Use it or lose it

I’m sure we have all heard the age-old saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” I am not sure that I have always believed that until now.

Now, you have some great tools we have uncovered this school year as they related to financial literacy. I believe if you aren’t practicing some of those tools then you will most likely lose them. Let’s take a recap of the year by highlighting 15 of the tools outlined in the blogs. 

  • Create a personal monthly budget. Your budget is the foundation of your financial health, and it’s easy to get started. Learn how to create a personal budget by looking at the previous TRIO blogs on budgeting.
  • Start an emergency fund. Experts recommend setting aside at least three months’ worth of basic living expenses in case of an unexpected financial burden like a layoff or large medical expense. 
  • Spending money is/should be the perfect way to increase your overall value. Spending money should be a well-thought-out process, and the best way to remedy financial literacy is by budgeting. 
  • The five key components of financial literacy are earning, spending, saving, and investing, borrowing, and protecting. Credit is the ability to borrow money or access goods or services with the understanding that you’ll pay later.
  • Two primary forms of credit — revolving credit and installment credit. Revolving credit usually is your credit card. The second form of credit is installment credit. Installment credit is a loan that you borrow one amount and repay it with interest in accrues in installments each month.
  • Borrow is using something belonging to someone else to return it. “Loan” can be a noun, such as a sum of money that you must pay back with interest, or a verb, the act of lending something to someone.
  • Put a serious plan into play and stick to it. There is nothing that is out of your reach. If you write out a solid plan and work it, then you will have it. Financial health is yours.
  • Know your holiday triggers and combat them
  • If you are to be financially literate, it is safe to say that you must know yourself well, bad habits and all, for they are just as telling as the good ones.
  • Create a Financial Literacy Vision Board. Yes, let’s have a vision boarding party for our money. Statistically, we are 1.4 times more likely to accomplish our goals when we can picture them.
  • Our attitudes, behaviors, and heart posture concerning money are major factors contributing to our relationship with our money. 
  • Look at decluttering, sweeping, dusting, and tossing a few items out in your finances. 
  • Scammers are real, and it is your job to protect yourself.
  • Taxes can seem scary, but the best way to avoid any unnecessary stress regarding taxes is to plan and become informed. 

As summer quickly approached please don’t forget the 15 tools, we gained this year and don’t forget to use them, even during the summer months. Keep at your budget and if you have space in your budget, save more. As always, I believe in you, happy summer, and let’s build! 

April is tax season

Taxes can be a snooze fest topic to discuss but for us it’s not because we desire to grow and be more financially literate.

As you may know this is “Tax Month” and “Tax Day” is quickly approaching, April 15. This is the deadline when you must file your takes on all income earned during the previous calendar year.

If you are a single person, you only are required to file taxes if you make move than $12,200 during the year.  If you made less but had income taxes withheld throughout the year, you will likely qualify for a tax refund and might want to file anyway to get your money back. 

Taxes can seem scary, but the best way to avoid any unnecessary stress regarding taxes is to plan and become informed. 

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), scholarships, fellowships, and grants, including financial aid, are tax free only to a certain extent. To determine what qualifies as tax free, you must understand the difference between qualified and non-qualified education expenses. Here are some examples:

Qualified Education Expenses:

  • Tuition and fees required to enroll at an eligible educational institution.
  • Course related expenses, such as fees, books, supplies, and equipment that are required for the courses. 

Non-qualified Education Expenses:

  • Room and board
  • Health insurance
  • Research
  • Travel

It is important to remember that if any part of your scholarship, fellowship, or grant goes toward non-qualified education expenses, you will have to file a tax return according to the IRS. Your scholarship is viewed as individual income under the federal government if it is not purposely used for a qualified educational expense.

Here are some relevant forms to file your education-related taxes:

1098-T: Tallies expenses paid to the college or university

1098-e: Summarizes student loan interest payments

If you are paying back federal student loans, you may qualify for up to a $2,500 tax deduction based on the student loan interest you have paid. You may use the 1098-e to file for that deduction.

