5 Ways to Save at Summer Music Festivals

While the dream might be making (lots of) money to play Lollapalooza like Bruno Mars, the reality is spending money to see him in concert and drink overpriced beers.

Thankfully, until you can work that “24 karat magic,” you’ve got ways to save on the food, drink, transportation and other expenses. But you’ll have to do this prep work:

1. Read the rules

Don’t waste money by having food, drinks or other items confiscated at the entrance. Review the festival website to learn what exactly you can and can’t bring in. Selfie sticks, for example, are prohibited at Lollapalooza, Pitchfork Music Festival and Newport Folk Festival. Large bags, umbrellas, coolers, chairs and food may or may not fly, depending on the concert.

Mind the details when packing water, too. Festivals vary in their rules on what size water bottles can be and what materials they can be made of, as well as whether they must be empty or full and “factory-sealed.”

2. Don’t arrive hungry

Concerts and music festivals aren’t known for their bargain bites, but you’ve got to eat. Here’s the solution of Rob Janicke, longtime festival attendee and co-founder of the SoundEvolution Music record label: Before entering, “I always eat as much as I can without making myself sick.”

One breakfast that should fill you for the first few sets is a vegetable omelet with a side of avocado and two slices of 100% whole grain toast, says Keri Gans, nutritionist and author of “The Small Change Diet.” If you plan to camp at a festival like Bonnaroo, pack foods with that same combination of protein, healthy fat and fiber.

Continually refill your water bottle at water stations and fountains, too. You’ll stay hydrated for free and (maybe) curb that temptation for a marked-up beer or lemonade.

3. Find a cheap ride

Take public transportation for a few bucks if you’re attending a festival in a big city — like Pitchfork and Lollapalooza in Chicago or Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn. These concerts and a few others are also accessible from within the city by bike. Make sure to securely lock your bike and save enough energy to both party and pedal.

If four wheels are a must, look into shuttle and bus options on the festival website. Or carpool with friends, Janicke says. “Share the gas and tolls, and it’s much cheaper for everybody.”

4. Dress smart

Whatever you wear to the festival may get muddy, sweaty, grass-stained or all of the above. So leave the designer bag and your go-to work shoes at home. Instead, sport old clothes that are fine to (potentially) ruin. And most large festivals happen rain or shine, Janicke adds. If the forecast calls for the former, pack rain gear so you won’t be tempted to buy pricey apparel from the merch tent just to get into some dry clothes.

5. Volunteer

Before buying your ticket, consider checking the festival’s website to see if organizers need volunteers. Or search Facebook for volunteer opportunities shared by vendors, nonprofits and “people who work festivals as a hobby,” suggests Emily Berke, an administrative assistant for a talent management agency and freelance writer for the New Fury Media website. (You may have to save this strategy for 2019, as many of this summer’s festivals may be fully staffed on volunteers.)

The terms depend on the festival, but for some, you can work a certain number of hours in exchange for a free or discounted admission. You may also get free food (or meal tokens) during your shift, or free merchandise.

Volunteer duties can vary from scanning tickets to promoting the festival on social media, says Berke, who has volunteered at the Vans Warped Tour and other concerts. “Other times, you’re running back and forth from backstage and you see your favorite artist,” she adds. Of course, the trade-off for saving money and maybe — maybe! — running into Bruno Mars is that you’ll also have to work.

For that reason, “it really takes someone who really, really wants to do it to work at a festival,” Berke says. “But if you enjoy the vibe of festivals, or maybe you’re trying to come up in the music industry, it really is so much fun.”

The article 5 Ways to Save at Summer Music Festivals originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form

Congratulations! You submitted your 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA®) form! Wondering what happens next? Here are a few things to look out for:

1. Review Your FAFSA® Confirmation Page

After you complete the FAFSA form online and click “SUBMIT,” you’ll see a confirmation page like the one below. This is not your financial aid offer. You’ll get that separately from the school(s) you apply to and get into. Your school(s) calculate your aid.

The confirmation page provides federal aid estimates based on the information you provided on your FAFSA form. It’s important to know that these figures are truly estimates and assume the information you provided on the FAFSA form is correct. To calculate the actual amount of aid you’re eligible for, your school will take into account other factors, such as the cost to attend the school. Additionally, these estimates only take into account federal aid and not outside scholarships or state and institutional financial assistance you may also be eligible for.


