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Six Important Things To Do Before Buying A House

A young couple with money at homeSo the time has come. You feel that you’re ready to become a homeowner. Buying a house can be one of the most exciting events in your life. Just imagine. No more listening to that leaky faucet because your landlord won’t fix it. No more worrying about where you’ll live next. You’ll be in one place for maybe the rest of your life. In short, you’ll soon be enjoying that American dream of owning your own house.

But not so fast there.

There are some things that you need to do before you begin house shopping to make sure that the experience will be as easy and as positive as possible.

Gather up all your financial stuff

It would be a mistake to start shopping without first getting your financial ducks in a line. This means that you need to get your credit report from the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – and go through them with a fine tooth comb. The Federal Trade Commission released a report last year that nearly 20% of us have errors in our credit reports and yours could be one of them. Look carefully for mistakes that could be dragging down your credit score. Did you really miss that payment? Do you not remember having done business with that particular lender? If you spot things you don’t believe should be on your credit report you need to dispute them. You do this by writing a letter to the credit bureau along with whatever documentation you have to back up your claim. If you can get an error off your credit report it could help your credit score significantly.

Next, gather up the financial information you’ll need to apply for a mortgage. This typically includes your previous years’ tax returns, pay stubs and bank statements. The goal here is to be able to show a loan officer that you have the ability to make the requisite payments on your mortgage.

Be a mortgage detective

Now that you have your financials in hand it’s time to go online and start researching options for your mortgage. There are a number of online aids available that allow you to comparison shop a number of different lenders in all 50 states. These range from small, local or regional providers to bigger, better known brands such as Bank of America and Citi. Two of the most popular of these tools can be found at Banknote.com and TimeValue.com. Quicken Loans and Lending Tree also offers mortgage comparison tools. Be sure to to see if you would qualify for a special loan such as a Veterans Affairs (VA) loan or any other special financing options through a state or federal program.

Once you’ve chosen your mortgage lender be sure to get a preapproval letter as this will make you a more competitive buyer.

Check out neighborhoods

Here comes the fun part, which is choosing your neighborhood. You will want to investigate everything from schools to commute times and criminal activity. The website Trulia.com has maps that will show you the incidence of crimes by neighborhood, the location of schools, commute times and even neighborhoods’ affordability. If it turns out you can’t find anything you can afford in the neighborhood of your choice, check out those that border it for more options.

Make a checklist

couple discussing finances

Couple calculating their budget

The more house shopping you do the tougher it will be to keep your priorities straight and to remember what you’ve seen. In fact, as you see more homes you can actually lose track of what matters.

For example, you might remember that one house had a wonderful kitchen but you can’t remember exactly which one. Or you do remember a house you loved but you think it was listed at $50,000 more than you can afford.

This is where you really need to have a checklist. Probably the easiest way to do this is with a spreadsheet. Use the left-hand column to list the things that you really must have. This could include number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, type of garage, a well-lit kitchen, proximity to schools, ample storage space and so forth. Following this you could have a list of your “dream” features like granite countertops, upgraded appliances, a patio, a water feature, a three car and so on.

Use the right-hand columns of your spreadsheet for the addresses of houses as you visit them. When you go through each one check off your “must haves” and your “dream” features. This will not only help you keep straight as to the houses you saw but will also help your real estate agent navigate through the home buying process faster and with less confusion. But don’t let your checklist straitjacket you. There’s an old saying in the real estate business that “buyers are liars.” What this means, as any real estate agent will tell you, is that many buyers often tell them one thing but then buy something entirely different. You could end up falling in love with a house that has few of your “must haves” but is outstanding in some other ways. You’ll be living in that house for many, many years so it’s important that you love it – even if it doesn’t have a well-lit kitchen.

Find the right real estate agent

There are real estate agents that are true stars in the business and can work miracles. Unfortunately, there are also some that are less than stellar. All it takes to get a real estate license in most states is pass a background check, take a course in real estate and then pass a written exam. Unfortunately, the sad truth is the skills that are required to pass a written test don’t necessarily correlate to what it takes to be a great real estate agent. Look for an online directory of real estate agents in your area with profiles, ratings and reviews. This should give you a better sense of the agent’s specialties and qualifications. You could also ask friends and family members for recommendations. And be sure to ask any prospective real estate agent for her or his references.

As the following video emphasizes, you need to choose an agent that specializes in the type of home that you want to buy and the neighborhood you’ve chosen. And watch this video for more tips on how to choose the right real estate agent.

What You Should And Shouldn’t Put On Your Credit Cards

man holding multiple credit cardsThe answer to what you shouldn’t put on your credit cards is fairly simple. You shouldn’t put anything on them that you can’t pay off at the end of the month or, worst case, the following month. When you start carrying balances forward you fall victim to what some people have termed the most powerful force on earth – compounding interest. You could end up paying interest on interest, which can be a slippery slope towards very serious problems.

Your best friends or worst enemies

Credit cards have gotten a bad rap for good reasons. If you use them sensibly they can be good friends. But if you don’t they can become your enemy and you could end up drowning in debt. According to one recent study the average American has more than $6000 in credit card debt and the average for indebted households is $15,863. If you were to owe that $6.000 at 15% and made only the minimum payment ($125) each month it would take you 284 months to clear the debt. Just think. You’d be paying on that $6,000 debt for more than 23 years!

The benefits of credit cards

There’s no doubt about the fact that there are benefits to using credit cards. You can use them to earn rewards points, free miles, cash back or all three. Plus, when you use a credit card it lets you defer payment for a few weeks or even more than a month. Just keep in mind that you will only enjoy these benefits if you pay off your balance in full at the end of the month. Otherwise the interest you’ll pay could actually offset any rewards you earned.

The best things to put on credit cards

What are the best things to put on credit cards? The first is travel. When it comes to booking flights, rental cars, hotels and other vacation costs credit cards can help you accumulate lots of points or airline miles that you could then use towards upgrades, flights or hotel stays. Some even offer benefits beyond this including concierge services, rental car insurance, travel insurance, lost luggage insurance and access to nicer airport lounges. In the event your credit card is stolen or lost while you’re vacationing you can alert the card issuer to dispute and void any fraudulent charges. When you travel internationally there are cards that will give you more favorable exchange rates. On the other hand, you need to make sure that your credit card is not one that tacks on a fee of 3% for foreign transactions.

