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Personal Finance (Blog or Resources)

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.

Using the COVID-19 Pandemic to Get Your Finances in Order

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This has been a challenging year in many ways. Despite the challenges, however, many people are doing their best to make the most of a difficult situation by accomplishing goals during their time at home.

 

If you have some extra downtime, this could be the perfect opportunity to work toward your financial goals! If you’re ready to get your finances in order, here are a few suggestions to get you started:

 

Save for an emergency fund

There’s no way to avoid all of life’s accidents, but you can be prepared for them. Saving for an emergency fund means intentionally setting aside a percentage of your income for necessary expenses in case of unexpected expenses.

 

Emergency funds are meant to cover absolute must-haves, like food and housing, rather than entertainment-based expenses like vacations and dining out. While it’s fantastic to save toward those things, too, you should first set aside money for your emergency fund, then focus on secondary expenses.

 

It’s common to save a $1,000 emergency fund at first, then to work toward an emergency fund totaling six months’ necessity expenses. Reaching a full emergency fund is an incredible accomplishment, and also means you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing you’ll be taken care of if the unexpected happens.

 

Cut back on spending

Focus on eating at home

With almost half of the United States now working from home, it’s easier than ever to avoid the drive-thru at mealtime. If you’re working from home, this is the perfect time to practice cooking your meals. To take it a step further, you could even try meal prepping!

 

Preparing a meal at home costs, on average, about $4. Compared to the average cost of eating out at $13 per meal, food savings top $180 weekly if you’re eating three meals per day. Cutting back on the cost of dining out is a great way to lower your regular expenses and to get your finances in order.

 

Save on travel expenses

Whether or not you’re working from home, travel options are limited as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consolidating your errands into one trip and limiting unnecessary miles on your car are both great ways to save a little more during this time.

 

If you are working from home, what a fantastic opportunity for savings! Instead of spending the money that you’re saving on work travel elsewhere, consider making progress toward a specific financial goal or even adding to your emergency fund.

 

Learn a few simple home repairs

If you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, especially time at home, why not learn a few do-it-yourself repairs? Even if you don’t need to update your home right now, you could save a significant amount in the future by knowing how to make minor adjustments yourself.

 

From instructions on installing a faucet to fixing a broken drawer, the Home Depot has a number of DIY home project guides on their website to get you started. Best of all, the guides are free and offer step-by-step instructions for first-time fixes.

 

Use your extra time wisely

Improve your credit score

Improving your credit score is a fantastic way to get your finances in order. Even though you can’t boost your credit score overnight, you can make a few smart money moves right now that will put you on the right track.

 

Paying your bills on time is the most effective way to keep your credit score high. While you have a little extra time at home, look to see if your bank offers an automatic bill pay option. Automatic bill pay is a phenomenal way to set up your payment schedule, then let it take care of itself. This is especially useful for regular monthly expenses like rent, mortgage, car and utility payments.

 

Even if you prefer to handle your payments manually, create a payment schedule by setting reminders for important dates. With This will help you to stay on top of important expenses, and you can enjoy the benefits of having a strong credit score.

 

Make some extra cash

Boredom can be a catalyst for creativity. If you like to play the piano, consider making a little extra money by teaching beginner piano lessons. If you enjoy shopping, try bringing in some side income by delivering for Instacart, DoorDash or a similar service. Now could be the perfect time to turn your hobby or favorite activity into a side business.

 

What to do if you’re struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic

Reach out to your lenders

The COVID-19 pandemic has, unfortunately, created financial hardship for many people worldwide. The U.S. unemployment rate hit an unparalleled high of 14.7% in April, leaving many families without the financial resources for necessities like rent and groceries.

 

If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation resulting from COVID-19, speak with your lenders and landlords to discuss a mutually beneficial solution. Many businesses have deferred monthly payments, and the federal government has suspended interest on student loans for the remainder of the year.

 

We understand how difficult it can be to navigate this time. If you’re an ELFI customer in need of assistance, our expert Personal Loan Advisors are available to discuss your financial situation.

 

Prioritize the necessities

If the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted your financial situation, make the most of your income by temporarily limiting unnecessary spending. From eating at home when possible to enjoying free or cheap recreational activities, these short-term sacrifices may better your long-term financial health.

 

If you need a few ideas for a few at-home activities that are also budget-friendly, check out our list of ideas here.

 

Check for forgotten expenses

If you’ve tried everything but your expenses still feel overwhelming, one way to get your finances in order is by making sure you’ve canceled all the monthly or automatic payments for services you no longer use.

