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This is a guest post by Tom at Fired Up Millennial.

When you first start working as a young adult, the focus is money. This includes making it, saving it, and learning to budget it appropriately. One thing that many young professionals forget about, however, is equally as important and can have just as lasting of an effect on your life…

That critical thing is credit.

If you don’t build credit, you can find yourself incredibly hampered. This may even mean areas that have nothing to do with your finances. So, why is your credit score so important? What else does it affect? Read on to learn more and make credit work for you.

Why Credit Matters

Credit used to just be a measure of how likely you are to pay your bills. Banks and financial institutions used your payment history and credit usage to determine if you were reliable to lend money to.

Now, those scores are looked at by far more than just your local bank. The decisions made based on the numbers are often far outside the realm of whether you’ll get approved for a new loan or not.

When you’re applying for jobs, many companies will have you sign a release authorizing them to check your credit. To them, a history of late payments means you might have problems following through on commitments, or that you can’t be relied on. Both undesirable traits for an employee.

Landlords also look at credit scores. They want to know that their would-be tenants (you) can be trusted to pay rent on time. If you have a history that says you don’t pay your bills, they’re not going to want to rent to you.

Later, you may want to buy a house or get a credit card that offers great rewards. Or, maybe you’ll need an auto loan to buy a car, a personal loan to consolidate credit card debt or a private student loan for grad school. With poor credit, you’ll find that many of these avenues will not be available to you. Even if you manage to find a lender that’s willing to take a risk on you, you’ll be looking at much higher interest rates and fees, which means overall higher cost.

How is a Credit Score Calculated?

The short version is that a credit score is your “rating” once all factors have been considered. Credit bureaus take into account everything from your payment history to how much credit you have available. And, how much of it you’re using. Your credit score is a number that reflects this combination. The higher the number, the better chance you have of being approved for credit or getting a good interest rate.

Something that tends to complicate the process is that different bureaus and lenders have different criteria and even different scoring models. As a general rule, however, scores can run from 300—absolute rock bottom—to 850, considered premium credit. Anything over 700 is good. But, some lenders or other creditors will go as low as 620. Below 600 is considered “subprime.” If your score drops that low, you can expect to have some problems getting credit—or even getting an apartment.

How to Build Credit

If you’re just starting out, you might be wondering how to build credit. It can seem like a frustrating cycle. You need a good credit history to get approved for a credit card. But, you can’t get that good history if you can’t get approved.

The good news is that there are ways to break that cycle. The first is by applying for a student or secured credit card. Credit card companies know that students are just starting out. As such, they usually don’t have any credit history built up. So, they offer cards that don’t require a high credit score or lengthy history. They generally have higher interest rates and lower credit limits. But, this is a good option for a starting point.

To maximize the effectiveness, you’ll want to pay your card’s balance in full each month—a good habit to get into.

There are other ways to help build credit at a young age, too. For example, taking out student loans, making on-time payments and getting your parents to co-sign with you. Or, even in some cases just paying rent.

I’ll talk a little more about how to use these products in order to build credit the fastest in the following sections.

What Makes a Credit Score Change?

Lots of different factors can affect your credit score a few points one way or another. But, you only need to be aware of a few factors. These can greatly affect your score in a nearly real-time kind of way. Every 2 weeks, the scores are updated. A change in these factors can mean a significant change in even that short a time.

The single biggest thing affecting your credit score is your payment history.

Even one late payment will drop your score. The record of that late payment will stay on your record for years to come. Even being one day late on your credit card payment can result in showing late on your credit report.

Credit utilization ratio is another critical factor. This measures how much of your available credit you’re using. A high ratio can signal current financial problems or a tendency to live outside your means—which will also result in financial problems later.

Creditors like to see less than 30% of your credit being used. If you have a $5,000 limit on your credit card and you are using less than $1,500 of it, that tells creditors that you can responsibly manage your credit. If that $5,000 card is maxed out and creditors see that you consistently reach your limit, that signals trouble and will decrease your score.

How to Improve Credit

It’s always best to start out on a good foot and build your credit in a positive way from there on out. But what if you’ve already made a few bad choices and find yourself with less-than-stellar credit?

The bad news is that once you have poor credit, it’ll take work and time to repair it. The good news is that it’s possible to go from poor credit to amazing credit, if you’re willing to put in the work.

Where to focus on rebuilding credit

The #1 most critical thing to do if you’re in credit trouble is to stop digging that hole you’re in and start working to get out of it. That means stop using your credit cards. You’ll never fix your credit if you keep adding to your debt. So, switch to using your debit card. If you can’t afford to pay for it with cash on hand, you really have to consider if the purchase is essential or not.

Secondly, you’ll want to make sure that all payments are always on time. If that means paying the minimum on your credit cards that month, so be it, but even the minimum payment is far better than no payment or paying less than the minimum. Making that payment means helping your payment history—which will only help your score. If you can afford it, pay far more than the minimum or the entire balance. If you stop using your card and put all available cash toward paying it down, you’ll be able to get that balance down a lot faster, and you’ll see your credit score go up as a result.

Another objective is to get your utilization ratio below 30%. Keep track of how much of your credit limit you are currently spending so you know can make sure it is always below this threshold.

Get support

A number of apps exist that can help keep you focused on your journey to build credit by offering ways to help and letting you know when you may be close to doing something that will damage your credit – such as spending too much of your available credit. Seeing your progress—even if it’s only a few points at a time—can help keep you motivated when you’re tempted to use your credit card.

Conclusion

Being a young professional is difficult. There’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot of ways to get on the wrong track, even if they aren’t immediately apparent.

Paying attention to your credit is one of the most important habits to get into. To build credit is one of the most critical ways you can set yourself up for future financial success. Building a solid credit history now will ensure that when you do need a loan or need to rent an apartment, you can. It’ll also help you look good to employers, landlords, and others.

Don’t let your credit stand in the way of your life. Build credit or repair it now. Start letting your credit score show you to be dependable, trustworthy, and an excellent manager of your own finances.

Tom runs FIREd Up Millennial – a blog about his relentless pursuit of Financial Independence so he can Retire Early. You can stay updated with his latest articles and random thoughts by following him on Twitter.

The post Why and How to Build Credit as a Young Professional appeared first on Urban 20 Something.

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Earning cash back makes any shopping experience more enjoyable. This post is all about my absolute favorite way to earn cash back when shopping. It’s a free website called Ebates! If you’re not using it, not to worry. This post will show you how to get started, earn as much as possible with each transaction, and even get a sign-up bonus today!

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

If you already are using Ebates, find out my five tips for making even more cash back on it.

If you’ve read my site for a while, you may have already caught onto my love of Ebates. It’s extremely passive and it costs me nothing. Not using is it like throwing away free money. My CPA father would never have it!

I’ve been using it for less than a year and you can see how much cash back I’ve already earned below. So, I thought it was the perfect time to tell you more about it and explain how you, too, can get extra money passively (yep!).

All About Cash Back

With credit cards, apps, accounts, etc., there are so many ways to earn cash back when shopping. While it’s hard to find cash back programs that give you huge discounts, I believe every bit is important! Especially when it’s as simple as it is with Ebates.

