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The Best Personal Finance Blogs of 2020

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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.

3 Financial Goals to Achieve Before Marriage – And Some That Can Wait

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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.

The Millennial’s Guide to Buying Insurance

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On average, United States citizens report a 51% discrepancy between the life insurance coverage they have and the amount their families would need in the event of a tragedy. For millennials, this number is even greater, with only 10% reporting an adequate amount of life insurance. As millennials continue to grow up and start families, it’s important to understand both how to buy insurance and why insurance is necessary to protect loved ones.

 

What is Insurance?

Insurance helps alleviate the risk of serious financial hardship in case of accidents or other unexpected events. If you own a high-dollar item like a home, car, boat or piece of jewelry, your insurance policy is in place to protect your monetary investment in case it is damaged, lost or destroyed.

 

Some types of insurance protect people rather than possessions. Medical insurance, for example, assists with the costs of illness prevention and treatment.

 

While ideally, you won’t experience a major loss that would require insurance, it’s impossible to predict when accidents may happen. With that in mind, insurance helps to protect your loved ones and valuables in case something unexpected occurs. Here are a few things to consider when buying insurance.

 

3 Tips for Buying Insurance

1. Know what you need.

While it’s great to buy insurance at a competitive price, it’s more important to make sure your needs are met. For example, if you own a car, you’re required by law to purchase liability insurance coverage, which assists with the cost of damaging someone else’s property. If you have an accident, insurance saves you from footing the bill entirely out-of-pocket as long as the damages are covered under your policy.

 

You can also choose to buy additional insurance coverage. For example, collision coverage helps pay for damages to your own vehicle after an accident. This type of coverage is sometimes optional, but when buying insurance, consider whether paying the monthly premium might be less expensive than covering your vehicle damages out-of-pocket after an accident.

 

2. Compare pricing from different carriers.

After you’ve determined the types and amounts of insurance you need to buy, take the time to compare plans from multiple carriers. You can do this through independent research, but it’s often easier to work with a third-party organization like SouthEast Insurance.

 

SouthEast Insurance works with more than 40 insurance carriers to find the best rates on coverage. They scout the best deals on more than 20 different types of insurance, from necessities like auto and home coverage to miscellaneous policies including pet and umbrella coverage.

 

The company aims to find you the best coverage at the best price, whether that means bundling products together or choosing individual carriers. Because they work directly with each carrier, their quotes are real, not estimates, and are personalized to your situation. After submitting a request, it normally takes about 10 to 15 minutes to receive a quote.

 

If you aren’t sure how to begin researching insurance policies, working with a company like this is a great way to narrow down your options without spending hours of unnecessary time and energy. The best part is, it doesn’t cost anything to receive a quote from SouthEast Insurance, and there’s no pressure to buy!

 

3. Cover all your bases when buying insurance.

At the very least, it’s important to invest in the necessities: home insurance, auto insurance, life insurance and health insurance. These help to cover your most valuable assets, as well as to ensure you and your family can receive medical attention when you need it.

 

Beyond the basics, however, you may want to consider a variety of insurance types. If you own a vehicle other than a car, like a boat or a motorcycle, you can have it covered. If you lease a space, renters insurance protects lost or damaged items in case of an event like fire or burglary. From earthquake insurance to wedding insurance, you can protect many of your major investments with various types of coverage.

 

Don’t just stop at the minimum when it comes to buying insurance coverage. Make sure to research what your policy does and doesn’t cover, and invest in additional protection if your current policy doesn’t include everything you’d like to insure.

 

Ultimately, buying insurance is about protecting the people you care about, as well as yourself. While we can’t predict accidents, we can be prepared for them. Once you’re covered, you can rest easy knowing your and your loved ones will be shielded from many types of financial stress, and that your most important belongings are safeguarded.

 

Sources:

 


 

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.

Establishing Your ‘Why’ for Paying Off Student Debt

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If you are working to pay off student loan debt, you are not alone. Approximately 45 million Americans have student loan debt, with the average borrower facing almost $33,000 to pay back. This could take ten years or longer to get rid of the debt. If you are on a mission to pay off your student loans, or any debt, establishing your ‘why’ can be a big help to pay them faster. 

 

Establishing Your ‘Why’

Studies have shown that writing down your goals makes you more likely to achieve them. This can easily be applied to the goal of paying down debt. Determining your ‘why’ and writing it down can help keep you motivated to knock out your student loans. 

