Category Archives: Getting out of Debt

How to Get Ahead when your Monthly Income = Monthly Expenses

The main goal of earning an income is equaling (and exceeding) your monthly expenses. When your income and your expenses are equal, it ensures that you can pay all of your bills but leaves you little to no additional money leftover for other activities or things that require payment. But what if your income is less than your monthly expenses? How do you get out of that mess and start enjoying life a little bit more? The chart below lists some quick and easy ways to cut expenses to give yourself a bigger cash cushion at the end of each month.

Expenses to Cut

1. Cable. Cutting cable is the fastest and easiest way to decrease your monthly expenses. On average, you can save $30-$75 PER MONTH when you say goodbye to cable. That’s an impressive $360-$900 per year that you can put toward debt or other smart investments. The compromise is to cut cable but keep internet and order a subscription to Netflix or HuluPlus.

2. Internet. Internet may be hard to cut because it’s so versatile, but you may live near a coffee shop or restaurant that offers free Wi-Fi. Maybe you can even start reading a new book instead or thinking about what you can do with that extra $30 per month.

3. Spending Money. Decreasing spending money is an easy but painful way to save money. Cut out two happy hours, two nights of eating out, and 3 fast food runs to save $60-$75 per month. I’m sure you’ll see your scale decrease a few lbs too J

4. Utilities. Start being mindful of how much energy you’re using. Keep the lights off when it’s light outside, suffer a little in those warm or cold months by keeping your house a few degrees warmer, and take showers that are 3 minutes shorter than normal. Simple changes in your everyday routines can help save you hundreds per year.

5. Grocery Money. “Beans and rice and rice and beans” is Dave Ramsey’s motto for your grocery fund when you’re paying off debt. I don’t know about you but I love food and couldn’t live on a few staple ingredients for a few years. Try cutting your grocery money envelope by $30 initially. After a few months, cut it by another $30. When you have less money to spend, it’s incredible how you find ways to save or “go without”.

6. Avoid overdraft fees/late fees. Pay attention to when your bills are coming out. Put your bills in your phone calendar with the amount being taken out and an alarm that alerts you 2 days before that bill is due. When you know what is coming out and when, you’ll make sure to have money in your account to pay those bills. If you don’t have enough money in your account to pay all of your bills when they’re due, prioritize. Which bills have penalties for being late? Which bills don’t apply penalties initially? Use these tips to help you decrease your monthly expenses or find a way to increase your income.

7. Get a Roommate. If you live alone, you may want to consider finding a roommate. Living alone can cost $300 more per month than living with someone else. Chances are you can find a nicer space to live if you split the bill with a roommate. Not only does having a roommate impact your rent, but it cuts all of your utilities in half as well!

8. 1-payment plans. If you budget correctly, you can save money and eliminate a continuous monthly expense when you choose a 1-payment plan for bills like auto insurance. I like only having to pay twice a year toward my insurance. If you’re not able to do that, try to pay in as few payments as possible to avoid processing fees.

Expenses to Cut Picture

Picture is a courtesy of blog.hirevelocity.com.

For more information on starting a personal budget, check out our Getting Started tab at the top of the page.

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25 Reasons Being in Debt Sucks

Hi, my name is Brittany, and I am in debt...and it sucks. There are days in my life when I take a look at myself or my home and think, “Are you f@#!ing kidding me?” Because it’s hard to stay positive and pumped up about doing what’s best (and usually the most difficult) all the time, I present to you the current movie that has been on repeat in my brain for the past couple of weeks: 25 Reasons Being in Debt Sucks...hard.

1. Saying goodbye to all my housewives and Bravo as we have made the decision to ditch our cable services—I will need to find a new way to kill my brain cells.

Photo Cred: www.bravotv.com I am getting a little Ramotional about leaving all my housewives behind...Somewhere my fiance is cheering and jumping for joy

Photo Cred: www.bravotv.com I am getting a little Ramotional about leaving all my housewives behind…Somewhere my fiance is cheering and jumping for joy

2. Temporarily living in the ‘burbs.

3. Ugly office supplies and bare walls behind my desk. Upon learning that I was going to be working primarily with middle schoolers this year, I made the choice to spend my money on snacks and items to bribe them—I mean motivate them—with, instead of spending it on cute desk items to up my chic teacher cred. I’m a little disappointed in myself for being worthy of winning the ugliest classroom award, but I stand by my choice. Smarties and Skittles for president!

