My question is about balancing saving, spending, and debt repayment. I struggle with deciding how much to spend on myself and things I enjoy, and how much to save when I have student debt I want gone. I’ve got $22K in student loans (no other debt), $5K in emergency savings, and $32K in retirement accounts. I feel rather safe with my current savings levels, but am considering stopping retirement contributions for a year as I won’t have an employer match for that amount of time. But is this wise?
On the spending side, I do not want to burn out. I’m projecting paying off the debt completely in 1.5 years, which isn’t a long amount of time, but I’m 25 and I want to live life — travel, eat at yummy restaurants, explore my city, take yoga teacher training, etc. What would you recommend? Right now, I’m trying to only spend $200 per month on non essentials, but even that feels low (some months, other months I’ve got crazy motivation to kill the debt). How do I find balance? Do I just keep my head down for a year and a half and get it done?
There’s no question that student loans are completely overwhelming for a majority of people (they were for me). We’re all encouraged to get higher educations, take on massive amounts of debt when we’re fresh out of high school (at an age when most of us can’t even begin to fathom the amount of student loans we’re happily signing up for) in hopes of an amazing future (I eagerly did it!). Fast forward to 6 months after graduation and you’re obligated to start paying back the loans. Things go fine for awhile but reality soon hits when you see that the majority of your income is going to pay back your student loans.
So how do you continue to trudge along paying off the student loans while not getting discouraged in the process, and come out victorious over those big ol’ debts? I’m happy to report that there is a new tool that will help…
With national student loan debt exceeding credit card debt in 2012, SimpleTuition decided to create a unique new rewards program to help the 38 million Americans pay down their student loan debt faster. The new rewards program is called SmarterBucks and it is innovative. The program is completely free and gives users cash-back on their everyday purchases that go directly towards paying down student loans. Whether it’s through purchases online through their Marketplace, taking branding surveys, financial literacy quizzes, or day-to-day spending using the SmarterBank Visa debit card, SmarterBucks users earn rewards on the money they are already spending to help them pay down their student debt faster.
The Marketplace has hundreds of brands that can earn members anywhere from 1-16% with online purchases.
2. Gifted rewards from family and friends
Family and friends can sign up for SmarterBucks and SmarterBank and gift any earned rewards to the recipient of their choice. A SmarterBucks member can have as many Gifters as they want.
3. Contributions from family and friends
SmarterBucks members can invite family and friends to make one-time or recurring monthly contributions from their credit/debit card that goes directly toward paying down that member’s designated student loan.
4. SmarterBank® Visa® Debit Card
With the (optional) SmarterBank Visa Debit Card, members will earn SmarterBucks rewards on all non-PIN purchases that they make with the card.
5. SmarterBucks Exclusives
Special offers, often arranged directly with the merchant, offers discounts that can’t be found in the SmarterBucks Marketplace.
6. Monthly SmarterBucks Giveaway
Every month all SmarterBucks members are automatically entered to win anywhere from $1,000-$2,500 in SmarterBucks. (Love this!)
Do your student loans weigh you down and how are you conquering them?
This is a sponsored post but as always, my opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that help make this site possible! xo!
Today I’m happy to share Jeena Cho’s story with you. She borrowed over 100k for student loans and she’s figured out a way to knock out her debt. Jeena’s top 4 tips are below.
“At 21, borrowing $100,000+ for law school seemed like a no-brainer. After all, once I land that job at that fancy law firm, with my fancy office, with my fancy house, car and wardrobe, earning a six-figure salary, repaying $100,000 should be easy. Right?
For the first seven years after graduation, all I managed to do was prolong the cycle of debt. As long as I was making the monthly minimum payments and keeping all the balls in the air, I was doing great. My life was all about living a lifestyle suitable for a lawyer, filled with nice things.
When my husband and I got married, we sat down and took stock of our finances. Seeing our numbers in black and white, on paper was a real eye opener. So, we sharpened our pencils and got to work. In the past 2 years, we paid off about half our student loans. Yes, about $50,000!
Check out my guest post over at Ms. JD. It’s all about staying on budget while maintaining a social life.
While I’m (obviously) not an attorney and while I don’t have a Juris Doctorate degree either I get to meet a lot (a ton) of lawyers because of job as a clerk for the state. Sometimes it feels like everyone I know is a lawyer. So often I hear about people graduating law school with $100,000 – $150,000 in student loans. Now that is an intense amount of debt, and it makes my $40,000 photo school education feel like a bargain.
It’s all relative right.
