Smart allocation of money can ease the burden of college costs

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-By Erik Sargent

As more and more people stress the importance of attending college after graduating high school, potential and current students across the country have seen a constant increase in the expenses related toward earning a college degree.

From the spikes in tuition to textbooks, on-campus or off-campus housing, food, travel, and other living expenses – the price can seem daunting, and sometimes unmanageable. According to a study done by The College Board last year, the average total cost per year for a full-time undergraduate student at a four-year public, in-state school was $24,610.

For students choosing to take the route of a private, four-year school while living on campus, the cost was more than doubled, averaging $49,320.

“Hopefully it doesn’t continue to rise, but people should plan like it’s going to,” said Kathryn Randolph, the contributing editor for financial aid for the company Fastweb. “People should start saving for college as soon as possible, even if you’re currently a senior in high school. The more you save, the less you end up having to borrow.”

Companies like Fastweb use expert teams of researchers to find potential scholarship matches for future and current college students, aiming to take some of the stress out of searching for scholarship money and financial aid by organizing information for people who sign up on their website.

According to Randolph, Fastweb is just one of many tools that help students find resources to pay their way through school, but there are also many other valuable resources available to students if they look in the right places.

“Another place to look for scholarships is through your high school, and the best resource for students in high school is their guidance counselor,” Randolph said. “They will have a listing of scholarship opportunities that are local. Another thing students should do is fill out the FAFSA, which helps them qualify for financial aid. Essentially, the more research students and their families do, the better equipped they are going to be to pay for college, and the more they will understand how much it actually costs instead of going up blindly and ending up with large student loan numbers.”

When working out the payment plans for your college education, it is important to fill out the FAFSA and find out how much money you are able to receive through financial aid. Any money is helpful when it comes to paying for college, and financial aid allows you to work out payments in the future so you are able to get the education you need.

Fastweb produced a list of money saving tricks for students in college outside of scholarships and financial aid, with some important ones that included: buying or renting used textbooks, limiting the amount of times you eat out, using public transportation instead of a car, and never taking out a loan for anything but education.

Paid internship programs or part-time jobs to earn extra cash, particularly during the summer months when school isn’t in session are two additional ways to support the expense of higher education. One company that offers an extensive and hands-on internship program is the international moving company TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®, with opportunities offered at their corporate headquarters in Lansing, Mich.

Students who intern with TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® are given the chance to work in a variety of business fields that can translate anywhere in the professional world, including the marketing, finance, human resources, information technology, and sales departments.

“In addition to daily department responsibilities, our interns also take part in various educational sessions we host at our corporate office,” said TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® Employee Development Coordinator Rocco Cironi. “Our hope is that not only do our interns learn more in the areas they work in, but they also have a better understanding of other departments throughout our corporate office. Our goal is for them to go back to school with a better understanding of the culture and pace of a corporation.”

The interns at TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® are given a variety of tasks to complete within their respective departments, and through other departments as well. This includes everything from volunteer work to video projects, helping set up events, and assisting in  daily responsibilities at both Home Office and the Lansing, Mich., franchise. Near the end of their internships, they complete a final presentation highlighting their summer and what they’ll take away from the experience.

This internship is designed to be extremely beneficial to everyone who participates, and TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® strives to provide as many resources as possible for the interns to use in the present and future.

“The interns have access to a vast amount of resources while here during the summer,” Cironi said. “Our interns meet with each member of the executive team to get to know them better and ask them questions about their experiences. They also meet with our directors through our ‘Lunch and Learn’ program. We want them to learn both professional skills and personal development skills while they are here, as this will help them become more well-rounded individuals and prepare them for life after graduation.”

As Randolph pointed out, there are a multitude of ways to go about handling the expenses of college education, but the most important thing to remember is be smart about your spending. Don’t take on more than you can handle, and be smart about where your money is being allocated, as this will ease the burden of life after graduation.

“One thing we like to say a lot at Fastweb is that when you are in college, you should live like a college student so you don’t have to live like a college student when you graduate,” Randolph said. “This is the time in your life when you should be buying used textbooks, looking on Craigstlist for furniture, living with a roommate, and doing anything you can to cut down on your daily, monthly, and yearly living expenses.”

TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® kicks off summer “Home Hacks” social contest promotion

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-Written by Erik Sargent

Are you a “home hacks” guru? Do you specialize in DIY-projects around your home, and have time or money saving tips you think would be useful to others? Then TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®’s newest social media contest is for you!

Beginning on Monday, July 17, and running through Sunday, August 13, TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® will run a national social media contest centered on the idea of the best “Home Hacks”. The winner of the contest will be announced via social media on Wednesday, August 16.

Just what exactly qualifies as a home hack? It’s anything you do around your home that helps to save either time or money while maintaining your living space. Anything from using aluminum foil in place of dryer sheets to easily removing permanent marker from the wall can be considered a home hack – simple solutions that make life a little easier in your home.

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“Summer is the season of home improvement, so we want to see the best ‘home hacks’ being used to save time, money, and energy while maintaining their home,” said TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® Media Relations Specialist Jessy Herman. “Through social media, we engage with people who have recently moved or plan on moving in the future, and we hope this type of contest can provide a way for our social community to share their tips and tricks, and maybe even discover new ideas!”

