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Barbecue on a Budget: Festive Fourth of July Treats Under $20

July 2, 2020

While many of us will be celebrating the Fourth of July at home this year, we can still enjoy one of the best parts of the holiday: festive foods! Whether you’re serving up cocktails, grilling steaks or enjoying red, white and blue snacks, an at-home celebration makes it easy to have fun on a budget.

We’ve put together a list of Fourth of July food ideas that are sure to be a hit, both with your family and friends and with your wallet.

 

All-Star Hot Dog Bar

Wow the family and save some cash with a Fourth of July hot dog bar! Whether you’re grilling out or cooking on the stove, this customizable meal is the perfect way to feed a group without breaking the bank.

In addition to classic toppings like ketchup and mustard, get creative with a few show-stopping toppings:

  • Relish
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Jalapeños
  • Chili

 

Firework Margaritas:

Cheers to the Fourth! What better way to celebrate the weekend than with a colorful cocktail? Whip up this delicious drink for the adults in your group or leave out the alcohol for a refreshing version everyone can enjoy. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 cups strawberries
  • If preferred: 2 cups silver tequila (any brand)
  • 1 1/3 cups lime juice
  • 1 cup honey

Blend the ingredients, rim the glasses with salt or sugar, and garnish with a lime or strawberry for an extra-festive finish.

 

Star-Spangled Trifle

Don’t forget dessert! This delicious red, white, and blue trifle is the perfect complement to any Independence Day meal. Here’s what you’ll need:

 

Trifle:

  • 1 16 oz. container of strawberries
  • 1 6 oz. container of blueberries
  • 1 box angel food cake mix (any brand)

 

Whipped Cream:

  • 4 tbs. sugar
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

 

However you choose to celebrate this year, we hope these Fourth of July recipes add a little extra excitement to your day. Have a fun and safe weekend!

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Celebrate paying off your student loans
2020-10-08
7 Ways to Celebrate Paying off Your Student Loans

At last, you’ve done it! You’ve been diligent in paying off your student loans, and now you’re finally free of them. Being free from student debt means you can start tackling other financial goals. Before you go back to the money-saving grind, however, why not celebrate paying off your student loans? After all, with student loan debt reaching 1.2 trillion in the United States, every time someone pays their debt off it’s worth celebrating.   While it may be a little more difficult to celebrate during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you can still have a good time. Here are 7 great ways to celebrate paying off your student loans without acquiring new debt on the way:  

Relax

Simple as that, sit on the couch and enjoy being debt-free. Paying down student loan debt is stressful, but you’ve done it. Good job. Imagine we’ve given you a high-five and a pat on the back.  

Throw a Digital Party

Include all your friends or family in a video call and enjoy each other’s company. Maybe even schedule several separate video calls so you can focus on celebrating with each group.  

Treat Yourself

It’s time to treat yourself to something nice. Choose an item or experience that is meaningful to you: a new outfit, a new pair of shoes, go out to dinner, whatever makes you happy. Take some time to enjoy whatever you’ve gotten. You’ve certainly worked for it. Just make sure it’s not something that’ll put you into credit card debt!  

Treat Someone Else

What better way to celebrate your paying off your student loans than by including those who helped make you successful? Take your parents out to a nice dinner or have a good time with some close friends. Make sure they know how much you appreciated their support throughout your student loan repayment journey, especially if they’ve helped pay along the way.   Another great option is charitable giving. You can celebrate paying off your student loans by giving to a worthy cause. Whether as a one-time gift or a monthly series of donations, your money will go toward something that you feel is important. Not only will you feel great for having given to something worthwhile, but you may also be able to deduct your charitable donation from your taxes.  

Plan a Trip

Even if you’re planning for the future, now is the perfect time to consider where you’d like to travel. Take a look at some spectacular destinations. Decide where to go. Start saving now, and when the departure date arrives, you’ll be ready to go.   If you’re already saving toward other financial goals and want to be careful of your budget, consider a road trip. There’s still plenty of time for a cross-country odyssey before winter, and the countryside will look particularly beautiful in the fall. If you’re looking for more vacation ideas, here are a couple of vacation ideas that won't break the bank.  

Plan Your Next Financial Conquest

For those who are goal-oriented, now is the perfect time to decide what financial goal you’ll tackle next. Is it time to get a new car? Eliminate the rest of your credit card debt? Maybe it’s even time to buy a house. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide, but you should set up a plan to tackle that next big financial goal in a timely and efficient manner. The good news is, since you’ve already bested your student loan debt, you’re not only experienced but also prepared to face whatever comes next.  

