Author: Michelle Balaklaw

Top 5 Rewards Programs

Save Money
It’s no secret that college students have to stretch every penny. We have to worry about covering tuition, housing expenses and food, all while trying to have enough spending money to live it up during the best four years of our life. But with all of the loyalty programs and rewards cards that businesses offer, it is also very easy to cut corners and score a free meal every once in a while. I have narrowed down the top five rewards programs that I feel give you the best bang for your buck. Check them out:

5. Kroger Plus Card
Do you buy groceries and gasoline? If the answer is yes, then you should definitely have a Kroger Plus card. It gets you great discounts on groceries, and actually allows you to go online before shopping and pre-load coupons straight to your card so that you save even more money. Even better, you don’t actually have to keep up with that pesky piece of plastic anymore. Just type in your “alternative ID,” (the phone number associated with the card), and start saving money! In addition to great savings on groceries, you also earn 1 point for every dollar spent, which goes towards gas savings. This card will do nothing but save you money on food and groceries, which seems like a pretty good deal to me!

4. CVS ExtraCare Rewards
Although drugstores are typically known for offering overpriced products, the CVS ExtraCare card mitigates that stereotype by offering customers great discounts and coupons on a variety of products. This card personalizes the coupons it offers you by utilizing your purchase history to offer you great deals on the products you actually want and need. Not only are you offered great coupons, but you automatically receive the weekly sale prices with just the swipe of your card. To top it all off, for every 10 prescriptions you have filled, you earn $5 in ExtraBucks Rewards! So stop paying so much for those vitamins.

3. Qdoba Rewards
Regardless of whether you are team Chipotle or team Qdoba, the Qdoba rewards card is what it says it is – all rewards. Just for signing up you receive your choice of either a free large drink, or free chips and salsa. After that, all you need to do is swipe your card every time you visit. After purchasing 10 meals, and collecting 1,000 points, you receive a meal for free! You have nothing to lose and only free meals to gain by signing up for Qdoba rewards! Anyone else addicted to their guac?

2. Speedway Speedy Rewards
Don’t let the Speedway name fool you; the Speedy Rewards Card isn’t limited to discounts on gas. In fact, you can actually redeem your Speedy Rewards points online for gift cards to your favorite restaurants, clothing stores and gaming websites. In addition to earning points for every dollar spent on gas, every time you purchase a food item that belongs to a “Speedy Rewards Club,” you will receive that item for free after so many purchases of that item. I always use this card to score a free coffee before studying.

Earn Double the points when you sell textbooks



1. eWards 
Let’s face it, no one likes buying textbooks. They’re expensive, they’re heavy and they’re painfully boring. But if you want to know what’s going on in class, they’re necessary. Now that has introduced their eWards program you earn points every time you rent/buy/sell a textbook. The points add up quickly and turn into HUGE savings for the next time you need books (like a $25 gift card)! Additional points can be earned just from referring friends or tweeting about deals. Enrolling is super easy and it’s free, so there is really no reason not to. Join me and more than 20,000 other students and become an eWards member and start saving now!

(BONUS: Double Points Days are starting May 29! For one week only, eWards members earn double points for selling used textbooks.)

What are your favorite ways to save money?


2014 Best Grad Schools:Inside the Guide [An Infographic]

So you’re about to graduate college – congrats! What now?

As the economy recovers, so does the job market, allowing new opportunities to emerge. This is great news for those who are currently in college! However, many of these jobs require candidates to have more than an undergraduate degree. It is predicted that 2.6 million new jobs will be created between 2010 and 2020, and that individuals with masters or doctoral degrees will be the ones to fill those spots.

Many students are turning to graduate school as a way of carving a niche for themselves in today’s competitive job market. Grad school can be a risky bet which could land you in a deep pit of student loan debt, or it could result in a dream job with a six-digit salary. Such a commitment requires a great deal of research, and with the growing number of programs offered it can quickly become an overwhelming process. Meeting with advisers and professors is a great starting point, but most students will want to do some investigating on their own. It is important to gather a wide variety of non-biased information, but with the endless amount of websites, books and blog articles dedicated to “facts” about grad school, it can be difficult to find high-quality sources. This is why I recommend U.S. News & World Report’s annual Grad Guide.