I get to meet a lot of law school students too, and the cost of law school inevitably comes up. The choice has to get made: do you get an education in your desired field and hope you can get a job that pays enough for the cost of the education upon graduation or do you not?
If you don’t want the loans you don’t get the education and then you don’t even get a shot at getting your dream job. More times than not people take on the loans and hope for the best. No one’s gonna say, “Yeah, I’m not good enough” or “I won’t get the job I need to get to pay for those loans.” Maybe it happens but not often, and wouldn’t it be completely counter-culture to do here in America? Nobody says they can’t. We all say “We Can!” and “Not only can we, we’ll be the best.”
Hearing about those overwhelming feelings that come with having such a hugely abstract amount of educational debt sucks. I was trying to think of a better way to put it but that’s it- it just sucks.
Education remains a great investment though, and while getting those loans paid off is a daunting task it’s one worth tackling asap to keep the interest from accruing and resulting in an even more expensive education.
What do you think about the state and cost of education in our country? Is a higher education a worthy and neccesary investment? Do you consider student loans “good debt”? What if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, should you go to college anyway?
For this week’s Gettin’ Guesty the lovely Hana Shipman of the blog Sticks and Stones has joined us!
Back in college Hana went to Ghana and it was that trip that launched her into credit card debt. Hana says that she “came back with a completely different view on our country’s obsession with consumption. It was a crash course in how wasteful we are as Americans – and our culture only encourages it.” She goes on to say that “Ghanaians taught me that you can be just as happy and fulfilled with very little.”
This is my kind of girl!
Scroll on down for her essay…
image courtesy of the author
I was going to Ghana, Africa.
I knew from the moment I saw the flyer on my college campus. It was a new study abroad opportunity to see the firsthand effects of colonialism and the Atlantic slave trade. How amazing would that be?
Problem was, I had no money, but I found a way to make it “work” – or so I thought. I applied for a credit card and got approved just in time to charge $2,000 for my plane ticket. It was the first leap of debt I had taken outside of my student loans. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last.
Despite my excitement, I had a hard time adjusting to life in Ghana. Aside from swapping Seattle’s dreary climate for equatorial temperatures in the middle of December, the many privileges I took for granted became immediately obvious. Here are just some:
If you are hungry, you don’t get to choose between sushi, burritos, pizza, or any other food craving. Eating is for survival and you eat what’s available to you. We ate chicken, rice, and plantains for almost every meal.
If you are making chicken for dinner, it is still clucking and pecking when you purchase it.
You barter for most goods in public markets. If you’re not good at bartering, you are getting ripped off.
If you need water in a rural area, you fetch it from a lake or a river. If you’re lucky, you live near a well. If you are in the city, you can use the water from the faucets, but you risk getting sick. Many drink bags (not bottles) of water that cost a few cents (and even those taste funky sometimes).
There is no such thing as the garbage man. Trash is burned or thrown on the ground. Litter is everywhere.
Many homes in rural Ghana are made of mud. During rainy season, families struggle to keep their homes erect and many have to rebuild each season. In urban areas, entire families live in what look like sheds. Most are no bigger than a one-car garage, if that.
Electricity is not always readily available. At one hotel, there was only electricity from a generator between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Get used to constantly sweating and smelling like an armpit – there is no air conditioning anywhere.
Ghanaians are forced to live within their means, and they work very hard for what they do have. There are extremely wealthy people in Ghana, but there is not much of a middle class. You are either a “have” or a “have not.” Most people are the latter.
image courtesy of author
Yet those I encountered were very pleasant. They appreciated their possessions in a way that many Americans don’t. They used their belongings until they were completely worn out. If something broke, they fixed it. If it was beyond repair, they made do without it. There was no other option. Items weren’t replaced because a new, shiny version was available. It was wasteful and too expensive. Ghanaians taught me that you can be just as happy and fulfilled with very little.
I’d like to say I immediately changed my ways when I returned, but the truth is, it didn’t take long to settle back into old habits – in fact they got worse. Now that I had this new credit card, I was living beyond my means and charging everything to it. By graduation, I was in $10,000 of credit card debt and my trip to Ghana still wasn’t paid for.
I struggled for four years to curb my spending habits – I would pay off a big amount only to spend it again.
Last year, I reached my breaking point. My debt was starting to affect my ability to afford necessary expenses. It was time to commit to change. I hid my credit cards, budgeted for larger monthly payments, used my tax returns to pay down debt, and most importantly, became a frugal shopper. A year later, the $10,000 is paid off.
I never regret going to Ghana, only how I paid to get there (and the tornado of bad spending decisions that followed). I am planning my second, big international trip for the end of this year and can’t wait to have more eye-opening experiences. Armed with better spending habits, I will be paying it all in cash.
