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Monthly Archives

August 2015

Saving Money

I Switched to an Organic Diet and Saved Money!

I_Switched_to_an_Organic_Diet_and_Saved_Money_pin

I never thought I would switch to a mostly organic diet, I never thought I could afford it. I mean, organic food is so expensive, right? Its difficult to swing that on a tight budget, and I can just eat the other, cheaper options. I used to always say this, food is food, so who cares if it’s organic or not? While I was in grad school, I knew I couldn’t afford it. I was making roughly $1,000 a month and trying to put as much of it towards my loans. Right around this time, a few of my friends started changing their diets to be organic and take out certain food groups, and their health issues went away. This intrigued me.

Some Background Info

You should probably know before I really dive into this post that I have awful sinuses. I’ve had issues since I was in middle school with sinus infections and migraines. I have gone weeks where every day was ended with a migraine. It’s not fun, and would require me to take a lot of medication. I had sinus surgery when I was in college, this helped a lot, but my migraines would still randomly come and I still got the occasional sinus infection with a cold. At my absolute worst, I was taking a strong decongestant and nasal spray every single day, and would still get the headaches now and then. I was spending at least $30 a month just on my allergy medicine and nasal spray. This doesn’t include the additional decongestants I would take when I got a headache. I didn’t want to live like that anymore, taking medicine everyday, only to still feel awful. I was curious to see if I just started eating healthier, more veggies and fruits, and organic, if my sinus problems would get better.

Was an Organic Diet Worth It?

Lemme tell ya, I felt so much better after making the switch. I still got the very random headache, but I was able to stop using the nasal spray and take a much more mild allergy medicine. This allowed me to save a lot of money on medicine. Once I calculated it all out, the additional cost of groceries was about even to what I saved from stopping my old medicines and lowering my allergy medicine. Personally, I would much rather pay more for groceries, and take less medication that costs me a lot of money each month. I now spend at most $18 a month on my allergy medicine, usually I can find the Rite Aid brand to be even cheaper and I get 20% off everything with my Plenti card. This allowed me to put additional money towards my grocery budget in order to afford organic choices.

Stepping It Up

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of research on how our diet effects our health. Some people in the past have mentioned how cutting out dairy completely got rid of all of their sinus problems. This seemed completely impossible for me, I love dairy. But, what I have found online supports what people have told me. So, I’m slowly cutting dairy out of my diet to see how I feel. It’s definitely hard, but I think cutting things out slowly will make it more manageable for me. I’ve only made switches so far, like almond milk instead of milk, almond milk yogurt instead of Greek yogurt, but I have already noticed differences. For one, I unexpectedly lost the 10 pounds I gained in college after eating organic now for about 4 months and making those minor switches for about 2 months, I was shocked. But, my sinus problems have also greatly improved. The only times I feel congested and get headaches now is the day after I eat a lot of dairy. I still take my allergy medicine, but I’m hoping if I completely cut out dairy, I’ll be able to stop taking that altogether.

This little diet experiment blew my mind, I’m so happy I made the changes I did and continue to do so. I feel so much better and now understand why it is so important to fuel our bodies with the best foods for it. We shouldn’t have to take a ton of medicine each day just to get through it. By making healthier choices and creating a diet that was specific to my health problems, I am now able to live a much happier life, almost medication free! Did you change your diet for health reasons? What was your experience?

 

Debt

My Student Loan Binder

My Student Loan Binder

This post may contain affiliate links. Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.ย 

UPDATE: I have made all my student loan binder sheets available for you to download to make your very own student loan binder!

Recently I posted about some tips for making a debt payoff plan, one of my tips was to get organized. I organize all of my loan information in my student loan binder. I’m a binder girl, I just really like how easy it is to find everything I need in a binder. And it keeps things nicely organized. By having a binder just for student loans, it reminds me just how big a part of my life they are currently. I’m excited for the day when I wont have to have a student loan binder, but for the time being, it helps me stay organized and tackle this massive amount of debt.

