Millennial First Time Homebuyers: Send Me Your Questions

Millennials are breaking into the housing market with great force with hopes of attaining one of the biggest stepping-stones to the American Dream- homeownership.   Whether or not the American Dream still exists is questionable, but one thing that is certain is that as the largest active generation in the housing market at 34%, millennials are making lemonade out of lemons and turning the boomerang generation into homeowners.

Millennial First Time Home Buyers | Get Your Questions Answered on She Makes Cents

Buying a house is the largest financial investment that most people make in their lifetime.  Its benefits, especially if the path to homeownership is achieved by establishing better money habits before buying, result in financial rewards throughout the year.

Before buying a home, first-time buyers should save for a down payment, raise one’s credit score, and figure out how much house they can actually afford.  To take the savings benefits one step further, first-time millennial buyers are urged to do a little research of their own to see what tax breaks are available that makes the home buying process a little more affordable.  

Keeping affordability in mind, the housing and financial industries have teamed up to offer resources that make the transition of renting to owning easier for first-time and millennial buyers. By anticipating some of the financial setbacks plaguing millennials, such as staggering student loan debt, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) have changed the amount allowed to be financed and lowered some of the qualifications to attract young buyers.  I bought my house five days after my 24th birthday with an FHA loan.  This was the best move for me at that time because I was looking for a nice apartment when I came across a property that was priced so well I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity.  I hadn’t saved specifically for a home or better yet a traditional 20% down payment, but I did have enough to put down to secure an FHA loan and become a homeowner by age 24.

Homeownership is affordable, attainable, and provides financial advantages for those who choose this path over renting.  While millennials are changing the narrative of the American Dream, one thing still rings true. Homeownership is still a good way to achieve wealth in the United States and thanks to the financial advantages of homeownership, the dream is so much sweeter. She Makes Cents | Money, Career, & Lifestyle Blog for Goal Setting Millennial Women

Are you thinking about buying your first home and have questions about the homebuying process?  Leave your comment or question below and/or tweet me @shemakescents to have your question answered.

{Money & Relationships} 5 Reasons to Have the “Money Talk” with Your Partner

You and your significant other have been together for a while. You have met the parents (and they like you…hopefully), you leave stuff at each other’s homes, and you’ve even claimed each other on social media! Sure, you have done all of the public things to show your significant other and the world that you care about your relationship but have you taken the necessary steps to reduce stress and drama in your relationship from a financial standpoint? I will be honest with you; having the money talk isn’t fun or comfortable, but it is enlightening and crucial to all serious relationships.

Money & Relationships- from Millennial Personal Finance Blog, She Makes Cents.png

I bet you searched him on Google and scoped his Instagram page when you were first getting to know him. Outside of being curious, you wanted to protect yourself by getting a head start to any red flags.  Simply put,  you wanted to figure out what you may be getting yourself into. No judgment, it’s smart and we all do it. If you protected yourself in the beginning, why wouldn’t you protect yourself now that things are getting serious?  Starting the conversation does not make you greedy or look like a gold digger.  In fact, it shows that you are looking at this relationship for the long-term.  Former Secret Service agent and Cosmo contributor,  Evy Pompouras’ gives advice about reading people in any situation, which will come in handy when you have the conversation with your beaux.  Pompouras says, “don’t openly judge, even if you don’t like what they have to say.  When people feel your disapproval, they will filter themselves, hold back information, or shut down”.  Remember you both had a life before your relationship and both of your financial decisions up until now will reveal that.  If you are ready to get serious about your relationship you should also be ready to get serious about your finances if you haven’t done so already.

FIND OUT EACH OTHER’S SPENDING & SAVING STYLE

This makes sense on so many levels.  This is not a situation where you are trying to figure out if he is a spender or a saver, but more so how he spends and how he saves.  This may be an eye-opening revelation for you as well since most people do not generally look at money and relationships in those terms.  Are you financially compatible?  Does your super saver style clash with his overspending?  