 

Knowing your motivation will also help you when the debt-paying journey gets hard. The process to pay off debt, especially large student loans, can be stressful and seem never-ending. You will inevitably encounter setbacks to your payoff goal or hard times that make you question whether you should stay on track. For example, you may have budgeted one month you were going to pay an extra $200 to your student loans, then a few days later an unexpected car repair or medical emergency occurs and now the $200 has to be spent on the emergency instead of your student loans. This may be a setback that makes paying down the debt a little tougher that month. But having your motivation, your ‘why’, can help you see the big picture and stay focused on your debt crushing goal. 

 

Every person will have a different reason for wanting to get out student debt now, but some ideas you may want to consider when establishing your ‘why’ are: 

 

Desire to Start a Family

Most everyone has heard how expensive kids can be, and if you are paying student loans off, you may not have much room left in your budget to cover all the costs associated with having a baby. Although you shouldn’t put off starting a family because you have debt, use it as motivation to pay it off quickly so you won’t have to feel stressed about finances when you have a little one. Make a goal to have a portion or all of your student debt paid before your family grows. Try to meet your goal by budgeting for extra payments to your student debt. It also might be helpful to start budgeting and saving for baby expenses before the newest addition arrives.   

 

Retiring Early

If you want to focus less on your 9 to 5 and more on a passion project, retiring early may be on your radar. This could be a great motivator to use extra money to eliminate your student loan debt. Having fewer expenses, like debt payments, allows you to live off of less income during retirement, which may allow you to retire earlier than expected.  

 

Buying a House

If you dream of buying your own home you may encounter hurdles being approved for a mortgage if your debts compared to your income are too high. But every dollar towards your student loans can help you get closer to the dream of owning a home by decreasing your debt totals. 

 

Freedom

Being debt-free provides many opportunities that may not be sustainable when you are facing debt payments each month. You are free to accept a dream job that may pay less. You have the opportunity to have more experiences, like travel and music festivals, that may not have previously fit in your budget. Freedom from student debt payments can be a great motivator when you are trying to establish your why because it can lead to many more goals you want to accomplish. 

 

How to Stay Motivated

Once you have established your ‘why,’ try some different techniques to stay motivated to actually achieve the goals. Besides just writing down your goals, here are some other techniques to try: 

 

Visualize Your Goal

This can be as simple as putting up a picture of your dream house to remind you that homeownership is in your future or creating a whole board of how you envision your life after paying off your debt. However you do it, actually seeing pictures and representations of your goal can help “keep your eye on the prize”. 

 

Debt Payment Charts

If you are more motivated by the amount of debt paid, use a debt-payment chart to show your progress. You can do this by drawing out boxes to represent amounts of your debt and shading in when you reach that milestone. You can also do a simple search online to find free debt-free charts to use.  

 

Reward Yourself

Be sure to reward yourself, but do it in moderation so you don’t undo your progress. When you meet a milestone of paying off your debt, reward yourself with a little something special. For example: Set a goal that every time you pay down your debt by 20% you buy a purchase you’ve been eyeing under $100. This will help you feel like you are still able to buy things you enjoy while making progress on your debt paying journey.  

 

Are you looking to pay your student loan debt off quicker? Check into refinancing your student loans. Refinancing can be beneficial for many borrowers because it can help you save in interest costs and pay your loans off faster. Use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator to see what you could be saving.* 

 

Bottom Line

Paying off student loan debt may be a stressful journey at times, but once you establish your why for wanting to pay off the debt, you will feel motivated to keep going during the tough times. Accomplishing your goal of paying off student loans will allow you to feel free from the debt and help you get closer to the other goals you have planned. You can do it!

 


 

*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.

How to Budget for Wedding Season Without Breaking the Bank

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It’s no surprise that planning a wedding is expensive, with the average cost of a wedding in the United States hovering around $25,000. Slightly more surprising, however, is the cost of attending a wedding. From hotel expenses for out-of-town guests to attire for the wedding party, guest expenses average between $400 and $1,000.

 

With that in mind, it’s important to be proactive about maintaining your budget, especially during peak wedding season, if you’re planning to attend several events. Here are a few tips on how to budget for wedding season without breaking the bank.

