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Money Management

3 Things to Immediately Change Your Finances

3 Things to Immediately Change Your Finances

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

There are a few things in personal finance that I feel will actually change your life. A budget, sinking funds, and an emergency fund, and I’m not being dramatic when I say this.

If you utilize these three things, you’re financial world will be better because of it. If you’ve been using these 3 things for awhile, then you know what I’m talking about. When I learned about these three things and implemented them, it was amazing how stress free my financial life became.

The reason why these 3 things make your finances so much less stressful is because it prepares you for expected and unexpected spending.

You no longer will need to stress about money because you will have money earmarked for most things that come up.

Here’s a breakdown of what these 3 things allow you to do with your finances.

1. A budget to change your finances.

A budget is going to help you manage your cash flow, the money coming in and out of your account. This also allows you to plan for expenses you know are coming in a specific month.

Personally, I use a zero based budget because it allows me to give a job to every single penny that comes into my account. By the end of the month, all income money has gone out to do something for me. This might be paying off debt, adding to my sinking funds, replenishing my emergency fund, or general monthly expenses.

There are tons of ways to budget, you need to find a system that works for you and start tracking the money you have coming in and going out. This won’t happen over night, but just by being more aware of what money you have coming in and out, you will see changes pretty quickly.

I encourage you to not put yourself on a strict budget, but to instead just track your expenses and see where your money is actually going. Once you see some of your trends, make a change in the place that makes you most annoyed.

For me, I was most annoyed at how much I was spending on convenient stops for food and drinks. It’s crazy how much it adds up. I challenged myself to not stop for convenience food anymore and this freed up a chunk of my cash flow every month.

Remember, you’re trying to create new habits when budgeting, don’t rush the process. Slowly take out expenses from your budget that you know you won’t miss. By creating new habits you will see long term results, rather than only quick wins.

I have created a Google sheet template for you to use in zero based budgeting that has all the math done for you and allows you to track your expenses, you can get it here.

2. Sinking funds to change your finances.

Sinking funds might just be my favorite part of budgeting, mostly because I love having the freedom of having cash earmarked for specific things that come up. Sinking funds are when you put aside a bit of money each month to save up for a specific purpose.

A classic example is Christmas, it comes every single year, so why not plan for it! In January, you give yourself a Christmas budget for presents of $600 (totally made up number). Then, you divide that number by however many months you have to save that. I’d want this to be fully funded by at least November, so I’d divide $600 by 11 and save $55 each month. Yes, I rounded up, I would rather have more money and an easy amount to take out each month!

The great part about this is if you don’t use the entire amount, you can roll it over to next years Christmas fund.

I personally use sinking funds for expenses that I don’t know about, but I know will come up. I currently always put aside money for my medical and car sinking funds. The reason I add to these two every single month is because I want to be prepared.

I’d hate to be in a position where I need to say no to anything health related for me because of finances. Same thing goes for my car. Some months, I don’t touch either account, other months I use them a ton!

Last month, I had a metal tool go into my tire that couldn’t be replaced. They told me it would be $120 for a new tire and I didn’t need to stress about it one bit because I had the cash sitting in my sinking fund.

This month I had to see an ENT, allergist and my orthodontist. All completely unexpected and totaling about $145 in copays. If it weren’t for my medical sinking fund, this would have had to come out of my debt pay off for the month. It’s not terrible, but it would slow down my progress.

3. An emergency fund to change your finances.

The last and possibly most important thing to do to change your finances is to have an emergency fund. This is for those times that you totally can’t plan for. Everyone has a different idea of an emergency, but because I have sinking funds, my idea of an emergency is more like job loss, or loss of one of my income streams.

Emergency funds are going to get you through those expenses that pop up completely unexpected, or in the event of income loss. There is a lot of talk on the Internet about what you should have saved for your emergency fund.

It ultimately comes down to what you are comfortable with. I suggest, at the very least to have one month of expenses saved up, and really this should only be if you have a very secure job, consistent pay, no kids, no house. Any other scenario, I would suggest 3-12 months of expenses saved up.

This allows you to weather most storms that come your way unexpectedly. When you don’t have enough in savings, it is setting you up for financial ruin in the event of something happening.

These 3 things will set you up for success.

By having these 3 things in place, you are setting yourself up for long term success. It might not look pretty in the beginning and you might feel overwhelmed, but give yourself time. This isn’t going to happen overnight, but you will see changes happening once you get started.

