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Getting a Handle on Your Personal Finances in College. How to Get Out Debt Free

Trying to track your finances in college can be an arduous task. Students of online degrees would benefit if they were financially conservative so that they don’t rack up any debt in college.

The following suggestions are meant to help you manage your existing finances as well as exploring some places where you are able to get other modes of financing to help you pay for school.

The first thing you can do is create a spending plan.

Regardless of your current income, you need to establish some personal finance habits. You need to come up with a range you are comfortable with and then stick to it! For example I can spend $80-$100 on food per week.

COME UP WITH A SAVINGS PLAN

Even if it’s just a few dollars per week. Saving anything is really more important than how much is saved. Just forming the habits is more important than how much is saved.

ESTABLISH AN EMERGENCY FUND

This is such a difficult task for students because they don’t have the extra money if an emergency arises. Set a small goal, for example if you lost a book or got a flat tire, it doesn’t have to be a lot of money. You just want something, anything to get you through that tight spot,

BE CAREFUL WITH CREDIT CARDS

Credit cards can make it easy to not know where you’re spending the money. Too many students use credit cards as cash dispensers and purchase things they really can’t afford. On the one hand, having a credit card and paying it off helps you establish good credit and can help you buying that car or apartment down the road. But on the other hand, if you rack up debt that you can’t pay off—it’s going to do the opposite and lower your credit score. Have a zero policy for debt. Paying interest on things like clothes and alcohol and do go into debt for it is a really bad idea. Student Loans are the only thing worth going into debt for, and then have a plan to pay that load back.

CAN YOU DO ANYTHING TO SAVE MONEY IN COLLEGE?

You can do simple things right away like waiting to buy those expensive textbooks. Some the books you have to buy aren’t even used in class. In certain English classes, a lot of the short stories and reading materials can be found online. Of course, certain professors use all of the required books and that’s fine. However, investigate the reading material you truly need to buy. You may be able to cut a few corners.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF STUDENT DISCOUNTS

Most campuses and local merchants can offer up to a 20% discount on purchase for students with a valid school id.

INCREASE YOUR INCOME

A lot of times students focus only on academics and choose not to work. If you are creative, there may be place you can make extra money by investigating paid internships. Plenty of students are able to balance work and school.

Federal programs you can take advantage of :

FEDERAL GRANTS CAN SAVE YOU THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS

The Department of Education spends billions annually through grants for students.

The primary benefit it that students do not have to pay the government back. . Students are eligible for grants by completing and submitting the FAFSA form. Although there are many grants, the main opportunities are the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant), Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH Grant), and other institutional grants.

SCHOLARSHIPS-FREE MONEY AVAILABLE TO STUDENTS

Similar to grants, scholarships are sources of funding (or other promised aid) gifted to students to pursue their graduate or undergraduate education—no repayment necessary. While college scholarships are granted for a variety of reasons, the most common are student merit, financial need, athleticism, ethnicity and field of study.

Although scholarships do not need to be repaid, some are awarded with certain stipulations (such as enrolling in a particular field of study or working with a certain organization).

Like grants, scholarships are money that is given by governments, foundations and non-profit organizations. One of the main differences between scholarships and grants is that scholarships tend to have more rigid requirements for selection, and are typically targeted towards those going to college. Scholarships will require students to meet certain requirements, both before and after they've obtained it, while grants vary widely in their requirements, amounts and expectations. Plus they can be given under a variety of different circumstances.

To find scholarships, visit this US Department of Education website to search and browse for scholarships by category or discipline.

TAX BREAKS FOR ONLINE DEGREES

Financing an education is a difficult task. The government provides many tax breaks in addition to grants and loans. To learn more about grants and loans visit the financial center of the online school's website.

HOPE SCHOLARSHIP TAX CREDIT

The name of this tax credit is misleading as it is not a scholarship rather it is a tax rebate. A family may claim $1,650 for each family member pursing higher education. Students must at least be taking class’s part time. The taxpayer’s income must not exceed $57,000 or $114,000 jointly.

The student cannot have committed a drug related felony. Taxpayers cannot also take the Lifelong Learning tax rebate in conjunction with the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit. The credit can only be used for the first two years of postsecondary education. Fill out IRS Tax form 8863 to apply for the rebate.

AMERICAN OPPORTUNITY TAX CREDIT

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more parents and students will qualify over the next two years for a tax credit, the American Opportunity Credit, to pay for college expenses.http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=205674,00.html is not available on the 2008 returns taxpayers are filing during 2009. The new credit modifies the existing Hope Credit for tax years 2009 and 2010, making the Hope Credit available to a broader range of taxpayers, including many with higher incomes and those who owe no tax. It also adds required course materials to the list of qualifying expenses and allows the credit to be claimed for four post-secondary education years instead of two. Many of those eligible will qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student.

The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. These income limits are higher than under the existing Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits.

ONLINE DEGREES FOR VETERANS

The new GI Bill makes online education even more affordable for veterans.

Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008:

Who qualifieshonorably discharged veterans who served in the armed forces on or after September 11, 2001 who have at least served 90 days or had a service connected disability for 30 days. For full benefits, the serviceman must have served at least 36 months. Servicemen/women who have completed 3 to 35 months of active duty will receive partial benefits.  Service members have fifteen years to claim these benefits. Veterans must be pursuing a degree; certificate programs are not eligible.

How it Works: With help from the “Yellow Ribbon Program”, the government and a participating private institution/out of state college share the cost of tuition. Up to $2,000 will be paid for certification testing as well as an annual stipend of $1,000 to pay the cost of books and other education related expenses.  Up to four years of tuition assistance will be provided.

YELLOW RIBBON

The Yellow Ribbon Program comes under the post 9/11 GI Bill. Private colleges and universities can enter into dollar matching agreements with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to cover any outstanding tuition and fees above those covered by the base GI Bill benefit. Soon even public colleges or universities can enter to cover the costs of non-resident veterans or those enrolled in more expensive programs such as law or business. The American Council on Education is confident a significant number of public and private institutions will be participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program.