 

Plan ahead

The best way to keep costs down is always to plan ahead. During the summer, experts recommend buying plane tickets 47 days in advance to get the best possible airfare prices. On the other hand, waiting until the last minute means you’ll pay premium prices. Buying tickets within 6 days of your flight costs an average of $208 dollars more. Even the week before that, you’ll pay an extra $100.

 

Hotels are slightly different from airlines in that they tend to reward late booking. Those who book within the last 6 days tend to save around 15%. That said, it’s important to keep a few things in mind when booking your stay. For example, experts claim the best days for booking hotels are during the weekend, and the worst days are during the week. Plan your search accordingly, and if possible check in on a Sunday, when prices are the lowest.

 

If you have an important role in the wedding, however, be sure not to book too late, or you may miss the opportunity to find a hotel with easy access to the venue.

 

Budget

As expenses begin to add up, you may wonder how to budget for a wedding. Account for basic expenses ahead of time, like how many meals you’ll eat on-the-go or any fuel refills your trip will require, especially if you’re traveling out of town. If you plan to take part in any pre-wedding activities, like hair or nail appointments, be sure to keep those in mind, as well. When budgeting, leave yourself some leeway, in case you find yourself doing things you hadn’t planned for.

 

There are a number of fantastic budgeting apps that can make this easy, allowing you to categorize expenses and manage your money. Also, some banks offer temporary, specialty savings accounts that prevent you from withdrawing money before a specific date. These are great budgeting tools for event-specific expenses.

 

Sticking to a budget during wedding season is a fantastic way to ensure you’ll enjoy your trip and have the flexibility to participate in a few fun activities, but also to avoid breaking the bank when attending each person’s special day. If you have a busy wedding season coming up, now is the time to begin considering your wedding season budget, so you can be prepared for every “I do.”

 

Find deals on gifts

While it’s fun to choose a wedding gift the couple will enjoy for many years, there’s no reason to break the bank while shopping the registry.

 

Keep an eye on stores where the couple is registered well in advance, then, as gifts go on sale, you’ll be able to pick them up at a slight discount. If you give yourself enough time, you should be able to find discounts on a number of things that are on the wedding registry, and the couple will still enjoy them as much as if you had paid full price.

 

Retailers like Amazon and Target have regular sales, meaning it’s only a matter of time before the things you’re looking for are discounted. If you’re still a student, also consider looking into student discounts. Hundreds of retailers offer them.

 

If you take your time looking for gifts, keep an eye out for sales and start your shopping early, both your wallet and the happy couple will be thrilled with your purchase.  

 

Rent or borrow an outfit

Let’s be honest. Nobody is going to remember what you wore to the last wedding, so if you need to save a few dollars, this is the perfect way to do it. If you do want to show off a new style for the special occasion, consider renting an outfit or even borrowing one from a friend. That way you don’t end up with clothing you’re unlikely to wear more than once.

 

Recycling your special occasion outfits will be a huge help in keeping your peak wedding season finances on track. As a bonus, renting or borrowing will make your wedding day outfit both budget- and environment-friendly.

 

Don’t be afraid to say no

If you truly cannot afford to attend a wedding, don’t go. Just make sure to let them know you won’t be attending, send a nice card, and maybe even a gift. Show your appreciation for the invitation regardless; make sure they understand that you’d like to be there. If your reaction is polite and friendly, they will certainly appreciate it.

 

Your financial situation is important, and if attending a wedding will put you in dire straits, your close friends will understand your having to decline, as unfortunate as it may be.

 

In many ways, all of these tips can be summed up into two: plan ahead and keep your wedding season budget in mind. Don’t put these things off until the last minute whenever possible, because it may make the process more stressful and expensive. Be sure to have fun and enjoy celebrating people you care about during the happiest moments of their lives. What could be better?

 

If you’re the one getting married, we have even more tips and tricks for making your wedding day special and budget-friendly. You can find them 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.

7 Ways to Put Your Good Credit Score to Work

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If you have been paying your bills on time and have achieved a high credit score, congratulations! A high credit score opens up many options that can help in both your financial and personal lives. Now that you have a good credit score, here are seven ways to put it to work for you.

 

What is a Good Credit Score?

A credit score is a three-digit number that lenders use to determine how much of a risk it is to lend money to that person. There are two major types of credit scores, a FICO credit score and a VantageScore. Lenders can use either score, although a FICO score is used by 90% of the top lenders. A credit score can range from 300 to 850. A good credit score is considered to be in the range of 670 to 739. According to Experian, one of the credit bureaus that calculates scores, the average FICO score in 2019 was 703.