TIP: Each school you are accepted to and include on your FAFSA form will send you a financial aid offer. Until you receive this notification, it may be difficult to know exactly how much aid you might be eligible to receive from a specific school. To get an idea of how much aid schools tend to give depending on your family’s income, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov and type in the school(s) you want to look up.

2. Review Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The information you report on your FAFSA form is used to calculate your EFC. It’s very important to note that the EFC, in most cases, is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college.  Instead, the EFC is an index number used by financial aid offices to calculate your financial need. The formula they use is:

    Cost of attendance
 Expected family contribution
    Your financial “need”

Each school will do its best to meet your financial need. Some schools may meet 100% of your financial need, and other schools may only meet 10%—it just depends on the school and the financial aid they have available that year. You should complete the FAFSA form annually because there are many factors that can change from year to year.

NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, the EFC formula considers more than just income. Factors such as dependency status, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college are just a few of the additional factors considered.

3. Apply For as Many Scholarships as You Can

As I mentioned previously, many schools won’t be able to meet your full financial need, so you’ll need a way to pay the difference between the financial aid your school offers and what the school costs. Scholarships are a great way to fill the gap. (Who doesn’t like free money?)

But don’t wait until after you receive your financial aid offer to start applying for scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships out there, but many have early deadlines. Set a goal for yourself; for example, maybe you aim to apply to one scholarship per week. There’s tons of free money, but you can’t get it unless you apply. Make scholarship applications your focus while you wait for your financial aid offer. The applications may take some time, but the possible pay out makes it all worth it.

If you still don’t have enough money to pay for school after financial aid and scholarships, consider these options.

4. Be On the Lookout for Your Aid Offer(s)

The 2018–19 FAFSA form was made available on Oct. 1, 2017. Even if you submit it early, that doesn’t mean you’ll get an aid offer right away. Each school has a different schedule for awarding and paying out financial aid.

Remember that your school disburses your aidnot the “FAFSA people” (Federal Student Aid). Contact your school’s financial aid office for details about when they send out aid offers. If you want to see an estimate of your school’s average annual cost, use the College Scorecard. If you want to report significant changes in your family or financial situation, contact your school’s financial aid office.

TIP: After your FAFSA form has been processed successfully, it’s a good idea to make sure the schools you listed on your FAFSA form have received everything they need. You should find out if your school requires additional applications or documentation and submit any required documentation by the appropriate deadlines.

5. Make FAFSA® Corrections If You Need To

Lastly, after your FAFSA form has been processed (which takes about 3 days), you can go back and submit a correction to certain fields. This includes correcting a typo or adding another school to receive your FAFSA information. Log in with your FSA ID, and then click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

NOTE: Parents of dependent students cannot initiate a FAFSA correction. Students have to begin the correction process by logging in with their FSA ID, clicking “Make FAFSA Corrections,” and creating a Save Key they can share with their parent.

The article 5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form originally appeared on blog.ed.gov.

Sandra Vuong is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Andrew Jones, Department of Education.

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12 Myths About the FAFSA® Form and Applying for Financial Aid

There’s so much information available about financial aid for college or career school that it can be hard to tell the facts from fiction. We’ve got you covered! Here are some common myths—and the real scoop—about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

MYTH 1: My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for any aid.

FACT: The reality is there’s no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. It doesn’t matter if you have a low or high income; most people qualify for some type of financial aid, including low-interest federal student loans. Many factors besides income—such as your family size and your year in school—are taken into account.

TIP: When you fill out the FAFSA form, you’re also automatically applying for funds from your state, and possibly from your school as well. In fact, some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA form. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—fill out the application and find out!

MYTH 2: The 2018–19 FAFSA® form launches on Jan. 1.

FACT: The 2018–19 FAFSA form launched on Oct. 1. You should submit a FAFSA form as early as possible because some states and schools have limited funds.

MYTH 3: I should use my 2017 tax information to fill out the 2018–19 FAFSA® form.