When I first decided that I needed a student loan binder, I wanted to make sure it was pretty. That sounds kind of ridiculous as I type it, but student loans can be pretty depressing, why not make it a little more exciting! That made me pick lime green for my binder, it’s just such a nice pop of color to brighten my mood when I sit down to track my debt. And, I happened to find it while I was in the process of moving home (hah! Free baby ๐Ÿ™‚ ). And of course I had to make a nice cover sheet for my binder, another way to brighten my mood.




Now, onto the inside of this bad boy. I broke my student loan binder into 4 sections: Debt, Private Loans, Federal Loans, and TEACH Grant. Debt is where I keep my payoff plan and a student loan payoff page that allows me to see the “big picture” of my student loan debt. This has all my loans on the page with how much I paid that particular month, the balance remaining at the end of the 6 months, and total payment for each month. This section is where I can see how I’m doing in my payoff plan, and how much more I have to go. The following 3 sections are places to keep things organized for my specific private and federal loans, and my TEACH grant that I have. I keep a log for each individual loan that helps me see how much I paid each month on that particular loan. For my TEACH grant, I don’t keep a log for each individual grant because I don’t need to pay these back, assuming I meet all the requirements in the next 8 years.

A binder system for organization is what works for me, the most important thing is to make sure your system works for you. Find a system that works and stick with it! I find it so motivating to input all the numbers and see how much I have paid off. I try really hard not to look at what I have left because it makes this payoff seem impossible, by focusing on how much I have already done, it motivates me so much more. I also use another tool online to help keep myself accountable and that my binder is up to date. How do you organize and keep track of your student loans and other debts?

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Saving Money

How to Stock your Classroom Library on a Budget

How to Stock your Classroom Library on a Budget

Ever since I can remember I have dreamed about having my own classroom someday. As I worked through my undergrad program, that dream seemed to be getting closer and closer. Just thinking about it would get me excited to finally do what I have wanted for my entire life. But then reality came crashing down, teachers have to pay for their own supplies and books?! WHAT?! The thought of stocking an entire classroom library like the ones I had seen in my placements, made me sick to my stomach. How was I going to be able to afford all of those books?? Now that I am less than a month away from starting my first year, I have become very creative in my ways of stocking my classroom library with books. Here are some ways that I have found books for my classroom, for cheap!

1. Tell People You’re a Teacher

Seriously, whenever I am buying anything for my classroom I tell people I’m a teacher. Usually, they can tell. I mean come on, who else buys that many school supplies in one trip, or that many books in one haul. No one. Except teachers. I can’t say it has always worked for me, but sometimes there is a discount that I didn’t know about. The best place to tell people you’re a teacher is at garage sales ๐Ÿ™‚

2. Garage Sales

I can’t tell you how much free stuff I have been given from people hosting garage sales after sharing with them I’m a teacher. They’re trying to get rid of their stuff, and I will gladly take it off their hands ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ve picked up school supplies, storage bins, children’s books, and so much more at garage sales. It’s such a great way to get things for so much cheaper. But, I’ll warn you, go in with a plan, know what you’re looking for before you get there. Otherwise, you’re aimlessly looking at stuff and the next thing you know you have a bunch of stuff you don’t actually need sitting in your house.

3. Ask Family/Friends/Anybody That Will Listen

I’ve had a lot of luck asking people I know for things. Everyone knows I’m a teacher, so whenever they are getting rid of things, they call me. I don’t always need or take the things they are offering, but when I do it’s always nice. A lot of families I know will get rid of the books their kids no longer read, I gladly take those off their hands.

4. Book Sale Fundraisers

Classroom Library Books

This is my all time favorite. Last weekend there was a book sale fundraiser by my house. It was book heaven. I don’t think I can even accurately describe the scene that was this fundraiser. It was just that amazing. Imagine a middle school cafeteria with every table piled with books, and all the books being under a dollar. AND THE BOOKS WERE ORGANIZED BY GENRE AND SUBJECT. There was even an entire section for children and young adults, and within the section it was organized by grade level. It made my searching so much easier. I ended up leaving with 53 books for 53 dollars and it all went to providing kids with scholarships for college, I was so excited.

