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Creative Ways to Save Money After Graduating from College

May 8, 2016

Graduating from undergraduate, graduate, or professional school is an exciting time. There are parties, celebrations, new jobs, and more. It is hard not to enjoy this time however, there may be one thing – student loan debt. Student loan payments don’t have to be a source of trepidation. There are a variety of income-driven repayment plans for federal loans, or the ability to refinance and potentially lower interest rates and better terms. Today’s graduates are in a great position to be able to focus their energy on advancing careers and enjoying new lifestyles benefitting from flexible loan payment options that align with financial goals.

Along with Education Loan Finance’s potential to help lower the cost of your student loans through refinancing, we believe there is a simple strategy. A strategy that can significantly increase the speed at which you are able to pay off student loans — saving money! When you are able to save (or make) more money, you have the ability to apply greater payment amounts to your monthly student loan payments. Paying more than the monthly, minimum payment (without penalty) enables you to reduce the life of the loan. In addition, the overall interest that could have been accrued could be decreased. The easiest way to achieve this and begin saving money involves creating a monthly budget and adopting ways to save money.

 

Where to Start Cutting Your Budget

 

Whether you have begun to pay back your student loans or not, an easy way is to create a controlled monthly budget. It’s good practice but doing so helps ensure that money dedicated to student loan payments continues to go towards them.  Keeping your weekly spending in check — through budgeting or creative money-saving strategies keeps student debt at a manageable level. If you are having trouble figuring out when and where to cut down on expenses, our list of creative, budget-friendly tips  can help:

  1. Eating Out:

    Reduce your spending on take-out meals and restaurants by cooking at home more often. Meal planning is key, map out a weekly menu and purchase all of the ingredients in advance. If you choose to indulge every so often, agree to split pricier meals with a friend or family member.

  1. Drink water:

    Drink water whenever possible. Avoiding flavored drinks at restaurants, home, and everywhere in between can lead to great savings. Think of all the health benefits associated with drinking water! Not only will laying off the sugary and alcoholic drinks help your wallet, but you will also do more for your health!

  1. Cable or Satellite Services:

    Reduce or cancel your cable or satellite services. Any subscription services that have duplicate content or are not being used regularly. Instead, stream your favorite shows and movies on your phone, laptop, or tablet through cheaper-than-cable services like Netflix or Hulu. Amazon Prime is another video-streaming option, especially if you find the other benefits useful. If you still want to watch these shows and movies from a TV, consider connecting your streaming device to your TV through an HDMI cable. Another frugal entertainment option: borrow books from the library, which can often be conveniently downloaded for free to your mobile device or tablet.

  1. Grocery and Home Shopping:

    Whether you are shopping for groceries, cleaning supplies, home decor, or health and beauty supplies, there are ways to save at the register. Start with these suggestions:

  • Talk to a manager at your favorite grocery store. See what types of discounts they offer on a weekly basis. Teacher, veteran, senior, and student discounts are some that may be commonly offered.
  • Download all of your favorite stores’ apps, or opt-in for text-based discounts. There are usually some great deals associated with each.
  • Find out if shopping secrets exist, like these ones from Target.
  • Coupon-cutting has always been an effective strategy if you have time to find the deals and like to buy in bulk.
  • Shop on Wednesdays. Wednesdays are traditionally the one day of the week where last week’s sales overlap the new week’s sales. For accuracy, check with your preferred store(s).
  • See what deals exist on a store’s online site. They are frequently different than what is offered in-store. Be sure to check sites like retailmenot.comfor applicable coupon codes. Many brick and mortar stores will price-match their competitors’ print and digital ads.
  1. Personal Grooming:

    Skip any unnecessary salon or spa maintenance, or do it yourself. If there is no easy, at-home solution, consider a local beauty school. Your stylist, beautician, or technician may just be learning the trade, but they are supervised, so the results are often just as good as pricier salons and spas.