Of course, this does not have everything concerning taxes mentioned. However, as a student this information is golden. Again, I hope this information is beneficial for you. Get those taxes completed if you haven’t and get yo money! Who knows you could add to your savings or pay off credit debt? Let’s Build.


Identity theft

Hello everyone, this week we will be discussing identity theft. There has never been another time in history where identity theft has been more prevalent.

You may be wondering how I am aware? I was a victim of identity theft before I could even begin my life as an adult. When I was a kid our house caught fire from electrical issues. My parents had our important documents in a safe. While we were sleeping later that night, someone stole the safe out of the car and all our identities as well.

If you’re like me, my first thought was “Well that was dumb. What did you think would happen?” Looking at the situation, I understand it was a traumatic day and even the best of us lack judgement sometimes. However, at 18 years old I couldn’t even open a checking account before attending college. There were several other issues that came up, but I was able to recover.

Since is digital and let’s be honest, we have all purchased items online at least once. Therefore, your financial information is vulnerable to fraud.

Let’s look at this even closer to home. If you are reading this I can assume you are a college student, correct? Attending college is one of the biggest investments you will make in your lifetime. Although scholarships and grants are available, you still may use a loan to pay tuition.

If/When you apply for a loan please be cautious. Loan applications require sensitive personal information, like your address, social security number, birth date, passwords, etc. With that in mind, you need to be on your guard when applying to prevent identity theft. As a student, having your identity stolen may have long-term repercussions. For instance, it may hinder you from getting a job after graduation or prevent you from signing a lease on an apartment. Essentially, your fresh start after college could be less like a dream and more like a nightmare.

College campuses and towns aren’t exempt from identity theft. As a student, you need to be just as careful in the college library as you need to be in a crowded coffee shop. Student identity theft happens all the time when you use unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, have a thief looking over your shoulder, or leave personal documents out in your dorm room or in a public space.

Ways to avoid being scammed:

  1. Don’t click random links on the web
  2. Never click the links or open attachments from people you don’t know
  3. Avoid using public Wi-Fi, use a Virtual Private Network if you can
  4. Password protect your devices
  5. Never give out personal information over the phone
  6. Check your credit regularly
  7. Protect your personal documents
  8. Limit your exposure by not carrying all your credit cards or identifying information

I hope this was helpful. Please remember – scammers are real and it is your job to protect yourself. Let’s Build.

Have money don’t let it, have you!

Oliver Wendell Holmes once stated, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us!” Often, I would read that quote and only see it from a positive perspective of moving forward from bad things and not focusing too much on the future because we have now. Although a great interpretation, I have grown so my perspective is different from when I first came across this quote. I know you are thinking, what does this have to do with Financial Literacy? Perhaps our financial literacy has to do with “what lies within us.” Our attitudes, behaviors, and heart posture concerning money are major factors contributing to our relationship with our money.

We all have negative emotions toward money. When we clear out the negative thoughts, we can remove the blockages that are preventing money from flowing to us. In a class during college, I recall reading that shame, anger, and fear are the most common emotions that surround money. Money has even been the reason that induvial have taken their own life. On the flip side when we have money it can cause us to have positive emotions and even be different people. A large amount of money can cause a status of arrogance to set in as well. Once again revealing “what lies within us.”

Where does the deeply seeded emotion about money come from? I submit that possibly our thoughts on money stem from childhood. How our parents handle money provides the foundation for how we may handle money. This is the reason generational poverty and general wealth exist. Poor people impart bad money habits and beliefs to their children. As well wealthy individuals often impart their strategies and philosophies on how to handle money to their children. I am not saying that it is your parent’s fault that you have negative or positive emotions toward money. I am saying that your foundational understanding of money must change if you have poor financial habits.

Emotional money hack exercise

I want to present to you a way to change your emotions about money. I encourage you to split a sheet of paper in half the long way. On one side I want you to write out each of your negative thoughts/emotions toward money and where each of them stems from. On the opposite side of the paper, I want to write directly next to the negative emotion a remedy for that negative thought/emotion. Then I want you to speak the positive thought out loud by starting each sentence by stating “I believe that money…” In combatting those negative thoughts toward money, you are dismantling your negative beliefs by hearing the positive affirmations about your money.