4.Busted Luggage

Yes, my luggage is torn, dirty, and I think the boning on the inside is actually worse.

Yes, my luggage is torn, dirty, and I think the boning on the inside is actually worse.

5. Cheap mascara and putting off makeup purchases in general—it’s what’s on the inside that counts, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, it’s what’s on the inside that counts..

6. At 27 years old my cupboard is filled with hand-me-down, mismatched mugs and glasses.

Sparse cupboard filled with mismatched glasses and mugs...at least I'm not a hoarder.

Sparse cupboard filled with mismatched glasses and mugs…at least it’s clear that I’m not a hoarder.

7. Wearing 2 older sports bras during my cardio workouts instead of using $40 to just buy one that can support my ladies all by itself.

8. Speaking of workouts…goodbye consistent gym membership.

workouts

Not the most well-stocked gym, but you can’t beat no membership fee

9. Still contemplating buying a quality, nice swimsuit…12 months later. Maybe the summer of 2014 will be the one to get an upgrade…

10. Renting a home instead of owning one.

11. Nosebleed seats at sporting events.

Going to sporting events is fun no matter where you sit, but I know it's better when you are closer

Going to sporting events is fun no matter where you sit, but I know it’s better when you are closer

12. There is no such thing as “retail therapy” in my life.

13. Crying over a shattered coffee pot and having to temporarily downgrade to one teeny tiny pot still in storage from my bachelorette days when I was drinking coffee solo on the weekends…The crying ceased when I discovered I can get a replacement pot for less than $15. Also, I’ve been telling myself (and my fiancé) that there must have been some other stressors testing my tear ducts….right? Right?!?!
coffee pot

14. Watching the World Cup from my couch instead of heading to Brazil this summer.

15. My yoga studio looks a whole lot like my patio…oh wait, it is my patio. Talk about testing your mindfulness and ability to meditate.

16.Guess who has the pleasure of up keeping my manis and pedis 98% of the time—ME!
nails

17. Ugly windows, part one: I have not purchased curtains for this huge window in our dining nook.

This window is so ugly, it is a two-fer on my list.

This window is so ugly, it is a two-fer on my list.

18. Ugly windows, part two: I broke the cheap ugly blinds in March… it’s nearly June, and they are still there.

19. Fresh flowers only make their way into our home when they are gifted to me. Sometimes it’s hard for me to say goodbye.

In my defense, they were alive before I took a Memorial day vacation.

In my defense, they were alive before I took a Memorial day vacation.

20. Waiting for movies to become available at RedBox before I get to watch them.

21. Stalking my favorite clothes, jewelry, shoes, décor items, etc. to purchase them after they go on sale…or stomp my feet because they sold out before then.

22. I am working with some seriously mismatched and tattered towels. My face is actually turning red from embarrassment as I think about sharing this picture with the world.
towels

23. Sentimental artwork and no frames purchased to showcase them on our walls.

artwork

24. Spa day consists of exfoliating my own face and begging my fiancé for a foot rub. “Professional” massages usually happen about once a year (Happy Birthday to me!)

25. STRESS!!!!!


 

Number 25 really is the sum of all sucky parts of being debt combined into one dirty, little word. Constantly making an effort to be on your A game is stressful, and if I don’t check myself (or get reality checked by Sam or my fiance) I let the silly little things turn me into a giant stick in the mud, so it’s important to vent and move on :)

What keeps me going is knowing that all things on this list are temporary because I am on my way to getting out of debt in a few short years. Missing out on them during this short chapter of my life will have a HUGE positive impact on what I can do for myself and others in the near future when all of my debt is gone. Plus, I can still spend time with people I love doing things that I love for free–like climbing this mountain!!!

Right now I have to pick and choose when it comes to managing my finances, and I chose a tank of gas to get to this beautiful place over curtains to hide my ugly, broken blinds.

