10 Useful Things for Less Than a Latte

With our upcoming event, The Biggest Gainer financial series, we thought it would be timely to do a few fun blurbs relevant to the subject.

Think about this – the average college student is spending about $25 on coffee each week, which is about $5 a day, Monday-Friday.

For the cost of one latte, you could do a lot more with your $5 bill. So here are 10 useful things you can purchase for less than what you’d pay for your milky, sugar-filled beverage.

  1. Ferrari USB Mouse
    Get work done… in style.
  1. Phone mount
    Finally let out your inner creative. Or just use this to record your presentations (propped on a desk), if you’re taking an online business course.
  1. The best pen on face of the planet
    No, seriously. No bleed. No skip. Just perfection.
  1. Vintage-looking Pencil Case
    Somewhere to place the best pen on the face of the planet… in style. And, you know, durability.
  1. Best erasers of life
    No pencil mark is too great for this high-polymer knight.
  1. Survival tool
    It’s a bottle opener, knife, ruler, wrench, and so much more – all in stainless steel and smaller than a credit card.
  1. External battery
    Because your phone battery will fail you.
  1. Homework planning app
    For $5 a year, you can set up an online agenda of your homework, get notifications, upload associated files, and so much more. The free version is great, too! Available for most platforms (including web).
  1. Online backup
    ALWAYS have a back-up plan. Don’t want to lose all of your pictures, homework assignments, and movies? BackBlaze lets you upload an unlimited amount of data for $5 a month.
  1. Handheld investor
    Why wasn’t this invented earlier?! For $1 a month, Acorns will round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and invest those pennies for you! Trust us – it adds up. Available for most platforms (web coming soon).

Remember that every dollar counts and every dollar has power. If you have any other fun ideas about what useful things a student could purchase for under $5, leave us a comment down below!


Making the Most of Summer

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, ice cream consumption is on the rise, and the skin on your nose is peeling off after a day at the beach. Ah, summer.

For many, the summer season ushers in relaxation: sleeping in, playing volleyball at 1:00PM on a Tuesday, drinks with those little umbrellas, and road trips. All of that is good and dandy, but eventually, it becomes kind of boring. The 1:00PM Tuesday volleyball sessions get dull, and you find yourself sitting on the couch watching Top Gear reruns until you realize it’s 1:00AM and the popcorn you put in the microwave an hour ago is still there. Let’s face it — if you’re not careful, summer can turn you into a lazy, passive, potato-chip-eating machine. Gross.

Let’s alleviate that. As much as I love and look forward to summer, I still try to keep some of my “groove” and get stuff done. Not only does this keep me ahead of the game, but it helps me feel less meh (lazy, grungy, dysfunctional). Keeping my days somewhat disciplined helps me go to bed fulfilled and less stressed. Plus, I sleep better. Don’t get me wrong — I still camp out on my couch with Arrested Development on for a few hours every now and then, but I make it a habit to still do something productive: read, do my laundry, write a blog post about productivity…

What do I do, then? Inc.com recently posted this article on increasing productivity through little changes, and it’s a great read. What I do is similar to this. On my wall, I keep a white-board with an outlook of 3-4 days with tasks underneath. The tasks range from errands I need to run, to small things like cleaning my room or making a credit card payment. In the corner, I keep a shopping list of things I want/need. As tasks get completed, I cross them off (duh), which is a reward in itself. If something doesn’t get done on the day I assign it, I drag it over to the next day. Then, I have a to-do list for the weekend, as well. It’s shorter, but includes goals (like to finish the book I’m reading, exercise 3x that week, only eat 1 lunch out, etc).

Check out my sweet iPhone photography skillz.

Check out my sweet iPhone photography skills.

Inside my purse, I keep a Moleskin planner and a Field Notes memo book. The planner houses a list of things that need to get done, as well as appointments and due dates. My Field Notes memo book has random notes (phone numbers, ideas, doodles) and my daily reflections. It’s an overview of just how productive my day was.

Once my day has wrapped up, I open my memo book and jot down what I got done, what I need to do the next day, and what I could do differently. For example, on Monday, I spent 2 hours watching YouTube videos (yup), so I made a goal to not watch TV or anything on Tuesday to make up for the wasted time. So far, it has seemed to really increase my daily productivity without being a burden. I honestly do feel more energized, too. Give it a shot.