Electronics and appliances

Credit cards often offer extended warranties, price protection and return protection. This means it’s good to put big-ticket items like laptops, computers, refrigerators, washers and dryers on your credit cards. Make sure you check to see which services are offered by your particular card. Some MasterCard, Discover and Citibank cards come with a “price rewind” service so if the thing you purchased goes on sale the card issuer will reimburse you the difference.

Online purchasesadd to basket

Credit cards generally offer better protection against fraud than debit cards and checks. This could be the reason why 50% of consumers recently surveyed said they liked to pay for their online purchases with a credit card. In fact, most credit cards limit your liability to $50 in the event of fraud or identity theft and some will even waive the $50. If you do use your card to make online purchases don’t do it when using public Wi-Fi or a public computer. Wait until you are in a secure site.

Fragile items

If you buy a new laptop, cell phone or some other fragile item it’s good to put the cost on a credit card as it probably offers extended warranties for purchases and even replacement services. Some cards will double the manufacturer’ s warranty on your purchase for up to a year, which would eliminate the need to buy an extended warranty from the store.

Special categories

Many of today’s credit cards offer multiplier rewards in special categories such as gas, groceries and dining out. These special rewards can be for a month or a quarter. For example, if you were to dine out in May this could double or triple your points in a rewards program or the amount of cash you get back. You’ll be alerted to these promotions several weeks in advance so be sure to activate them.

Automatic payments

When you put automatic payments on a credit card and there’s any kind of a dispute you would have proof of payment. If you need to hold those automatic payments for any reason or for some period of time all you would need to do is call your credit card company to take care of this. As noted above it will also likely credit your account right away for any erroneous charges or fraudulent activity.

It’s a good time for credit cards

Now’s a really good time for credit cards if you have good credit. Credit cards have become very competitive and banks are getting more creative about getting and keeping their customers. For example, rewards programs have gotten more flexible. This is in response to customers’ complaints about the rigid rules regarding blackout dates or specific retail partners. As a result, the latest rewards programs generally allow you to earn and redeem rewards in a more flexible way.

Cash back programs are getting more generous. While the industry standard for cash back is still 1%, savvy card users can earn 2% or more. For example the Citi Double Cash Card allows customers to earn 1% on purchases and another 1% for paying them off.

Shop around

If you’re not happy with your credit cards and their rewards or if you simply want to see what else is available now’s a great time to shop around as introductory offers have also gotten better. As an example of this, cash bonuses for first timers increased 7.45% over last year and offers based on miles increased more than 10%. So if you’ve been using the same card or cards for the past several years go to a site such as CreditCards.com where you can check out cards based on criteria such as low interest, cash back, no annual fee and points. You may find deals that are much, much better than what you’re getting with your current cards.

4 Questions That Can Revolutionize Your Personal Finances At 40

smiling coupleYour personal finances, just like your health, should be given regular check ups. You need to make sure that your money is as healthy as it can be. That way, if you discover a problem, you can treat it to keep it from getting worse.

Just like your health, your finances will be different as you age. Your money concerns in your 40s will be different from what you had when you were in your 20s and your 30s. This is because your priorities change over time. When your priorities change, your expenses will too. For instance, when you were in your 20s, you probably spent a lot on entertainment because your social life is very important to you – being single and all. When you were in your 30s, assuming you got married, your expenses would probably revolve around your spouse and your children – if you already have them. In your 40s, well things would be different too.

It is very important that you check your personal finances even if you think that things are going well. Just like the necessary annual check ups that you need to have for your health, this is also something that you need for your financial situation. Not only will it help identify any lurking problems that you have, it will also allow you to reassess your current budget to see if they still coincide with your changing priorities.

A survey done by Gallup.com revealed that those in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are all optimistic about their financial situation. Only the age group of 50-64 are not as optimistic – probably because of their upcoming retirement. But if you are in your 40s and you are feeling good about your personal finances, you should still take time to check out your financial situation.

4 financial questions you need to ask in your 40s

Ideally, you want to check on your financial situation every year. But you may want to make drastic check ups whenever you reach milestones in your life. Turning 40 is a milestone and that means your personal finances are due for some major changes.

Before you can work on your finances, you may want to consider your overall situation at the moment.

Your 40s mark the middle of your adult life. You have gone past your 20s and your 30s and you are moving towards your 50s and 60s. This is a great time to check how far you have come and what else you can do before you reach your retirement age. Although you are not young, you still have enough time to work on your plans for the future. But to do that, you need to carefully consider what you have made of yourself at the moment. Identifying the general picture of your life will allow you to work on your personal finances easily.

Now working on your finances is not that difficult. If you make regular check ups, you should know where you stand at the moment. However, revolutionizing your finances would mean you have to ask certain questions that will involve not just the present but your past and future plans too.

Here are 4 questions that you may want to ponder on when you reach your 40s.

What progress have you made on your financial goals?

This is the question that will make you look into your past to see how far you have come. According to an article published on PRNewswire.com, only half of Americans are setting and reaching financial goals for themselves. If you do not have any goals, you need to set up one now – at least. You should have a couple to work on while you still have time. Among the goals that you can work on includes buying and owning your own house, setting up a college fund for your children and having sufficient emergency funds.

If you had financial goals back then, now is the time to check on the progress that you have made so far. What were your financial goals when you were in your 20s? What were the goals you have set when you were in your 30s? Where are you in terms of reaching these goals? If you haven’t started yet, well this question should wake you up and get you started. Create a plan that will help you achieve your goals for the next 20 years. That way, your goals can be met before you retire.

How much have you set aside for your retirement?

Speaking of retirement, that is the next question that you need to dwell on. If the average retirement age is 65, then you only have around 25 years left before you need to retire. In case you postponed thinking about retirement, well you can no longer delay it at this point. Whether your personal finances are ready for this goal or not, you need to find a way to save up for your retirement. Most people need at least a million dollars to survive retirement. If you want to reach that amount and you are starting from $0 at the age of 40, you need to contribute $18,226.72 each year (based on a 6% expected annual rate of return). That means you have to put aside more than $1,500 each month until you reach the age of 65. If you delay saving for retirement, that amount you need to put aside each month will be bigger.

Will you take your career to the next level?

The next question that you need to consider involves your career. By the age of 40, it can be assumed that you are already experienced when it comes to your career – unless you decided to switch careers sometime in the past. But if not, you should be able to take your career to the next level. The question is, should you do it? If it will give your personal finances a boost, why not? But if it will endanger your financial resources and you have a lot of obligations to meet, you may want to tread carefully before you decide. If the kids have secure college funds and you already have made good progress in your financial goals and your retirement, then taking a risk may be possible. You can think about quitting your day job to start your own business. Just make sure to consider various career tips before you finalize your decision.