  1. Entertainment:

    There are always creative ways to have fun while on a budget. If you like to go to the movies, try to go during matinee showings, rather than prime-time showings. If you are interested in museums and galleries, try going during free entry days. Entertainment options with little to no entry fees may also include minor league baseball games, farmer’s market events, summer events in your local city center, festivals, and more. Check your local city’s event schedule for more budget-friendly events.

  1. Clothing:

    Great ways to save money on clothing include:

  • Buy less. Most people need to buy less clothing than they currently do anyway.
  • Try to create a capsule wardrobe, where you create a small, perfectly curated wardrobe.
  • Sell unwanted, gently used clothing on eBay, Poshmark, at stores like Plato’s Closet, or check to see if someone in your city hosts a clothing consignment sale. Garage sales are also a great option. After you are finished trying to sell any clothing items, document and donate any leftover clothing to an IRS-approved nonprofit. Make sure to get documentation of the donation if you plan to write off the charitable donation in your taxes.
  • Swap clothes and shoes with friends. Whether you have an upcoming special event or just want to wear something different, talk to your similarly-sized friends to see if they would be interested in swapping or lending/borrowing clothing, shoes, and accessories.  
  1. Pinterest:

    No matter what you need to acquire, there is probably a way to make it, renovate it, or do-it-yourself on Pinterest — just make sure you have the know-how and supplies to complete the project cheaper than paying full retail prices. Great DIY options include household cleaning supplies, tasty food recipes, furniture renovations, home decor, sewing ideas, and so much more.

Reduce Unnecessary Spending

Small ticket items tend to be sneaky budget-busters. To see how much of your budget you are using on entertainment, coffee, and other unnecessary expenses look at your past months’ worth of spending. Decide what you can eliminate or reduce. Limiting spending will take some self-control, but with diligence and dedication, you will find that your existing income can be applied in greater quantities to student loans and other outstanding bills. The more you are able to apply to these each month, the faster they can be paid off, and the faster you can use your money for and towards things and experiences you truly desire.

Check out Our Simple Guide to Student Loan Refinancing

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Women walking on college campus.
2019-02-13
Scholarships to Save Money on Student Loans for College

People have all kinds of amazing hopes and dreams for what to do with their lives. From those passionate about teaching and making a difference to talented analysts who want to help steer the ship. There are so many incredible careers to choose from, but once you pick the path it’s time to think about school. How do you make that dream of going to school a reality?   Financing an education can be challenging, but there are options and ways, even if you don’t have a nest egg for tuition. One option that is worth looking into is finding scholarships to save you money on student loans for college. Have you checked out what’s available? Here are some things to consider in your search.  

Look for scholarships based on need.

All types of people from all different backgrounds go to college, but some are at a disadvantage when it comes time to pay for school. For instance, some students can’t get student loans for college if they don’t have co-signers but might qualify for federal loan programs that don’t have the same requirements. Some scholarships aim to help these people specifically—like people who are more likely to need aid because they’re non-traditional students with children or over a certain age, or they are the first generation in their family to attend a university. There are also options for students who have been on other government aid programs as children or teenagers in a low-income family.  

What kind of scholarship fits your abilities?

Lots of people receive scholarships for any number of abilities—either because they are gifted academically or because they excel at a sport or activity. Talk to your school counselor or other college resources about your grades and test scores. It might be worth it to retake something like the SAT if you are pretty close to qualifying for academic scholarships. If you’re just starting to look at scholarships, now probably isn’t the time to become a master volleyball player or flutist, but scholarships for activities like those do exist! So if you are looking for ways to save money on student loans for college by getting a scholarship, don’t forget to search based on your extracurricular. Here are some common scholarship types provided based on extracurricular.  

