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City of Bryan, Texas

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    Foster Children: Getting a Great Start: Online Resource to Life, Work and Money

    Welcome

    Congratulations! You are entering an exciting-and uncertain-time in your life. Being a young adult is not easy, and this can be especially true for former foster children. This information was put together specifically to help you get your start in life as an adult and to save you from having to learn things the hard and costly way.

    You may ask how we know you, how we know your situation, what do we think you need to know? That’s fair. We’ve spent many hours considering your possible needs and wants. What we know about you right now is that you are more mature than most people your age.
    You’ve gotten a harder start to life than the average teenager. And you might be used to being on your own and maybe not trusting a lot of people.

    What we believe we know about you is that you are smarter than most people your age to learn quickly if we give you basic information. Lots of people and organizations are here to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask! (Tip: you can dial 211 at any time of the day or night to get help!)

    While we can’t list every single detail about every topic, we hope this gives you a good starting place.

    You are in charge of your future. For the first time, you call the shots, you make the choices about who you are and who you want to be as an adult. And you have a clean, blank slate to write your own life story. Make the most of every day and learn from everyone around you and build on that knowledge.

    Think about what you most want to do in life and how you can make that happen. And if you change your mind or don’t succeed the first time, that’s fine. Get up and try again. That’s the secret to success. Just never give up on yourself. The City of Bryan is here to help you, and please know that we are definitely here for you.

    Bubba Bean
    Neighborhood/Youth Services

    Jose Castro
    Juvenile Case Manager

    Mary Lynne Stratta
    City Secretary

    Personal Information

    Birth Certificate

    This is one of the most important documents you will need from now on. You need it for driver’s licenses, marriage, passports, and other official transactions. If you don’t have your original birth certificate, the good news is that if you were born in Texas, you can get a valid copy of your birth certificate at the City of Bryan Vital Statistics Office, part of the City’s Secretary’s Office.

    The office is at 300 S. Texas Ave. and the phone number is 979-209-5007. Office hours are 8 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday.

    The cost for your birth certificate is $23 for each certified copy and they accept cash, personal checks, and most credit cards.

    You will need one form of primary identification (driver’s license, state ID card, etc.) and two forms of secondary identification (current student ID, Social Security card, passport, etc.)

    Part of your vital records that you always want to know where they are includes your birth certificate, so it’s a good idea to have a designated file folder or small box to hold your valuable papers in.

    Driver’s License or Identification Card

    Photo identification, especially from a current driver’s license, is something you must carry anywhere you go, even if you don’t own a car yet. You always need photographic proof of ID for financial transactions, e.g., withdrawing money from your bank.

    Steps to Get Your Driver’s License

    1. Get insurance. You must have proof of insurance before you can get your driver’s license, buy a car or rent a car.

      Bryan has lots of insurance providers, so shop around. There are also lots of options to choose from, so when comparing prices, make sure you’re comparing the same coverage.

    2. Complete six hours of supervised adult driver’s education (costs range from $30-$800). Do an online search to find programs that provide a car if you don’t have access to one, and find someone to take you there or get the bus to a convenient location.
    3. Study for the written test using the handbook for Texas law.
    4. Take the written test. You can avoid long lines at the Bryan office by going to another town or you may take the test at any local driving school.
    5. Take the driving test.

    Online Help

    The Texas Department of Public Safety has made a great five-minute video on “How to obtain a Texas Driver’s License.”

    It tells you what documents you will need to bring with you: a) proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence; b) proof of Texas residency (two documents out of a list of 20 possible, one of which is your high school transcript from your current school year), and others.

    To avoid the long wait, there are two solutions. One, you can watch this video on “How to Get in Line Online before You Arrive at the Office.”

    Or, you can visit any driver’s license office in Texas. Some people go to Madisonville, Brenham and even over to Montgomery and Conroe and find shorter wait times. Smaller towns have fewer people and thus, fewer people getting their driver’s licenses. This applies when you’re taking a driver’s exam as well.

    Social Security Card

    Your foster parents probably got a social security number for you. If you do not have one, you can get a replacement copy by visiting the official Social Security office website.

