20 Frugal and Thoughtful Gift Ideas

by Yuchen Wu, Student Blogger

For college students, budget is usually limited. You may stress over finding the perfect gifts for your friends or loved ones because of money. However, there are many frugal gifts that are meaningful. Here are some suggestions for you according to WiseBread and ZenHabits:

1. Home Movie DVD.

2. Recipe Book.

3. Flowers.

4. Customized T-shirt.

5. Homemade cookies baked by yourself.

6. Lotions or Bath Oils.

7. Photo Puzzle.

8. A letter, hand-written on nice paper, from you.

9. A book.

10. Scented Candles.

11. A baby tree.
  • Baby trees can be planted to commemorate a child’s birthday, moving into a new home, a graduation, or any big milestone. You can find tree saplings for under $5 at the Arbor Day Foundation. Or, with a $10 donation to the organization, you can get a variety of 10 tree saplings. A tree gift is a big win for you, the recipient and the environment.

12. Box of good tea and a teacup.

13. Gift certificate for the person’s favorite hobby store.

14. DIY Pillow Case.
  • Cheap pillowcases can be found at discount home stores and online for under $10. You can also sew the pillow for someone.

15. Personalized Water Bottle.

16. Frame a picture of you with them.

17. A burned CD with all the person’s favorite songs.

18. A nice pen

19. Shaving Kit.

20. An “I appreciate you because” jar.
  • Fill a nice jar with slips of different colored paper, each with a reason you appreciate or love someone.

A perfect gift doesn’t always mean spending a lot of money. The recipients will always appreciate meaningful gifts over expensive ones.

Man giving woman gift.


Money Lessons to Learn in Your 20s

by Niomi Williams, Associate Program Director for CU Money Sense

If there was one thing I could tell my 19 year old self it would be: do not get a credit card--you don't need it! When I was in undergrad, I worked two part-time jobs and had scholarships and grants to help pay for my tuition. Yet, somehow I never seemed to have enough money. In reality, I had plenty of money, I just didn't budget and I spent it frivolously. I loved going out to eat with friends, out to the movies on weekends, having new clothes, etc. And when my money ran out before my next paycheck, I put everything on my credit card--swearing I'd pay the balance off when the bill came due. But something always came up, I didn't pay off my credit balance, and I continued to charge things. Thus began the credit card debt cycle.

And here I am, years later still paying off that credit card balance I racked up when I was 19. Instead of saving up for a nice tropical vacation, I'm literally still paying off the large pizza and breadsticks that I bought 10 years ago. So, don't make my mistake! If you can be responsible, credit cards are an awesome tool for establishing and building credit. The key to not getting sucked into the credit card cycle is to always pay the balance off at the end of the month and simply don't spend more than you earn. Simple, huh? Yeah, I wish someone had told me that when I was in college...

Below are 20 lessons and tips to learn in your 20s, as compiled from Reddit users. (The complete list can be found here. However, as with all advice available online, please take it with a grain of salt. Content was edited for clarity.)
  1. Live below your means
  2. Don’t spend just to spend
  3. Never loan money to friends unless you are absolutely ok about never seeing it again
  4. Never buy a timeshare
  5. Buy a used car instead of new, whenever possible
  6. Don’t give in to lifestyle inflation after you enter the workforce
  7. File and pay your taxes on time
  8. Before moving to a different city for a job, consult this Cost of Living calculator
  9. Consider bringing your lunch to work 4 out of the 5 work days; treat yourself once a week
  10. Pay off your credit cards EVERY month
  11. Be smart, save a lot, but sometimes you need to treat yourself
  12. The most important factor in investing is TIME. Start early.
  13. Never cosign a loan for anyone else
  14. Every unnecessary dollar you spend is stealing from your future self
  15. Understand the concept of compounding interest; save early and you won’t have to save as much later
  16. Do not waste your money trying to impress people
  17. Use a budget
  18. Read agreements for everything that requires your signature.
  19. Open an Roth IRA and max out your 401k
  20. Save at least $1,000 into an emergency fund; then build your efund up to six months’ worth of expenses
By learning what mistakes to avoid, you'll be setting yourself up for future success! However, if you do find yourself making a money mistake, realize that it's absolutely okay and all part of the learning process. If you would like to talk to someone about your finances, schedule an appointment here.

A Smart Budgeting Tool: The 50/30/20 Rule

by Yuchen Wu, Student Blogger

Last weekend, I found a secret when I accompanied my friends shopping at the Flatiron Crossing Mall. Yingying is picky and she only wants to pay for the perfect apparel, whereas Cyril always opts for something affordable and doesn’t care about “perfection.” As a result, Yingying bought a $60 blue woven scarf while Cyril bought $30 jeans and some cheap T-shirts. While I was surprised about the two’s distinctive shopping philosophies, I started to wonder what their budgeting habits look like. What astonished me was that both of them felt that they only spend about 30 percent of their budgets on shopping. Woman Money in Wallet

It reminds me of the 50/30/20 rule, which basically states that 50 percent of one’s budget should be spent on “needs,” 30 percent should be spent on “wants,” and 20 percent should be saved. The rule is coined by a Harvard bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi in their book “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.” My two friends, apparently, are fans of this rule and they are benefitting from it. So, I thought I should share this smart rule to help people with their money management.

