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Mini Series Part 4: How to Tackle Your Student Loans

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

In this four part mini series you will find all the tips to tackle your student loans regardless of where you are in the process. Student loans affect almost everyone now, which is a very sad reality. From the time a person graduates high school, it’s usually an issue in their life. So, I’m starting this mini series with tips for before you go to college and ending it with tips for after you graduate and have entered repayment.

Mini Series Part 1: Before You Go to College

Mini Series Part 2: While You’re in School

Mini Series Part 3: Before You Graduate

Student Loans Part 4

You’ve crossed the stage, you’ve started in your very first job, and you live in your very first apartment. Everything is falling into place, like it is supposed to after graduation. Now you need to start getting serious about where all of this new money is going that you now have and how you’re going to go about your student loans based on the work you put in for them before you graduated.

  1. Finalize that budget that you drafted before you graduated.

Before you graduated you drafted a budget based on what you thought your income would be and your expenses. Well, now it is time to finalize it. You should know by now how much you will be making monthly, how much your expenses will be, and how much your student loan minimum will be each month. Once you know for sure where your money is going each month, then you can see where you can cut things out. For example, I realized I was spending about $250 each month on eating out when I first tracked my spending. That was a huge reality check for me. This is going to take some time and don’t think you’re going to have your budget set right away. Take the time to make it work for you and don’t rush the process.

2. Save a small emergency fund.

This needs to be a personal choice for you and what you are comfortable with having in case something comes up. I personally have about a month of expenses in a savings account I don’t touch, unless an emergency comes up that I need to use it for. An emergency would be something you can’t plan for, like your car dying. It’s not meant for regular budgeted items, like clothes or food. If you want to go shopping or eat out, put it in your budget!

3. Create a payoff plan for your student loans.

Creating a payoff plan for your student loans is super important to getting them gone ASAP. Without a plan, you won’t know what to prioritize or what you need to do. I personally use undebt.it to plan my debt payoff. It’s wonderful, and allows you to pick what strategy you want to use. It even tells you how each plan will change your debt free date. The things you will need to do this is to have your individual account details (amount, interest rate, minimum, etc.), and know how much extra you can put towards your debt realistically based on your budget.

4. Adjust as life changes.

The most important part of a budget is to constantly adjust it as your life and priorities change. Your budget should change as your life changes. This allows you to be in control of your money versus your money being in control of you. In the beginning, it definitely feels like your money controls you because you’re probably sending a lot of money to your lenders. I know for me, most of my income went to my debt minimums when I first graduated and it was hard. But, I knew as I paid off more, the control would come back to me.

As you continue post grad, it will get easier as you get more comfortable with the process. No matter your circumstances after graduation, there are options to make things easier for you financially. There is never a one size fits all when it comes to finances and ultimately you need to make your decisions personal. With that being said, if you have any questions about getting your budget together or creating a plan to pay off debt, feel free to email me with any and all questions! How did you tackle your student loans after graduation?

Debt

Mini Series Part 3: How to Tackle Your Student Loans

In this four part mini series you will find all the tips to tackle your student loans regardless of where you are in the process. Student loans affect almost everyone now, which is a very sad reality. From the time a person graduates high school, it’s usually an issue in their life. So, I’m starting this mini series with tips for before you go to college and ending it with tips for after you graduate and have entered repayment.

Mini Series Part 1: Before You Go to College

Mini Series Part 2: While You’re in School

Mini Series Part 4: After You Graduate

Tackle Student Loans Part 3

Graduation is right around the corner and you can’t wait to finally get out on your own and live the post-grad life. You have a job already lined up and just need to pass your last finals before crossing the stage. But you have student loans that you’ve accumulated over the years and need to get those in order before graduation. I know, most of them have grace periods and you have time to figure it out. However, there are benefits to making sure your ducks are all in a row before leaving campus.

1. Find out about loan forgiveness programs
There are a few loan forgiveness programs out there for federal loans, especially if you are a teacher or public worker. Like I said, federal loans are the way to go. Take out as much in federal loans before you go to private loans because they have so many options for you, even forgiveness.

