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Budgeting (Blog or Resources)

Resolutions: How to Erase Your Student Loan Debt by 2025

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By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.

 

If you’re like most college graduates, you left school with student loan debt. According to The Institute for College Access & Success, graduates have $29,200 in student loans, on average. Depending on your repayment term, you could be in debt for a long time. In fact, you could make payments for anywhere from 10 to 30 years. 

 

Having such a large burden on your shoulders can cause you to put off other goals, like starting a business or buying a home. To free yourself from your student loan debt, think of repayment strategies to pay off your student loans as soon as possible. 

 

If you’re determined to become debt-free, here’s how to pay off your student loans by 2025. 

 

1. Create a budget

To pay off your student loans early, you need to have a complete picture of your finances, so you know exactly how much money you have to work with. Creating a monthly budget is an essential first step. 

 

You can use programs like Mint or You Need a Budget (YNAB) to craft a budget and track your spending. Hopefully, you make more money than you spend each month. If that’s not the case — or if money is tight— you’ll have to make some changes to your lifestyle. 

 

2. Cut Corners 

To free up more money for debt repayment, you’ll have to take a hard look at your expenses and make some significant cuts. These life changes are not just for recent college students or those just starting out in their careers. If you’re committed to changing your financial situation in a short amount of time, some drastic life changes may be called for. Some things to consider include: 

  • Getting a roommate: While having a roommate may not be ideal, it can be a worthwhile decision. Considering that the average one-bedroom apartment costs $1,025, getting a roommate can help you save over $500 per month. That savings could make a big dent in your student loan balance. 
  • Taking public transportation: If possible, skip buying a car and rely on buses and trains, instead. You’ll be able to save money on a car payment, insurance, and repairs for a vehicle. 
  • Moving to a cheaper area: While moving to a more affordable area isn’t feasible for everyone, it can be a great way to save money. Moving to a less trendy area or even to another state can help you drastically reduce your living expenses. 

 

>> Related: U.S. Cities With the Most Student Loan Debt

 

  • Cooking at home: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends $3,469 per year on food consumed away from home, such as restaurants or fast food locations. If you skip eating out and brown-bag your meals, you could save thousands. 
  • Negotiating bills: You’re probably paying more than you need to for your cell phone, cable, and internet. You can use a service like Trim to negotiate your utility bills for you, reducing your monthly expenses.

 

3. Increase Your Income

Exploring ways of increasing your income isn’t just for new college graduates. Even if you’re gaining a firm foundation in your career and just want to attack your student loan debt with voracity, putting in extra work hours could accelerate your financial goals. 

 

With a side gig, you can earn a significant amount of money. According to a BankRate survey, the average side job earns an individual $1,122 per month — which can make a big difference in knocking down your student loan debt. Here are some ideas to help you get started: 

  • Deliver groceries: If you have a car and a smartphone, you can make money delivering groceries for services like Shipt or Instacart. Depending on your location and speed, you could make up to $22 per hour. 
  • Rent out extra space: If you have a spare bedroom, closet, or empty garage, you can earn cash by renting out your extra space to locals who need to store items with Neighbor. 
  • Tutor online: If you have a computer and reliable internet, you can earn money by tutoring online. With services like Tutor.com and Chegg, you can make up to $20 per hour. 
  • Assemble furniture: If you have a knack for assembling Ikea furniture or toys, you have a lucrative side hustle. You can find clients with TaskRabbit or Takl
  • Walk dogs: If you love dogs, you can earn an hourly fee for walking them while their owners are at work. Create an account on Rover or DogVacay to get started. 
  • Work overtime: Public service officials, medical professionals, and educators can make a substantial amount of money on the side by working overtime. 
  • Offer consultation services: If you’re a savvy marketer or have a knack for e-commerce, create a side business of setting up social media accounts for local businesses. 

 

4. Research Student Loan Repayment Assistance Programs 

Depending on your major and location, you may qualify for student loan repayment assistance. 

 

For example, highly qualified teachers who teach for at least five years at an eligible school can receive up to $17,500 in loan help through Teacher Loan Forgiveness, a federal program. 

 

Healthcare providers in Pennsylvania can receive up to $100,000 in student loan aid through the state’s Primary Care Loan Repayment Program. In exchange, participants must agree to a service term in a high-need area. 

 

In Florida, lawyers who work for a legal aid organization can receive up to $5,000 per year through the Loan Repayment Assistance Program

 

To find programs you may qualify for, check out the federal government’s list of forgiveness programs, and visit your state’s Department of Education website. 

 

5. Use Windfalls Strategically

Using windfalls — unexpected influxes of cash — strategically can cut off years from your loan term.

 

For example, the IRS reported that the average tax refund in 2019 was $2,860. To put that number in perspective, let’s say you had $30,000 in student loans with an interest rate of 5% and ten years left in your repayment term. If you made a lump sum payment of $2,860, you’d pay off your student loans 14 months early. And, you’d save $1,722 over the length of your loan. 

 

6. Consider Student Loan Refinancing

If you’re determined to pay off your debt as quickly as possible, student loan refinancing can be a smart strategy. 

 

To refinance student loans, you work with a private lender like ELFI* to take out a new loan for the amount of your existing debt. The new loan has different repayment terms than the old ones. You’ll have a new interest rate, loan term, and minimum monthly payment. 

 

If you have good credit and steady income, you could qualify for a lower interest rate and save money. 

 

Let’s say you had $35,000 in student loan debt at 7% interest with a 10-year repayment term. By the end of your repayment term, you’d pay a total of $48,766. Interest charges would cause you to pay back $13,766 more than you originally borrowed. 