Do you think you need the help of a professional?

If most of your answers to the questions above leave a lot to be desired, then you should probably consider hiring a professional to help put your personal finances in order. If you find it difficult to manage your finances, you need to think about getting financial help. You cannot afford to risk too much at this point – especially if you have a lot of work to do to stabilize your financial position. Doing it yourself is the ideal scenario. But if you do not have the time to work on it, you cannot skip the changes that your financial situation requires. Get help and get it as soon as you can. Even a financial planner can help point you to the right direction. When crunch time comes, you will be glad to have organized your finances.

Manage debt to improve your financial situation

Apart from the 4 questions mentioned above, there is one thing that you need to work on when you reach the age of 40 – your debts. If you do not want to be in debt when you reach retirement, now is the time for you to get serious about paying it all off.

In an article published on Forbes.com, reaching the age of 40 is important because you are closing in on your retirement. Making a mistake at this age in your life will have a more devastating effect as compared to making the same error in your 20s. The article listed 40 rules that will help consumers get their personal finances in order and in the number one spot involves debt. To be specific, the article mentioned that you need to finish paying off your high interest debt before you leave this decade.

Here are three tips that can help you take care of your debts so you can revolutionize your personal finances.

  • Know how much you have. First of all, you need to know how much you owe. Make a list of all your debts and include in that list details like your interest rate, lender/creditor, monthly payments etc. If possible, rank them according to priority. Put the high interest debts in the top spot since these are the accounts that are costing you money because of the interest amount.
  • Identify your financial capabilities. The next step is to to determine how much you can afford to pay each month. There are debt relief options for different financial situations. If you have limited finances, there are debt solutions that will allow you to lower the balance of what you owe.
  • Find out how you can pay off your debts faster. Once you know your financial capabilities, it is time to determine the method by which you will get out of debt. Can you pay the minimum payment requirement easily? Can you afford to pay the balance of your credit cards in full? Check your budget to see if you can cut back on your expenses so you can allot more funds toward your debt payments.

Once you have cleared your debts, try to stay away from them at this point. If you have to use your credit cards, make sure you limit yourself to an amount that you can pay off in full once the billing statement arrives.

Here is a video from National Debt Relief that will help you stay away from debt.

3 Mindsets That Can Keep You From Improving Your Finances

businessman thinking about successImproving your finances is probably one of your lifelong goals. You are not alone. We all strive to get rich. We all want to be considered not just successful, but financially successful. It might sound materialistic but that is just how our society is built. In order for us to survive, we need to buy what we need to consume. That is one of the reasons why we are all driven to make our personal wealth grow.

While there are many ways that you can define yourself as successful, your finances will always be one of the indications that you truly are one. Some people may argue that the most important things in life cannot be bought. That is true. But to make these important things even better requires you to build up your wealth. Your family is important but you need the money to feed and provide for all their needs. Your health is important but money is also required to help you maintain it.

This is the reason why improving your finances will always be a goal in your life.

According to an article published on CNBC.com, becoming rich should not be too difficult to do. In fact, in 2014, there were 500,000 new millionaires in the country. This is caused by the stock markets and real estate. Both are increasing in value. So people who have invested in them have suddenly found that their net worth have made them millionaires. This brings the total number to 10.1 million millionaires.

3 mindsets that keeps you from getting rich

Some people may feel like the economic recovery is something that only the top 1% enjoy. After all, we are always reading about the wealth gap and how only a few people are really enjoying this recovery. Well believe it or not, there are people who are not part of the 1% but are actually quite rich. You may not be aware of it but your neighbor may be one of these millionaires. You see, these people are those who live in ordinary looking homes. They do not live in mansions. They drive the typical sedans and not fancy cars. They go on vacations but they do not splurge on exclusive resorts.

You need to understand that the new millionaires are people you never expected to be one. They are simple folks. You probably shop with them in the grocery, marvelling at how patient they are in selecting the right products that will give them the best value for their money.

You see, if you are serious about wealth building, you need to stop looking at the figures in your account. You need to start looking at yourself. Improving your finances is something that is rooted in your mindset. What you believe in will motivate you to act in such a way that will make you rich. At the same time, your mindset can also keep you from becoming rich.

Here are three harmful mindsets that could be keeping you from improving your finances.

I don’t have time to analyse my finances today.

If you think you do not have the time to work on your finances, you need to find time. In order to improve your financial situation, you need to know where you currently stand. That means you need to sit down, take a pen, paper (or your laptop) and a calculator and figure out your current financial position. How much money do you have in the bank? How much do you spend? Is there a way that you can increase your disposable income so you can save or invest them? You need to know these things. If you feel that you are too busy to analyze your finances, then wealth will really elude you. Getting rich is something that you need to plan. Otherwise, you will just be going in circles and living from paycheck to paycheck. This will not make you rich.

I can always start working on my financial goals tomorrow.

Another mindset that could be keeping you from improving your finances is procrastination. This is a mistake that a lot of people are committing. For instance, young adults usually postpone their retirement savings because they are confident that they have more than enough time to work on it. We keep putting off our financial goals because we feel that we can do it tomorrow. Well if you really want to get rich, you need to develop a sense of urgency. If you can do something now, you need to work on it as soon as you can. Do not waste time. The earlier you start working on your goals, the earlier you can reap the rewards.

I have lost all hope that I will ever become rich.

This is probably the saddest mindset of the three. Back in 2009, just after the Great Recession, Bankrate.com reported that 7 out of 10 Americans believe that it is getting harder to become rich. Back in 1999, only 38% said that it was hard to get rich. Now, people seem to have lost all confidence that they will ever become rich. The truth is, the economy might not be as you expect it to be, but it is still possible for you to improve your financial position. Some people look at their income and shake their heads in defeat. Well here’s the truth – your income should never dictate your ability to invest. Did you know that one man became a millionaire despite being a janitor and maintenance worker all his life? His friends were surprised to find out that we was a millionaire! You can read about his million dollar portfolio and find out how his frugal lifestyle made it all possible. So regardless if you are earning the minimum wage or your career seems to be getting nowhere, the key to improving your finances is how you decide to spend your money. So do not lose hope. You can get rich regardless of your current financial situation.

What does it mean to be rich?