Save Your Student Loan Payment

They say the best time to start saving was yesterday. The second-best time is today. Celebrate paying off your student loans by investing in your future financial health. Put the amount of your student loan payment in a savings account each month or consider investing it. Your future self will thank you. You’ve already proven you can live without it, so why stop now? But as always, make sure to do your research before you launch any type of investing strategy!   Congratulations on eliminating the last of your student loan debt. You should be incredibly proud of the effort you’ve put into seeing your payments through. Before you start the next step in your financial journey, take some time for yourself. Enjoy that feeling of success and use it to push yourself toward your next goal. Now is the time to celebrate!   If you haven’t yet paid off your student loans, you may want to consider student loan refinancing. Take a look at what student loan refinancing could do for you here.  
  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.
2020-09-30
The Best Personal Finance Blogs of 2020

If you’re looking to build strong money management habits, you should consider subscribing to a personal finance blog. All over the internet, personal finance professionals share their wisdom on how to build wealth, pay down debt and establish budgets. You have a world of financial knowledge at your fingertips, so it's time to get started!   With a range of topics and blog focuses, it can be hard to decide where to begin. If you’re all about smart saving, spending wisely and torching your student debt, then here are ELFI’s top picks for 2020 personal finance blogs:

Making Sense of Cents

Making Sense of Cents has a little bit of everything when it comes to building money management habits. Whether you have questions about student debt, insurance or budgeting, this is the blog for you. It’s also been named one of the top personal finance blogs by FinCon, Zillow and the Plutus Awards.   This blog maintains a light, fun tone so it’s easy to read, and it handles a lot of top-level questions about personal finance. Author Michelle also shares about her experiences living in an RV and on a sailboat touring the world. If you’ve caught the travel bug, then you may find some exciting content here.  

Millennial Money Man

Bobby Hoyt, the founder of Millennial Money Man, teaches millennials to pay off debt and live their best, self-employed lives. His blogs focus primarily on trending finance apps and ways to monetize your hobbies. He also shares useful budgeting and spending tips to help set you up for financial success.   If you have a passion for entrepreneurship, Bobby is your man. Enjoy insider tips on growing your business and expanding your income streams, from someone who's done it himself.  

The Budgetnista

Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche is passionate about teaching personal finance. She's also one of Amazon’s #1 bestselling authors for her books on personal finance. Her background as a preschool teacher makes her incredible at explaining high-level financial topics in an engaging, easy-to-understand way. Although she’s developed near-celebrity status as a blogger and speaker, Tiffany's down-to-earth style makes for a relatable, fun read.   From banishing debt to building a strong business, her blog covers best practices for achieving financial success. She debunks money myths with topics like “Debt Freedom Doesn’t Equal Wealth,” to help her readers build money management habits. If you have an entrepreneurial personality and are ready to take the next financial step in your personal life or your business, The Budgetnista blog is for you.  

Afford Anything

If you’re a travel fanatic, you’ll love “Afford Anything." Author Paula Pant has traveled to more than 40 countries. She speaks to financial independence and real estate investing, her two primary categories of expertise. She’s built self-sustaining wealth by investing in real estate and uses her free time to teach others how to do the same.   Her blog is all about cutting back expenses in unnecessary areas while spending on the things you love. She writes for readers who want an actionable strategy for spending and saving wisely. If you’re interested in building wealth or in real estate investing, this is one blog you won’t want to miss.  

Broke Millennial Blog

Broke Millennial Blog author and speaker Erin Lowry wants to teach you how to get your financial life together with a 5-step plan designed to help you take charge of your finances. Her blog focuses on popular millennial topics, like budgeting strategies for different personality types and awkward money situations. If you feel like you could use a little financial direction, this blog is probably a great fit for you.   If you love the Broke Millennial Blog and want to take the next step in your financial journey, Erin makes it easy! You can subscribe to the blog’s email list for access to a free money management worksheet designed just for readers.  