FACT: You must use your 2016 tax information to complete the 2018–19 FAFSA form. (The requirements changed last year.) It doesn’t matter if you or your parents haven’t filed 2017 taxes yet, because the 2018–19 FAFSA form doesn’t need that information. You won’t have to update your FAFSA form after filing 2017 taxes either, because 2016 information is what’s required. If your financial situation has changed since 2016, complete the 2018–19 FAFSA form using the tax information it requires (2016), and then contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss the change in your situation. They can make updates to your FAFSA information if warranted.

MYTH 4: I support myself, so I don’t have to include my parent’s info on the FAFSA® form.

FACT: This is not necessarily true. Even if you support yourself, live on your own, or file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes. The FAFSA form asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. If you’re independent, you won’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA form. But if you’re dependent, you must provide your parents’ information.

If you’re a dependent student, find out who is considered your parent for FAFSA purposes. (It’s not as obvious as you might think.)

MYTH 5: I should wait until I’m accepted to a college before I fill out the FAFSA® form.

FACT: Don’t wait. You can start now! As a matter of fact, you can start as early as your senior year of high school. You must list at least one college to receive your information. You SHOULD list all schools you’re considering even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form.

You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do. If you want to add another school after you submit your FAFSA form, you can log in at fafsa.gov and submit a correction.

The schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you may receive.

MYTH 6: If I didn’t receive enough money for school. I’m just out of luck.

FACT: You still have options! If you’ve received federal, state, and college aid but still find yourself having to fill the gap between what your financial aid covers and what you owe your school, check out these 7 options.

MYTH 7: I should call “the FAFSA® people” (Federal Student Aid) to find out how much financial aid money I’m getting and when.

FACT: No, you’ll have to contact your school. Federal Student Aid does not award or disburse your aid, so we won’t be able to tell you what you’ll get or when you’ll get it. You will have to contact the financial aid office at your school to find out the status of your aid and when you should expect it. Just keep in mind that each school has a different timeline for awarding financial aid.

MYTH 8: There’s only one FAFSA® deadline and that’s not until June.

FACT: Nope! There are at least three deadlines you need to check: your state, school, and federal deadlines. You can find the state and federal deadlines at fafsa.gov. You’ll need to check your school’s website for their FAFSA deadline. If you’re applying to multiple schools, make sure to check all of their deadlines and apply by the earliest one. Also, if you’re applying to any scholarships that require the FAFSA form, they might have a different deadline as well! Even if your deadlines aren’t for a while, we recommend you fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on any aid.

MYTH 9: I only have fill out the FAFSA® form once.

FACT: You have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid.

MYTH 10: I can share an FSA ID with my parent(s).

FACT: Nope, if you’re a dependent student, then two people will need their own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form online:

  1. You (the student)
  2. One of your parents

An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites. Your FSA ID identifies you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on ED websites such as fafsa.gov.

If you’re a dependent student, your parent will need his or her own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form electronically. If your parent has more than one child attending college, he or she can use the same FSA ID to sign all applications. You’ll need a unique email address for each FSA ID.

Your FSA ID is used to sign legally binding documents electronically. It has the same legal status as a written signature. Don’t give your FSA ID to anyone—not even to someone helping you fill out the FAFSA form. Sharing your FSA ID could put you at risk of identity theft and could cause delays in the FAFSA process!

MYTH 11: Only students with good grades get financial aid.

FACT: While a high grade point average will help you get into a good school and may help with academic scholarships, most federal student aid programs do not take grades into consideration when you first apply. Keep in mind that if you want to continue receiving aid throughout your college career, you will have to maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by your school.

MYTH 12: It costs money to submit the FAFSA® form.

FACT: Absolutely not! You NEVER have to pay to complete the FAFSA form when you go to fafsa.gov. If you’re paying a fee, you’re not on the official government website.

So what’s next?

Go to fafsa.gov and fill out the application. If you applied for admission to a college or career school and have been accepted, and you listed that school on your FAFSA form, the school will calculate your aid and will send you an electronic or paper financial aid offer telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at the school.


Mia Johnson is a Management & Program Analyst at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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5 Back-to-College Lessons on Building Credit

Hey, college students: Summer is almost over, and before you’re busy cramming for exams, you should spend a few minutes studying up on your credit. You might be just getting started with your first card, but review these five tips and you’ll reap the benefits well after graduation day.