Basically, the 50/30/20 rule outlines the following four steps:

Step One: Calculate Your After-Tax Income

In general, your budget is the amount you collect from all your paychecks after taxes. This after-tax income will be how much you can spend.

Step Two: Limit Your Needs to 50 Percent

A need is any payment that would severely impact your quality of life, such as housing, insurance, utilities, and groceries. According to the rule, spending on the “needs” should be no more than 50 percent of your after-tax income.

Step Three: Limit Your Wants to 30 Percent

A want is any payment that you can forgo with only minor inconvenience, like beautiful shoes, a movie, or a trip to Paris. Sometimes you will buy a “want” that upgrades to a “need.” For instance, you want to have a faster speed of internet or an upgraded cable bill. Although 30 percent sounds great, you may spend more on “wants” than you think.

Step Four: Spend at Least 20 Percent on Savings and Debt repayments

According to the 50/30/20 rule of thumb, you should spend at least 20 percent of your after-tax income paying your debts repayments, such as credit card balances, or saving money for emergency use.

All in all, where and how much to spend money is a deeply personal thing, but knowing this simple “rule” can help with your money management!

How Much is Procastination Costing You?

by Yuchen Wu, Student Blogger

If time is money, I probably have lost a lot.

Besides working as a blog writer, I am also a videographer. Two weeks ago, I got a phone call from a studio manager that I’ve worked with before and he told me that a lady was looking for a camera guy to help her film a Korean language learning program. I wrote down her number but didn’t make the call immediately, in part because I was watching a fantastic TV show. To be honest, I didn’t know how to start the conversation and I finally called her two days later. As a result of my procrastination, she had already found a videographer.


In fact, I can’t count how many times things like this has happened to me before. So, I decided to make a calculation estimating how much I could have earned if I didn’t lose these types of opportunities. I typically charge $30 per hour for filming or editing a video. On average, a project takes two hours for filming and five hours for editing. I could have earned about 200 bucks from each project. If I missed two projects each month, I would lose $400.

This is how much procrastination costing me.

Almost all opportunities come with a time limit. When great opportunities come, people sometimes don’t act quickly enough on them and let them slip away.

Procrastination can make people poor. According to American Express’ open forum, losing time, ability and money as a result of procrastination affect our financials.

Businesses often lose customers because of late deliveries, unreturned phone calls and unresolved issues. Abilities and freedoms that we own and may take for granted now, such as good health, free time, personal space, reliable transportation, can disappear when circumstances change. Needless to say that time and money strongly correlated -- think about late fees on bills or rush fees on shipping.

People procrastinate for various reasons. According to QuickandDirtyTips.com, the most common reasons why people procrastinate making smart money moves include: feeling the takes is too difficult; not knowing where to start; having no goals; and avoiding money mess.

A good suggestion is to stop thinking and start doing. A small action may be the first step to better your money management. In the future, my first step to ending procrastination will be reaching out to potential employers as soon as possible and face my fears of starting conversations.

4 Bad Habits That Keep You From Saving Money

by Yuchen Wu, Student Blogger

Have you ever had this moment where you said to yourself “Geez, how did I spend so much money this month?” when paying off your credit card balance or checking on your banking accounts? Well, I have…and that is not new to me at all. In fact, I had to make a serious “investigation” on all my transactions, hoping to find some sort of scam or fraudulent charge. Not surprisingly, I always found out that I overspent on something unnecessary. So, let’s face it - we all have bad habits that keep ourselves from saving. But, no worries--let’s break them and let them no longer hurt us.

So, what are the common bad habits?

1. Buying things you don’t need. This usually happens due to impulse spending. Do you really need those shoes? Think about the difference between wants and needs. Take a moment to determine whether you’re wasting money on something you don’t actually need.

2. Buying things you already own Do you need to buy lunch or dinner at a restaurant when you have food in your fridge? Do you need to buy coffee at Starbucks when you can make it at home? Take a moment and really think about it. Stop buying things you already own can help you save so much money.

3. Not budgeting Not having a budget in place can cause overspending. There are many different ways to budget—pick the style that works for you.

4. Not knowing how much money you have Some people don’t even know how much money they have. This can be the worst thing because you might easily spend more than you have. Knowing how much you have will allow you to keep better track of your spending habits and help you steer clear of falling even deeper into debt.

Changing bad habits entails your readiness to act, and it’s frequently been said that “it takes just 21 days to change a habit.” According to Bankrate, “habits change more quickly when you’re in the action stage versus the ambivalence or preparation stages that come before.” To catapult you into action, Bankrate recommends this three-step approach daily:

  • Create a positive picture in your mind of the result you want, and act as if the bad habit is gone. Use a negative picture of the current stressful result of the bad habit to push yourself further toward action.
  • Identify and focus on your positive financial habits, as proof you can do things the right way.
  • Create simple rules to fall back on when tempted, such as: "Don't browse shopping websites until all my bills are paid this month.
Give it 21 days to break your bad money habits—and hopefully you’ll soon be watching your bank account grow!