    If you need a replacement card, request one online using the Social Security Administration’s SS-5 form. If you don’t know your social security number, first call 800-772-1213 to get help. You will need at least one document with your photo, such as a driver’s license, to prove your identity.

    It’s always a good idea to keep Xerox copies of your social security card and to memorize your social security number, as well as your driver’s license number, as you will be asked for it for identification purposes for the rest of your life.

    The social security office in Bryan is also one of the busiest offices in town and the waiting period can be very long if you go in person, so it may be worthwhile to go to another city’s area office. Use the Social Security Administration’s Office Locator to find other offices, or handle your questions online as they make it easy to do.

    Education

    More and more people are going to college. About 35% of the adult population in the United States, and 26% in Bryan, have a college degree (sources: statista.com and census.gov)

    The good news: you don’t need a college degree to get a good, high-paying job. The not-so-good news is that not having a high school degree makes it harder to find a good job, since most adults in Bryan (about 78%, or more than three out of four) do have a high school degree (source: census.gov)

    This means that you will not only compete with high school graduates for jobs, but that it will be harder for you to get a promotion or move to a higher-paying job later on. Also, as you get older, you will compete with people who are younger and who also have a diploma.

    That means getting your degree is usually the smart thing to do. You have two options: the GED (General Education Development test) and HiSET (High School Equivalency Test.) Another phrase for GED is General Equivalency Diploma, which means “the same thing as a high school diploma.” Local help, for free, is available to help you study for these programs. Ask the professional staff at the Bryan Independent School District (BISD Offices) where you can go.

    About the GED

    • This test is done of the computer at an official testing site.
    • It is given in English and Spanish.
    • You have to be 18 years old and take your driver’s license or other valid ID to the test.
    • It has four separate modules: Science, Social Studies, Literacy and Math. These tests must be completed within two years.
    • Get more information about the GED

    About the HiSET

    • This test is done on computer or paper.
    • It is given in English and Spanish.
    • You can take it without meeting any additional requirements if you are not currently enrolled in high school and are at least 18 years of age. If you are age 16 or 17, not enrolled in high school and meet state requirements for an exception, you can test. If you are between the ages of 16 and 21 and enrolled in public or TEA accredited charter high school equivalency program, you may test.
    • It has five modules: Language Arts-Reading, Language Arts-Writings, Math, Science and Social Studies.
    • Get more information about the HiSET

    Testing Resources

    Choosing the Right Education for You

    There are several types of education available after high school.

    Vocational / Job-Training Programs

    These programs focus on skills for a particular type of job, such as electrician or plumber. They take much less time than a college degree to complete and often have relatively high salaries – right after you finish the programs. These jobs are usually always available in a busy city like Bryan.

    There are several options in the Bryan-College Station area:

    Community College / Junior Colleges

    Community colleges are two-year schools. Some students earn certificates for a particular job, and others go on to a four-year degree at another college or university.

    Blinn College is a community college based in Brenham and a second campus that offers programs in Bryan-College Station. It is one of the top programs in the country. It offers certificate programs as well as transfer programs. It also offers a program where you can be enrolled at Texas A&M and Blinn at the same time, with the possibility of transferring into Texas A&M if certain requirements are met.

    Blinn also offers a wide variety of online courses, dual credit for high school students, and technical training and vocational educational programs. This is offered at Bryan Collegiate High School.

    Four-Year Colleges and Universities

    There are schools that offer bachelor’s degrees, which usually take four years to complete. Many also have graduate programs for people who complete their bachelor’s degree. Around the country, you’ll see campuses of public, private, liberal arts, and technical schools of all sizes.

    How to Apply
    It’s easy to apply to any public two-year or four-year school in Texas (and many private colleges and universities) through the Apply Texas website.

    You can get information on all these schools, apply for scholarships, and submit your application to multiple schools through this one website.

    If you have questions about a particular school, you can also call that school’s Admissions Office for answers. If you can, talk with your school counselor first, they can also help you.

    Financial Aid

    Just as people with a high school diploma generally earn more money than dropouts, those with a college degree usually, earn much more than those without one.

    Knowing what to do to get into college can be challenging, but it’s definitely doable and there are lots of people to help you see the opportunities available to you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t give up!