Right now I have to pick and choose when it comes to managing my finances, and I chose a tank of gas to get to this beautiful place over curtains to hide my ugly, broken blinds.

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 Brittany

Student Loan Repayment Options and What They Really Mean

 Below explains each Student Loan Repayment Plan as described by the Department of Education and my explanation. Be sure to look at the bottom of the page for tips and resources on student loan information!

Repayment Standard

Repayment Graduated

Repayment Extended

Repayment Income Based

Click on image for full size.

Repayment Income Contingent

Repayment Income Sensitive

Repayment Pay As Earn

Other Helpful Tips:

  • Feel free to choose the standard repayment plan or another repayment plan you feel comfortable with and qualify for. The good news is that if you can’t afford your monthly payments, simply call your loan provider and they will lower your monthly payments. This, of course, means that if you continue to pay low monthly payments toward your loan you will pay more overall due to interest. Lowering your payments should be an EMERGENCY ONLY situation.
  • Don’t be afraid to call your loan provider and discuss each option with them so that YOU get the best payment plan that works for your lifestyle.
  • REMEMBER: Whatever payment plan you choose and how low your set monthly payment is, you are always able to pay higher monthly payments to decrease the amount of time and money (toward interest) that you will have to pay.
  • For example: If you choose a plan that fits your monthly budget, but expands your payment terms across 30 years, don’t hesitate to choose that plan. As your income increases and you perfect your budget, you can make higher monthly payments, decreasing your total loan terms and total amount paid.
  • If you pay extra, be sure to pay toward your principal balance insuring that your total balance will decrease resulting in an overall decrease in your total interest paid.

The ultimate goal is to pay extra toward your student loans monthly and pay them off as quickly as possible!

Don’t let this be you…

Repayment Pic

Resources:

https://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/plans

https://www.mygreatlakes.org/borrower/fiq/repayment-step2decide.html#

For more information on starting a personal budget, check out our Getting Started tab at the top of the page.

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Sam

What is your Debt Domination Style? Take the Quiz to Find Out!

What is your Debt Repayment Style, and more importantly how will that affect your future?

Take this short quiz to find out–Write your answers on a piece of paper and add up your total at the end to find out if you dominate your debt or if you are letting your debt dominate you!

Debt Domination Quiz questions

Answer Key

  1. A-1, B-3, C-2
  2. A-3, B-2, C-1
  3. A-1, B-2, C-3
  4. A-3, B-1, C-2
  5. A-2, B-1, C-3

13-15 points: Fast and Fierce – If your scores landed you in this category, congratulations you are on a path that will soon make debt a distant memory! You know life will be better without debt, and you are taking the steps necessary to eliminate it as quickly as possible. Keep throwing as much as you can towards each debt—one at a time—and watch yourself knock them out quickly!

8-12 points: Motivated without a Map – If your points combined brought you into this area of middle ground, you hope to get out of debt sooner rather than later but are lacking a solid plan. Sometimes you make excellent informed decisions that will help you eliminate debt more quickly, and other times you choose to plead ignorance as you follow in the footsteps of many debt-burdened people who have walked this path before you. You have an internal conflict of interest—you can either choose to accept that debt will be an unfortunate part of your life for tens of years, or you can choose to live below your means now, join the nerds and energizer bunnies who are “fast and fierce”, and focus on debt intensely for a small portion of your life so you and your family can live free of financial burdens for many, many years to come!

5-7 points: Crippled and Clueless – If you found your total score placed you in this category, you’ve got a serious rain cloud of debt hovering over your head, and although it’s annoying, you’d rather stand beneath it with a holey umbrella than walk a couple of blocks to get out of the rain completely. Not only does accepting debt as a way of life stress you out mentally, emotionally, and financially, it stops you from having the freedom to partake in many of life’s great adventures. Getting informed and motivated will help get you out of this funk. Check out our posts on motivation and getting started for some go-getter ideas!


Now that you have determined your debt domination style, it’s time to look into our crystal ball to see the HUGE impact it has on your financial future, I have used a debt calculator to display how 3 different debt repayment plans can begin at an identical starting point and finish in dramatically different places.