2. Talk to a financial aid advisor
This might sound strange, why would you talk to a financial aid advisor when you’re done with school. You probably never want to think about financial aid ever again! However, the advisors at your school can help with a lot of other things. I set up a meeting with my advisor before my masters graduation to discuss paying back my federal and private loans and to go over my TEACH grant requirements. She even was able to give me some advice on refinancing my student loans, something that I wasn’t quite sure about.

3. Find out when repayment begins
This is crucial and something I did not do, which I regret. For federal loans, they most likely have a six month grace period. You should be able to find this out when you complete your exit counseling before graduation. Private loans are trickier, which is where I messed up. I didn’t need to complete exit counseling for my private loans and didn’t know when they entered repayment. My private loans had no grace period, so shortly after graduation my first student loan bill arrived. What a wonderful way to say congratulations, huh? I was in shock when I found out, especially when I owed $1,400 in a month on an income of about $1,100/month during grad school. I was running all over campus and calling the loan company constantly to explain that I was beginning grad school. After about 2 weeks of stress, I finally got my private loans deferred due to being a full time student. Don’t make my mistake, call to find out when your repayment begins so that you’re prepared.

4. Draft a budget

Start putting together a draft of a budget for when you graduate and start working. You probably won’t know your exact take home, but you can make an estimate based on your salary and definitely be sure to low ball your take home. This way when you actually make your budget, you’ll have more money than expected. List out all of the expenses you know you will have and see if you can realistically afford everything. This was the time when I completely changed my post grad plans. I realized my income wouldn’t support me moving out and my minimum student loan payment, so I made plans to move back to my parent’s house.

It’s not usually something you want to think about before you graduate college, but it’s important to have some things figured out. This will save you a lot of stress after graduation and allow you to set yourself up for a hopefully easier student loan payoff. How do you plan to prepare for your student loans before you graduate?

Debt

Mini Series Part 2: How to Tackle Your Student Loans

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

In this four part mini series you will find all the tips to tackle your student loans regardless of where you are in the process. Student loans affect almost everyone now, which is a very sad reality. From the time a person graduates high school, it’s usually an issue in their life. So, I’m starting this mini series with tips for before you go to college and ending it with tips for after you graduate and have entered repayment.

Mini Series Part 1: Before You Go to College

Mini Series Part 3: Before You Graduate

Mini Series Part 4: After You Graduate

How to Tackle Your Student Loans 2

When I was in undergrad I didn’t even think about my student loans. I pretended they didn’t exist and didn’t think about just how much I was digging myself into debt. It was a horrible mistake and I regret it immensely. I let my parents handle my loan stuff and just worked hard at school, not thinking about how I was able to go to such an incredible university. So, take some advice from me and don’t do what I did while you’re in school.

1. Get a job, or jobs!
I had SO much down time in college, especially my freshman year when I didn’t work. I averaged 15-18 credits every semester while also doing hours at local elementary schools averaging 30 hours each week. I usually had time for a job. When I was in a semester that required hours at a school, I was able to work on the weekends, but it was definitely a lot harder than when I wasn’t doing those hours. My last semester senior year I was able to take 15 credits while working anywhere from 20-30 hours each week, and I was able to enjoy my last semester of undergrad. It’s possible, you just need to manage your time. In the long run, it greatly helps with your loans and I wish I started paying mine off while I was in undergrad, instead of grad school.

2. Make payments in school toward the principal
I started making loan payments when I was in grad school and I wish I had started in undergrad. I didn’t make any crazy payments, I was only making about $1,100 each month, but I could usually put a couple hundred towards my loans. Any little bit you can put towards your loans really helps. The little amounts really add up after some time. If you can make payments towards your loan, make sure you are putting it towards the principal. This makes your debt accumulate less interest in the long run, allowing you to save more money. Of course, if you can make payments towards the principal and the interest, do it.

3. Check your loans
I never checked my loans ever in undergrad. I ignored them, like I said earlier. I had no idea how much interest was accumulating, until I checked them when I was in grad school and I became serious about my debt. Seeing how much interest was accumulating was enough motivation for me to get serious about paying off my debt. I realized I was just losing more and more money by not paying attention to them. It’s hard to really understand how much interest is accumulating, but there are ways to easily see it. I use undebt.it to help me plan my loan repayment. Once you put in all of your loans it shows you how much interest is accumulating each day. This was shocking for me! I couldn’t believe how much interest was being added each day to my debt, this is what really motivated me to get serious about paying off my student loans.