 

If you refinanced your student loans and qualified for a 10-year loan at just 5% interest, you’d repay $44,548. Refinancing your debt would help you save $4,218. 

 

ELFI’s Student Loan Refinance Calculator can help you determine how much you could save by refinancing.

 

7. Avoid Lifestyle Inflation

As your career advances and you start to pay off some of your loan debt, you might be tempted to splurge on a new car, bigger apartment, or fancier electronics to reward yourself. However, try to avoid the urge. Instead, allocate any extra money you have toward your loan payments. You’ll pay off your student loans faster, so you can become debt-free and enjoy more freedom. 

 

The Bottom Line

While your debt may be stressful, you can conquer it by coming up with detailed student loan repayment strategies. With some sacrifice and hard work now, you can eliminate your debt years ahead of schedule.

 

If you decide to refinance your student loans, use ELFI’s “Find My Rate” tool to get a rate quote, without impacting your credit score.

 


 

*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.

Financial Goals 2020: Tracking Your Spending

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This blog has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute tax or financial advice. Please consult your tax advisor for guidance on your personal tax situation.

 

Whether it’s losing weight, going back to school, trying a new sport, or getting your finances in order, there’s no better month than January to refocus your body and mind. Right now, it’s a new year and a new decade so you’re not just resetting for the next 12 months, you’re kicking off the next 10 years, and the resolutions are more important than ever. If tracking your spending is at the top of your goal-setting list—especially after an indulgent holiday season—check out our budgeting tips below.

 

Budgeting Platforms

When it comes to budgeting, the tedious spreadsheets of yesterday are long gone. There are apps and online programs to make tracking your spending in 2020 a breeze. Mint is a simple (and free) budgeting planner and finance tracker that connects with your bank accounts and credit cards to help you see all account activity in one place. You can access Mint with your computer or phone to:

  • See spending across categories (like shopping, gas, eating out, etc.)
  • Create realistic budgets based on past spending habits
  • Set reminders for bills
  • Check your credit score
  • And more

While Mint is more of a look back at your past spending, you can also try more forward-thinking but paid-for budget tools like YNAB (You Need A Budget). Like Mint, this platform seamlessly connects to your accounts to help you see spending trends and automate budgeting, but it’s also more educational. To help you track your spending, YNAB focuses on four rules of budgeting:

  • Give Every Dollar A Job – don’t buy on a whim, be sure every dollar is assigned a task, whether it’s for eating out or paying student loans.
  • Embrace Your True Expenses – each month, set aside money for those big, inevitable expenses like car repairs and the holidays. Then you aren’t in a bind when they hit.
  • Roll With The Punches – if you splurge, avoid being riddled with guilt by simply reallocating funds from another category. Do it, and move on.
  • Age Your Money – Never spend money that’s less than 30 days old (i.e., you should be paying this month’s bills with last month’s paycheck)

 

What Refinancing Student Loans Does For Your Budget

Regardless of which platform you chose, it’s important to see spending in categories to help you understand where the majority of your paycheck goes. If you’re a recent college graduate or parent of a graduate, student loans can be one of the biggest categories in your budget. Refinancing student loans can give you a lower monthly payment, freeing up money for other categories. This helps you uphold the “Roll With The Punches” rule of reallocating money from one category to the other when “Whoops!” moments happen with your spending.

 

ELFI customers have reported saving an average of $309 every month and an average of $20,936 in total savings after refinancing student loans with Education Loan Finance.1 That’s a big chunk of change that can be added to one spending category or divided up among several, all while still making payments on your student loan debt.

 

On the other hand, if you finalize your 2020 budget and realize you have extra money in other categories, you can choose to pay down your student loan debt by making additional or larger monthly payments. This concept of overpaying can cut your loan repayment time in half.

 

>> Related: Should I Save or Pay Down Student Loan Debt

 

If you’re thinking about refinancing student loans to help with your 2020 budgeting, check out our Student Loan Refinance Calculator to see just how much you could save by working with ELFI. You can also review the benefits of student loan refinancing on to see how ELFI can work for you.*

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

1 Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon several factors.

 

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.

Should I Save or Pay Down Student Loan Debt?

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This blog has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. Always consult a professional for guidance around your personal financial situation.

 

Whether it comes as a check from grandma, a bonus from work, or a tax return, extra money in your bank account is a great feeling. However, it can be surprisingly difficult to decide what to do with that extra cash. You’d be tempted to spend the cash frivolously, like booking a much-needed vacation or splurging on eating out. But if you’re in debt, you know that money belongs elsewhere. The only question you should face when you come into a windfall is whether to contribute to savings or pay extra on your student loan debt. Luckily, that question is relatively easy to answer.

 

Save First. Pay Student Loan Debt Second.

Saving money—to a point—is necessary to ensure you’re prepared for unexpected financial emergencies. Car accident? Broken bone? Laid off? You need a “rainy day fund” so you can pay the bills when life challenges you without warning. By not saving, you could end up living on credit cards with interest rates that are likely two or three times higher than your student loan debt. Then you’re burdened with even steeper financial obligations to pay off. 

  

It’s recommended that you save at least six months of your current salary to be fully prepared for emergencies. Once you get your savings stockpiled, turn your attention to paying down student loan debt.

 

To explore why this is the case, consider savings accounts usually offer rates around 2%. However, your student loan debt likely comes with an interest rate of around 4%-7% interest if you have loans through the federal government. If you keep depositing money in your savings account instead of reducing your loan balance, you accumulate more debt (in interest owed) than you save. 

 

 Basic savings accounts are fairly safe—your balance only grows, as long as you don’t withdraw money from the account. The payoff for this safety is a lower interest rate. Low risk equals low reward. 

