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10 Ways to Save Money After Graduation

November 5, 2019

If you’re just graduating from college, the job market is an unfriendly one. It seems like every job post wants 5 years of experience, a Master’s degree, and pays just $28,000/year. As if you don’t have enough to worry about, you can’t seem to get away from the advice about saving for retirement and the value of buying a house over renting. How are you supposed to do either on a $28,000 salary and a bucket of student loans that coast at least that much? You have to get creative with your savings. To kickstart your thinking, here is ELFI’s list of 10 creative ways to save money after graduation.

 

When it comes to saving money after graduation, there are two methods: save more of what you make and decrease spending. Find what works for you based on your bills and habits. Also, don’t feel like you have to follow all 10 tips. Implementing even one of these tricks for saving money after graduation can help you be more financially savvy. 

 

1. Use Direct Deposit to Save 10%

Direct deposit isn’t just for eliminating a paper paycheck. It can also be your best friend for saving money after graduation if you request to have your employer automatically send 10% of every paycheck to a separate savings account. On that $28,000 salary, you could save $2,800 a year, which is only about $110 per paycheck. If you set this up as soon as you start that first job, you will never miss the extra money. If you already have a job, it’s never too late to set up a “rainy day” fund. 

 

2. Install “Round-Up” Apps

The same way your grocery store clerk asks you to round up to the nearest dollar for charity, you can use round-up platforms like Acorns to set aside leftover change from purchases you make. With the Acorns debit card, the spare change from each purchase is placed in an investment account of your choosing. And when you shop via the Acorns app or Chrome Extension at 350+ retail partners, a percentage of your total purchase is contributed toward your investment accounts.

 

3. Negotiate Bills & Eliminate Unused Subscriptions

You likely have a dozen or more automatic monthly payments coming out of your checking account or linked to a credit card. Some banks or apps like Truebill and Trim can help you find and cancel subscriptions that are unused or that you forgot you signed up for in the first place. These apps can also help you negotiate some services like your cable and internet or even your cell phone bill to help you get lower monthly rates.

 

4. Make New Rules for Eating Out

From coffee runs and grab-and-go lunches to happy hours and GrubHub deliveries, millennials eat out an average of five times a week. If you can eliminate just one of these outings, you can save a minimum of $5/week (that’s $260/year). Try setting unwritten rules for yourself—or if you’re a “write down your goals” person, use a dry erase marker and your bathroom mirror. Try rules like only eating out only on Fridays and Saturdays. Or only eating out only with friends. You can even make weekly cash-only envelopes, and when you’ve run out of dollars, you have to eat in for the rest of the week.

 

5. Make New Rules for Eating In

Sometimes, splurging on fancy groceries makes eating at home feel more fun. But you have to be careful at the grocery store or your bill can end up just as expensive as all those meals out. Consider rules for eating in, like Meatless Mondays. By eliminating costly animal-based proteins just one day a week, you can help save the planet and save money after graduation.

 

6. Keep Impulse Buys Out of Your Cart

Do you always find yourself tossing extra items into your cart at the store? There are several tricks to avoid impulse buys to save money. The first, and easiest, is to never shop hungry. This keeps those extra tasty, and rarely healthy, items out of your shopping cart. Also, consider only shopping online. This helps you keep to your list. You can clearly review your cart before checkout, and you don’t have to feel guilty for making employees restock your regret items.

 

7. Wait 24 – 48 hours Before Hitting the Checkout Button

Shopping online has many perks. The excitement of variety and good deals can hook even the savviest of shoppers, but practicing restraint and making yourself wait 24 to 48 hours before finalizing online orders can do wonders for your money-saving efforts. After a day or two, you can really think about if you “want it” or if you “need it.”

 

8. Don’t Buy Anything New

Our eighth way to save money after graduating from college is to go retro and buy everything used. Buying second-hand isn’t what it used to be. In the past, shoppers had to roll the dice at garage sales or Goodwill stores, but in the days of Craigslist, Next Door, and Facebook Marketplace, you can be picky about your second-hand items. If you have patience, you can find everything practical like dishes and clothes, as well as everything unpractical like skis and AirPods. 

 

9. Freeze Your Credit Cards, Literally

Another “old school” method of saving is to freeze your credit cards…in a block of ice. You might not literally need to freeze your cards, but putting them in an inaccessible place or by simply not having credit cards, you keep yourself from racking up debt that comes with costly interest rates. Keeping yourself on a cash-only system will limit you to using money that’s truly yours. In case of emergencies, there’s always hot water.