THE SCENARIO

A recent college graduate is starting her new life with $50,000 of student loan debt. Her minimum monthly payments are $400, and the loan has an interest rate of 7%.

 future based on debt repaymet style

If you are still skeptical about paying your debts off as quickly as possible, take a look at the bolded portions of the tables that highlight the drastic difference in amounts paid towards interest and years of your life spent owing someone money. Because of the work we do on the blog, I look at these hypothetical debt situations all the time, but it never ceases to blow my mind how much money is wasted when only minimum payments are made on outstanding debts!

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Brittany

 

 

 

 

 

I’m on a Budget…I’m NOT Poor!

The Definition: There is a HUGE misconception about the word “budget” and what it means. The dictionary definition of the word budget is “an amount of money available for spending that is based on a plan for how it will be spent”. I want to point out the key words of this definition:

  • Money
  • Available
  • Spending
  • Plan

Rich people (or people who are debt free, can pay all their bills every month and have extra to spend on whatever they’d like) are rich because they make money and don’t spend it ALL.  This is an extremely easy concept that has somehow been lost on most people in their 20’s.

  • Tracking how much you spend AFTER you spent it is NOT A BUDGET (I made that mistake for 2 years before I finally figured it out).
  • A budget IS a spending limit set BEFORE the money is spent.

people on a budget 2

Everyone, from the hourly paid worker to the multi-millionaire, is on a budget. Each budget looks different, but it’s still a PLAN for how their money is SPENT in relation to their INCOME.

Follow the Leader: One thing that Dave Ramsey talks about that really resonates with me is the type of people to follow. He says that you should learn from the people who have already made it.  For example, if you want to learn how to get rich, talk to a rich person.  If you want to learn how to lose weight, talk to a thin person. Sometimes in our 20’s we decide to follow our friends, most of who are not on a budget and not spending their money in a way that will eliminate debt now and build wealth in the future.

What not to say budget 2

I Love my Budget. I love talking about it, looking at it, working on it, fixing it…everything! I’m proud to be on a budget that is helping me reach my financial goals and become debt free 24-25 years sooner than my loan term indicates.

myth vs. fact 2

Get a Written Budget: If you want to be in a different place, financially, get on a budget and be proud of it. Maybe you want to feel like a “balla” and buy a car with cash in the next two years. Maybe you want to save up for a down payment for a house. Maybe you want to be debt free. Maybe you want to build your savings account. Whatever it is that you’re trying to do financially, you CANNOT DO WITHOUT A BUDGET! It won’t happen!

“A budget tells your money where to go instead of wondering where it went”. –Dave Ramsey

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Sam

How to Deal when Debt Tests your Patience

Paying off debt takes a lot of determination and in some cases a LOT of patience as well, but we are all human here and let’s be real–sometimes that patience wears thin. The question is, can it wear so thin that you decide to take your entire paycheck immediately after it’s deposited into your account and combine that with a “little” from your emergency savings in order to reach your goal? That doesn’t sound like the best idea, buuuut I did it anyway. 😉 I was so determined to pay my car loan off by the end of February that I just HAD to do it. I was SOOOO close…like $200 away close, and I could not be stopped.

What happened when my PATIENCE ran out:

  • I moved $600 from emergency savings to checking to cover the payoff deficit and provide a little checking account buffer.
  • Put down $1,818 (combined money from my entire paycheck and transfered from emergency fund) to fully pay off my car loan (!!!!) a year early!
  • $400 left in my checking and $450 left in savings
photo2

My message to Brittany when I was having an internal struggle before I pulled the trigger.

photo 1

Brittany’s reaction…

The SAFER Option: I could have taken the safe route and made consistent payments that my income allowed until my car loan was paid off at the end of March.

So why didn’t I take the safer (and probably smarter) option? Because I’m impatient (aka “human”) and couldn’t bear another month paying toward my car loan. The mental burden of making those payments was more exhausting and overwhelming than the burden of rebuilding my emergency fund and crossing my fingers that no extreme unexpected expenses arrive over the next couple of weeks.

Enjoying the BRIGHT SIDE: After my next paycheck, I’m back on track to pay all my bills, refill my emergency fund, and have some extra to put toward my new “extras” expense account.