 

So, you might be thinking, “What saving options make me more money?” 

 

Related: Yes, You Need A Side Hustle

 

Are Stocks worth the investment?

Stocks are a popular option that is high risk and high reward. When you buy stock in a company, you own a piece of that company. The benefit for them is that your money is an investment in developing new products and other growth-based projects. The benefit for you is that your money could grow with the company. The downfall, however, is that your money can be depleted if the company’s stock takes a downturn. 

 

Stocks can also be an intimidating game since companies like Alphabet (Google) and Amazon generally sell for more than $1,000 a share. However, some companies like Robinhood are trying to make stocks more accessible to the everyday investor, highlighted with their soon to be released fractional share trading options. With the new feature, you can buy one-millionth of a share or just $1 worth of any stock.

 

Could I place savings in a CD?

A more middle-of-the-road option is a CD. Not to be confused with a compact disc, these Certificates of Deposit are savings accounts that are typically federally-insured and usually have higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts. The beauty of placing your money in a CD is that it becomes harder to spend your money frivolously since there are predetermined dates for withdrawal. Common terms are 3, 6, 12, and 18-months, with penalties assessed if money is withdrawn before the maturity date. 

 

Ready to Save But Short On Funds?

Saving and paying off debt is great…when you have the extra cash to do so. But not everyone has a wealthy grandma or job that comes with a bonus. Here are some quick ways to save.

 

Student loan refinancing through companies like ELFI* could free up more money by lowering your monthly payment through loan consolidation and a lower interest rate. In fact, customers reported saving an average of $309 every month and an average of $20,936 in total savings after refinancing student loans with Education Loan Finance.

 

Related: 7 Benefits of Refinancing Student Loans

 

You could also save hundreds of dollars a month after canceling unused subscriptions. 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 also connect to your bank account to make automated weekly money transfers into a savings account. With automated transfers, think small—just $25 a week can turn into $1,300 a year.

 

Apps like Acorns can make your investments even more simple by setting 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 deposited into your selected savings account. 

 

At ELFI, we work hard to help you reduce student loan debt with great student loan refinancing options. By refinancing student loans with ELFI, you can pick the payment plan and terms that fit your life. See what you could save with our quick, no-obligation quote.

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

¹Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon several factors.

 

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.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: The Income vs. Savings Approach to Building Wealth

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By Caroline Farhat

 

We all remember that infamous Australian millionaire who declared that millennials can’t afford to buy homes because they’re wasting all of their money buying avocado toast. Similarly, we’ve probably all lost count of the number of times we’ve heard that we need to cut back on our Starbucks® habit in order to be more financially successful. 

 

While buying avocado toast every morning might not be the wisest choice for your food budget, it’s most likely not going to hold you back from having a healthy bank account either. In fact, if you’re so busy pinching pennies on your daily cappuccino and not looking at how you can save and increase your earnings in bigger areas, you’re probably wasting both your time and money. 

 

Stop Skipping Your Cappuccino and Refinance Instead

 

1. How refinancing can save you money on your mortgage

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, housing is the largest expense for Americans, taking up about 33% of income and $20,091 per year. For homeowners, these figures include the cost of the mortgage, mortgage interest, property taxes and insurance, and expenses for maintenance and repairs. 

 

When you apply and pay for a mortgage, you get an interest rate based on your creditworthiness, the size of your down payment, loan term and type, and economic factors. For example, in 2000, the average mortgage rate was 8.05%. In 2018, the average mortgage rate was 4.54%. As you can see, market conditions can make a big difference in the interest rate you lock-in. The good news is that you have the ability to lower your mortgage rate through refinancing, well after you sign on the dotted line. 

 

Mortgage interest, and its effect on your monthly housing bill, can be easily forgotten — until you start crunching the numbers. Let’s walk through two scenarios — one in which you don’t refinance and one in which you do refinance.

 

Scenario 1: No refinancing

You buy a $300,000 home and put down 20% ($60,000). You get a mortgage for $240,000 with a 4.5% interest rate. Over the first year, you will have spent $10,720.79 on interest payments alone. Over the entire 30-year mortgage term, you will have spent $197,776.11 in total on interest payments. 

 

Now, let’s see what happens if you refinance your mortgage.

 

Scenario 2: Refinancing

You buy a $300,000 home and put down 20% ($60,000). While you started with a 4.5% interest rate, shifts in the economy have caused interest rates to drop and you’re now able to refinance to a 3.7% mortgage rate. By doing so, you will save over $12,000 over the life of the loan. To put this in perspective, you’d have to cut back on approximately 3,000 drinks at your favorite coffee joint to save that kind of money. 

 

If you currently have a mortgage, put your numbers into this refinance calculator and see just how much you could save. 

 

2. How to save by refinancing student loans

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that the average American spent $1,417 on education in 2018. If you’re currently reading this blog, you are likely dealing with a much larger number than that. If you have at least $5,000 in student loan debt, student loan refinancing could be extremely beneficial for you. 

 

Similar to mortgages, you can refinance student loans and potentially save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the loan. ELFI customers reported saving an average of $309 every month and an average of $20,936 in total savings1.

 

The first step to saving money on your student loans is to determine whether student loan refinancing* is the best option for you. In a small number of cases, refinancing is not the optimal option. But for most student loan debt holders, it is an excellent way to save money both in the short term and long term. Our student loan refinance calculator allows you to see what you could save in your particular situation. Let’s walk through an example.

 

Scenario 1: No refinancing

You have $60,000 in student loans with an interest rate of 6.8% and are on a standard repayment plan of 10 years. You pay $690 per month and never consider refinancing. In total, you will pay $82,857 for your initial loan of $60,000. Over $22,000 of that amount will be to interest payments alone.