 

10. Refinance Your Student Loans

We can’t end this list about saving money after college without advocating for recent grads to consolidate or refinance their student loans. Student loan refinancing is the process of consolidating your loans (you can consolidate federal loans, private loans, or both) and obtaining a new loan at a new interest rate. People typically refinance with the goal of obtaining a lower interest rate or lowering their monthly payments to make paying their loan more manageable. Keep in mind that when you consolidate federal loans, you’ll lose access to certain benefits and protections such as income-driven payment plans.

 


 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

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2020-02-12
What the New FICO Score Changes Mean For You

Are you apartment hunting, trying to refinance your student loans or thinking of applying for a new credit card? If you ever needed the motivation to care about your credit score, this is it. Your FICO score is going to be an important factor when trying to do any of those things. Recently, Fair, Isaac, and Company, the company behind FICO, announced that changes will be made to how the score is calculated. Keep reading to find out about the changes and what they could mean for your FICO score. 

 

What is a FICO score?

The FICO score is a scale used to determine a person’s creditworthiness or risk. The score is used by potential lenders, such as banks and credit card companies. A FICO score ranges from 300 to 850, with a score of 700 or higher being considered good. A score of 800 or higher is considered exceptional. The average FICO score in 2019 was 703. 

 

A person with a higher score is regarded as being less risky to lend to than a person with a lower score. Your FICO score can determine whether lenders will lend to you, as well as the terms of the loan, such as your interest rate. The interest rate on credit cards, student loans, car loans, and mortgages are all affected by your credit score. A higher interest rate can sometimes cost you thousands of dollars more over the life of a loan. A FICO score may also be considered when applying to rent an apartment – for example, a low score may require you to pay a higher deposit.  

 

A FICO score is determined by assessing the following, among other factors:

  • A person’s payment history
  • How much debt a person has compared to how much available credit they have
  • The total amount of debt a person has or their debt-to-income ratio
  • The length of credit history

Typically, if you maintain a debt-to-income ratio of 30% or less and make on-time payments to your credit cards and loans, you can work towards a high score. If you’re ready to start improving your credit score now, check out our good credit-building guide.

 

New FICO Score Changes

The new changes coming to FICO are known as FICO 10 and are set to go into effect in the summer of 2020. They include:  

  1. Lenders will be able to look at payment history two years back as well as account balances. This will demonstrate to lenders whether you are an occasional credit user or someone who consistently maxes out credit and hardly makes payments back.  
  2. It will be noted if a person is taking out personal loans, and this could potentially negatively impact a person’s credit score. Personal loans may be considered riskier since they are unsecured loans, unlike mortgages and auto loans where your asset is the collateral for the loan.  
  3. Late payments and high credit card debt compared to a person’s overall credit will also more negatively affect a person’s score. 

Based on the new FICO 10 model, it is estimated that 110 million consumers will not see a significant change to their score, if at all. It is also estimated that 40 million people may see an improvement to their score by more than 20 points, and 40 million others may see their score reduced by more than 20 points. 

 

What it Means for You

It is unclear when this latest FICO 10 model will be utilized because it is up to the individual lenders to determine what model they use. Some lenders are still utilizing FICO 8, which was released in 2009. Therefore, these FICO changes may not mean much for you now but could be significant in the future.  

 

These new FICO changes could help your credit score if you have a credit card balance that is occasionally high but you pay off the full balance monthly. However, if you are one of the 40 million people whose credit score is negatively impacted by this change, this may cause you to receive higher interest rates when applying for loans. If this is the case there are options:

  • Try finding a creditworthy cosigner for your loan.  
  • Try strategies to improve your score and apply after you have raised your score. 
  • Refinance if you already have a loan, but now have a higher score.

If you have student loans and the new FICO model increased your credit score, you may be eligible for a lower interest rate on your student loans through student loan refinancing, thereby potentially saving you thousands of dollars. Do your research to find the best student loan refinance companies with low-interest rates, flexible terms, no application fees, and great customer service. Also, be sure to compare the student loan refinance rates from different lenders to find the lowest student loan refinancing rates available. Student loan refinancing can be an easy process and can potentially replace your high-interest loan(s) with a lower interest rate. 

