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College on the Company Dime

Education on the Company Dime

This is a guest post written by Melody from Her Designed Life. Check her out for all kinds of resources related to personal finance!

What do backpacks, pencils, and lunch bags all have in common? Their location in school!

For many people going back to school can be costly. In the United States, the national college debt is over 1.5 trillion according to Forbes magazine. After I graduated with my crushing college debt of $65k with a degree equivalent to basket weaving, I decided that I needed to cut costs, live frugal, and pay off my student loans. You can check out how I paid off my debt here.

Why I’m Going to Graduate School

As a young professional I often get asked why I have decided to go to graduate school.

Many of my friends ask why I want to add extra homework onto my day after a hard day at the office. To be honest, I don’t like extra work, but I do like extra pay.

Let’s take a look at the figures.

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the cost of weekly pay increases with each level of educational degree you complete.

Income and Education

For example, the median weekly earnings for those with a bachelor’s degree estimate at $1,137.

Let’s say that of the 52 weeks there are in a year. Hypothetically, let’s say that a worker works 48 weeks due to vacations, holidays, sick days, or personal reasons.

The annual average amount that a person could potentially bring in pre-tax without any other deductions would be $54,576. Obviously, this is just an estimate of median salary and deductions and cost of living are the real determiners of your pay.

Now, let’s compare that to the average median earnings someone might receive with a Master’s degree. The median weekly earnings for those with a Master’s degree are $1,341.

Multiply this number by 48 weeks, this equates to about $64,368.

Income and Education

That’s about a 10,000 difference in pay for only one year!  

Is Graduate School Right for Me

Before you even begin applying to graduate school, you must count the cost.

Calculate the cost of your expected income based off of a future degree or certification on one of the following websites: for general salary and experience estimates visit payscale.com and for graduate studies use this calculator. If you see that the end result of your projected income is small or only slightly more than what you currently make, re-assess the financial and career benefits of receiving your additional education.

Check out if the industry is growing fast or has high median income on the US Occupation Outlook Handbook. Most likely, if your position seems to have a high percentage of growth or an increasing median income, the investment in your education may be worth the amount of time and money spent on your program throughout your career.

Compare the tuition fees with the projected income increase. If you find that the median salary for those with your graduate level degree have a high unemployment rate or very little in income increases compared to your tuition fees, you may need to re-evaluate the type of education or professional field you are working towards.

You can create a  simple formula like this to help you determine graduate level coursework.

Your current salary

– Total Cost of the program (Total cost – scholarships, grants, and tuition reimbursement)

+ Expected  Annual Income Raise ( Expected Salary – Current Salary )

= Total Estimated Annual Salary post graduate or certification

Example:

$50,000

  • ($15,000 – $10,500) = $5,500
  • ($85,000 – $50,000) = $35,000

= $79,500 ( Total Estimated Annual Salary post graduate or certification )

* based on pre-tax and deductions

How to Qualify for Company Paid Education

Not all employers are equal, especially when it comes to paying for your graduate studies.

Here are 3 ways to get your company to pay for your ongoing education.

  1. Research your company’s policy on education assistance before you apply or accept a position. This is extremely important not only for traditional education, but also for ongoing certifications, seminars, etc. A company culture that approves of paying for education shows that they value their employees and their competency.
  2. Communicate your intentions for returning to school with your employer. If you are just starting or have been in a position with your employer for awhile, communicate to your manager your education aspirations and career goals, if they align with your current field.
  3. Prove the ROI. ROI stands for return on investment. Explain in detail to your manager or decision maker in your company the return on investment that paying for your education would have on the company. Perhaps there is a very large project that you could apply the theories, templates, or guides from your experience to an upcoming or long-term project.

Now that you’ve proved the ROI with your employer and confirmed with your HR specialist or manager that you qualify for tuition reimbursement, walk through the steps of obtaining entrance to the graduate, doctoral, professional certification, or college admissions. You can then finalize walking through the tuition reimbursement procedure.

In my current position, my company has offered me $5,250 annually in tuition reimbursements. My projected costs for the entire program are about $15k.

My projected income increase with a master’s degree starts at $15k annually.

Add on about 2-3 years of additional experience and my expected income will be much higher.

In conclusion, going to graduate school is a time and money investment. However it’s a great way to not only increase your knowledge, but increase your salary and career opportunities.

Melody Johnson runs the website herdesignedlife.org to help women achieve financial independence by paying off debt, planning for life events, and reaching their financial goals. She is a Certified Financial Educator by the National Financial Educator’s Council in the Metro Detroit area.