All About Ebates

Ebates has been around since the late 90s. They started with a commitment to be free to their users. So, unlike credit cards and many other cash back programs that require some sort of strain, risk or qualification of the user, Ebates is free and always will be with no catch to you.

In case it’s not clear- Ebates is NOT a scam. I’ve spent wasted plenty of time pursuing online “solutions” for making more or extra money. I can tell you that Ebates is the real deal. So, if you’re not yet an Ebates user, you can sign up here for free and, by signing up through my link, you’ll receive a $10 bonus. 

Once signed up, you’ll have an account on the Ebates website. There, you can search any online store or website that you’d want to shop from (including Amazon and other common websites!). Ebates will show you the percent of cash back they’re currently offering at the given store. Enter the website through Ebates and you’re done! You’ll automatically earn that cash back from shopping at that website.

Ebates issues your cash back payments every six months. You have the option to receive this via check (their default) or via PayPal, which is what I prefer.

That’s it! It takes less than five minutes to sign up. Do so here and you’ll receive a $10 sign up bonus. You’ll be earning cash back in no time!

5 Ways to Increase Your Ebates Earnings

Once you sign up with Ebates, there’ s a couple simple ways to increase your earnings.

1- Add the Google Chrome extension

This has been the biggest factor in my Ebates earnings. It sounds simple enough to go to the Ebates website and enter online stores through it. And it is. However, it’s easy to forget to visit the website store.  Sometimes we shop on a whim, sometimes we do via clicking on an ad, and that all surpasses Ebates. Plus, there are some online stores you might not even know are eligible for Ebates. The Chrome button will help you with that.

You can download the Ebates button here. It will alert you when you’re on a website that’s eligible for cash back with Ebates. Follow the prompt to activate Ebates and you’re good to go!

2- Keep a wishlist spreadsheet

I’ve always loved to shop and I don’t try to fight it. For a couple of years, I’ve kept a spreadsheet of the clothes or items that I’m coveting at any time, and then I also keep another tab on that spreadsheet that records clothes and items that buy. If I buy something and go 30 days without wearing it, it makes me think I actually don’t need it all that much and I’ll usually return it. This helps me stick to high-quality pieces and streamline my wardrobe to avoid clutter- necessary in my tiny New York City apartment!

I’ve found this spreadsheet super effective to couple with Ebates. I check Ebates to see what stores might have double cash back at any one time and pick up items on my wishlist then. I also can see if items that I’ve recently bought are on a good promotion with Ebates, buy it through Ebates, and return the previous purchase in store.

3- Create a favorites page

Going hand in hand with the tip above, Ebates makes it easy for you to create a Favorites page. This has all of my favorite Ebates stores in one place. It lets me know when these stores have high cashback deals. Below is a screenshot of my favorites page right now. As you can see, now would be a great time to pick up anything that’s on my wishlist above from Saks! 10% off is really helpful.

4- Use in-store cashback

In a relatively new addition, Ebates also lets you shop in-store and receive cash back. Simply click the “in-store” cash back on the Ebates menu website. There, it’ll show you what stores currently offer cash back. Enter the credit or debit card into Ebates that you’ll use while shopping in the store. Ebates will recognize the transaction and give you cash back from there. Keep your receipt- but ta-da! You should receive cash back just by using that card.

The free Ebates app can make this process easier.

5- Tell everyone you know

One of my favorite parts of Ebates is it’s “refer a friend” offer- it’s one of the best referral programs I’ve seen. Unlike most referrals (like Groupon), the “refer a friend” bonus comes in the form of credit to the company. So, you refer a friend to Groupon and then receive $10 in Groupon dollars. I’ll still take it! But, I do love that Ebates referral program pays you in cash.

What’s better? They don’t only pay you for referring the person. The person you refer also gets an extra bonus for signing up through referrals that they wouldn’t get by signing up on their own. It’s a really good deal.

I tell everyone that will listen about Ebates. Friends, co-workers, relatives over holiday dinners, and so on. It’s just too good of a deal not to sure and has absolutely no cost to the person signing up through my referral program. Only gain!

So with that, if you’re not an Ebates member, sign up here through my referral link. You’ll receive a $10 sign up bonus with your first purchase made through Ebates. And, from there, you’ll be able to not only earn cash back but start referring your friends, too!

Happy shopping!

The post How to Earn Cash Back by Using Ebates appeared first on Urban 20 Something.

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This post was originally “The 5 Easiest Ways to be Productive”, but I’ve since updated it to add more easy ways to be productive! Let’s get things done.

It always seems like a great idea to become more productive and get stuff done until you realize just how much effort some of it requires. In this post, I wanted to share the absolute simplest ways to be more productive daily that don’t demand much change in your daily routine.

**This post may contain affiliate links. All opionions are my own. Please see my disclosure for more information** 1. Schedule like crazy

If you’re subscribed to my e-mail list (y’all are the best!), then you know I write a lot about productivity hacks. Focusing on my productivity and efficiency have been big game changers in how much I can get done each day and is how stay I motived. It’s been especially essential working around my 9-5.

There’s been no bigger game changer than this planner right here, my side hustle planner (get yours below!). It’s helped me focus on one task so much more so that I can get something important done even if I only have 20 free minutes. With a full-time job and everything else life throws at us, time is a precious thing to waste.

Looking to increase your productivity level at work? Here’s how you can use the technique I use in my side hustler planner during your day hustle!

2. Sleep the same amount every night

Yes, even on the weekends.

The idea of getting only a little sleep on the weekdays and then “making up for it” on the weekends just doesn’t work. It messes with your internal clock. Getting more sleep than you usually do can actually end up making you more tired. Try to get about the same amount of sleep every night.

Suggestions for better sleep:

  • Use the free app Sleep Cycle. It tracks your REM cycle (in a way I’m still not completely sure of) and wakes you up in a half hour window that you set based on where you are in your cycle. It has made waking up much easier for me.
  • Read a book before bed, or your kindle. Being on your phone or computer right before you sleep won’t help your brain shut off. Same with your iPad! I got rid of my iPad after learning this since I primarily used it for a Kindle anyway.
  • Treat yourself in the morning. Literally, bribe yourself if need be. Whether it’s with a coffee, a delicious breakfast, or whatever gets you going. Find it and use it.
3. Eat small portions all day

Larger portions of food at once will make you tired. It is easier to stay energized with constant good food in your stomach. I basically eat five meals a day at this point, they’re just small. I’ve found this keeps me focused (I can’t focus well when I’m hungry) and also keeps me from eating huge meals that will require a post-food nap. I’m like a bear and can eat myself into hibernation if I’m really hungry.

Foods that give me the most energy are:

  • Yogurt (this one is my favorite)
  • Granola
  • Almonds
  • Peanut butter + Jelly (yes, I am a child)
  • Bananas
4. Turn off notifications

We can all agree that social media is usually a time sucker. If you have any notifications on your phone for social media, I’d go ahead and switch them off. If you want to check a platform, you’ll remember, you don’t need to be reminded to do so. There’s nothing efficient about working when you have notifications that lead you to pointless information going off left and right.