Hana Shipman •THANK YOU• for being a part of And Then We Saved!
If you have something to say on a topic related to personal finance or getting out of debt send me an email at: Hello@AndThenWeSaved.com to be considered as a Gettin’ Guesty columnist. xo Anna
I feel like I say this every week, but I have to because it’s true: we have yet ANOTHER great contributor this week for Gettin’ Guesty!
Feelin’ pretty lucky up in here.
Please help me welcome:
He’s the very first gent to share his story here on And Then She Saved and I’m so happy he’s joined us. Hey, I’m all about equal opportunity and man, woman, girl, boy, don’t matter, money and financial issues abound for us all, am I right!?
Money issues don’t discriminate one bit.
Michael tells us all about his financial struggles, and how he’s overcome them.
And to that I have to shout out, “Bravo! Bravo!”
(Also, I hear that it’s his birthday tomorrow! Happy Early B-day!)
image by Keith Huang. diggin’ this photograph!
My story is familiar to many: I have a lot of debt. At my peak, I had $140,000 in student loans and $9000 in credit card debt. In the last six months, I’ve cut my credit card debt in half. Although I will still have my student loans for many years, it feels good to know that by this fall, I will have no more credit card debt.
The most significant way I have paid down my debt was to change the way I spent. I had to do more than simply say, “I’m not going to buy these things.” I had to permanently change my spending habits. It’s like going on a diet to lose weight. Eat nothing but grapefruits and you will lose weight. But is this sustainable? What should I do if I craved a hamburger and fries? What could I do to make sure the weight-loss was permanent? I would have to adopt a different way of thinking with regards to how I spent.
There are things I want and there are things I need. I need to pay off my credit card so as I started making larger monthly payments. Then I pay all my essential bills and I cling on to my money and make sure that I don’t use my credit card at all until my next paycheck.
And I want so many things. I could easily spend hundreds of dollars at the comic store. I want an iPad and a cable TV subscription with all the fixings. I want an expensive gym membership, a personal trainer, and large amounts of protein so I can become a huge man. I want to be able to follow any whim like, “I want a deluxe cheeseburger and three beers,” and then go out and get it. For awhile, I was indulging in many of these things, but I couldn’t do them all without using my credit card. Some things had to be cut. And for some things, I would find other ways to do them.
Now I cook at home and bring my lunch to work. I carry snacks with me so I won’t buy food on impulse. My girlfriend and I often make dinner or we’ll take turns if we order out. I eat more things like plain oatmeal, rice, beans, fresh fruits, and vegetables; these are very nutritious and are not expensive (especially at a grocery store like Trader Joe’s). I used to drink a lot of Diet Coke, but not so much anymore. If I drink coffee, I make it at home or drink the free coffee at work. I don’t buy coffee at coffee shops (unless I have a desire to be tweaked, but for the most part, I rein in my tweak desires). When I reached my goal weight, I ended my gym membership. I plan on finding other ways of working out; for example, I just got a deal on a month of Bikram yoga, which was cheaper than a month of my gym membership. I go to the library for books and music. I haven’t bought new clothes in a while. A few months ago, my black shoes fell apart and I thought about getting new shoes. Then I thought, “Let me alternate between the four pairs of shoes I have and when they all konk out, I will get new shoes.” I have seen a few shows, been out to eat with my girlfriend, and had occasional nights out, but I have been able to do so without being broke before my next paycheck.
These little changes in how I spend aren’t revolutionary. They take some getting used to, but they haven’t been that difficult. It takes awareness and a different frame of mind. I realize someone could say, “Hey, is that all?!” or “Hey, I can’t live like that! I need X and Y!” For me, it’s simple accounting: this is how much I make, this is how much I can give to my debt, and this is how much I have at the end of the month. What compromises can I make so I don’t add to my debt, but that I’m still satisfied, healthy, and happy? I can exist with sacrifices, but deprivation can be draining. Every day is a little struggle, but I breathe a little easier.
Michael Newman ● THANK YOU ● for being a part of And Then She Saved!
If you would like to be considered as a contributor for Gettin’ Guesty send me an email at: Hello@AndThenSheSaved.com
Hi, I'm Anna! I paid off close to 24k in debt in only 15 months & it completely changed my life! I want you to have a debt-free life too so here you'll be able to read all about: How to do a Spending Fast®, saving & making more money, DIY's, & a lot about living awesomely with less. Also! We're building a Tiny House and we're going to be on Tiny House Nation. Follow along!!
⭐︎Come back throughout the day for updates.
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