Being rich is all about how you react when it comes to you money.

But what is the definition of being rich? Bankrate.com conducted a survey that revealed what Americans thought about being wealthy. They posed three questions.

How do you define rich?

33% said that you are considered to be rich if you have just enough money that you do not worry about it anymore. 26% said that you are rich if you have enough funds that you do not need to work any more. 17% said that if you have a net worth of $1 million or more, then you are rich. Other answers said that you are rich if you have a 6 figure income or if you have big possessions like a house, car, or boat.

What is the most likely way for someone to get rich?

20% of the respondents said that you can get rich if you start your own business. Close to that, 19% of them said that if you have a high-paying job or career, that can also help make you rich. Some said that getting an inheritance or winning the lottery will help make them rich. Some people actually have it right – you can get rich if you live frugally and invest your money in stocks, bonds and real estate.

What motivates you the most to obtain prosperity?

41% of those who want to become rich is to provide a better life for their children’s future. 18% said that they want to do it in order to take care of their parents and other members of their family. There are also those who said that they are improving their finances because they want to pay off debt, be able to enjoy material possessions and leisure activities, retire early and to have prosperity.

These questions were given by 18 year old and above consumers back in 2009. Do you think you can identify yourself with the majority?

How do financially successful people think?

When you are improving your finances, you need to look into how successful people think. There are certain traits that you need to learn from the super rich. Believe it or not, their traits are not difficult to emulate. Most of them involves changing certain mindsets. When you change how you think, your actions will naturally follow through.

Tom Corley, a noted writer of Credit.com revealed his findings about self-made millionaires. In his Rich Habits Study, he said that these millionaires have different thinking habits. His research revealed that how you think is fundamental to improving your finances. Here are important notes about the thinking habits of these self-made millionaires.

  1. Career. Focus on what you are good at and increase your personal value, skills and knowledge to make more money.
  2. FInances. Focus on how they spend their money and if they are putting enough aside for their future and that of their family.
  3. Family. Focus on spending quality time and building better relationships and memories with them.
  4. Friends. Focus on who their friends are and the quality of the friendship.
  5. Business relationships. Focus on building and improving business relationships and figuring out which ones should be eliminated.
  6. Health. Focus on pursuing a healthy lifestyle (eating, exercising, etc).
  7. Dream-setting and goal-setting. Focus on having dreams and goals and how these can be reached.
  8. Problems. Focus on finding solutions to what makes their current situation difficult and stressful (oftentimes related to their career).
  9. Charity. Focus on giving back to the community and making a difference even in their local neighborhood.
  10. Happiness. Focus not just on their happiness but even those around them.

The author mentioned that these people may seem to think a lot but the quality of what is on their mind is very important. If you are improving your finances, you may want to concentrate on these thoughts too.

8 Tips For Decluttering Your Financial Life

woman with percentage signs and credit cardIt’s easy to get overwhelmed by financial responsibilities. You might find that you’re ignoring your credit accounts and your budget because they add up to nothing but stress and confusion. We understand that things can get complicated. You might be trying to juggle utility bills, credit card statements, insurance premiums, an auto loan, rent payments, a revolving line of credit and even more – with all of them having different amounts and due dates. But if you do want to take better control of your financial life the secret is to first simplify things. And following are some tips that can help you create a structure for your finances that will make it easier for you to manage them.

Prioritize

Take some time to picture what you want your future to look like and then create the financial goals that would get you there. Then focus on them one at a time. The secret to achieving a big goal is to break it down into bite sized chunks. Your first chunk could be to increase your 401(k) or add to your emergency fund. You do, of course, have an emergency fund? If not that should be one of your primary goals – to save the equivalent of at least three months of living expenses. There’s no question that you will eventually run into some kind of financial emergency whether it’s that the transmission fell out of your car or you’re faced with a huge medical bill. You need be specific about your objectives and then plan the steps required to reach them. Writing down these goals as can help you both remember and stick to them.

Combine your insurance policies

You don’t need multiple accounts at multiple banks for the same reason you don’t need multiple insurance companies. If you have your auto insurance with one company and your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance with another you could bundle those policies and both save money and reduce stress. Take some time to compare the various companies and then choose the one that will help you save the most money when you consolidate. It’s fairly easy to do this these days with sites such as esurance.com, Bankrate.com and netquote.com. Just be sure you’re comparing apples to apples in that the policies from the different companies all have the same limits, deductibles and exclusions. Otherwise you could end up being penny wise but pound foolish.

Consolidate accounts

If you have more than one checking and savings account it’s time to do some paring. There’s just no reason to have different accounts at different financial institutions. If this is true for you, simplify things by consolidating your bank accounts into one checking and one savings account at one bank. This will cut doen on both paperwork and the stress of trying to keep track of everything.

Make a realistic and comprehensive budget

If you’re ready to really take control of your finances you need to make sure you’re living within your means. This means you need to create a realistic and comprehensive budget. Then take the steps necessary to stick to it. When you track your spending and see where your money’s going you may be shocked at how much you’re spending in some of your categories. Fix these “leaks” and you’ll have money you could put to better use through saving or investing it.

young woman looking at credit cardConcentrate your credit card debts

Do you owe money on several high-interest credit cards? If so, consider transferring their balances to one with a lower interest rate or, if possible, to a 0% interest balance transfer card. This should make it easier for you to manage your debt as well as save money on interest. However, before you take the plunge be sure to determine if there is a balance transfer fee and what it would be. For example, the Chase Slate card has no balance transfer fee at all, which would definitely be a big plus. However, spoiler alert – you will need to have a decent credit score in order to get a good balance transfer offer. A good idea would be to check your credit score before you apply for a new card. The website Credit.com provides credit scores free. You could also get yours free at Creditkarma.com, Creditsesame.com or from one of the three credit reporting bureaus.

Lose the paper

Do you feel that you’re being buried alive by paperwork? There are important papers you need to have and papers you don’t really need to save. Go through everything and shred whatever it is you decide you don’t need. Then make your finances simpler by going paperless. Most banks and companies offer this feature and it can cut down considerably on filing and general clutter. Call your financial institutions and the other companies that bill you and set up paperless statements and then keep the bills in folders on your computer. That way you’ll have a record of them but will be relieved of the burden of figuring out what to do with all those bills.