Ok so, social media is a clear enemy of productivity. But, people somehow trick themselves into thinking that notifications on e-mails are a good thing. Well, they are not good for your productivity. They pop up while you’re in the middle of things, distract you, and can stress you out about something you have no control over right then. Try to turn off e-mail notifications. I have faith that you check it often enough.

5. Five-minute bodywork routine

If I don’t have time to work out and/or if I’ve just felt that I’ve been sitting for too long, doing a quick 5 minutes of working out and stretching makes a huge difference. You can play around with what makes you feel best in five minutes and have your own customized routine. For me personally, I make sure to do a plank, some push ups, and stretch. If I don’t do those, I just don’t feel as good during the rest of the day and can’t focus as well.

6. Drink water. Constantly

Constantly have a water bottle or glass of water next to you. It’ll remind you to drink far more than you would if you’re simply relying on your body to remind you when you’re thirsty. I have to go to the bathroom once an hour from how much water I drink. People at work may be wondering what’s wrong with me, but not only does that mean I’m hydrated, it’s good to get up out of your seat at work once an hour and move your body.

Some simple ways to make sure you’re staying hydrated:

  • Keep a water bottle with you at all times and/or at your desk
  • Pour a glass of water for yourself before bed and drink it right when you wake up
  • Get this amazing bottle and make water consumption more exciting than ever before
  • Use free water drinking app like Daily Water Free or Waterlogged. My favorite is Plant Nanny because you get a cute plant that comes with it!
7. Schedule “airplane mode” times

If you want to take the “no notification” thing to the next level, spend some time on airplane mode. I find this technique especially useful if I need to write or read something lengthy or am designing something (AKA, things that don’t need the internet). Shut off everything, as if you were on an airplane. You can get incredible amounts done that way.

8. Have a “to-do” system at your fingertips

When I’m trying to develop a new habit or reach a new goal, I list the steps in a spreadsheet in google docs. I have the formulas set in it so that each time I “check off” my habit as done for the day, I see the small meter moving closer to completion of my goals. Check it out!

This keeps me productive for many reasons:

1- It keeps me motivated. I can see my progress as I improve!

2- It’s simple. I don’t have to write “drink 64 oz of water” each day on my to do list. No one has time for that. All it takes is a check in my spreadsheet but I still have the same satisfaction of crossing off a to-do list. Better yet, I’m not just checking something off, I’m seeing a positive habit form.

3- It’s on google drive, so I can access it on my laptop, work computer, and cell phone!

(get your own goal spreadsheet in my Side Hustler Library below!)

Resources to stay productive

All of the resources I mentioned I use in this post are available in my Side Hustler Resource Library. It’s got all my best tools for staying super productive. Sign up below, and they’re yours!

The post Simple Ways to Stay Productive appeared first on Urban 20 Something.

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Ever wanted to start a blog? You’re in the right place. Blogging is one of my absolute favorite side hustles, as I’m sure you can tell from… my blog. You can blog about anything, and you can make money blogging about pretty much anything, too.

When I started this blog, I didn’t really know it’d essentially become an online business. I started it to document the road less traveled I was about to take in declining my law school acceptances. I was scared about what was next and knew I couldn’t be alone amongst Millennials feeling lost in their careers.

Monetizing my blog has become one of the greatest perks of my blog- which is simply writing about what I love. But don’t take my word for it. Bloggers like Melyssa GriffinMichelle Schroeder-Gardner, and Pat Flynn all rake in $1 million plus per year from their blogs.

In this post, I’m going to give you an overview of all there is to know on how to start a blog for your profitable side hustle.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Why you should start a blog Exercise your creativity

You (yes, you) are more creative than you know. I remember when I started my blog, I’d often read about how people started blogging to have a creative outlet. I thought that meant that they were born writers or bakers or photographers and wanted a place to showcase their artistic talents. As someone that can’t even draw symmetrically, I hesitated to think that I fell into this category.

But, I soon found out that expressing your creativity is not, in any way, just about expressing an art. It’s about bringing your special talents and gifts to life and spreading your experiences and message with the world. This may sound a little hokey, but it’s so real.

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.” 
– Elizabeth Gilbert Make extra money

Making money doing what you love, is there anything better? You can blog about nearly anything and still monetize it. Pinch of Yum is a recipe blog that makes multiple six figures a year. Avocadu is a health and wellness blog with a healthy income. The creator of Extra Petite (my favorite fashion blog!) makes a full-time living with her petite fashion blog. Millennial Money Man pulls in five figures per month from his personal finance blog. And, yours truly makes money right here on this very blog on building freedom through side hustling and personal branding.

You get the picture.

It doesn’t matter what niche you pursue. The most important part, actually, is that it’s something you really love. Blogging is time-consuming, there’s no way around it. And, if this your side hustle, your free time is already quite precious. So it’s critical that you love what you blog about to keep up your motivation to do so.

Below we’ll talk about the exact strategies you can use to make money while blogging.

Learn a new skill

There’s so much to learn when it comes to how to start a blog. First off, you learn to build a website! When I started Urban 20 Something, I did not know how to build a website. I was very intimated by hosting, servers, coding, and everything else. However, once I got past that roadblock, accepted it would be difficult and took the time to learn it, I not only had a blog, I had a new skill under my belt. Then, when I was traveling throughout Southeast Asia a couple of months later, I ended up finding an expat family in Thailand that was searching for a native English speaker to teach their son web design. Jobs!

That’s not the only skill you’ll learn. As your blog grows and you pursue your interests, you can learn so much about digital marketing, social media, e-commerce, copywrighting, the topic you blog about, and so on. The list is never-ending.

Build your portfolio

Professionally, if you blog about something career-related, this can be a huge asset to show potential employers down the road. Take the Man Repeller, for instance. This wildly successful fashion blog started simply as a way for Leandra Medine, the founder, to try and impress fashion magazines as she graduated from college and searched for a job.

Even if you don’t blog about your professional field, your blog can still be an asset. If it showcases some of the skills that your prospective employer is looking for, you will stand out.

Financially, your blog can be a really helpful way to get freelance work. The content you create on your blog is a portfolio of sorts and as such, you have a big advantage when applying for freelance jobs. If your blog is a photography blog, this will help you get freelance photography work. You get the picture. The point is that a blog is an excellent platform to store your impressive work and help you get paid to do similar work for others. Just another reason to start a blog!

What you could blog about Think outside of the box blog

As you are learning by now, blogging isn’t just a website with posts about your weekend or random memes. Blogging can actually be a very sophisticated online business, and I invite you to think of it as such. In fact, you don’t even have to use the word blog. You could call it a website or online business if you prefer.

Your website is a foundation for you to be creative in a way that lights you up and make money while doing so. So, whether you do this through creating Youtube videos, writing about startups, becoming a public speaker, helping others be more productive, literally anything, and you make money while doing so, that’s an online business. If you don’t identify with the idea of a “blog”, don’t pigeonhole yourself into it!