 

Scenario 2: Refinance your student loans

You have $60,000 in student loan debt with an interest rate of 6.8% and a monthly payment of $690. You’re eager to optimize your finances and decide to refinance your student loans to a lower interest rate, saving up to $18,000 over the life of the loan. If you refinance into a shorter loan term (such as a 5 or 7-year term), you will save more on interest over the life of the loan. Alternately, you may consider stretching out your terms to lower your monthly payment. This will likely still save you money over the long term, but be sure to crunch the numbers before you make a final decision on your refinancing terms.

 

Side Hustle or Climb Your Way to Success

Saving on big-ticket items like your housing costs or student loan debt is just one approach to building wealth. After you have taken advantage of all the saving opportunities available to you, it’s time to turn your attention to increasing your earnings. Here are a few ways you can bolster your bank account:

  • Ask your current employer. If you’re gainfully employed and a top-performer, speak with your boss about the potential for a promotion, raise, or bonus. It’s best to come into these types of conversations with a concrete strategy and multiple examples of positive ways you have impacted the company. Glassdoor has a good guide on how to prepare for this conversation. 
  • Find a new job. Long gone are the days people spend decades at the same company. While “job hopping” may have had a negative connotation in the past, many career experts actually encourage people to switch jobs more frequently in order to get a larger salary and more advanced job title. According to this Fast Company article, “workers who stay with a company longer than two years are said to get paid 50% less.” Money, of course, isn’t everything. But if you’re feeling stagnant both in learning and money, it’s probably time to brush off your resume and start looking for a new position.
  •  Start a side hustle. It’s reported that more than 1 in 4 Americans currently have a side hustle. Beyond the monetary benefits of having a gig outside of your normal 9-to-5, side hustles are also a great way to hone or discover a new passion. Side Hustle Nation has an extensive list of ideas that you can start quickly. 

 

Bottom Line

It pays (literally) to keep your eye on the big stuff. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever watch your pennies. Smart spending habits still reign supreme. Just don’t sweat the small stuff so much that you miss out on potentially huge savings.

 


 

*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.

 

1Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon several factors.

Yes, You Need a Side Hustle

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Side hustle. It’s a relatively new phrase, but a concept that’s older than you think. It’s simply a second job that helps people make ends meet or earn extra cash to supplement retirement plans, pay off student loan debt, save up to buy a car, etc. You might also hear these jobs referred to as gigs, which constitute the gig economy.

 

Why the Popularity?

If you wonder why you’re hearing so much about side hustles and the gig economy, it’s because these concepts have exploded in popularity. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 55 million people work in the gig economy, which is more than 35% of the country’s workforce. “Side hustlers,” as they’re called, take the form of teachers who write blogs for major companies, stay-at-home moms who moonlight as Uber® drivers, retirees who tutor school-age children, or even college students who design logos for local businesses.

 

But side hustles aren’t limited to these more typical archetypes. Even high-earning, highly skilled professions offer ample opportunities for “side hustling”. For example, the gig economy has increasingly penetrated the healthcare industry – doctors and nurses have the ability to work in temporary positions called “locum tenens” to fill staffing needs at healthcare facilities. These positions, often worked during shift downtimes, allow healthcare professionals to have more flexibility and control of their schedule while earning supplemental income. High-end software developers at major technology brands can also benefit from the gig economy, using sites like Upwork to maximize the return on their skills and to explore new projects.

 

A study on the Gig Economy & The Future of Retirement found that of people with a side hustle, 49% over the age of 55 are using it to save for retirement and 33% are using it to pay off student loan debt. Regardless of the reason, the answer to the question, “Do I need a side hustle?” is almost always, “Yes!” 

 

Check out the following scenario to see just how valuable a side hustle can be. The average student loan debt in America is around $37,000 with a loan term of 10 years and monthly payments of $380 a month. If you made an extra $100 a month ($1,200 a year), you could make three extra payments a year, helping you pay down your student loan debt up to two years early! If you want to see how much you can impact your loan with a side hustle, check out our student loan refinance calculator. 

 

Not only can you bring in extra income with a second gig, you can also diversify how you make that money. In other words, if you lose your full-time job, you will still have a way to pay bills.

 

Having a side gig is also a way for you to indulge hobbies or hone talents, giving more meaning to your work than perhaps your regular nine-to-five job. If you’re really good with computers, have a knack for photography, possess a knowledge of HVAC systems, or if you’re just really good at IKEA® assembly directions, you can pick up a side hustle by hawking your services on sites like Thumbtack®, Nextdoor®, TaskRabbit®, or Fiverr®.

 

The ideal hustle would allow you to “make money while you sleep.” It sounds hokey, but if you don’t have to trade working hours for money, you can reach your extra income goals to pay off student loan debt without sacrificing your full-time job, family, or social life to do so. These holy grail side hustles take the form of rental properties (that you pay someone else to manage), stock market investing, renting a room or parking space, publishing a book, creating an app, or other similar ideas that require little time to maintain.

 

One such example is with ELFI’s Referral Program. Simply sign up and create a personalized referral link to share with friends or family. When someone decides to refinance their student loans using your link, you’ll get a $400 referral bonus check and your friend will receive a $100 credit toward the principal balance of an approved Education Loan Finance loan1. There’s no limit on the number of people you can refer.

 

Downfalls of Side Hustles

While we started this blog by saying, “Yes, you need a side hustle,” there are several downfalls that you should be aware of. Sure, the hours for side gigs are flexible, but these jobs also don’t come with employer benefits. This means there is no safety net of unemployment claims should you not be able to find enough work. Also, if you don’t have a clear, effective contract and invoicing system set up, payment can get delayed or—even worse—lost in the shuffle. If you don’t work with honest people or established companies, both can run out of money or just simply disappear without paying money owed.