1. Five major factors affect your credit scores

Several companies produce credit scores, and most consider five factors: your payment history, credit utilization, the length of your credit history, the types of credit accounts you hold and any new credit accounts you’ve opened. No matter how long you’ve had credit, you can use each factor to get yours in good shape.

Payment history: Paying all of your bills on time is the most important thing you can do for your credit, even if you’re only able to make the minimum payment. If you accidentally miss a due date, send the money as soon as you can. You might incur a late fee, but if you made the payment within 30 days, it won’t be reported to the credit bureaus.

Credit utilization: Utilization is the percentage of your available credit you’re using. Keep it low, ideally below 30%. So if you have a credit card with a $5,000 limit, try to keep your balance below $1,500. Your issuer might report your balance in the middle of the month, so aim to have less than 30% utilization at all times, not just after you make your monthly payment.

Length of credit history: The older the average age of your accounts, the better, so don’t close your first credit card account when you open a second. Instead, use the first card occasionally to keep it active.

Types of accounts: It helps to have a mix of credit accounts — credit cards, student loans, an auto loan and so on. But if you have only a credit card and don’t need another account, don’t open it. This factor is less important than the first three.

New credit: Apply for new credit cards sparingly. Each new account shortens the average age of your accounts, and each new application results in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can ding your credit score. The shorter your credit history, the more this can hurt your credit, so it’s especially important to limit your applications when you’re just starting out.

2. Bad credit hits more than just your wallet

Having bad credit can increase the interest rates you pay and even your car insurance premiums. But that’s not its only impact.

Landlords and wireless providers commonly check applicants’ credit to find out whether they’re likely to pay on time, and having bad scores can limit your options for apartments and cell phone service. If you’re on your parents’ cellular plan and live on campus, you might think this doesn’t apply to you — but it will soon.

Employers may also run credit checks, and having bad credit could keep you from getting a job in some states.

3. Try not to carry a balance

NerdWallet survey found that 41% of Americans think carrying a small balance on a credit card from month to month will improve their credit. But you won’t get a boost from maintaining a balance, and it will definitely cost you in interest charges. Use your credit cards enough to keep the accounts active, but pay each balance in full every month to avoid interest.

4. Check your three credit reports annually

Three major credit bureaus produce credit reports: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You’re entitled to one free copy of your report from each bureau every year via AnnualCreditReport.com. Review each for errors to keep your credit on track.

You won’t find your credit scores on any of the reports. You can find yours for free online at some websites, including NerdWallet, or perhaps through your credit card issuer. If yours doesn’t provide it, you can buy it directly from Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Scores may vary slightly depending on the scoring model used, but they should all be in the same ballpark.

5. Build credit with a secured credit card

To get a secured card, you put down a cash deposit, usually equal to your credit limit. Banks can seize this if you don’t make your payments, so they’ll issue these cards even to people who have poor credit or lack a credit history. You’ll get the deposit back when you close your account in good standing or upgrade your account to a regular, unsecured card.

Secured cards make up less than 1% of the credit card market, but they’re great for building credit. A secured card works just like an unsecured card, with the exception of the deposit. You use it to make purchases, then pay them off, and your issuer reports your payment activity to the credit bureaus.

More credit lessons for students from NerdWallet 

The article 5 Back-to-College Lessons on Building Credit originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Applying to College? Expect to Pay at Least This Much

College attendance costs get all the attention, but you’ll start paying for school when you begin the application process. Factoring in the costs of test preparation, test taking and applications, expect to spend at least $678 — and perhaps thousands more — before you’ve received acceptance letters, according to NerdWallet’s calculations.

Read on to learn more about the college application process and how you can cut costs if they’re unmanageable.

Application fees

When asked how many applications students should submit, “It depends” is the answer college admissions experts give most. They mean you should apply to a mix of safety and reach schools, as well as “match” schools that are likely to be good fits — between five and 12 schools total.

If you’re worried about affording tuition, you might benefit from applying to more schools, says Mandee Heller Adler, founder of International College Counselors, a college advising company based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. You’ll pay more in application expenses, but if you’re looking for scholarships, the more opportunities, the better.

“My merit scholarship students apply to more schools than other students,” Heller Adler says. “You can’t be 100% sure how much a merit scholarship might be, so while I usually recommend seven schools to students, merit scholarship students should apply to closer to 10 schools.”