Community Service Scholarships

Have you been busy volunteering? If so, you’ll want to look into community service scholarships. Many institutions hope to have students who make a powerful impact in the community. This scholarship is a great option as there is no special talent required it just takes time and dedication to complete.   Now we’re not saying to volunteer only for a scholarship, we’re just saying to try it out. Who knows, you may even like volunteering and actually have fun and make new friends!  In addition to making new friends, having fun, and saving money on student loans for college volunteering can expose you to new environments and things that you may have otherwise been unaware of. If you’re volunteering with an organization, be sure to ask them if they offer a scholarship.   Segal Americorps Education Award Do Something Scholarships Youth Changing The World Tylenol® Future Care Scholarship  

Creative Scholarships

Creative scholarships are just what you would think they are. These are scholarships provided to users for unique and creative creations. These scholarships consist of anything from designing a logo to playing a musical instrument. When you’re applying to a creative scholarship be sure to include an impressive portfolio of your additional work.   Doodle for Google Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest Shout It Out Scholarship    

Academic Scholarships

Academic scholarships are the most common. These scholarships are often based on your GPA, leadership, and ACT or SAT scores. Typically academic scholarships are provided by the institution but private academic scholarships can be another great way to pay for college. On your application, you’ll want to be sure to include any additional activities you are involved in. Some private academic-based scholarships will require the student to pursue a specific type of degree.   Shell Incentive Fund Scholarship USRA Scholarship Awards Alpha Chi Omega Foundation Scholarships The AAF-Tenth District Scholarship SouthEast Bank Scholars Program    

Look for fruitful memberships.

If you or your parents are members of a fraternal organization, church/denomination, or if you work in a particular industry you may qualify for a scholarship. Some companies even offer scholarships to employee families. If you were a member of an applicable student group in high school, then you may qualify for a scholarship based on this. There are even scholarships for people who have survived cancer. Talk to your parents and other family members about memberships you may not be aware of!  

You might qualify for employer-sponsored scholarships

In an increasingly competitive market, employers are doing more to find and retain top talent. Do you work for a company that offers scholarships? Check out this list of companies that offer scholarships. Everywhere from fast food restaurants and service jobs to large corporations offer financial aid and scholarships to their employees. If you’re not sure, talk to your HR person and see if you qualify. It’s worth a try!  

Get the scoop on where to search.

School counselors are the first place to check for scholarship opportunities. You might be able to apply for a local scholarship from a company in your region through your high school, or your college or university of choice might have scholarships for attendees. You can also take your search to the Internet and look for ideas, search based on your specific requirements or areas of interest, and get information on how to apply. Check out this scholarship search tool from the Department of Education.   If you’re looking to save money on student loans for college, make sure that you check for scholarship opportunities every semester. Student loans can be a great tool and easily manageable if you’re informed, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and check out all of your options. Do your best to decrease the amount you need to take out in student loans to pay for college.  

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Creepy campfire outside under the stars.
2019-02-07
Don’t Put Out the F.I.R.E with a Lifestyle Creep

Unless you’re on a desert island somewhere, it’s likely you’ve heard of the F.I.R.E movement. If you haven’t Gilligan, the F.I.R.E movement stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early.” Basically, it’s a movement started in which many finance savvy people increase their savings in hopes of retiring early and living their best life. Sounds great right? It may sound great but there are really only two ways to participate in F.I.R.E and that is increasing your income level or increasing your savings. So, how does the Financial Independence Retire Early movement relate to lifestyle creep?

What is Lifestyle Creep?

Lifestyle creep might be a term you haven’t heard before, but you’ve probably experienced it or witnessed it. As your discretionary income goes up, your lifestyle becomes more expensive. It’s that train of thought that can really get you in trouble with your bank account. You know the thought, the good ole “I worked really hard this week I deserve a new purse.” That is where lifestyle creep really starts.   If you suffer from lifestyle creep you’ve probably also thought of things like. If you can afford a better car, why not drive a better car? If you can afford an apartment without roommates, why have roommates? So, what’s wrong with these thoughts, because if you can afford it, then you should do it, right?  

Lifestyle Creep and Financial Independence Retire Early Movement

It’s a really delicate balance when income goes up and you feel entitled to nicer things. Suddenly the ability to afford something makes your current situation or current belongings seem like they are not enough, whereas they were just fine yesterday. This is a nightmare for most people involved in the F.I.R.E Movement. So when does it make sense to increase your budget based on higher income and when should you hold off? Here are some things to keep in mind that will keep you away from lifestyle creep and keeping you in the race of Financially Independent Retire Early movement.  