I encourage you to just start, start tracking your expenses and getting a budget set up. See where your money is going and start telling your money what to do instead. I know this can be difficult at first, it’s why I offer email coaching to help you get started and hold you accountable to getting things done. Send me an email, if you want to be added to my email coaching waitlist. Have you set yourself up for success by having these three things done?

Money Management

Why Your Finances Need to be Personal

Why Your Finances Need to be Personal

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

I’m a huge advocate for personal finance. I think it should be a high school graduation requirement. I know that this currently is not happening in most high schools, but the reality is that it’s too important not to require it in our curriculums.

For most people, unless they are personally interested in personal finance, they won’t know how to manage their finances. This lands so many people in very scary financial situations, me being one of them.

When I graduated from high school I was under the impression that student loan debt was okay, it was good debt! I’d get a job post grad and have no problem paying them off.

The only issue was that I took out $200k for a teaching degree. There was no chance I’d be making enough to pay my minimums when I graduated AND support myself, it literally didn’t add up. Of course, I didn’t realize this until I got that massive first bill in the mail.

Lucky for me, I hit my financial breaking point in my first few weeks of grad school and was in a position to make some radical changes to help myself dig out of this massive hole I was in.

I started searching the Internet for all things personal finance. I was ready to create a plan and get myself on a budget. There are tons of people out there spouting out personal finance advice, me being one of them.

But I caution you to blindly follow anyone’s advice when it comes to your finances. And here’s why.

1. Your finances are unique to your situation.

The advice that is out there on finances is solid. It’s good advice and it’s always good to consider it when you are in a situation. But, you shouldn’t blindly follow any one piece of advice. You need to look at your personal situation and determine how you can apply it to your life.

For example, the classic one is the $1,000 emergency fund that Dave Ramsey has as his baby step 1. I agree with him that you shouldn’t have thousands and thousands of dollars sitting in an account, if you have thousands and thousands of high interest debt.

However, I don’t agree that this is a one size fits all situation. Personally, I did 1 month of expenses and then started tackling my debt, but I continue to contribute money to my sinking funds and emergency fund every single month. It’s not much, but it makes me feel better about my very long debt free journey.

2. Life is constantly changing and so should your finances.

If you blindly follow a plan and don’t adjust for what is happening in your life, you will end up right back to where you were. As your life changes and progresses, your finances should reflect that.

When I first graduated, my goal was to pay off my debt ASAP. I’ve paid a ton of debt off, $124k in about 3 and a half years to be exact. My budget has changed a lot since that point because now I’m planning to move out of my parents house.

I’m making sure that I’m prepared for this move by increasing a few of my sinking funds and my emergency fund. I’m still making extra debt payments, but I’m also making sure to fill my emergency fund and sinking funds in preparation.

3. Your long term goals are unique to you.

For me, my ultimate goal is to have financial freedom. To be able to work a job I love, not a job for a paycheck. This is important to me and so my budget reflects this. I continue to save and invest money every single month because I know being in my 20s means I have time on my side.

This doesn’t mean I’m sending a ton of money every month to these goals, but I am increasing them as I pay off my high interest debt. For me, once my high interest debt is gone, my money is working better for me in investments based on returns.

This is going to be different for you and what your long term goals are. The only way to reach those goals is if your budget today reflects small moves to get you there.

Take the time to learn about your finances to create a plan unique to you.

What it comes down to is taking the time to actually figure out your finances. If you don’t want to take the time, then you’re not going to see the results. Of course, you can utilize the plans that people share, I would just caution you to follow them blindly.

I encourage you to figure out a plan that works for your specific situation and goals. It’s a hard process, but it is so worth it in the end. I offer email coaching, if you need help getting yourself started, shoot me an email to join the waitlist. How do you make your finances personal?

Money Management

How to Prepare for a Job Change

How to Prepare for a Job Change

Lately, I have been really about finding work that you absolutely love. I have always loved teaching, since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. There was absolutely no question there.

Recently, I have found it more and more difficult to get myself to school. Not because of the kids or my actual job, but the environment that I have to work in everyday.

It’s not a good environment to be in and it definitely would be considered toxic. For awhile, I thought I didn’t like teaching because of it.

What I realized was that it wasn’t the teaching I didn’t enjoy, it was the unreal expectations that were being place on us as teachers in my current district.

I quickly realized that if I was going to find my passion again in education, I’d need to leave.

