Saving Money on Your Food Budget

February 18th, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

For international students who are working hard just to make ends meet as they go to college in the US, one large and constant financial burden is food. Whether you’re on a college meal plan or not, there are plenty of things you can do to get started saving money on your food budget.

  • Make your own food

This may seem like a very obvious way to save money on food, but students on meal plans often forget that they can still save money by staying in and making their own food some of the time. Meal plans usually have limits to the amount of times you can use them – so lean on them too much and you’ll find yourself paying up for every meal at the end of the semester.

Instead, work on saving money on your food budget by making your own meals a couple times a week. Don’t have a kitchen in your small dorm? You can still throw together small breakfasts and lunches just with basic ingredients that can go in a mini-fridge.

  • Save at the grocery store

Even once you’re making your own meals, you can still save money on food by cutting down on the costs of the food you’re buying. One of the best ways to ensure this is to buy food at wholesale grocery stores, but the cost of membership and the amount of food you have to buy at once will deter plenty of students who have little to no storage space. See if any grocery stores offer savings cards that get you better deals or regular coupon mailers to get you saving money.

  • Snack more

You can cut down on the size of your meals – and thus the money you spend on them – by keeping some food in your belly throughout the day. Be careful with what you buy for snack food, though, as individual bags of chips, candy, and so on can be costly and unhealthy.

If you follow the above tips to save money on food not only will you have less stress about your financial burden, but you also may be eating healthier and feel better in general. Get started on your new eating plan today!


Finding a Job During School

February 11th, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

working on campusFor international students who don’t receive significant financial aid and need some extra help funding their education in the USA, finding a job is one of the best ways to make ends meet. But, just like with financial aid, on-campus jobs can be hard to come by for international students due to legal red tape. Here are a couple tips to help you go about finding a job to facilitate your education:

  • Know your student visa limitations

Student visas, such as the F-1 visa, restrict international students’ legal right to work in the United States, even if they need a financial boost during college. Students on a F-1 visa can only work in certain capacities, the most freely offered one is on-campus employment. For on-campus work, an F-1 student is subject to the following rules:

  1. You must maintain valid F-1 status
  2. You can work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session
  3. You can work full-time on campus during holidays and vacation periods if you intend to register for the next academic semester.
  4. The employment may not displace (take a job away from) a U.S. resident

Some exceptions can be made such as if a student is approved for severe financial hardship or an off-campus job on OPT or CPT status. Make sure you check the specific details of your own student visa so you know if you are eligible to work in the United States.

  • Check for jobs off campus

Part of the federal aid that is unavailable to international students is work study, which helps US citizens get on-campus jobs to fund their education. Plenty of on-campus jobs are not officially limited to work study applicants, but work study employees are legally allowed to be paid with federal funds. If you’re an international student worried about finding a job on-campus, check with your advisor to see what options are available and try widening your search to unaffiliated employers in the immediate area where your ineligibility for work study won’t be a disadvantage.

  • Start early

With all the obstacles international students face in finding a job, don’t add getting a late start to your personal list of difficulties! If you are eligible to work in the U.S., start your job hunt before you actually need the money from a job. It may be hard to focus on the job hunt while adjusting to college life, but keep in mind that it is for other students too – so starting on it right away will give you a big head start!

* Photo of paying money courtesy of Shutterstock


Top 10 Student Loan Tips

January 28th, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

International student loans can be a tricky prospect, especially for incoming freshmen without any experience getting them. Follow these Top 10 Student Loan Tips to help you navigate the world of international student loans!

1. Find a cosigner with established credit

Most international students must have a cosigner in order to apply for a US student loan. Because of this, it’s important to find a cosigner that has good credit history. Since these are non-collateral loans, lenders are going to evaluate the financial capability of your cosigner. Not only will a good cosigner improve the likelihood of getting a loan, but it will also land you a better interest rate and more favorable terms.

