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Some were born with a passion to travel the world. Others develop this passion later in life after a realization of how short life actually is. Occasionally it takes a startling life event, such as the death of a loved one or dear friend to clear your vision from the fog. It’s like being startled awake and wondering, where did my time go? What have I done? Where have I gone? What have I seen?

Traveling and enjoying what the world has to offer is an area where the millennial generation seems to excel. Millennials have realized that life is short, and they’re determined not to waste it by missing once in a lifetime opportunities. Although Millennials are traveling the world and investing in experiences, not all of them are doing it properly. Recently, I’ve heard stories of draining 401(k) accounts to spend on travel. There has to be a balance between being financially responsible and enjoying what life has to offer. So, let’s #endthestrugglehood and discuss some helpful travel hacks to see the world on a budget.

Travel Hack #1: Use travel rewards miles

There are a number of credit cards that offer travel perks for using them. The Capital One Venture card offers 2x the miles on every dollar spent. This means you can earn miles on purchases you’d already be making (grocery stores, gas, restaurants, etc.) and be rewarded with travel credits. Miles vary based on the card, but on average 1 mile equates to $0.01. Meaning if you have 30,000 miles, you would roughly save $300 on hotels, flights, or rental cars. Miles can definitely add up and are a great way to book a flight without breaking the bank!

Travel Hack #2: Use apps to predict the best time to buy tickets

Never know when you should book your trip? Fear not, there are website and apps that tell you when to pull the trigger on buying flights. Hopper is an app that has become very popular amongst travelers. You simply input your destination and desired dates, and Hopper suggests when to book to receive the cheapest fare. Travelers can save hundreds just by knowing the right time to book!

Travel Hack #3: Skiplagged

Like Hopper, Skiplagged is a company that has really made waves in the travel world. Skiplagged allows you to book a flight where your actual destination is the layover location. If this sounds confusing, let me break it down. You want to travel from NYC to Atlanta, but direct flights are outrageous. You use Skiplagged to check other options. You could find that by booking a flight from NYC to Miami with a layover in Atlanta is actually the cheapest option. You book this flight saving hundreds and just skip the Atlanta to Miami portion. The one catch to Skiplagged is that you cannot have checked luggage because it would end up in Miami without you.

Travel Hack #4: Extended layover/Stopover

There are now sites and airlines that allow you to expand your travel itinerary by offering extended layovers/stopovers in other locations. Icelandair allows you to spend up to 7 days in Iceland, at no additional charge, when booking flights between the US and Europe. There are even travel websites such as Skyscanner and Airwander that allow you to search trips and add a stopover destination. The extended layover/stopover option allows you to experience multiple destinations without adding to your ticket cost. For a great article on stopovers and a complete list of airlines offering this perk, check out this ThriftyNomads’ article.

Travel Hack #5: Avoid booking on Sundays

Some travelers swear that booking your trip on a Tuesday saves you money. However, recent research has challenged this theory.  According to Time, Thursday has actually shown to be the best day for saving money. Despite your belief on the Tuesday myth, there is one thing almost everyone can agree on—avoid booking your trip on a Sunday. 

Travel Hack #6: Visit places that do not require a visa

Obtaining a visa can be an added expense and sometimes a logistical nightmare. With the cost of visas reaching anywhere from $30-$160, its an expense most don’t want to pay. Luckily, US citizens can travel to a number of countries without the additional cost and paperwork of obtaining a visa. However, there are some desirable destinations such as Australia, Brazil, China, Madagascar and Sri Lanka, just to name a few, that do require a visa. You can use this website for a detailed list of countries and their requirements. 

Travel Hack #7: Blog about your experiences

We’ve all heard about the bloggers traveling the world and making money while doing it. Although replacing our full time job with travel is out of reach for most of us, there are still some things you can do to make money off of your experiences. The most obvious, start a travel blog offering tips/information based on your experiences. You can even

sell your old itineraries you spent days/weeks/months researching. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to pay someone else to do the research.

If you’re handy with a camera you can even sell photos of the amazing views you encounter along your journey!

Travel Hack #8: Save money while you’re there

This one seems obvious, right? Well, there are some things you can do to save money while you’re abroad such as bringing your own food to avoid eating out for every meal. Use public transportation, walk, or bike. Some of the most beautiful scenery can often be seen while biking through a city. Keep your phone on airplane mode and only use WIFI texting/calling to avoid large international phone charges. Students can also save money abroad by using an International Student Identity Card or International Youth Identity Card. The student card is for full time students and the youth card is for anyone 30 years or younger. Both of these cards offer access to many discounts all around the world. You can click the link above to apply for yours!

Travel Hack #9: Work while abroad

Most travel to get away from work. However, for those on a tight budget, working while abroad may be worthwhile. Websites like HelpX and Workaway allow travelers to work an average of 4 hours per day in exchange for free accommodation and meals.  Travelers can also get free accommodations by choosing to house sit, with sites such as HouseCarers and MindMyHouse, or swap houses with sites like HomeExchange and HomeLink.

Travel Hack #10: Spend less on accommodations

If the above free accommodation ideas aren’t your speed, you can still save money on accommodations by staying in hostels (Hostelworld.com). Travelers can also save money on hotels by booking through sites such as Hotwire. Hotwire allows you to book a 2, 3, 4, or 5 star hotel at a discounted price. Once the booking is complete you will find out the exact name and location of the hotel. You can save a lot of money just by being flexible on your hotel.

Travelers can also save money on accommodation by booking all-inclusive trips such as resorts, cruises or group tours. All-inclusive trips typically offer a lower bundled price and in the case of cruises, can also allow travelers to see multiple destinations for a significantly lower price.

Travel Hack #11: Travel to areas that aren’t popular or during an off time of year

Lastly, travelers can save money by visiting areas that haven’t yet become popular. Time wrote a great article called The 20 Best Places to go in 2018. They compared travel price and the amount of experiences and activities in each area in order to deliver a list of 20 destinations where you get the most for your money. A few U.S locations are:

  • Alexandria, VirginiaMarina Bay Sands in Singapore
  • Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
  • Stateline, Nevada
  • Glen Arbor, Michigan
  • Pompano Beach, Florida

Some international locations mentioned are:

  • Merida, Mexico
  • Xi’an, China
  • Singapore
  • Granada, Nicaragua.