    College Scholarships and Financial Aid

    Be sure to ask about scholarships and financial aid to help you pay for your studies. There are several different types of financial aid:

    • Scholarships and grants are “free money” that you do not need to repay.
    • Loans need to be paid back when you enroll less than half-time or when you graduate.
    • Part-time jobs on campus.

    There are hundreds of scholarships and financial aid options. To learn more or to apply, use the Student Aid website from the U.S. Department of Education. This website also has helpful information about getting ready for college, choosing a school, and budgeting to pay for school.

    You can also get information directly from the college or university you are interested in. Just go to the university website and search for financial aid.

    Financial aid options especially for former foster children

    • The National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) offers scholarships designed to help foster families pay for education beyond high school. High school seniors are encouraged to apply once they have been accepted into their state college or university. Each student is asked to submit a short essay with application materials, on a topic to be provided by the Association.
    • Casey Family Programs is dedicated to improving the child welfare system and providing educational opportunities for foster children. Organizations like Foster Care to Success administer Casey Family scholarship dollars for needy foster children. Applicants who were in foster care for at least one year prior to reaching their 18th birthday are eligible to compete for annual scholarships worth $1,500 – $6,000. Casey Family Scholarships enable foster youth under the age of 25 to attend national colleges and universities.
    • The State College Tuition Waiver Program provides exemptions of tuition and fees at Texas public institutions of higher education for youth formerly in DFPS conservatorship, adopted youth, and certain other youth.
    • The Federal Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program provides up to $5,000 a year for college expenses such as rent, books, utilities, childcare, computers, transportation, and tuition.

    Military Service

    Many young people join the military because it pays for your lodging and meals while you also serve your country and learn a valuable career skill. Even better, the government pays you to learn these skills – such as engineering, IT, and healthcare – that will lead to jobs after your service ends.

    There are other benefits too. Depending on how long you serve and, as long as you receive an honorable military discharge, you are entitled to get tuition assistance for college or trade school from the government. Many times those are the funds that pay for college classes you want to take towards a full degree. You can read on various services websites what programs are available.

    Serving in the military branches of our country is one of the best paths you could take when you leave high school. Not every young adult has in mind what they would like to do when they are out of school. You have not yet seen enough of life to know exactly what your work life is going to be like, with or without military service.

    Employment

    As you transition into adulthood and into a place of your own, you must earn income to pay for your expenses.

    The best situation is to find a job that offers you opportunities to learn on the job, chances for promotions, and long-term employment. Even better, perhaps sometime down the road, is to find a career – either working for someone else or being your own boss – that offers benefits like health insurance and retirement, paid vacation, sick leave and tuition assistance.

    Good First Job Opportunities

    Fast food restaurants are an industry that is always hiring – and as long as our community keeps growing, there will always be new restaurants.

    Not all fast food places are part of the same franchise. Some are corporate stores and others are owned by local or regional owners, so you have to check each location to find out how to apply.

    Some, but not all, fast food restaurants offer employees up to $2,500 in benefits for tuition assistance and also offer employee meal discounts and uniforms, which means fewer out-of-pocket expenses for you.

    There are many options other than fast food places. Some are manufacturing jobs, others are agriculture and farm-related, and some are food manufacturing. Others are educational and medical businesses.

    Applying for a Job

    Most often, your first contact with a company when applying for a job is online rather than by phone or person. Because of this, you must pay great attention to detail.

    Some businesses have computer kiosks in a front lobby where you type in all of your information. Typing carefully, without errors, is very important. Take your time when completing each part of the form and re-read it to make sure everything is correct.

    The typical job applications asks for your personal information like address, phone, social security number and driver’s license/identification number. They may also ask you about any previous criminal convictions or bankruptcies and other personal questions, so that the employer is guaranteed they can trust you. It is important to always tell the truth because employers will usually want to verify every statement you make.

    How to Write a Résumé

    A résumé is a short, written summary of your knowledge, experience and special skills and it’s an important tool when you’re looking for a job with a particular employer.

    When you’re just starting out, it should be about one page long. You can find many tips for writing your résumé and fill-in-the-blank templates online.

    Steps for Writing your R?ésumé

    Step One: At the top of the page, give your name, address and contact information. The first section after that is education. List the years that you’ve been in high school, your grade classification (sophomore, junior, senior, or graduate), or that you’ve already completed your graduation or earned your GED.

