Newsletter Highlights



:: Pay As You Go: Mobile Payment Services::

For customers who never carry cash, are easily distracted when making purchases or want a more convenient way to pay for items, mobile payment services might be an option worth considering. Mobile payment services allow consumers to use their smartphone to digitally pay for items without the hassles of using cash, checks, plastic cards or money wiring services. These are a few of the different ways consumers can pay.

Once payment is received, the customer leaves with the item(s). Some merchants, like Starbucks and Chipotle, allow customers to pre-order their food or purchases and pay for items without the hassle of waiting in line.

Are you ready to begin using mobile payments? Before you start, here are some tips to keep in mind:



::Two Minutes to Student Loan Success::

Ready Set Repay (RSR), the default prevention initiative of the Oklahoma College Assistance Program (OCAP), wants to help you navigate the student loan borrowing and repayment process. If you’ve borrowed federal student loans to pay for your education, but aren’t sure how much you owe, RSR’s newest video is for you. Check out How to Find Out What You Owe to learn how to access your federal student loan and grant information through the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). In less than two minutes, you’ll be empowered to take greater control of your student loans. The video is available on the homepage at ReadySetRepay.org and on OCAP’s YouTube channel.

 


::Ways to Save on Textbooks::

Collegeboard.org estimates that a full-time undergraduate student who attends a four-year public college will pay an average of $1,298 on books and supplies each year. Here are some ways students are reducing their textbook costs.

College bookstores. Students can purchase textbooks at full price or rent them for a reduced cost. Rental lasts for the entire semester and if the student chooses to keep the textbook, he or she is charged the difference between the rental fee and retail price.

E-textbooks. If required books are available in digital format, this option can save students both money and paper by downloading the textbook or accessing a website using a special code. While some faculty require students to purchase all-digital textbooks, others may prefer to avoid them. Students should talk to their professor or instructor prior to purchase.

Libraries. College libraries may buy a limited number of textbooks for general education or select degree courses for students to rent. Local libraries might not have the same catalogs as their campus counterparts, but can still be a great resource if a class requires titles from contemporary or non-academic authors.

Online bookstores. These bookstores generally allow students to buy and sell their books to public retailers and private buyers without negotiating sales through a physical store front. Many also offer textbook rental services.

If e-books and rentals aren’t available, buy used textbooks before buying new. For more information on managing college costs, check out OKMM’s Money Management for College Students learning module.


::Q & A ::

Home Renovation Dos and Don’ts

Principal Construction Manager Dan Myers of Konstruct Group, a licensed realtor at Kevo Properties, answers our questions about which home improvement projects are worth the effort.

Tell us why you became both a realtor and a construction manager.

I grew up in a family who did this type of work out of necessity. My dad rented out and fixed a lot of his properties. Construction management and realty are fun and rewarding, while providing a different return on investment. Plus, doing both allows me to diversify my revenue stream and enables my wife to stay at home with our young family.

From your unique point of view, which remodeling projects or upgrades should homeowners invest in, especially if they plan to sell later?

It’s been said a million times that remodeling kitchens and bathrooms improves the value of a home. While a quality remodel can definitely add value and utility to your home, you don’t have to “go big” with a lot of new appliances or expensive equipment. In addition to bathrooms and kitchens, one trend that’s growing in popularity is remodeling and upgrading outdoor living spaces. Whether your budget is big or small, you can do a lot to make your back-yard more desirable for kids or guests of any age.

Obviously, not all upgrades increase value; which potential projects may need to be reconsidered?

Poorly executed upgrades, such as a doorway that forces people to duck, a cramped, dysfunctional layout, or poor craftsmanship will deter potential future buyers. Also, poorly conceptualized add-ons or conversions, such as a garage or an attic, can devalue a property. I’ve found that garages converted into a bedroom or a home office rarely increase the home’s resale value. Future buyers generally want a garage for storage, unless you can sell them on the idea that the bedroom can be used as income property.

We know that DIY projects can save a lot of money, but when should homeowners hire a professional?

Anytime your city or local municipality says you must have a licensed contractor related to plumbing or electrical issues, then you must hire a professional that understands boundaries, codes, and regulations. If you have to move or remove walls within a home, contact a professional who knows your city’s or municipality’s permit regulations. It’s never good to do your own roofing, especially due to the physical hazards connected to it. Hiring a licensed roofing company keeps you from being injured and ensures the repairs are up to code. If there are multiple improvement projects happening in tandem, having a professional project manager is a great way to maximize the work flow to complete projects in a timely manner. I always say that remodeling your home is a full-time job. Hiring professionals allows homeowners to partner with someone who can bring their design concepts to life, correct or prevent remodeling mistakes, and advise about which upgrades may not be worth the time and money.

How do financial institutions view student loan deferments, forbearances and consolidations?

Consolidating student loans can be seen as a smart move when managing debt. For example, consolidating four loans with varying interest rates into one payment with a lower rate would save money and effort. As for loans with deferments and forbearances, financial institutions still view them as outstanding loan balances that need to be repaid and will consider them in a lending decision. If you’ve been granted forbearance due to economic hardship, creditors may hesitate to lend additional funds knowing you’re already experiencing financial difficulty.

 



::Frugal FAll Dates::

With the transition to autumn comes milder weather and beautiful scenery. Fall hosts a wealth of seasonal activities that have romantic potential. Here are some ideas for dates that won’t make a huge dent in your bank account.

Fall festivals. Search online or keep an eye on newspapers for events with free or cheap admission. Pumpkin patches. Instead of buying a pumpkin at the supermarket, make a date out of visiting a farm to buy locally.

Nature walk. With changing foliage and cooler weather, this is the perfect time to hike in the woods or go for a walk in the park.

Farmer’s markets. Visit your local farmer’s market, then plan a romantic dinner around what you find.

Road trips. Research scenic roads and destinations. There are few things more romantic than a cozy cabin nestled among autumn trees, which could also turn out to be one of the more fun and affordable weekend trips you’ve taken.



::Debt Settlement: Pros vs. Consequences::

If you’re tired of being in debt, you may have considered working with a debt settlement company. Settlement companies claim to help you tackle debt by negotiating lower payment on loans, collections and credit card accounts. Freedom from debt is a worthy goal and it’s important to carefully weigh all your options before making a decision on how to manage your debt.


Pros of debt settlement:

 

Consequences of debt settlement

 

There are other strategies for overcoming debt. Talk to your creditors to negotiate lower interest rates and/or lower monthly payments, or explore debt management plans offered through a nonprofit credit counseling organization, such as Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Central Oklahoma. For more information about overcoming debt, visit OklahomaMoneyMatters.org.



::Borrow Smart from the Start::

For students who want to minimize debt after graduation by making smart borrowing choices from the very start of their college career, we offer the Borrow Smart from the Start brochure. This online resource is a handy step-by-step guide to savvy student loan borrowing that covers the complete student loan life cycle.
Each section lists helpful tips for wise borrowing, successful repayment and general debt management. Topics include:

No matter where you are in the process, this publication provides everything you’ll need to be a smart borrower. We encourage those who work closely with high school and college students, to share this resource with them. To download the brochure, visit ReadySetRepay.org.



::September is College Savings Month::

Saving for college is a major concern for most parents. Students usually start thinking (or panicking) about college in high school. Many students worry that they won’t be able to attend the college of their choice or even go to college at all because they can’t afford it. Here are some saving strategies you can implement now to prepare financially for college.