KNOW THINE SELF

 In the midst of “The Talk” you may start to learn things about yourself that you didn’t know before.  It is easier to see red flags in others than it is to see in ourselves.  You may find areas of yourself and your financial situation that need to be cleaned up… not for him or a relationship, but for your own financial security.  This is the time for you to take some responsibility for yourself, review your debts and assets, and come up with a personalized financial plan. 

HELPS YOU PLAN FOR A SHARED FUTURE

Let me first say that a shared future does not necessarily imply marriage.  A shared future looks like whatever you want it to look like as long as you two are in it together.  Some couples will move in together and will have to decide who will pay what.  Others may continue to live separately and your money talk for the future may include more social decisions.  How often will we go to restaurants, movies, concerts, on vacations?  Who will pay for what?  Or for those who see wedding bells in their future, well you should get in the habit of having weekly money talks and a review of how finances coming in and going out are affecting the household dynamic.  You don’t want to be the woman who hides shopping bags in the trunk of her car, but rather a woman who proudly shows off the goodies that she bought with financial confidence.

PREVENTIVE CARE FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP

If I told you that you could reduce the chance of burning yourself using a curling wand while creating date night hair just by using the little black gloves that come with it, would you use them?  How about if  I showed you the hands of someone who burned themselves because they didn’t use a glove?  Would you be more likely to use a glove then?  Probably, even if it was just for a short time.  Well, what if I told you that having the “money talk” and the subsequent follow-up talks with your significant other will reduce the chance of financial stress and lessen the risk of break up?  How about if I followed up stories about real relationships that burned because of money issues?  Would you have the talk, then?  Think about it like this, taking these steps becomes preventive care for your relationship.  Beyoncé said if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it.  I’m telling you if you like it then you should put the black gloves of your relationship on and have the talk!  Save your relationship before it needs saving.

So you now have an idea of what you are getting yourself into… remember this is just the start and you should have several follow-up conversations.  It may be uncomfortable at first, but it will be well worth the effort in the end.  We were seriously dating the first time the Mr. and I discussed money in detail.  It was slightly difficult to start the conversation because I didn’t want him to think that I was only after him for this money.  I explained to him that I was needing reassurance that we were financially compatible and I wanted to introduce a sort of financial intimacy into our relationship.   He was open to it and so was I.  If you have never discussed personal finance with your partner, I encourage you to not let another day go by.  If you are starting the conversation TODAY and don’t know how to start, check out this list of questions that I reference every time the Mr. and I have “the talk”. 

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Equifax Data Breach: How To Find Out If Your Personal Information Was Stolen

Equifax, one of the three largest US consumer credit reporting agencies, announced this week that they were victims of a cyber-security data breach that will potentially affect 143 million U.S. consumers. The cyber hackers got access to names, Social Security numbers, birth dates,  addresses, and driver’s license numbers to nearly half of the U.S. population, with potential breaches also affecting consumers in Canada and the United Kingdom. Although the official statement from Equifax was released this week, the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July 2017. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard F. Smith maintains, “We pride ourselves on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations.  We also are focused on consumer protection and have developed a comprehensive portfolio of services to support all U.S. consumers, regardless of whether they were impacted by this incident.” Just because you are not a consumer of Equifax doesn’t mean that this breach won’t directly affect you. According to CNN, Equifax gets its data from credit card companies, banks, retailers, and lenders who report on the credit activity of individuals to credit reporting agencies, as well as by purchasing public records.

How Can You Find Out If You Were Affected By the Equifax Data Breach?

Equifax will send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents with personal identifying information were impacted. Additionally, Equifax has established a dedicated website, http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers determine if their information has been potentially affected. As a consolation, Equifax is offering one year of credit file monitoring and identity theft protection, copies of Equifax credit reports, the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports, identity theft insurance, and internet scanning for Social Security numbers for all U.S. consumers.

Equifax Data Breach: How Can You Find Out If You Were Affected By the Equifax Data Breach?