Participants are asked to tag their home hack project with the hashtag #TMTHomeHacks, which will ensure submissions are entered into our contest. We will provide a platform for our audience to vote and determine which home hack they think is the top idea, with voting being limited to one vote per Facebook user and IP address per day. We will enable a CAPTCHA each time someone votes, assuring people the voting process is fair and honest.

“We are extremely excited to see what creative, yet simple ideas people can come up with,” Herman said. “With the voting system determining the outcome of the contest, we are thrilled to see how people come together to determine who the winners will be.”

The best home hacks will be awarded nicely, as we have some outstanding prizes to align with the entire theme of the contest:

-1st Place: $1,500 to Lowe’s Home Improvement

-2nd Place: $1,000 to Lowe’s Home Improvement

-3rd Place: $500 to Lowe’s Home Improvement

The first 10 people to enter the contest – regardless of where they finish in the voting process – will be awarded $20 gift cards to Lowe’s as well. You can never have enough money going toward your home, and a gift card to Lowe’s is a great way to finish up any projects you are working on as the summer wraps up.

We hope to see everyone submit some of their own tips and tricks for saving money around the house, and we hope people can have fun with this idea while learning a thing or two! To learn more, stay tuned to our TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® Facebook page for details.

TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® is the first and largest franchised moving company in the United States. Let us help move you forward! For more helpful tips and information on moving services subscribe to our blog and like us on Facebook.

7 tips for making a move without derailing your 2016 budget

Stay on budget during your move

Moving can be very stressful. Aside from hauling heavy furniture, balancing cardboard boxes full of fragile items, and struggling to stay organized amidst all the chaos, moving between homes can also be financially demanding. An unexpected major expense can really derail your yearly budget.

There are ways to keep spending under control, however. If you have an upcoming move in 2016, use these tips to prepare yourself so you don’t feel the sting of excessive moving expenses.

1. Change your mindset

Treat your home budget as if you were running a business. Not only will you take money more seriously, but you’ll discover plenty of new ways to look at spending. To start, make sure all major expenses are justified by weighing the total cost against the potential returns. Develop a reserve fund in case some element of the move goes amiss. Pay close attention to each expenditure, and eliminate those that aren’t working.

When you treat your family finances as if you were a professional accountant, you’ll quickly find yourself more prepared for any unexpected moving expenses that may arise.

2. Cut costs wherever possible

If keeping your move costs as low as possible is a top priority there are ways to minimize the expense. If you plan on keeping the same phone and internet services, then you can take your equipment with you. You can pack your belongings yourself, schedule a shut off date for utilities to avoid paying for time you are no longer there, cancel or forward any magazine and news subscriptions, and be sure to be ready when the movers arrive.

Not only should you cut costs that directly relate to the move, but also those that arise indirectly as a result of the move. It may be tempting to eat out or take quick sightseeing excursions when you’re in transit, for example, but those options cost more money than making sandwiches and playing board games in the hotel.

3. Get quotes from more than one reputable mover

Every moving company has different rates, and some of them are much higher than others. Do keep in mind that cheaper isn’t necessarily better and you will get what you pay for. The most important part is understanding what you are buying, what is included in the rate. Conveniently many companies such as TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® offer free online estimates but you’re always welcome to call. Be cautious when considering nonprofessional movers, as scammers and thieves abound. A truckload of lost or stolen belongings will end up costing you much more than the services of a reputable company. Take the time to read reviews of the company and ask friends or family who have used the movers how their experience was.

4. Predict major upcoming expenses

Factor your moving expenses in with any big ticket purchases you plan to make throughout the year. Being aware of upcoming costs can help you to shift things around in your budget enough that you won’t have to scramble for extra money at the last minute.

If your schedule allows, booking your move on a weekday versus weekend is typically cheaper as there is more demand for moving on the weekend. If you have the flexibility, you may also consider timing your move to fall during a less financially stressful time of year.

5. Track your finances using an app

Budgets can be hard to follow, especially when you’re juggling receipts and bank statements. By using an app to simplify the process, you’ll be able to review your budget more often and stick to it more naturally.

Mint is one such financial tracking app that makes it easy to keep tabs on your income and expenses. You can easily create budgets and get a bird’s eye view of where your money is going, as well as manage your bills and monthly expenses.

6. Take only what you need

Moving can be a great incentive to do some spring cleaning, and getting rid of unnecessary possessions can make your move easier and cheaper. Take the opportunity to do a large eBay sale or an old-fashioned yard sale to recoup some of your expenses. You may find that the money you make can heavily subsidize your moving costs.

If you can’t sell all your unneeded items, donate the rest to charity and claim a deduction on your yearly taxes to save even more.

7. Claim work relocation expenses on your tax return

On the note of deductions, the IRS may allow you to claim a moving deduction if you are moving for employment. As long as the distance from your old home to your new workplace is at least 50 miles greater than the distance from your old home to your old workplace, you’ll likely qualify.

This deduction applies to all reasonable moving expenses, including the cost of the move, hiring a professional moving service, and insuring your possessions. You can also deduct several other expenses, including the cost of temporary lodging or the cost of storing your possessions at a facility.

With a little time and careful planning, you can ensure a smooth, successful transition to your new home without breaking the bank.

Alice Williams, AT&TAlice Williams is a digital communications expert for AT&T with an MA in Communication Studies. She writes extensively on communication, business and tech and is currently based in Salt Lake City.