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saving money tips

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How to Make a Budget for College

College is expensive. Anyone who tells you it isn’t… is probably lying! Ha! It’s really a wise practice to make a budget for any season in your life, but especially in college. You will be well occupied with your class schedule, and may not even be working part-time while you’re in school. So, without a big income source, how will you cover those many expenses? That’s where a smart budget comes in: you will never wonder how to pay your bills, and you will always know what’s left in your month allotment. Here are our very best tips to creating a realistic budget as you leave home for the first time:

Source: Pexels.com

Source: Pexels.com

Figure out where your income sources are coming from: Whether you are working or not while in school, you will have some sort of “income” source. It can be money from your parents, a trust fund, your own job, student loans, or any other sort of incoming finances. If your parents are supporting you in college, be clear with your expectations and how much you will be receiving. It’s not a fun conversation, but its really necessary with family, so no one has unfair expectations about their roles. If you are working, be sure to factor in taxes and fees that come out of your check, before you estimate how much you’re really taking home.

Next, divide up your upcoming expenses into categories. You will have many categories when it comes to college, but here are our suggested basics: Room and board, textbooks and school supplies, transportation, clothing, and discretionary spending. Room and board would include: cost of living on campus, or an apartment with utilities such as power and internet. Textbooks and supplies can include anything that you need for school, so don’t leave out items like scientific calculators, lab equipment, or any special uniforms or clothing. Transportation can include your own car, public transport, and any associated fuel or insurance fees, and clothing is self-explanatory. Discretionary spending includes any entertainment, spending money, or extras such as dining out with friends. We would also recommend adding a category for your cell phone plan, if that’s something you pay for.

Match up your expenses to your income, and figure out where the gaps are: If you are unable to meet your basic needs with your income, you will need to figure out a secondary plan, such as cutting out things like clothing money, or taking on part time work, such as selling clothes on Poshmark, or babysitting or tutoring. If at all possible, avoid taking out additional student loans because of the interest rates. 

Track your expenses: Once you have a written or digital (like an app) budget in place, begin diligently tracking your expenses. You can often find out where your biggest pitfalls lie by looking at your online banking statements and matching them up to your categories. Before you leave for college, one of the wisest things you can do is to save a large nest egg up, in order to cover emergencies such as new tires, unexpected travel (especially if you live very far from home), or a medical crisis. We recommend at least $2000 as an “emergency” fund, although any more than that would be very wise as well. 

By being diligent about managing your money in college, you are setting yourself up for success in the rest of your life as well. College is not only useful to gain academic knowledge, but it is also an important time to create healthy habits financially! 

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How to Budget for Your Senior Session

The dreaded topic of money is usually the item that so many clients and their parents bring up first. It is an investment to have professional senior portraits done, and often, it can be tight for families who live paycheck to paycheck, or who want to provide their senior the best experience at an affordable price. As parent of a graduate, I know the many places your pocketbooks are being pulled: college expenses, textbooks, car maintenance, and graduation parties/expenses. I wanted to share some creative ways to budget today, so it might encourage and help clients who are considering a senior shoot (and wondering how to pay for one). We are just one of many professional senior portraits services here in Texas, and our signature selling point is that we understand our clients. I hope these tips can help you!

Source: Pexels

Source: Pexels

Divide out your needed amount way back at the start of junior year: If you are a parent of a junior who is reading this, nope, it's not too early! In fact, many parents start searching for a senior photographer as early as sophomore or junior year, and it's never too early to begin saving. After you've found a photographer you love, try to get a ballpark figure (ask your photographer for their session fee and their average investment costs, and take into account that many photographers raise their prices each year). Divide that amount by the number of months before the time when your session would take place (don't forget to ask what payments are due when). Make this number your monthly savings goal and set it aside. When your session rolls around, you may not have the exact amount yet, but you should be close, and it will alleviate the major crunch of paying for it all at once.

Get creative with raising money: Saving things as little as pop cans, or putting change in a jar can really add up. Although these things are not fast ways to earn money, every little bit helps. Larger ways to raise money such as yard sales are also a great idea. You can buddy up with a friend to earn money simultaneously, and have a "multi family" yard sale. Shoppers are more likely to come to larger sales, so if you can find a friend and split your profits, it can work out great for everyone.

Go through your closet and take clothes to a consignment shop: Most of us have tons of clothes and shoes we don't wear anymore. Taking them to a good consignment store or selling them online can be a wonderful way to earn money for your senior wardrobe or your session fee. Plato's Closet or similar consignment shops can be perfect, although your take might be small. Try EBay or Poshmark for higher-end items (like LuluLemon or Anthropologie) to get a little more bang for your buck...some nicer brands go for close to retail prices if they are in great shape. Be sure to wash, iron, and remove any pet hair from your clothes to increase your chances of selling them for a good price. 

Request contributions to your "photo fund" for birthdays/holidays. If you have eager grandparents or family members who enjoy giving gifts for holidays and birthdays, encourage them to put money towards your senior session instead. This way, they can be a part of your special journey, and give something much more meaningful than a trinket or memento. Be sure to send a sincere thank-you...and plenty of prints when they are done! 

Turn in books or DVD's on Amazon or a local book store: Amazon has a buyback program for some books and dvd's that are in great shape. This solution can help you clear out clutter and raise a little money in the meantime. They typically accept books and media in great shape, and will give you a few dollars per item, based on demand. It won't make a big difference to your fund, but could also be put towards clothing or college needs. 

Make a spreadsheet to track expenses and income for the senior shoot. This will help you keep your eye on the goal, and prevent unnecessary spending. If you can see progress, you are more likely to stick with your savings plan. You can also enter in extra money that you earn to get to your goal faster. If you are wondering how to find any extra money in the first place, begin tracking your regular expenses (parents and seniors can benefit from this), and see where you may be overspending. That daily latte or dry cleaning or Target run might be sucking up more money than you realized!

Let me know if you have questions or concerns about paying for your senior session, and I will gladly help direct you to resources or ideas. 

 

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