2. Don’t just consider the interest rate

The interest rate is the most important factor when evaluating an international student loan, and rightly so. But it’s not the only factor there is. A loan with a low interest rate is good, but what about any other fees or repayment terms? Thoroughly research your loan to make sure you know all the details.

3. Find loans that defer interest

One of the best student loan tips beyond low interest is finding a loan that holds off on accruing interest until you’re finished with school and ready to begin repayment (and hopefully have a job!). This can make a huge difference in the final amount that you will pay for the loan.

4. Only borrow as much as you need

This may seem like a no-brainer, but too often students don’t put enough work into projecting their schooling costs and wind up borrowing significantly more than they need. Be honest with yourself about your expected spending and make sure you only borrow enough to meet your needs (and not your wants!).

5. Pay it off as soon as possible

Another seemingly obvious strategy, but many students wait until a loan payment is due and then only pay the bare minimum to avoid default. Don’t stretch yourself too thin, but if you find yourself able to pay off part of your loan ahead of time or pay more than the minimum monthly payment, do so and get the loan off your back earlier!

6. Reassess your situation with each new loan

As you progress through school, the loan options can change due to both your cosigners credit history and the shifting financial landscape. Don’t just stick with the exact same loan terms year to year – see if you can renegotiate for better terms or even look to another lender for a better option. But at the same time…

7. Consolidate your loans as much as possible

If you already have the best terms possible with the loan you have, keep things simple and stick with the same lender. Also try to get the full amount you need through just one loan a semester. Once you’re into repayment, see if you are able to consolidate your loans into fewer repayments plans as well. Doing this will mean a lot less hassle repaying your loans once you’re out of school!

8. Consider private loans

International students may not have another option, but even U.S. citizens studying abroad or enrolling in an international school should consider the world of private loans in their loan search after they’ve maximized any government assistance. As the demand for student loans increase, private lenders are beginning to offer better and better terms to compete.

9. Find a cosigner

This step will be mandatory for most international students, so start thinking about having a cosigner long before you actually have to finalize a loan! A cosigner should be a creditworthy person close to you, such as a relative or older friend, and they should be willing to cover your payments in the unfortunate situation that you are not able to.

10. Start the process early

Just like finding a cosigner, the best thing you can do to put yourself ahead in the student loan battle in general is to get started early! You don’t want to make any final decisions before you know the specifics of your school costs and financial aid package, but it’s never too soon to look into loans and see what kind of terms are available out there for students like you.

Student loans can be a huge, confusing mess, especially for international students. But keep these Top 10 Student Loan Tips in mind and you’ll be on the road to happy repayment in no time!


Finding a Cosigner for Student Loans

January 21st, 2013 by Bryanna Davis

shutterstock_9639127Many international students will find themselves turning to loans to meet their financial needs for college. One of the most important things for these students to look into right away in the loan search is finding a cosigner. While you won’t always need a cosigner for your loan, having one ready is a big help in case you do.

So what is a cosigner? A cosigner for a loan is a trustworthy, financially sound person who backs up a loan for an individual who may not have sufficient credit history or may not be able to show good credit history. From the lending institution’s perspective, this provides peace of mind (especially since many student loans are non-collateral loans, meaning that there is capital put down in case of non-payment). If you, a young international student, have a cosigner for your loan attesting to your character and financially backing your ability to repay the loan, the institution is much more willing to give you a loan in the first place or offer more favorable terms for a loan in question.

If you are an international student, no matter which loan or lender you choose to apply with, a cosigner is required due to the relative uncertainty that comes with giving loans to people out of the country. This person has to have good credit, be a US citizen or permanent resident, and has lived in the US for the past two years.

The best way to go about finding a cosigner is to turn to friends and family. Your family is the best bet, since it will include adults with a more established financial history and it’s a good source of people wanting to help you out. A helpful friend is also a good option, though finding a friend who has the significantly better financial history typical of a cosigner may be difficult for international students.

Finding a cosigner is one of the most important things international students can do to help their loan search, so make sure to get started as soon as possible!

* Photo of proud parents kissing their kid courtesy of Shutterstock


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