All this being said, there’s still so much to be said for blogging itself. Some of my favorite bloggers that are crushing it under the traditional model of blogging are XO Sarah, Cupcakes and Cashmere, and the Confused Millennial.

(When I say traditional model of blogging, I mean they still produce consistent blog posts, their community lives on their blogs via comments, and they make most of their income from the posts themselves.)

Find your niche

I could write an entire blog post on this (and people have), but for the sake of efficiency, I want to mostly talk about what worked for me. It can be easier to hear an actual story than reading abstract advice on doing what you love.

Your niche means your blog focus or topic. It’s the main subject of your blog. Whether you’re in a food niche, a travel niche, a yoga niche, a business niche, etc., it simply means what your blog is “about”.

First up, why are niches important?

So, you don’t have to have a niche. If you want to be creative and expressive on many things, you don’t have to narrow yourself down. For example, Rachel from the Confused Millennial has a wildly successful blog and is the first to say you don’t need to have a niche. You can write about the travel in your life, the food in your life, your career, and your social life all in one place if you want!

So what’s the perk of having a niche? You can be seen as an expert within that niche! Then, if you want to create and sell products to your audience on that topic, they’ll already know that you’re an expert on it and will be more likely to buy from you.

Take Melyssa Griffin, for instance. When she began blogging, she wrote about everything. Her travels, personal development, blogging, goals, you name it. When she niched down and only focused on blogging and building an online business, she became the go-to website for that niche and now makes her living selling products based on her niche.

That said, there are still plenty of ways you can make lots of money without selling products if you want to keep your blog as a sort of catalog of sorts. We’ll talk more about monetizing your blog below. For now, keep in mind that as a rule of thumb, the more focused your blog content is on a topic, the easier you’ll be able to show your knowledge of the topic, and the more likely people will be to buy products from you on that topic.

And, remember, your niche can and will grow over time. And that’s okay! Don’t let deciding on one keep you from just starting.

The most important factor to consider when deciding on your niche

From the list of reasons to start a blog above, for side hustling purposes, I think that having a creative outlet and making money are the two most exciting. With this in mind, the most important thing to consider when deciding what to blog about is what you are passionate about!

It sounds corny but it’s true, and here’s why: you need to stay extremely motivated to have a successful blog as a side hustle. Blogging is a great side hustle but it’s extremely time-consuming, especially to do well. So, you need to be excited to wake up early in the morning to work on it before you go to work. You have to keep that going on the weekends when you’d usually be at brunch or watching Netflix. It takes sacrifice. But, you’ll barely notice that sacrifice if you absolutely love doing it. That’s why it’s the most important part of this equation.

Importantly, this means do not Google what the most profitable blog topics are. I get it, you want to make money from this. But, as we talked about above, you can make money blogging in ANY niche. If you have good content and engaged readers, money can come. Having good content and engaged readers takes time, so being passionate about your blog such that you’re willing to put in that time is what’s critical.

How I found my niche

For me, it was more than just deciding what I was passionate about. I am passionate about a lot of things! Travel, health, personal finance, wine… :). When it came to what I wanted to blog about, I instead focused on a unique story I had to tell. I knew that bringing my story and experience into blog posts would make it more relatable.

I started Urban 20 Something when I was declining my law school acceptances and didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was a very scary time for me, but I knew that I couldn’t be alone in my situation. There had to be other millennials debating on whether to go to graduate school and struggling with student debt. At the time, I did not know that I would end up quitting my job, traveling to Southeast Asia alone, learning to freelance to make more money, and becoming a personal branding guru. But, I knew I wanted to take my blog on the journey with me.

So, I focused then and still focus on how I got out of my quarter life trap to make my twenties and thirties as great as they could be. It’s evolved over time and it’s STILL evolving, but bringing my story into what I write is the foundation of my blog.

What’s your story? What have you been through or are going through that you think others can relate to? Or even, what do you want to do that you haven’t yet? Bring your blog on your journey with you!

How to start a blog

Here comes the technical part of this process. This was one of the hardest parts for me when I was starting out. Don’t worry, though, you need not know any coding at all! I will walk you through the whole thing and it’s much better on the other side.

Your domain

What will your precious blog be called? You can have it be the name of your blog or business, or even use your first and last name. As a rule of thumb, try not to use any dashes or punctuation. And, people also advise that you don’t use numbers since it can be confusing as to whether you type out the numbers or use the number keys. (You can tell I listened to this advice.)

I suggest using the site Namechk.com to search your domain prior to purchasing. Not only will it tell you if your domain is available, it’ll also tell you what’s available on social media platforms.

You can use a website like Hover to purchase a relatively inexpensive domain name. (I don’t recommend using Go Daddy as the founder actually killed an elephant. Seriously, who does that?) You also can simply get a domain name when you sign up for the hosting plan I recommend below.

Web hosting

Hosting your website simply means deciding which platform will host the website on the internet. You can do this one of two main ways: pay someone else to host it or host it yourself. I definitely recommend the latter.

Now, WordPress is where and how you create your website. WordPress itself is free. But, the website you create on WordPress needs to be hosted somewhere. I recommend hosting it on Bluehost, which is what I use for all of my websites. Bluehost has had terrific customer service in my experience. This was especially critical in my early days when I had no idea what I was doing. It’s also very inexpensive and easy to get started with. In fact, follow my step-by-step tutorial here to get started in just 20 minutes.

How to make money blogging

Of course, you can start a blog just for fun and not make any money off of it. There’s plenty of value in having a creative outlet that allows you to create, write, and connect with others in a way that you might not during your 9-5 job. That said, you can make money blogging about just about anything. So, why not combine your creative outlet with a method of side income? That’s the path my blog has organically taken and it’s my absolute favorite side hustle (not to mention my most profitable!).

Affiliate marketing

I and many other bloggers make money through affiliate links. This means that I may receive a small commission when someone purchases something I recommend through the link on my blog. Now understanding how affiliate links work for bloggers, I make sure to purchase through their links when they recommend something useful and am happy to do so. I want their blogs to stay in business so the bloggers can continue providing valuable content.

Ads

One of the most passive ways to make money blogging is by advertising on your website. It can take a lot of traffic to even make a little bit of money with ads. So, it might take a while before you have the momentum to use this method. The appeal, though, is that you literally have to do nothing to make money this way. Ads are placed for you and your readers do the rest.

Services

You can use your blog to advertise services you have. This could be tutoring or consulting, for example. A lot of business bloggers also offer business consulting. Productivity bloggers can offer time management coaching. Career bloggers can offer resume and cover letter..

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If you’re a perfectionist, you know first hand how much perfectionism can delay you from finishing something, or stop you from even starting at all. The problem is that we can sometimes think this is a good thing and don’t recognize perfectionism for what it truly is.

Perfectionism has a way of disguising itself as a positive trait. It can make you think that because you’re striving for excellence, you shouldn’t finish anything less than perfect. In reality, you end up wasting so much time not finishing things and procrastinating. And, you can still strive for excellence while completing tasks!