 

You also need strong personal motivation to work a side hustle. Like most jobs, side hustles rarely just fall profitably into your lap. You should realistically expect to spend a few hours a week promoting yourself and following up on leads. You need to be organized and disciplined to avoid double-booking yourself and to get the work done by agreed-upon deadlines.

 

You’ll also need to be diligent when it comes to taxes2. The money made from your side job will need to be reported on a 1040 Form at tax time. If you fail to report your earnings, you might find yourself subject to tax assessments or penalties. On the plus side of tax time with a side gig, you may be able to deduct certain expenses like car mileage related to your business, necessary equipment, or even subscriptions to business-related organizations.

 

When it comes to side hustles, there’s no need to quit your day job to earn extra cash. The benefits outweigh the downfalls, and a bonus gig can actually benefit your day job by giving you additional skills and insights or by helping you make connections with clients you wouldn’t otherwise meet. You can work as little or as much as you’d like on your own schedule to pay down debts or save for big expenses.

 

Curious about how much you need to earn with a side gig to pay down your student loan debt? First, see how much you could save by using our Student Loan Refinance Calculator*. Once you know what your monthly payment could be, you can set a realistic target for your extra income. The Student Loan Refinance Calculator will show you your current vs estimated monthly payment, as well as estimated monthly and lifetime savings.

 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 


 

1Subject to credit approval. Program requirements apply. Limit one $400 cash bonus per referral. Offer available to those who are above the age of majority in their state of legal residence who refer new customers who refinance their education loans with Education Loan Finance. The new customer will receive a $100 principal reduction on the new loan within 6-8 weeks of loan disbursement. The referring party will be mailed a $400 cash bonus check within 6-8 weeks after both the loan has been disbursed, and the referring party has provided ELFI with a completed IRS form W-9. Taxes are the sole responsibility of each recipient. A new customer is an individual without an existing Education Loan Finance loan account and who has not held an Education Loan Finance loan account within the past 24 months. Additional terms and conditions apply.

 

2This blog has been prepared for informational purposes only, and does not constitute tax or financial advice. Please consult your tax advisor for guidance on your personal tax situation.

 

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.

Holiday Budgeting: Gift Ideas That Last Into the New Year

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Unless you’re one of those people who had their holiday shopping done by December 1, you’re like the rest of us who spend 25 days scrambling around, balancing holiday parties, school finals, baking cookies, traveling, and shopping for gifts. Gift-giving is one of most festive-feeling and most stressful of holiday traditions. It’s also likely what brought you to this blog. As a recent college graduate, with an entry-level paycheck and mountain of student loan debt, it’s difficult to gift well without destroying your monthly budget. Check out our list of possible presents that are money-conscious and aren’t likely to get returned (or thrown out with the wrapping paper).

 

Give Experiences

It’s no secret the U.S. is a country of “stuff.” We fill our homes, garages, and eventually, storage units with items that we just know we’ll use again someday. While the newest iPhone® or New York Times® Bestseller might make your family and friend’s faces light up this December, once the next model comes out or the last page is read, those gifts become obsolete. 

 

 So instead of blowing your hard-earned income and monthly budget on more “stuff,” consider giving experiences: concert tickets, zoo memberships, or woodworking classes that your recipient will remember longer than they will the plot of that over-rated biopic. What’s even better: you can experience these things together. If you’re looking for more experiences to gift this holiday season, check out Huffington Post’s article, 21 Gift Ideas For People Who Value Experiences More Than Things. You can find a more holistic approach to experiential gift-giving for the mind, body, and soul in this ELFI blog.

 

Give Savings 

While not the most glamorous gift, receiving a contribution towards your student loan debt really is the gift that keeps on giving. Helping put a dent in student loan debt is more thoughtful than cash or a gift card snagged while checking out at the grocery store, and it can help you pay off those student loans faster. 

 

If your parents, grandparents or significant other made a student loan payment in your honor for the next two-three years for the holidays and your birthday, thousands of dollars could be shaved off of your student loans. Getting out from under student loan debt faster also means more fun money in your checking account to boost that monthly budget and buy the gifts you really want to give. 

 

If you’re like the many students who took out multiple federal and private student loans over the course of college, it may be a good time to consolidate and refinance student loans into one singular loan. Besides possibly scoring a better repayment term and interest rate, seeing the family contributions to paying off the debt could really jumpstart your 2020 goal of getting more financially fit. 

 

REgive Gifts

Re-gifting gets a bad wrap for being the lazy person’s way of shedding the unwanted junk in their house. However, with a little extra thought, re-gifting can be a fulfilling experience. Look past the junky toaster on your kitchen counter or clothes you hate and consider items that are in good condition, but no longer bring you joy or serve a purpose in your home. Maybe it’s an old CD that you and your dad listened to before you left for college. Maybe it’s an Instant Pot® that you really thought you’d use more of in 2017. Or maybe it’s a necklace your friend always compliments. Whatever it is, clean them up, wrap them nicely, and—whatever you do—be sure your friend or family member didn’t give you the item first. The secret to successfully re-gifting is to be upfront and honest about the gift being from your own personal department store and share why you did it.

 

Give Time

The holiday spirit is all about being with the ones you love and being generous to those in need. If you or your family are feeling stressed to maintain monthly budgets this year, consider scrapping gifting (in the traditional sense) altogether. There are countless organizations that take volunteers throughout the holiday season to distribute presents in hospitals, cook meals for the homeless, and even shovel snow or hang Christmas lights for the elderly. By giving time, you make connections in your community, spread cheer, and build karma for the new year. 