These are the steps that I am following now as I prepare to switch jobs.

1. Apply to all the jobs.

I’m at the point where I am applying to any job that remotely interests me. Of course, I have an idea of what I ideally want. I want to be a reading specialist, but if I can’t find that kind of job yet, that’s okay.

Anything that interests me, I have been submitting an application. LinkedIn makes it really easy to quickly apply to positions, so it really doesn’t take much time once you have your profile updated. I definitely recommend getting on there.

I suggest applying to jobs with any free time you have. It doesn’t hurt to just hop online and see what’s out there. I’ve been setting a timer on my job search because I can fall down the rabbit hole pretty easily.

2. Start saving money.

Changing jobs can be stressful and hard when it comes to your finances. A lot can change with a new job and there is too much uncertainty to not be prepared, especially when you know you want to do this.

I think it is so important to leave a toxic work environment. Finances can make this tricky, but if it’s something you really want to do, then prep for it!

For me, I am saving for the summer (no pay for teacher’s in the summer on 10 month contracts) and increasing my emergency fund. I would rather have cash just in case, then to be stuck in a situation where I need cash and don’t have it.

Even though I am still paying off my debt, it is super important to increase my savings to prepare for the changes ahead.

3. Decide if you are willing to relocate.

This is a huge decision when it comes to finding a new job. If you are happy where you are and don’t want to move, finding a job close to you is critical.

Depending on your field, that may be limiting your chances at finding a new job. For me, I can basically find a job anywhere being a teacher, it just might not be my ideal job.

By having the option to relocate, you are opening yourself up to a lot more opportunities, but a lot more things to potentially prepare for.

4. Find a side hustle, if you don’t have one already.

The reason I mention this is because if you are in a work environment that is toxic, this opens you up to be able to leave with some cash flow coming in still.

For me, I already have multiple side jobs, but I am figuring out how they will work when I move. The simple answer is, they won’t. All of my side jobs are at my current school and working with families in my area.

Once I move, I will lose all of them completely. Of course, I can find new families by my new house, but it takes time to build up a reputation in an area.

That’s why I am currently applying to side jobs I can start working now and can continue working once I move.

5. Start preparing your exit strategy.

Every job is different, but you need to make sure you leave your current job in good standing. I strongly believe in keeping connections everywhere you go because you never know when you will need them or run into them again.

I’ve noticed, especially with teaching, that you always find someone that knows someone, usually. It helps a lot when you have good relationships with people, if you ever happen to cross paths again.

If you can, frame it in a move to a different kind of position. I have shared with my supervisor that I am looking for a new job as a reading specialist, something that I can’t do in my current district.

Because of this, she is very supportive of me and furthering my career. She thinks that this is a great next step in my career and she knows that this isn’t something I can do in my current job.

You need to do what is best for you.

I found it hard at first to think about getting a new job. Then I remembered that this job will find a replacement for me as soon as I go. You need to have a job that brings you joy and encourages you to continue to build your skills and learn new ones.

Once it no longer does those things, it’s time to go. Of course, we’re adults, we need to pay our bills, but that’s why we prepare for this and why I encourage side jobs so much. They can always carry us between jobs! So, how have you prepared for a job change?

Money Management

Why the Public Library Should Be Your Best Friend

Why the Public Library Should Be Your Best Friend

I only rediscovered my library in the last year or so and I am so happy that I did. Prior to that, I always bought my books or relied on the Internet for my information.

I’m not sure where it started that I only bought my books, but it really doesn’t make sense to buy books the first time you read them. Of course, if you want to support the author, that’s a totally different story.

If you’re like me, I typically don’t read books more than once. If I do, it’s usually because it was a book that offers advice, information, strategies, or personal development. Most of my books sit on their shelves and gather dust after I read them the first time.

If you’re someone that loves to read books over and over again and loves having shelves of books, then absolutely go for it!! Whatever brings you joy and makes your heart sing. You do you, girl!

But, I know that’s just not me. And I am so glad I wandered back into my public library for this reason.

1. Obviously, you save money by using the library.

This one is pretty obvious. You get access to your library by living in your town and paying taxes. Take advantage of it! My library even tells me how much money I saved by borrowing the books instead of buying them, I love that!

The convenience is awesome, too. I can go online and place a book on hold and pick it up when it’s ready. Super easy!