 

What Can a Good Credit Score Do for You?

When you have a good credit score, there are many benefits you can take advantage of to help improve your finances and that affect your personal life. Here are some examples of how you can put your good score to work for you:

 

Help Qualify for Credit Cards and Loans

When you apply for credit cards or loans, like student loans, mortgage or car loan, the lender pulls your credit report and score to determine your creditworthiness. A good credit score will help you qualify for credit cards or loans. With a strong credit score, you can qualify for sought-after credit cards that offer rewards and benefits. With a low credit score, you may not even qualify to obtain credit.

 

Save You Money in Interest

If your credit score allows you to qualify for a credit card or loan, a good credit score can help you qualify for a lower interest rate, thereby saving you money. This can help advance your financial future because if you save money in interest costs you can put those savings towards other financial goals, like retirement or an emergency fund.

 

Qualify for Housing

A credit score doesn’t just affect you when you are trying to take out a loan, it can also affect your personal life by determining whether you will be approved for rental houses or apartments. Landlords may look at your score to determine whether you may be at risk of not paying rent. A good score makes you more likely to be approved for housing.

 

Avoid Security Deposits: When you have a good credit score, you can use it to your advantage by not having to pay some security deposits or paying a reduced security deposit. This can come into play with utility companies, like electric and water companies, as well as with cable and internet companies. With a lower credit score, you may have to pay a high security deposit when you are signing up for utilities. A higher credit score leads to more savings!

 

Help Get a New Cell Phone

If you are looking to get a new cell phone, but won’t be paying for it outright, you may need to lease a phone. Some carriers will require a good credit score to qualify for a lease plan on a new cell phone. Otherwise, you may have to pay the entire cost up front or choose a different phone.

 

Qualify for Refinancing

If you want to refinance your mortgage or student loans, having a good credit score can help you qualify and obtain a lower interest rate. Refinancing can help decrease your monthly costs, as well as your interest costs over the life of the loan.

 

More Options from Different Lenders

With a high credit score, you will be able to qualify with many different lenders when you are trying to obtain a loan. Having many different lenders willing to work with you enables you to obtain the lowest interest rate and best terms. With a lower credit score, you may qualify with fewer lenders and would be forced to use lenders that offer less than ideal rates and terms.

 

How to Improve Your Score

A credit score is determined by information in your credit report, such as your payment history, whether you make late or on-time payments, how much debt you have and how much available credit you have. If your credit score isn’t where you want it to be, here are a few ways to improve it:

 

Pay your bills on time every month.

A major part of your score is based on the consistency of your payments. If you don’t have a budget, create one to make sure all your payments can be made.

 

Pay down debt.

The next major factor in determining a credit score is the amount of outstanding debt. Try to pay down your balances to keep the debt amount low.

Do not apply for a lot of credit.

Every time you apply for credit it causes an “inquiry” on your report. All inquiries for the past 12 months are shown. A lot of inquiries can raise a red flag that a person needs credit and would have a difficult time paying it back.

 

Do not close long-standing accounts that are in good credit.

Some of your score is based on the length of your credit history. A longer credit history can help improve your score.

Having a good credit score can help you in the future, whether with financial aspects or your personal life. If your credit score is negatively affecting you, follow the above steps to improve it. And if you have a high credit score, put it to good use and keep up the good work!

 


 

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.

10 DIY Projects to Consider When Working From Home

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Since it seems like work-from-home life is here to stay, it’s best to focus on positive ways to be productive. Your commute is shorter, you save on gas, you save on insurance and you can finally get around to some DIY projects! Maybe even some of which you’ve been putting off for a long time. How exciting!

 

We’ve come up with a few DIY projects you can embark on, from the grotesquely boring to the enjoyable, which should make your work-from-home experience a little more enjoyable.

 

Plant an Herb Garden

Planting an herb garden is not only satisfying; it’s also incredibly useful! Plants like basil grow easily in hot weather and provide you with lots of fresh ingredients. Best of all, many of these herbs grow in just a few weeks, making them perfect for the impatient chef.

 

If you’re not planning on growing your herbs from seeds, buying pre-potted herbs is a great way to enjoy the same herb garden experience. You can easily plant them in the ground or move them to larger pots when you need to. As a bonus, you’ll have a few herbs to use immediately.