What You Should Do In the Event of Identity Theft

    1. Review your financial accounts daily
    2. Check your credit history at least twice a year
    3. Immediately report any errors or disputes (click here to see how to get the process started)
    4. Destroy all inactive and expired credit cards
    5. Contact your bank and/or credit card company to set up fraud alerts
    6. Change your passwords
    7. File a formal report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Ibotta Review | How To Make Money with Cash Back Apps

Ibotta Secrets | Get Cash Back Every Time Your Shop | Money Saving Hacks

I am always researching ways to save more money and I kept coming across this app called Ibotta. I would see it most on blogs where bloggers shared their income reports and I noticed that they were getting more money from cash back apps than they were with some of the sources of income associated with their respective blogs. I thought it was interesting, but I put it on the back burner… something to check out for another day. Well, that day came last month when I was researching ways to save more money on the category that I spend the most frequently- groceries. So what did I do? I decided to give it a try for a month and share my review with you. So sit back, grab your cell phone because you are going to need it and get ready to save.

This post may contain affiliate links at no cost to you.  This keeps our lights on.  See our disclosure policy for more info.Ibotta Review | How To Make Money with Cash Back Apps from personal finance blog, She Makes Cents | Team Debt Free

So What is Ibotta Anyway?

Ibotta is a free app that you can download on apple and android that pays you for everyday purchases. It collects rebates from grocers, retailers, and experience brands like Uber, Groupon, and Amazon and pays you according to the rebate terms. It’s all in one place so no need to spend time searching around for coupons and discount codes. Since downloading the app, I have a balance of $22.87 that can be redeemed via Paypal, Venmo, and gift cards. The first $10.00 came from the welcome bonus for signing up (get your $10.00 welcome link here). I was so excited about how easy it was that I even got hubby on board to try it out.

How Does Ibotta Work?

Before I go shopping, I check out the app and add rebates on the brands and items that usually make it onto my shopping list. I shop as I normally would and then scan my receipt(s) to redeem the cash, which usually shows up on my account after about 48 hours. After about 2 weeks of doing it this way, I found it easier to scan my items as I shop instead of after I have made my purchases.   PRO TIP: Do not buy things that are not on your list just to get the cash back. You will not save or make money by doing it.

How Do You Join Ibotta?

 1. Create an Ibotta account using this referral code.  This will allow us to be teammates so we can earn bonus cash together.
2. Log in on a unique mobile device that has not been associated with another Ibotta account.
3. Redeem your first rebate. (Any Brand and Any Item rebates do not qualify for the referral bonus.)

Things You Should Know About The Cash Back App

  1. To redeem the $10.00 welcome, you must download the app and use my promo code tahbinu. Once you claim your first rebate (any brand and any receipt offers excluded) you will get $10.00 added to your account.
  2. You can start redeeming your money after you have $20.00 on your account (which is super easy to do).
  3. The highest paying opportunities that I have seen come from beer, wine, and liquor sales. Think $3.00 – $5.00 per bottle. So, if you need to stock your bar, this is a good time to get paid to do so.
  4. You can use Ibotta along with your store rewards cards.
  5. Teams are utilized to complete teamwork bonuses, of which there is a new teamwork program each month.  By working as a team, we can all earn more cash back together!!

Long gone are the days where you sit around and cut coupons to save money. Now are the days for cash back apps, digital coupons, and automatic promo codes that make the things we buy every day, more affordable. If you are not saving a little money on your everyday purchases, you are missing out. Last month, I was trying to think of ways to save some extra money in on groceries. This month, I have created a new habit of redeeming money by scanning my receipts. I’m not really the coupon cutting type but when technology makes things so darn easy, I’d be crazy not to use money saving apps like Ibotta.  She Makes Cents | Get a $10.00 Welcome Sign Up for the Ibotta Cash Back App