Plus, there are SO many apps now that allow you to listen to audiobooks, or ebooks right on your device at home. You don’t even need to step foot in the library and it’s on your device. It doesn’t get much easier than that, and it’s free.

Yes, you might have to wait a bit for the book that you want to read, but we’re adults, right? We can wait for something we want.

2. Everything goes back to the library.

I recently got into decluttering and binged the Marie Kondo series on Netflix in one weekend. There is nothing I love more than a good declutter. I have a pretty extravagant plan for a declutter over my upcoming spring break. I know, super wild and crazy, right?

This is about the time where I realized that stories, learning, information, and reading, bring me so much joy, but the actual books, do not. This is the wonderful thing about the library, the books go back once they have served their joy bringing purpose for me.

Of course, some books do bring me joy and I hate seeing them go back to the library, which brings me to my next point.

3. You can test drive a new book before purchasing.

There are some books that I do buy. The books that I will purchase are ones that I know I will reference back to again. These usually are books that have a lot of information in them and I want to make sure I take the time to actually implement the information.

Recently, I borrowed the 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss and I absolutely loved it. As soon as I finished it, I bought a copy. I wasn’t reading it to fully implement the material this time. It was just for me to see if it had the information I’ve been looking for, and it totally did!

Now, I know my purchase is worthwhile because I have already read the book and know I will reference back to the book in the future.

4. Tons of free entrance places and events.

My library always has something going on. They are even bringing WOLVES to the library, like come on. That’s just so cool. But, in all honesty they have a ton of informational events that are always happening. It’s awesome to have access to so much information all for paying your taxes.

A lot of libraries also have partnership with local places for free or discounted admission to events. My library advertises them all the time. It’s great to just get on their email list so you can maybe get to experience something new you normally wouldn’t have!

Libraries are wonderful resources to use to continue learning.

What it really comes down to is that it’s important to continue learning and libraries offer a great way of doing that. It can open up new opportunities or new hobbies you never knew you would be interested in. And let’s be real, you’re paying for the library, so you might as well use it! How often do you use your library?

Money Management

Why You Need to Have Personal Money

Why You Need to Have Personal Money

When you’re getting started with budgeting the first thing that people think is being restricted. The term “budget” just has such a negative connotation to it. But, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

A budget gives you permission to spend because you know you have the money.

The only thing a budget does is tell your money where to go and if it can go there. The reality is, you need to align your budget with the life you want to live. A lot of money gets sucked out of us for low joy purchases, which doesn’t make any sense.

For example, I would run out for lunch every week. It tasted good and it was my way to escape for a bit. The reality was that I was losing time at work, spending way more money, and eating food that wasn’t even good for me. Now, I eat lunch at work, am saving a lot of money, eating healthier, and no longer bring any work home (this is huge as a teacher).

For me, running out to buy lunch was a low joy purchase. This was one of the first things I cut from my spending. Of course, I go out to eat for special occasions, but I no longer get food out of convenience, I do to connect with friends and family.

Something I also cut from my budget was any kind of personal spending money, meaning self care was gone. For about 3 years, I would get 2 haircuts a year and that was it. I stopped getting my nails done, stopped getting hair cuts. I was determined to pay down my debt.

And I did. I paid off $118k in about 3 and a half years. I still have more to go, but I truly killed some serious debt by myself these last few years.

Now that I have gone this long, I’m burning out. It’s a long journey and I just want it to be over with already. So, I gave myself a bit of spending money for self care and I am so glad that I did.

Your budget should include you and some personal money.

Personal finance is never going to end. That’s why you need to think about long term goals when you budget, so budget in some personal money! Your budget should reflect you, the things you value, and the things that are important to you.

That means you need to remember yourself and put some money for yourself in your budget. Personal money doesn’t need to be some crazy number. My number changes every single month depending on my current situation. I typically roll my personal money over from month to month as well. This way if I feel like I want to treat myself to a massage, I will have the funds. Same thing goes for getting my hair done.

Yes, this is taking away from my debt pay off, but it’s really not too much money each month and if I decide I don’t want to use my personal money and send it to debt, I can.

This is the money that will keep you from feeling restricted.

Especially when you first start, you’re going to feel restricted. It’s just the nature of the beast. It’s an adjustment period and with time, it will feel more natural. You’ll realize what you value and when you’d rather be using the money to reach your goals.

Personal money is for those hard days. When life completely falls apart and the unexpected happens. You can use your personal money in whatever way you want. For me, I know I need to spend some time and money on me, I enjoy getting manicures and my hair done.