Automate everything you can

If you find that you’re having a problem keeping track of your bills and paying them on time think about relieving yourself of the problem. Go online and set up automatic payments of all the bills you can, which are generally recurring bills or those you receive monthly. You can also set up direct deposits to your savings and investment accounts. That way you can see your financial goals being realized without having to do anything. Plus, if you never see the money going into your checking account, you can’t miss it or spend it.

Inventory all your stuff

Make an inventory of all of your possessions from furniture to clothes. Do this and it’s likely you’ll find that you have more stuff than you need and even things you’ve totally forgotten about. If you find you do have excess stuff, sell it off or donate it to a charity. You should find that getting rid of that stuff will go a long way towards decluttering your life.

Want To Save On Household Expenses? Stop Eating Out

calculator on top of a plateDo you want to save on household expenses? Of course you do. There are so many expenses that you need to make at home. You have all your utility bills to pay off. That includes your electricity, gas and water bills. You also have your subscriptions like your cable and Internet connections. Part of your monthly expenses also includes your debt payments like your mortgages, car loan and credit cards. Add to this your food budget and you have a lot of expenses to finance on a monthly basis.

An article published on CheatSheet.com revealed that a family of four would need an estimate of $58,000 each year to live comfortably. That is around $4,833 each month. The sad thing is, the median income in the country is $52,000. That means the majority of American households are a couple of thousand dollars short. Those under the poverty level earn $24,000 a year and that puts them at a huge disadvantage when it comes to their household budget.

The good news is, there are many ways that you can save on your household expenses. You just have to know what you are willing to sacrifice in order to stay within your budget.

One of the areas that you can save on is your food budget. In fact, there is a study that reveals how you can save a lot of money each month on food – and it does not involve what you spend while grocery shopping.

Stop dining out so you can lower your monthly expenses at home

One article from Yahoo.com revealed how the prices of food served at home and those in US restaurants have increased since 2014. Based on the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of serving food at home increased by 0.6% in May – compared to 12 months before. That is a relatively small increase if you compare it to the 3% increase of eating out.

According to the article, if you really want to save on your household expenses, you need to start using your kitchen more often. You need to start eating at home – and not take out. You need to start cooking your meals from scratch and eat them at home because that will save you more money in your budget.

Based on the details provided in the USDA.gov, in May of 2015, the total food expenses that were served at home reached $60.1 billion. In comparison, the food served in restaurants reached $62.5 billion. We are spending a lot more by eating out. Since the increase in food served at home is lower than those served away from home, you will realize just how big the saving will be if you keep on eating in your house.

Here are some benefits that you will get if you start eating at home – at least, benefits that go beyond what you will save on your household expenses.

  • You can sharpen your cooking skills. What better way to be an expert in cooking than by practicing it at home? Cooking is something that everyone can do – as long as you have the patience and the determination to learn, you can cook meals for your family. Of course, your first attempts might leave a lot to be desired but you will get better in time. That is for certain.
  • You can choose what your family will eat. Another benefit is you get to choose what you will feed your family. When you eat out, everyone can choose from the menu. You can argue so they will choose healthier meals but why go through all that? When you feed them at home, they are forced to eat what you put on the table.
  • You can eat healthy meals. Speaking of healthy meals, you can guarantee that everything that you put in your plate is healthy. From the cooking oil to the seasoning and all the ingredients – all of these will be something that you have chosen. If your spouse needs to lower their cholesterol, you can control what they eat by choosing carefully what you will use in every meal.

There are other financial benefits that you will get when you start eating at home. You can save on gas because you do not have to drive to the restaurant just to eat. You do not have to leave a tip. You can do other things while you are cooking too. It saves you money and time.

If that is not enough reason to eat at home, then what is?

Tips to save on your food expenses at home

Among all your household expenses, what you spend on food is something that you can fully control. It is very easy to cut down on food costs compared to your other expenses. You do not have to take drastic measures in order to save. You can keep your family full and healthy and still save a lot on your expenses. Unlike subscriptions, you do not have to fully terminate their services in order to lower your spending. You just have to implement the right tips that will allow you to maximize what you can save on your food costs. Here are some things that you can do.

  • Consolidate your shopping schedules. There is much to gain when you consolidate your shopping schedule. You get to save your time. You also get to save on gas. It just takes a bit more planning in order to pull this off but that is more beneficial for you than you know. When you are forced to plan, you get to take more time before you make purchases. You get to think about what you will buy and it makes you think more of how much you are willing to spend. It is easier to budget your household expenses if you have less shopping schedules.
  • Buy in bulk. Since you will be having less shopping schedules, you will be forced to buy in bulk. This is a good thing because you generally pay less per piece if you buy them in huge quantities. Companies usually price bulk items cheaper because they want you to buy more of their products. So if you want to save money on your food expenses, you need to start thinking about buying in bulk. Just be careful to buy only what you know you can consume before the expiration date. If you are buying a month’s worth of bananas, for instance, not all of them should be ripe. That way, the other bananas will have more time before they are overripe. Remember this when buying your produce.
  • Plan your meals. Since you have a shopping schedule and you will be buying in bulk, it is very important to plan your meals. If you will buy in bulk, you can plan to have chicken meals for one whole week. Research recipes so you will know what ingredients you can buy in bulk. It will not only help you save on household expenses, it will also allow you to save time – since you already know what you will buy in the store. It will also help you stick to your budget. If it is not on the list, then do not buy it – or at least, think twice before you proceed with that purchase.
  • Use cash when making purchases. If you want to stick to your budget, it is very helpful to use cash during your shopping errands. Put your money in an envelope and bring that with you. It is your choice if you want to bring your credit card in case of emergencies. If you decide to bring it, make sure that you can control yourself to keep from using it for unnecessary expenses.

These tips will really help you with your household budget. If you want more tips, here is a video from the Inside Edition about a frugal mom. She gives us tips on how you can save money on your usual expenses.

Common Money Mistakes Made By Young Adults

couple discussing financesThere’s no question about the fact that if you’re in your 20s or early 30s you’re still learning things about life. Unfortunately, life does not come with any guarantees. As you may have already learned having a college degree does not guarantee that you’ll be able to land a job related to your major field of study. And the fact that you have a checking account and a couple of credit cards doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be a smart money manager. If you were lucky your parents sat you down and had “that talk” with you and we don’t mean the one about where babies come from. We mean the one about money management and how to avoid piling up too much debt.

Good money management and an easy life aren’t guaranteed, either. There are some money mistakes made by young adults and here are the common ones you should do your best to avoid.