5 Things Every Millennial Should Know About Life Insurance

A few weeks ago, a company called HealthIQ that celebrates health-conscious people with social and financial rewards, contacted me to create a quiz about millennials and life insurance. Yes, I can now add professional quiz writer to my resume! Since then, I have been reflecting on what happens to our loved ones financially when we pass on. This also came around the time a classmate of mine from high school passed away suddenly from a random heart complication leaving his fiancé and young daughter to pick up the pieces. One day you are living life and YOLOing and the next moment….well, you know how that goes. I am no longer in the headspace of thinking I am invincible, which means it is time for me to get a plan for my family in case the worst happens. Apparently, that means I’m growing up. While doing my research for my quiz, which you can take here, I realized there are several benefits to buying life insurance at an early age and right now millennials are in the best position to take advantage. While it is not a cheerful conversation to have, it is a necessary one and one that can protect those who depend on you and your income should the worst-case scenario happen. Since many millennials are delaying marriage and children, it is easy to say that there is no benefit of buying life insurance; however, that is not the case.  Other dependents such as parents who cosigned a loan or business partners for the millennial entrepreneurs out there also depend on you and your income and will be left with a great financial burden of debt, your funeral expenses, and trouble covering living expenses if proper measures are not in place.

5 Things Every Millennial Should Know About Life Insurance from Top Millennial Finance Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents

What Is Life Insurance?

If you ask my new insurance agent, he would tell you that life insurance is a “love policy”. I, however, prefer the explanation from Fidelity, which explains that, a life insurance policy as “a contract with an insurance company. In exchange for premium payments, the insurance company provides a lump-sum payment, known as a death benefit, to beneficiaries upon the insured’s death”. To bring it to terms that we can all understand, it is what GoFundMe has become when loved ones pass. I have to say this, but GoFundMe should not be your go to plan to cover the funeral expenses of a loved one or to cover the financial burden that you may leave to your family.

Do Millennials Need Life Insurance?

Yes and yes. It will be easier to understand once you break things down by life stages. Millennials make up the awesome generation of people who are born between 1982-2002 which means that older millennials could be in the home buying, marriage, and kids stage while younger millennials are in the college life and first real job stage. So do all millennials need life insurance? The answer to that will depend on whom you ask. I believe everyone should have life insurance that at least covers one’s funeral expenses. Now in terms of a larger payout, known as a death benefit, I think that depends on who relies your income. To determine if you need life insurance, financial expert and writer, Suze Orman, presents this question for you to ask yourself: “If I were to die today (or if my spouse/partner were to die today), will those I/we support be able to take care of themselves? If the answer is no, then you need life insurance”. Let’s be honest here, the subject of life insurance is morbid, boring, and a bit off-putting, but it is a necessary conversation that needs to be had by all.

5 Things Every Millennial Should Know About Life Insurance

  1. If Your Parent Is a Cosigner On Your Student Loans. A few years back, I remembered hearing a story about a grieving father who was struggling to pay his dead son’s student loan debt. During the height of his grief and after paying for funeral expenses, debt collectors began to harass him regarding his son’s missed student loan payment. That was the first time I remember learning that your debts don’t always go away when you pass. I thought about that Dad and then I thought about my own. So what happens to your student loan debt if you pass away? If you have Federal student loans, your loans will be discharged and your family will not be responsible for your debt. Parents with Parent PLUS loan borrowers are also eligible loans to have their loans discharged in the event of the student’s death since it is also a Federal loan. To receive the discharge, the surviving cosigner must submit a copy of the death certificate to their loan provider. However, if you have private loans, your family may inherit your debt, which for the class of 2016 is an estimated $37,172 and growing. According to this article from CNBC, “Even if your spouse doesn’t co-sign for you, he or she can also be held liable for a private student loan if you borrow while married and you reside in a community property state”.