Even if you are set on a specific location, you can save money by traveling during the off-season.

We all know budgeting is important, but so are life experiences. Luckily, you can do both. Whether you save money by using travel rewards, travel websites, visit up-and-coming destinations or work while abroad, there are many different ways to travel the world on a budget. Life is short and money should not be what’s stopping you from getting out there and experiencing what the world has to offer!

But first, comment below and tell us what travel hacks or websites you’re using to save money on travel.

Happy traveling!

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Brace yourself; some of you may not like what I’m about to say. Earning a college degree is bullsh**t. Whooaa! What did he just say!? Hang on Alice. Before we go down that rabbit hole, let me explain. Clearly, if you’re going to school for a specific profession (healthcare, law, engineering, aviation, physicist, chemist, etc.) then a college education is absolutely necessary. But what about so many others? Thousands graduate every year with degrees that haven’t prepared them for any type of actual career—me being one of them. Why not stop and consider the advantages of entrepreneurship?

Is the Cost of an Education Worth It?

Most of us are aware of the outrageous cost of college education these days. If you’re not, PLEASE READ THIS. Why submit yourself to thousands of dollars worth of debt to earn an entry-level job? Is it really worth going $100k into debt to get a job making $35k? You move to a big city because that’s where the jobs are only to live in a place where you can barely afford rent. Hmm?

Student loan debt is at an all-time high. It’s taking the average graduate 21 years to pay off their loans! Imagine having a 40-year career before you’re able to retire (assuming you’ve saved and contributed to retirement plans correctly). That means you’ll have spent half of that time just trying to pay off your student debt! In other words, you could potentially be in your 40s and still be paying off your Bagpiping degree (yes, that’s a real degree offered here). With all your hard work and gritty determination, it’s just too easy to get burned out. Doree Lewak over at The New York post wrote a great article detailing how millennials are quitting their jobs to pursue their passions. 

My Story

As I mentioned, I’m part of this group that graduated with a degree that didn’t prepare me for a career. I earned a degree in advertising only to get a sales job for a staffing company in Washington D.C. Interestingly enough, a bachelor’s degree was required. Did I use any sort of knowledge learned in college to do the day-to-day tasks of this job? Absolutely not! Perhaps the only “skill” I gained in college relevant to that job was how to stay out late on a Thursday and still make it to work on time Friday morning. Now, there’s your $70,000 dollar education!

 Joking aside, this situation happens all too frequently. I ended up going back to school for nursing and eventually a career in anesthesia. Not everyone has the opportunity to go back to school for a second time, I understand. While I’m etremely fortunate that I was able to do so, I came out $100,000+ in debt. Never once did I stop to consider how I could use the advantages of entrepreneurship to create the lifestyle that I want—until now, anyway. So, here I am blogging and writing books hopefully reaching some of you and changing the way you think. It’s never too late!

So what can you do? Start thinking differently and live life like an entrepreneur.

Advantages of Entrepreneurship

People give the millennial (and younger) generation(s) so much crap for being lazy. If you ask me, we’re pretty brilliant. Think of all the ways we’ve found ways to make money—YouTube channels, Instagram, blogging, creating businesses out of thin air. The list could go on and on. We’re not lazy. We’ve just found ways to work from wherever we want, whenever we want, and make more money doing it!

So why haven’t you stopped to consider it for yourself? Entrepeneurship can grant you the opportunity to travel when you want, spend time with people you care about most, and make more money than you could at your day job. Think about it for a minute. If you wanna make tons of money and retire early, are you going to accomplish that at your current job grinding away 9-5 for 40 years? Is there a chance you’re going to be CEO in the near future? Probably not. Take a look at the 2018 Forbes Billionaire List and notice how many of them are entrepreneurs!

If you want to read a book that will completely change your mindset on how you view entrepreneurship, check out Unscripted: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Entrepreneurship by MJ DeMarco. I highly recommend it.

How Do You Get Started?

No one’s asking you to quit your full-time job…yet. Start a side hustle or two to get your feet wet.  Solve a problem. Make an existing product/solution better. Buy a rental property. Write a book. There’s an endless amount of opportunity out there. What you need to realize is that it’s not easy. It takes time and serious commitment. At some point, you’ll have to make the decision of whether or not you want to go all in. There are no get rich quick schemes. You’ve got to bust your a$$ if you want to make it work.  Hold yourself accountable.

Read the stories about how entrepreneurs built wildly successful companies. It didn’t just happen over night. Their stories are littered with numerous failures. You can also listen to them by checking out the NPR podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz. I encourage you to try it out. You’ll find some incredibly inspiring stories there.

Want some more ideas? Check out our article on ways millennials are earning passive income. 

Pay Attention to the World Around You

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

Here’s my challenge for you. Next time you’re sitting at a coffee shop or waiting in line somewhere, listen to what people are talking about. I bet you at some point they will complain about something. Start taking note of what those complaints are. Coming up with a solution to those complaints could lead to the next breakthrough idea. And when Guy Raz is interviewing you for his podcast, you can say I had my aha moment while waiting in line to go to the bathroom!

Regardless of what you choose to do, it’s time we start looking at life a little differently. Why do we spend the prime years of our lives working and making money for other people? Now is the time to consider the advantages of entrepreneurship! Do what you want to do. Capitalize on all those ideas you have. Change your life! Even better, change other’s lives!

What are some ways you have started your entrepreneurial journey? What have you heard people complain about or say, “I wish” and then go on to express a desire for something to be better. Comment below to let me know.

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The post What Colleges Don’t Want You to Know About the Advantages of Entrepreneurship appeared first on Strugglehood.