    If you are early in your work career, you have not had a lot of time to build up experience working at many jobs. This might even be your first job. A potential employer will want to know how much education you’ve completed, whether or not you’ve graduated from high school or obtained your GED yet. You will need one or the other for most full-time jobs.

    If you have been in advanced studies, like the gifted and talented program, they’ll want to know that. Maybe there is one subject in which you’ve excelled and taken the advanced placement test information goes on the education part of your resume.

    Step Two: The skills section. List any skills you have, like having worked on engines, worked with cash registers, or programmed computers, or know programs such as MS Office, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or Adobe InDesign or Photoshop.

    Step Three: The awards and activities section. Here, list any special recognitions you earned in high school. Showing that you did more than just go to class left an employer know that you are well rounded. Of course, if you work to support yourself, there’s rarely time for hobbies or fun activities, so don’t worry if you don’t have anything to add.

    Did you participate in UIL contests? Have you participated in science fairs, geography bees, spelling bees, academic team events or debate teams? What hobby and service clubs did you belong to in high school? Did you play any sports while you were in high school? Being part of a team, whether sports or academic, is good to see on a resume. If you don’t have any of these things, then don’t include this section.

    Step Four: The employment experience section. If you are going for your first job, then you can change that category to a statement of what you would like to accomplish on your first job and put it just under your contact information at the top of the page.
    This could be something like, “Seeking employment in entry-level position in ___ (manufacturing plant, law firm, doctor’s office, hospital laboratory, etc.) with opportunity to earn additional skills and credentials,” Make this statement specific enough to show the direction you’d like to go, but general enough that it applies to many different jobs.

    If you are attending college at the same time you are working, employers always like to know what percentage of your college expenses that you earned yourself. This shows them that you have goals and are responsible.

    Step Five: The references section. You should have at least two or three people who are willing to talk to prospective employers about you. A reference should not be a relative but can be adults who know you (coaches, teachers, clergy members). Just ask them for permission to list their names and contact information so that they are aware that they could get a call.

    Things to Think About

    Once a year, you should update your résumé with the month and year you began employment with a company, the location of the company, your job title, number of hours per week that you worked, whether or not you received promotions and if you earned any special awards or honors during that time (Employee of the Month, etc.) If you update your résumé every year, in five years you will be able to see how much progress and experience you’ve gained in your job.

    Interview Tips

    If you apply for a job and get a call for an interview, congratulations! You are one step closer to being employed.

    The most important skill you will need for the interview is to be respectful and listen carefully to everything that is said. Too often, we tune out what someone is saying and think about how we are going to respond when it’s our turn to talk. Try not to do that during an interview.

    The job of the person interviewing you is to find out if you are a good fit for the company and the position. They want to know about your education and any job experience or skills you might have, and a bit about your personality.

    This is not the time to be shy. Mention anything that makes you stand out in a positive way – the things you put in your resume. Did you have a part-time job during high school? Did you help care for the children in your family? Did you get any special training in high school? These kinds of things show that you are responsible and mature.

    You will be asked a lot of questions, but these will be different for different jobs.

    Some jobs require certain skills or courses completed before they will hire you. Don’t pretend you know things that you don’t. Always be honest when a potential employer asks you a question. Make sure they know they can trust your word. They will respect you more for that.

    Taxes

    Once you get any paid job, you will have to start filing federal income taxes – for the rest of your life. The U.S. government requires an employer that you are working for full-time to withhold money for federal taxes from each paycheck you receive. In some states (Texas is not one of them), they have state taxes on top of federal taxes.

    The government tracks this information all your life too. One day, when you reach the age of 62 or older, you will qualify to receive at least partial Social Security benefits, or retirement income wages to a system that you paid into for many years.

    Tax Forms

    Whenever you work for another person or business, they will ask you to complete a W-4 form. The W-4 form helps determine how much money you will withhold from each of your paychecks to pay your federal income taxes (an employer can withhold varying amounts of money from you that’s sent to the government towards paying your taxes). At the end of the calendar year, anyone you work for has until January 31 of the next year to give you a W-2 form for you to file with your tax return.