This is what I use my personal money on. After 3 years of not having these items in my budget, it feels wonderful to put them back in. It was hard for me to add them back in at first, but I remind myself that I went totally intense for 3 years. That’s a long time and I got a lot accomplished!

Personal money will help you spend less.

Personal money allows you to spend. This prevents you from going on a spending spree when you’re burning out. Trust me, it will happen, if you’re restricting yourself too much. It just depends on when it happens. It’s important to take care of ourselves on our journeys.

Personal finance is a life long journey and it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re budgeting. You can do anything for a season, you can cut your personal money for a period of time, but it’s important to adjust and change your budget through the seasons of life.

I realized I was starting to fall off of my goals and feeling drained from my long journey to debt freedom, so I added in some personal money. I’m glad I lasted as long as I did, but I’m so happy to be spending some money on me now.

Evaluate where you are currently and plan your personal money accordingly.

The great thing about budgets is that they can change so easily and they should change to reflect where you are in your life. If you’re close to meeting a goal, you can cut some personal money, if you’re struggling with spending, you can add it back in. It all is based on priorities and what you want to do with your money. How do you budget for personal money?

Money Management

Why I Don’t Use Cash Envelopes

Why I Don't Use Cash Envelopes

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

Cash envelopes are a popular method of budgeting in the personal finance world. It makes sense, you give yourself a certain amount of cash for a time period and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

This allows you to have complete control over your money and actually have to hand it over to pay for things. The physical exchange of money is felt and it allows you to change your mindless spending when it comes to a card.

I get it. This is a great way to budget and I think it allows a lot of people who use it to make significant change in their spending habits. I recommend this method to a lot of people because it is proven to work and has worked for so many people.

It just doesn’t work for me. And here’s why.

Cash envelopes don’t work for me because I’m a natural saver.

I’ve never been one to blow a ton of money. I’m naturally the type to save my money and then buy what I want. I’ve always been this way since I was a kid. I loved seeing my Pony Club account grow (the kids bank account they offered at my local bank).

I’ve never been in credit card debt, yes, I use them for the rewards, but I always have the cash available. Since I’ve never really had a spending problem, it was much easier for me to start budgeting. I didn’t need to have that hard money mindset change around spending.

But, I did need to have it around saving. It was hard for me not to save a lot of money. To be honest, I’m still saving money while paying off my debt, not much, but enough that it makes me feel better about sending thousands to my student loans.

Cash envelopes don’t work for me because I’m a nerd.

I love tracking my spending and budgeting my money to work for me. I didn’t start budgeting until the summer of 2014, but I always kept tabs on my spending and knew how much was in my accounts.

Cash is hard for me to track, I don’t do well with it. I like to streamline my systems to be easy for me to maintain, cash takes time and is hard to track for me. I like to be able to look quickly at my accounts and see where I am at any given point in time, that can be tricky with cash on hand.

Being a nerd, I like to account for every penny and give it a job, with cash, that gets a bit messy at times. For me, there are just too many moving parts with cash.

However, I do love paying cash when a discount is offered and I’m all about that.

What I do instead of cash envelopes.

Ultimately, you need to find whatever method works best for you. It’s going to take time, but once you find a system that works, you’re going to see great progress in reaching your financial goals.

For me, I use Mint to track my expenses loosely throughout the week. This allows me to quickly check in with myself to make sure I’m on track.

On the weekends, I put all of my spending into my spreadsheet for tracking expenses and update my budget for the month. This allows me to see where I’m at with my spending heading into the new week.

Because I have so many side hustles, I zero out my budget at the end of the month. All of my side hustle money, and most of my teaching salary, goes directly to debt. By the end of the month, all of my money has gone somewhere, mostly debt, for now.

Find a system that works for you.

You need to spend the time finding what naturally works for you. If cash envelopes don’t work for you, don’t try to force it to work. Spend some time trying out different methods and find the one that feels the most natural to you.

And it’s not going to happen over night. I’ve been doing this since 2014 and I’m still reworking it to figure out better ways. It can absolutely be difficult to get started, but that’s why I’ve created email coaching to help you get started. If you’re someone that is struggling to get going on a budget, then that is absolutely for you.

Once you have a system in place that works for you, it will be much easier to budget your money. It’s worth it to spend the time finding a system that feels most comfortable for you. By finding a system that works for you, it will allow you to more easily manage your money. What system do you use to manage your money?