 

Check your credit card bill to see if you’re making automatic payments on anything you may have forgotten. This can be everything from streaming services you no longer use to app renewals you’re still being charged for. Even a few dollars each month can add up if you’re unwittingly paying for several unused services.

 

Additionally, take stock of your utility bills to see if your expenses have been slowly climbing. If your utility costs have grown significantly, discuss the expenses with your provider. If you can’t come to a resolution, consider exploring other options to see what might be available!

 

Finally, student loan refinancing can be an effective way to lower the interest and extend the term on your current student loan payment. If you’d like to decrease the amount you’re paying each month, determine whether student loan refinancing might be the right fit for you.

 


 

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 Actions to Take Before Your Grace Period Ends

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Congratulations! You graduated from college and have hopefully settled into the start of your career. If it has been almost 6 months since your graduation, it’s most likely your student loan grace period is nearing the end if you have federal student loans. Are you prepared for when your grace period ends? Luckily we have some actions you can take to prepare.   

 

If you have federal student loans, there is a six month grace period before you have to begin making payments after you graduate, leave school or drop below a half-time student. Not all federal student loans have a grace period. The loans that do include: direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized. PLUS loans for graduate school have a six month deferment period after graduation where payments are not required. Some private student loans also have a grace period but it may not be six months. Be sure to check with your lender to determine if any grace period exists. 

 

Actions to Take

Here are a few actions you should take before your grace period ends to ensure you are prepared.

 

Determine Your Debts

 

First, it’s important to understand the types of student loans you have. For example, do you have private or federal loans? If you have federal student loans, you’ll need to determine whether you have subsidized or unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans mean the U.S. Department of Education will pay the interest on the loan during the grace period for most loans. (Note: If you have a direct subsidized loan that was disbursed between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2014, you are responsible for the interest during the grace period.) If you have a Direct Unsubsidized loan you will always be responsible for the interest, even the interest accruing during the grace period. This means that if you don’t need the grace period you may want to think about at least paying the interest on the loan. 

 

Be sure to take stock of your other debts, such as a car loan or credit card payments, and their minimum payments.

 

Make a Budget

Determine a budget that includes your new student loan payment and all other debt payments. Once you determine your budget, start following it before your grace period ends. The money budgeted for your student loan can be put aside to use as an emergency fund. Or use the money you saved during the grace period to make a principal-only payment to get ahead on your repayment.  

 

Set Up Auto-Pay 

Another great action to take during your grace period is setting up auto-pay through your loan servicer. Setting up auto-pay will ensure your student loan payment is always made on time. Another great benefit of using the auto-pay feature is that federal student loans are given a 0.25% interest rate reduction. Some private student loan lenders also provide a discount for auto-pay so check with your lender if any discount is available. 

 

Establish a Debt Repayment Plan

Your grace period is a great time to establish a student loan debt repayment plan. A debt repayment plan will help you decide exactly how you will pay off your debts. There are two main types of student loan debt repayment plans, the snowball method, and the avalanche method. You have to decide which method would work better for your financial situation and motivation. Either method will be helpful if you have multiple student loans or other debts to pay off. Once you decide on your method, you will know how to allocate any extra money you have in your budget for debt repayment. When it comes time for your grace period to end you will be more than ready to start paying down your loans efficiently! 

 

Research Repayment Options

  1. If you have multiple student loans you can pay each loan, keeping track of each loan individually and their due dates. 
  2. Another option is to consolidate your federal loans into one loan. The average interest rate of the consolidated loans becomes the fixed interest rate on the new consolidated loan. This is consolidating your federal loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan through the U.S. Department of Education.  
  3. Refinance student loans. Once you start getting your finances in order you may realize your student loan payment is not going to fit in your budget or has a much higher interest rate then what is available now. That’s where refinancing your student loans can help. Refinancing your student loans means you will borrow a new private student loan to pay off any previous student loans (including federal and other private student loans). Refinancing can save you money because interest rates can be much lower than for federal loans. A lower interest rate means you are saving money in interest costs monthly and over the life of the loan. To find out how much you could save use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator.*

 

Learn About Borrower Protections and Programs

When you have federal student loans you are provided benefits that are not always provided by private student loan lenders. The grace period of your loans is a good time to find out about any federal borrower protections you may want to use in the future, such as deferment and forbearance for your loans. Also, if you work for a non-profit or government agency, your loans may qualify for forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. During the grace period, it is helpful to learn about the requirements for the program so when your payments begin you can be sure they qualify under the specific rules of the program.  