Be sure to check out Melody on her social pages.

Saving Money

How to Cut Expenses

How to Cut Expenses in 3 Easy Steps

If you’re just starting out your journey to financial freedom, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed. You might feel like there is nothing to cut from your expenses and have no idea how you’ll ever get ahead.

I promise you, there is a way. You have to do the work, but there is a way to get ahead, stay ahead, and start building wealth.

First, start with beginning to change your mindset around money. Make your budget and track your expenses to see where in the world your money is going each month. You can subscribe to my newsletter to get a free template to help you do this.

Once you have done your budget and are tracking your expenses, then you need to follow these 3 steps to cut expenses from your budget.

First Step to Cut Expenses

Once you have budgeted your money and tracked your expenses, you need to determine where all of your money is going each month.

See what areas you can easily cut out to free up some money in your budget. Do you buy coffee out every single day? Try bringing your coffee instead. It seems small, but a common problem is when small purchases add up over the course of the month turning a small daily expense into a large monthly expense.

Once you go through and find easy areas to trim out quickly, continue on with your month as normal. You don’t want to cut expenses all out at once because you will be forcing this change rather than settling into it.

Remember, you want to create new habits to make a life long change, not cut expenses to bare minimum and see how long you can go. There is a time and a place for that, like when you you’re challenging yourself to a no spend month.

Second Step to Cut Expenses

Once you have cut expenses that are easy, start thinking about what your priorities are. What do you find value in?

The best part about budgeting is that you get to tell your money where you want it to go. Have it go to what you value the most.

You’ll start realizing that some purchases you don’t find much value in and you no longer want to spend the money. Cut those expenses that aren’t valuable to you or bring you joy.

By cutting these expenses, it will allow you to free up money in your budget to go where you want it to.

Third Step to Cut Expenses

This can be challenging and requires another change in mindset, which is why it’s the last step I include. This can potentially be the hardest part, especially if you’re just beginning.

This also could be the easiest part for someone, it all depends on where you are in your mindset and how willing you are to change your lifestyle. .

Look at the expenses that you have to make each month and think about creative ways to make these areas more affordable.

Personally, I don’t find much value in where I live. Give me a bed, bathroom, kitchen, and somewhere to store my clothes and I’m good to go.

This is why I decided to move back home in order to pay off my $200k in student loans. The amount of money I can put towards my debt, about 75% of my income, while still investing and saving, makes it worth it.

Another area would be groceries, we need to eat, we can’t cut groceries from our budget unfortunately. But, we can choose healthy, budget friendly foods instead to lower our expenses.

Ultimately, this all comes down to finding what you value and what you don’t value in your life. by following these steps to eliminate the low value expenses, you will find more money in your budget to put towards the things you value and are important to you. What has helped you to cut expenses?

 

 

Saving Money

Frugal Date Ideas

Frugal Date Ideas

As a twenty something it can be a bit challenging to be on a debt free journey because most twenty somethings aren’t doing anything like this. Most are out exploring new cities, traveling the world, and trying out the newest restaurants. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t do these things because I have totally done this by putting it into the budget or cash flowing a frugal vacation. A really tough area in the budget is finding date ideas that aren’t going to break the budget. I know I struggle with this a lot and I feel like I finally have a handle on ways to enjoy date night without completely blowing the budget.

Frugal Date Idea #1 Go For a Hike

I love being outside and I love being active. One of my favorite date ideas is going hiking because it’s free other than gas and it’s great exercise. I always pack a backpack before heading out with snacks and drinks so we aren’t tempted to buy anything.

Frugal Date Idea #2 Movie Night

It’s so much fun to go to the movies, but sooo expensive. I can’t believe how much they charge at the movies now, it’s absolutely mind blowing. But, it is fun watching the new movies. Of course, you won’t get to see movies as soon as they come out, but having a movie night at home can be super enjoyable. Make lots of popcorn, get drinks ready, and enjoy a great movie together. Even better, you can wear pajamas! 🙂

Frugal Date Idea #3 Cook Dinner Together

Of course it’s always enjoyable to go out to eat, but it can very quickly become expensive for just one meal. It’s so much cheaper to cook a meal at home and enjoy it together. This way you can control the cost based on your budget and control the ingredients. This makes it better for your budget and your health.

Frugal Date Idea #4 Go to the Beach

This can get expensive if you don’t prepare properly. But, pack a cooler full of food, snacks, and drinks and that should make it much more affordable. Also, parking can be very expensive, but if you park a little further, it’s usually cheaper and if you invite another couple to come with then you can split parking.