Money Management

My Financial Breaking Point

My Financial Breaking Point

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

It can be difficult to start a journey with the Internet at our finger tips. On one side you have so many people that have been working their butts off for years and it can be hard to see yourself in that place when you are in such a different place. Change is hard and it doesn’t help when you see people posting about how great their life is now that they get their finances together.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that most of those people were right where you are now. You can’t compare your start with their middle, it just isn’t realistic. After years of working towards their goals, of course they’re in a better place. If they weren’t then they weren’t working towards anything.

Use those stories to motivate you to get to where they are and even further. Starting is hard, but the work is so worth it. I wanted to share with you all my financial breaking point and what caused me to completely change my life in a matter of months.

Summer of 2014: My financial reality smacked me in the face.

In May of 2014 I graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelors degree in Inclusive Elementary and Special Education and a lot of student loans, roughly $180k. Now, we all know that teachers don’t make the best salary starting out in most parts of the country. At this point, I did not understand student loans and was told they were a necessity in order to get my education.

I had no idea the reality of my student loans and what it would mean for me upon graduation. So, I decided to go straight into grad school full time and get my degree in 1 year, I’d be going for 4 semesters. I was going to get my masters in early childhood and special education. I assumed this would be a good path for me because it got me 2 more certifications, bringing my total to 4. That would make me more marketable, right?

About 2 weeks after starting my masters program I got a phone call from my Dad saying my first bill for my student loans from undergrad came. They hadn’t received my paperwork that I was still in school full time, which meant they billed me. The bill was for $1,200 and yes, I cried.

I didn’t cry because I didn’t have the money at the time. Of course I didn’t have the money, I was working at a day care making minimum wage, living in an apartment with my bills I had to pay every month. I knew I would get my loans put into deferment because I was full time at school.

I cried because I was in a masters program, taking out even more student loans, and just my private loans from undergrad promised a $1,200/month bill upon graduation. And I was going to school to be a teacher.

This is when I got serious about figuring out personal finance and decided to make major changes to my life in order to try to fix this hot mess I had created for myself.

Summer of 2014: The changes I made to get myself on a better path.

The easiest thing I could have done at this point was to drop out of grad school, but I knew the job market for an elementary teacher was tough. So, I decided to stay in grad school. Plus, at this point my plan was to stay in Syracuse and work there and in New York, you need a masters degree to get your standard certification.

So, I set up a meeting with one of the best people I met at Syracuse, who at this point had become a mentor to me. She had been the undergrad recruiter and I had worked with her in undergrad mentoring new freshman. Now, she was the grad recruiter and I knew she would be honest with me and spend time trying to figure out a plan with me.

I walked in to meet with her and laid everything on the table for her, my entire financial position at that very moment. She immediately started asking me questions and brainstorming solutions with me.

I walked out of that meeting with a to do list and my entire future changed. I credit this meeting to the beginning of my financial journey because without this meeting my life would have been so much different.

She had me apply to a new grad program, literacy education, which was less credits and made me much more marketable after graduation as a reading specialist. She emailed the person in charge of scholarships and asked if there was any available funding for me, someone who had done a ton of volunteer work for the School of Education in my undergrad and grad programs. A new job application for a preschool that offered 4 credits to Syracuse in the fall and spring semesters each for me. A babysitting job lined up that her daughter could no longer do because of a new job and a meeting scheduled with the financial aid office.

We also talked about my plan for after graduation and I told her I was planning to stay in Syracuse and teach. She immediately told me this was not a good idea. She pulled up the teaching salaries in the area and told me my salary here would not support my loan payments and that doesn’t even include cost of living.

She encouraged me to move back home with my parents and teach in New Jersey, where teaching salaries are much higher due to the high cost of living. I never even considered this option, but the reality was that it might be the best choice to get my finances in order.

Fall of 2014: Everything falls into place.

After that meeting, I immediately got to work. I applied to the preschool for a fall teaching aide position and I got it! This gave me a higher hourly pay than the day care and gave me 4 credits for the fall and spring semesters. The family hired me to babysit for 10 hours every week and she was flexible for when I came because she worked from home. I would go over there between my preschool hours and my night classes. A scholarship did come through and I managed to get additional TEACH grant funding for grad school. My entire tuition for the fall and spring semesters would be paid for.