  2. If You Are a Single Parent.
    While millennials are delaying getting married, a recent poll from Gallup reveals that almost half of surveyed millennials age 34 have children although they have never been married. Because of their single status, many parents elect their minor children to receive the death benefit to financial protect their children if something were to happen. Making a minor a beneficiary will cause major problems since life insurance companies do not payouts to children under the age of 18 or their guardians. If you are a single parent, you should consider setting up a trust to benefit the child and naming that trust as the beneficiary. This way, you can avoid costly court fees and you can have things managed based on the directions you have left in your trust.

  3. If You Have Life Insurance Through Your Employer.
    Congratulations, you have a real job with real benefits! I am so proud of you. Now it is time to go through and fully understand the scope of your benefits package. Many employers offer life insurance as a part of their benefits package, but is that enough? Something else, I would like you to consider is how long you plan to stay with your current company. According to a Gallup report, 21% of millennials have changed jobs within the past year.  Employee life insurance is provided as a group life plan and when you leave your job, you are no longer a member of the “group”.  Your former employer is no longer obligated to pay the premium; therefore, your coverage is terminated unless you convert your policy to an individual plan, often at a higher rate. Your best bet is to get an individual term policy in addition to your employer-based policy so that you will be covered.
  4. If You Think Life Insurance is a Financial Investment.
    Life insurance is NOT a financial investment. Let me say that again. Life insurance is NOT a financial investment But what about cash value life insurance, you ask?
    That’s not what your agent told you, is it? The good folks over at
    Investopedia define cash life insurance as “a type of life insurance policy that pays out upon the policyholder’s death, and also accumulates value during the policyholder’s lifetime”. Sounds good, right?
    Well not so fast… The idea of investing is appealing… even sexy to most millennials (or is that just me?) but insurance as an investment is a terrible idea that yields a very low return. If you are looking to invest your money or save your money, there are much better options out there like mutual funds, Roth IRAs, stocks, and bonds. Suze Orman maintains, “Under no circumstances do you want ‘cash-value insurance’ no matter how fabulous the agent makes it sound”. My financial guru, Dave Ramsey, agrees. Ramsey argues, “It is a horrible product that makes insurance companies the most money, which means insurance salespeople get the best commission on this trash”. I am inclined to agree with them both. Insurance is insurance and your investments are investments. Does life insurance provide financial protection for your family? Yes. Is the “investment” component of a cash life policy, also referred to as whole life, universal life, and variable life, a good investment? Absolutely not. If you have this type of policy, you should cancel it and thank me later.
  5. If You Don’t Know Where to Start.
    Many people know the importance of life insurance but have not taken the plunge. For the millennials out there, you will never be as young as you are right now in this moment.  Why not take advantage of the financial benefits of buying life insurance while you are young and in presumably good health. Millennials with a clean bill of health will find qualifying for coverage easier and more affordable, think less than $300.00 for the year for a $500,000 policy. So what type of policy do you recommend? Millennials looking to buy into a life insurance policy should consider a term insurance policy because the policy length can be tailored to your needs, it’s affordable, and you can lock in your rate while you are young. The maximum term for a life insurance policy is generally 30 years.  Since premiums never get cheaper, millennials can get an upper hand on their finances by locking in a lower rate for the maximum term.

I recently read something from Dave Ramsey that completely changed how I think of all of this… adulting. “The death rate for human beings is 100 percent. You are going to dies someday! None of us know when that’s going to happen, but that doesn’t mean it should catch us totally unprepared”. Yes, you can still enjoy your youth while protecting your future. That’s why I have recently jumped on the life insurance bandwagon. Last week the Mr. and I met our agent in person to talk about our options and I encourage you to do the same.

Do you have life insurance questions or want to tell me about your experience with life insurance, please comment below or leave me a message via Twitter or Facebook.