Frugal Date Idea #5 Work Out Together

Yes, this isn’t the most romantic date, but it is so much fun working out together. Whether it’s a run outside or lifting at the gym, it just feels good to be doing something healthy together.

Frugal Date Idea #6 Free Concerts

My town offers free concerts in the park, check out to see if yours does the same. It’s a great way to get out of the house and enjoy some music.

Frugal Date Idea #7 Go For a Picnic

Pack a picnic and head to a park you’ve both never been to. Then you can explore the area afterwards.

Frugal Date Idea #8 Play Board Games

Get a bottle of wine and your favorite board games from your childhood to play together.

It can be fun just thinking of frugal date ideas or ways to have fun without spending a ton. Surprisingly, most activities can be done for a lot less money if you just get creative with how you’re thinking about it. What are some frugal date ideas you have?

Saving Money

5 Tips to Save Money on Gas

5 Tips to Save Money on Gas

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The summer months usually mean more driving because of the beautiful weather and usually some time off. Unfortunately, gas companies know this and hike their prices up so kindly. Currently, gas prices continue to climb and I’ve been finding myself going over budget basically every month because it keeps increasing. Because of this, I have been focusing more on ways to save money on gas.

1. Don’t Buy Cheap to Save Money on Gas.

I know. This sounds counter productive. But, I learned the hard way the importance of good gas. I’m all about convenience when it comes to gas. So, I always bought gas from the same two gas stations that I passed on my way to work. It was also nice that the price was low. To me, gas is gas and I had no idea that there actually is a difference in quality. My car was running terribly for the last 4 years and the dealership couldn’t figure it out, they just kept replacing the muffler, 3 times, with the issues still happening. Finally, they realized it was due to bad gas and I needed new fuel injectors. Thankfully, they replaced these for free because they had failed to diagnosis the problem for so many years. Now that I am paying more for quality gas, I am noticing that I am getting better gas mileage and I know my car will run better in general.

2. Slow Down to Save Money on Gas.

This has made my gas go so much further for me. I try to keep my speed under 70 MPH on the highway now (I do live in NJ, so this makes me a snail on the highway lol!). It has allowed me to go from averaging 22 MPG to 28 MPG, obviously this in combined with all my tips, but slowing down on the highway has helped the most!

3. Slowly Accelerate to Save Money on Gas.

Along with tip #2, this has also helped me a lot making my gas go further. Whenever I need to accelerate I always do it slowly to burn less gas. Obviously, when you are accelerating it’s going to burn more gas, but by going slowly it helps in lower the amount.

4. Monitor Your MPG to Save Money on Gas.

My car has this wonderful little feature the tells me my MPG and it helps me so much. Whenever I see the number go down I know I am using more gas and maybe I need to adjust how I am driving. I’m a totally visual person, so having this constant reminder is super helpful. If your car doesn’t have this, you can calculate your own MPG when you have the chance.

5. Use a Rewards Card to Save Money on Gas.

One of the best ways I make gas more affordable is by using a rewards credit card (Find out why I use credit cards throughout my debt free journey here). Of course, the only way that this is beneficial and actually saves you money is if you pay your balance in full each month. If you have had credit card debt in the past, I definitely don’t recommend you opening an account just for rewards. It just isn’t worth it. I personally use the Chase Freedom card, which has rotating categories each quarter. The summer is 5% cash back on gas stations, which means I earn money back with each transaction.

These are the tips I have found to save me the most money on gas. I hope these tips can help you to save money on gas. What are some things you have done to save money on gas?

Saving Money

Tips to Make Your Fourth of July Cost Less

Tips to Make Your Fourth of July Cost Less

Holidays usually mean spending money, especially a summer holiday like the Fourth of July. Some people take advantage of the time off from work and head out on vacation. Some people have BBQs to celebrate the occasion. Even though money usually gets spent on holidays, it doesn’t mean a lot has to be. I’m definitely not saying staying home and binge Netflix to save money. Come on, I’m a twenty something, I definitely think you should be enjoying the fun holiday, especially since it’s the Fourth of July! Here are some tips I have for you to spend less this Fourth of July while still having fun!

1. Attend or have a BBQ.

BBQs are the best for the budget. The food you have at a BBQ is generally speaking cheap when you buy it in bulk. If you’re having the BBQ have everyone bring something potluck style, and if you’re attending, then you bring something to share. Potlucks of any kind are my fave during this journey because you get to eat lots of yummy food and socialize, but you don’t have the high cost of going out.

