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The veterans page: Veterans Day. Suicide awareness. A surprised 8-year-old. Honoring heroic dog. Honorably discharged veterans shop tax-free. Forever GI Bill. Father takes care of 4 children. Integrate Marine Training? Robotic legs. Costs of war. Saluting a fallen soldier. 300K Lotto winner. Vets and painkillers. Vet resources. Grandmother of veteran's family deported. Housing the homeless. Veteran finds healing through adopting a cat. Wounded Marines help others.

Empowering students to fulfill their dreams through education.

Saving $$$

The mission of this blog is to empower students with knowledge and resources. One way to do this is to help you save money. Why target money? Because it's one of the biggest stressors in life, especially for college students, and financial literacy isn't generally taught in schools. What you'll find here: How to reduce spending. How to obtain credit. The best cell phone plans. Back-to-school deals. The most reliable used cars. Getting the lowest price on books. Starting an emergency fund. Getting out of debt and growing your money.

I know; you'd rather have a root canal than work on your monthly budget and I'm with you (well almost -- I remember having a root canal and I think I'd rather work on my budget!). However here is why working with a budget is essential: you have to gauge how much money you have, how much you're spending, how much you're saving (or not saving), and make necessary adjustments or you're going to be in the red (read debt) and not have a clue about why. A budget is like the speedometer in your car; it tells you how fast you're going on the freeway to avoid a speeding ticket or how rapidly your savings account is growing or diminishing (hopefully growing). A budget also tells you if your plan is working.

How to set a budget and stick with it appeared on Yahoo! Finance. The article also gives you a good guideline to follow re: how much to allocate to essentials, discretionary, and savings.


Did you know that in negotiating a price, you should make an offer and then stay silent? This article tells you why and provides other tips for getting the lowest price. 10 Tips for Negotiating a Better Price on Anything appeared in MSN Money.

It is possible to get out of debt. Ask Guen Garrido, who paid off 68K in three years (Hint: work on your smallest debt first). How one millennial paid off $68,600 in just over 3 years appeared on MSN Money.

Mark Cuban knows a little bit about money. Here are his three money tips to help you get started on the right track for 2018. This article appeared on MSN Money

Paying too much for cellular? Here's a guide to the best cell phone plans for your needs. The Best Cell Phone Plans appeared on The Wirecutter

Do you buy multivitamins, bottled water, medications, or insecticide? Read this article to find out why you're wasting your money.

28 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2018 appeared on MSN Money.  

You could be doing Black Friday all wrong. Reader's Digest gives you the scoop on mistakes you could be making when you shop on Black Friday. 10 Ways You're Doing Black Friday All Wrong appeared on MSN Lifestyle.

Black Friday secrets from the people who work in the stores: The items have probably been on sale at the same price before. Some stores mark up the retail price to make you think you're getting a better deal. If you want Thanksgiving back as a holiday, don't shop on this day. 11 Insider Facts Most Black Friday Workers Know -- And You Probably Don't appeared on MSN News.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Sales, Discounts, Internet, Gifts, Frenzy. Yes, these are all part of the holiday season, but there are ways to avoid spending too much. 9 Expert Tips to Avoid Overspending During the Holidays appeared on Deal News.

Did you know you can negotiate a lower rent payment? California residents can take advantage of an app that will refund you money when you cut your electricity use during peak times. Or buy your car insurance per mile if you don't drive a lot. Try a less expensive cell phone provider. This Is How to Save Money on the Expensive Monthly Bills You Can't Escape appeared in the Penny Hoarder.

Never shop when you're hungry because you'll spend more. Shop for groceries on Wednesdays after 9pm. The 46 Best Supermarket Shopping Tips Ever was published on Eat This, Not That!

It's time to submit the FAFSA. Here are mistakes you don't want to make. 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Filling Out the FAFSA appeared on Yahoo! Finance.

Freebies in October: Lyft rides to free streaming of the NFL from MSN Money.

If you want to move to another city in California, Merced probably wouldn't be the wisest choice. Unemployment is over 10% and over a third of the population lives below the poverty rate. Worst Cities to Live in Every State appeared on MSN Money.

Okay, I'm big on saving money but you can take things too far. 7 Money-Saving Moves That Can Totally Backfire appeared on MSN Money.

If you don't put enough into a 401K to get an employer match, it's a mistake that will cost you. The 401(k) Mistake You Can't Afford to Make appeared on MSN Money.

9 Surprising Ways to Get a Discount on Your Tuition appeared in Student Loan Hero.

70% of Americans can't answer these three money questions. Can you?