How to Apply Money Affirmations To Make Your Goals A Reality

Money Affirmations to Manifest Abundance from Personal Finance Blog for Women, She Makes Cents by Danielle YB Vason | Law of AttractionAn affirmation is a strong, positive statement that something is already so.  It is a way of “making firm” that which you are imagining.  So I ask you this, when you think about your goals and desires for yourself, is it a negative or positive experience for you?  If you visualize your goals in a positive way, you affirm the presence of positivity in that area of your life.   For you, that change is already in motion because you are attracting that abundant energy into your life.  The same can be said for negative thoughts.  According to personal development author, Shakti Gawain,  “When we create something, we always create it first in thought form.  A thought or idea always precedes manifestation”.  Think about what greatness we can bring to our goals and desires if we affirmed them in success.  In this post,  Money Affirmations to Attract Financial Abundance    I shared some techniques that will help you release your negative mindset with money so you can approach your finances from a mental state of confidence, pride, and positivity.  Today I am here to share some new financial affirmations that can help you take back control over your financial goals.  

Money Affirmations To Attract Wealth

When we form positive associations with money we give ourselves permission to prepare ourselves to receive it.  We no longer fear it or fear what it would be like to not have it.  I invite you to start in inspiration pinboard and pin the below affirmations them there. Then print them, share them, and/or place them in various places so that you can have reminders of the desires you are affirming for yourself.  Add them to your vision board, your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator, your Instagram account (seriously, think about how often you check your IG account in a day), or your desk.  Speak them aloud and add your own name to give it more power. Instead of saying, “I attract wealth and abundance” try saying “[Insert your name] attracts wealth and abundance”.  Why, you ask?  Well studies show that the adult brain activates, when one hears, their own name.  Below are some of the newer affirmations I have added to my practice and I hope you add them to yours to attract a more positive experience with money.

Money Affirmations to Manifest Abundance from Personal Finance Blog for Women, She Makes Cents | Law of Attraction

What Are Your Favorite Money Affirmations? Please share with She Makes Cents readers

Money Challenge Half Year Review

There are times when you are working toward a goal and it is hard to see the progress of your work.  This, my friends, is not one of those stories.  Since January of this year, the #SMCmoneytribe and I have used the 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge that I created to save towards each of our money goals.  Many members of the SMC Money Tribe are saving for a dream vacation and it makes me proud that because of their planning and saving, their dream to see the world can happen without disrupting their long-term money goals.  I, on the other hand, am saving money to use as extra payments toward my student loan debt.  This process is known as a debt snowball.  Snowballing your debts helps you pay them off much faster and can save thousands of dollars in interest.  In my case, my student loans are keeping me from progressing to Baby Step 3 from financial guru Dave Ramsey because they are the last of my debts, not including my mortgage. 

Top Atlanta Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents, shares her story on how she is tackling her debt using her money challenge and Dave Ramsey Baby Steps

JUNE RECAP

Last month was the first time I can remember actually seeing progress to reduce my student debt and this month blew last month’s money recap out of the water.  For the month of June, I saved more money than any of the previous months and the last four months combined.  I sent two major snowballs to my student loan provider to pay down the balance instead of pushing back my next due date.  This lets your money work for you and not the other way around.  I also saved $326.00 for the month and hit the $700.00 YTD mark for this challenge.  With a contribution from the Mr., we have saved a combined $1,575.00 that we could have easily spent on frivolous things.  Thanks, babe!  Teamwork makes the dream work.

MONEY GOAL TRACKING

At the beginning of the year, I wrote out my money goals and one of them were to pay off my credit card debt, which I did.  The second one was to have my student loans at or under $15,000.00 by the end of the year.  Around April of this year, I upped that goal date to October and then again, in May, I thought I would push myself further and make it a goal to have the balance at $15,000.00 by the end of my birthday month, August.  I did this because a goal date of the end of the year ensured that I would hit the goal, but with such a long time to work toward the goal, it took away the hustle for it.  By pushing the date up to August, it really forces me to review how I am spending and saving money and keeps me motivated to the short-term goal at hand.