2. BYOB.

The fourth tends to be a holiday that include drinking, which obviously can get expensive. When I go to a BBQ I usually bring myself a couple of drinks and that’s it. Yes, I’m the girl bringing loose cans to a party, but I don’t care! I can’t drink much and this way I can stretch that 6 or 12 pack over multiple occasions.

3. Free fireworks.

With a quick google search you can find local, free fireworks in your area. Yes, setting off your own and having sparklers is a lot of fun, but it does cost money. The free fireworks are usually pretty great and much bigger than you can buy.

What are some tips you have to save money on the Fourth of July?

Saving Money

Buying in Bulk (Even Though I’m Single)

Buying in Bulk

Throughout this process I have found many ways to cut my spending, which is one of the ways to increase your wealth (or in my case, pay off my student loans). In order to make more money, you need to cut spending, increase your income, or do a combination of the two, which is what I have been doing. I’ve added many different streams of income that have allowed me to now live on my side hustle income and then put some towards my debt on top of my salary. But one of the best ways I have saved money is by buying in bulk, even though it’s just me, myself and I.

Now, this might sound crazy, but it really does save me a decent amount each month by buying the family size or bulk size. The reason this works is because the prices are almost always lower on the bulk and family size of products. To save even more money, you can buy the generic version of the bulk products. So, if you’re only buying for one, you really get a great deal from it, as long as you are smart about the items you buy in bulk.

Obviously there are certain things you just aren’t going to buy in bulk because you just can’t use them fast enough. For me, I never buy my greens in bulk, like spinach. This is because I can never use it before it goes bad. There is nothing worse than throwing out food. I feel like I’m just tossing my money in the garbage every time I have to.

There is a way to get around this and this one thing will be your best friend when buying in bulk, your freezer. I put everything in the freezer, it’s such an incredible way to stretch your grocery budget when buying in bulk. I always bulk buy things that can be put in the freezer and easily thawed. Another thing I like to do is freeze any fruits and veggies before they go bad. I find it so easy to throw some smoothie bags together of foods that are about to go bad. This way the food is saved and I can quickly make a smoothie just by dumping the bag into the blender.

Buying in bulk has allowed me to add extra savings to my grocery budget every single month. The less I spend, the more money I can put to my student loans. Every little bit counts. Do you buy in bulk? How has it helped your grocery budget?

Saving Money

Why You Need Sinking Funds

Why You Need Sinking Funds

When I found Dave Ramsey about 3 years ago I was all about it and I loved that there were steps for me to follow. Fast forward a few years and I have definitely tweaked the system to fit my needs, but generally follow them. The scariest part for me was only having a $1,000 emergency fund for baby step #1. I mean, I live in New Jersey, a trip to get an oil change one time ended up costing me $1,000. The first thing I did was bump up my emergency fund to be $2,000, it just makes me feel so much better just in case something were to happen. Eventually I found sinking funds, too. This was actually life changing for my budget and my stress level.

What is a sinking fund?

I had no idea what a sinking fund was when I started this journey. I mean you heard about my car situation and literally blowing my entire emergency fund just on a trip to the mechanic, which never would have happened if I had a sinking fund. A sinking fund is when you set money aside each month for an upcoming expense. This is for things that you know are coming and have time to prepare for. By setting aside small amounts of money each month, the large expense doesn’t hit your budget as hard when the time comes.

How to start a sinking fund

This was tricky for me in the beginning. I knew it would be better for my budget in the long run to put small amounts aside for my upcoming expenses, but it was hard not putting that money to debt. However, the first time I actually used money from a sinking fund, it was a total game changer for me. In order to set up a sinking fund you need to figure out how much you are going to need and when you will need the money. For example, I know I’m going to need new tires and was told probably around the end of summer. I’m over estimating my tires to cost me $600 because I would rather have money left over and just put it towards debt after, then not have enough and scramble trying to find money. I started the sinking fund in February, so I have 7 months to save. I divide the total cost, $600, by the amount of months I have to save, 7 months, and I know I have to set aside $86 each month for my tire sinking fund. $86 is a lot easier than $600 in one month. Or, I save $3,000 for the summer when my income is not set, since I am a 10 month employee. I divide $3,000 over 10 months and put aside $300 each month. By the time summer comes around I have $3,000 in my account to use in case my income is lower than expected. At the end of the summer, I make a loan payment with whatever is left over.

Sinking funds have completely changed my finances because I no longer have to pull from my student loan extra payment when something major comes up. Now, my emergency fund is truly for emergencies and not just for big items that come up, like tires or brakes. How have sinking funds changed your budget?