Question 1

Suppose you have $100 in a savings account and the interest rate is 2 percent per year. After five years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?
A. More than $102
B. Exactly $102
C. Less than $102
D. I don't know


Question 2

Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account is 1 percent per year and inflation is 2 percent per year. After one year, how much would you be able to buy with the money in this account?
A. More than today
B. Exactly the same as today
C. Less than today
D. I don't know

Question 3

Do you think the following statement is true or false: Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.

This article and answers to the above questions appeared on MSN Money.

If you're thinking of purchasing a car, read my article in the Penny Hoarder about how buying the wrong car cost my family over $32,000.

If you shop at Costco, you have to check out the MSN articles

Does buying in bulk at Costco really save you money?

20 deals only at Costco.

15 items always cheaper at Costco.

11 foods not to buy at Costco.

If you shop at Best Buy, here are some things you should know from employees. 6 Secrets from Best Buy Employees That'll Change How You Shop appeared in MSN Money.

Here is the story of an anesthesiologist who makes six figures but spends money on what is truly important and still buys from Craigslist. I Just Visited Someone With One of the Highest-Paying Jobs in the US and Was Blown Away By How Little He Spends appeared on MSN Money

If you're looking to buy a car, consider that some cars are stolen more than others. 10 Most Stolen Cars in America appeared on MSN Autos.

For students looking to sell their books at the best prices, this
website is gold. It allows you to type in an ISBN number for a book and it will provide up to 35 vendors with multiple offers to buy your book. The site even allows you to ship for free to get paid.

Need help picking out a cell phone plan? How about deciding on a cell phone without the contract? Data overages making you cranky? Here are your solutions:

MSN Money helps you decide on the best cell phone plan.

CNET guides you to the best cell phones that don't require a contract.

CNBC shows you how to avoid data overages on your iPhone.

I made the mistake of not doing a monthly budget until very recently. Why is that a problem? If you don't know how much you're spending, there's no way to rein it in. You have to be aware of where your money is going before you can curtail your spending, and a monthly budget helps. If you're not keeping a budget, start immediately. The following article has budgeting tips and an app that makes it easier to budget.

The 5 Biggest Money Mistakes New Grads Make appeared on Yahoo Finance. 

Going to Disneyland this summer? It's expensive but here are some ways to save. Hint: you can bring your own food to Disneyland. 12 Genius Ways to Save Money at Disney appeared on MSN Lifestyle.

And if you want to buy the souvenir before you go, check out the prices on Disney's Twice Upon A Year Sale.

If you're looking to buy a car, it pays to find the most reliable brands because it will save you money in repairs. MSN Auto hooked up with U.S. News & World Reports to find the most reliable car brands. 11 Most Reliable Car Brands appeared on MSN Auto on May 22, 2017.

Some people want to buy a new car, something I don't suggest because buying a used vehicle saves money. Still, if you are itching to buy a new compact car, two of the best for performance, reliability, and value are the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.

How do they compare? Motor Trend and MSN Auto rate the Civic higher. Cars.com has a YouTube video suggesting the Civic is more fun to drive. However, one thing that isn't mentioned is reliability. The April 2017 Consumer Reports rates the Corolla much higher in reliability, meaning it could cost less in repairs over time.

Most Reliable Car Brands from MSN Auto

If you can prevent your home from being burglarized, you won't lose valuable possessions, money, time, and peace of mind. 21 Things A Burglar Won't Tell You appeared in Reader's Digest and MSN Lifestyle.

Has the price of real estate in San Diego got you down? Here's a possible solution: have a robot print it up for you! A Robot Can Print This $32K House In As Little As 8 Hours appeared on MSN Money.

May the Fourth Be With You! 9 Personal Finance Lessons to Learn from Star Wars appeared on MSN Money.

If you can afford a new car and help the planet at the same time, here are some options from US News & World Report and the San Diego Union Tribune:

Best Hybrid and Electric Cars

Top 10 Gas/Electric Hybrids

Top 5 Electric Vehicles

"Student loans are now higher than credit cards and automobile loans combined" -- Jim Chilton, CEO of the nonprofit, Society for Financial Awareness

The Worm in the Apple: Public Education Without Financial Literacy was published in the San Diego Union Tribune on April 23, 2017

" . . . our country spends first, saves last, and makes decisions in a ready-fire-aim mentality." -- Jim Chilton, CEO of Society for Financial Awareness

Saying "No" or "Not Now" Could be a Life-Changer appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune on April 9, 2017.


If you shop at Target, there are some particular ways to save every time you go. One of these is that wall-facing endcaps often have discounted items, so check these before the main aisles. 10 Easy Tricks to Save Even More Money at Target appeared on MSN Lifestyle.

CNBC reporter Kathleen Elkins saved over $1000 in two months. Find out how in 6 Smart Ways to Save Your Money.