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Strugglehood Blog by Niki Brumage (snyder) - 10M ago

There must be an age where HGTV becomes a guilty pleasure. I’ll admit; I’m guilty of binge watching House Hunters for hours. After embarking on house hunts with hundreds of couples in cities all across the U.S, I’m left with one question, “How can people afford to spend that much on a home!?’. I’ve seen memes with similar frustration, so I know I’m not alone in these feelings. Let’s once and for all put an end to the frustration and answer the question, “How much do you need to buy a house?”

Factors that Affect How Much You Can Spend on a HomeIncome

Have you ever noticed how uncomfortable it gets when discussing your income with other people? How much money you make is like the elephant in the room in a lot of situations, including when buying a home. We have these preconceived notions of what you should be able to spend on a home based on what you do for a living. We’re all guilty of this. Although income is an important factor in determining your home’s cost, there are many other equally important considerations.

Debt

To me, debt is equally, if not more important, than the amount of your income. Making large amounts of money does you little good if you have so much debt you can barely pay your bills. Banks feel similarly. Therefore, they look at what is called your debt-to-income ratio. This ratio plays a large role in how much you can spend on a home. It compares the amount of money you make to the amount of debt you have. A basic recommendation from most lenders is to keep your debt (including a home) under 36% of your annual salary. Therefore, if you make $50,000, your debt payments should not exceed $18,000 a year or $1,500 a month.

If your debts exceed this 36%, then you may find it difficult to obtain a home loan. However, some lenders will accept debt-to-income ratios as high as 43%. Just know that these loans typically come with higher interest rates—more on this later.

Down Payment

A down payment is the amount of cash you have to put towards the cost of a home. Historically, a typical down payment is at least 20% of the home’s price. Therefore, if you were looking at a $250,000 home, an average down payment would be $50,000.

Not having money for a down payment is one of the main reasons people don’t buy homes. The good news is down payments are not as fixed as they once were. Some lenders will give you a home loan without having this 20%. In fact, it is possible to obtain a home loan with little to no money down. The catch is you are typically required to pay additional fees such as mortgage insurance.

Credit Score

Credit score is another important factor when applying for a home loan. Typically, a credit score around 640 is needed to qualify for a mortgage. However, some lenders will consider applicants with credit scores in the 500s. Keep in mind, if your credit score is lower, you may be required to place a larger down payment and/or pay more in interest than someone with a higher credit score.

Interest

With interest rates on the rise, they become an important topic when discussing home mortgages. According to Bankrate, current interest rates for a 30-year mortgage are around 4.7%. Shorter loans will have lower interest rates—current 15-year mortgages have rates around 4.1%. To qualify for the best interest rate, you’ll need a credit score of 750+. This advantage of having great credit allows you to shop around for the best interest rate, which could potentially save you thousands of dollars.

So how do interest rates affect your mortgage? Annual home interest rates are broken down into a monthly rate. For example, an annual rate of 4.5% (divided by 12) equates to a monthly interest rate of 0.375%. This means, every month you’ll pay 0.375% interest on the amount you actually owe on the house.

Check out: What do Higher Interest Rates Mean to see other effects of rising interest rates. 

Location

Location is a large factor when it comes to buying a home. It not only affects the cost of the home, but it also affects interest rates. States with low unemployment rates and strong real estate markets tend to have lower interest rates.

The 28/36 Rule

As you can see, many factors go into determining how much you should spend on a home. However, a very basic rule of thumb to estimate how much you can afford is the 28/36 rule. This rule states that your mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance should not exceed 28% or 36% of your annual pre-tax income. Let me explain a little further. For those who have additional debts (student loans, car loans, credit card debt, etc.), you should use 28% to calculate your allowable mortgage. If you have NO additional debt, you can use 36%.

Let’s look at an example. Mike and Katie are a young couple looking to purchase a home. Like most millennials in the U.S., they have student loan debt, but feel buying a home will save them money over the long-term. Mike and Katie have a combined annual income (pre-taxed) of $65,000. According to the 28/36 rule, they should spend no more than $18,200 a year (28%) or $1,516 a month on their mortgage, taxes and insurance. You may be thinking, “Okay great, but homes aren’t listed based on a monthly payment”.  True, so if we convert this into a 30-year mortgage, Mike and Katie should spend no more than $546,000 (after down payment) on a home. However, don’t forget the effects of interest rates!

What’s the Deal with those Large House Hunters Budgets?

I don’t know the exact answer to this, but I have some hypotheses. First, no matter how much you love the show House Hunters, you have to remember it’s just that, a television show. Not everyone lives within his or her means. The fact of the matter is if you have relatively good credit, then some lenders will loan you more money than you realistically can pay back. Secondly, with less importance being placed on down payments, it has allowed people to purchase homes they typically wouldn’t be able to buy. Lastly, some people have large budgets because they’ve worked very hard budgeting their money and have taken advantage of things such as high-yield savings accounts and passive income to boost the amount they can spend on a home.

How Much Do YOU Need to Buy a House?

With HGTV shows like House Hunters, it’s hard not to get caught up in how much other people are spending on a home. However, it’s extremely important to keep your own lifestyle and finances in mind when considering buying a home. Banks don’t always consider your whole financial situation; they simply provide you with the maximum amount they are willing to lend you based on certain criteria. Just because you’re approved for a loan amount, does not always mean you should spend that much on a home.

My advice is take control of your own finances. Use the information I’ve provided to assess your current financial situation. Calculate your debt-to-income ratio to arrive at a number that you are comfortable paying. Make this how much you plan to spend on a home. If this number doesn’t get you the home of your dreams, keep saving, increase your passive income, or get a fixer-upper! Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. The home of your dreams is obtainable! Just keep after it!

*If you have any useful tips of your own please share in the comments section below!

Strugglehood: A Practical Guide to Financial Situations No One Bothered Teaching Uswill be released soon! Don’t forget to sign up for the email list to receive a discount on the book and free guide to paying off student loan debt!

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Don’t look now, but the Federal Reserve just raised interest rates…again (the first this year was in March). Last week, the Fed raised rates a quarter of a percent to 1.75-2%. They also stated they plan to add two more increases sometime this year. With interest rates predicted to be on the rise, let’s look at why interest rates increase and what do higher interest rates mean for you.