 

Paint Your Baseboards

While it may sound a little boring, painting your baseboards is is an incredibly easy way to make your house or apartment look nicer. Use painter’s tape to ensure that paint doesn’t spill over onto the walls, and you should be good to go. For more information, check out this in-depth guide.

 

Paint an Accent Wall

Accent walls are a great way to make your space look larger, which if you have a small house or apartment, is a huge benefit. They also provide an easy way to add some panache to a room.

 

An accent wall is a great way to showcase a striking painting and other features of your room. Best of all, it’s only one wall. It’s all too easy to embark on a full room-painting odyssey only to find that it’s far more work than you thought. The accent wall, by comparison, is quick and easy, and if it turns out you don’t like it, it’s easy to repaint.

 

Bring Some Green Inside

If your work-from-home space is looking dull, plants are the perfect way to brighten things up. First, they look great in a wide variety of interiors. Second, they provide several health benefits, which include making you happier, helping with stress, and even boosting productivity. Just make sure you put them in a place where they’ll get plenty of sun.

 

A great alternative to traditional greenery is succulents. They provide a lower-maintenance way to enjoy the same plant experience. Many succulents only need watering on occasion, and as long as they have sun, they tend to thrive.

 

Change Your Knobs

If all you have is a screwdriver, you’re in luck. With that one handy tool, you can change all the knobs on your drawers, door or wherever you please!

 

Spruce up those plain white knobs with color, and maybe even some designs. Just make sure you choose knobs that match the holes you already have. Other than that, the world is your oyster – or rather – knob.

 

Build a Backyard Pond

This is a big project, but ultimately, one of the most satisfying. Fortunately, in exchange for the hard work, you will have something to be proud of for the rest of your life. As a bonus, your pond will attract wildlife to liven up your yard. The best news is, while building a pond may be a lot of work, it isn’t particularly difficult, and with the proper supplies, you’ll be watching the fish swim in no time.

 

Make Some Ice Cream

Up to this point, you’ve been working hard. How about a break? And what better way to do that than with some easy, shake-up ice cream.

 

All it takes is heavy cream, salt, vanilla extract, and granulated sugar. Put the ingredients in a mason jar. Shake the jar until the cream thickens, then put the jar in the freezer for 3 hours (the perfect amount of time to say, paint some baseboards). When you come back, you’ll have ice cream ready to eat!

 

Build a Chair

When you’re sitting by your pond eating a fresh, mint ice cream, you’ll want to sit in style. So why not put together a custom chair? It’s easier than it sounds. In a couple of hours, with only a drill and a circular saw, you’ve got a handmade chair. Whenever you look outside, you’ll be astounded by your own craftsmanship.

 

Build Some Cornhole Boards

At this point, you’re probably tired of losing to your arch-rival in cornhole. You know who we mean. This is the person with the spin in their throw, who sinks a bag every toss. It’s time to get training! Build yourself a cornhole board to get started.

 

Not only will your board be durable, but your opponents will also be intimidated knowing that the playing field is one you’ve created with your own two hands. As a bonus, you’ll have something to do while on conference calls. Just have an excuse ready for the noise. Although if you’re good enough, there should be next to no noise at all!

 

Add Some Smart Light Bulbs

With a couple of Smart Light Bulbs, your home will be transformed. You can toss your flickering yellow light bulb and replace it with colorful lighting for any mood. Whether you’re looking to feel cozy at night or productive in the morning, the right lighting is imperative in making sure that you are enjoying your every moment in your work-from-home space.

 

Smart Light Bulbs are also cheaper than ever, which means now is the time to take control of your lighting.

 

Build a Boat

Here’s a not so easy DIY project for those extra savvy builders. Build a boat. Not just any old rowboat, but a speedboat from the 1960s.

 

Built in the same style as the boat speed record-holders, this boat is no slouch, and with the right motor, it will soar across any body of water. Just don’t forget to read the diagrams and wear a life vest and safety helmet.

 

You may be stuck at home, but take this opportunity to be productive! Use any number of DIY projects to fill some of the time you’ve saved by skipping the commute every day. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done. If you’re looking for some other things to do at home, maybe some that are more fun than painting the baseboards, check out this article.

 


 

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.

How to Ask Your Employer to Help Pay Student Debt

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These days, employers offer all kinds of benefits to keep employees, from kombucha on tap and innovative new office spaces to ping pong tables and video game rooms. The list of benefits seems to grow all the time.