The truth? All of us have a little perfectionist in us. So if you have big dreams and goals, whether at work, your side hustle, with your relationships, or in a creative pursuit, your perfectionism might be holding you back.

What is a perfectionist?

According to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, perfectionism is:

“a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.”

So if you’re holding back from something because the result may be less than perfect, you’re dealing with your inner perfectionist.

Perfectionism might show up for you at work when working on a project. You might work on a project for DAYS on end because you want it to be perfect. You refuse to finish it until you consider it perfect. This can disguise itself as a good trait! It can show you care a lot about your job and your work.

Instead, what this actually does is stress you out, waste your time, waste your company’s time, and hurt your self-confidence. Now, I’m not saying you should care less about your work. You should always try your best. But sometimes (often!) you might not see your best as perfect, and that’s where we fall short in growing and learning. It’s much better for everyone involved that you try your best and continue progressing than waiting for perfect.

For my fellow side hustlers, perfectionism probably shows up a lot. If you’ve got that side hustle you’re dying to get going on, that blog you want to start, or that writing you want to get out to the internet, you’ve probably gotten a lot less further on it than you’d like because you’re waiting for it to be perfect. I especially see this with young professionals who feel like their side hustle time is precious and they don’t want to spend it doing anything that’s not great.

But really, that outlook will just ensure your side hustle never even starts at all, let alone gets great.

Why we must stop perfectionism

You might be reading this and wonder why I so strongly hate perfectionism. After all, some professionals even bring up their perfectionist trait in job interviews!

But we need to look a little deeper into what perfectionism is and what it does.
(Hint: it kills dreams.)

The truth is that underneath all of that fancy elegance that perfectionism can make you feel, underneath the idea that because you’re a perfectionist, you care deeply about your work, is just fear.

Perfectionism is like a Chanel version of being completely terrified.

If you focus only on your work being perfect before you consider it finished, then here’s the kicker… you might never finish it! So, your perfectionism is just an excuse for you not to launch something, release something, turn in a project, or otherwise because you’re afraid it won’t be perfect.

What’s the killer behind this? You could waste so, so much time “perfecting” a project that probably won’t ever be perfect anyway, and that’s time you can never get back. That’s time wasted that could’ve been spent working on something else, learning from your errors, or even spending time with friends or family!

What’s worse than perfectionism preventing you from getting things done is when perfectionism stops you from even starting at all because you’re so afraid you’ll create something less than perfect.

So let’s now think of perfectionism in a job interview again. If I was interviewing someone and they told me that they are a perfectionist, that would say to me that they will probably take a LONG time to get things done because they’re so afraid of how it might turn out. Or worse, they might not even start things at all.

Procrastination & the "Perfectionist" - YouTube

Tips on combatting your inner perfectionist

As we can see, perfectionism is something we all have to work to avoid every single day. We all are victims of it to some extent, but there are absolutely steps we can take to combat it! So if there’s that side hustle you’re waiting to start, a website you’re waiting to launch, a project at work you’ve been wanting to take on, etc., take some of these tips below and get going!

1- Identify it for what it is

Call it out. Don’t be easy on perfectionism! Identify it for what it truly is- fear. Then, look a bit deeper into what you’re really afraid of. Are you afraid of being embarrassed? Confused? Out of place? Whatever it is, identify it. This will make it easier to deal with.

2- Stop being selfish

You got real with what perfectionism, now get real with yourself. Don’t allow perfectionism, a self-proclaimed personality trait of caring too much, get in the way of the bigger goals. Those projects or ideas that perfectionism is stopping you from completing isn’t only getting in the way of your dreams, but it’s also stopping progress on your own business, your side hustle, the company you work for, and even your family. You going for your dreams is bigger than you.

3- Live in a growth mindset

If you are in the mindset of growing and learning, it’s a lot easier to see your work, projects, and products as learning experiences, not things that define you. Try to stay in a growth and learning mentality.

4- Know that even “perfect” products will change anyway 

The truth is that no matter how perfect your work may feel, whether that essay for school, that article for a big publication, a PowerPoint at work, or your website for your side hustle, you’re likely going to change things anyway. And that’s okay! That’s how evolving works. Again, if you’re in that mentality of learning and growing, you’ll want to be constantly evolving anyway. And others will not care that you change things around once it’s out in the open. Truthfully, they probably won’t even notice.

5- Accept discomfort  

This is much, much easier said than done, but the sooner we can accept that we will always coexist with fear, the easier it will be to carry on with it by our side. We don’t need to work on getting rid of fear because I doubt it will ever truly leave us. But, accepting that it’s here, it’s not going anywhere and that we can still persevere while feeling it is perhaps the most important part of combatting the perfectionist in us.

“It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert 6- Remind yourself your work won’t get worse

Just because you’re pushing through your perfectionist ways and perhaps your fear does not mean that the quality of your work will get worse. It could get worse, but it doesn’t have to. You should always try your best and take pride in your work, but you can do these things without the overarching weight of perfect on your shoulders. Because whether you’re going for perfect or going for progress, trying your best is all you can ask of yourself anyway.

7- Set deadlines for yourself

Deadlines are friends of the recovering perfectionist. Whether you decide you’ll finish a project in two weeks or you set a 45-minute timer to write an article, they help hold you accountable to getting things done. Perfectionists struggle to complete tasks because they’ll never be perfect. Deadlines are designed to inform when your tasks will be complete.

Why Perfectionism Will Crush Your Productivity — And How To Stop It - YouTube

The most important tip of all: Be tremendously compassionate with yourself.

None of the tips outlined above are easy to do in practice. Dealing with perfectionism is incredibly hard to do in practice. Starting anything new? Also incredibly difficult.

While going for your dreams, combatting perfectionism, or anything else you’re calling into your life right now, be gentle with yourself.

“What will make you finish something is not self-discipline, but self-forgiveness”
– Elizabeth Gilbert

The post 7 Ways to Combat Your Inner Perfectionist appeared first on Urban 20 Something.

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Personal branding is the secret weapon of young professionals.

I’ve seen the power of personal branding totally transform my own life and career. Branding myself opened the door for me to begin freelancing and transformed my experience job hunting.

When I decided to quit my job to travel and backpack through Southeast Asia, I was at a loss as to how I was going to make money while away. I knew freelancing was the best option but didn’t know where to begin. Further, when I eventually wanted to get another job back in my home of NYC, I was terrified I’d never get one while living in a different country and while unemployed. Personal branding was the answer to both of these problems.

Personal branding for young professionals

When I began learning about personal branding, I was extremely intimated by the standout brands of my accomplished career role models. I would look at the websites of people like Nicole Lapin, Katie Couric, Sara Blakley, and Oprah. I felt like I had absolutely nothing to put on a website of my own in comparison to them. They had New York Times bestsellers, interviews on national television, TED talks, etc.

I, on the other hand, was in my early twenties. Sure, I had a college degree, some babysitting experience, and one job under my belt. But, I did not know what I could possibly put on a website of my own, how I could start growing a big social media following, or why people would even really pay attention to me. I thought I needed to have my career experience and accomplishments to even begin branding myself or creating a personal website.