Why Do Interest Rates Increase?

When the Federal Reserve increases the interest rate, it’s usually an indication that the U.S. economy is doing well. People are making more money causing more demand for products and services than there is supply. Thus, the price of those goods and services increases (inflation). When inflation continues to rise, the demand for those same goods and services declines, the economy slows, and eventually unemployment increases. To combat that issue, the Fed will increase interest rates.
A rise in the interest rate will also increase the value of the U.S. dollar (USD). Since foreign investors know that an increase in interest rates indicate a strong economy, they want to get in on the action. By investing in American markets, they can get a higher return leading to an increase in the power of the USD. Boom! USA! USA!

Okay, Econ 101 class is over. Let’s get to the real issue at hand…

What Do Higher Interest Rates Mean for You?

Fantastic question! I’m glad you asked. As a young professional, when you think of interest rates, the first place your mind probably goes is to credit cards and student loans or in one word, debt.

Credit Cards

Credit cards use a varying interest rate. You’ll want to be careful here and pay close attention to the interest you’re paying on your credit card payments. According to a Wallethub analysis, this interest rate hike of 0.25% will cost credit card users an additional $1.8 billion in charges in 2018! If your payments become too expensive, do everything you can to pay off your total balance. Remember, making additional payments or paying more than the minimum payment will go directly toward the principal balance. That actually leads me to a very important point…

You should pay off your entire credit card balance every month!

If you pay off the entire balance each month, then you don’t ever have to worry about the interest rates, because you aren’t paying any interest!!

Student Loans

Your student loans could potentially be affected by the interest rate spike. If you’ve refinanced your student loans with a private company, you may have a variable interest rate. If that’s the case, then your interest rate is going to increase. You’ll want to look into locking down a fixed rate. If you have a federal loan, then your rate is already fixed and there’s nothing to worry about. Lastly, if you have more than one loan your paying back, focus on paying off the loan with the higher interest rate first.

Don’t forget, you can always get my FREE downloadable PDF guide to paying off your student loans right here.

It’s Not All Bad. I promise!

The Fed’s interest rate increase isn’t all negative by any means. There are quite a few positives that come from it. Take a look!

Savings

Your savings account(s) and/or certificates of deposit (CDs) will start earning more with an increased interest rate. Now is a great time to open a high-yield savings account. Just remember, online banks will offer better rates because they don’t need to spend as much to maintain a brick and mortar establishment. So shop around. You’ll be able to find at least one bank using higher interest rates as a way to lure customers. For the slightly older reader or savvy young investor, you’ll start to see better returns on your retirement accounts.

Travel

We’ve already discussed the possibility of the USD’s power increasing. Maybe now you’ll be able to take that European vacation you’ve been waiting on since the USD will go further in other countries. Watch out! #EuroTrip2018 ’bout to go down!

Investments

With higher interest rates yielding better returns on investments and savings, you shouldn’t feel as though you need to make risky investments. A more stable return on savings generally leads to a less volatile market.

Loans

Banks will typically become a little more friendly when considering giving out loans because they know they will get a good return due to the higher interest rates. If you were considering applying for a small business loan or purchasing a home, now may be your chance. Just remember, this is how banks make money. So, even though you’re more likely to get a loan, you’ll be paying a higher interest rate back to the bank.

So, what do higher interest rates mean?

As you can see, it just depends on where you are in life. If you’re in your younger years like me, it may have a negative impact as your credit card and student loan payments increase. It’s important to focus on paying those debts down as quickly as possible and using your credit card wisely. As with everything in life, there are always positives. Don’t ever forget that. Maybe higher interest rates are the swift kick in the a$$ you needed to get your debt in check. Look at it this way: you can save more than you ever were before, see more of the world, and maybe even start that business you’ve always dreamt about!

The post What Do Higher Interest Rates Mean appeared first on Strugglehood.

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Strugglehood Blog by Niki Brumage (snyder) - 10M ago

While growing up in the U.S, it’s instilled in you from an early age that higher education is the key to success. They say higher education is imperative, but they don’t warn us about the debt that goes along with it. In a country where student loan debt has reached the second highest consumer debt category—topping over $1.5 trillion dollars—you could say we’ve reached a student loan crisis.

According to an article written by Forbes Magazine, “The average student in the class of 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt.” For students who attend private schools or have multiple degrees, this number increases exponentially. To make matters worse, the issue is exacerbated by a lack of teaching on the effects of student loan debt and how to properly manage it. Let’s end the Strugglehood once and for all and stop the student loan crisis!

Ways Student Loan Debt Affects Us Quality of Life

For some, a college degree does not guarantee a job. And just because a new grad lands a job, certainly does not mean they’ll be making enough money to make ends meet. According to CNBC, the average monthly student loan payment by borrowers in their 20s is $351. For someone making $20/hour, a $350 loan payment is nearly 10% of his or her monthly income. That’s a big deal! Therefore, coming out of college thousands, if not, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt can really affect one’s quality of life.

Most college grads are lead to believe that student loans are a 10-year burden; then they’re gone. For the majority, this isn’t the case. According to US News, the average bachelor’s degree takes a borrower 21 years to pay off! Read that again, 21 years of giving 10+% of your monthly income to the government. With numbers like this, it’s clear student loans are a long-term commitment. They’re affecting many peoples’ quality of life for years on end.

Credit Score

Student loan debt doesn’t only affect your quality of life and cost of living, but it can also affect your credit score. The correlation between student loans and your credit score is greater than you might think. In some cases, when loans are paid back routinely and on time, they can actually help your credit score. However, if payments are missed or you default on your loans, this will greatly affect your credit. Damaged credit from student loans can take over 7 years to repair! As a result of poor credit scores, you’ll find it challenging to refinance your student loans. Without the option to refinance, you could be forced to pay higher interest rates, in turn, making your payments larger and more drawn out.

Educational Limits

Lastly, the amount of debt one must take on to get a college education can really limit who has the ability to attend college. Education should be accessible to everyone! Qualifying for student loans and taking on such massive debt severely limits who can and cannot attend college.