 

If you’re still feeling stressed about ruining your perfectly planned monthly budget this holiday season, consider student loan refinancing. Recent graduates have reported saving an average of $309 every month after their student loan refinance with ELFI*, which averages out to $20,936 in total savings.¹ And because this is the busy time of year, you can see your potential savings and see if you are prequalified for a student loan refinance in minutes. Happiest of holidays to you and yours!

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

¹Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/ Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon a number of factors.

 

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.

Student Loan Repayment: Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche

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By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.

 

To cope with the high cost of college, you likely took out several different student loans. According to Saving For College, the average 2019 graduate left school with eight to 12 different student loans.

 

With so much debt and so many different individual loans, you may be overwhelmed and can’t decide where to start with your repayment. If you want to pay off your loans ahead of schedule, there are two main strategies that financial experts recommend: the debt avalanche and the debt snowball.

 

Here’s how each of these strategies work and how to decide which approach is right for you.

 

The difference between the debt snowball and debt avalanche strategies

Both the debt avalanche and debt snowball methods are strategies for paying off your debt early. However, how they work is quite different.

 

Debt avalanche

With the debt avalanche method, you list all of your student loans from the one with the highest interest rate to the one with the lowest interest rate. You continue making the minimum payments on all of your loans. However, you put any extra money you have toward the loan with the highest interest rate.

 

Under the debt avalanche, you keep making extra payments toward the debt with the highest interest rate. Once that loan is paid off, you roll over that loan’s monthly payment and pay it toward the loan with the next highest interest rate.

 

For example, let’s say you had the following loans:

  • $10,000 Private student loan at 7% interest
  • $15,000 Private student loan at 6.5% interest
  • $5,000 Direct Loan at 4.45% interest

 

In this scenario, you would make extra payments toward the private student loan at 7% interest first with the debt avalanche method. Once that loan was paid off, you’d make extra payments toward the private student loan at 6.5% interest, and then finally you’d tackle the Unsubsidized Direct Loan.

 

Debt snowball

The debt snowball method is more focused on quick wins. With this approach, you list all of your student loans according to their balance, rather than their interest rate. You continue making the minimum payments on all of them, but you put extra money toward the loan with the smallest balance first.

 

Once the smallest loan is paid off, you roll your payment toward the loan with the next lowest balance. You continue this process until all of your debt is paid off.

 

If you had the same loans as in the above example and followed the debt snowball method, you’d pay off the Direct Loan with the $5,000 balance first since it’s the smallest loan. Once that loan was paid off, you’d make extra payments toward the $10,000 private loan, and then you’d pay off the $15,000 private loan.

 

Pros and cons of the debt avalanche method

The debt avalanche strategy has several benefits and drawbacks:

 

Pros

  • You save more in interest: By tackling the highest-interest debt first, you’ll save more money in interest charges over the length of your loan. Compared to the debt snowball method, using the debt avalanche method can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
  • You’ll pay off the loans faster: Because you’re addressing the highest-interest debt first, there’s less time for interest to accrue on the loan. With less interest building, you can pay off your loans much earlier.

 

Cons

  • You don’t see results as quickly: Because you’re tackling the debt with the highest interest rate rather than the smallest balance, it can take longer before you can pay off a loan.
  • You may lose focus: It takes longer to pay off each loan, so it’s easier to lose motivation.

 

Pros and cons of the debt snowball method

The debt snowball method has the following pros and cons:

 

Pros

  • You get results quickly: Since you’re targeting the loan with the lowest balance first, you’ll pay off individual loans quicker than you would with the debt avalanche method.
  • Frees up money to pay down the next loan: You’ll be able to pay off loans quickly and roll the payments toward the next loan, helping you stay focused on your goals.

 

Cons

  • You’ll pay more in interest fees: By paying extra toward the loan with the smallest balance rather than the highest interest rate, you’ll pay more in interest fees than you would if you followed the debt avalanche method.
  • It could take longer to pay off your debt: Because you aren’t targeting the loans with the highest interest rate first, more interest can accrue over the length of the loan. The added interest means it will take longer to pay off your loans.

 

Which strategy is best for paying off student loans?

So which strategy is best for paying off student loans: the debt avalanche or the debt snowball? If your goal is to save as much money as possible and pay off your loans as quickly as you can, the debt avalanche method makes the most financial sense.

 

Psychologically, the debt snowball may have the advantage. According to a study from the Harvard Business Review, the debt snowball method is the most effective approach over the long-term, as borrowers are more likely to stick to their repayment strategy. However, which strategy is best for you is dependent on your mindset, motivation level, and your determination to pay off your debt.

 

Managing your student loan debt

Regardless of which repayment strategy you choose, you could save even more money or pay off your loans earlier by refinancing your student loans. When you refinance student loans, you apply for a loan from a private lender for the amount of your current student loans, including both private and federal loans.

 

The new loan has completely different repayment terms than your old ones, including interest rate, repayment term, and monthly payment. Even better, you’ll only have one student loan with one monthly payment to remember.

 

Use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to get a rate quote without affecting your credit score.*

 


 

*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.

So I’ve Refinanced My Student Loans – Now What?

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By Caroline Farhat

 

Congratulations! You just made the big step of refinancing your student loans. Your wallet is fatter and you’ve likely shaved off thousands of dollars from what you will have to pay on your student loans. That’s a huge achievement that will positively impact your financial life.

