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

FAFSA Reminders

Its that time of year…time to start filling out the FAFSA in order to qualify for aid for next school year!

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 8.55.36 AM

Before beginning your FAFSA, there are several pieces of information that would be helpful to have on hand. Don’t forget:


Driver’s license

Social security number

W-2 forms

Record of taxable earnings

Records that affected gross income

Parents federal income tax return for the previous year

Bank statements


The FAFSA can be confusing. Don’t forget to read all information thoroughly. To steer clear of confusion and delay, be sure to avoid some of these frequently made mistakes:


Leaving fields blank- remember to put ‘0’ or ‘not applicable’ when you can

Using unnecessary punctuation- especially when dealing with numbers, extra decimals can create confusion and miscalculation

Putting the wrong address- make sure you include your current permanent residence

Not putting the exact name on your social security card-the FAFSA requires your legal name; so make sure it matches to what is listed on your social security card

Forgetting to count yourself as a student- you must count yourself as a student attending college during that award year.


With all this in mind, hopefully the FAFSA can be a quicker and more efficient process to qualify for aid for the next school year!

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 8.56.50 AM

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Clarifying the Financial Aid Jargon:

Have you ever been in the Financial Aid Office and are so confused because you don’t know what the financial counselors are talking about? Well, you have come to the right place! Check out this list of frequently used acronyms in the Financial Aid Office and it might help you better understand any questions or problems you may have!

AGI – Adjusted Gross Income
COA – Cost of Attendance
EIC – Earned Income Credit
EDE – Electronic Data Exchange
EFC – Expected Family Contribution
FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid
FAP – Federal Academic Progress
FAT – Financial Aid Transcript
FDLP – Federal Direct Loan Program
FWS – Federal Work Study
IRS – Internal Revenue Service
NSLDS – National Student Loan Data System
NTI – Net Taxable Income
PC – Parent Contribution
SAP – Satisfactory Academic Progress
SAR – Student Aid Report


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

9 Cheap Things To Do Over Winter Break

After spending frivolous amounts of money on holiday shopping and vast quantities of coffee for finals, the break is finally here. You love to break for the holidays, but reality is… its often expensive.

Instead of spending loads of money on entertaining yourself, lets consider some of these cheap and free activities to keep you on your toes during break!

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.43.38 AM

  1. Exercising

It’s hard to find time during the year with classes and events all day. But now you have tons of free time! Hit up the treadmill, go to a yoga class, lift some weights, or find a running trail in your neighborhood. A little each day can do wonders for your health!

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.48.23 AM

  1. Library

In the mood for a lazy day? Relax with some cocoa and a thrilling book. Take some time to drop by the library. This free resource not only has books but magazines, movies, and TV shows as well.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.52.04 AM

  1. Make some money

If you have a job, don’t hesitate to make some money over break! Often holidays are the busiest times for stores and restaurants, and therefore the best opportunities for making some cash. Even without a job, look for neighbors who need their drive shoveled or babysitter for night. A little money here and there can add up!

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.52.54 AM

  1. Clean out your closet

Not exactly the first thing that comes to your mind, but think about all the hidden gems you’ve forgot about in the back of your closet! Some consignment stores will buy clothes you don’t want, and what you don’t sell you can donate to help someone else.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.54.02 AM

  1. Do something new

Do something you have been meaning to do but never got around too. Try painting, teaching yourself an instrument, or even baking. Who knows what kinds of talents you’ve been hiding!

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.56.15 AM

  1. Meet with old friends

Your back in town, and chances are you have high school friends you haven seen in eons. Grab coffee and hear their disastrously funny stories, and share some of your own!

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.57.15 AM

  1. Cook

You would be astounded by what you can make from food around the house. Be creative, look up recipes, surprise your family and make them dinner! If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.58.25 AM

  1. Volunteer

Work in a soup kitchen, help sort at a thrift store, or sing carols in a retirement home. Bring the holiday spirit to those who need it most!

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 12.00.45 PM

  1. Work on your scholarships

Get started on scholarships for next year! School is no small fee, and with all your free time, you can surely spare a few moments to apply for several scholarships.


Don’t worry about blasting your wallet! With these 9 ideas, you will surely be busy with affordable fun this holiday season.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ways to Save Money On Fashion


A lot of times when I walk into a store, I have no intention of buying anything. But then the sweater in the display window calls to me. I convince myself I need the sweater…and suddenly I’m fifty dollars short.