Always “pay yourself” first.

To pay yourself means to invest in yourself—specifically, your future self (oh hey, F.I.R.E). Increase your contributions to your retirement when your income increases. If you get a raise every year, set a reminder or put your retirement contribution on autopilot to also increase by 1% (or whatever amount works for you). If aiming to be in the F.I.R.E movement you may want to contribute over 1%. This is how people end up “maxing out” retirement contributions, without ever feeling like they are taking a hit in the present to save up for the future. Just ask anyone who’s ever done so. They’ll tell you it may have been the hardest thing they have ever done at the time, but their future self was really grateful!  

Look at the big picture.

If you get a job offer and will suddenly make 40% more, but your commute will be long, does it make sense to move closer to work if your residence will also cost more? That depends on the big picture. Maybe the amount of time you’ll lose to commuting is worth more than the higher rent or mortgage? Maybe, you will be able to get a house in a better school district, which fits with your long-term plans?  If the commute is farther with a lower mortgage, and you can pay down debt or increase your savings. You need to run the numbers. Check out our below examples of two different scenarios that we estimated. Please note that these are estimated costs.  

Scenario #1

For example, let’s say that you work in Manhattan, New York… You currently live in Blairstown, NJ and live rent-free thanks to Mom and Dad. Your commute to NY takes 4 hours by bus and costs about $400 a month. If you pay $400 x 12 months = $4,800 a year spent on commuting In 2019 there are about 250 Business days (excluding public holidays and weekends) 250 business days x 4 hours = 1,000 hours a year you spend commuting.  

Scenario #2

Let’s say that you move to Hoboken and have a roommate. You pay $1,000 a month on rent. Your commute is about 1 hour a day. Let’s say it costs about $150 a month to commute. $1,000 a month x 12 months = $12,000 a year on rent $150 x 12months = $1,800 a year on commuting costs $12,000 year rent + $1,800 year commuting = $13,800 a year on commuting and housing 1 hour x 250 business days = 250 hours a year spent commuting   Now, this example really gives insight into that big picture. Yes, it costs more to live in Hoboken and you have a roommate, but look at that time saved! If your time is of high value to you, Scenario #2 is likely the best choice for you. If you are participating in F.I.R.E and want to save money or pay down debt as much as possible, Scenario #1 is likely the right choice for you. Regardless, which option is personally best for you, understand these are the types of numbers to run when looking to make big decisions.  

Do I need this or do I just want it? The treat yo’ self trap.

Let’s say your discretionary income goes up, should you get that household repair or a non-urgent medical procedure? By all means, this is not an example of lifestyle creep and you should use your higher income to make it happen. Now, if you find yourself flush with cash and jealous of your neighbor’s new car, you should pause.  If you believe that you have worked hard enough to deserve a big trip. Planning a vacation just because you can, is an example of lifestyle creep. We aren’t saying you don’t deserve a vacation, but that vacation should be planned on a responsible budget.   When making any purchasing decisions ask yourself, “Are these wants more important than other needs?” We’d recommend thinking long-term when it comes to making purchasing decisions. What’s more responsible, paying off debt and continue reaping the reward of not having high payments or added interest or making a purchase like a car that you don’t “need”? Maybe there is a compromise like paying off your current car and setting a goal to upgrade next year, or maybe you can plan a trip for next year and save for it while you are concurrently paying down debt.   It’s dangerous to deserve better. We are constantly bombarded with flashy advertising, slick marketing, and more choices than ever before. It can be really easy to think that you deserve something better, but in reality, is that new item really going to bring you long term happiness and security? Many participating in the F.I.R.E movement will say items are just items and that real happiness comes from relationships and memories.   The F.I.R.E mindset can get even tougher when many of us have had parents who treated us like the most special people ever who gave us what we wanted. That’s not a bad thing until you start making decisions based on what you think you deserve, instead of what you can practically achieve. Thanks, Mom and Dad, but I don’t mind having roommates for another year, or it’s not a big deal to keep driving a car that’s older but works fine.  