5. Store Sales, like Target

This isn’t my favorite one, but it did get me books for very little money. In the dollar area when you first walk in Target there are sometimes teacher stuff. One time I found some books in there that were a dollar each. I wouldn’t say it was great literature, but they were chapter books that my kids may enjoy reading. Additionally, I have a Target card, so I got an additional 5% off my entire purchase, which is nice ๐Ÿ™‚

 

I’m still working on adding books to my classroom library, but this definitely helped me find way more books than I ever thought I would for the amount that I have paid so far. What are some ways that you stocked your classroom library on a budget? Share your tips in the comments ๐Ÿ™‚

Saving Money

DIY: How to Spray Paint Plastic

DIY: How to Spray Paint Plastic

One of my favorite parts about redoing my bedroom is organizing everything! However, storage bins can get pricey, especially when I can’t handle them not matching, so I can’t reuse old ones, unless they match. OCD wins again! But, I found a solution while looking for ideas for my classroom next year on Pinterest. The ladies over at Pinkadots Elementary created a wonderful tutorial for spray painting plastic, I had to try it! And you know how Pinterest goes, I somehow ended up finding a blow dryer and straightener holder, and wanted to try that out as well! I had a lime green bin I found at my parent’s house, which definitely didn’t match my color scheme, but would be a great addition to my room. So, I went over to the local hardware store and grabbed some grey spray paint and the PVC needed for the blow dryer and straightener holder.

Materials Needed:

-Plastic spray paint (about $4.00)

-Newspaper, or something you don’t care about to spray paint on (drop cloth, plastic tablecloth, etc.)

-Sandpaper, this is going to depend on what the plastic looks like that you are planning to spray paint. If it’s a glossy finish, I recommend sanding it to rough it up a bit before spray painting it. My dad, aka Bob the Builder, gave me this recommendation and it worked wonderfully for the blow dryer and straightener holder.

You’re gonna wanna do this outside where there is ample ventilation. I was able to do this in my family’s garage because my dad built it to be used for this kind of thing (I told ya, Bob the Builder!). Then, I laid out all the newspaper and my supplies. I sanded down the PVC, just enough to make it a little rough and get some of that glossy finish off. After, I began spraying the PVC and the container. Make sure to spray a light coat, move your hand quickly. I suggest making some test sprays on the newspaper to get a feel for how the paint is coming out. I don’t spray paint too often and this was a suggestion my dad had for me to get used to it, it worked really well! Now, it’s time to let them dry before doing one more coat. I loved them already and just wanted to put them in my room!!

 

After I let them dry, I went back and did one more coat. Of course as soon as they dried I had to put them in my room. I love the way they turned out and it was so cheap! This was so much better than going out and buying a new container or a stand for my blow dryer and straightener. Ironically, I was at BJ’s and saw a stand the night before I was planning to make this, $15.00 for something that does the same exact thing! I was one happy girl with one happy budget ๐Ÿ™‚

Have you ever spray painted plastic? What kinds of projects have you done?

Personal

Moving Back Home After College

Part of my debt payoff plan consisted of finding a teaching job close to home, so that I could move back home. This was hard for me. If you had asked me 5 years ago when I started college, I would have told you I would never move back home after school. Of course, that was before I knew I would be in this much debt. When I figured out my total amount of student loan debt, it was no question that I would move back home. My parents live in New Jersey, where the cost of living is much higher, making my salary higher. When I began the process of looking at places to apply, New Jersey had some of the highest salaries. As I did more and more research and went through all my options, going home to New Jersey kept being the best option.

When I first told my parents that I wanted to come home after I graduated, they told me I would need to pay some rent. Of course, this would still be a lot cheaper than living somewhere else paying rent, utilities, etc. I was sold and put all my effort into applying to school districts in the area. Luckily, I got an interview very quickly with a district 20 minutes away from my parent’s house, and they offered me a position.

Once I knew I would be moving back home, I began brainstorming ideas and talking to my parents about ways I could live “rent-free” at home. We agreed on me paying for my own groceries, doing work around the house, and helping them get the house ready to be sold. By living “rent-free” I can now put all my extra money at my loans and pay them off even faster than I originally planned.

Now that I have moved home, I have had to move my sister out (she lives in Philly now) and move myself into her old room. I forgot to take pictures of the room before I began moving my stuff in, it was basically a completely empty room, but I took some pictures when I actually thought to. It’s a total disaster and I contemplated not even posting them because they are so bad, but here they are ๐Ÿ™‚

 

I’m super excited to move everything in and get it to be how I want it. I wish I could get rid of that rug and paint the walls, but it doesn’t fit into my budget right now.