 

Want to find out if student loan refinancing is financially right for you? Check out our student loan refinance calculator to see your potential savings. At ELFI, we have no application fees, no origination fees, and no prepayment penalty. When you apply for student loan refinancing, you receive a personal loan advisor to help answer any questions and guide you through the process of refinancing.*  

 

If you have student loans and your FICO score dropped, continue to make on-time payments and try to not take on any more debt. Refinancing may still be an option since different lenders require different minimum scores. However, if you are unable to refinance now, refinancing may be a good option in the future once you have demonstrated consistent on-time payments.

 

Bottom Line 

FICO models may change, but the basic principle is the same: try to reduce any debt you have and make on-time payments. 

 

Need additional help with raising your credit score? Check out these 5 habits for good credit score hygiene.

 
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. 

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Photo of graduation cap on top of a pile of money
2020-02-10
Financial Aid Options for Middle-Income Families

It’s no secret that college comes with a hefty price tag. Every year, students and their families have to figure out how they’re going to pay thousands of dollars in school bills. While high-income families may have the resources to pay tuition, footing the entire bill just isn’t realistic for some families, especially if they have more than one child attending college. This is why many students rely on financial aid to fund their education.

 

It’s generally known that students from lower-income families can qualify for special scholarships and grants that help fill the gap to fund their education, but for families around the middle-income tier, financial aid may be harder to come by and make them feel that their options are limited. Rest assured that there are options for middle-class families to receive the financial assistance they need – it just may take a bit more effort.

 

FAFSA

When it comes to looking for financial aid for college, the FAFSA is a great place to start. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid has no income cutoff for eligibility, so your child could still receive some need-based aid from the FAFSA, especially if he or she plans on enrolling at a higher-cost school. The FAFSA opens October 1 every year, and you can apply as early as the year prior to your child’s first day of college. The earlier you apply, the more likely your child is to receive financial aid.

 

Scholarships

Researching and applying for scholarships has continually proven itself worthy of the effort. Many scholarships are merit-based instead of need-based, so your child may be eligible for many different scholarships depending on the qualifications. Start by looking for local scholarships – many locally-owned businesses and organizations offer scholarships for graduating high school students. If your child visits the school guidance office, they may have some applications on file. You or your spouse could also ask your employer if they offer any type of scholarships or financial aid for employees’ children. After exhausting local options, your child may want to research national opportunities. A quick web search could reveal countless free scholarships – Niche, Fastweb, and eCampusTours are a good place to start. Finally, many colleges offer merit-based scholarships and endowment scholarships. Make sure your child looks for institutional scholarships at the school he or she plans to attend. You may discover that if your child joins a club or raises a standardized test score by a couple of points, he or she could receive thousands more dollars of financial aid.

 

Tuition Discounts

If a family member, such as a parent or grandparent attended the same college or university you're enrolled in, you may receive a tuition discount. There may be additional requirements to qualifying for this discount, such as, your family member being active in the school's alumni association or maintaining a certain GPA.

 

Tax Rewards

Middle-income families are perfectly positioned to receive tax credits for college expenditures. For example, the Lifetime Learning credit has income requirements that exclude those who earn over and under certain amounts. Programs like this, as well as tuition savings plans, offer a few different ways for middle-income families to receive tax benefits.

 

Federal Loans

If you’ve taken advantage of all your financial aid options and find you still have more to pay, it may be time to consider loans. Non-need based federal loans such as the Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan for students and the Federal PLUS Loan for parents can bridge whatever gap you find in your aid and your expenses. Federal education loans generally have low interest rates or may be tax-deductible, so they’re a smart alternative to using a credit card, for example.

 

Private Loans

You may find that you still need financial assistance after exhausting all the options above. If that’s the case, private student loans may be for you. We always recommend you take advantage of grants, scholarships, and federal aid before taking out a private student loan. To learn more about ELFI’s private student loan options,* click here.

 

The cost of college can present a challenge for families at all income levels, but middle-income families often struggle the most to find financial aid because their finances fall between affording college and needing assistance. If your family is in this situation, don’t let it get you down. The options in this article are a good place to start searching for financial assistance. Don’t lose sight of the end goal – getting the degree you want and establishing a successful career. If you’re already looking for financial aid, you’re well on your way.

 
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.  

Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.

2020-01-27
FAFSA Deadlines for 2020

Congratulations! You are graduating high school and taking the next step into college. You may have been accepted into different schools and still deciding where you will attend or you have already been admitted into your dream school and are now wondering how you will pay for it. Whether you’re already committed to a school or still planning your future, it’s important to know what the FAFSA is and the deadlines associated with it when you are figuring out how to pay for college.