 

You may be tempted to use your new found moolah on brunches and vacations, but don’t start spending lavishly quite yet. While present you may be saying “yes!” to fancy dinners, future you would really benefit from spending this extra cash in a smarter way. If you’re feeling financially empowered, you’ll love these five financial tips for what to do after you refinance to maximize your money.

 

1. Reexamine (or create) your budget

Any time you have a change in your financial situation, such as a raise or a new recurring bill, it’s important to evaluate your current budget. If you don’t already have a budget, getting a little extra money each month can be a great motivator to start one. We’re fans of the zero-based budget system. With zero-based budgeting, you allocate each dollar you make to a specific expense or goal so it can help curb unnecessary expenses you may regret later. For example, say you bring in $4,000 a month after taxes. You spend $3,000 on fixed expenses such as rent, utilities, and food. Your monthly payment for student loans is $600, leaving you with $400 extra each month. Under zero-based budgeting, you would allocate the extra $400 to other goals (such as contributing to a savings account) or wants (such as a travel budget). Once you have figured out exactly where each dollar will go, you should set up an automatic transfer to a savings account so that you never get tempted to spend money that you should be saving.

 

Of course, budgets aren’t one size fits all. If you have a method that works for you, then use that! The important things to know and keep track of are:

  1. How much money you have (after taxes and health insurance payments)
  2. Your essential fixed expenses (such as housing, utilities, food, student loan payments)
  3. Your non-essential fixed expenses (such as gym memberships, Netflix, etc.)
  4. Your long-term financial goals (buying a house, saving for a child, retirement)
  5. Your short-term financial goals (dining out, travel)

 

2. Start or pad your emergency savings account

If you don’t have at least three months of living expenses saved up, you need to start right now. We don’t want to set off alarm bells, but an emergency savings account is the number one thing everyone needs to have on their financial to do list. Depending on your situation, you may benefit from stashing away six to nine months of living expenses, but start with at least three months and build from there. Be sure to have this money easily available, so put it in a savings or checking account that does not incur any fees or penalties for withdrawing money. For example, you do not want to put your emergency savings in a CD, even if it will yield you a higher interest rate, because getting your money out can be a costly and sometimes time-intensive process. That said, find a savings account that will pay you interest so you don’t lose all your earning power on that money.

 

3. Pay down other high-interest debt

After you have a healthy savings account, paying off high-interest debt should be your next priority. Just like how refinancing your student loans helped you save money in the long run, paying off debt with high interest rates such as credit card debt or a personal loan will help you shave off hundreds or possibly even thousands of dollars that you would have to make in interest if you just paid the minimum monthly payment. Even putting an extra hundred dollars a month to this debt can pay off big time in the future. Additionally, lowering your debt load can help bolster your credit score, especially if you are carrying a lot of credit card debt. Your debt-to-income ratio is critical if you want to get a mortgage or other big-ticket items so paying down high-interest debt can only work to your advantage.

 

4. Contribute to your retirement

Say you have a healthy emergency savings, you’ve paid off all of your credit cards, and you have enough to cover your living expenses with a little bit of extra fun money. First, congrats! That’s a big feat and you’re killing it with your finances!

 

Set your future self up for success is by starting or increasing your contribution to a retirement account such as a 401(k) or IRA. Retirement accounts benefit from compounding interest so the sooner you start, the better. Plus, many employers have matching programs that help you pad your retirement account. Remember the free money you can make from a high-interest savings account? This is similar, but your future self will be the one to reap the benefits.

 

5. Treat yourself, responsibly

If you have refinanced your student loans, it’s safe to say that you’re clearly on top of your financial game. Let’s be real — there will always be a list of things you can and should do with your money. But it shouldn’t all be about the work. You deserve to treat yourself! Just be sure to do it responsibly. Should you suddenly move into a budget-busting luxury penthouse apartment? Probably not. But you absolutely should treat yourself to that nice dinner or new pair of sneakers you’ve been eyeing. The keys to a successful financial life are staying informed and staying balanced. Just like any other goal, providing little rewards along your journey can help you stay motivated. So take this as our encouragement to enjoy yourself! Just do it responsibly with an eye on your financial independence.

 

 

3 Things You Should Know About Black Friday

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Black Friday used to be just one, crazy day of shopping. Deal seekers would wake up before sunrise, grab a thermos of coffee and a warm jacket, and wait in line for hours to get the best deals on televisions, laptops, and Cabbage Patch Dolls. The desire to shop and save is so popular that Black Friday has spun off nearly a week’s worth of celebrations, including:

 

  • Black Friday – November 29, 2019
  • Small Business Saturday – November 30, 2019 (The lesser-known shopping day that encourages support of small businesses)
  • Cyber Monday – December 2, 2019
  • Giving Tuesday – December 3, 2019 (The do-good day that rallies communities around giving time and money)

 

Black Friday itself has even crept into our day of gratitude, with stores opening just after the dishes are cleared on Thanksgiving night. Some brands and shoppers have pushed back against Black Friday, like REI with their #OptOutside campaign that provides an active alternative to malls and box stores. But for many, the excitement of Black Friday is as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and pumpkin pie.

 

For those who are on the hunt for the best deals, here are a few tips to help you succeed.

 

Make a List (and Check It Twice)

While this tip is true for nearly every shopping trip, you definitely need a list, plan of attack, and even a budget for Black Friday. What items are your absolute must-haves? Are you more of a big-ticket item shopper or are you in it for smaller deals on everyday items? Just as you need to plan out that Thanksgiving dinner menu, sit down and list where you want to go and in what order to keep yourself from impulse buys and overspending. There’s no worse feeling than getting home and realizing you wasted money on something that wasn’t really a good deal or that you didn’t even want. Consider the following for your list:

 

  • Category
  • Item
  • Store or URL (for online Black Friday deals)
  • Deal or Coupon Code
  • Price
  • Budget Countdown

 

Shop Online

Cyber Monday used to be the online shopping day of the holiday season, but Black Friday is king for a reason and quickly expanded in-store-only deals to the online crowd. Shopping online helps you cover more territory in less time, and there are apps that can help you organize and simplify your shopping efforts.