Not building a credit history

If you already haven’t had to borrow money the odds are overwhelming that you eventually will need to. This could be a car loan, a mortgage or a credit card because, yes, credit cards are a form of borrowing money. If you don’t yet have much of a credit history, you need to get to work building one. You probably already have at least one credit card and it’s important that you pay off your balance at the end of every month. If you have more than one credit card, you might want to put several of them away and then try to forget where you put them. If you can’t completely pay off the balance on a credit card, pay as much on it as you can and then try to get the debt cleared the following month. The important thing is to keep current, as this will help you build a good credit history.

Not understanding the reality of your student loans

Last year’s college graduate left school owing an average of more than $30,000. Whether this is true of you or you owe less than $5000 the important thing is to understand that you must repay that loan or loans. You will be considered late on a payment the first day after its due date. This won’t be reported to the credit bureaus until you are more than 30 days late. But if you don’t get caught up on that late payment your account will eventually be turned over to a collection agency and trust us, that’s one of the last things you want to happen. Once your account goes to a collection agency you could see your wages garnished, your tax refunds offset and the amount you owe increased dramatically by fines, penalties and attorneys’ fees.

Not getting started

When you’re fresh out of school you may find yourself falling into the “what came first the chicken or the egg” syndrome. This is how do you get on-the-job experience if no one will hire you to get it? If you find yourself faced by this challenge the answer is in two words – patience and persistence. You will need to keep submitting resumes and knocking on doors until you find something. And don’t be afraid to take a job that isn’t related to your field of study. We know of one young woman whose college major was environmental sciences but who took a job working at a Starbucks as a sort of stopgap measure. She is now running her own store. While that might not be in the area of environmental sciences it is helping her develop managerial skills she will be able to take with her into any other career. The moral of the story? The important thing is to get started even if the job isn’t necessarily related to your college major

Taking the wrong job

While you may be young this doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve a decent job. You may have to begin with a low-paying job, as did the young woman we just described. However, this doesn’t mean you should take a dead-end job where there’s no possibility of promotions or raises. This is an area where you need to learn to advocate for yourself. If you’ve been in a job some period of time but haven’t seen a raise you need to speak up. Never assume that what you’re currently earning is the best you can do.

Not learning to be savvy financially

The earlier you began creating good financial habits the easier your life will be. Many young adults make the mistake of spending the majority of their paychecks on non-essentials such as “living the good life.” What this results in is wasting precious years where they could be paying down student loans and investing. If you already haven’t done this you need to make a budget that tracks your monthly income and spending. You need to know how much you owe and when your payments are due. It’s also important to have an emergency fund equivalent to at least three months of living expenses. You’re bound to run into a financial emergency. When you do but don’t have the money put away to handle it you’ll just create more debt.

Refusing to ask for help

If you’re finances are currently in a mess, don’t be afraid to go to someone in your life for financial advice. There’s no shame in asking for help. Trying to manage your finances all by yourself can be scary. There might be someone in your family you can go to that’s very good in managing her or his finances. If not, you could go to a consumer credit counseling agency for help. There may be one of these agencies near where you live. If there isn’t, there are any number available online. Just make sure you choose one that’s a nonprofit and charges little or nothing for its services. In either case, you’ll be assigned a credit counselor who will review your financial situation and help you get things under control.

Trying to keep up with your peers

If you’re not careful it’s easy to fall under the spell of peer pressure. Just because your friends go clubbing every weekend, eat out regularly and always dress in the latest fashions doesn’t mean you need to. For all you know, they may be living this lifestyle on credit cards, which ultimately will leave them in a world of financial hurt. Live only the lifestyle you can afford based on your budget and not on what your peers are doing.

Finally, here is, believe it or not, a rap song video with some fun money management tips.

3 Ways That Couples Can Handle Their Household Income

A young couple with money at homeThe household income is a very important part of your marriage. Believe it or not, money can end your marriage – or at least, it is part of what will destroy your relationship. A lot of people underestimate the power of money over their marriage. That is a huge mistake to make.

Love may have brought you two together – that is true. But you need to realize that love is never enough to sustain your relationship. There are many factors that can strengthen or weaken your marriage. Money is one of them.

According to an article from CNBC.com, money is not just a representation of your finances. It goes deeper than that. It can actually be used to express your feelings. Some people even use it for power, respect and even to punish. It is a very difficult concept to grasp because it paints our society as a very materialistic one. If you think about it, we do have materialistic tendencies. We use money to define our success. Sadly, that is even true for some marriages in our society.

This truth might hurt but you need to use it to ensure that it will not happen to your relationship. As twisted as it all may seem, you need to realize that there are ways for you to survive money problems and keep it from ruining your marriage.

It all begins with how you decide to handle your household income.

3 methods in the use of a couple’s monthly income

When you get married, your union is deeper than you imagine. You will be uniting your names, your families and your finances. As soon as you start living in one home, you need to consider how your household income will be dealt with to avoid monetary problems in the future. If you set up your finances right from the start, you can overcome a lot of financial difficulties that you will encounter. You will know what to do when tackling debt as a couple. When there is a major change in your financial resources, it will be easier for you to adjust because you have set up a system on how you will handle your money. This system is something that both of you talked about, agreed to and understood very well.

There are three ways that you can actually handle your household income. There is no “best” choice when it comes to these options. Any one of them will work – as long as you are both in agreement to use it. Discuss it well and ponder on what method fits your personalities well.

Everything is combined.

Your first option is to combine everything. Both of your incomes will go to one account and all your expenses will be funded by that account.

If you choose this method, you need to open a joint account where you and your spouse will have equal rights to. It is your decision if you want it to be a survivorship or convenience account. Most married couples will choose the former because it automatically makes one member the owner of the whole account in case the other passes away. There is danger here, of course, since any one of the owners can withdraw money from the account. In case you and your spouse will choose this method of handling your household income, you need to be very transparent with your financial transactions.

The great thing about this method is it becomes a unifying model for the couple. You are forced to cooperate and be transparent with all your financial transaction because both of you can look into the account to check the records. Any difference in spending will be more apparent with this method. Even if only one person brings home an income, this method makes all the transactions clear between the couple.

Everything is split.

The second method of handling the household income is the extreme. The couple will split their money. This is ideal for those who choose not to be aware of the huge difference in their financial behaviors. If both of them earn an income, they will keep their pay checks. If only one has an income, this money will be split into two so the one who stays at home has some money to spend.