Why is this financial literacy blog here talking about emotions towards money? Here in TRIO, we believe in you and your ability to transform your life. We believe that you are valuable and deserve the life you have dreamed about. You can have money and be financially literate, just make sure it does not have you. Let’s Build!

Financial Aid Awareness

This week we are switching gears and focusing on a different type of borrowing. We will dive into financial aid. Financial Aid is money that is given, earned, or lent to help students pay for their education. Financial aid makes it possible for millions of students to pay for college.

There are four types of Financial aid; Grants (free money such as Pell Grant), Scholarships (free money awarded for exceptional academics, talent, or financial need), Loans (funds borrowed from banks, colleges, and the government), and Work-study (programs that provide students with financial aid part-time jobs to fund education).

Most often, financial aid is awarded in the form of a package. Packages, consisting of grants, scholarships, loans and/or work-study, are put together by the college’s financial aid office. It is important to know that you can have differing aid packages from college to college. It is important to understand that financial aid is awarded based on financial need. Therefore, if your family can afford to pay $6,000 and the cost of the college is $15,000, the student has a financial need of $9,000. After you can your parents complete the FAFSA (Federal Application for Federal Student Aid), you will get a report that tells you how much your family should be able to afford to pay for college the following year.

The FAFSA is available on October 1. Some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-first served basis, so apply as soon as you can. The application can be completed online, and you will need to create a profile with a password so keep your password in a safe place. The FAFSA is free so there never is a need to pay a company to complete your application. By completing the FAFSA you are applying for a Pell Grant. It is important to understand that although it may seem scary, it is easy to complete and never assume you won’t be eligible.

When completing your FAFSA you will need the following:

  • Log in Info
  • Social Security number
  • Federal Income Tax Return, W2’s, and any other earned money
  • List of schools being considered

With all the above items it could take about an hour to complete. As a TRIO student, you have a secret weapon, your advisor is equipped to assist you in completing your aid. I would encourage you to have your FAFSA and any scholarships submitted to SC4 by March 15. If you are intimidated by the FAFSA, please contact your advisor. As always, Let’s Build!

New Year, new you, new money!

Happy New Year!! Doesn’t it always feel good to begin again? Are you enjoying your new classes? Did you get any cool gifts over break?

I love the feeling in the air in January. There is this invisible encouragement that comes from within, and you can’t help but want to do something new and set a few resolutions. I will admit that I believe that “New Year resolutions” are downright cheesy! Why wait until everyone else is making goals to follow the trend and then not follow through after 30 days?

However, what if we could remedy that trend? I have always been a visual person, and there is something about seeing your thoughts in a visual form that always makes a mere thought reality for me. What if you could do the same with your financial health? I propose that we do something different this year and create a Financial Literacy Vision Board! Yes, let’s have a vision boarding party for our money! Statistically, we are 1.4 times more likely to accomplish our goals when we can picture them. So, if you want to have a better chance of reaching your financial goals, you’ll want to learn how to create a vision board.

What is a vision board?

A vision board is a collage of pictures and phrases that represent what you desire to accomplish. Unlike a “life” vision board, a money vision board is specific to your financial goals. Will you be saving, paying off debt, or increasing income? 

Financial vision boards are also different because they often utilize charts — such as a savings goal thermometer — that track progress. So, if your vision is to become debt-free, you may include a debt payoff tracker as a part of your financial vision board. 

How to make a vision board for your finances

Creating a vision board is more than just gluing pictures to a poster board. It requires you to be clear on your goals and aspirations. That’s why writing down your financial goals is the first step for making a vision board for your finances.

  1. Write down your financial goals. Be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
  2. Gather Supplies.
    1. Board
    2. Old Magazines
    3. Pictures from Online
    4. Glue
    5. Scissors
  3. Create! Turn on your favorite playlist and focus. Give it a good effort and have fun.
  4. Review your board daily. Place your board in a place where you can see it often.