Further, when I was in college, I would see some of my classmates with personal websites of their own. I did not understand how they could do so much (speeches, internships, independent research, travel, etc.) while in school. For me, school was a lot to handle!

But then, I realized I was looking at everything backward.

The branding mindset

Here’s the reality: you don’t need to have an established career or a list of achievements to build a personal website and a personal brand.

You can do it that way. But, I prefer it the other way around.

You create a personal brand based on the things you love and are proud of, and your career and opportunities come to you from there.

For me, realizing this was so empowering. It made me feel so free because I felt like I could actually design the life, career, and future that I want. I realized I did not need to wait until I had checked some accomplishments off of a box, but that I could be an accomplished young professional now and on my own terms.

My personal website

Once I committed to this, I spent days and nights pouring over the best way to go about it. If I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right.

I made a personal website, which was the foundation of my personal brand. It’s where I housed my resume, my biography, links to my social media channels, my portfolios, and so on.

When I applying for jobs, I made sure to strategically place this site throughout my application. I put it at the top of my resume with my address. It’s in the signature block of my email. I mentioned it in my cover letter, and so on.

My plan worked

I was blown away by my results when I began applying for jobs with this.

The red line in this graph represents my experience applying for jobs prior to my personal website. I was employed, living in NYC, had a college degree, and felt qualified for the prospective jobs. As you can see, I applied to about twenty. I landed about five interviews and truthfully, received no offers. It’s a little embarrassing! But, it’s the truth. These weren’t reach jobs, either. I was qualified for them and knew I could do them. But, I simply wasn’t standing out or connecting.

The light blue line (much prettier!) represents my time applying to jobs from Asia. I applied to seven, received an interview for four of them, and received offers from all four of them. Did I mention this was all over Skype?

Needless to say, my personal website worked. I was standing out and connecting in a way that I hadn’t been able to before. It did not matter that I wasn’t physically in New York. It did not matter that I was unemployed. I was qualified for the jobs I was applying for and would be a good fit in the company culture. These were both evident from my personal website alone. This made the employers’ job easier and, of course, helped me so much.

Why this worked

My story isn’t one of coincidence. There’s plenty of statistics out there that show why this is so powerful.

According to Workfolio, over 50% of hiring managers are impressed by a candidate’s personal website. Yet, only 7% of candidates actually have one! So not only is this something that employers value, it makes you look extra impressive because so few candidates have one.

According to Forbes, the average job opening gets 118 applications. It’s imperative that you stand out in the job search or you’ll too easily get lost in the shuffle with those 118 others.

The good news is now you can create your own personal website of your own (and learn web design in the process!). Here’s how…

Introducing Urban 20 Someone

Urban 20 SomeONE is my online program for young professionals. It builds the foundation of an irresistible, magnetic personal brand that will attract your people to you. So whether you yourself are looking for that dream job or want to build a personal brand for your own personal development, this is for you.

You’ll learn how to build your very own personal website, step by step, and deck it out with the content and style that will express your absolute best self in ways that are proven to impress employers. You’ll also learn how to use this tool to network online, freelance, and more.

The website is the foundation of your empire.

Join Urban 20 Someone here >>>

What’s Urban 20 Someone made of?

Glad you asked! Urban 20 Someone is an online program made up of three parts:

1- Five modules of self-study course material

I break down all the information in this course into five modules. Each module is made up of 5-10 lessons, and each lesson is about ten minutes long. I wanted to make this really easy for busy young professionals to make time for around their day jobs. By making each lesson only ten minutes, you have time to squeeze that in while getting ready in the morning, cooking dinner, or even before bed. Whatever works best for you!

All the course material together is about five hours. This is one of the most powerful parts of this program. It’s something that can be done as quickly as you choose. You can finish it in a weekend if you choose and start seeing results right away. It is not a long transformation and the results aren’t drawn out. But, it is a clear transformation and that’s what I love about it!

2- Workbooks

Throughout the course material, there are personalized, fillable workbooks. I did this so that you can take the information you learn in the course and apply it to your own life and work. These workbooks are designed not just to be a place to brainstorm, but to be resources you create that inform your personal brand. You can refer to them again and again as you build your website, post on social media, write for publications, apply for jobs, and so on.

3- 30-minute Skype session

Right now, I’m offering a 30 minute Skype session with all Urban 20 Someones! This can be 30 minutes to look at your personal website, strategize promoting your personal brand, plan your networking and social media scheduling, or whatever else you want to go over!

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A personal website might seem like something for freelancers, photographers, or celebrities. But, in the ever-increasing digital world, personal websites are becoming the key for young professionals.

Creating my personal website is still one of the best investments of time and money I’ve ever done for myself. This platform has opened doors beyond what I could’ve imagined. What shocks me is that only 7% of job applicants use these babies. So let’s dive into what you can use these for, how to make one, and how to use it to leverage your job.

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. What is a personal website?

A personal website is a website just about you. It’s your resume, portfolio, and cover letter all in one place. It’s not your lifestyle blog, your business website, your travel blog, or your feature somewhere. Traditionally, your first and last name are the domain. It includes your experiences, skills, and accomplishments. It is amazing because you are amazing!

Personal websites matters

Personal websites are becoming so relevant because millennials are multidimensional. Traditionally, resumes are for one career focus. Our talents and accomplishments just don’t work on a resume anymore.

This isn’t because we’re not focused, it’s because we have so much to offer. We likely have skills, experience, and interests in several categories, so putting them on one piece of paper doesn’t make sense.

A website adds those extra dimensions. It can show how your various interests connect. These websites aren’t just ways to show your professional accomplishments, it’s a way to show all your accomplishments and continue to grow as you do and your career does.

How can my personal website help me? Applying for jobs

Perhaps the most beneficial part of having your personal website will come along when you’re applying for jobs. With the job market more competitive than ever, you need something that will help you stand out. All the employer needs to do is click the link to your website and in 30 seconds they have a sense of who you are.

Networking

You can link your social media accounts to your website and the other way around. This way you’re connecting with your peers in a professional light. Your peers are your professional network, and making that connection for them takes those relationships a step further.

Traveling

If you’re traveling but don’t want to start a travel blog, or do want to blog but want your blog to have more than one focus, you can make your travels just one part of your website. Your entire blog can be just a section. This way, you can still keep friends and family up-to-date, but keep your online presence professional and reflecting more than just that one aspect of your life.

Freelance Work

Even if you have no experience freelancing professionally, you still probably have plenty of skills and qualifications people would pay for. But, how they are going to find you unless you put those accomplishments out there?

What do I put on my website?

This is where you get to completely personify your website. Let your creativity and your accomplishments shine through. Here some ideas to put on your personal website.

Professional

You’ll want to include your professional experience, but also include your professional goals and aspirations. Here are some examples of professional assets to include. It’s up to you what to display.

