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.

shemakescents.com - OOTD | Student Loan Interest

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.

      

How The Debt to Credit Ratio Affects Your Credit Score

debt-to-credit-ratio-credit-score-she-makes-centsLast year, one of my girlfriends and I decided that we were going to pay off our credit cards at the same time.  I was paying down debt to start my snowball and get me one step closer to Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step Three.  She was knocking down her revolving debt before she purchased her first home.  In the process of us paying down our credit cards, we were both offered limit increases from our perspective credit card companies.  I accepted the increase and she declined. Her rationale to decline was that she was trying to get rid of her monthly credit card payments because a limit increase would only entice her to spend.  For me, accepting the almost $5,000.00 increase meant that I was lowering my debt to credit ratio.

What is A Debt to Credit Ratio?

A debt to credit ratio or a credit utilization ratio is just as it sounds….It’s the ratio of how much money you owe a particular debt as compared to the credit limit.  If you have $4,000.00 balance on $10,000.00 credit limit, your debt represents 40% of your credit limit.  The lower the ratio or percentage the better impact one’s credit score.

How The Debt to Credit Ratio Affects Your Credit Score

Outside of your payment history, your “amount owed” or debt to credit ratio, is the second highest factor in calculating an estimated 30% your credit score.  Keep your balance under the 30% mark and you stay on the lower side of the debt to credit ratio, which is where most personal finance gurus would urge you to stay if you have to carry a balance.

At the same time that my credit card limit jumped up $5,000.00, my balance was quickly decreasing and I had a credit score of 786.   The next month it moved up six points and stayed that way for three months.   In July, the month I paid off my credit card, it jumped to 806 for about two months.  I started using my credit card just a little bit carrying a small balance and it went back down to an 800 for about three months.  I was on a high when I saw my score increasing so to see the decrease was disappointing…even if it was only a 6 point drop.  I vowed then to do whatever I could to not let my credit card balance roll over to the next month ever again.   I am happy to report that I currently have an 810 credit score.  Moral of the story… lower your debt to credit ratio and it will have a positive impact on your credit score.  You can do this by making on time payments to lower your debt balances and if you are offered a limit increase, take it only if you can continue to be responsible with your financial goals.shemakescents-com

Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps Explained

Hey #SMCmoneytribe!  Yesterday I took a little time out of my day to create an infographic for you that provides a quick overview into Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps.  I wanted to do this for you because I reference these steps in a lot of my writing because they have become the meat and potatoes of my financial plan.  If you are a long time reader of She Makes Cents, you might remember when I was so excited to get to the second part of Baby Step 2 that I tried a risky financial move of playing financial Russian Roulette.  Let’s just say the outcome was not what I expected when my car broke down one week later and I only had half of an emergency fund to help me out.  (P.S. According to Ramsey, car maintenance is not an emergency and rather something that should be budgeted for).she makes cents

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{Money & Relationships} 20 Hard Money Questions For Couples

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{Financial Cents} BINGO Money Challenge Hits MAJOR Milestone

Coins of Knowledge

Hello Lovelies!  I have some exciting news to share with you this morning.  Yesterday I crossed off $14.00 – doesn’t sound too exciting yet, but wait for it….. – on the 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge.  That $14.00 put me at the $1,000.00 mark for this money challenge!  –INSERT HAPPY DANCE!!!!

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On the same day that I hit the $1,000.00 mark in savings, I also hit the under $1,000.00 mark in my credit card balance!!!  While I am proud of the financial gains made in the first six months of this challenge, I am even more excited about the about the savings habits I have created for myself.  I believe that creating a healthy savings routine is the first step on my journey to DEBT FREE living.  I was chatting with a girlfriend of mine who made the observation that I have only been focusing on saving and not making increasing my sources of income a priority.  In a lot of ways she was correct.  I have placed a serious focus this year on saving because in the past, I would start the year strong with savings goals and plans for myself only to find some of them abandoned by mid-year.  That being said, splitting my focus between increasing streams of income and saving would have only created more problems at that point in my journey when I wasn’t steadfast in making saving a priority.  The phrase, “More Money, More Problems”, exists for a reason.  Without a healthy savings routine and more income coming in, I could have easily  created more debt and worsen bad spending habits.  I have spent the first six months of this year really focusing on correcting past bad behaviors and replacing them with healthy habits.  Now that I have solid saving habits, I can start also focusing on increasing income and using that increase to move on the next snowball in my overall financial plan- student loans debt. I attribute my success to personal will, saying no to social (sometimes), and having accountability partners, like readers of She Makes Cents to help keep me motivated.  I would love to hear how you are doing with this challenge… the good, the bad, and the ugly.  