Application fees range up to $90, but the most common amount is $50, according to a 2015 U.S. News survey. For our calculations, we assumed that students would apply to eight schools and pay $400 in application fees.

Taking the test

Choosing to take the ACT, the SAT or both isn’t a matter of cost: The two tests are widely accepted and similarly priced. Experts say you should take both and report the results of your highest-scoring exam.

Without the essay, the SAT costs $45 per student, and the ACT costs $42.50. We assumed a student would take each test once, then take one a second time. To approximate the costs of taking one of the tests a second time, we averaged the two costs ($43.75).

“If you do have a test you score better on, then we say, repeat your stronger test,” says Beth DeBeer, high school guidance counselor at John Jay High School in Cross River, New York.

The price of each test includes the option to send your scores to up to four schools. Additional score reports cost $12 each for either test. If you apply to eight schools, you’ll likely need four additional score reports, costing a total of $48.

Preparing for the test

To prepare for the SAT or the ACT, some students use books or online practice tests; others hire private tutors. Online test prep courses are a good middle ground for many. In our calculations, we used the cost of an online course by the test prep company Magoosh, which partnered with NerdWallet on this study. Their six-month online course costs $99. College preparation stalwarts Princeton Review and Kaplan each charge $299 for a self-guided SAT online test prep course.

Applying to college could cost much more

“At least” is the operative term when ballparking college application costs. You’ll see your test prep expenses increase quickly if you hire a tutor at $100-plus per hour or opt for a pricier test prep course. Princeton Review’s “Ultimate Classroom” option, for example, is a traditional classroom prep course that starts at $849, while Kaplan’s “Unlimited Prep” option costs $1,599. It lets you take and retake PSAT, SAT and ACT courses as often as you want until December of your senior year.

Add-ons such as the essay, an SAT subject test, or additional score reports also increase overall costs:

Additional costs SAT ACT
Test with essay $12 more $16 more
Subject test $26 (flat rate registration fee for up to three subject tests) + $20 for each test N/A
Additional score reports (four are included) $12 each $12 each
Rush/priority score reports $31 $16.50
Late registration $28 $27.50
Test date or center change $28 $25
Preliminary test (if not covered by your high school) $16 $12


Visiting a far-off school can also add to your application expenses. And some students can’t afford the costs of travel, accommodations and food.

However, the college visit can signify interest, an important admissions factor, especially at the most competitive schools. According to the 2015 State of College Admissions Report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 16.9% of colleges surveyed said a “student’s demonstrated interest” was of considerable importance and more than one-third said it was of moderate importance.

It’s an important factor in admissions to Connecticut College in New London, Conn., says Andy Strickler, the school’s dean of admission and financial aid. But the college recognizes that visiting campus can be cost prohibitive to some applicants, so it hosts an annual fly-in program known as Explore Weekend. During this weekend, interested students from underrepresented groups receive transportation to campus, lodging and meals. Many colleges nationwide offer these programs.

“There’s a certain level of access that’s afforded to families who have socioeconomic means at their disposal, so this is an effort on our part to combat that barrier to the process that socioeconomically disadvantaged families might experience,” says Strickler.

Other ways to save on college applications

If your family can’t afford application costs, there are other ways to save. First, ask prospective schools about fee waivers. Schools typically require only that a high school guidance counselor confirm you qualify. You might if you benefit from free or reduced lunch programs.

“I haven’t run into any institutions where an applicant says an application fee is a barrier to apply and have not been granted a fee waiver,” says Strickler, adding that among Connecticut College’s nearly 6,000 applicants last year, one-quarter were granted a fee waiver.

The SAT and ACT also offer fee waivers, and there are less expensive ways to prepare for standardized tests, including borrowing materials from your high school or local library. Some colleges today don’t require a standardized test at all; if one of these is on your list, you stand to save some money.

Next steps

Once you’ve been accepted and chosen a college, turn your attention to financial aid. Exhaust your federal options first, including federal student loans, scholarships and grants. Private student loans generally carry higher interest rates, but can help you cover additional expenses if necessary.

Anna Helhoski is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: anna@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski. Victoria Simons is a data associate at NerdWallet. Email: vsimons@nerdwallet.com.


