Budgeting & Saving

9 Steps to Take After Graduating with Student Loans

There is no doubt that student loan debt has become a bigger and bigger problem in recent years. According to College Board, about 57% of public, four-year college students graduate with debt. So if you have student loan debt, you are not alone. I also fall in that group of college graduates with student loan debt. And though I ask myself each day when I look at my student loan balance if college was worth it, I always repeat the same words to myself. “Stop procrastinating and pay off that debt!”

I would like to help you pay off your student loan debt as well so I’ve come up with 9 clear steps to take after graduating with student loans. And in an educational fashion, each step takes us through the first 9 letters of the alphabet.

Assess the Situation

I have a friend that told me how she was scared to look at her student loan balance. She only cared that she did not yet have to pay them. Well, the day will come when she will have to start paying those loans back. If she asks for my thoughts I will recommend starting with this first step of assessing the situation. Figure out what student loan servicer has your loans. You’ve likely received an email or letter from them that lists your loan balances and due dates.

If you have multiple loans, like I did, then look into consolidation. Often, making one payment is easier than trying to make 7 different payments. Head over to and login to your account if you have no clue where to start. If you have private loans then contact your private loan servicer. You can be sure they have contacted you.

Begin Career

While you have been assessing the situation, you’ve also been looking for a job right? Hopefully you had internships and made a great impression. You’ve compiled your resume and you interviewed like a pro, landing your first career job. You’re earning the expected entry-level salary for your major and you can’t wait to get your first paycheck.

Celebrate Success

Now it’s time to celebrate! I always think getting a new job deserves a happy dance but maybe that’s just me. Grab your closest friends and head out for a night on the town. Enjoy the moment and revel in your success because after this night of enjoyment, it’s time to buckle down.

Determine a Budget

The first budget that you create based on your brand new job is going to be pretty simple. Check out your employer sponsored retirement plan and see if they offer a matching program. Many employers will offer to contribute 50 cents for every dollar that you contribute to your retirement plan. They will typically do this up to a percentage of your pay, usually 3-6%. Your first step in budgeting for student loan debt repayment is to take advantage of this free money.
Next you will determine how you want to live. If you can bring home a decent pay but still manage to live like a college student, you will have no problem paying off your debt.
A general rule of thumb is to allow for 31% of your paycheck for debt repayments. That includes credit cards (which you hopefully do not have), student loans and miscellaneous debts.

Evaluate Options

If you have started your budget and you determine that 31% of your take home pay is not enough to cover the student loan payment, start evaluating your payment options. Public loans offer Income Based Repayment, Income Contingent Repayment and Pay as You Earn as ways to lower your payment. If you realize that you truly cannot begin paying immediately, look at deferment or forbearance as an option. These options will allow you to stall your payments though you may have to pay interest that accrues.

Figure the First Payment Date

Now that you have your options fully locked into place it’s time to decide when you are going to begin paying your loans. When I graduated college, student borrowers were allowed a 6 month grace period before we had to start paying back our student loan debt. I decided to use deferment and forbearance time to stall even more. Once you have your budget and your payment plan, you can begin paying right away if you choose.

Grow Emergency Savings

Congrats on paying your loans! Each month that you pay, remind yourself that your college degree was worth it. But don’t neglect your savings. If you have extra cash that you can contribute to your loan pay off, I encourage you to put that into an emergency fund instead. Paying off student loans is a worthy endeavour, but keep in mind that emergencies may pop up as well. Make it a point to stash some cash for a rainy day.

Halt Lifestyle Inflation

As you continue to work in your brand new career, you are likely to receive an increase in pay. It’s easy to take these increases and inflate your lifestyle. A small apartment turns into a bigger apartment. One night out a week turns into happy hour each day after work. Keep an eye out for these budget busters!
I used a very simple method to combat the lifestyle inflation creep. Each time I received salary percentage increase at my company, I simply increased my contributions by the same percentage increase to my company sponsored 401k. I saved more and because they were pre-tax contributions, my paycheck was roughly the same.

Ignore Doubts

It’s easy to look at your student loan debt balance and feel like it is insurmountable. Instead, surround yourself with supportive friends and family. A strong support team will make paying off that debt much easier. I know you can do it! You made it through college, right?

This post originally appeared on

Originally posted 2014-05-21 06:00:49.