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{Financial Cents} A Quick Tip to Help You Pay Down Debt

Happy Hump Day Lovelies!  I wanted to give you a quick tip that I am using to help me pay down my credit card debt.  If you can, I would recommend you plan your payments on debt such as your mortgage and credit cards to bi-weekly payments.  Since there are two months out of the year that have five weeks, you end up with an extra month’s payment at the end of the year.  Those payments can be applied directly to the principal, which I recommend, or give you the opportunity to have these loans paid one month in advanced.

stylefinest.co (1).pngPROS

  • It helps you pay off debt faster
  • Reduces the amount of interest you have to pay back over the life of the loan

CONS

  • All lenders and credit card companies do not allow you to split your payments. If this is the case, you can create a money envelope for that extra payment you will have at the end of the year and use it to pay on top of your monthly minimum. It’s not a true “con” on the pros and cons list, but it does require an extra step and discipline to not spend that money

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{Week 21 Update} 52 Week Challenge Helped Me Hit A Financial Milestone!

It’s week 21 of the 52 Week Challenge and I am five weeks away from the half-way point of the challenge I started on Friday, January 3, 2014. Over the course of 21 weeks, I have saved over $500.00 dollars that I would have spent on random bits and baubles. Doing this challenge, along with deciding to play a little Russian roulette with my finances, has helped me to pay off my ENTIRE credit card balance three months ahead of schedule.

52 Week ChallengeWhile some may think a money challenge like this is not worth the effort, I strongly disagree. Not only are you putting money aside for whatever your current financial goal may be, be it paying down debt, saving for a new car or home, or planning a wedding, you are also altering your previous financial behaviors. Personal finance is 80% BEHAVIOR and only 20% HEAD KNOWLEDGE! Just taking the steps to start a challenge like this means that you are getting into the habit of saving. Becoming successful in the challenge means that it has become a part of your lifestyle and not a temporary behavior change. I urge you, if you have thought about ways to save money to try this challenge BINGO style. It’s the easiest way to save extra money under your own terms.

Email me for a copy of my 52 Week Challenge Sheet & Start the Challenge TODAY!

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{Debt Management} Is This Super Easy Financial Move Worth The Risk?

You Get Out of Debt The Same Way You Learned How to Walk- One Step At A Time

Dave Ramsey

I am from the generation of instant results. Sometimes this can be a bad thing, but in this case, I think my generational behavior will pay off. I am working toward my next financial goal of having a zero balance on my credit card by August 1, 2014. Once I reach my goal, I plan to only use the card for things that can be paid off before the end of the billing cycle (if I must use the card at all). Last year, my balance reached over $5300.00 and my monthly bill was putting a wrench in my spending/savings plan. That was my “aha moment”. It was then that I decided to take full control over my financial situation by not only setting goals, but dates to meet the goals. Financial coach and author, Dave Ramsey, believes that you get out of debt the same way you learned to walk—one step at a time. For this idea, Ramsey created 7 Baby Steps to help people beat debt and build wealth. The first Baby Step is to start an Emergency Fund of $1000.00. Once you’ve completed Baby Step One, you then move on to Baby Step Two where you start to pay off debt using the Snowball Method. I’m at Step Two and I am trying to pay off my credit card and then move on to my student loan debts as fast as possible. This led me to a thought one day to do something extremely risky….

Credit Card copy

Playing Russian Roulette With My Finances

In my Week 14 update of my money challenge, I relieved for the first time just how I have gone from balance of $5300.00 to a $1345.00. The closer I get to the $1000.00 mark the more crazy ideas flow through my head.

For instance, I came up with the idea, a while ago, to go against Ramsey’s advice and completely deplete my emergency fund.  I would do this only when I got my credit card balance under the $1000.00 mark. The Pro to that idea is that I will immediately have a ZERO balance by using the Emergency Fund to pay off the remaining balance. The CON… well we call it an “emergency” for a reason. It is a somewhat good idea if I had a crystal ball and a glimpse that there would be no financial emergencies soon. No one can foresee when you really need to tap into that fund. Plus, not having the funds at all will send you right back into debt because you will have to cover the “emergency” with credit or even worse, borrowing from someone else.

Keeping my original idea in my, I considered a tapered down version of my risky plan. Instead of depleting the Emergency Fund completely, I would take out $500.00 and apply it to my credit card balance once I got under the $1000.00 mark. Doing so will help me to reach the zero balance goal, two months ahead of time and stay on track with my financial plan. Once the credit card balance is paid in full, I would then continue my normal $300.00 per month + money from the 52 Week Money Challenge to replenish the Emergency Fund until August 1st. Because I have eliminated interest, I would actually end up with $100.00 extra going back into my Emergency Fund.

If You Were Me, What Would You Do?

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~ Update: Click here to see what Danielle decided to do ~