  • College application fee: $50, the most common amount reported by schools to U.S. News in a 2015 survey.
  • We assumed students would apply to eight schools (8 x $50 = $400 in application fees).
  • SAT fee, without essay: $45.
  • ACT fee, without essay: $42.50.
  • We assumed each student takes both tests once and takes one test again. We averaged the cost of both tests to represent an approximate cost of taking one test an additional time: $43.75.
  • Because only four score reports are included in the base cost of the ACT or SAT and we assumed each student applies to eight schools, we assume students will pay $12 each for four additional score reports: $48 total.
  • We used the cost of Magoosh’s six-month online SAT prep course ($99) to calculate the minimum a student might spend on college applications.


The article Applying to College? Expect to Pay at Least This Much originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Let’s Get Legit About Teens and Taxes

There is nothing else in this world like getting your first legit paycheck. After working hard for two weeks or a month, you get to cash in and reap the rewards.  But hold it! Your paycheck means more than a trip to the bank. It may mean having to file your taxes.

taxes animated GIF

This year, thousands of teens will file taxes because of their part-time jobs or earnings from investments. “I had no idea I had to file my taxes until a friend mentioned it when we got our W-2 forms.” said Madison Sero, a 15-year old retail employee. “It’s pretty intimidating. I don’t know where to start.”

Here are some basic points teens and taxes:

The first thing you will need to figure out is if you’re a dependent or independent. Ask yourselves these questions to find the answer:

  1. Are you under the age of 19 or 24 and a full-time student?
  2. Do you live with a parent or guardian more than 50 percent of the year?
  3. Is your paycheck supplemental (meaning you don’t use it to pay for all your groceries, housing, medical expenses, etc.)?

If you answered yes to all three, then you’re a dependent.

Now, you need to know if you need to file or not based on how much you made. You’ll find this information on the W-2 form your employer gave to you. If the total is over $6,300, then you need to file.

Maybe you’re in business for yourself (high-fives for that). As a self-employed teen or a contractor, you will need to file if you made more than $600. If you receive a form labeled as a 1099-MISC from your employer, you’re considered self-employed or contractor.

dog animated GIF

Even if you earned under that $6,300 mark, you may still want to file. Helena Swyter, a Certified Public Accountant and owner of Sweeter CPA, explains, “Say you earned $6,000 from a part-time job and had state and federal withholdings on your income. You may qualify to get some of that back so it would be worth filing, even though your income was below the cut-off.” Getting money back? Cha-Ching!

In some cases, you may not have worked at all. Instead, you may have earned money by having investments open, such as a college fund in your name. If you made over $1,050 in interest, you’d need to file. This money is called “unearned income.”

If your income from working and interest is above $1,050, you may need to file. For example, if you made $800 from your summer job and $300 from interest, you would have to file because the total is over $1,050. Confusing? This situation is where a tax expert and your parents know-how should come in to help better understand this tricky scenario.

taxes animated GIF

In most cases, filing shouldn’t take more than a few hours. Having an expert help prepare it is pretty standard, but using free software or online programs can be an excellent choice for cases where there aren’t any earned income questions or if you’re not a contractor or self-employed.

Amber Larsen, a certified public accountant and tax manager at DHJJ, encourages new earners to jump right in and learn the inner workings of tax filing. “It helps the teen be part of the process and the timeline, and teaches them about how their paycheck is divided up – some to federal withholding, some to state withholding, some to Social Security/Medicare, and some to them.

When they do the return themselves, they can then be part of how the tax system works and can see where their money is going.  And if they get a refund, doing their tax return might become one of their favorite parts of the spring!”

Madison Sero completed her tax forms at the end of January, and to her surprise, will receive over $200 back from her part-time retail job! “It was so much easier than I thought, and I feel like I could do this all on my own next year.”

The deadline to submit your completed taxes is Tuesday, April 18th this year. While that seems like a lot of time, you don’t want to procrastinate – or worse, risk losing an important document or forgetting to file your taxes altogether. Plus, if you do take your taxes to an expert, you may risk them being too busy to see you or possibly charging you a higher fee for last minute appointments!

The article Let’s Get Legit About Teens And Taxes originally appeared on centsaiadulting.com.