Sometimes it’s OK to be impatient when it comes to paying back debt, just make sure you’re able to pay all your bills and put food on the table in the aftermath!

Bye bye car loan, hello financial freedom (or at least one step closer)!

Car Payoff Pic

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The Importance of Short-Term Financial Goals

Dream big, Shoot for the stars, yada-yada-yada—the New Year’s Resolution Effect (NYRE) is in full swing, and with that comes over-the-top goals that sometimes leave us resolutioners (yes, I think I just made that word up) feeling more like losers than the winners we dreamt of becoming as the ball was dropping from the sky. If your thought process during the final countdown of 2013 sounded something like this…

“10…I am going to pay of ALL my debt this year…9…I’m going to do it, everyone watch me…87…Okay, I’m paying off at least half of my debt this year 6 5…I’m not sure that is even possible …43…Okay, I’m going to pay off a little bit extra…2…Wait, what was that HUGE ambitious goal I originally had in mind…1…Oh, screw it, I don’t even know how to start to solve my gigantic debt problem…Plus it’s not really a problem. Everyone has debt….HAPPY NEW YEAR!!”

You are not alone.

I’m not writing this post to bash long-term financial goals. I am writing this post to promote the necessity of the short-term financial goals that make achieving awesome long-term financial goals possible. Short-term financial goals keep you motivated to push forward by providing you with reasons to celebrate mini-victories while on your journey towards achieving a much bigger goal. Short-term financial goals also help you create the road map that will lead you to that ultimate and final financial goal that is very hard to see at the beginning of your journey. The-long term financial goal is the destination. The short-term financial goals are the steps you take to get there.

banner

 

1. Short-Term Financial Goals are ACHIEVABLE – One major difference between a short-term financial goal and a long-term financial goal is how far away you are from achieving it. Short-time financial goals should be within your mental reach. Let’s pretend for a moment that your long-term financial goal is one (metaphorical) foot away from you. If you need frequent check-ins to stay on track then it’s a good idea to have a short-term financial goal set up for every inch (that’s 12 short-term financial goals before you reach that long-term goal that is one foot away from you) along the way. If you are the type of person who enjoys traveling a little bit further to reach a bigger reward, then your mental reach might expand to every 2 or 3 inches (that’s 4-6 short-term financial goals to act as check-ins on your way to reaching your long term, currently hard-to-picture, financial goal). There is no right and no wrong distance. The best way to set a short-term financial goal that is achievable is to find your own personal balance between getting yourself moving and avoiding the tragedy of burning your hard-working arse out before you finish the race.

2. Short-Term Financial Goals are your GUIDE—Make sure that you set your short-term financial goals, not only to keep you chugging along, but also to keep you going in the right direction. I like to compare financial lifestyle goals to healthy lifestyle goals. You can’t change EVERYTHING at once…you would be setting yourself up for certain failure. Instead make small changes that—when added together, have a big impact on your life.  Try to focus on one positive short-term financial change each week or month, and when its time frame has passed, direct your attention to a new positive short-term financial change. This is an excellent and underwhelming way to turn your short-term financial goals into long-term financially fit habits.

3. Short-Term Financial Goals will PUMP YOU UP—If you only have one long-term financial goal, there is a good chance you will spend months—or even years—being reminded that you haven’t quite accomplished what you set out to do yet. Well…that’s no fun, and I’ve found that “fun stuff” makes life a whole lot better. Reaching short-term financial goals that keep on the path to your final long-term fabulous financial destination is ABSOLUTELY a reason to celebrate, congratulate yourself, and get motivated to keep going. You might even be surprised to learn that the happy dance you do (when you are home alone, with the blinds down of course) and the feelings of accomplishment and pride you experience upon crossing those short-term financial goals off your to-do list are significantly more motivating than any reward you could buy with all that money you’ve been saving 😉 Funny the way that works out, isn’t it?

In a perfect world, we could all be this cute as we celebrate reaching our goals..this little guy is on to something.

In a perfect world, we could all be this cute as we celebrate reaching our goals..this little guy is on to something.

What long-term financial goals have you set for yourself and how do short-term financial goals help you go the distance?

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 Brittany