 

Learn About the Repayment Plans

If you are shocked by what your monthly payment will be on the standard repayment plan, check into the other student loan repayment plans provided for by the U.S. Department of Education. Certain loans are eligible for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan, where your payment will be based on your income. Or you can elect to have your loans on the Graduated Repayment Plan that will extend your loan term to provide for a smaller monthly payment. However, keep in mind that you will end up paying more interest over the loan term. 

 

The Bottom Line

Taking these actions will help you be prepared for the end of your grace period. You are already a step ahead by thinking about this now. This preparation will start you off on a bright financial future knocking out your student loans. Good luck!

 


 

*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.

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.

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.

8 Apps That Can Help You Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster

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Over the past few decades, student loan debt has skyrocketed. That’s no secret. Fortunately, at the same time, hundreds of tools have been created to help make paying off student debt easier and faster. Many of them can be accessed entirely through your phone, turning student loan relief into a mobile, accessible service. We’ve compiled a list of several apps that can help you pay off your student loans. Take a look:

 

Mint

There are dozens of fantastic budgeting apps, and Mint is among the best. It allows you to track and plan for expenses by providing easy access to statistics and other information about your spending.

 

How does this pertain to student loans? The answer is simple. Proper budgeting and paying off student loans go hand in hand. Being able to set aside portions of your income every month for your student loan payments is key to successful financial management. Plus, by looking at your budget and determining where you can cut spending, you’ll be able to put more money toward your student loan payments, allowing you to become debt-free faster.

 

EveryDollar

Created by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey and his team, EveryDollar is another great budgeting application. Designed to be simple and efficient, EveryDollar is a very effective budgeting tool. As with Mint, maintaining a budget is key to every quick student loan payoff. EveryDollar is best used to identify where you can spend less money in order to reallocate that money to your student loan payments, and with all the information laid out in front of you, it’s hard not to see where you can make some improvements.

 

ChangEd

Built by two individuals who struggled to pay off their student loans, ChangEd is an app that links to your credit and debit cards. When you make a purchase with those cards, ChangEd rounds up to the nearest dollar, taking that change and sending it straight to your student loan provider when you reach a minimum threshold. While seemingly a small amount, this extra change adds up. It’s more money going directly to your student loan payments. Who would turn that down?

 

Qoins

Qoins functions very similarly to ChangEd. You connect your credit and debit cards, and after every purchase, Qoins will round up and send that money to your student loan provider. The difference between Qoins and ChangEd: there’s no minimum threshold to reach, all the extra money goes straight to your loan provider. That said, it charges a higher monthly fee than ChangEd to do this.

 

Undebt.it

Undebt.it is a handy app that allows you to track all your debt in one place, then it provides a plan to help you pay it off in the most efficient way possible. One way is the ever-popular debt snowball method, where you pay off all of your smallest loans first, but you can also choose from a variety of repayment strategies. You can choose whichever works best for you. One highlight is the app’s ability to show what a difference an extra payment makes.

 

Debt Payoff Assistant

Debt Payoff Assistant is a debt tracker focused mostly on the debt snowball method. Input each of your debts, student debt especially, and a unique debt repayment plan is generated. The app offers great utility, with several built-in calculators, as well as the ability to view a payoff schedule, estimated payoff dates and more.

 

Givling

Givling is a quirky way to deal with student debt faster. Twice a day, Givling hosts a trivia contest via their app. Winners earn a cash prize, and as one plays more, they help to crowdfund future giveaways and prizes. So if you’re good at trivia, this could be your chance to tackle some student debt. If you aren’t good, you’re still helping to pay off someone else’s student loans. That said, the odds are against you winning big through Givling, and it’s definitely better to consider it a fun diversion rather than a serious solution for dealing with student debt.

 

Google Opinion Rewards

A little like a side hustle, Google Opinion Rewards and other survey-for-pay websites are a different way to deal with student debt. When you complete a survey, you will receive a very small reward, but the rewards add up over time. It’s a great way to fill short periods with nothing to do. You can easily earn a little pocket change in a waiting room or while waiting for the tea kettle to boil. Put it towards your student loans, and you’ll be well on your way!

