Tuesday, April 1, 2014

One Day Without Shoes, April 29, 2014

"Poverty must not be a bar to learning and learning must offer an escape from poverty." - Lyndon B Johnson

The St Charles Community College campus will be participating in the annual One Day Without Shoes event this month. This is a nation-wide event, sponsored by TOMS shoes, and is intended to raise awareness for children's health and education. We were challenged recently to find a quote to inspire a blog post, and the quote from Lyndon Johnson above seems to sum up this event for me.

Blake Mycoskie, is the owner of TOMS and the originator of this event. For every pair of TOMS purchased, the company provides one pair of shoes to a child in need. They currently provide shoes for children in over 60 countries. The shoes are always given to children through humanitarian organizations who incorporate shoes into their community development programs. His concept of One-for-One came out of a trip in 2006 to Argentina. Mycoskie found that children in a village he visited had no shoes to protect their feet. The lack of shoes was also a barrier to education as they could not attend school without shoes. He started his giving plan and the TOMS company in 2006, followed in 2011 with TOMS Eyewear to help restore sight to poverty stricken, and this year started TOMS Roasting Company that will help provide clean water to developing countries. "Over the past seven years, we've seen one consistent need in almost everywhere we give: lack of clean drinking water," says Mycoskie.

Here is a video thanking participants in over 1000 events last year -
Join SCC this month to help continue to raise awareness of the severe effects of poverty around the world. Commit to one day, or even one class, without shoes as we host our own One Day Without Shoes event on campus. Activities will be taking place on campus on Tuesday, April 29, from 11am-2pm. Among other things, there will be a poster presentation by our SCC nursing students, a screening of TOMS videos, and a One Walk Without Shoes around campus at 2:30pm.

Come out and help raise awareness with us!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

All About the Benjamins - Part 2 "When to Buy"

Don't break the piggy bank; know when the best time is to buy gas, groceries, and other necessary purchases. A couple of the things discussed last October during the "All About the Benjamins" event were how to reduce costs and when prices are best during the week for necessary purchases. (See Part 1 - "Wants vs Needs")

Fifth Third Bank gave some great information for what time of week to buy necessities and get discounts. I've also been a little extra observant about some things like gas prices, and I've found some good sources on the Web for lots of weekly tips. Here are a few:

  • The best day of the week to buy gas is Wednesday. With the ever bouncing and rising cost of gas, I can tell you that this is something I've noticed over the last few years as well. The best day around SCC seems to be Wednesday or Thursday, but if you wait until Thursday evening, you may be paying more already. If you find you're on empty on Friday afternoon, you've missed the savings altogether the majority of the time.
  • The best day of the week to buy groceries is also on Wednesday. Most grocery stores release their sale bills/circulars on Wednesday with the most discounts available mid week. Watch for double coupon days; those may be mid-week as well. Checking locally, the current Schnucks ad and Shop 'n Save ad ran from last Wednesday, February 26 through today, Tuesday, March 4. Dierbergs and Kroger both start today and run through next Monday, March 10. Aldi starts tomorrow, Wednesday, March 5.
  • The best day to buy clothing is Thursday. By Thursday evening, the sales and discounted merchandise in stores is ready for bargain shoppers.
  • The best day for online shopping is generally the weekend. There is higher online traffic on weekends, so retailers tend to lower their prices and entice shoppers to buy from their sites then.
  • If you are planning travel, the best day to buy airline tickets is Tuesday (sometimes Friday. Many airlines bid for flights on Mondays and then release deals starting on Tuesday. Again, online traffic is slower mid-week, so that is the best time to look for lower fares. Some weekend specials are offered on Fridays, so watch for those as well. And, remember to clear your cookies in your browser; airline Web sites track your searches and can see that you're looking for fares on multiple sites and are you will not see your best options. Timing with regard to how close your trip is, is also important. You'll generally see the best prices no more than five months out and no closer than 14 days from departure. Saturday night stays are also considerations to lower travel costs.
When you are car shopping, there are some things you might consider also. Ask questions about the add-on enhancements, and see if they fall into any of these categories:
  • Fabric Protection - Skip it! It could cost you up to $200 for this protection package, and you can do the same thing by spending $8-10 on 3M Scotchgard Auto Interior Fabric Protector
  • VIN Etching and Express Code Marking System - Skip it!
  • Appearance Package - Skit it! Many times this is nothing more than pin-striping on the vehicle that will cost up to $300 from the dealer. You can have it done by a professional for about a third of that cost if you want the added style. 
  • Paint Protection Plan and Window Tinting - Skip it! Ask questions. That Paint Protection Plan is sometimes just a glorified wax job (as described by one of the shops that does it). The window tinting can probably be done by a local professional for half of what the dealer will charge you.
  • Extended Warranties - Maybe, but ask these questions from Edmunds.com
    • To what extent is your vehicle already under warranty and how long to you plan to own it?
    • What the reliability record of the model you're purchasing?
    • Who is behind the warranty that you're considering?
    • What's the nature of its deductible?
    • Is the warranty transferable?
    • Can repairs be performed at any repair shop?
    • What exactly is covered?
    • Is a cash layout required (deductible) for repairs?