Earn Extra Income

Transitioning from 9-5 to Full Time Blogger (Can I have my cake and eat it too?)

This was initially posted on July 17, 2014 about a month after I left my full time job to become a full time blogger.

Cake Day.

I’m going to miss Cake Day.

As I get ready to pack up my desk my mind races but settles on this one event. Each month my employer celebrates birthdays with cakes.

This month is my birthday month so I had a chance to help choose the two cakes that the entire company will eat. Unfortunately, I will miss the opportunity to celebrate June birthdays.

There is really no one else to blame. I made the decision.

I decided to leave my relatively safe, well paying position for the unknown.

As of 5pm on June 13th, 2014 I will become a full time solopreneur.

Love this story! This shows exactly what's possible. Can't wait to set my quit date and grow my blog so I can work for myself as a full time blogger! :D
I wrote the excerpt above a few days before my last day of work.

That’s right.

I am no longer a 9 to 5 employee.

The decision to strike out on my own was a tough one. I knew that I was not meant for the cubicle life before I even started my career.

However, I made it a point to get comfortable with it because I had bills to pay.

Credit cards, student loans and a car payment were all on my mind along with my cell phone bill and living expenses.

So instead of starting a business with savings, I had to get a job to dig myself out the financial hole that I created.

The first year at my new job was great.

The work was new and challenging, I was learning so many new things and it felt good to conform.

You know when someone asks you what you do? I could happily state my job title and then follow up with the explanation.

Most cubicle workers have the same interaction. It goes a bit like this.

Cubicle Worker 1: What do you do?
Cubicle Worker 2: I’m a Database Systems Analyst.
CW 1: Oh. What is that?
CW 2: Well, I blah blah blah….

There’s no point in going into the full job explanation because we all know that’s about where we all stop listening.

Anyway, I actually liked that exchange.

It was better than saying, “Hey I’m unemployed.”

The second year was even better, financially speaking. I had paid off my car loan and I had made a significant dent in my credit card debt.

I had also been contributing to my employer sponsored 401k and receiving the matching bonus.

I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

That’s when things started to change a bit.

You see, I had been working on my blog in my spare time. I started Young Finances after I graduated college, before I could find a job.

I graduated in May and it took me 11 months to land a position. In the meantime, I was working odd jobs and my blog.

I wanted to use the information that I had learned about finance in school. I planned to teach investing and personal finance; just the basics.

And when I say basics I mean the stuff that I wish I had known pre-recession.

So as I’m working my blog part time, I start making a bit of income and I think to myself how cool it would be if I could do this full time.

I knew I had to show consistent sustainable income before I considered it.

I decided to set a date after reading this post from Paula over at Afford Anything. Paula is a dear friend and I enjoy reading her posts on gaining freedom from the cubicle.

She mentioned setting a ‘damn deadline’ as part of her Four Step Guide to Escaping the Ordinary.

So I gave myself 2 years. 2 years to finish my debt payments and save a solopreneur cushion. I aptly titled my budget, ‘2 Years to Freedom’.

Last Day at Work Farewell for full time blogger

I knew that without debt and with a bit of savings, I could really make the business take off. I also knew that I needed more time to make it happen.

The good and bad of having a great job is the time required. I was working 9 to 10 hour days and sometimes 12 hour days.

In February, I planned to go full speed at the business. I worked on my blog at lunchtime, after work, and each day after work.

I set up a social media schedule, wrote and promoted blog posts and updated old affiliate links.

I knew that if I could make more money focusing my free time, then a full time income that matched my job income was entirely possible.

And you know what?

The experiment worked!

February was one of my best months in terms of income.

Now that I knew what to do, I started to outsource what I did not have the time to do.

And I kept saving.

And I kept paying down debt.

Finally, it was time to make the decision. It happened a bit sooner than I was expecting but I knew the time was right.

On the luckiest day of the year and 5 days before my next birthday, on Friday the 13th, I left my well paying job.

That means I officially retired from the working world at the age of 30.


So what’s next?


Well now comes the hard stuff. I have to work without a boss checking in on me periodically.

I have to work without the guarantee of a paycheck twice a month. And I have to make it happen on my own, without a full team of co-workers.

And I’m ok with that.