Stefanie O’Connell

Stefanie O’Connell wants to help you travel the world, create a living space you love and have healthy financial conversations with your significant other. Her blog addresses financial conundrums you may have wondered about but have been afraid to ask, like “Why I’m Not Having Bridesmaids at My Wedding” and “4 Ways to Buy a Home When You don’t Have Enough of a Down Payment.”   Stefanie’s upbeat, relatable blog gives readers a sense of familiarity. She doesn’t cut corners and gets straight to the heart of financial questions. Her blog offers direction if you’re interested in investing, budgeting or establishing healthy financial boundaries in your relationship.   Every reader interested in learning more about financial topics should check out ELFI’s recommended blogs. If you’re loving the ELFI blog, don’t forget to check out the rest of our topics for even more great information about managing your student loan debt.  
  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.
2020-09-25
3 Financial Goals to Achieve Before Marriage – And Some That Can Wait

Marriage is both a personal and financial turning point that opens up a new world of financial opportunities and struggles. However, with proper planning, you can minimize the challenges and make the most of financial opportunities. Check out these financial goals to achieve before marriage, as well as a couple of others that you’ve still got time to work toward:  

Financial Goals to Achieve Before Marriage

The Emergency Fund

For many couples, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the importance of emergency funds exceptionally clear. Especially as you enter into your first few years of marriage, it’s important to build a strong financial foundation so you’re prepared for unexpected expenses, from home repairs to medical bills.
Financial hardship is a leading cause of divorce, and in these uncertain times, an emergency fund can help to weather the storm.   In addition, an emergency fund provides a way to ease financial anxiety and distress even when times aren’t tough. When you know you’re prepared with emergency savings, there’s no need to panic if the unexpected happens.  

Setting a Monthly Budget

Even if you aren’t getting married, creating a budget is a great financial step, and is something you should do right away. Work with your partner to outline your regular expenses, as well as any expenses that may arise in your first year of marriage. Make sure you provide yourself with some flexibility in your savings and begin building an emergency fund if you haven’t already.   There are several useful tools that can help you keep track of your budget, including apps like Mint. You can also employ a budgeting strategy to keep your saving and spending on track. Several popular budgeting methods include the 50/20/30 rule, the Zero based budget and the cash envelope system. Not only will a budget be good for your finances, but it will be good for your marriage, as well.  

Setting Goals for the Future

Yes, setting goals is a goal. You and your future spouse should lay out financial goals before getting married. It’s important to be on the same page when it comes to debt repayment, housing plans, savings goals and other major financial milestones. Plus, it’s good to know what your spouse is looking for, and a good plan helps to avoid financial stress that can really harm a marriage.  

More Flexible Financial Goals

Making a Down Payment

While it’s great to start saving for a down payment before marriage, it’s not necessary to be entirely ready to buy a home before tying the knot. Especially if you’ve already established good money management habits, you can always continue working toward this financial goal as a married couple.   Even if you don’t have the money for a down payment right away, you can easily establish a strategy to save toward a down payment. Experts recommend planning on putting a minimum of 10% down for your down payment and the more you can save, the better. Stay focused and keep saving. You’ll have that down payment in no time.  

Becoming Debt-Free

Some couples choose to pay their student debt off before getting married, however, student debt is another financial goal you can afford to wait on, especially if you consider refinancing. After your wedding, you may choose to prioritize other expenses that come with building a life together, like a new car or home, before tackling the remainder of your student debt.   That said, you certainly don’t want to forget about your student loans. By refinancing your student loans, you could earn greater financial flexibility by lowering your interest rate or changing your student loan repayment term. Refinancing can provide you with the options you need to achieve financial goals with your new spouse.  

Tips for Tackling Student Debt

As a general rule, it’s best to first tackle whichever debt is incurring the most interest. Debts with high interest rates can easily spiral out of control, and while it may not be essential to totally eliminate your student debt before your marriage, it is advisable to develop a plan to do so.   The good news is, you can employ several strategies to make paying off debt a less intimidating ordeal. Two of the most popular repayment strategies are the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. These two plans take opposite approaches. While the debt avalanche calls for dealing with the highest interest debt first, the debt snowball calls for dealing with the lowest amount of debt first and using the momentum to pay off debts one by one. The right method for you depends on your situation, but both can be incredibly effective if used correctly. Again, it’s worth noting that it isn’t necessary to have your debt entirely paid off before getting married, but you should develop a plan for paying it off before you say “I do.”   A marriage is a big change, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. By taking the time to have fun and create a few financial goals, you’ll set yourself up for success even before tying the knot.  If you’re getting married soon, you also might be interested in budgeting for your wedding. Check out our guide here.  
  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.