Best Grad Schools Infographic


Each year, U.S. News & World Report surveys thousands of programs and academic professionals to create a guidebook that helps students navigate the world of graduate school. For the second year in a row, has taken some key information from this elaborate, 200+ page grad guide and created an infographic to help students streamline their research. The goal behind this piece, as with all infographics, is to take a large amount of information and condense it into a unique graphic that’s easy to understand. Similar to the 2013 grad school infographic, The Good & The Bad in Bad, this 2014 edition highlights trends regarding admissions, debt and salaries for the top five professional fields (Business, Education, Engineering, Health & Medicine and Law).

New this year is a section called the “Virtual Path”, which describes the growth in options for online graduate programs. There is also the option to attend a partially online program, where some classroom attendance is required. Such opportunities are favored among non-traditional students who may have children or a full-time job. As this trend increases you will find that there are some great resources for affordable online education programs.

As graduate school becomes a more prevalent option for those holding college degrees, it is important that this decision is made with all of the right information at hand. This infographic should not be used to replace your grad school research, but it is a great way to quickly gather information and gain an understanding of new trends in the academic and professional worlds.

Good luck to all who join me in the pursuit of a higher-education!

To view the full infographic, and purchase your copy of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Graduate Schools 2014 guidebook at 10% off list price, visit or click the above image.

Quick Cash for Spring Break

As March quickly approaches, students can officially begin the countdown to the much anticipated week that lies ahead-SPRING BREAK! However, before you start thinking about all that R&R, keep in mind the costs associated with spring break. For many students, this is a costly (but well worth it) adventure. Spring break definitely empties your wallet, so we have some great tips on how to save a few extra bucks for all you cash strapped students:

Spring Break Blog Image

1. Sell old clothes. As the stores begin to introduce their Spring and Summer lines it’s hard to resist purchasing a cute new outfit or swim suite for your upcoming vacation. In order to keep your Spring Break budget intact, without sacrificing your style, consider selling your clothes at stores such as Plato’s Closet or Clothes Mentor. These stores give you cash for your used clothes up front. Or, consider taking your clothes to a local consignment shop where you can often exchange your last season items for store credit. In doing so you’re killing two birds with one stone, getting new clothes while clearing out the old ones!

2. Cut down on eating out. It’s often much easier to stop by the nearest convenience store on your way to and from class. However, that slice of pizza and bottle of soda that you buy every day for lunch can really add up quickly. Instead of going out for lunch and dinner, consider packing or making your food at home. If for some reason you must go out, pass the overpriced beverage and stick to the free ice water. Your wallet will be thanking you, and so will your body – just in time for the beach!

3. Make a budget and stick to it. When you aren’t committed to a budget, it’s incredibly easy to get sidetracked and wind up spending way more than you intended. When you have a specified budget, you can consciously track your spending and have a working knowledge of what you can and cannot spend. Setting up a budget in Excel, or using online tools such as Mint, will help you determine where to cut corners. I suggest getting out a limited amount of cash for the week rather than swiping your card all the time. This will force you to make smarter purchasing decisions.

4. Sell back your old textbooks to As the snow melts we often find ourselves making great attempts to rid our lives of old junk. Texbooks from semesters passed usually account for a large majority of clutter, and can help you rack up some extra cash. Instead of letting your textbooks collect another years worth of dust, you should consider selling them back.  It is really easy – just go to and type in the ISBN to find how much your book is worth. If you are satisfied with the amount (I always am!), just print off the prepaid shipping label and send it off to eCampus, and they take care of the rest! Within a couple of days you will receive a check in the mail, or you can get your check directly deposited to your account – it is that simple.

It can be very difficult to cut back on spending when there are so many temptations surrounding you, but when you consider a week of pure relaxation, free from financial and academic stress, it is well worth it. What other money saving or money making tricks have you used?

Good luck on midterms and safe travels to all!

Valentine’s Day: DOs and DON’Ts

February 14th, more formally known as Valentine’s Day, is highly anticipated as well as highly dreaded for many (depending upon your relationship status). Regardless of being single or taken, it is important that you recognize that it is merely just another day of the week. Take into consideration the following recommendations of what to do and, more importantly, what not to do this Valentine’s Day.

hand heart


Throw an anti-Valentine’s Day Party. Invite those of your friends without dates to attend a party that emphasizes how awesome it is to not be in a relationship. Highlight the positives of being single, and enjoy having a fun get-together with great friends!