 

With the BlackFriday.com app, you can easily filter through Black Friday promotional clutter, search by keywords, compare deals at different retailers, share deals with friends, and even set up notifications for when sales start. With the TGI Black Friday app, you can set up alerts if one (or more!) of your big-ticket items go on sale before Black Friday. This app also has a shopping list feature so you can digitize your plan of attack.

 

Shop All Year

For decades, Black Friday has gotten a reputation for being the deal day of the year. The name “Black Friday” even dates back to the 1960s when it was first used to name the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. However, it’s not always the best time of the year to get the best deal on several key items.

 

Televisions frequently go on sale just before the Super Bowl to appeal to fans looking to see the biggest game of the year on a new screen. On the hunt for a smaller electronic device? iPhones are typically discounted in September after the annual Apple event announcing the latest models. What about a new set of skis for the slopes? The best time to shop can be just before the end of the ski season, as retailers look to clear out inventory. And for more of the homebody, home goods are often discounted around holidays like President’s Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. Finally, if you are ready to kick off the new year in a healthy way, consider waiting until June or July to buy that gym membership. At that time, gyms are eager for sales since clients are outside enjoying the long, sunny days of summer.

 

Find Other Ways to Save

You don’t have to brave the weather and the crowds to save money before the holidays. If you have student loans, you can keep money in your account by refinancing or consolidating. ELFI customers reported saving an average of $309 every month and an average of $20,936 in total savings after refinancing. See what kind of savings you can qualify for at elfi.com/refinance-education-loans.

 


 

1Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 8/16/2016 and 10/25/2018. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon several factors.

 

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.

5 Ways to Declutter Your Life in 2020

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We’re all busy and feel overwhelmed from time to time. Balancing a job, family time, friendships and finances can take a pretty major toll. Taking control of the space around you and getting a grasp of your financial situation can take a burden off and help you feel at ease. Here are some tips for decluttering your life and your finances. 

 

1. Learn to Say No

When it comes to simplifying your life, one of the best tactics is to cut off your clutter at the source – in other words, learning to say “no” to things you don’t need . This also applies to the voice in your head that tells you to hang on to old furniture, keepsakes, family belongings, and everything else that you stuff away or put into storage. The truth is, holding onto everything of monetary or sentimental value just isn’t logical. Knowing when to say no, when to donate, and when to let things go will be a big help in simplifying your life. It’s been found that the average American thinks about decluttering at least six times per year, but only ends up decluttering about three times each year. Holding onto too many things can create a great deal of stress.

 

Try taking photos of your keepsakes and family furniture and file it away. By doing that, you’re able to hold onto the memories without holding onto the items that cause clutter in your home.

 

2. Clean Out Your Closet

Having a surplus of clothing can cause cluttering nightmares. While we like to hold onto novelty t-shirts from every 5k race, or think we’ll be able to squeeze into the jeans we last wore ten years ago, eventually things can get out of hand. If you struggle with overloaded closets and dressers, here’s a trick you might want to try – turn all of your clothes inside-out. After 9-12 months, reassess your clothing inventory and see which clothes are left inside-out. You now have a clear-cut idea of which clothes you wear, and which you don’t. If it’s left inside-out at the end of that time period, consider donating it to a good cause. If this doesn’t work for you, try sorting through them a few times each year and getting rid of the items you know you don’t wear.  

 

3. Cut Down on Food Waste

Our refrigerators get cluttered too. The main reason? We simply don’t eat everything we buy. If you’re the type that ends up with a full cart at the grocery store after going in for one thing, you’re probably dealing with an overloaded fridge as well. A study found that Americans consume only about 50% of the meat, 44% of the vegetables, 40% of the fruit and 42% of the dairy we buy. What doesn’t go to waste takes up precious space in our pantry and refrigerator. After all, who knows how long that bottle of salad dressing has been sitting there? Look into meal planning or even getting an affordable meal subscription (just don’t let it fall into the category mentioned below). What’s great about meal subscriptions is they’re perfectly portioned and will go far in cutting down the amount of food you waste or store away.

 

4. Cut Out Unnecessary Subscriptions

Ever checked your monthly bank statement to find that you’re paying $4.99 for a random app that you no longer use? A new study that surveyed 2,500 U.S. consumers found that they spend an average of $1,900 in subscriptions that are unaccounted for. These can include anything from TV and music streaming services to subscriptions to your local car wash. Getting your subscriptions under control is a great way to simplify your finances and decrease month-to-month spending. 

 

There are a variety of budgeting apps that help you track your finances, but Clarity Money® is great for managing subscription services in particular. After connecting your bank account, it will provide you with a list of your recurring subscriptions, and even allows you to cancel them right from the app. 

 

 

5. Refinance Your Student Loans

If you’ve graduated from college, you may be paying back student loans. Some people can find themselves paying back several loans that all accrue interest at different rates, and have differing payment due dates. Refinancing your student loans may make repayment more manageable because it consolidates your student loans into one monthly payment with a single interest rate. Not only could you have the flexibility of choosing a repayment term that fits your financial goals, but you could also lower your interest rate or save money over the life of your loan. 

 

We hope these tips help put your mind, your finances, and your life, at ease. By following these tips, 2020 could really be “new year, new you”. Stay tuned for more helpful tips from the ELFI team.

 


 

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.