    The W-2 Form shows how much money you earned and paid in taxes for the previous calendar year. Each employer is required to provide you with a W-2 form at the end of the year if they paid you more than $600. If, for some reason, they do not provide you with a form, you still must report everything they paid you to the IRS under your name and social security number.

    If you made more than $12,200 in a single calendar year (January-December), then you must file and pay income taxes on that income.
    At the Bryan Public Library, you can find all the forms you need (they are in binders and you will have to bring change to use the copiers to make copies for your personal use). The IRS website explains how you can use the government’s free software to complete your return.

    Preparing your tax forms can be tricky and it’s better to get help, at least the first time. There are a number of sources of free help to get started. The Clara B. Mounce Public Library in downtown Bryan has volunteers who help people fill out their tax forms.

    They are volunteers and are usually at the library four days a week from February through April 15 each year and are available throughout the day, so you probably won’t have to take time off of work to go there. The help is free and available at every stage of the tax process.

    You will need to take your W-2 from all employers you worked with in the previous year. If you worked for someone and they didn’t give you one, but if you earned money (even if they paid you in cash) you still have to report that income. If you get caught not reporting all of your income, it will cost you a lot more than taxes, so even if it’s a small amount of pay for a few days of work somewhere, declare it.

    Go to the library in person – don’t try to do this over the phone. Make sure you are in front of a computer when you complete these forms, even when you have help. It’s too easy to make mistakes when getting advice over the phone.

    For a least several years of working, as long as you remain single and you are not a parent of a child, the form you are required to fill out remains the same. Every year, though, the amounts are adjusted by the IRS about deductions, expenses and how much of a tax credit you receive for things like insurance, and expenses that you might itemize down the road when they add up to large portions of what you make.

    Filling out the paperwork to file taxes might seem dull and difficult, but it’s something all adults have to do. Tackling it early and getting help will make it easier and you get your refund sooner.

    How to Manage Your Finances

    Banking

    At this point in your work life, maybe you’ve already earned your first paycheck, but you’ve never had a bank account before. You want one now, preferably with a local financial institution.

    Having a bank account is important because you never want to carry or store a bunch of cash, which could be stolen, damaged, or lost. Depending on the kind of job you have, you will receive a paycheck each week, every two weeks, or once per month. Knowing how long it is between paychecks will help you budget your money and you’ll know how much money you have to keep in your bank account to cover checks you write and deductions that come out of your checking account.

    If you don’t have a bank account yet, you may have used a check cashing place. You know then that you have to have identification and that there is a fee to cash your paycheck, typically $3.00 for a check up to $2,000. If you cash 26 checks (one every two weeks) in a calendar year, then you have spent $78 that you could likely put to better use than not seeing it at all. That’s why it is recommended that you open a free checking account.

    Bryan has many banks that welcome new customers. Your job is to evaluate which one you think is best for you. Small, locally owned banks are good because the people there will get to know you personally and know what your financial needs are. But any good banker will know your name, no matter how big or small the bank is.

    Things to Think About

    If you don’t know one bank from another yet, maybe some of your classmates have had experiences they can share with you. Try not to pay for keeping your checking account open; compare prices with other banks in town at least once a year. The best checking account is a free checking account.

    Usually, to open an account you must deposit at least $25 to $100 and you must bring this with you when you open the account. You’ll also need identification and proof of address (which means a letter that is sent to you at the address on your identification). If you don’t have both of these, wait until you do before you apply for a checking account. You will probably also need to give the name of someone who knows where you are or who can find you and this can be anyone you choose.

    Once you have your checking account, you will need to order checks to pay any bills that don’t offer electronic payment. Using paper checks is better than using a debit card for big, important charges because they offer more proof that you paid a bill if there is ever a question. These would be bills like your mortgage, utilities and your car payment. You can order checks through your bank but you can also get them for much less money at websites like vistaprint.com and checks.com.

    It’s not a good idea to pay your bills using cash. Getting a receipt for cash payments is not always possible and with cash you have no proof that you have paid, while you do have proof when you write a check.

    Bank staff are very friendly when you walk in the door to open an account, but if you ever bounce a check or are overdrawn in your account (when you have taken out more than is available), then they will charge you fees of at least $25 for every transaction. Do everything you can to avoid this.