4.Keep looking for scholarships
Every year you should be looking into scholarships and applying to them. Some schools offers scholarships only for sophomores or upperclassmen. These are perfect to apply to because a lot of people don’t know about them or don’t want to be bothered applying to them. I definitely regret not looking for scholarships while I was an undergrad.

I made the huge mistake of ignoring my debt until I was in grad school. If I could go back in time, I would definitely think about my debt and use these tips to make my burden a little less now. How were you able to tackle your student loans while you were in school?

Debt

Mini Series Part 1: How to Tackle Your Student Loans

In this four part mini series you will find all the tips to tackle your student loans regardless of where you are in the process. Student loans affect almost everyone now, which is a very sad reality. From the time a person graduates high school, it’s usually an issue in their life. So, I’m starting this mini series with tips for before you go to college and ending it with tips for after you graduate and have entered repayment.

Mini Series Part 2: While You’re in School

Mini Series Part 3: Before You Graduate

Mini Series Part 4: After You Graduate

Mini Series Part 1_ How to Tackle Your Student Loans
Before I went to college, I had no idea I would end up having roughly $200k in student loans 5 years and 2 degrees later. My parents always told me that I would need to take out some loans, but they were going to able to help me with school. Unfortunately, they couldn’t help me with school as much as I thought. I’m not saying I expected my degrees to be paid for by my parents, I never once expected them to give me a dime, until they told me they would. Here are a few things I wish I had known and done before I began my higher education and student loan journey.

1. Know your financial situation completely

This is the biggest one for me. I did not fully know my parents financial situation and didn’t ask for details about what it meant for them to help with school. Unfortunately, I did not get much financial aid because the FAFSA is filed based on your parents income and finances, not mine. This is why it is so important to understand how your education will be paid for. Don’t do what I did and not ask questions. Be specific with your parents about how this is getting paid for. This is a HUGE financial decision and since it’s all based on your parents finances (usually), it’s important to understand how it will be paid for.

2. Seek out advice on filling out the FAFSA

Usually your high school has someone to talk to about filling out the form, but it is best to talk to an expert on how to fill the form out. It’s a pretty straight forward form, but there’s some things they don’t need to know and other things they absolutely need to know. My best advice is to seek out an expert on what the form absolutely needs to have on it because it determines how much financial aid you are going to get. Unfortunately, my mom took responsibility for all of this for me, which at the time was wonderful for me, I didn’t need to deal with it. But once my sister and I received practically no financial aid, we talked to an expert. He quickly told us we provided a lot of unnecessary information, which made our financial situation look very different from what it actually was.

3. Choose your university wisely

If I could go back to when I was applying to colleges, and knew what I know now, I might not have picked the university I went to. It’s very hard to say that after the amazing program I went through. However, it was incredibly expensive and far from home. I could have gone to a closer university and commuted, saving me a lot of money. Of course, I went to a university that has the #1 program for teaching, so would I have landed a teaching job so quickly after graduation had I not done the program, that’s the tricky part. You will never know what will happen in the future, but my advice to you is to avoid having to go into a ton of debt, like I’m currently in.

4. Apply to every scholarship you can find

I made the mistake of not applying to a lot of scholarships because I thought I had no chance of getting it. What I have learned since then is that some scholarships aren’t given out because no one applied to them. That could have been money for my college education. I learned in grad school that you NEED to tell people your situation in order to get the help you need. In our society people don’t talk about their debt or financial situation, but that’s exactly what you need to do. Once I confided in the grad recruiter that I was drowning in debt, she called the right people and within a week I had an email saying I earned a scholarship. Of course, I had done a lot of work for my school in undergrad and my grad studies at that point, which definitely paid off.

5. Take out the maximum amount of federal loans you can before private

Federal and private loans are very different. Federal loans have some loan forgiveness programs, usually lower interest rates and offer a bunch of options for repayment. Private loans have no forgiveness options usually, limited or no payment options, and usually very high interest rates. Stick with federal loans if you can, you’ll be happy you did when repayment time comes along!

The next part of this mini series will explain some tips for when you’re in school. What are some tips you have for tackling student loans before you start school?

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

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

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?