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Travel is out of the question for a lot of people, but none of us can escape that unshakable feeling of wanderlust we feel whenever we see someone post a picture of them in an exotic, exciting new context. For those of us still in college itching to travel, study abroad is probably the best bet—the additional challenge of academia and learning about your new context in an academic setting is incredibly appealing for some people, as well as the opportunity to quite literally live abroad for a few months. Even then, it can seem like a lofty goal, and usually for financial reasons. How will you survive once you get to your country of choice? How will you even get there? With the market ruins, millennials have discarded going away, but it's an essential part of our growth, both educational and spiritual. Don't let finances get in the way; most importantly, know they don't have to.
Here are five ways you can pay your way to and through study abroad, and start getting some wear-and-tear on your passport.
Find a program that works for you
The fact of the matter is that just because you can study abroad through your university doesn't mean that the programs offered are right for you, whether that means price-wise or academic-wise. Find a program that won't break bank, and will take you where you want to go, whether that means doing a direct exchange through a university in your country of choice or a study abroad program through another university.
Take out a loan
The government offers several loan options, and these need not be used to just pay for a normal semester—use those Stafford Loans to buy your ticket, and maybe take out a little extra to be able to live comfortably where you most likely won'y be able to get a job, especially if you don't know the language while you're away. That said, only take out what you can afford to take out and, most importantly, what you'll be able to afford to pay back upon graduation.
Scholarships, and grants are your best friends
Aside from money that you worked hard at saving before going away, there are so many options through several organizations for study away, whether destination or merit, or need-based. Do your research and cast a wide net—you never know what you might catch, and there are plenty of organizations ready to help you fulfill your study abroad dreams.
Pick a city with currency that works with your budget
Don't pick a place like, say, London if you're already strapped for cash (not unless that's your dream and you're determined to make it work). For those of us who want to study abroad but don't know where to go or what to expect (and are looking to actually have a cheaper semester) there are so many beautiful cities out there where the American Dollar is stronger than the local currency, and exchange houses will allow you to live a little bit more above your means for less. Study abroad need not break bank once you arrive.
Live like a local
Go to the local market and buy fresh food to cook at home. Make friends and make food together. Scour your new city and find the cafes locals go to, the ones that are the cheapest and, somehow, also the most rewarding to go to. You'll only be in your new city for a few months, so why waste your hard-earned money (or your loans) on grossly expensive tourist attractions? Those things are fun, but the underbelly of a city is usually more fun, more rewarding, and more financially savvy. Live like a local, and fall in love with your new city while giving your wallet some relief.
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.