Each day I can wake up and plan my workday. I can decide to start two hours late because I wanted to sleep in before hitting the gym.
Solopreneur Harem Pants
I can stop working at 2 if I want in order to catch a midday movie or go grocery shopping

I can wear what I want. In fact, I bought my first pair of solopreneur pants. They’re super comfy. That’s my new work uniform.

It feels really good and scary at the same time.

I don’t have the benefits of cake day, or other social events that my company had planned for the year.

But what I do have is a location independent career.

If I want to spend two weeks in Costa Rica, I can do that. I can work wherever my iPad and Internet connection takes me.

Having that cake day each month was nice but it just kept me away from what I really wanted to do.

Now I can make my own cake, and once my income surpasses that of my previous job, I’ll feel comfortable enough to eat it too.

Are you ready to make more money as a blogger? I’ve got a special training just for you. Click here to see exactly how I made $10,713 selling courses and how you can create and launch a course in less than 30 days, even if you have a small audience!

Originally posted 2017-07-05 08:00:47.

Budgeting & Saving

What Would the World Be Like Without Budgets

The importance of having a budget has been debated probably since the origin of the word. Some people live by a budget and can’t get by without their spreadsheets, while others simply see it as an ineffective waste of time.

In fact, a Gallup poll indicated that two-thirds of American households do not utilize a budget.

Budgets Are Intended to Help Us Do Three Main Things:

  1. Track our income and expenses each month.
  2. Prioritize our spending by matching our money with our goals.
  3. Limit how much we can spend on certain expenses to prevent overdrafts, running out of money too soon each month, or going into debt.

Given the crucial benefits budgets offer, it’s hard to imagine a world without them. You’ve probably heard the word ‘budget’ used several times when you were a kid. You may have heard it from your parents or other adults but never really grasped the concept.

Here are some of the key financial setbacks that occur when you don’t budget:

Out of Control Spending

While it’s easy to create a budget, it’s not so easy to maintain it. Each day, Americans are faced with advertisements and temptations to spend. When you don’t have a clear budget to create a purpose for your money, it becomes all too easy to overspend. It’s why you may find yourself leaving a store after spending $100 when your initial intention was to spend only $25.

“But if you don’t have a budget that limits your spending, how can you technically ‘overspend’?”

You’ll know that you overspent when you wind up short on cash later in the month. A budget helps restore order to your spending habits and control the money you have instead of letting it control you. A budget should be freeing.

Increased Debt

Out of control spending will no doubt lead to debt. You can only live above your means for so long. Having a budget can help you pay off your debt quicker by avoiding costly interest charges. Your budget can also keep you from accumulating crippling amounts of debt.

Many families are already dealing with debt. 2015 Federal Reserve statistics show Americans hold a combined average total of $890.9 billion in debt. I wonder how much of that debt belongs to anti-budgeters. Credit card debt is the third largest source of American debt, followed by student loans and mortgage debt. It’s difficult to picture the debt numbers being even worse. But if the Americans who do budget would stop… that could lead to an astronomical amount of debt.

Financial Goals Wouldn’t Be Attainable

Whether your financial goals are to pay off debt, buy a house, retire, or take a vacation, you’ll do well with a budget. Having no idea where your money is going each month can be confusing, overwhelming and derail you from ever reaching any of your goals.

You won’t be able to save, say, $5,000 extra dollars if you don’t establish a clear and realistic goal. A budget simply puts your goals on paper. Budgeting is all about prioritizing your spending and making the most of your money. It helps you keep your goals in sight at all times.

If the entire world didn’t budget accordingly, we would all just spend our money on whatever came our way without considering the consequences. We would be unknowingly working against ourselves and preventing ourselves from ever reaching financial stability.

This is why creating some type of budget is so crucial. Without it, the world and the economy would be in even bigger trouble. Even if you’re already good at managing your money, a budget will help make sure that never changes. Think of a budget as your very own accountability partner. A budget is a great way to make sure you achieve the life you dream.

[Tweet “If you don’t have a goal, how will you know when you’ve scored?”]

Do you budget? How does it help you reach your financial goals?

Originally posted 2015-07-08 10:00:00.

Young Finances

The Ultimate Guide to Eliminate Your Student Loans, Without Paying!