Did you move home after college? How did you make your decision to move back home or move out?

Debt

5 Tips for Making a Debt Payoff Plan

5 Tips for Making a Debt Payoff Plan

This post may contain affiliate links.Check out my Disclosure Policy for more information.

Now that Iโ€™m finished with my grad degree, my loan payments are about to begin. This might sound crazy, but Iโ€™m actually really excited to start this journey. As I shared in my student loan story I have about $200k in student loan debt, mostly from my undergraduate studies. When it all really hit me how much I owed, I quickly began searching the internet and Pintrest to find out as much information as possible about debt payoff. This was almost a year ago now (Fall 2014) and I canโ€™t wait to put my plan into action. Through the process I found these helpful tips that I have been using throughout grad school, and will really start using next month when my first bill comes in the mail!

1. Budget

Find a budgeting system that works for you, and stick with it! I was shocked to find how much I was carelessly spending each month, mostly on going out to eat. The easiest way I have found to budget is to use Mint to track all my spending. I have all my banking accounts linked up to my Mint account and created a budget for the things I spend money on each month, like gas and groceries. Also, it reminds you of the bills you have to pay and you can get a free credit check with advice on ways to improve your score! They even have an app to make it super easy to check and edit your budgets whenever you want.

2. Manage your Loans

For me, this meant using ReadyForZero to manage my loans. This tool allows you to enter in all of your loans and create a plan to pay off your debt. It even has this nifty tool that lets you see how much faster you would pay off your debt and how much your would save by making larger payments. Also, it shows you how much your daily interest is, talk about motivation!!! I have to say I am not planning to follow my plan completely that they mapped out for me because I donโ€™t love the order that they pay loans off in. They go by the smallest loan with the highest interest rate, and that just isnโ€™t something I want to do. However, this tool is wonderful to see your progress and easily calculate daily interest rate, how much is left, etc.

Update July 2017: ReadyForZero no longer offers their service. I have spent the last couple of months trying to find a tool that works like it, I couldn’t find anything and almost started making my own tool. Then I found this tool and I couldn’t be happier with it! Check out my review.

3. The Snowball or Avalanche Methodย 

Look into Dave Ramsey, the man is a financial genius. He has some great tips about managing your finances in general, but has a debt repayment plan called, the snowball method. This method has you focus paying down one specific loan by putting all of your extra money towards this loan. All your other loans you should make a minimum payment on. When your focus loan is paid off, you apply that payment to your next focus loan. How you pick your focus loan should have some reasoning, either you are focusing on loan amount, interest rate or a combination of both. If you’re focusing on the smaller loans first, this would be the snowball method. This method plays more to emotions because you get small victories in the beginning to motivate you through the end. If you focus on your highest interest loans, this is the avalanche method. This method is purely mathematics and allows you to pay less in interest. Personally, I am focusing on my highest interest rate loans first, if I have more than one loan at a certain interest rate, I focus on the larger one.




4. Get Organized

This is going to look different for everyone, but it is important to find an organization method that works for you. Personally, I use a combination of ReadyForZero and a binder. ReadyForZero allows me to keep track of the bigger picture of my plan, how much I’ve paid off, my daily interest amount, etc. While a binder keeps all those pesky bills organized because they tend to go missing if they don’t have a home, and it helps me keep track of each individual loan I have.

5. Have Fun

During grad school I said no to doing a lot of fun things because it would cost me money. At the beginning, I was in hardcore debt payoff mode, and wanted to put as much money as possible to my loans. But I sacrificed having fun with my friends, and eventually the stresses of going to grad school full time and working full time weighed down on me. I realized I needed to enjoy myself and quickly found ways to do that without spending a lot or any money. My personal favorite is having a potluck with friends. What’s better than great food, great friends, and wine. It’s a lot of fun, and pretty cheap, too.

The goal of paying off student loans is pretty hefty, with a plan it makes it much more manageable. I hope these 5 tips help you as much as they have helped me to plan my debt payoff. What are some tips you have for making a debt payoff plan?