10 Ways to Save on College 

The post 10 Ways to Save on College  appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

College is expensive, there’s no debating that fact. The average amount of money borrowed to obtain a bachelor’s degree was $29,000 in 2017/2018, according to the College Board, That’s a whole lotta money (and it’s a number that’s only likely to go up).

If you want to avoid years and years of debt payoff after graduation then it’s up to you to try and keep your costs down. In an effort to help you do that, we’ve compiled a list of 10 ways to save on college.

1. Don’t go to college

This might sound like a joke but it’s not. The point is that before you go off and spend thousands and thousands of dollars on your education you need to make sure that college is the right choice for you. Is it what you really want to do? Are you ready?

Although college has become part of the prescribed life plan (high school — college — marriage — house…), it’s not the only option. You can also choose not to go and pursue other opportunities like entrepreneurship, a gap-year, joining the military or enrolling in a technical school. So, the purpose here is not to deter you from getting a college education but instead to ensure that it’s truly the right choice for the work/life you want to pursue.

2. Live at home

Nothing exemplifies the college experience more than living at home with your mom and dad…right? I know, this might not sound like the most fun way to “do” college. However, if graduating debt-free is a priority then it might be worth it. If you decide to go to a school that’s close to home (and your parents can stand you for another four years) then living with mom and dad can help you to save thousands of dollars on rent, utilities, laundry, and food.

3. Live with roommates

If living at home is not an option then consider renting with roommates. Yes, having your own space can be glorious however, it also comes at a premium price. If you’re serious about saving on college then having a roommate (or five) will help you save on things like rent, utilities, and even streaming services. It will also teach you how to cope with different personalities, which will serve you well when you graduate and enter the real world.

4. Live close to campus

If you live close to campus then you can probably get by without a car. This means no car payments, no insurance payment, and no gas. As an added bonus, you’ll never have to be the designated driver (assuming you’re 21 years old, of course). Instead, take advantage of public transit or bring your bike and get around using your own power.

5. Use your student status

Being a student is expensive but it also comes with a lot of perks! As a student, you’ll often have access to things like free transit passes, free gym memberships, equipment rentals (bike, skis, skates, kayaks), as well as tutoring and counseling services. Your student status might also get you discounted rates to museums, concerts, clothing, car rentals, and technology. To make sure that you don’t miss a student discount opportunity check out this list by Deal Hack.

6. Eat and drink at home

Eating and drinking at a restaurant or bar multiple times a week can get really expensive. Why not learn how to cook (a great life skill!) and save big by eating at home. This is not to say that you should never go out and have fun but if you want to minimize expenses it’s best to avoid multiple nights at the bar and opt for a BYOB potluck at your place.

7. Avoid credit card debt

The last thing you want to do is graduate from school with student loan debt AND credit card debt (a double debt whammy). If you’re going to have a credit card make sure you understand how a credit card works. If you’re not able to pay off your credit card in full each month then it’s probably best to stick to debit or cash.

8. Apply for scholarships

You don’t have to be the best or the brightest to win a scholarship. If you’re willing to put in some time and effort, you probably have a pretty good shot of winning some money. And remember, not all scholarships are based on your GPA. There are scholarships for everything: financial need, athletic ability, minority status, single moms … and so on.

If you’re a high school student — be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s estimated that $2.6 billion in FAFSA went unclaimed by eligible students for the 2018/2019…ouch!

9. Work, work, work

If you can hack it then get a job while you’re going to school. A great way to avoid debt is to have a continual source of income. In addition to the extra money, having a job is good for the resume, it can help you build your professional network (especially if you’re working in the field you’re going to school for), and juggling multiple obligations will teach you how to be organized and efficient.

10. Find a company that will pay for college

Both Starbucks and Walmart have programs that allow employees to get online degrees for nearly nothing. That’s becoming common at large companies and a surprising number of businesses offer at least some help paying tuition. There are also a number of employers that will help workers pay back their student loans.

You may not want to work at Starbucks, Walmart, or any place else that will pay for college, but it might make sense to suck it up and work for four years or so and come out of it with no debt and some solid employment history.

Just do what you can

When it comes to trying to save on college every little thing helps. While college should be fun, don’t lose sight of why you’re there … to get an education! When it comes to making tough financial decisions think about the position you want to be in when you graduate. You want to put yourself in a position to graduate debt-free (if at all possible) or at least put yourself in position to have a clear and easy plan to pay it off within a few years.

–By Jessica Martel

The post 10 Ways to Save on College  appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Dear Penny: How Do I Save for Retirement on a Teacher’s Salary?