This year let’s be intentional about being different and better than we were last year. Let’s Build!


Forbes. (2018, April 15). Neuroscience Explains Why You Need To Write Down Your Goals If You Actually Want To Achieve Them

Holiday tips and tricks!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!

I don’t know about you, but I love the holiday season. The lights, music, and family parties are a few things that make the holidays unique. You can feel the love, joy, and magic in the atmosphere. There is always a potent spirit of giving in the air, and you want to provide the best possible gifts. I am not going to lie; I love receiving gifts as well! There is a sense to relish in living it up and giving great gifts and being the life of the party, but not worth the post-holiday debt.

However, if you are already struggling financially, the holiday season can be highly stressful and cause anxiety. We can not allow our emotions to be swayed by the glitz and glimmer of one season.

This week I want to offer you a list of tips and tricks that could be helpful to remain emotionally and financially responsible during the season. I have come up with and came across several tips that I will share below. They are in no order of importance.

Daryl Singleton
Daryl Singleton
  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently passed or can’t be with loved ones. Take time to cry and express your feelings.
  2. Treat yourself less. A great example is instead of Starbucks make your own Latte. If you must go out use your reward points that you’ve earned from places throughout the year.
  3. Cash it! This is a great season to bring out your old friend, cash. It is so easy to swipe your card and lose track. However, when you utilize what they call “envelope budgeting,” you have the exact amount you need.
  4. Make and use a list. Be sure to make a list of who you’re buying for and what you are buying. Once you finish that list stop and stick to it. Always include a dollar amount.
  5. Start early and stop. Start as soon as possible on your list and once you’ve gone through the list, stop. Don’t be tempted to add one more item.
  6. Set a budget. Decided how much you can spend and go for less if possible.
  7. Give meaningful gifts. Sometime when you give gifts that mean most to the person it can costs less.
  8. Give something homemade. If you are a great baker this is the perfect time to put those skills to work! God to Aldi and go crazy in the baking aisle. Buy some cute paper and ribbons. Who doesn’t love baked goods?
  9. Don’t forget about thrift stores. There are tons of gently used good items that can be purchased like tennis rackets or golf clubs for a teen.
  10. Black Friday and coupons! Don’t allow BF hype to trick you only buy the good deals and ALWAYS use a coupon if you can find one. Manufactures always have them and some places if you subscribe will give a 10% off coupon. Each penny counts.
  11. Leave credit cards at home. Always only charge what you can pay back in 30 days.
  12. Be realistic. If you can then you can. If you cannot then you cannot. There is no embarrassment in simply just doing what you can.
  13. Big family? Pull names this year and set a budget.

The idea is to come out of the holiday season feeling like you are still in control of your finances and be enjoyable, not stressful. Know your holiday triggers and combat them. Always plan, and let’s build! Happy holidays from TRIO!

What’s the plan?

There is an old saying, “If you don’t plan to succeed, you plan to fail.” I believe this holds even with your finances.

We have talked about budgeting, but how many of you have done so? Has it been helpful? If you have not, that is ok. Today is a great day to start. This blog entry is not about putting together a budget. It is about making sure that your money is doing what you need it to do. Yes, you can tell your money what to do!

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by all the bills you have and did not know where to begin? That is because you haven’t put your money to work. Here is a quick example of what I mean.

Brother Y has a job that pays him $900 every two weeks. Brother Y also has rent, utilities, food, and a small loan with a family member. Often, we believe that Brother Y should pay everything to $0, but who wants to work for two weeks and walk away with nothing to enjoy because of bills? No one. I say put a serious plan into play and stick to it!

Sit down and write out how much you can put towards each item without breaking the bank. Utility companies will allow for extensions or even partial payments in the form of budget plans where your bill remains the same even throughout the winter months. If rent is not due, immediately put a third or half away, then add more to it during the next pay period. The idea is to plan to succeed in life, not to walk around broke and wanting.