Tom Corley has researched millionaires and he suggests adopting 5 habits to improve your finances. 5 Things To Do In 2017 If You Want to Get Rich appeared on CNBC

The April 2017 car issue of Consumer Reports is out, and I'm listing their used car recommendations for the $5000 to $10,000 category here. I'm using this category because it is the least expensive and most college students don't have a huge amount of money to spend on a car. These recommendations are based on the magazine's tests of the cars when they were new and their above average reliability. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a crucial safety feature and it is included in the ratings as the first year it was available as an option and the first year it was a standard feature on the model.

Category $5k to $10K price range

Used Subcompact:
Honda Fit 2007 to 2011                 Optional ESC 2009, Standard ESC 2011

Used Compact:
Pontiac Vibe 2007 to 2010             Optional ESC 2007, Standard ESC 2009
Toyota Corolla 2007 to 2011          Optional ESC 2007, Standard ESC 2010
Toyota Matrix 2007, 2008, 2010    Optional ESC 2007, Standard ESC 2010
Toyota Prius 2007 to 2009              Optional ESC 2007, Standard ESC 2010

Used Midsized and Large Sedans:
Honda Accord 2007                        Optional ESC 2007, Standard ESC 2008
Toyota Camry 2007 to 2008           Optional ESC 2007, Standard ESC 2010

Researching Cars:





Best sites to buy/sell a car online:

Digital Trends article

Used car loans:

San Diego County Credit Union
Pacific Marine Credit Union

CA Coast Credit Union

Selling your used vehicle:

Carmax will make you an offer good for seven days on your vehicle. You won't get as much as selling it yourself but it's a lot less hassle.

Sell it yourself on Auto Trader.

Gas mileage comparison:


Beware of salvage titles, faulty airbags, and unsafe cars:

Twelfth Fatality Reported From Takata Airbags

How Dangerous Air Bags Can Find Their Way Into Used Cars

America's Deadliest Cars

These 15 tips to save are sound: Buy used (or pre-owned if the term sounds better to you), especially when it comes to a car. Buy in bulk (this is why Costco is always busy). And make a list when you shop to keep yourself from bringing home that frivolous accent table or sheepskin mittens you have no use for. 15 Golden Rules for Saving on Every Purchase appeared on MSN Money.

Do you eat out a lot? It's costing you big-time. What about that gym membership you don't use? Drop it and see how much you save each month. I Learned 5 Ways to Be Better With My Money and I've Already Saved $400 appeared on CNBC.

Cutting Cable: If you're thinking about cutting your cable TV, the San Diego Union Tribune is running a column called Digital Life by Jennifer Van Grove to help you.

Finding the Right Streaming TV Option for You was published on July 15, 2017

The Internet FAQ for Cord-Cutters was published on April 22, 2017

Your Cord-Cutting Questions Answered was published on March 11, 2017

An Overview of Cable TV Alternatives was published on March 4, 2017.

Cord-Cutters Who Love Sports Not Totally Out of Luck appeared on Feb. 25, 2017.

Can You Live Without Cable TV for a Week? was published on Feb. 18, 2017.

An Intro to Streaming Sticks and Boxes appeared on Feb. 11, 2017.

A Beginner's Guide to Cutting the Cord was published on Feb. 3, 2017.

It's Not Me, It's You: Breaking Up With Cable was published in the San Diego Union Tribune on 10-19-15.

Save $1000: In a previous post on getting out of debt, I cited author, Dave Ramsey, in urging you to start an emergency fund of $1000 asap to help you through life's unexpected expenses such as a car repair. You might be asking how to do that. Well MSN Money has provided 15 Painless Ways to Save $1000 by Summer. One suggestion is to get a cheaper cell phone plan. And remember that if you cancel your gym membership, we have lots of fun exercise classes at San Diego City College such as yoga, kickboxing, and dance.

Debt: Students (and everyone else) should avoid loan debt. The surest way to do that is to not take out student loans in the first place. How to pay for school you ask?
  • Live at home with parents as long as possible. This might mean you help around the house and contribute to household expenses.
  • Apply for financial aid. This goes without saying. Even if you don't think you qualify, submit your FAFSA and indicate "Work Study" if you are interested in a part-time job on campus. Renew your FAFSA every year. 
  • Apply for scholarships. Check out the scholarship page on this blog. Also check the San Diego City College scholarship site for resources.
  • Take as many courses as possible at the community college before transfer. Work with a counselor on this.
  • Set a budget and stick to it.
  • Cut unnecessary expenses. By this, I mean buy only what you need, not what you want.
  • Author Dave Ramsey says it's imperative to set up an emergency fund of $1000 asap. Whatever your budget can afford, start putting a set amount away each month until you reach $1000. How? Sell stuff you don't need. Work an extra job during school breaks. Take in a roommate to cut the rent. Having an emergency fund will save you a ton of stress when emergencies happen. It will also empower you by showing you it's possible to save.
  • Once you establish your emergency fund, then continue saving the same monthly amount or more if possible. Put it in a savings account toward your future college expenses.
Okay, female students, the article below is about you. But don't fret. Do the above instead. College Debt Weighs More Heavily on Women Than On Men appeared on MSN Money.