Dear Penny,

I’m 51 years old and don’t have a large nest egg. I’m a single parent with three kids. I’m a second career middle school teacher, so there is not a lot of money left over each month. 

How much money should I be saving to be able to retire in my 70s? Where should I invest that money?

-B.

Dear B.,

You still have 20 years to build your nest egg if all goes as planned. Sure, you’ve missed out on the extra years of compounding you’d have gotten had you accumulated substantial savings in your 20s and 30s. But that’s not uncommon. I’ve gotten plenty of letters from people in their 50s or 60s with nothing saved who are asking how they can retire next year.

I like that you’re already planning to work longer to make up for a late start. But here’s my nagging concern: What if you can’t work into your 70s?

The unfortunate reality is that a lot of workers are forced to retire early for a host of reasons. They lose their jobs, or they have to stop for health reasons or to care for a family member. So it’s essential to have a Plan B should you need to leave the workforce earlier than you’d hoped.

Retirement planning naturally comes with a ton of uncertainty. But since I don’t know what you earn, whether you have debt or how much you have saved, I’m going to have to respond to your question about how much to save with the vague and unsatisfying answer of: “As much as you can.”

Perhaps I can be more helpful if we work backward here. Instead of talking about how much you need to save, let’s talk about how much you need to retire. You can set savings goals from there.

The standard advice is that you need to replace about 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income. Of course, if you can retire without a mortgage or any other debt, you could err on the lower side — perhaps even less.

For the average worker, Social Security benefits will replace about 40% of income. If you’re able to work for another two decades and get your maximum benefit at age 70, you can probably count on your benefit replacing substantially more. Your benefit will be up to 76% higher if you can delay until you’re 70 instead of claiming as early as possible at 62. That can make an enormous difference when you’re lacking in savings.

But since a Plan B is essential here, let’s only assume that your Social Security benefits will provide 40%. So you need at least enough savings to cover 30%.

If you have a retirement plan through your job with an employer match, getting that full contribution is your No. 1 goal. Once you’ve done that, try to max out your Roth IRA contribution. Since you’re over 50, you can contribute $7,000 in 2021, but for people younger than 50, the limit is $6,000.

If you maxed out your contributions under the current limits by investing $583 a month and earn 7% returns, you’d have $185,000 after 15 years. Do that for 20 years and you’d have a little more than $300,000. The benefit to saving in a Roth IRA is that the money will be tax-free when you retire.

The traditional rule of thumb is that you want to limit your retirement withdrawals to 4% each year to avoid outliving your savings. But that rule assumes you’ll be retired for 30 years. Of course, the longer you work and avoid tapping into your savings, the more you can withdraw later on.

Choosing what to invest in doesn’t need to be complicated. If you open an IRA through a major brokerage, they can use algorithms to automatically invest your money based on your age and when you want to retire.

By now you’re probably asking: How am I supposed to do all that as a single mom with a teacher’s salary? It pains me to say this, but yours may be a situation where even the most extreme budgeting isn’t enough to make your paycheck stretch as far as it needs to go. You may need to look at ways to earn additional income. Could you use the summertime or at least one weekend day each week to make extra money? Some teachers earn extra money by doing online tutoring or teaching English as a second language virtually, for example.

I hate even suggesting that. Anyone who teaches middle school truly deserves their time off. But unfortunately, I can’t change the fact that we underpay teachers. I want a solution for you that doesn’t involve working forever. That may mean you have to work more now.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is on the rise. Millions of Americans are in over their heads. They’re losing sleep, losing control, and worried about what the future will hold. But there are solutions, and consolidation is one of the best.

Consolidation works by “consolidating” multiple debts into one. It’s the perfect solution for mounting debt, one that doesn’t destroy your credit score, liquidate your assets, or make it difficult to acquire mortgages and personal loans in the future.

With that said, let’s look at some of the best ways to consolidate credit card debt.

Option 1: Do It Yourself

The idea of debt consolidation essentially boils down to acquiring a large, low-interest loan and using that to repay multiple high-interest debts. If your credit score is high enough, you can get that loan yourself, clear your credit card debts, and then focus on repaying the loan.

Do It Yourself Consolidation Explained

The average credit card APR is close to 20%. If you have a balance of $10,000 and a monthly payment of $300, this APR will cost you over $4,700 in total interest and your debt will be repaid in just over 4 years. If you were to acquire a $10,000 personal loan at a respectable rate of 8% over the same 4 years, you’ll pay just under $1,800 in interest.

That’s a saving of nearly $3,000 over 4 years, and it’s based on an 8% rate (lower rates are available) and on the assumption that you don’t accumulate any credit card penalty fees or penalty APRs, which are very common on rolling balances.

Pros

  • You Will Save Money: As noted above, this process could save you a lot of money over the long-term and will also free up some additional cash in the short-term.
  • Complete Control: You don’t have to worry about company fees and service charges; you don’t need to concern yourself with hidden terms. With this credit card consolidation option, you are in complete control.
  • Easy on Your Credit Score: While your credit score will take an initial hit because of the loan inquiry and the new account, as soon as you use that loan to clear your credit card debts you should see an improvement. Just remember to keep those cleared cards active, otherwise, your credit utilization ratio will drop.

Cons

  • Good Credit Needed: For this option to be viable, you will need an excellent score. Anything less and you may struggle to be accepted for a low-interest loan. Let’s be honest, if you’re struggling with growing credit card debt, the odds of you having a flawless credit score are pretty slim.
  • On Your Own: While there are benefits to doing everything by yourself, it can also be a little time consuming, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be intimidating.

Option 2: Work with a Debt Management Company

Credit counseling agencies can help you manage your debt by working with your creditors. A new payment structure will be created, and your money will go straight to the agency, after which it will be released to your creditors.

Debt Management Consolidation Explained

To begin the process, search for reputable debt management services in your area. They will assess your situation and determine if you are a good fit for the program. Some charge fees, some don’t, but all will serve as an intermediary between you and your creditors.

Every month you will make a single payment and the money will then go to your creditors. The agency will negotiate reduced payments by bringing the interest rates down and removing fees, therefore making these debts cheaper and more manageable.

Pros 

  • Professional Help: Get quality support from an experienced debt management company, one that will assume control and take the stress away.
  • Cheap: This is one of the cheapest and most cost-effective ways to clear your credit card debt, greatly reducing your total interest repayments.

Cons

  • Fees: Some debt management companies charge fees for their services, although these tend to be nominal and you’ll still save more money in the long-term.
  • Canceled Contract: If you fail to make one of the agreed-upon repayments, your creditors may cancel the improved contract and revert back to the previous terms, erasing all the agency’s hard work.

Option 3: Balance Transfer

A balance transfer is a promotion offered on new credit cards. It invites you to move your balance from your current card to a new one, and in exchange, it offers a period of 0% interest. 

You will need to pay a balance transfer fee, and this is typically charged at between 3 and 5% of the total transfer amount, but it’s often one of the cheapest and easiest ways to consolidate credit card debt.

Balance Transfer Consolidation Explained

As an example of how balance transfers work, let’s imagine that you have three credit cards, each with a maxed-out balance of $10,000 and an APR of 20%. If you’re repaying $300 a month, that’s $900 a month and in 4 years and 2 months, you’ll pay around $14,000 in interest to clear the full $30,000.

Alternatively, you can move all three balances onto a single balance transfer card with a $30,000 limit. Immediately, that balance could grow to $31,500. If you continue paying $900 a month and the balance transfer period lasts for 18 months, the balance will be just $15,300 when interest begins to accrue again. And if you use that 18-month period to initiate a debt repayment strategy, you could clear it in full and avoid paying any interest.

Pros 

  • Multiple Balances Can be Consolidated: You can consolidate multiple credit card balances, providing you’re not moving them to the same creditor.
  • No Interest Repayment: If you plan it properly, you can repay your balance in full before accruing any interest.
  • Available to Everyone: Credit cards are generally easier to acquire than low-interest personal loans and you won’t need an excellent credit score to get a good one.

Cons  

  • Higher Interest: The interest rate and fees may be higher once the 0% balance transfer period ends. If you use the intro period to avoid repayments and not to clear your debt, you could find yourself in serious trouble when interest begins to accumulate again.
  • Large Limits May be Difficult: The bigger your current credit card balances are, the harder it will be to get a balance transfer card with a large enough limit.
  • Fees: Although it’s a great option for consolidating credit card debt, it’s not completely free, as you’ll pay an initial balance transfer fee.

Option 4: Debt Consolidation Loans

Some companies offer specific loans tailored toward debt consolidation. These options work a lot like personal loans, as they are large loans designed with consolidation in mind. However, there are a few key differences, including the fact you don’t need an excellent credit score.

Debt Consolidation Loans Explained

The ultimate goal of debt consolidation loans is not to save you money in the long-term or to reduce the debt period. In fact, it does the opposite. The goal is to reduce your monthly payment and give you a smaller rate of interest, but it does this while increasing the loan period, which means you ultimately pay more money over the term.

Pros

 

  • More Money Every Month: Your monthly payments will be reduced, freeing up some extra cash to use every month.
  • Cleared Debts: Your credit card debts will be cleared in one fell swoop, potentially giving you some financial breathing space.

 

Cons

  • Longer Period: The total length of your debt will be extended, which means you’ll be stuck with the debt for a prolonged period.
  • Cost: While you’ll save some money every month, you’ll do so at the cost of an increased overall balance. Depending on your credit score, you could find yourself paying thousands more in total repayments.

Other Credit Card Debt Consolidation Solutions

If you have a supportive and financially-free family, you can ask them for the money to clear your debts and then promise to repay them in time. 

Of course, this option isn’t without its problems. Firstly, there’s the old adage that you should never lend money to friends or family. It may seem pretty heartless, but it’s a saying steeped in experience. It causes problems, as that debt is right at the bottom of the borrower’s list of priorities and if they’re skipping payments and begging for relief, while at the same time buying new clothes and going out every night, it can anger the borrower.

To avoid these issues, agree to pay them in monthly installments, offer a little interest, and get everything in writing. Make that debt your priority, because by skipping your payments you’ll be hurting your finances and your relationships.

Don’t guilt-trip a friend or family member into lending you money. Don’t ask them unless you have a very close relationship with them, have known them a long time, and know they can easily afford to lend you money. The last thing you want is for them to leave themselves short or to acquire debt just to help you out.

Alternatively, if you own a significant amount of home equity, you can opt for a home equity loan. This will give you a sizeable loan charged at a small rate of interest. It will take longer to repay your mortgage, but by reducing your debt demands you’ll save more money in the long-term.

How to Consolidate Credit Card Debt is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays

The post 9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

The packages have been opened. The kids are loving their new toys.  You are enjoying your coffee one morning and reading your mail when you see them…

THE BILLS! Yikes!

It seems you went a little over your budget. It was fun and the joy you brought to your kids’ faces was worth it.

However, now you need to find a way to recover from overspending during the holidays. It is not fun, but is necessary. Here are nine steps you can take to recover from any spending mistakes you made during the holiday shopping season.

1. Put the credit cards on ice – literally

The first thing you need to do is stop spending.  You need to put the credit cards away. Take them out of your wallet and put them in the safe.

Or, if you want to make sure you really do not use them – freeze them in a block of ice! That way, if you do feel the pull to shop, it will take time to thaw out and the urge to spend my pass by then.

2. Calculate the damage

You can’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to seeing the damage done to your budget. Face it head-on.

Total every receipt and credit card statement to find how much was spent. While it may be painful to see the balance due, it is necessary.

When you see that figure in writing, it helps you know what you are facing and where you may need to cut back.

3. Review the budget

 Once you know the amount you need to pay off you also need to review (or create) your monthly budget.   That means including those new monthly payments to the credit card companies.

Make sure your budget is balanced, in that you are not spending more than you take in each month.

4. Create a repayment plan

Up next, you have to create an exit strategy – which will be to pay off those credit card bills. Grab the statements for each and then list them by including the balance and the interest rate.

You may be tempted to pay the highest balance first (which is what I recommend when it comess to getting out of debt). However, when it comes to this debt you just incurred, I recommend starting with the highest interest rate first.

By eliminating that bill quickly, you are reducing the amount of interest you will pay to the credit card company. There is no need to pay them any more than you need to!

Once the first card is paid in full, roll the monthly payment amount into the payment for the next card. Repeat until they are all paid in full.

You’ll not only pay them off quickly but also minimize the total interest paid as well!

5. Reduce your spending

When you have bills to pay it means you need look at the budget to find areas where you can cut back.

It may mean cutting cable or eliminating dining out. You may need to cancel the subscription to the gym or find frugal date night options.

Be willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains as the sooner you can eliminate these bills, the better.

6. Use your bonuses

If you are fortunate enough to get a holiday bonus don’t blow it on what you want. Use that to pay off your holiday bills.

If you don’t get a bonus then use any of that Christmas cash you received for your bills! Look ahead to see if any other money will be coming your way such as birthday money or a tax refund. Earmark that to pay off your holiday spending.

7. Get a side-hustle

If you need to tackle your balances then a side-hustle may be the solution – even if temporary. Look around the house for items to sell. If you are a teacher, consider tutoring students.

Every penny earned can be money used to put towards that holiday spending.

8. Build your savings

You don’t want to find yourself in this same situation again next year. It is not a fun cycle of rinse and repeat.

The holidays come at the same time each year. It is not a surprise or an unplanned expense.  You need to plan for it.

Review the total spent this year and divide that by 12. Focus on saving that amount each month, all year long, and you’ll be able to pay CASH next year and not even use the credit cards.

9. Save using the coin challenge

One simple way to save money for holiday shopping is to switch to a cash budget. Then, save the change and any “leftover” money each pay period.

For example, if you budget $300 for groceries and spend only $270, don’t blow that left-over $30…put it back for the holidays!

The same premise works with change. If the total is $7.49, hand over $8 and put $0.51 into your savings jar.

Saving doesn’t have to be hard

Simple tricks can help you quickly build your savings!

It is easy to spend too much during the holidays but with some smart strategies, you can get your budget back on track.

The post 9 Ways to Recover from Overspending During the Holidays appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

7 Money-Saving Tricks at Grocery Stores

Food is essential to our existence. What isn't essential is paying an arm and a leg for our daily bread. Compared to dining out, buying groceries and cooking homemade meals remains a far more affordable way to eat. But grocery shopping can be even more affordable with these tips the next time you find yourself carting down the aisles. 

How to Save Money on Groceries

  1. Don’t Dawdle in the Aisles
  2. Price Watch
  3. Consider the Cost of Convenience
  4. Know Your Terminology
  5. A Full Mouth Is a Quiet Mouth
  6. Go for Day-Olds
  7. Break Free from Brands
  8. Use a Prepaid Gift Card

Let's explore each tip a little further.

1. Don’t Dawdle in the Aisles

Shop more efficiently at the supermarket by leaving your cart at the end of each aisle. It’s faster because you’ll go directly to what you need and grab it, plus you’ll be less tempted to purchase extras since you won’t be wandering slowly down the aisle with the cart.

2. Price Watch

When you’re at the supermarket, make sure you keep a close watch while your items are being rung up. A recent study found that 10 percent of items are scanned in at the incorrect price.

3. Consider the Cost of Convenience

Remember the cardinal rule when it comes to saving money on food: If it’s “convenient,” it’s probably costly. For example, pickles cut flat for sandwiches, juice in single-serving bottles, pre-shredded cheese, and “baby” carrots. Think carefully about what you’re buying and decide if the convenience is worth the extra cost!

4. Know Your Terminology

When shopping, know your terminology: Only the term “use by” means that you shouldn’t eat the food after the date indicated. “Sell by” dates are only an indication for the store, and foods will usually keep one to two weeks after. “Best before” is only an indication of food quality, not of food safety, so again, your perishables may still be fine to eat.

5. A Full Mouth Is a Quiet Mouth

If you find you’re making a lot of impulse purchases at the store because your kids are begging for snack foods, keep them quiet by buying them a package of animal crackers or a similar snack right when you get to the store. Most stores don’t even mind if your kids eat the crackers before you pay for them.

6. Go for Day-Olds

Supermarkets often discount their day-old or slightly overripe items in the morning. This is a great way of getting deals on fruit, vegetables, bread, and other foods. At first glimpse, this money-saving strategy may not seem appealing to you, but you can use these items in casseroles, desserts, and other dishes where you won’t even notice the difference. With a loaf of day-old bread, for example, you can make french toast, stuffing, croutons, bread pudding, and much more!

7. Break Free from Brands

When you’ve been buying the same brand-name product for as long as you can remember, it’s hard to make the switch to generics. However, you’ll be surprised when you find many generic and store-brand products taste exactly the same (or better!) for less than half the cost. Always buy generic baking ingredients such as flour, oil, and sugar. These generics are indistinguishable from their more-expensive counterparts. Frozen and canned vegetables are also usually exactly the same. As for products such as cereals, cookies, and crackers, basic is better—we’ve had good luck with plain granola, potato chips, and wheat crackers. No matter what the product, it never hurts to try. If you end up having to throw away one can of soup, you’ve wasted a few dollars, but if you like it, you can save a lot over the course of a year.

8. Use a Prepaid Gift Card

Need a little help budgeting your trips to the supermarket? Many chains now offer prepaid gift cards. Buy one for yourself and think of it as a portable checking account: Put money on the card, then “withdraw” from it every time you shop. With a dedicated grocery “account,” you’ll find it’s easier to keep a tighter rein on your spending.

Get more great tips on our podcast by subscribing on iTunes or Stitcher! You can also sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our daily tips!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

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