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Monday Motivation | Cultivate Better Habits

Not too long ago I read this quote from the top financial expert, Dave Ramsey, and I knew it was too good not to share.  “You can’t get out of debt while keeping the same lifestyle”.  Often times we want results for our lives that’s different from our current situation.  The thing is, you have got to change your habits if you desire a different outcome.  If your goal is to upgrade your financial situation, you have to upgrade the effort you put into your goals to see the results.  Increase your income + reduce your spending = the start to a great plan.  Last Friday, I had a three-week profit from our BINGO Money Challenge of $383.00 that could have easily paid for a pair of shoes.  Instead of living the lifestyle that is keeping me in a stagnant financial situation, I snowballed that $383.00 and threw it directly at my student loans.  The gratification I get from a new pair of shoes is nothing compared to the natural high I get from getting closer to my debt free goal.  

Money Quotes from Dave Ramsey on Personal Finance Blog, She Makes Cents

Today, I encourage you to use this week as a week of self-reflection.  What habits do you want to cultivate?  What habits do you want to quit?  We know what each of our end goals are but we often are blind to the things we do to ourselves that sabotage those goals    Start thinking about the things you do every day and how they affect your money goals.  Yes, you can upgrade your financial situation, but you have to upgrade your actions first because your actions become habits… good or bad.

How Much is Student Loan Interest Really Costing You?

The rising student loan debt is one of the greatest financial problems plaguing millennials, especially millennial women.  As of 2014, women account for 55 % of students enrolled in four-year colleges in the United States, according to the Federal Education Department and the figures continue to lean in favor of higher educated women.  With the average student loan debt at a little over $30,000 and growing, how are we ever going to eliminate student loan debt at all? The answer lies first in understanding the numbers.

How To Calculate Your Real Student Loan Interest from Top Millennial Finance Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents

By definition, a loan is something that is borrowed that is expected to be paid back with interest.  The operative word in that definition is “interest”.  When you borrowed money from the government or your loan provider, you were given this money with the expectation that they will get their money back from you.  In fact, they expect you to take your take, defer, and get off track because their business is in the interest and not the actual repayment of the original loan.  Let me say that again for you.  They make their money on the interest because you are expected to pay back what you originally borrowed.  Student loan interest accrues daily once you are in your repayment period, which usually begins 6 months after your graduation date.  So what does that mean exactly?

How Does Student Loan Interest Add Up?

I will use my student loan numbers to help you visualize why interest will keep you in debt if you don’t start to get aggressive.  The exact math on this chilling realization is why millennials have a record amount of debt and a lower amount of home ownership.  I have two loans that were consolidated for a collective original loan amount of $24,422.77 back in 2007.  As of today, I have paid $21,189.89, which means that if this were an interest-free loan, I would only be $3232.88 away from having the loan paid off completely.  However, because of interest, I still owe $16,738.90.    How’s that you ask? Well, in the 10 years that have had this loan, interest has accrued daily. If you have studied your loan, you will notice that your daily accrual rate will change over the life of the loan.  If you are paying down your debt, your daily rate will eventually reduce as a result of the reducing current balance.  However, if you are one of those out of sight out of mind people who knows you have student loan debt that you have ignored, paying a reduced payment when you really can afford to pay more, or continually delaying your payment period, your daily rate is increasing…well, daily.

How To Beat Your Student Loan Debt

Currently, my student loan interest in accumulating at $3.09 per day/ $1127.85 per year, which is the lowest it has ever been.  To beat the system, you must pay your debt down at a faster rate than it is growing.  At $3.09 per day/ $92.70 per month, my snowball must be more than the monthly interest to make a difference.  Now that you have seen my numbers, it is time to look at yours.  To calculate your daily interest rate you must have the following numbers ready: your current balance and your interest rate.How To Calculate Your Real Student Loan Interest from Top Millennial Finance Blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents

In the past two months, I have watched my current balance drop at a faster rate than usual. That is because I have started making my regular monthly payment as well as an extra payment of money saved from the 52 Week BINGO money challenge. I was motivated to get a little more aggressive with paying down this loan when I set a  micro goal for myself to have my loan under the $15,000 mark by the end of my birthday month (August).  Coming up with a plan to beat your student loan debt first starts with the numbers.  If you don’t already know your numbers, I urge you to look up your current balance and interest rate, calculate much your interest accrues daily,  and as soon as you can, start making an extra payment above your monthly interest rate to get your debt moving in the right direction.  Instead of focusing on just how much you have left to pay, pat yourself on the back for how far you have come on this debt journey.  You can do it!  You have to do it so you may as well do it as quickly as possible so you can put that money saved toward your next baby step toward financial freedom.