    When you deposit a check, most banks will only give you access to $100 of that money immediately, no matter how much money the check is for. Now you can take your paycheck and cash it at your bank and put some money into your account and deal in cash for other transactions like the grocery store or gas pump and that way you can avoid having limited access to your money.

    Credit Cards – When are You Ready?

    When do you apply for a credit card? This is a decision only you can make. If you have found that you order products online, then you know that you need a credit card.

    The first credit card is one that people can’t wait to give you. There is no annual fee and they will offer a credit limit likely more than you’ve ever spent in five years time.

    Do not be deceived by the attraction of “points and miles” that you can earn with a particular airlines or hotel card. Realistically, if you work in a job 50 weeks a year, chances are good that you will fly on a vacation only once in an entire year. Would you not be better served by a low-interest rate card? Credit unions offer credit cards at typically the lowest interest rates available.

    At the beginning of your working career, you truly are better off having only one credit card. If you pay off the balance every month, you will never pay a dime of interest. Statistics are not know, but it’s realistic to assume that only about 1 to 3% of adults in the U.S. carry no credit card interest every month. It’s almost as natural as breathing to have credit card debt, it might seem, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it. Be different, make your money work for you, not against you.

    However, having a credit card is important to establishing a credit record, showing you can take on debt and handle it by paying it off. It also proves to an employer that you are responsible. But if you write bad checks or carry high balances on your credit cards, it shows you and your employer that you can’t manage an important aspect of your life. Something as simple as this can impact how an employer views you for a promotion or giving you more responsibility.

    If you have to get a credit card, don’t get one unless it offers 0% interest for your first year or more. Then make a plan to pay for something in that one year’s time, in full, or else you will have to pay interest going forward.

    Things to Think About

    You might have noticed different “loan offices” called “finance companies” or “loan companies” or “credit companies.” They offer personal loans to people who are in desperate financial distress. Instant money now and you sign an agreement to pay it back at a reasonable rate, but the truth is those rates are rarely reasonable.

    In fact, many people are in financial disaster today because they had an immediate need and didn’t bother to find out how much would be needed to be paid back under their rates and in what time frame.

    There’s so much to say about this, but the primary message is BE CAREFUL WITH LOANS AND CREDIT CARDS.

    Healthcare

    Finding good, affordable healthcare is tricky, but it’s worth the effort. Don’t wait until you are sick or injured to figure out what to do.

    Here’s a service that can help you not only pay for prescription drugs, but also to get food, housing, help with taxes and much more. All you have to do is dial 211 at any time of day or night, or go to the 211 website.

    Options for Healthcare in Bryan

    Brazos County Council of Governments Indigent Healthcare Program

    To qualify, you have to show proof that you live in Brazos County and don’t plan to move away, plus information about your income, resources and the size of your family (which can be just one – you). If you qualify, you can get free doctor services, three prescriptions per month, lab work, X-rays, hospital outpatient services and hospital in-patient services. Other medical services may be provided after physician referrals are provided. The website has the application to fill out.

    Brazos Valley Community Action Low-Cost Clinics (2 listings)

    Health for All Clinic

    Provides free medical services for people without health insurance.

    Medicaid

    What it offers:

    • Doctor’s visits
    • Vaccines
    • Prescriptions
    • Lab tests and X-rays
    • Hospital care
    • Glasses
    • Dental care for those age 20 and younger
    • Ride to the doctor

    It is for people who:

    • Are age 18 – 25
    • Were in Texas foster care on their 18th birthday or older
    • Got Medicaid when they aged out of foster care.
    • Monthly income less than $4,229

    SNAP

    SNAP helps people buy the food (and even seeds for gardens) they need for good health. SNAP food benefits are put on to the Lone Star Card and can be used just like a credit card at any store that accepts SNAP. For a single person, the monthly amount of income allowed is $1,718. The monthly SNAP amount for a single person is $194. Recipients must be looking for a job or be in an approved work program.
    It is for:

    • People who don’t have a lot of money as long as they meet program rules.
    • Most adults 18 to 49 with no children in the home can get SNAP for only three months in a three-year period. The benefit period might be longer if the person works at least 20 hours a week or is in a job or training program. Some adults might not have to work to get benefits, such as those who have a disability or are pregnant.