Reality check: I don’t need the sweater.


Here’s the solution: we want to be unique and affordable, right? Look no further. Here are a myriad of possibilities for inexpensive clothes.


Thrifting: Vintage is in right now! Don’t judge a piece before trying it on! Often the strangest article makes for the perfect outfit. Keep in mind interesting patterns and staple items such as solid colors and jeans. Something a grandma wears often can be paired with just the right things to be a perfect look for you.


Upcycling: Jewelry pieces can be turned into a headband, shoes can be painted, and shirts can be cut up and sewn for more different looks…the possibilities are endless. Before buying expensive pants, think about selecting some old ones and revamping. It may be the difference between forty dollars and three dollars!


Sales: Find out which stores are having bargains. Be the coupon cutter! Check resources on your phone like Groupon or Ibotta. Go the back of the store: that’s often where the clearance racks are. And DON’T buy it if you don’t want it. Just because its affordable does NOT mean you really need it.


Patience: So key. My rule of thumb is this: if you enter a store and contemplate buying an item, leave the store and think about it. If you’re still thinking about it or want it by the end of the week, it might be worth it. I once waited for a fifty-dollar scarf to be marked down, and got it shortly after for ten!


You don’t have to sacrifice fashion for saving! Use these tips and look your best for less!



Posted in Budgeting, Saving and Investing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Good news for Student Loan Borrowers!

Good news for Student Loan Borrowers! Some big reform is coming in regards to student loans. It is called the “Pay As You Earn” program and is aiming to help student loan borrowers with massive amounts of student loan debt.
Let’s answer some big questions about this new program:
1. Will these updates help me? If you have federal student loans, maybe. The president expanded the existing “Pay As You Earn” program available to federal student loan borrowers.Currently, this plan caps monthly payments at 10 percent of a borrower’s disposable income and forgives the balance after 20 years of payments. Those aspects of this plan won’t change.

What will change is the number of borrowers who can take advantage of this option.

  • New Borrowers
  • Starting in 2015, borrowers who took out loans before October 2007 or stopped borrowing by October 2011 will now be eligible.


2. How much could I save? Now, most federal loan borrowers are eligible for income-based repayment – a different repayment plan that has the same premise as Pay As You Earn.

Unlike Pay As You Earn, IBR caps payments at 15 percent of one’s disposable income and forgives the balance after 25 years of payments. Those differences could mean a lot, both in monthly payment amount and in the total amount paid over time.

For instance, consider a borrower who owes $55,000 at a 3.41 percent interest rate, has an income of about $35,000 per year, and is not married and has no other dependents. Here’s what that person’s payments would look like under three different payment plans:

Plan Monthly payment amount Total paid over time Amount forgiven
Standard 10-year $541 $64,656 $0
Income-based repayment (25 years) $219 in the first year*​ ​ $75,956 (paid in full after 17 years) $0
Pay As You Earn $146 in the first year* $67,232 $18,644
  •  If you work in public service, forgiveness would happen after 10 years, with a total of only about $20,000 paid during this time period.

If not, you may be better off paying your current payment amount, especially if you anticipate salary increases over the next few years, to avoid paying all that extra interest. Keep in mind that any forgiven amount will be taxed as income. Also, remember that if you work in public service, the forgiveness occurs after 10 years of payments. In that instance, it’s not taxed.


3. What else should I know? There is still a long way to go before the president’s executive action takes effect. December 2015 is the target implementation date.

The president’s overall plan includes quite a few other ideas that will make a difference to student loan borrowers:

  • Improving financial incentives for federal student loan servicers to help borrowers stay out of default
  • Make it easier for active-duty military to receive benefits under the Service members Civil Relief Act
  • Increasing communication partnerships with entities such as the IRS and tax companies to ensure consumers are aware of their higher education rights and benefits.


For more information in regards to this program, please visit http://www.debt.org/students/obama-pay-as-you-earn/

Credit for information in post goes to: www.usnews.com

Posted in Financial Aid, Student Loans | Comments Off

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.

Posted in Credit and Debt, Uncategorized | Comments Off

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.

Posted in Budgeting, Saving and Investing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

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!

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 3.43.56 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 3.48.33 PM


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments