Many things come into consideration when planning a holiday season budget. You have to think about the amount of money that is going to be spent on gifts for friends and family, the cost of food, decorations and travel expenses. Although it can be tricky and stressful, planning a holiday budget and sticking to it, is POSSIBLE. The following are a list of tips in the right direction of doing so.

1.)   Determine what you can afford to spend.

  • Look over your finances, and determine how much you can afford to spend on holiday-related purchases. Set this figure as your overall holiday spending limit.

2.)   Set a spending limit for each area of holiday spending.

  • Set a limit for each category of holiday spending such as gifts, food, decorations and traveling.

3.)   Track your spending throughout the season.

  • Keep a running total of your purchases and after every purchase, track how closely you’re adhering to your budget.

4.)   Tweak your budget to cover any instances of overspending.

  •     Don’t panic if you overspend in one of the categories; just scale your spending back   in another category to make up for it.

5.)   Hang on to a copy of your budget after the holidays are over

  • Old receipts and lists of where your money was spent the previous year can be extremely helpful in planning future budgets.

6.)   Don’t be afraid to change your budget.

  • A good budget is always evolving

7.)   Don’t forget to include your upcoming expenses not related to the holiday.

  • Always remember that you still have bills to pay and other possible expenses such as, tuition bills or deductions from your paycheck to pay for health insurance after the New Year as well.

8.)   Eliminate and Create

  • Even though it’s fun to buy gifts for everyone you know and love, maybe consider eliminating some people from your list. Also, purchasing gifts is not always the answer. You could create something that is just as meaningful, if not more.

9.)   Communicate with family about budget.

  • Discuss how much your family members are planning to spend on gifts, this way you aren’t spending $50 on them, when they are only planning to spend $10 on a gift for you. Just make sure you are all on the same page!

10.)    Avoid problem stores and over spending triggered by emotions and holiday spirit

  • Most likely there are going to be places where you have over spent in the past, so avoiding those stores is your best bet. Also, that “certain someone” you are buying for may trigger emotional overspending so try your best to avoid that or note it in your budget and move on.

Posted by Carly Larson, Career Services Assistant

You’ve been offered a job that sounds fantastic – it pays a very good salary and the workplace has a great atmosphere. You’re eager to take it, but wait: thoroughly evaluate the benefits package before you accept the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2010, the average employee benefits package comprised 30 percent of the total compensation package, and the average value of benefits was $8.11 per hour. You can try to calculate the value of the benefits on your own, but some experts believe the best way to put a dollar value on benefits is asking the prospective employer to do it for you.

Example: Job A and Job B

Let’s say Job B pays $2,000 more per year than Job A. You take job B because of this, but maybe you don’t realize that Job A covers 100 percent of the health insurance premium and Job B pays 75 percent of it. With Job B, $200 per month is deducted from your paycheck to cover health premiums and there’s a $500 deductible you’ll pay before the insurance covers the rest of the cost. You’ll pay a total insurance premium of $2,400 per year and you may have to pay a $500 deductible if you need healthcare services during the year. Although Job A pays less in terms of salary, it may be a better financial choice just based on healthcare benefits. And then there are also the retirement account and other benefits to consider.

Health Plans

Many employers are charging employees more for their health insurance than in the past, however employer-provided health insurance is still a bargain. Keep an eye out for potential costs such as:

  • Employee-paid premiums
  • Co-payments
  • Deductibles
  • Maximum annual out-of-pocket expense
  • Coinsurance, which requires you to pay a percentage of the total cost of healthcare
  • Healthcare services the insurer doesn’t cover


With a 401(k) plan your contributions are tax-deferred (except for social security taxes). Most employers match between 50 cents and 1 dollar for every dollar you contribute for up to 3 to 6 percent of your salary. For example, if you make $40,000 per year and you contribute $200 per month and your employer match is 75 percent for up to 6 percent of your salary, your employer is putting in another $150 per month, which works out to be $1,800 per year. Not taking advantage of an available 401(k) plan at work is like simply rejecting free money.

With a 401(k) plan you accept responsibility for the investment risks and potential losses due to fluctuations in the market. Typically, jobs which don’t offer a retirement plan are not worth considering unless the salary is high enough to allow you to easily contribute to your own retirement account.

Defined Benefits Plan

Some experts believe a defined benefits plan is better than a 401(k) plan because the defined benefits plan is not affected by market performance. Instead, the employer has all the investment risks and unless the company files for bankruptcy and can’t fund the benefit plan, your pension is guaranteed. Due to the costs and risks, fewer employers are providing defined benefits plans these days.

If a defined benefits plan is available, find out how long it takes to become vested. After you become vested you have a non-forfeitable right to benefits funded by the employer even if you leave your job and work for another employer.

Some people believe a defined benefits plan is risky because the employer may not be able to fund the pension plan. However, these plans are typically protected by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, an independent agency of the United States government. If the company goes bankrupt, your benefits may be reduced, but you are guaranteed to receive a minimum percentage of your promised benefits.

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a pre-tax benefit account used to help offset the costs of healthcare and dependent care for you and your family. Money deducted from your pay and going into an FSA is not subject to payroll taxes. However, there’s a significant disadvantage of an FSA – the funds not used by the end of the year are lost to you.

Benefits in Private Industry

These 2011 statistics will help you compare the types of benefits and employer financial contributions you’ve been offered compared to all workers in private industry:

  • 73 percent of full-time employees had access to retirement benefits, 85 percent to medical, and 75 percent to paid sick leave
  • On average, single coverage employers paid 80 percent of the medical care premiums for full-time employees and 68 percent for family coverage
  • 7 percent of unmarried domestic partners (same sex and opposite sex) had access to retirement survivors benefits
  • 29 percent of same sex unmarried domestic partners and 25 percent of opposite sex unmarried domestic partners had access to healthcare benefits

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Compensation Survey, March 2011)

Here’s a laundry list of typical employee benefits you should be aware of when job hunting:

  • Medical, vision and dental insurance
  • Health and wellness programs
  • Life insurance
  • Short-term and long-term disability coverage
  • Paid holiday, vacation and sick leave
  • Disability insurance
  • Retirement plans
  • Stock options
  • Severance package
  • Employer-paid day care center
  • Prepaid legal services
  • Education assistance programs and scholarship funds
  • Adoption assistance
  • Maternity leave
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Health club

After you graduate from college, benefits, such as a retirement account and health insurance, may not grab your interest. You may think benefits are the concern of older workers, but there are a lot of older workers who wish they paid more attention to benefits when they began their careers. Besides, asking questions about the benefits package makes you look smart to the person offering the job!

Brian Jenkins writes about many different college and career topics for He has contributed content to BrainTrack’s career planning guide.

Posted by Fernando Ramirez, Career Services Career Assistant

If you haven't heard, school is expensive!
If you haven't heard, school is expensive!

Getting scholarships:

Once you’ve found the scholarships you qualify for, it is time to begin submitting applications. Investing a proper amount of time on the scholarship application is crucial if you intend on winning. Scholarship applications require more than just your contact information. Applications require other supporting documents, such as a transcript, cover letter, letter of recommendation, and an essay. Take the scholarship application very seriously. Here are a few tips for winning scholarships:

Tips for winning scholarships:

  • Start Early: Scholarship deadlines can pass by you pretty quickly. Do not wait until the last minute to start working on that scholarship application. Nothing is worse than working for weeks on a scholarship essay to have it be rejected because of a missed deadline.
  • Apply to as much as you can: The more scholarships you apply for, the greater the chances are that you’ll receive one. Don’t disregard small scholarships. A $500 scholarships is not the same as a $2000 scholarship, but it can still help pay for books and supplies.
  • Get letters of recommendation: Many scholarships ask that you submit one or two letters of recommendation with your application. Get to know your professors, and let them get to know you, that way when you ask them for a letter of recommendation they’ll actually have something to write about. When you ask for a letter of recommendation, make sure the person knows about your interests, career goals, and other involvement. Give them plenty of time to write your letter.
  • Edit your essays: Many scholarships ask that you submit an essay along with your application. In that essay you must show why the scholarship should be given to you rather than the next guy, so take it very seriously. Spent a good amount of time working on your essay. Then, have several people edit your essay. The more time you spend on your essay, the better it will be.
  • Save your essays: As you search through scholarships, you’ll find that many of them ask very similar essay questions. Questions like “What was your most significant obstacle and how did you overcome it?” or “What is your long-term career goal?” appear over and over in scholarship applications. Save a few generic essays for questions that reappear in scholarship applications.
  • Search the entire year: A lot of students search for scholarships during spring term and then forget about searching until the next spring term comes. Scholarships are offered the entire year, and if you limit your scholarship search to one period of time each year then you are missing out on a lot of free money. Search throughout the entire year. There are many summer scholarships that only a few students take advantage of.

Scholarships can be of great help to students. Obtaining a college degree is very expensive, but there is help out there. The key is to work hard and be patient; your work will pay off. There is a lot of searching to do, so get to it.

Posted by Fernando Ramirez, Career Assistant, OSU Career Services

Everyone could use a little help!
Everyone could use a little help!

Do you need money for tuition, books, and supplies? Probably. Being a college student comes with an extensive list of expenses. Because of this, many organizations who sympathize with students offer scholarships to help pay for student related expenses. There are many excellent sources of financial aid that students can benefit from. Below are just a few of them:

Sources of Financial Aid:

  • FAFSA:  U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens can apply for financial aid from the government by filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Schools and other scholarship programs may also require that you file a FAFSA to obtain financial aid. FAFSA should be completed as early as possible beginning January 1.
  • Fastweb: Fastweb is an online scholarship search engine with an extensive database of scholarships. After filling out a profile, it will search for and display the scholarships that you qualify for. Fastweb can save you the time it takes to manually search for scholarships, as well as find some that you might have missed otherwise.
  • OSAC: Oregon residents can fill out an application with the Oregon Student Assistance Commission (OSAC ) that contains hundreds of scholarships for Oregonians based on year in school, major, area of residence, income, high school, etc. With a single application, you can apply to as many scholarships as you are eligible for. The application is available online and is due on March 1. FAFSA required.
  • Department-Based Scholarships: Most departments in school offer scholarships especially for their students. Check your department’s website or ask your counselor about these scholarships.
  • Minority and Career-Based Scholarships: Many organizations offer scholarships for certain minority groups or certain career paths. A good way to search for these scholarships is to use a search engine and type in “scholarships for” followed by a career or ethnicity. For example, a Hispanic student may type “scholarships for Hispanics.” Go to the links and review the scholarships.
  • Financial Aid Office: Your financial aid office has information on scholarships, grants, educational loans, and can answer all of your financial aid questions.

Stay tuned for Fernando’s next post on how to submit a winning application!

save moneyUnless you’re Oprah Winfrey or Simon Cowell, most of us are all coming to the same conclusion: money is tight! As part-time and full-time students dedicated to our school work, extracurricular activities, friends, and family, it can be tough trying to balance a job while in school. No matter if you work full-time, part-time, or don’t have a paying job at all, there are some quick and easy things you can do as a college student to help you save a few extra $$$.

Helpful money saving tips for students:

  • Ask your cell phone company about student discounts
  • Ride the bus–it’s free with your OSU ID card
  • Check out activities and events on campus–not only is it a great way to get involved but there is usually free food!
  • Buy used text books or share with fellow students in your class
  • Check out many more money saving tips for college students here!

If cutting costs in your daily life inst enough, let Career Services help you! Check out Beaver JobNet, OSU’s own version of and let us help you get a job!