    Things to Think About

    Prevention is better than treatment. Focus on having a healthy lifestyle so that you won’t have to go to the doctor as often. This includes having a healthy diet and getting exercise (and brushing your teeth after meals). The Texas Benefits website has some great information on how to eat healthy.

    Ask for samples and coupons. Ask the doctor if he or she has any samples of the drug you need. Also, drug manufacturers often post coupons or rebates on their websites. You could save a lot of money by taking a few minutes to check.

    Housing / Transportation / Clothing

    Transportation

    Getting around town doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive – if you do a bit of research and planning.

    Brazos Transit Buses are usually your best bet. They provide fixed and custom routes with most one-way tickets costing $1.50. Discount passes are available for multiple rides. Hours of service are 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. The terminal is at 3350 S. Texas Avenue and you can type your address in a website to find the closes route to you.

    A local organization called OnRamp helps people buy and maintain reliable, low-cost vehicles. Give them a call to find out how to be considered.

    Keep in mind that your car payments are not your only car-related expense. You’ll have to pay for gas, insurance, maintenance and so on. Make sure the expense is worth it before you buy.

    Housing

    One of the most important things you’ll need to do is find a place to live. Since you’re young and just starting out, chances are you’ll want an apartment that doesn’t cost much.

    Things to Keep in Mind

    • What does it cost to move in? Some places make you pay your first and last month’s rent up front. Most require a security deposit. Make sure you can afford these fees before you commit to a place.
    • Does the rent cover utilities? Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. This can make a big difference in your monthly costs.
    • When does rent go up and my how much? Rents usually increase when the current lease ends. Landlords sometimes are willing to keep good tenants, so if you want to extend your lease, ask your landlord if the price could be kept the same or increased only a little. (And remember – moving can be expensive, so you might be better off staying put even if the rent goes up.)
    • Are washing machines and dryers available in each unit or in a laundry room? If not, you’ll have to take your laundry somewhere else to wash it, which can be inconvenient.
    • Is there covered parking and how much does it cost? Apartments with built-in garages or carports will cost more.
    • What is the policy about guests? Some contracts forbid guests who stay more than a certain number of days.
    • Will you have to pay renters’ insurance? This insurance covers the things you have in your apartment in the event of fire, flooding, or theft or even medical costs for a visitor who is injured in your apartment. This costs very little and is a good idea anyway, but make sure you include this in your monthly budget if your landlord requires it.
    • When is the rent due and how will you pay for it? Some let you pay online and others require a paper check. Make sure you’re able to do what is required. If rent is due on the first of the month and you don’t get paid until the fifteenth, for example, make sure you can meet the deadline.
    • Who handles repairs and emergencies? Some landlords will take care of even minor things like changing lightbulbs and air conditioning filters, while others require you to do it. At some places, maintenance is available at any time, day or night, while others make you schedule it. It’s important to find out how quickly maintenance will respond, especially in an emergency. You don’t want to be stuck without air conditioning in August!
    • What is the pet policy? Some places forbid pets, while others allow certain types and breeds and charge a pet deposit and/or require more money per month.

    Low-Cost Apartments in Bryan

    Things to Think About

    If this is your first apartment, you will probably need at least one personal reference to vouch for you. This can be any adult who knows that you are responsible and will follow the rules and pay your bills on time: your foster parents, teacher, church priest or minister (or other member of the church), coach, neighbor and so on.

    Don’t rush into a decision. If possible, visit several complexes and make a list of the good features and not-so-good features of each. Think about what is most important to you. Is it worth it to you to pay a bit more to be closer to work or school? Do you mind loud neighbors? Keep all of these things in mind when searching for a place.

    Think about getting a roommate. Splitting the costs with one or more other people can help you afford a more expensive apartment – but even if you move in with our best friends, you’ll want to come to an agreement about things like cleaning, food, guests, bills and so on.

    Clothing, Furniture and Household Items

    Getting all the things you need once you find a place to live is a big task. It’s fun to pick out exactly what you want – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, shopping at thrift stores and garage sales is more popular than ever.

    Where to Get What You Need

    Classified Ads and Estate Sales

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