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5 Ways to Start Improving Your Credit Score TODAY

A great credit score can be the difference between being approved for that car you’ve saved for, that house you’ve looked at, and even that job that you just interviewed for that is now pulling your credit history. If you have a low score, the people who decide whether you are an “attractive” candidate hold the cards. If you, however, have a great credit score, you hold ALL the cards. I learned this when I was buying my first home just three days after my 24th birthday. In the midst of trying to prove to my parents that I was, in fact, a real and financially responsible adult by doubling up on student loan payments and keeping my credit card balance low, I was unknowingly improving my credit score. In fact, during the contract negotiation period of the home buying process, my score improved by 20 points. A great score also came in handy once I moved because the majority of my utility expenses did not need a deposit and I was offered a lower rate. No matter what your score is, it is never too late to start improving it.Credit Score Hacks from the Money, Career, & Lifestyle blog, She Makes Cents | How To Improve Your Credit Score Today

Here are 5 Easy Ways to Boost your Credit Score

  1. First and foremost, it is imperative that you know your score, that way you know where you stand. By law, all US citizens are entitled to one FREE credit history report, but depending on where you live your state may pay for one more.  Georgia residents, for example, are entitled to two FREE credit reports from each reporting agency.   This is a great time to make sure that all the information is correct and give you an overview of where your finances stand.  Related Post: How to Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report
  2. Pay your bills on time. It sounds simple, but I’m going to take a quick flashback to my college days when I was on the dance line of the marching band featured in Drumline. (insert flashback bubble here) To be early is to be ON TIME, to be “on time” is to be LATE, and to be late is UNACCEPTABLE (end flashback bubble…now). The same essentially holds true with how you pay your bills.  The earlier you pay your bill, the better. For one, you are certain that your bill will be received by your service provider way before the date. More importantly, paying your bills as soon as you get them can be a quick but subtle  increase to that credit score. I try to pay all bills within days of receiving my statements and then record the due dates and balance due in my calendar. This allows me a quick glimpse of my monthly financial trends. This is something I recommend to EVERYONE!
  3. Use only one credit card. If you have more than one card, start paying down the card with the smallest balance first by doubling the minimum payment. Once, that card is paid down, move to the card with the second lowest balance. Double the minimum balance and tack on whatever you were applying to the first card, until that card is paid down, and then so on. This, lovely people, is what is called a money snowball.  Next, choose one card to work with, preferably the one with the highest interest rate and take the other ones out of your wallet. Freeze them, cut them up, lock them away but whatever you do, do not close them. Closing a credit card can sink your credit score faster than you can say “She Makes Cents”. Don’t do it, don’t do it, do not do it…
  4. Increase your credit limit. Now that you have worked towards reducing the debt on your existing card, credit card companies should begin to see you as an “attractive” customer. Call your company and request a credit increase. Again, this is not meant for you to start increasing your spending¸ but rather it is an opportunity for you to increase your credit to debt ratio. Can anyone say credit score boost? Related Post:  How The Debt to Credit Ratio Affects Your Credit Score
  5. Pay in Cash. I have said it before and I will say it again. Paying in cash forces you to really consider whether your purchase is right you. Personally, I find that paying for things in cash acts as a visual aid and helps keep me on track with my spending. In swiping a card, I can’t “see” my funds dwindling, but watching your cash go from thick to thin is definitely a sign that you could be mindlessly spending. When you pay in cash, you don’t have to worry about interest rates and hidden charges because Cash is King  QUEEN.