  • Your resume
  • Your major/ background on your education
  • What you’re interested in
  • What your dream position is
  • A “Hire me” page
  • Direct link to your LinkedIn
Academic
  • Your alma matters
  • Academic achievements
  • Notable research papers/ your thesis paper
  • Significant professors that you’ve studied with
  • Other languages you speak
  • Study abroad
Personal
  • A short bio about you
  • Contact information
  • Your volunteer experiences
  • Your personal achievements
  • Photos of you doing what you love/where you love
Where can I put my website? 1. Social Media

Link your website in the URL option of Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram (though make sure all of your social media is appropriate for the public!). Link it also on your LinkedIn, and link your LinkedIn to your website.

2. Your E-mail

You can edit the signatory block of your e-mail so that it includes your website URL. I would do so directly below my name, even above other contact information in my signature block. This way it catches peoples’ eyes and they are likely to click on it.

3. Your Resume

Just like you’ll do above, stick your website URL under your name at the top of your resume. For this, I would do my website at the bottom of my contact information (below my address, phone number, and e-mail address). This will catch HR representatives’ eyes and give them a chance to quickly get a glimpse of you in a sea of applicants.

4. Your Business Cards

Along with a personal website, I encourage you to have personal business cards. Even if you have professional ones from your current employer, having personal ones allows you to connect with others from a different industry in a more fluid way. Your business cards are excellent real estate for your personal website.

Do you see the power of personal websites? Great! You’re ready to build your very own.

How do I start a website?

Starting your own website isn’t as scary as it sounds. Let’s walk through the steps together and you’ll have your website up and kicking in no time.

1. Choosing/purchasing your domain

Personal website domains aren’t as complicated as naming a company, business, or blog. Most often, your personal website is just your first and last name (as mine is). If you don’t want to be as public, an easy fix is to not use your full name. You can use your middle name, your initials, or get creative. You’ll still put your website on your resume and social media as you like, so only those you give it to will be able to find it. 

You can then buy your domain name from whichever domain site you choose. I like hover best because of their great customer service. Something essential for the less tech-savvy (me!).

2. Choosing your host

You’ll now need to decide which company will host your website. There are an ever-increasing amount of web design options (Wix and Squarespace, for example). I recommend using WordPress, however. It is a bit more difficult initially because it’s not as intuitive, but it’s so much more customizable because of that. Most importantly, it’s your website. This is your personal website. You want to have control over it.

So, if you will have a WordPress site as I recommend, you need to find a hosting service. I highly suggest using Bluehost. It starts a whopping $3.50 a month, the customer service is excellent.

You can find my step-by-step tutorial on setting up a website on Bluehost here

3. A note on style

Once you have your website technically set up, you’ll want to dive right in and create away. Keep that enthusiasm! But, before you start posting and paging away, I recommend taking a couple minutes to define your website’s style. Inconsistent fonts, colors, photos, and tones in texts will make your website look sloppy and fast.

Pick 3-4 colors and 1-2 fonts that you’ll use throughout your website and stick to them. If you want more information on styling a website, this is one of my favorite posts on the topic.

If you follow the steps above, you’re on the right track to making an awesome personal website that is completely your own! Once you set your website up, it’s done and there for all to see. It doesn’t take a lot of maintenance but can provide you with an evergreen platform of your accomplishments. Plus, they’re fun to make!

Your personal website is the step you’re taking up to get serious about your career and your potential. If you have any questions on how to set this up, please ask below. And if you do make your own site, please paste the URL below and let it shine!

Ready to set your personal website up? Do you already have one? Grab my checklist below to make sure your personal website is doing its job!

The post A Personal Website- the Why and How appeared first on Urban 20 Something.

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The road of paying back student loans can feel long, lonely, boring, and frustrating. This is especially the case if you have fairly large student loans and the monthly payments seem like they’re not helping you at all. It’s understandably difficult to keep momentum when you’re only chipping away at interest.

A silver lining of the student loan epidemic is that we’re not alone in this battle- so many others are facing these struggles. People are constantly looking for ways to stay motivated. Here are my 5 favorite, most effective ways to keep up motivation in my own journey of paying back student loans.

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. 1- Listen to personal finance podcasts or read personal finance books daily

Podcasts have seen a relatively recent boom and are alongside well established personal finance books. With the combination of the two, there’s no shortage of inspirational sources when working toward paying back student loans. The best part is both are easy to digest and actually fun!

Podcasts:
  • So Money with Farnoosh Torabi 
    This is my favorite podcast and I listen to it every day. Farnoosh is a great interviewer. Her guests always help me stay motivated; they’re not just finance experts but career and personal development inspirations, too. This is perfect for me because paying back student loans isn’t just about your finances, but also about your career and your own happiness! That’s why I love the variety of guests.
  • HerMoney with Jean Chatzky
    This money podcast is by women, for women. It’s always motivating to hear how successful women manage their money and stay ahead financially. The host knows her stuff. I love learning ways to build real wealth from her including owning retirement, paying back student loans and investing young.
  • The Power of Bold with Adam Pascarella
    This podcast is hosted by my wonderful boyfriend! He started it when he made the super bold move of quitting his corporate law job to pursue his passion for entrepreneurship. This podcast is his entrepreneurial journey, filled with tips on being bold and taking risks to live a richer life. He always inspires me.
Books: 
  • Rich Bitch by Nicole Lapin
    Readers of this site know what a huge fan I am of Nicole Lapin. A lot of my reason for looking up to her so much is because of this book! She presents personal finance with the constant reminder of how it can empower you and fulfill all facets of your life. I love her techniques for paying back debt. This includes looking at your outstanding amount every day, automating your payments, and splurging when it’s strategic.
  • I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
    My favorite part of Ramit Sethi’s mentality of building wealth is the focus on earning more, not necessarily budgeting more. While Ramit encourages frugality, the emphasis is on making more money, which is unlimited. This helps so much with paying back student loans because it allows you to work a job you want, no matter what the salary is, because you can earn more money other ways.
  • The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach
    In case I haven’t made clear, automation is my absolute favorite personal finance technique and mentality. It allows me to live and spend a much more relaxed way because I know my money is automatically saving, retiring, and most importantly, paying back student loans.

Listening or reading personal finance daily keeps your mentality strong and your momentum going. Even if the precise topic of chapters or episodes doesn’t apply to you, listening to smart money advice will make you care more about your own money- whatever situation you might be in.

I listen to So Money every single day. I even listen to the episodes that don’t apply to me such as those about retirement, saving for college, financing a car, etc. For a while, I thought they were irrelevant, but over time I found that they continued to motivate me even when they didn’t apply to me directly.

Fun fact, I recently co-hosted an episode of So Money! (a dream come true.) Listen here.

2- Watch your debt drop

When you’re paying back student loans, checking your bank account isn’t nearly as rewarding as you want to feel when you know you’re killing yourself to pay off debt.

I use Personal Capital to check my network nearly every day. It’s a free service that links your accounts, credit cards, and loans so you can see your net worth all at once. I love logging in each week and seeing my net worth rise slightly while I’m paying back student loans at an expedited pace. See how to track your net worth below:

See how to track your net worth below:

Personal Capital Net Worth Tracker--Free Financial Dashboard - YouTube

3- Know how your life will be when you’re done paying back student loans

I got this piece of advice from Scott Turner and I love it. Take some time to sit down with pen and a paper (and possibly a cocktail) and write down 10 ways your life will be different when you get out of debt. 