Raid the stores to get awesome deals on candy and other items. Everyone knows the day after Halloween is one of the greatest for getting the best candy at half the price. The same goes for Valentine’s Day. While everyone else is paying full price for chocolates that they have to give their significant other by the 14th, you can score big on name brand candies that are left over. Are we the only ones who look forward to the bags filled exclusively with cherry blow pops?

Prepare. This is not the day to leave things to the last minute. If you are planning something big for your significant other, then you need to make sure you have taken the appropriate measures to ensure you will be able to carry out your special plans. Everyone will be hitting the town for various activities and space will become very limited. Get tickets or make reservations in advance, that way you’re not sharing your romantic date three seats away from one another in the front row at the movies.

Embrace the day. Even if you’re single you can still spread the love. There are plenty of opportunities to help support some great causes locally as well as nationally, or take it upon yourself to support a cause close to your heart. At the very least call your mom up and tell her you love her.

Be realistic. (Or put this under don’t, as in “Don’t have unrealistic expectations”). Valentine’s Day is not the only day of the year that you can fall in love, or that your prince charming can sweep you off your feet. It’s just another day of the week, and despite society’s efforts to highlight love on this one day, there is no reason to believe you will be alone forever. The lower your expectations, the lower your chances are of being disappointed.



Text an ex. If you have an ex they are so for a reason. Don’t start thinking about what could have been, or what could be. Contacting your ex will not make you feel any better, especially once your Valentine’s Day vulnerability has passed. If the urge to text continues, I suggest playing Taylor Swift’s “Picture To Burn” on repeat.

Sit at home alone. If you’re down about Valentine’s Day you definitely do not need to spend your time alone wallowing. Visit your family or get together with close friends. Share the day with those that mean the most to you, and reinforce how much you care about the relationships you already have!

Overdo it. It’s okay to use Valentine’s Day as a way to demonstrate to someone you are interested in them, or reinforce how much you love them, but don’t get too crazy. If you must, oversized teddy bears and balloons are okay within the confines of your own home, but don’t have them delivered to the classroom. It’s embarrassing for everyone.

Try to avoid the holiday completely. This goes for everyone. If you’re in a relationship, don’t try and tell your significant other that you “don’t buy into the holiday”. Utilize the day to reinforce how much you care for one another. You don’t have to go the whole nine yards, but the day is still a good opportunity to spend quality time together.

Go on a first date. Starting a new relationship is always fun and exciting, but Valentine’s Day is not the day to do this! Choosing to go on a first date on Valentine’s Day places way too much pressure on both parties, and can completely jeopardize a relationship that actually has potential.

If you need some fresh ideas for an inexpensive date check out this post about dating on a budget.

And if none of these tips help, look up the meaning of Valentine’s Day and realize it’s really not about you anyways!

The Good & The Bad in Grad [An Infographic]

Are you approaching graduation and thinking about going to grad school? Or maybe you’ve been out of school for several years and are contemplating a return, but you’re wondering if it’s worth it. This is a question that many soon-to-be, as well as current, college graduates are faced with on a daily basis. When taking into consideration the present state of the job market, more and more students are turning to higher education as a means of differentiating themselves and taking their careers to the next level. The decision to pursue grad school has also become a way of “buying” more time and avoiding the harsh realities of our slowly recovering economy.

Grad school, U.S. News & World Report

Click the image above to view the full infographic.

However, making the decision to go to graduate school is not as simple as one would hope. Students are forced to look into the inevitable financial burdens and intense time commitments associated with graduate level programs. Throughout this process students scour the web for trustworthy information on various programs and career paths to consider. One of the most credible sources they rely on is the U.S. News & World Report.

Each year they release a guidebook to the Best Grad Schools in the nation, but for the first time ever has decided to put a new spin on these rankings by creating an innovative visual in the form of an infographic. Using their findings on the top five professional fields (Business, Health & Medicine, Law, Engineering and Education), we’ve managed to take a large amount of useful information and condense it into a unique, easy to digest graphic. Our goal here, as with all of our infographics,  is to bring you a large amount of practical information in the fastest and easiest way possible.

This infographic provides some of the hard-to-swallow facts about graduate school, and whether or not the time and money spent obtaining that advanced degree will really yield the results many students are hopeful for. With “The Good and Bad in Grad” exposed, hopes this fun and helpful visual guides prospective grad students to make the right decision for their future. What are your thoughts? Is Grad school something you’ve been considering?

To access the full infographic, please click the image.