Movies: I like going to the movie theater, but by the time I've paid for tickets for our family of four and made it back from the concession stand, I have gone through a boatload of cash. So is it possible to go to the movies without taking on a second job? Here are 15 ways to save at the theater from MSN. Hint: you might miss the popcorn, but you'll survive.

Cellular Phone Carriers: Here are some no-contract cell phone carriers that could save you money over the big companies:

Consumer Cellular took first place in the PC Mag Readers' Choice Awards for mobile carriers and the company was recognized by JD Power for best-in-class customer service. Their plans start as low as $10 a month.

Republic Wireless also ranked high in the PC Mag Readers' Choice Awards. Republic Wireless has 4G LTE and WiFi. Plans start at $15 a month with unlimited talk, text, and WiFi data and you have
the ability to change your plan based on your use needs.

Cricket Wireless plans start at $30 a month with 4G LTE, 1GB data, and unlimited nationwide talk and text. Cricket Wireless has been recommended by Consumer Reports and the PC Mag Readers' Choice Awards.

Page Plus has been recommended by Consumer Reports. Their plans start at $12 a month with 250 minutes or $39.95 with unlimited minutes.

Ting has been recommended by Consumer Reports. Their plans are based on your actual usage and their average customer monthly bill is $23.

MetroPCS is ranked highly in the PC Mag Readers' Choice Awards. They have a $30 plan that includes unlimited data, talk, and text.

Items That Can Save You Money: How can a crock-pot, coffee maker, or cable modem save you money? Check out this MSN article to find out.

Is It a Good Time to Buy a Used Car? The Time is Right to Buy a Used Vehicle was published in the LA Times on December 27, 2016.

Great Book Prices: If you're looking for discounted books, check out www.AbeBooks.com. They carry textbooks and much more, all at great prices. This information was provided by counselor, Hossna Sadat.

News from Comic Con: At Comic Con 2016, there was a panel on Thursday called "Be a Financial Superhero Even If You Aren't Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne." It was geared toward creative artists and their finances. Here's what I pulled from this presentation:

To succeed in your own business:
What do you have to give that is going to help people?
What can you do that no one else is doing?
What is your passion?

What you need to be a successful artist:
Passion for your work
Skill set to do it well
Hustle to get yourself known

Build an outstanding team:
Find a mentor to guide you.
Hire people you trust so you can focus on your craft.
Develop a fan base of support.

Lay out your goals with timelines to keep yourself accountable and measure your progress.

They also talked about credit. Your credit score is made up of five factors:
35% is based on your payment history (whether you pay your credit card bills on time).
30% is based on the amount owed on your cards (try to keep your balances under 25% of the limit on a credit card).
15% is duration of credit (don't close out a credit card; it's better to lower your maximum on a card you rarely use in order to maintain your history and duration of credit).
10% is based on new credit (don't open up other new credit accounts prior to taking out a loan).
10% is the type of credit you have.

Some suggestions: Pay off your debts aggressively, don't take out student loans, step away from a purchase before buying an expensive item to avoid impulsive decisions, and ask yourself how many hours you have to work in order to pay for the item.

Using Credit Cards: Here’s my take on credit cards. Use a credit card only if you pay off the balance each month. Otherwise you are paying an interest rate that will eat you alive. If you pay off the balance each month, there can be advantages to using a credit card: cash back or travel rewards on specific cards, additional warranty periods on products, fraud protection, and the ability to dispute a purchase. Be careful because it’s tempting to spend more with plastic than cash.

Which card should you use? Here are my top two:

The Citi Double Cash Card is a MasterCard that gives 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you make a payment for 2% back. The card is simple and has no annual fee.

The Citi Costco Anywhere Visa gives 4% back on gas, 3% on restaurant and travel, 2% at Costco, and 1% on everything else.

Compare the best credit cards by category at http://www.creditcards.com/top-credit-cards.php

Surviving An Unexpected Expense: If you had an unexpected expense such as a major car repair, would you be able to afford it? Poll: Two-Thirds of U.S. Would Struggle to Cover $1000 Crisis was printed in the San Diego Union Tribune on May 20, 2016.

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