I couldn’t believe that all of this was actually happening for me. With all of these new plans for myself, I still made sure to continue doing my research on personal finance. I got myself on a zero based budget, I got strict about my grocery budget, and since my jobs were all close to home, I really didn’t spend much money month to month.

While I was in grad school, I was averaging about $1,100 in income every month and shockingly, I managed to pay off some debt while in grad school. It wasn’t much, usually about $200/month, but it was still something. I felt so much more relaxed and at ease when it came to my finances once I got things under control. I was still nervous about what would happen post grad, but I felt so much better about it all.

Spring of 2015: Post grad reality sets in.

I knew I was going to have a hefty student loan payment each month. I estimated it to be about $2,000/month. So, I made myself an estimated budget for after I graduated. By this point, I had shared my plan with my parents and had officially decided to move home after graduation and started finding schools to apply to that met the requirements for my TEACH grant.

I knew it was going to be tight with my estimated budget I made, even with living at home and getting a higher salary because it was in Jersey. I was committed to getting side jobs tutoring and babysitting when I moved back home though. I figured I could get more income this way and there would be possibilities of more income at the school I’d work at.

I walked at graduation in May from my masters program with 6 credits to complete for my degree. Reality started kicking in, a lot of my friends in my program were getting job offers, and I still hadn’t heard anything. I knew it was still early and I knew the job market was tough in New Jersey, but I really needed a job if I was going to pay these loans back.

The Monday after I walked at graduation, I got a call from a school district 20 minutes from my parents house for a 5th grade position. I set up an interview for later that week and they hired me on the spot during my interview. I was so relieved and I was happy that my starting salary was $56k, about $10k more than I would have been making if I stayed in Syracuse.

I remade my estimated budget with my salary included and realized it would still be tight, but it would be manageable, something would not have been possible if I moved out of my parents house.

Fall of 2015: Pay back begins.

In August, I started my new job and the school year began in September. I was so excited to have my first classroom and to be teaching. I had my budget all ready for September and I began searching for ways to make more money. It definitely wasn’t easy as a first year teacher, I was exhausted and spending every minute doing work, but I was determined to find a way.

I officially started paying back my loans in November 2015, I had made payments in the months prior though. This helped me a lot because I had already made a small dent in my loans and helped me build the habit of paying more every month. I didn’t let my first salary go to waste, I put everything extra right to my student loans. My minimum payment was roughly $2,000/month when I started and it was hard at the beginning. I wasn’t seeing much traction because it was hard paying additional.

I eventually got a tutoring job and this freed up some cash flow for me allowing me to send even more money to debt.

Spring of 2016: First student loan paid off.

One year after I walked at graduation, I paid off my first student loan and I absolutely loved the feeling of getting that debt gone. I decided on the avalanche method because I had some crazy large balances with some crazy large interest rates. My student loans were all monsters, there would be no quick wins in the beginning for me. That was why I decided to go with the avalanche method.

It was hard waiting so long to pay off my first loan, but the reality was that I was going to need to wait regardless in my situation. I would have mini celebrations every time I paid off $5k though, this kept my motivated in that first year.

Spring 2019: Where I am now.

Over the last 3 years I have stayed in the same school district, moved teaching positions, added a ton of side jobs, and crushed $118k of debt out of $201k. I never thought I’d be here when I completely broke down in the summer of 2014. I had read so many blogs about others doing it, but I never thought I would.

Through some sacrifices, budgeting, and increasing my income, I have done it. Of course, I still have $83k left, but I am damn proud of what I have accomplished so far. I am still living at home, still working side jobs, and still teaching. Is it hard living at home at almost 27 years old, of course, but I wouldn’t be able to reach my goals if I wasn’t still here.

I also refinanced my private loans to get a lower interest rate of 4.97%. This isn’t a good option for everyone, but I’m so happy I did. I had $45k left in private loans when I refinanced and in 7 months I am now under $30k. That never would have been possible when I was at 7% interest. Refinancing allowed me to put more of my money towards my principal, which is saving me money in the long run. If you want to refinance your student loans, you can use my link to get $200 when you refinance.

Don’t compare your beginning to someone’s middle.

Any change is hard and it’s even harder if you aren’t giving yourself some grace. When you’re first beginning, it’s going to be hard, but it’s so worth it in the long run. I am so happy I started my journey and have paid off as much as I have. I know that if I didn’t decide to start, I never would have been where I am now. So, what’s stopping you from changing your life?