Let’s be honest, paying back your student loans can be a stressful situation. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how or for what reason you’ve accumulated your massive student loan debts, you just know that you have a student loan balance that remains which you are reluctant to pay, especially if you’re caught in the student loan hoax.

The Student Loan Hoax

As soon as you left undergraduate school, you should have quickly found that the entire system of accruing “good debt” (i.e. student loans) in order to pay for a college degree that would allow you to find your dream job was a giant hoax. And now you’re stuck. According to an article written for the Washington Post, “only 27% of college graduates have jobs relating to their major.”

After leaving college, it seemed as though your student loan payments sneaked up on you. And it seemed as though your student loan payments became due even before accepting the HR department’s low-paying offer in your first job that was in no way related to your degree…if you were even lucky to find employment. There was no way that you were prepared to begin paying off your student loans under the standard student loan repayment plan.

But, hopefully by this point in your career you’ve cracked the code of this hoax. At the expense of having a massive load of student loan debt you have now learned that the only guarantee that comes from earning a college degree is the transfer of a piece of bond paper, from the University to you, that represents the culmination of what you should have received while at college—only an education. Contrary to popular belief, the job that you were told would be on the other side of the graduation stage was not there.

Now you’re angry, with good reason.

Instead of following your high school dreams of landing the job you’d love in a career field you’d enjoy, you’re now working as a barista in the local coffee shop waiting until the economy gets better so someone can recognize your valued knowledge for which you paid tens of thousands of dollars to receive. Though, the truth of the matter is no one but yourself is going to rescue you from paying off your student loans. So why not tack action and do it, but with a twist. Hack your way out of your student loans!

How to Hack out of your Student Loans

Even though you are angry, for the most part, your student loans are here to stay. However, the good news is that you don’t have to struggle your entire life paying them. In fact, I suggest you retaliate and pay the least amount you can on your student loan debt until you are eligible to have them forgiven. Rise up and fight against the student loan hoax by hacking your way out of repaying the full amount of your student loans!

If the system allows for it, why not take advantage of it? There will be people who suggest you take the “moral high ground” by paying every cent that you borrowed but I challenge you to ask those folks, “are you going to pay my loans for me?” If their answer is no, you can immediately ignore any and all future suggestions from them.

STEP 1: Know what type of Loan(s) You Have

Before you can employ any of the tactics below, you must know which of your loans, if any, are eligible for a student loan hack. To find out, go over to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLD) website, which is the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid.

This information is important to know because some of the following programs cannot be implemented if your student loans are not federally funded.

Private student loans you may have received are not federal loans and are not included in the NSLDS.

STEP 2: Get Your Student Loan Payments Manageable and as Low As Possible

Deferment or Forbearance

If you’re having trouble seeking employment, consider Deferment or Forbearance. Or, if you have the opportunity to build a business while living with your parents or some friends, do it, since you’d be technically unemployed.

A deferment is a period during which repayment of the principal and interest of your loan is temporarily delayed. Depending on the type of loan you have, the federal government may pay the interest on your loan during this period.

If you can’t make your scheduled student loan payments, but don’t qualify for deferment, a forbearance may allow you to stop making payments or reduce your monthly payment for up to 12 months.

There is no sense of stressing out to find a job just so you can pay your student loans if you trying to create a business. While your student loans are in either deferment or forbearance, next consider changing your repayment plans even before your full student loan payments kick it.

Check out the Student Aid’s summary page on deferments and forbearance.

Change Your Repayment Plan

If your student loan debt is just “too damn high,” consider a student loan repayment plan that is other than the standard repayment plan. For example, if you have Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program Loans, you can possibly use an income-based repayment plan to lower your payments. Monthly payments are capped at 10% of monthly discretionary income. And after 25 years of reduced payments, the remaining balance on the loan is forgiven.

There are also payment plans such as:

Graduated Repayment Plan

Extended Repayment Plan

Pay as You Earn Repayment Plan

Income-Contingent Repayment Plan, or

Income Sensitive Repayment Plan.

Check out the Student Aid’s summary table of the different payment plans for your student loans.

Student Loan Consolidation

If you have multiple student loans that have different interest rates and you want one lower fixed payment, consider a student loan consolidation into a federal Direct Loan.

The advantage of a student loan consolidation into a federal Direct Loan is that you can possibly stretch out your payments for up to thirty years, which means that the amount of your monthly payments lowers and your take-home pay increases.