Now I’m going to catch up on my book. See you later!

– Ruth

Work-Appropriate Makeup

Sometimes half the challenge of looking professional is having the right makeup. With all the trends and fads, it can be difficult to determine what’s office-appropriate and what’s not, especially as the line is blurring, in some cases. I get it. I work in an office. And I’m here to help. I’ve taken the liberty to assemble some of my favorite work-appropriate makeup products, organized by face, eye, and lip. These makeup staples can be worn to an interview and spiced up later in the day for a going-out look. Also, I made sure all of the products come at a reasonable cost and include a wide variety of shades.



  1. L’Oréal True Match powder – $10. A stay-put powder perfect for everyday. I keep one stashed in my purse for touch-ups.
  2. Benefit Boi-ing Eyebright Compact – $12. This 2-in-1 product serves as an under-eye brightener and concealer.
  3. L’Oréal Studio Secrets Magic Skin Beautifier B.B. Cream – $10. For those days you just want coverage, but not a full-face of makeup, try this out. But, there’s no SPF in it, so be sure to add some sunscreen on beforehand.
  4. e.l.f. Studio Contouring Blush & Bronzing Powder – $3. Umm.. Hellooo. 2 great, pigmented products for only $3? Yes.
  5. Hard Candy Glamoflauge Heavy Duty Concealer – $6. For those not-so-good days.
  6. Revlon Colorstay Foundation – $10. This is, by far, the most full-coverage foundation I’ve tried from the drugstore. I’d say it’s comparable to the Estée Lauder Double-Wear (my holy grail foundation). This foundation comes in many shades and many formulas (for those with dry, normal, combo, or oily skin).



  1. Wet ’n Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Trio – $3. I know what you’re thinking, but I promise this stuff is legit. It’s super pigmented and I haven’t had any issues with it creasing.
  2. e.l.f Pressed Mineral Eyeshadow – $3. These are impressive! There are lots of muted and colorful shades available.
  3. the Balm Nude ‘Tude Palette – $36. Before you write it off for the cost, it’s occasionally on sale at hautelook.com for $13. If you don’t want to shell out $50 for the Urban Decay Naked Palette, try this. The shadows are ultra-pigmented and can double as a liner!



  1. Revlon Color Burst Lip Butter – $8. Lightweight, soothing, and colorful.
  2. NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss – $5. With a matte-eye look, you could rock the glossy lips.
  3. e.l.f Luscious Liquid Lipstick – $1. It’s like silk on the lips. It’s more of a gloss than a lipstick.
  4. NYX Matte Lipstick – $6. These are my go-to for drugstore lipsticks. Cheap, true-to-color, and long-lasting. They’re a tad drying, so put a balm on before/after application.
  5. Victoria’s Secret Beauty Rush Lipgloss – $9. These are sheer and have a medium shine, so you won’t blind people in the office. And, as a major plus, they taste delicious and wear for hours.

Well, that’s that! Please note, MOST of these products (if not all) can cost far less than I’ve listed them as (or they can cost more, if you go to the wrong places). Before going out and buying makeup, check out the sales at your local Walgreens, Target, Ulta, and so on. Ulta does “Buy One Get One Half Off” practically every month, so you don’t have to spend more than you need to. Also, there are coupons for these products all over the internet – just take the time to search. The more you end up saving, the more you can spend trying other products (if you so desire). Have fun!

Failure Guaranteed

To succeed, you need to not be afraid to fail.

When you are young and learning to ride a bicycle, you constantly fall, but your drive of wanting to succeed and have the freedom of riding a bike keeps you going forward.  This is the same as when you are starting a new adventure in a different stage of your life.  If you fail, just get up, clean up your scratches, analyze what went wrong and what can be done better, and repeat until you are successful.  If you had given up after you kept falling off your bike, you would have never learned, and you would become the topic of many neighborhood jokes because you were the big kid still using training wheels.

Statistics tells you that the more you try, the more likely you are to eventually have a successful result. The way to success is to overcome the failures that come up.  If you’re avoiding failures, you’re avoiding the successes that will eventually come.

In today’s society of fast-paced work environments, failures are looked down upon because they may delay a project, increasing costs.  But these failures can become a learning opportunity for everyone in the team which will facilitate future projects. Again, the way to success is to overcome the failures that come up.

– Jose Gastelum, Vice President of ALPFA Portland State University.