The couple will also split the household expenses between the two of them. For instance, the husband will pay for the utilities, mortgage, car loans, and any expense when the family is travel=ling. The wife will take care of the food and groceries and all the expenses of the children. According to an article published on CheatSheet.com, this is usually the method preferred by those who are already in their second marriage. They probably wish to maintain their financial independence since this marriage can also end like the first one.

Although this method is great for establishing financial independence, it can also spark some disagreements especially when it comes to ownership. The other might think that he owns the car because he pays for its amortization. Or, one of them might feel at a disadvantage because they have a smaller income but they have to pay for the same amount of expenses each month. That leaves them with less discretionary income to spend as they wish.

Expenses are combined, but income remains split.

The third method of handling the household income is the combination of the two extremes. This is actually where equality is more at play. When it comes to the income, it is split between the couple. In case there is only one earning, they will split their income so the other one can also get some money. They will open a third account where each will deposit a percentage of their income. The combination of these deposits will be equal to the total expenses that the household incurs each month.

This method is the most fair but it is a bit more complicated to set up. For instance, calculating the percentage of deposit per couple is a bit tricky. But once you set it up correctly, you should be smooth going from then on.

How to avoid fighting about money issues at home

Any one of the methods discussed above can help you manage your household income well. Just make sure that both of you are in agreement that it is the best way for you to handle your money. If your first choice does not seem to work, you can always switch to a new method. It will always be a work in progress so make sure you are open to discuss your finances with your partner.

According to HuffingtonPost.com, arguing about money is one of the top predictors of divorce. A study was done in 2013 by a Kansas State University researcher that indicates how money arguments early in a marriage increase the chances of divorce.

Given that data, you should know tread carefully when you are discussing money issues with your partner. You need to understand that there are certain rules to follow so you can avoid money problems that can drive you to file for divorce.

  • Communication. It is always important to communicate. Do not keep a financial problem from your spouse – even if you know that they will feel disappointed or angry at you. We all make mistakes. You need to be honest with your spouse about it so you can figure out how to solve it together. Anything can be fixed as long as you are willing to discuss it amongst yourselves.
  • Support. This is also very important. Even if you are not at fault, you need to show support to the one who was in error. This is how you can use your money problems to make your marriage stronger. If one is trying to change a bad financial habit, show your support. If they have to cut back on expenses to save up for a debt payment, you may want to cut back on your own expenses too.
  • Understanding. Couples usually have different attitudes when it comes to handling finances. You need to be very understanding especially when your partner is the one making all the mistakes. Be firm, but show them that you understand them so they will not resent the changes that they have to make.
  • Cooperation. Lastly, you need to cooperate. When you got married, you promised to be together not just when you are financially abundant. You also promised to stay together even when the money seems to be going down the drain.

Here is a video that discusses 8 common money-related problems that marriages suffer from. You may be able to relate to these problems and might benefit greatly from the advice given.

Financial Planning Tips For A Debt-Free Vacation

woman on a hammockFinancial planning should be a big part of your preparations when you want to enjoy a great vacation this summer season. Although a lot of people travel during the holidays, the bulk actually happens during the hot season. This is probably caused by the availability of the students in the family. After all, it coincides with their vacation from school. In fact, some people go on a vacation after a student in the family finishes a milestone in their education (e.g. graduating with honors, etc).

Apart from that, we all know that vacations are also very important for workers. According to an article published on LATimes.com, an employee working full time spends 42 ½ hours each week in labour. That is more than 2,200 hours of work each year. Based on the data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7% of employed individuals work more than 60 hours each week in 2014 – which is more than 3,100 hours of labor every year. If you are working that much, then taking a week off to go out and relax is a must.

Now the thing about going on a vacation is that it costs money. Some people would choose to skip the vacation because they would rather earn money instead of spending it. However, you need to understand the benefits of going on a vacation. It is believed that people become more productive if they take some time off to recharge. Not only will you be resting your body, you need to relax your emotions and calm your mentality. All of these can be achieved if you only take a vacation from your usual tasks.

Your concerns about the money you will spend during your vacation can be solved if you dwell on some serious financial planning first. Do not just plunge head on just because you feel you deserve it. Although it may be true that you deserve the break, you need to make sure that it will not ruin your finances in the process.

How to prepare financially for a debt-free vacation

The big question is, how can you financially prepare yourself so you can go on a debt-free vacation? The key is to plan ahead.

A spur of the moment vacation may be exciting but if you will charge it to your credit card, then you will lose the excitement once it is over. In fact, that debt that you will incur may even put a damper on your travel adventures. Why not aim to go on a vacation that you will enjoy without incurring any debt? That is possible – as long as you prepare for it months before the actual travel date.

Here are some tips that will guarantee that you will have a debt-free vacation ahead of you.

Set a budget.

First of all, you need to set a budget for your vacation. Give yourself some room to prepare. A few months of financial planning before the actual travel can really save you a lot of money. It will also give you time to consider the different options that you have when it comes to your destination and the activities that you will pursue.

If you start preparing in January every year, that will give you 6 months worth of preparation for your summer vacation. If you can put aside $500 a month, you will have $3,000 to spend on your vacation. Set that as your target. Work around this amount when you plan your vacation.

Save up for your expenses.

Now that you have set the budget, you need to come up with strategies to save money. Decide if you will cut back on your usual expenses or you will earn more. If you can do a bit of freelancing during your free time, you can add your earnings to your savings. If you know how to bake cookies, you can sell some to your colleagues and ask them to support your vacation fund. It should be a fun way to save up for your summer travels.

If you can save up a higher amount than the budget that you have set, that would be even better. At least, you have extra money to spend on your vacation.

Scout for discounts.

When planning your vacation, you need to get as much discount as you can. According to TravelPulse.com, almost 60% of those traveling usually exceed their summer budget every year. Try not to commit the same mistake. If you have $3,000 as your target amount, work around a budget of $2,500. That means your food costs, board and lodging expenses, travel costs and activity fees should be within this amount. The extra $500 should be allotted for unforeseen expenses. There will always be miscellaneous costs that you need to prepare for. If your budget seems too small, you simply have to look for discounts that will allow you to enjoy your vacation despite limited funds.

Financial planning early on will benefit you because you can see a lot of discounts when it comes to hotel bookings, airfares, etc. If you book months ahead, you can get huge slashes on the regular price.

Tips to enjoy traveling on a low budget

In case you do not have enough time to save up for your vacation expenses, financial planning can still help you a lot. There are a lot of frugal fun activities that you can enjoy this summer, if you know how to look for them.