 

There are dozens more apps that can help you pay off your student loans, and undoubtedly there will be even more in the coming years. It’s never been easier to get organized and tackle your student loans head on, and with these apps, we hope you’ll get it done in style. If the apps don’t cut it, it may be time to consider student loan refinancing, check it out 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 Benefits of Making Consistent Student Loan Payments

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If you have student loans and consistently make your monthly payment, congratulations! You know how beneficial that can be for your financial health. However, if you are in the habit of skipping student loan payments because you think it won’t affect you, you need to keep reading.

 

Although missing a student loan payment isn’t quite as detrimental as missing a car or mortgage payment, missing student loan payments can have a strong negative impact on your financial future. Still need convincing? Here are four great reasons to continue making consistent student loan payments, and what to do if you’re struggling to make your payments.

 

Benefits of Consistent Student Loan Payments

Whether you have federal student loans or private student loans, there are many benefits to making consistent payments on time. When you make consistent student loan payments, you’re more likely to:

 

Have a Better Credit Score

Your credit score can affect many facets of your life. For example, if you want to buy a car, rent a home or buy a home, your credit score will be reviewed before you’re approved.

 

One of the most important factors in determining a person’s credit score is their payment history. The payment history shows if you miss a payment, and missed payments remain on your credit history for 7 years. So any missed student loan payments could take a significant toll on your credit score, while making consistent payments can help improve your score. A better credit score can:

 

Qualify for a Mortgage, Car Loan or Better Interest Rate

When you apply for a loan, sometimes lenders require a minimum credit score to approve the loan. Even after you are approved for a loan, a higher credit score means a better chance of receiving a lower interest rate. A lower interest rate equates to paying less interest over the life of the loan, saving you money!

 

Qualify for Refinancing

Whether you want to refinance your student loans or your mortgage, having a good credit score can help you qualify for refinancing and a better interest rate.

 

Qualify for Better Credit Card Limits and Rates

Having a strong credit score and good credit history shows lenders you are responsible with credit and making payments. Therefore, when you apply for a credit card, you are more likely to receive a higher credit limit and lower interest rate.

 

Qualify for Rental Housing

Even if you think you will not be taking out any other loans, if you are trying to rent a house or apartment, some locations require a credit report. A low credit score or negative credit history can prevent you from qualifying for certain housing.

 

Save on Interest

When you make consistent payments on your student loans, you will save on interest costs. Interest compounds daily, meaning more interest is added to your loan each day. Some interest accrues based on the principal of the loan (the amount you borrowed), while other loans interest compound based on the total outstanding balance. Therefore, consistently making payments, and making extra payments when you can, will save you from paying more interest.

 

Avoid Late Fees

When you make consistent payments by your due date, you will avoid having to pay any late fees. Saving yourself money that could be put towards your loans!

 

Pay Loans Off Faster

One of the best benefits of making consistent payments is that you can pay your student loans off faster. For example: if you are paid bi-weekly and decide to make half your monthly payment each time, you will ultimately make one extra payment per year.

 

Here is how it works: If you owe $50,000 at 7% interest and have a 20 year loan term, your payment would be approximately $387.65 per month. If this is paid consistently monthly you would end up paying over $43,000 in interest over the 20 years. However, if you divide your payment in half to $193.82 and pay that every two weeks you would pay the loan off 3 years sooner and save over $7,000 in interest.

 

What to Do If You Can’t Make Consistent Payments

If you are worried because you can’t make the payments by your due date, here are some options to try:

 

Switch to a Different Repayment Plan

If you have federal student loans, look into whether a different repayment plan would help make your payment more manageable. Although switching to a longer loan term or income-driven repayment plan will increase the amount of interest you owe in the long term, it’s best to have an affordable payment you can make so you do not default on your loan.

 

Try Refinancing Your Student Loans

Refinancing your student loans is an excellent way to make your loans more affordable and save on interest costs. Refinancing is taking out a new loan to pay off your old student loans. When you apply for a new loan you may qualify for a new lower interest rate, which reduces the amount you’ll pay over the life of the loan. A lower interest rate can also reduce your required monthly payment, making it more budget-friendly. After you refinance, you may also see that it is easier to make more consistent payments, such as bi-weekly, to pay your loan off faster. Use our Student Loan Refinance Calculator to see how much you can save with refinancing.*

 

When you are paying off any type of debt, it’s always best to make consistent payments on time. This will not only keep you in the habit of making payments but will save you money in the long run. Although paying off student loans may seem like a marathon at times, you will reach the end! Keep going because it will literally pay off!

 


 

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 & Conditions apply.

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.

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.