Think of questions like:

How’s work- do you have more flexible hours?
Your home or apartment- Can you afford a place to live that you can only dream of right now? Will you be able to buy a piece of designer clothing you have yet to afford? Dream travels? See yourself jetting to bucket list destinations? Will you simply be able to sleep better at night?

Whatever it is, it’s super motivating to be able to picture the rewards of your sacrifice. If you enjoy this exercise, tape that piece of paper to your computer or your bedroom door so you see it every single day.

One way I do this is by keeping a debt free diary where I can write about what my life will be like after it’s paid off. Grab your own diary in the side hustler resource library below!

4. See results constantly

Millennials are notorious for needing and wanting results fast. We have reputations of being impatient. I’m not here to discuss the stereotypes of our generation (though I do here), but this is one trait that we can play off of to stay motivated when paying off our student loans.

The hardest part of paying off debt, especially big debt, can be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m currently working on paying off a $12,000 student loan. I have refinanced my loan so that I pay more than my income, but still can feel like I’m just chipping away at it with no end in sight.

So, each week I automatically pull $50 from my checking account into a savings account called  “Pay off student loans”, Because my loan servicer won’t accept lump payments (payments in addition to my monthly payments), I set extra money aside and will use it to pay off my loan in full once I have enough saved.

Seeing the amount in that account go up each week continues to remind me that I am on a solid track in paying back student loans and to skip the happy hour or brunch that would cost me that $50.

5. Reward yourself

Rewarding myself has kept me continually motivated and I recommend it! It can be hard sometimes to spend money on excessive things when I know it could go to my loans. But, rewarding ourselves can help us feel like we’re not sacrificing so much while paying back student loans.

It’s easy to feel like you’re missing out on travel, splurges or nights out while you’re working to pay debt. Rewarding yourself with occasional treats help make you feel like you’re still living large.

Living Large In SoHo - YouTube

So, you might not be living that large. But, the sooner you’re doing paying back student loans, the closer you are to it!

Readers, what are your favorite ways to stay motivated when paying back student loans?

The post How to Stay Motivated while Paying Back Student Loans appeared first on Urban 20 Something.

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What if I told you that there is a subtle force influencing you right now, defining your thoughts and actions, and ensuring that you make the “right” decisions, whether those decisions are large or small? This force is inertia, and at a minimum, it has at least some effect on your career, finances, and social life.

No one is immune to it and it is something that will not simply disappear.

But we don’t have to surrender to this reality. I think of inertia as a car that needs constant inspection and upkeep so that we can avoid trouble down the road. Upon recognizing this, we can act to manage our lives, rather than having our lives manage us.

This post was written by Adam Pascarella, host of the podcast The Power of Bold, teacher at DecidingonLawSchool.com, and my wonderful boyfriend! A Case Study: Inertia in the Legal Field

Inertia can lead us in directions that we don’t anticipate—or even intend. I’ve seen its effects as a graduate of Penn Law School and as an attorney in New York City.

Ambitious Millennials pursue law school for a variety of reasons. But they may later discover that it’s increasingly difficult to veer off of the law school track.

And this feeling does not go away once you become a law student.

Some enter law school with no set idea of what to do after graduation. But there is often this seeming consensus to pursue the highest paying jobs. These are found at so-called “Big Law” firms, which are large commercial law firms that primarily serve corporations and wealthy individuals.  

Granted, these are excellent opportunities to work with extremely intelligent attorneys. Yet it can be difficult to work at Big Law firms.

Work-life balance is nonexistent and many associates don’t become partners.  

Even though this reality is well-documented, it is easy for students at the most prestigious schools to at least investigate these opportunities. The compensation at Big Law firms (with starting salaries of $180,000) is attractive since law students often need to account for six figures of debt. Big Law firms are also prestigious and well-respected within the legal community.

It is made all the much easier when Big Law firms visit law schools to recruit law students for their summer associate programs. Summer associate programs are fun—not to mention lucrative—and it’s easy to envision life at a Big Law firm.  After the program, summer associates often obtain full-time job offers, which are difficult to turn down.  

The short story is that five or ten years pass and some of these lawyers wonder what led them to their current situation.  They feel the tangible effects of opportunity costs and start asking those dreaded “what ifs.”

I worked at a Big Law firm for nearly two-and-a-half years before taking a risk to start a startup. It’s an uncertain, yet terribly exciting adventure. I can’t wait to see how it pans out. I truly understand how difficult it can be to take a risk, so I created a podcast which offers advice for others who are looking to shake up their careers.

Inertia is a real thing, and it has a larger impact on your career than you think.

Your Advantage in Combatting Inertia

It is too easy to become wrapped up in our habits or the stresses of daily life. We are all busy people and are stretched thin enough as is. It requires some effort to take a step back and reflect on our careers and personal lives.

Yet I’d argue that this momentary discomfort is less costly than ignoring the status quo and feeling disappointed in ten years.

Luckily for college students and recent graduates, there is time to understand and resist inertia. I’m not saying that you absolutely need to quit your job and live alone on a mountain for one year—like a recent guest on my podcast. There are practical realities involved. You may have a strict budget, you may be struggling to handle your debt, or you may have responsibilities to others that you love. I get it.  

But this doesn’t stop you from asking yourself whether your current path aligns with your goals. This doesn’t stop you from taking baby steps to change your direction.  Your youth is such an asset—you can take greater chances at this stage of life.

Self-Evaluation

I’d highly recommend that you sit down and dedicate some time to thinking about whether you’re satisfied with your current path. When doing this, don’t hold anything back. Try to be as objective as possible.  

As humans, we come equipped with a wide range of cognitive biases. These biases can easily cloud our thinking. Some of these biases include confirmation bias, status quo bias, and negativity bias. It’s useful to keep these biases in mind as you ask yourself the tough questions.

One way to gain a new perspective is to imagine yourself standing in the shoes of one of your heroes. Would they say you are on the right path to accomplish your goals?  If not, what would they suggest going forward?  

If you’re scared to make a change, rest assured that your heroes undoubtedly felt fear at first, yet were willing to take the necessary action to pursue their dreams.

Having said all of this, self-reflection isn’t entirely valuable if you fail to take action. It’s too easy to fall into analysis paralysis. So you should ask yourself: what baby steps can you take now to make a change?  What risks—no matter how small—can you take today?

It’s Your Choice

It’s too easy to become a passive participant in life rather than an active participant.  Passivity can drain the color from life, creating a dull reality where the days blend together in a thick fog.  Instead, check in with yourself and make sure that inertia is not taking you down a path that you may regret.  Your future self is already thanking you.

Adam hosts The Power of Bold, a podcast focused on helping white collar employees take risks in their careers. Beyond the podcast, he writes about law school at Deciding on Law School and on Quora. He also tweets at @apascar.

The post The Power of Bold: Tactics to Manage Inertia, Fear, and Stagnation appeared first on Urban 20 Something.

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