 

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You should complete the FAFSA in order to be eligible to receive federal, state financial aid, and aid from your school. The aid can be in the form of grants, scholarships, work study, and federal student loans. The application is easy to complete online or by paper. The application provides the necessary information to calculate your financial need to see what aid you would be eligible for. There are no income limitations so it’s smart to fill out FAFSA regardless of your financial situation. Even if you think you and/or your family may not qualify for financial aid, you will not know for sure until your university’s financial aid office reviews your application.

 

Note: As the name states it is a free application, so be aware of any websites that charge you to fill out the application to avoid any scams!

 

Who Should File the FAFSA?

If you are a senior in high school and will be attending college you should fill out the form. Also, returning college students who previously filled out the FAFSA must fill out the FAFSA every year while in school. The information allows financial aid offices to determine your financial need.
  • Your financial need is determined by taking the Cost of Attendance (COA) and subtracting your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  COA - EFC = Financial Need.
  • The COA is different for each school and includes tuition, books, supplies, transportation, and room and board.
  • Your EFC is calculated by a formula established by law based on the information provided on the FAFSA. The formula takes into account your family’s income, assets, and family size, among other factors for a dependent student.
  • If your EFC is low you may be eligible for more financial aid.
  So how does all this work? Here is an example:
  • You plan to attend a school with a COA of $25,000.
  • Your EFC is $10,000.
  • $25,000 - $10,000 = $15,000 is your financial need. This amount could be awarded to you in grants by the school, state or federal grants or by subsidized federal student loans.
 

Preparing to File the FAFSA

Ready to file? Here is the information you will need to complete the application.
  • If you are a dependent student (receiving financial help from parents) you will need the following for both you and your parents:
    • Social Security Number
    • Tax returns
    • Bank statements
  •  You will also need to apply for a FSA ID. This is a username and password that will allow you to access the Federal Student Aid’s system to complete and sign the FAFSA electronically.
 

Important Dates to Know

The earlier you file the FAFSA, the better because you will be eligible for more aid. It is also important to file before the federal deadline because some states set their own deadlines that may be earlier than the federal deadline. Your state may also require an additional form, so be sure to check the Federal Student Aid website to see what your state requires. In addition, some schools have an earlier deadline then the federal deadline so you should check with your school’s financial aid office to ensure that you don’t miss their deadline.

  The important federal dates to know are:
  • October 1 - the application becomes available
  • June 30 - the deadline to file each year
The application becomes available on October 1, the year before you would start school. While you have until June 30 after the school year to submit the application, it’s advantageous for you to apply as early as possible.   This means for the 2019-2020 school year the application became available on October 1, 2018 and the deadline is June 30, 2020. For the 2020-2021 school year the application became available on October 1, 2019 and must be submitted by June 30, 2021. On October 1, 2020 the application for the 2021-2022 school year will become available.  

Other Options: Private Student Loans and Student Loan Refinancing

Maybe you didn’t know about the financial aid process and the deadline passed or didn’t receive enough aid and are looking to cover the gap in education expenses. Luckily, there are other options to help you pay for school.   Private student loans are a great resource to help you pay for higher education. Private student loans are from a private lending company or bank that you can use to pay for your school expenses included in the cost of attendance. You can apply for private student loans at any time. Just like with the FAFSA, you will need to provide some financial information and documents, such as your most recent W-2 and paystub. If you do not have these items you may need a co-signer, such as a parent, who will have these documents.   There are many private lenders so it’s best to do your research and compare. You want a lender that is reputable and offers a good rate on your loan. It’s also important to compare the terms of any loan offers. For example, you should check if there is a prepayment penalty on the loan or any fees associated with the loan.   A private student loan company should make the process easy. At ELFI there are no fees to apply, no origination fees and no prepayment penalties*. There are also flexible repayment options. The online application is a simple process that allows you to see personal rates within minutes and you receive a dedicated Personal Loan Advisor to help you through the loan process.   Private student loan companies can also help if you have already taken out loans. Through student loan refinancing*, you can reduce the interest you are paying on your student loans and as a result, reduce your monthly payments and the amount you pay over the lifetime of the loan. To see how much you could save by refinancing, check out our student loan refinance calculator.  

Bottom Line

Mark the dates in your calendar and be sure to fill out the FAFSA early. Paying for school can be one less worry if you plan ahead!  
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.