Ask Brianna: How Do I Start Strong With a New Roommate?

This week’s question: I’m on the hunt for a new roommate. How can we make our living space conflict-free?

I’ve had my share of subpar roommates, as I’m sure you have: weeknight partiers, late rent payers, loud phone talkers.

I never would have guessed it, but I loved sharing an apartment once I found my people. For much of my 20s I lived with three roommates who became family. We lived above a dive bar, fought a rotating cast of mice and roaches, and shared one bathroom smaller than the average closet. But we also lent each other outfits for roller-disco parties and made our way through life together.

Since you have the luxury of picking your own roommate, take time to do it purposefully. Find someone with similar goals, financial means and sense of responsibility, so you can avoid chasing down their share of the rent, or worse, facing the potentially costly decision of parting ways midlease. A thoughtful approach means you can create a home you love, whether you found your roommate on Craigslist or first met them in third grade.

Decide on your nonnegotiables

Before you sift through candidates, first decide on the cohabiting style you’re looking for, says Megan Ford, a financial therapist at the University of Georgia and president of the Financial Therapy Association.

Think about your ideal Monday evening. Do you want to process the workday over a shared dinner? Or would you rather eat alone in your room, cozied up with a Netflix marathon? Both approaches are valid. But if you and your roommate aren’t looking for the same thing, you’ll face the daily frustration of either a housemate who hovers, or one who leaves you feeling lonely.

“People interpret that relationship in different ways,” Ford says. “Really, the tip is: Know thyself.”

You also should be able to clearly articulate the behaviors you would not be able to deal with. Ford recommends bringing up the following questions, plus any others specific to your circumstances, with potential roommates:

  • How clean do you want to keep the apartment?
  • Do you want the space to be a gathering place for friends or a quiet refuge?
  • Is alcohol or drug use in the apartment OK?

Draw up a roommate contract

Once you’ve found someone who’s on your wavelength, set ground rules as soon as you decide to move in together. Ford recommends creating a contract that specifies how many nights per week each roommate can have guests and how you’ll pay for utility bills. If a bill is in your name, pay it on time or you’ll see a hit to your credit score; use an expense-splitting app to keep track of who owes what by each due date.

You might decide that a contract sounds too formal and that you’d rather simply agree on some baseline rules. But cleaning is one area that could benefit from a specified schedule, says Alyssa Favreau, author of “Stuff Every Graduate Should Know: A Handbook for the Real World.” I can attest that when my roommates and I wrote up a monthly bathroom cleaning schedule and posted it inside the medicine cabinet, that tiny space was suddenly spotless.

Address conflict constructively

Even the best-intentioned housemates will deal with the occasional conflict. Maybe your roommate’s newfound passion for the electric guitar means she cranks up her amp whenever she’s home.

Instead of letting your anger fester, approach your roomie. Open the conversation using “I” or “we” instead of the accusatory “you,” Ford says, and include some positive with the negative. You could try something like: “I’m so pumped you’re taking guitar lessons, Amelia. I know that’s something you’ve wanted to do for a long time. Can we talk about setting up specific practice hours so it doesn’t disturb others?”

Be prepared for pushback, but maintain your positive stance. You and your roommate might decide plugged-in practices are only for weekends, except for the hour before her Thursday evening lesson. Be attentive to your roommate’s needs, too, Favreau says.

“The willingness to compromise, or work toward a middle ground, is really what’s going to save your living situation,” she says.

Brianna McGurran is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: bmcgurran@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @briannamcscribe.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

The article Ask Brianna: How Do I Start Strong With a New Roommate? originally appeared on NerdWallet.

One-Word Answers to Your Money Questions

Financial advice is loaded with fine print, disclaimers and caveats. But sometimes, you want a straight answer before digging deeper.

We answered 10 money questions in a single word, and linked to all the extra stuff.

1. How do lenders decide if I qualify for a loan or credit card?


2. What if my credit isn’t good enough?


3. Does checking my credit report hurt my score?


4. What score do I need for my credit to be considered “excellent”?


5. How old do I have to be to get a credit card?


6. How do I get money for college?


7. How can I lower my student loan interest rates?


8. How much of my income should I spend on necessities like rent, food and gas?


9. How do I simplify multiple debt payments?


10. How can I save for retirement if my employer doesn’t offer a retirement savings plan, like a 401(k)?


Teddy Nykiel is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: teddy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @teddynykiel.