Here is a hypothetical plan:

Brother Y

Bi-Weekly Take home paycheck – $900

  • Utilities (due in 3 weeks) – $90
    • Pay: $45 now, $45 next pay period or call and ask about payment plan
  • Cable/Wi-Fi (due in 2 weeks) – $89
    • Pay: $45 now, $44 next pay period
  • Streaming (due now) – $50
    • Pay: $50 now
  • Rent (due in 4 weeks) – $500
    • Put Away: $250
  • Insurance (due in 2 weeks) – $100
    • Pay: $50 now, $50 next pay period
Daryl Singleton
Daryl Singleton

You get the point.

With these hypothetical bills, Brother Y should have around $460 leftover to save, pay on credit, buy food, and possibly have a little extra to put toward his life dream/goal. Never shortchange yourself, bills will be there and life will happen but always invest in yourself. 

It is 2021; we plan for what we want and get it. I want to encourage you that there is nothing that is out of your reach! IF you write out a solid plan and work it, then you will have it. Financial health is yours. Will you plan to succeed? Or Are you failing because you won’t plan? As always, this is subjective knowledge; you do what you need to do with it. Let’s Build! 

Borrowing is not a dirty word

Hello you all! This week, we will look into the importance of credit and why it has so many benefits.

One of those benefits is the daunting B-word; get your mind out of the gutter, not that word! I am referring to the word, borrow. If you are like me, you too don’t like to borrow from anyone because you like keeping your money. Borrow is using something belonging to someone else to return it. “Loan” can be a noun, such as a sum of money that you must pay back with interest, or a verb, the act of lending something to someone. Please don’t think I am a weird person; we all know that you are borrowing for a large purchase like a home or car.

As a college student, it is likely you borrowed money and currently are dealing with student loans. If you have a healthy credit score, then borrowing isn’t a bad thing. When borrowing, the annual percentage rate (APR) is critical when deciding which loan to accept. The lower the APR you receive means that you will pay less interest over time. Your APR ties right into your credit score. The higher your credit score, the less interest you will be charged. In this sense, if you’ve had financial issues in the past, you could be in a place where your finances are paying off interest. Having excellent credit gives you the financial freedom to have great financing options when borrowing.

Daryl Singleton
Daryl Singleton

There is the other side of borrowing, repayment. Repayment seems to be the part I struggle with most. I simply don’t like giving away money. There are several options available to students as it relates to student loans, but you must be willing to call and ask about your options. Most lenders are willing to work with you if you are responsible managing your repayment. Consider that for smaller items, and you could borrow from yourself because you have been budgeting. Remember please take what you need from this blog and let’s build!

What are the types of credit and why you need it?

Hello and welcome back to the TRIO Financial Literacy Blog. In the previous blog, we talked about what credit is. In this blog, we will cover different types of credit.

During my research, I came across two primary forms of credit — revolving credit and installment credit. Revolving credit usually is your credit card. It is credit that can be borrowed repeatedly but has a set limit — your credit limit — that you can borrow. Most likely you are in control of how much you borrow, and interest is charged if the balance is not paid by the due date. As you pay on time, the account stays open until you choose to close it. Another example of revolving credit is a home equity line of credit.

The second form of credit is installment credit. Installment credit is a loan that you borrow one amount and repay it with interest in accrues in installments each month. At the time it is paid back in full, then the account is closed. Typically this type includes mortgages, personal loans, auto loans, and student loans.

In recent years there has been another form of credit that has emerged, it called “open credit.” Open credit does not have a set amount to repay as it varies from month to month. Open credit includes utility bills, cable, and even cellular services.

Daryl Singleton
Daryl Singleton

All in all, credit gives you the option of purchasing items now instead of later. I want to remind you of what we learned in earlier blogs. The money you spend should make you more money. Credit is part of your financial power. It helps you get the things you need now, like a loan for a car or a credit card, based on your promise to pay later. Working to improve your credit helps ensure you’ll qualify for loans when you need them. The choice is yours on how you choose to spend your income but let’s remember to be smart about utilizing our funds. As always, let’s build!


Time. (2021, July 21). Understanding different types of credit | nextadvisor with Time. Time.