Some effects of student loans are inevitable, but knowing how to properly manage your debt can make a world of difference!

How to Manage Your Student Loans

Graduation comes and goes and you start collecting paychecks at your new job. Six months later, reality (in the form of student loans) comes knockin’ catching you off guard and unprepared. This is where our education system has failed us! Being prepared to manage your student loans is just as important as the decision to take on the debt in the first place. Stop cheating yourself and start managing your loans to the best of your ability. Don’t worry; I’m here to help!

Limit Debt

Let’s start at the root of the problem, cost of tuition. The best way to manage student loan debt is by limiting the amount you take on. It’s very important to weigh the cost/benefit of attending that fancy private school—will it guarantee you a successful future, different from the one you’d have if attending a cheaper school? If so, great! If no, then consider the real reason you’re paying more for the same outcome.

You can also limit the amount of debt you take on by not borrowing the maximum amount allowed. Most students apply for loans and receive a letter in the mail stating the amount they’re approved for. This amount usually exceeds the costs of tuition and room and board. You aren’t obligated to take the full amount you’ve been approved for. Therefore, you could choose to take only enough to cover tuition and skip paying interest on extra money you didn’t really need. This is a great way to avoid your own student loan crisis when you see how quickly that money can add up!

Pay Off Interest

Speaking of interest, just because you’re not required to make payments towards your loans while in school (and 6 months post-graduation), does not mean the money lent isn’t accruing interest. Therefore, paying your loan interest while in school can be a great benefit in the years after graduation. I understand this isn’t possible for those living off ramen noodles and counting pennies (I’ve been there too), but if conceivable, do yourself a favor and pay off the interest.

Refinance

One of the best ways to manage student loan debt is to refinance. Refinancing means allowing a bank or private company to pay off your loan debts and now you owe that company. I know you’re thinking, so what’s the advantage? The answer is a lower interest rate. Federal student loans have interest rates ranging from 4-7% depending on the type of loan. However, rates for refinancing range from 2.5-7% depending on your credit score and the type of loan. Let’s put the importance of interest into perspective.

Assume you have $40,000 in student loan debt, not so far-fetched in today’s society. Bank Rate’s Interest Calculator helps us to determine the following: a $40,000 ten-year loan with an interest rate of 7% equates to a monthly payment of $464.43 and leaves you paying an additional $15,732.07 in interest. Let’s look at the same loan amount, $40,000, but with a refinanced interest rate of 3.5%. You would now have a 10-year monthly payment of $395.54 and pay an additional $7,465.22 in interest. This example really drives home the benefits of refinancing. Not only was the monthly payment lower, the amount of interest paid was less than half!

Loan Forgiveness Programs

Another way to save money while managing your student loan debt is to apply for loan forgiveness programs. These programs tend to have strict guidelines to qualify but can be worthwhile for those that do. For a complete list of student loan forgiveness programs and qualifications, check out this article by Student Loan Hero.

Plan Accordingly to Avoid Your Student Loan Crisis

As you can see, student loan debt is complex and ever frustrating. Yet, for some, taking on this debt is unavoidable. Therefore, it’s paramount that we understand how student loan debt affects us and how to properly manage it. I hope you use the information in this article and the resources below to stop letting student loans control your life and start controlling your finances!

Have you reached a student loan crisis? What are some challenges you’ve faced along the road to a debt-free life? And for those that have conquered their debt, what tips do you have for paying off student loans? Comment below and let me know! There’s no shame here; we’re all in this together! Let’s #endthestrugglehood

For more detailed tips and information on student loans, refinancing, consolidation and loan forgiveness programs check out Strugglehood: A Practical Guide To Financial Situations No One Bothered Teaching Us. You can also sign up for the newsletter to receive a FREE Student Loan Guide.

The post We’ve Reached a Student Loan Crisis appeared first on Strugglehood.

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Throughout our lifetime we all set goals to save money. We save for a new home, to pay off student loan debt, a dream vacation, or even those shoes you cannot stop thinking about. What’s our solution to saving money? Work more. Although making more money can jumpstart your savings, it can also be miserable. In a world where we already spend a third of our lives working, why add to the agony? I think we are looking at saving money all wrong, let’s stop working more and start budgeting SMARTER. Even when you’re trying to figure out how to budget money on a low income, it can be done! As with all the Strugglehood posts, it’s my goal to teach you personal finance tips and habits that you weren’t taught in school. So, let’s get started…

Budgeting Myths DebunkedYour cat will thank you for not eating all its food

When you hear the term budgeting what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably the funniest description I’ve heard about budgeting is, “Sitting at home on a Friday night eating cat food while my friends are at the bar.” This shows not only how afraid of budgeting people are, but how little they know about it. Just because you’re starting to budget your money, doesn’t mean your life has to go to hell for it. You don’t necessarily have to make drastic lifestyle changes to start budgeting and saving money. You just have to be smarter with your money.

The truth is, budgeting is all about establishing a savings goal and prioritizing your spending to achieve this goal. Budgeting is not about giving up everything you enjoy, it’s more about BALANCE. If you decide to spend extra money somewhere that wasn’t budgeted for, you should cut money from another budgeted category.

Budgeting should be looked at as something much easier than a lifestyle overhaul. It’s simply planning your spending. How many of you actually do that? I bet you’ve done it and not even realized it. Think about a night out at the bar. Did you ever tell yourself, “Okay, I’m only going to spend $20 tonight?” Ahh, all too familiar, right? That’s budgeting!

I used to spend money as it came in without a care in the world for savings. However, I woke up one morning and wondered, “Where does all my money go?” Once I started paying attention to my spending I started to see the importance of saving. I guarantee you’ll reach a similar point where savings become a HUGE part of your life. So let’s take a look at how to start budgeting smarter!

How to Budget Money on a Low Income

The first thing you must do is track your expenses. I’m not talking about making mental notes here and there of where you spend your money. I mean physically write it down or input it on your phone. There are free apps out there that make this incredibly easy. Check out Mint or Goodbudget if you’re interested. However, if you really want to make yourself accountable, then I recommend using Google Sheets. It has a built-in budget template ready to go. You’ll have to input your expenses as you make them, which is where it differs from Mint and Goodbudget.

Once you’ve been tracking your expenses for at least a few months, you’ll easily see all the areas where you’re spending your hard-earned money and areas where you can afford to cut costs. This is where budgeting is extremely helpful.  Make a list of all the items in your budget that are necessities (rent/mortgage, insurance, pet care, utilities, etc.). These are items you must pay every month, and you can’t really change the costs associated with them. As for all the other expenses? They’re modifiable, so if you want to save more you’ll need to cut costs in these areas. Here in the real world, getting your nails done or hitting up happy hour with your #squad are not necessities.

#squadgoals via GIPHY

For even more budgeting tips and a detailed guide to Google Sheets, make sure to grab a copy of my book—Strugglehood: A Practical Guide to Financial Situations No One Bothered Teaching Us.

Tips for Cutting Expenses and Increasing IncomeCutting ExpensesCable television might be a thing of the past

There are tons of easy ways to cut expenses. The first place you can start is by examining your living situation. Can you get a roommate or rent out a room in your home? Perhaps you can move to an apartment with cheaper rent. Consider your utilities next. I’ve called and threatened to leave a cable company before. They’re usually incentivized to get you to stay as a customer so they’ll offer you lower monthly rates. However, there are services out there that are cheaper and just as good as cable. Check out Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, Sling TV, and to completely cut out your cable service. As for your other utilities, you can shop around. You’d be surprised how easily you can get a cheaper rate on some of your utilities just by asking!

If you’re in a little deeper, you can always drive less and walk more if you live in an area conducive to it. Cut out memberships on unnecessary items (gym, Amazon Prime, Netflix, online services, magazines, etc.) Some of these services we rarely use but are still paying an arm and a leg for. It is all about setting priorities, is that gym membership you use twice a year, more important than your savings goals? Only you can answer these questions.

Increasing Your Income Without Working More

The good news is that increasing your income is easier than ever in 2018. It’s a beautiful thing. Have an extra bedroom? Rent it out on websites like Airbnb. Have a bunch of stuff lying around you no longer use? Sell it on sites/apps like Letgo and Poshmark. You can even get paid just for filling out online surveys with sites like Swagbucks, MySurvey, and VIP Voice.

And of course, check out my other posts on generating passive income and adjusting your W4 to increase your paychecks for more ways to increase your income.

Now, Make it Happen

Hopefully, you’ve taken away at least one idea on how to start budgeting smarter. Learning how to budget money on a low income doesn’t have to be stressful. Sure, some of these ideas aren’t easy to do, but you have to be committed if you want to start saving money. You’ll be surprised how easy budgeting becomes once you get the routine down. It’ll become a habit just like anything else. If you’ve come up with other ways to cut expenses and increase income, please comment below and let me know! Now quit messing around and start budgeting today!

(Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. That simply means I may receive compensation from them at NO ADDITIONAL cost to you. Please see my disclaimer if you’d like more information)

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It’s that time of year, taxes are filed (hopefully) and you’re anxiously awaiting your refund check so you can ball out. However, I’m here to tell you that getting a big, fat tax refund should not be considered a good thing! * record scratch* Before you think I’m crazy and close your browser in disgust, let me explain… What is a Tax Refund Check? When you receive a tax refund, you’re getting a return on the excess amount of income tax you paid to the state or federal government. Most of the time, it comes in the form of a check or direct deposit into your bank account. Typically, you can expect to see your refund in anywhere from 3-8 weeks depending on how you filed (online or hard copy). Most Americans usually get some sort of refund. Bigger is Not Better (at least in this instance) Let’s break this down. Receiving a tax refund from the government means you’re getting back your own money that you’ve already earned. The IRS withheld too much of your earned income over the tax year. The government stuck their sticky hands in your money pot and took more than they were entitled to. In order to get your money back, you must correctly file your taxes in April. If you don’t properly fill out your paperwork before filing, you may not get back all you’re owed. They’ll keep that $h!t forever too. How about if the roles were reversed? If you’ve ever owed the government money, then you know how that goes. They’re relentless. If you’re getting a large tax refund check every year, then you’re missing out on money you could’ve had all year long. That extra money could’ve been put to great use–investments, retirement contributions, vacations, you name it. Some of you are probably thinking, “What’s the big deal? I’m getting it all back in April.” While this may be true (assuming you filed everything correctly), you’ve essentially just given the government a year-long, interest-free loan! You think they would ever do that for you? Of course not!   

Get Your Money Upfront Okay, you know that a big refund is a bad thing. You certainly don’t want to keep getting one year after year… So What Can You Do About It? We’ve all looked at our paycheck at some point and thought, “Where the hell’s my money!?” While you’ll always pay taxes, there’s a way to adjust how much is actually withheld from your pay. When you started your job, you filled out a W-4. It tells your employer how much money to withhold each paycheck. You can make adjustments to your allowances (exemptions) and your filing status to adjust the total amount withheld. If you’re continually getting huge tax refunds, increase the number of exemptions you’re claiming. For example, if you’re single and not claiming any allowances, then adjust your W-4 to claim one or two. You will instantly see an increase in your paychecks! In the end, the closer you are to breaking even come tax season, the better. In other words, if you receive a refund check of only $100, then you’re killing it! You’ve received your well-deserved money all year long! Owing a little money shouldn’t be considered a bad thing either. I’d rather owe a few bucks than have the IRS take an extra thousand dollars of my money interest-free. That being said, if you owe thousands of dollars, then, by all means, adjust your W-4 and claim fewer allowances! Let’s not get crazy here.      
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At the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker, I’d like to change gears a bit and talk about personal accountability. I’ll get right to the point; YOU are the only tool you need to better your life. There’s a quote from the movie Friends With Benefits that, while brutally honest and perhaps a tad insensitive, offers sage advice on accountability:

“Everybody wants a shortcut in life. My guidebook is very simple. You want to lose weight? Stop eating, fatty. You wanna make money? Work your ass off, lazy. You wanna be happy? Find someone you like and never let them go.”

