Happy thanksgiving! Now, don’t be a turkey!

Hey friends, here’s hoping that (if you celebrate it), you are looking forward to a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with lots of time for friends, family and (most of all) turkey…

Me, selfie, tomorrow at the table…

We’ve reached a season of gratitude and as we pause for reflection, I want to take a moment to note how grateful I am to all of you who are reading and responding to the blog. When I started the blog I hoped that I would reach an audience who could benefit from some financial aid tips and advice, and I am so pleased that the blog has been a source of information and inspiration for many of you.

Next month, we will be spending some time focused on making it through the holidays without spending all of your money, and looking at what happens when the unexpected occurs (how to manage emergency expenses). As we prepare for the holiday season, I would love to know if you have tips for managing the Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa / Winter Solstice present extravaganza. What do you do to live within your means?

More to share in the coming weeks, but here’s a great early read entitled “16 Ways to Celebrate a Budget Christmas”.

And in the meantime, a quick poem for the the Thanksgiving holiday with an important message about Black Friday buried in it:

Twas the night of Thanksgiving,
and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring
not even a mouse.

We all had had more than
our share of good food,
eating turkey and stuffing, and
not to be rude

but our waists had expanded
past one more belt notch,
was it fate that demanded
that last glass of scotch?

Well, now that the eating
is finally done
and all of the “younglings”
are resting their “tums”,

it’s time to start planning
the shopping excursion,
we’ll take in the morning,
some say it’s perversion

the sheer gabs of money
we spend on our gifts
when all the world over
the need is for thrift

but we spend our dough
as though it will never
diminish and so
we think we are clever

when deficits rise
(both our own and the national).
Can you sense the surprise?
We don’t think that it’s rational

when our stomachs and purses
fill up, pop our buttons,
the rest of the nations
know we are just gluttons.

“…Gently Down the Stream”

So I was going to write an entry last night, but then Disney+ launched.

For anyone not paying attention, Disney+ is the new streaming service introduced by Disney to provide direct streaming service to consumers. This service, featuring Disney, Disney Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, ESPN, and other content (I’m talking about you, Bart Simpson), is a direct competitor to Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, and Hulu. And last night we watched our first content from the service.

The service does come with a cost. You have to pay a monthly fee for the service which basically translates to about $7 a month. Not a large cost BUT it is worth it? Are you subscribing? Are you giving up your other streaming services to pay for this? Have you cut the cable cord and only rely now on streaming services?

Like me, I imagine you are living on a budget (at least I hope you are). Have you built a budget to look at your income and your expenses and make sure that you can really afford everything in your mandatory and discretionary expenses? I know that many of us might imagine that streaming services (or entertainment) is a “need”, not a “want”, but the reality (of course) is that entertainment should be reasonable part of your budget, not the entirety of your budget.

Life is just a stream, sweetheart

The difference between “needs” and “wants” is an important one to learn. What counts as a “need”? Clearly housing, food, clothing, and water are needs. The economic definition of “need” is something you need to survive.

What’s a “want”? This is something you desire to have, and you may or may not be able to afford. Wants may feel important, but they aren’t necessary to survive.

This becomes an important concept to understand not just while you are a student but also for the rest of your life. If you remember last time I wrote about COA (or Cost of Attendance). In the COA budget, you will have an amount for living expenses, food, books, as well as tuition, fees and other expenses. Your job as a student is to help manage the “wants” in your budget.

So, for example, when we build a COA budget in the financial aid office we use average expenses for a student. But you have a chance to work within that budget to save money.

For example, at one institution where I worked, we had lots of residence halls. Each type of room had a different expense. Needless to say, a single at the newest dorm was much more expensive than a quad in one of the oldest dorms. Our COA was build with an average room expense, but you as a student could save money by choosing the cheaper residence.

This works with many things: books, clothes, food, etc. Do you need to buy every textbook new? Could you purchase a used textbook (or rent one) and save money from the original budget? Do you find yourself eating out all of the time? What would it look like if you packed a meal for yourself?

Don’t forget to meet your basic needs (food, shelter, water, clothing) while you are a student, and it is not unreasonable during your time in school to have more expenses than income (that’s what financial aid is for), but if you are able to limit your “wants” and focus on your “needs” then the amount you will need to borrow to help pay for college will be limited, and you will be doing much better financially when you graduate.

So I guess Disney+ might be a want? If so, no worries… There are plenty of free ways to watch movies (anyone have a library card?)

More about budgeting next time, including the difference between direct and indirect costs.