances tend to stay the same then you won’t see much of a change.

4. What does F.A.F.S.A stand for?

Answer: Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

5.What are the average total costs for the first year at Missouri State University?

Answer:  For Missouri residents $15,234 | For Non- Missouri residents $21,816 and personal expenses will vary. The office of student financial aid estimates the cost of transportation, automobile maintenance, insurance, recreation, clothing and other personal expenses will average $3,915 per year for undergraduate students.

6. Does financial need have an effect on admission decisions?

Answer: No. Your acceptance is not affected by your financial need at Missouri State University.


We really hoped you enjoyed this video! Be prepared to see more videos from Real L.I.F.E in the near future! If you have any questions about any of the information in this video feel free to see any of out peer counselors in Carrington Room 419. We’d love to assist you!

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Financial Tips for your Winter Break!


Once again, as college students, we will have a full month off of school.  For some, this is a time to sit on the couch and annoy your parents with requests for more hot chocolate. For others, it’s an opportunity to be productive. Here are some ways to use your holiday time productively, and avoid being swallowed by the Couch Monster.


Make Money!

1.Get a job

If you enjoyed your summer employment, consider working there again this winter.  Otherwise, there are tons of seasonal and major-specific jobs that are available close to your hometown.

With the extra money you earn, you could start saving for an awesome spring break, pay cash for next semester’s textbooks, or even reduce the interest on your loan.


2. Look for scholarships

It would be a great time to complete Missouri State University’s General & Departmental scholarship form.  Otherwise, you could search for scholarships online.

3. Fill out the FAFSA

After January 1st  you can file the FAFSA for 2014.  In order to complete the FAFSA, visit fafsa.ed.gov and follow the on-screen directions.

4.Sell stuff online

Learn how to use Amazon.  It can be a great way to buy gifts.  Also, you could use it as an alternative to buy and sell your textbooks.


Save Money!

1. Make sure to prepare before you shop.  If your holiday shopping list is extensive, it is crucial to set a budget and stick to it.  Remember, this is supposed to be a happy season of giving.  Try to avoid debt and, if necessary, get creative with your holiday gifts.


2. Similar to the previous suggestion, it is important to stick to the budget and simply buy what you are intending to purchase.  Many stores attempt to entice individuals to overspend by offering special deals and discounts.  Avoid the traps of purchasing items for yourself, especially if it is out of your budget.


3. Are you a self-proclaimed shopaholic?  If so, it might be worth bringing a friend or other accountability partner that can help you avoid overspending.



Whether you need to meet scholarship requirements or just want to lend a helping hand, the holiday season is a wonderful time to volunteer.  Many organizations would love to have extra help collecting donations or possibly even offer some sort of future career-related volunteer opportunity.  If you are interested, try visiting volunteermatch.org or use a search engine as well as word of mouth to find an opportunity.



Speaking of scholarship requirements, don’t forget that your GPA might need to meet a relatively high standard.  Therefore, you could review some of the material you struggled with over the past semester or possibly start preparing for your spring classes.


Have Fun!

Remember that winter break is supposed to be a recovery period between semesters.  So, it would be wise to catch up on some sleep and just have fun.  Remember to enjoy the little things and continue to build strong relationships with friends and family.


Happy Holidays from MSU Real LIFE!

If you have any future money-related questions, feel free to contact the

MSU Real L.I.F.E. peer-financial counselors or visit them in Carrington 419.

-Daniel Senn

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