While accomplishing your goals may not be that simplistic, it’s what this quote implies that is so important. If you want to be happy, start taking some personal accountability. Quit looking for shortcuts! Fad diets are exactly that, fads. There will be a new one tomorrow. Get rich quick schemes don’t work or we’d all be filthy rich. Relationships aren’t always easy. They require work, effort, and sacrifice at times. I’m not trying to be a downer. Rather, I want you to realize that by holding yourself accountable, you can achieve amazing things.

What is Personal Accountability?

If you want to get a promotion at work, you’ve got to hold yourself accountable. You can’t rely on co-workers or managers to remind you about deadlines, emails, or meetings. If you’re trying to make your relationship work, start actually listening and quit talking, cook dinner, do laundry, or clean up. Don’t wait around for someone else to remind you or worse, see someone else doing it first. Personal accountability is owning your actions and following through with your obligations and goals. It’s making a commitment to yourself.

Commit to yourself How I Made Myself Accountable

My wife and I want to pay off our student loans as quickly as possible. Simply waiting around each month for a reminder that our payment is due isn’t helping us achieve that goal. Instead, we started budgeting using Google Sheets to track our spending. At the end of each month, we know exactly how much we’ve saved and can make extra payments in order to reach our goal. We’re now on track to have all of our loans paid off by February 2019, merely 2.5 years after starting payments.

I took a slightly different approach to personal accountability when I set out to write a book in January. Once I decided on an overall theme and developed an outline, I posted to social media that I would be writing a book. This gave me the motivation to stay committed. Once all of my friends and family had seen my goal, I wasn’t about to look like a chump for failing to stay true to my word! I forced myself to be accountable. Now I can say I have a book that is about to launch through Amazon in roughly a week.

Please understand I’m not writing this post to gloat. I’m using my own, real-world examples to show you that taking personal accountability can have incredible power. You can set all the goals in the world, but if you’re not going to make a commitment to yourself and take action, it’s all for nothing. A few years ago, I would’ve never thought either of those objectives were possible. However, I quit making excuses and simply committed to accomplishing my goals. I owned my actions.

Where Do You See Yourself?

So, what are your ambitions? If you want to pay off your credit card debt, then start a budget and save money to make extra payments toward your balance. If you want to save to buy a house, then do your research, save for a down payment, work on bettering your credit score, and make that dream a reality!

Own your actions. Use social media to force yourself to be accountable. Talk to your friends about finances. The folks over at Financial Gym wrote a great post about getting financially naked with strangers. It’s a great read! Check it out if you have a few minutes. You’d be amazed at the personal accountability you’ll feel when all your friends and/or strangers know how much money you make. Think you’ll stay committed to your goal of getting that promotion now?

Understand that this isn’t like making a New Year’s resolution. You can’t let it slip away after a couple weeks or months. If you want to enjoy the power or personal accountability, then you need to stay committed and don’t let hiccups along the way deter you from reaching your goal. $hit happens to everyone. No one cruises through life without interruption or unexpected events. The time for excuses ends now!

What are some goals you’ve set for yourself? How can you maintain personal accountability and ensure you reach your goals? Let me know!

The post The Power of Personal Accountability appeared first on Strugglehood.

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Nearly everyday I hear or see something criticizing the millennial generation. From articles and news stories to meme’s, it’s this generation that’s constantly being scrutinized. This bad rap comes from not being able to understand the line of thinking young people have today. Millennials have challenged so many traditional ideals/values, which leaves many people perplexed. However, my favorite thing about this generation is our tenacity. Instead of staying in a job that makes us miserable, we think outside the box and create endless possibilities. Despite the unjust criticism, everyone seems to be wondering, “How are millennials earning passive income?” I say it’s by fighting for what you believe in and not being willing to settle. Isn’t that the American Dream after all?

When you start to break down the millennials’ values and ideals you come across these concepts of living life to the fullest, traveling and experiencing things one never thought possible. The generation is breaking free from traditional jobs and earning incomes in unconventional ways. This is where the idea of passive income comes into play.

What Is Passive Income?

Passive income is steady income streams that require little to no work in order to maintain. The best description of passive income I’ve heard is the ability to wake up in the morning and have MADE money while you slept. Don’t get the wrong idea; some passive income routes require a lot of initial work before they are able to function on cruise control. Take a look at some examples of passive income.

So, How Are Millennials Earning Passive Income?Write a book

With the upcoming release of Strugglehood: A Practical Guide to Financial Situations No One Bothered Teaching Us, it’s no coincidence writing a book is the first recommendation I have for passive income generation. Don’t get me wrong, writing a book takes a tremendous amount of work in the beginning, but once the product is finished you can be compensated for years to come. Additionally, if you use companies such as Amazon to sell your book, they will handle the publishing and selling, while you sit back and await your monthly check.

Real estate

Real estate is often one of the first things people think of when they hear the words passive income. Traditionally, real estate is invested in for home flips or rental properties. Both can require initial time and money but have great return on investment potential.

A less conventional way of using real estate is crowdfunding. Real estate crowdfunding is where you invest money into the construction of a building, such as an apartment complex or shopping center. By investing your money there are some large return on investments to be had. According to Marketwatch, “For a $10,000 investment, return expectations range from $700-$1,200 for a one-year investment to $5,000- $15,000 for a longer-term (over three to five years) equity investment.” Of course, not every crowdfunded real estate project will yield this large of returns, and there can also be significant risks with investing your money in real estate. But with great risk can come great rewards.

Selling goods online

 

The age of ecommerce is here. Years ago, no one thought people would be willing to buy goods online, but here we are in the age of Amazon and Instacart. Passive income seekers can get in on the action by using sites such as eBay, Etsy and Poshmark, just to name a few. These sites allow you to create a profile with goods you are selling and share your listings with people all over the world. These companies allow you to sell new and used items or even things you built or created yourself. Turns out, it does pay to be creative!