 

When you think about it, though, how much do you really need that kombucha on tap? Instead, what many graduates need is help with their ever-mounting student loans. In combination with other methods of dealing with student loan debt, employers can play a valuable role in ensuring their employees’ financial stability.

 

Additionally, a recent amendment to the CARES Act allows employers to contribute up to $5,250 to their employees’ student loans, entirely tax-free, through the end of this year. If you’re an employee considering asking for loan assistance or an employer thinking about adding this type of benefit to your portfolio, this is the perfect time to make the leap.

 

While not all loans qualify, as a rule of thumb, most loans that are eligible for federal deferment under the CARES Act are also eligible for tax-free employer contributions. This is a huge benefit for employees, as an employer contribution not only lowers the principal amount owed, but also the lifetime interest they will be required to repay.

 

If you’re an employer, take a look at our ELFI for Business platform to learn about the benefits of offering student loan assistance to your employees. If you’re an employee seeking this type of assistance, then read on, because in this blog we’ll cover several ways your employer may be willing to help you tackle your student loan debt.

 

Financial Education

Employers have begun to understand that their own financial success is tied to the financial success of their employees. As a result, some employers have begun to offer financial education opportunities.

 

These opportunities come in many forms, including workshops, webinars and even counseling. While many employees already have a firm grasp on financial concepts, these programs can still be incredibly beneficial to those weighed down by student debt as they often cover lesser-known tactics and reinforce familiar strategies.

 

Student Loan Repayment Signing Bonuses

Another method of helping employees with student debt is the signing bonus. For example, some companies offer $1,000 towards student loans for new hires. This $1000 can drastically reduce the amount graduates pay in interest over the life of their student loans and is an effective way for companies to hire and keep dedicated, hardworking employees.

 

Employer Repayment

The most exciting benefit employers are beginning to adopt is direct assistance with student loans. Now, in addition to savvy fiscal advice, some companies are backing up their support with dollars and cents.

 

A few companies now offer yearly bonuses to help pay back student loans. One of the most generous of these companies is Nvidia. Employees earn $6,000 a year towards their student loans up to a $30,000 maximum. Several companies offer comparable or lower amounts. Regardless of the repayment amounts, this innovative strategy provides a new way to fight back against student debt.

 

A variation of this policy is occasionally used, as well. In this variation, employees who don’t take their PTO can trade their PTO days for student loan assistance. With many in the United States not taking their PTO days anyway, this is a compelling option for student loan borrowers.

 

Contributions to 401(k) Plans

It may seem strange for 401(k) contributions to go hand-in-hand with paying off student debt. You might even expect to have to choose between them.

 

If you’re employed by Abbott Laboratories, though, you don’t have to choose. Employees who contribute at least 2% of their pay toward student loans are eligible for the full 5% employer matching in their 401(k), even if they do not otherwise contribute to their 401(k). Abbott Laboratories is the first company to offer this incentive to help employees to pay off student debt, and hopefully many companies will follow in their footsteps.

 

Sadly, these types of programs are not as commonly offered as they should be, but that isn’t necessarily bad news for you.

 

If student loan assistance programs are something that you would like to see at your company, then make an appointment to speak with either your boss or to human resources. In this day and age, the competition for the best employees is fierce, and employers are always looking for ways to keep employees happy. In some cases, it may even be cheaper than a raise.

 

It’s also worth mentioning your interest in such programs while negotiating your salary and benefits package for a new job. They may include it as an additional benefit.

 

If your employer already provides these benefits, that’s fantastic! You’re already one step closer to being unburdened by student debt. If you’re curious about how to finish the job and free yourself from student debt completely, one great way to do that is Student Loan Refinancing. You can learn more 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.

Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, and More: Getting the Most Out of Student Discounts

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Student life can be expensive, but the good news is, most businesses are aware of that. Many provide college student discounts and special offers.

 

With the new school year rapidly approaching, now is the time to take advantage of the many deals available to you. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of student discounts to help you save some money during college.

 

Music Streaming Services

If you’re into streaming music, you’re in luck. Many music streaming services provide large discounts to students. Apple Music, Spotify, Youtube Music, and Tidal all offer 50% discounts to students for up to eight semesters. Some subscriptions even offer additional benefits, for example, Spotify provides student members with access to both Hulu and Showtime.