The article One-Word Answers To Your Money Questions originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Banking on an Athletic Scholarship? You May Want to Think Again

It’s not hard to get caught up in the glamour and excitement of big-time college athletics. And when top athletes are being recruited as early as junior high, many parents see athletics as a way for their child to get college paid for.

The reality, however, is that the odds of earning a fully-paid athletic scholarship are extremely slim. For one, consider that over a third of all colleges with sports teams aren’t allowed to offer athletic scholarships. Here’s a closer look at that reality of college athletic scholarships, and why your best bet as a high school student is to strive for far-more-prevalent academic scholarships.

Long Odds

While there are over 1 million boys playing high school football, there are only about 19,500 college football scholarships.

Take another example: of the over 535,000 boys playing high school basketball, only 3.3% will play NCAA basketball. For girls, it’s only slightly higher – 3.7%.

See more here.

Athletic Scholarships Aren’t What You Think

Full-ride Division I athletic scholarships are offered in only four sports – football, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball. That leaves the average athletic scholarship (for all athletes) at about $10,400. If you exclude men’s and women’s basketball, the average falls by nearly another $2,000.

Scholarships Are Divided Up

College coaches routinely split up the scholarships the NCAA allows them to offer. A Division 1 soccer or wrestling coach may be given 10 scholarships of a certain amount, but they have the freedom to further divide those amounts into as many scholarships as they want.

Apply for hundreds of scholarships by filling out one simple form.

Even Division I baseball, which can be a steppingstone for elite players to make it to the professional level, can only offer partial scholarships equaling 11.7 full scholarships. And those needed to be divided among 27 players.

Apply for hundreds of applicable scholarships with one simple form. START HERE

Scholarships Aren’t Guaranteed

Even if you receive a college athletic scholarship, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have it for four years. That’s because college scholarships must be renewed each year and it’s at the coach’s discretion. That puts extra pressure on students to maintain their scholarship while still trying to earn their college degree.

Athletics Won’t Make Up For Poor Grades

The focus on earning a college athletic scholarship can be all-consuming – and at the expense of high school academics. Many parents, in fact, see the possibility of a college scholarship as a legitimate fall-back when their child’s high school GPA drops.

You will rarely receive an athletic scholarship that will overcome poor grades. Students will generally do much better by earning a competitive financial aid package with merit aid.

You Need to Promote Yourself

Unless you’re a superstar high school athlete, college coaches may not even know that you’re out there. Students need to be proactive by emailing coaches at schools you’d like to attend. Forward all of your relevant contact information (including your coach’s contact info), statistics, and anything else you think is relevant about your high school athletic career. Better yet, put together several minutes of YouTube highlights and send coaches that link.

Athletes Can Often Do Better by Earning Merit Aid

If you’re serious about continuing your athletic career after high school, Division III offers the best opportunities. It’s the largest division of schools and players in the country, but its schools don’t offer anything when it comes to athletic scholarships. They can, however, offer merit aid to academically-accomplished student athletes, which places a far greater emphasis on grades and test scores than athletic prowess.

Tips for Athletes

Some students do receive full-ride athletic scholarships and then go on to play professional sports. This is just not a common trajectory for most student athletes. Make a realistic assessment of your strengths and decide what it is you are ultimately going for.

Enjoy your experience as a high school athlete, but don’t let pressure on achieving an athletic scholarship overwhelm you. Keep up your grades, and be proactive in your search by contacting coaches.

Playing sports has many benefits for students and is often considered favorably when applying for internships and jobs (as long as your grades don’t slip). Learning how to balance your athletic commitmentswith studying and a social life can teach you excellent time management skills.

Make sure you’re getting an education at a school where academics are prioritized as well as athletics. Visit our sports rankings to immediately begin discovering colleges sports programs of all divisions where the athletes succeed in the classroom as well as on the field.

The College Recruiting Formula

Looking to learn how to get recruited, play college sports and save money in the process?

The article Banking on an Athletic Scholarship? You May Want to Think Again originally appeared on College Factual.

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