Here are some tips that you can use to help you plan your vacation.

  • Concentrate on what will make you happy. Start by identifying what will really make you happy. For instance, if you are dreaming about vacationing in the Caribbean, think about the factors that make that particular place appealing to you. Is it the beach? Is it the warm weather? Is it the beautiful scenery? Believe it or not, there are places in the country that will give you the same views and climate without it costing a lot.
  • Opt for staycation. This simply means enjoying what you have at home. If you follow the first tip, you should be able to find a great vacation spot without traveling a long way. Based on an article published on NYTimes.com, domestic vacations are on the rise this year. Analysts believe that Americans will choose to spend their vacation money exploring their own country. If you choose the right spot, you could end up having a low budget vacation without sacrificing the rest and relaxation that you are aiming for.
  • Book your tickets ahead of time. As mentioned, an early booking will give you more chances of getting a discount. Most airlines and even hotels give out discounts for those who will book with them ahead of time. This is one of the reasons why you need to start your vacation’s financial planning months before you want to take a leave.
  • Lower your expectations. We all want to stay in a 5 star hotel but we have to realistic. If you will only stay there to sleep because you plan on roaming around the whole day, then why spend so much on a hotel? Opt for the cheaper lodging options that are decent but not as extravagant. The same is true for your other expenses. Like if you need to rent a car, be reasonable with what type of vehicle you will lease.
  • Be smart about your food expenses. Part of the joys of traveling is tasting cuisine that you rarely get to enjoy. However, that does not mean you need to eat out all the time. If you can book accommodations that will allow you to cook, then that will save you a lot of money. You can cook your own meals – at least breakfast and dinner, and then have your lunch in one of the restaurants in the local neighborhood.
  • Set aside your budget for major expenses. If you plan to visit local attractions that have entrance fees, you may want to set aside the money for these expenses. Place them in separate envelopes and label them accordingly. This will not only keep you from spending them on other things, it will also help keep your finances organized.

These financial planning tips will really help you cut back on your summer budget so you can have a debt-free vacation.

Off To College This Fall? Here’s How To Reduce Student Loans

young man holding empty wallet and booksIf you’re off to college this fall, congratulations! You’re about to embark on what will likely be four of the best years of your life. You’ll learn new things and meet new people that could end up lifetime friends. There’ll be challenges – no question about that – long nights of studying and irascible teachers that must be pacified. However, if you do the work and keep your nose clean then four years from now you’ll have college behind you and will be ready to start your career or move on to grad school.

The most important question of all

You’ve probably already answered the most important question of all, which is how you’re going to pay for your education. If you’re typical you filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) last January and you know whether you’ll be receiving any student aid or if you’ll be required to take out student loans to finance your education. If you were a really great student throughout high school or a gifted athlete you may have received a big scholarship, which is by far the best way to pay for a college education. For example, where we live there is a full-boat scholarship program available that will pay for the entire cost of all four years of college.

If you didn’t win a great scholarship you may have been awarded a work grant or a grant-in-aid. Both of these are good because, unlike student loans, the money doesn’t have to be repaid. These are usually subtracted from your tuition bills, making the cost of college more affordable.

If borrow you must

If the only way that you can finance your education is through student loans what you want to avoid is borrowing everything you’ll need to pay for your entire four years of college. Last year people graduated owing an average of more than $32,000 in student loan debts and many students were forced to borrow even more. If you start life after college owing $32,000 it could take you 10 years or more to pay off those loans. This is a burden that would not only affect you for those 10 years but possibly for the rest of your life.

Where it starts

The problem is that some college financial aid officers are not your friends. What they concentrate on is helping their schools. Some people call this the “used car salesman mentality.” These are financial aid officers who will create any kind of financial arrangements to ensure that you get into and stay in college. The problem is that this is a short-term situation but could end up hurting you over the long term.

The real cost

There is no question about the long-term impact of student loan debt. It’s not only crippling recent graduates it’s also lowering the growth of our economy. This is due to the fact that debt-laden students end up spending years after school struggling to repay their loans instead of buying a home or saving and investing. In addition, many people have become disenchanted by the whole idea of higher education. The question they are asking themselves, and that you might ask yourself, is it worth it. Should you really be running up $30,000, $40,000 or more in student loan debt to earn a degree that might not really help you get a job?

piggy bankKeep your loans to the very minimum

If you’re convinced that you do need a college degree for that “dream career,” the critical thing is to keep your student loans to the very minimum. This may come under the category of, well duh, but the less money you borrow the less you will have to repay.

Talk with your financial aid officer

Before you sign on the dotted line for a student loan be sure to discuss the alternatives with your financial aid officer. It’s possible that there is other forms of aid such as a work grant that could help you reduce the amount of money you will need to borrow. In addition, there might be scholarships available that you were never made aware of.

Get a job

Once you get settled into school you might get a part-time job. College towns almost always have openings in food service and retail. It could be tough to work, say, 20 hours a week while carrying a full course load but it is possible. If you get one of these jobs be sure to use the money to help pay for next semester’s costs. Jobs in food service and retail generally pay about $9 to $10 an hour, which might not seem like much. But if you were to work those 20 hours a week this would be around $150 after taxes or a total of roughly $2100 you would have available to apply toward next semester’s costs.

Graduate in four years

A second important thing you could do to keep those student loans to a minimum is graduate in four years or less. A mistake that many students make is changing majors in mid-stream, which almost inevitably leads to a fifth year of college. If you know what this year will cost you, try multiplying that number by five instead of four and you’ll see how much more debt you’ll end up with. The courses you take in your first year or two should help you decide on your major. But think this through very carefully before you declare because if you were to change your mind during or after your junior year you’ll end up piling on much more debt. You might also think about trying to graduate in less than four years. Of course, it would cost you more to take on maybe 18 credit hours for a couple of semesters instead of the standard 15. But if you got out of college just a semester early you’d more than make up the extra cost in what you would save in living expenses. Plus, this would give you an earlier start on getting a job vs. most of your colleagues.

Don’t switch schools

Do not switch schools unless it’s an absolute necessity. If you do this it will take you longer to graduate, which means you will graduate with more debt. One recent study showed that students that transferred to a new school ended up with about $3400 more debt than those that stayed put.

Finally, here’s a short video, courtesy of National Debt Relief, with good information about student loans and how to determine how much you may need to borrow.

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