In order to take advantage of any possible student loan forgiveness programs, be sure to use either the Direct Consolidation Loans Website or the website, depending on your applicability.

Check out the details and how to apply for a direct consolidation loan on the Student Aid website.

STEP 3: Get Your Student Loans cancelled, discharged, or forgiven after 10 Years by choosing the right career!

As long as you have Direct, FFEL Program, or Federal Perkins Loans, there are plenty of options that you can use to have your student loans forgiven.

You will likely not be eligible for some of the student loan discharge conditions, such as total and permanent disability, death, or bankruptcy, even though these cases discharges 100 percent, but that’s okay.

The money discharge is in your career choice!

Since you are already employed in a career that you likely do not like, consider switching to a career that will allow you to have your massive debts discharged, reduced, or forgiven.

For example, a full-time teacher for five consecutive years in a designated elementary or secondary school or education service agency servicing students from low-income families can have up to $17, 500 discharged.

Or, an eligible public service employee can have up to 100 percent of their balance forgiven after 120 eligible monthly payments (10 years).

What type of public service jobs will qualify a borrower for loan forgiveness?

You must be employed full time (annual average of 30 hours per week) by a public service organization, or must be serving in a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps position.

Organizations that meet the definition of “public service organization” for purposes of the PSLF Program are listed below.

  1. A government organization (including a federal, state, local, or tribal organization, agency, or entity; a public child or family service agency; or a tribal college or university).
  2. A not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  3. A private, not-for-profit organization (that is not a labor union or a partisan political organization) that provides one or more of the following public services:
  • Emergency management
  • Military service
  • Public safety
  • Law enforcement
  • Public interest law services
  • Early childhood education (including licensed or regulated health care, Head Start, and state-funded pre-kindergarten)
  • Public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly
  • Public health (including nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses in a clinical setting, and full-time professionals engaged in health care practitioner occupations and health care support occupations)
  • Public education
  • Public library services
  • School library or other school-based services

STEP 4: Choose a Career that has a Student Loan Pay Back Program

If you don’t want to stick around in a public service career for 10 years just to have your loans repaid, consider a career where you received your repayment award and then transition earlier.


The Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program, “helps alleviate the critical shortage of nurses by offering loan repayment assistance,” and offers loan assistance for nurses. However, you will be required to work at either a “health care facility with a critical shortage of nurses or at an eligible school of nursing in the case of nurse faculty.”

U.S. Military:

Most branches of the military have student loan repayment programs with the added benefit of receiving a very healthy unmatched pension, if after serving you required obligation you later determine you want to continue serving 20 years of active duty service.

The Navy’s Loan Repayment Program can provide you with up to $65,000 to use toward paying off qualifying loans. The Army, which includes the Army National Guard, also has a College Loan Repayment Program that provides up to $65,000 (Army) or $50,000 (National Guard) in assistance. Check with local recruiters to learn specifics for each branch of service.


Qualified applicants under The Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program may receive up to $75,000 in loan forgiveness — $25,000 per year for up to three years.

Medical Worker:

The National Institutes of Health will repay up to $35,000 per year in loans for qualified clinical researchers, and many hospitals will help repay loans for doctors who agree to work in physical therapy, among other career tracks.

Other Government Employee:

The Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Justice, Department of State, and plenty other government agencies have student loan repayment programs. Consider seeking employment with a government agency and receive up to $10,000 per year for each year that you work.


You should know what type of student loans you carry because only federal student loans are eligible for many of the previous listed programs. These programs may allow you to lower your student loan payments, consolidate your loans, or have a public service entity assist with your payback.

If you choose a public service career that you’d enjoy, such as the military, not only will you gain the satisfaction of serving the public, you’ll also have a decent salary, an opportunity for world-wide travel, and a healthy pension after twenty years of active duty service.

Instead of stressing over student loan payments, choose any of the methods above to hack your way out of paying the full amount. You don’t have to pay the tens of thousands of dollars that you’re worried about, find a way to take advantage of one of the programs above. You owe it to yourself to hack your way out of the student loan hoax.

Rise up and fight back! If you think this post would be beneficial to someone you know—perhaps someone you are tired of hearing complain about paying their student loan debts—be sure to share this post with them.

Originally posted 2015-04-27 10:00:11.