Airbnb

Not only are millennials getting in on the action of Airbnb, older generations have also started to follow suit. Airbnb can be a great way to earn passive income. The company allows you to rent out your home or a room in your home for a specific amount of time. This can be great for those who have an extra bedroom, or vacation home that sits unused 3/4thof the year. Many people will pay top dollar to stay in a homey environment rather than a sterile hotel room.

Money lending

Money lending can be done for people or companies that do not qualify for traditional bank loans. Peer to peer (P2P) lending is a growing industry, but do not overlook the risk that is involved. There’s opportunity to be had though. You can earn up to 10% interest! Imagine the feeling of being the lender and not the borrower for a change! Again, there’s certainly risk involved and I would suggest doing a great deal of research prior to starting down this road.

Blogging

Years ago, I heard about a couple making a living off of traveling. I was astonished! I started to question everything I knew about making money. But in our current world of Instagram celebrities and YouTube sensations, it really should be no surprise people are making a living off such things. Many millennials start blogs about their lives, experiences, interests, hobbies, you name it, and chances are there is a blog for it. 

So how are people making money off of blogging? There are a number of ways actually. Most commonly money is made from advertising or affiliate marketing. Once you prove people are interested in what you have to say, companies will pay to advertise on your site. In the affiliate marketing world, companies will pay you to recommend their product. However, I would caution to only advertise or promote companies you would use yourself. If you promote crappy things just to make a quick buck, you will quickly find yourself without any followers.

Investments and High-yield savings accounts

Passive income can also be generated through investments and high-yield savings accounts. Investments can be risky but may end up paying pretty well. A safer option is high-yield savings accounts. This is like a savings account but has significantly larger returns than a traditional savings account. Check out the blog page to learn more about high-yield savings accounts!

How can YOU start generating passive income?

 As you can see, there are endless possibilities for earning passive income. So how should you begin? I would suggest starting with something small and manageable, such as opening a high-yield savings account, or selling your unwanted clothes on Poshmark. Once you start seeing the effects of passive income you should become more motivated to take on larger projects, such as real estate, blogging or even writing a book. Whatever you decide, remember to do your research to ensure you are investing your time wisely. In true millennial fashion, we only have one life to live! Now it’s your turn to decide how you will earn your money: sitting miserably at a desk everyday or passively while doing the things you love? The choice is yours!

*Share some ways you are earning passive income by commenting below! 

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Yeah, you read that right. That’s not a typo or a scam. This is an area where many of us could use some help. Read on to find out how to save more money by making a quick change to something you’re (hopefully) already doing. Saving Money Is a Problem According to a Bankrate study, 39% of Americans can’t cover the cost of a $1,000 emergency with what’s in their savings account. Folks, that’s an issue! It’s imperative that you start putting away money in order to cover emergencies. Inevitably, something’s gonna happen. $h!t will go down– your car quits running, your A/C breaks, you get sick, a pipe bursts in your home, or any number of things. Unplanned events are a part of life. You never know when you’re going to need a mechanic   If you’ve already started putting away money, then you’re on the right track. However, many Americans have very little saved.
In fact, a GOBankingRate survey revealed that 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings. Even worse, 34% responded by saying they have nothing saved!
Have you ever looked around and wondered, “How do these people afford (insert product of choice)?” I think you just found your answer. People are simply living well beyond their means. You aren’t one of those people though. You’re here, reading this article. So let me get to the point… How to Save More Money Saving money is a must. Aside from having funds in a checking account, the next place people tend to put money is in a savings account. Commonly, checking and savings accounts are established at the same financial institution. It’s easy to set up all at once. I get it. The allure to savings accounts is the interest-earning potential. While your money is just hanging out, it’s growing due to interest. Pop some money in there, and sit back and watch it grow. But have you ever stopped to really consider the interest rate that savings account is getting you? Most savings accounts will earn you somewhere between 0.01-0.06% per year. That’s practically nothing! So how can you save more money? Open a high-yield savings account A high-yield savings account is the same as a standard savings account except for one important factor, the interest rate. This type of account will earn you somewhere between 1.3-2% per year. I’m no math whiz, but that’s potentially 200x more interest! Take a look at an example to bring it to life. Jessica opened a savings account a year ago with her local bank. She deposited $5,000. She made no other deposits or withdrawals. Her account earned an interest rate of 0.02%. After one year, her savings grew to $5,001. Hang on, Jess! You’re outta control with that extra $1! What if Jessica placed her money in a high-yield savings account earning 1.5% interest? After a year, she’d have $75 instead of $1. Extrapolate this example over five years, and Jessica will have just over $5,380. She earned an additional $380 for doing absolutely nothing. Don’t forget, the more money you contribute to your savings, the more it will earn. This example was shown with Jessica not making any additional deposits. The Best High-Yield Savings Accounts I hope at this point you’re wondering how to get your money in one of these accounts. Great! Let’s take a look. LaTisha Styles wrote a great article at Magnify Money detailing some of the best high-yield savings accounts. You’ll notice most of the banks are online. They offer higher rates because they don’t have to deal with the costs of maintaining a physical establishment. There are quite a few reputable institutions that offer a high-yield online savings account. For instance, American Express, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, and Ally all offer high-yield accounts ranging from 1.5-1.6%. Make sure you check what’s important to you–ATM access, the highest rate, a required minimum balance, etc. Not only will you earn a higher interest rate, but most of these accounts will give a bonus for signing up with them. As an incentive to sign up with their account, many of these online banks will give you $100+ just for opening an account. Talk about easy money! Many of these accounts will link seamlessly with your checking account via an app. It can’t be much easier! Sit Back and Watch Your Money Grow Sit back and watch your money grow It’s silly to let your money hang out in a traditional savings account earning little to no interest. It’s like giving the bank a loan and getting nothing in return! If you’ve read my post on tax refund checks, you know how I feel about that. All the while, your money could be chillin’ in a high-yield account earning 200x as much interest. So instead of giving the bank a free loan, let your money work for you!            
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