 

Apple

Apple is currently offering a variety of back to school deals for students or and teachers. Qualifying product purchases, including many models of MacBooks and iPads, come with a free pair of AirPods.

 

Amazon

Let’s be honest. We all love two-day free shipping. What a wonderful feeling it is to order something and have it delivered to your door in what feels like no time. The good news is, Amazon offers a Prime Student discount. After a six-month free trial, students can access Amazon Prime for $59 a year.

 

In addition to two-day free shipping, a prime student membership includes access to Prime Video and Amazon Prime Music. Canceling a membership is easy, so even if you don’t choose to pay for the membership, it’s worth taking advantage of the six-month free trial.

 

Best Buy and Other Tech Retailers

If you’re on the market for some new tech, don’t miss Best Buy’s student discount program. From TVs to TI-84s, Best Buy offers student discounts on a variety of products. A number of other tech retailers, including Logitech and Lenovo, also offer student discounts.

 

Clothing Retailer Discounts

If you’re a fashion icon, these retailers have your back. JCrew, Banana Republic, TopShop, H&M, and many other clothing retailers offer student discounts of around 10%-15%. Retail discounts will occasionally stack with other promotions, as well. For even better deals, check out your local Goodwill, as they, too, often offer student discounts.

 

Software Discounts

A number of companies provide student discounts on software. For instance, Adobe offers a 60% discount on their Creative Cloud software for students. Github also provides a number of developer tools at discounted student rates. If you’re into producing music, Ableton Live offers a student discount. For note-takers, Evernote offers their premium accounts at a 50% student discount. If you’re not looking to spend any money, check with your college to see if they provide any free software. For example, many colleges provide access to Creative Cloud programs and the Microsoft office suite, accessible through your .edu email.

 

News Sites

Several newspapers offer student discounts for current college students. The New York Times offers a discounted plan for students at $1.00 a week, which includes online access to the newspaper’s complete archives and articles. The Wall Street Journal offers a comparable student discount for digital access to the newspaper, and an additional option at $10 a month to receive a print copy of the newspaper six days a week.

 

Service Discounts

When you think of service discounts, senior discounts often come to mind. Several service-based industries, however, also offer student discounts. Many museums offer free or reduced admission to students. Several movie theater chains such as Regal and Cinemark also offer student discounts.

 

If you’ve caught the travel bug, don’t forget to keep an eye out for travel discounts. Amtrak, for example, offers regional student discounts. Greyhound has a similar program, offering 20% discounts to students. Student airfare is even up for grabs, so make sure to check with your airline before you buy your tickets.

 

Car Insurance Discounts

It’s no secret that car insurance is expensive for young people. Fortunately, many car insurance providers offer student discounts to help balance some of that cost. These discounts vary by provider, but often include discounts for good grades.

 

If you participate in any campus-sponsored activities, keep an eye out for organization-based discounts. For instance, Geico offers discounts to members of some fraternities, sororities, and honors societies.

 

Cell Phone Plan Discounts

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all offer special student pricing. Several of them also offer student phone discounts. However, these discounts vary, so it’s best to check with your cell service provider and university to find out what discounts are available for students.

 

UNiDAYS

UNiDAYS is a great website for finding college student discounts on almost anything. It functions as a platform that shows student discounts as well as verifies the student. It makes it easy to apply student discounts to wherever you shop regularly.

 

By no means is this a conclusive list of all student discounts. If you’re curious whether a place you frequent offers student savings, the best thing you can do is ask. The discounts add up over time, so take advantage of them whenever you can.

 

If you’ve already graduated and you’re looking to save a little money, you may be out of luck on the student discount front. However, there are other ways to save money after graduation. One such option is refinancing student loan debt. Check out your student loan refinance options with ELFI.*

 


 

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.

 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

Top Finance Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

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Buying a new house can be a daunting experience. From getting prequalified, finding the right house, being approved, to coming up with the necessary funds, the whole experience can feel a bit overwhelming. Have no fear – here are ELFI’s top tips for first-time homebuyers to overcome the challenge.

 

Make a Budget

Deciding on a budget before you start shopping will help you choose a home you love that falls within your price range. In building a budget, be sure to consider your total income, as well as necessary expenses like utilities, food, and gas you’ll incur each month in addition to housing costs. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to keep the cost of your mortgage below 25% of your take-home pay.