These are a few tips to consider in order to keep a little more money in your pocket.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

All About The Benjamins - Part 1 "Wants vs Needs"

In the fall of 2013, the SCC chapter of Phi Beta Lambda and SCC Foundation co-sponsored "All About the Benjamins" with generous contributions from Fifth Third Bank, Cintas Document Management, and General Motors. This was two days set aside to promote financial literacy and awareness on campus. Presentations were given by bankers, financial managers, and financial aid counselors. Free document shredding was also offered. With the support of the sponsors, a financial coach - Ja'Net Adams - came and spoke to students about her own experience with student debt and losing sight of the difference between wants and needs.

Ja'Net Adams (follow her on Twitter at @JaNetAdamsSpeak) believes in taking control of your own financial destiny and living debt free. Her story isn't unique, until you hear how she cut her budget to become debt free. She told students about finding herself $48,000 in debt shortly after graduation through a combination of student loans and car loans because she was trying desperately to keep up with the Joneses. She was able to clear her debt in just two and a half years by implementing some deep cutting when she started examining her budget.

In one of the presentations from Fifth Third Bank, the following information about financial stress was shared:

  • Money worries are the world's greatest cause of stress
  • 92% of Americans are losing sleep over their finances
  • 58 million American adults admit to not paying their credit card bills on time
  • 71% of 45,000 surveyed workers live paycheck to paycheck
When I ask students in COL 101, the College Success Seminar, what their biggest concerns are as they begin their first semester of college, money management is always in the top 4-5 concerns/worries. It is a good time to begin a budget and a financial plan for their money, whether they have a part-time or full-time job, and whether they live at home or have a family and/or household expenses of their own.

One of the first things we discuss in introducing a budget is how to discern wants from needs. Needs are the things you have to have; those things at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Wants are the things you'd like to have but can live without if when necessary. When working these things into your first personal monthly budget, there is sometimes a difficult distinction.

There is a saying that might sound cliché, but it is also true. You must tell your money where to go rather than wondering where it went after it it's gone. This is a common theme with Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University concepts. I've read the book, and it is very common sense based, but that doesn't mean it's always easy to put into practice.

A good place to start, is to keep a spending diary and see where your money is currently going. It will be easier to see the division between wants and needs when looking at the journal. Expenses such as gas, car payment, insurance, and cell phone fall into the needs category. When adding up the amount spent each week on other items such as fast food, movies, mall trips, or those spontaneous purchases in the check-out line are wants that can be minimized. For instance, instead of packing a lunch each day, if you buy a drink and a bag of chips or candy from the vending machine, and maybe a second drink in the late afternoon to get you past that sleepy feeling (brought on partly by eating only junk). It's easy to lose sight of how much money that is. Each soda may be $1.50 and chips or candy another $1.00. That doesn't sound like a lot on its own, and may be pocket change some days. At the same time, add that amount up over a semester and see what you've spent. Take that $4 per day and multiply it by four days on campus for a semester. That's over $500 each fall and spring on soda and chips. If you go to summer school, make that closer to $650. Those costs of wants and poor planning add up quickly. Plus, if you're really wanting the newest iPhone or android on the market, bypassing the vending machine for a semester will leave you with enough money to fulfill that want.

Here are a couple of links to spending diary resources. Give it a try and see where you're leaking money.
Spending Diary Web site and printable diary from McGraw-Hill Higher Ed.

All About The Benjamins - Part 2 will cover cost cutting and smart spending.