 

Maintaining a budget is a great way to continue to meet other financial goals, like paying down student loans, saving for a car, or building an emergency fund, while searching for your dream home. If you’re not sure where to start, SouthEast Bank’s fixed and adjustable-rate mortgage calculators can help you determine your initial budget and launch a successful house hunt!

 

Here’s an extra tip. Don’t forget to include closing costs in your final total! Many first-time homebuyers make this mistake and find themselves over-budget at the end of the transaction. Average closing costs fall between 2-5% of the total cost of the home. In some situations, the seller may agree to cover the closing costs, so be sure to consider including that in your home offer as well.

 

Boost Your Credit Score

When you’re considering buying a home, give yourself every advantage by keeping your credit score in great shape. If your credit could use a little extra help, try these tips to polish your score:

  • Make bill payments on time. Late payments are a credit score’s worst enemy, as payment history is the most heavily weighted category in determining your score. Set reminders in your phone, leave yourself sticky notes, and do whatever it takes to get those payments submitted by their deadlines!
  • Slow down the spending. Hitting your credit limit can also damage your score, so be careful to use different forms of payment, like cash or debit, or cut down on unnecessary spending.
  • Don’t close that card. Closing lines of credit can be damaging to your score, even if they’re linked to cards you rarely or never use. Instead, put your card in a safe place and use it for occasional transactions, or set it up on autopay for a small monthly expense. If you do need to cancel the card, take these steps from U.S. News to avoid significantly dropping your credit score.

If you found this advice helpful and you’d like to take a deeper dive into your credit score, check out ELFI’s blog, “How to Build Credit: A Beginner’s Guide.”

 

Understand Your Mortgage

Buying a house is a big decision, but understanding your mortgage will give you the confidence to take the next steps in finding your perfect home! Here are a few ways to determine which mortgage loan is right for you:

  • Choose a mortgage term that fits your budget. Mortgages generally have terms of 15, 20, or 30 years, meaning the length of time it takes to repay them.
    • If your goal is to keep your monthly payment low, then opt for a longer-term loan, which will allow you to make smaller payments over time. While long-term loans are great for lowering your monthly payment, however, they increase the number of total payments and result in more interest than short-term mortgages.
    • On the reverse side, short-term mortgages have higher monthly payments but less total interest. Either way, the important decision is choosing the term that allows you to remain within your budget and keep your financial goals on track!
  • Find the right mortgage lender. All too often, first-time homebuyers make the mistake of stopping their mortgage search after being approved by one lender. Instead, take the time to reach out to multiple lenders and determine who can offer the best rate. By being selective, you could save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.
  • Get preapproved by your top lenders. After you’ve decided which lenders you’re most interested in working with, show sellers you’re serious by getting preapproved for a loan. A preapproval letter shows that a lender has researched your credit and financial history and determined they’d be willing to offer you a mortgage loan.

 

Choose the Right Insurance

Once you’ve built your budget, boosted your score, and finished your mortgage research, it’s time to close on your dream home!

 

As part of the closing process, you’ll be required to purchase homeowners insurance. Like mortgage lenders, several companies offer homeowners insurance with different rates and benefits. Take the time to research which insurance plan is right for you to ensure you’re receiving the best protection.

 

If you could use some expert help, reach out to SouthEast Insurance Services1. Their experienced representatives can compare rates from more than 40 major lenders to be sure you’re getting the most for your money. Visit them here to learn more to receive a complimentary, no-obligation quote.

 

Congratulations! You’ve done your research and found a dream home within your budget. With our first-time house hunter tips, you’ve also built your credit and received competitive rates on your mortgage and insurance. Now, it’s time to enjoy the home you’ve worked so hard for.

 

At ELFI, we’re proud to support your financial goals and are here to help you along every step of the way. Check back soon for new blog posts, and happy house hunting!

 


 

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.

 

1SouthEast Insurance Services Products

  • are not a deposit
  • are not FDIC-insured
  • are not insured by any federal government agency
  • are not guaranteed by the bank
  • may go down in value

 

Insurance products are not insured by FDIC or any Federal Government Agency; are not a deposit of, or guaranteed by the Bank or any Bank Affiliate; and may lose value. Any insurance required as a condition of the extension of credit by SouthEast Bank need not be purchased from our Agency but may, without affecting the approval of the application for an extension of credit, be purchased from an agent or insurance company of the customer’s choice.