Check those budget boxes.

If your discretionary income has gone up either because you got a raise or other costs went down, you need to do some budgeting. Typical steps that personal finance experts advise working on include getting up-to-date on all of your bills if you aren’t already. Second, have a $1,000 emergency fund. Lastly, experts advise people to focus on high-interest debts before building a savings account with 3–6 months of expenses in it. Then look into things like investing, saving for your children’s college or paying off your house!   Achieving a higher income is great! It’s a wonderful feeling when you see your hard work paying off and making life easier. Don’t end up being someone who makes more than enough to live comfortably but you’re still living paycheck to paycheck. Lifestyle creep is so important to recognize and avoid. Keep your financial goals in order and continue to work towards them. Whether your goal is to be Financially Independent and Retire Early or to pay off your debt, you got this!  

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Marathon participants
2019-02-04
How To Lose Weight On A Budget Starting Today

It’s that time of year when we’re all reflecting on who we are and how far we’ve come in the last year. Some people hate on resolutions because they are so often temporary, but there’s nothing stupid about trying to make positive changes in your life! Two of the most common changes are losing weight and saving money. Why not do both? Here are some of our tips on how to lose weight on a budget.  

Have you penciled yourself in?

Put yourself on the calendar and stick to it. It’s easy to skip a workout when you already scheduled a meeting or made other plans. Making YOU part of your routine means that self-care becomes a habit. It can even be something you look forward to liking spin class or joining a workout group? Try working out with friends as it will help to hold you accountable.  

How much does success cost?

Things like a celebratory meal, your weekly social brunch, or getting a gym membership cost money. That doesn’t mean you can’t budget for them. Just set a goal for how much to spend on those meals out. Make sure you track those little extras and cut yourself off when you’ve reached your monthly limit. If you’re faced with an important celebration, see where you can cut something else to keep your budget balanced.   If you want to put a gym membership into your budget, look for places like community centers and colleges. They will often sell much cheaper memberships that are just as good as what you’d use as a more expensive fitness club. If you live in a household with multiple people, try looking into fitness family plans. Fitness family plans can come in especially helpful when you have little ones. Facilities will usually offer discounted classes and free daycare for your kids.  

There are sneaky calories on every menu.

Buying lunch every day at work can be a real drain to your wallet, and you’re less likely to get a balanced meal within your calorie budget. An average meal out contains upwards of 1,400 calories and can cost Use a little time on the weekend to cook and plan ahead. Keep a few healthy snacks in a drawer at work so that you’re not tempted to hit up the vending machine. You’ll save money, never get hangry, and stay on track for weight loss or maintenance.   If you’re going out for a special occasion or just plain didn’t manage to get together a meal to bring to work, look up the restaurant menu ahead of time. Make a decision on what to eat when you’re not hungry! That way, you won’t be tempted into getting a gigantic double-bacon burger bomb. Most places have their menu on their website, but you can also check somewhere like  

We’re a generation of Googlers—use it!

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, there are so many free resources for fitness. From to blogs with the best bodyweight exercises, free exercise plans are everywhere. You don’t need a fancy gym to get in shape, but you do have to be motivated. If you’re on your phone regularly anyway, follow some of your fave fitness Instagram accounts like Ebonny Fowler (@funwithfit) or Marie Purvis (@MariePurvis) to get simple, effective workouts delivered right to your IG feed. Or look for other fitness gurus who focus on how to stay fit without having to sell you something.  

Make savvy substitutions.

If you know that a big slice of pie (pizza or otherwise) is your weakness, look for ways to enjoy your favorite foods without tanking your calorie budget or emptying your wallet. For instance, you can make inexpensive pita pizzas at home using whole wheat pitas, low-sugar sauce, and all your fave fresh veggies and herbs. If you eat mindlessly in front of the TV while you watch season 4 of The Office for the 200th time, pop some light popcorn to crunch instead of sitting down with a bag of greasy chips.  

How Hydrated are You?

Staying hydrated can help make you feel less hungry on top of promoting healthy digestion and ample energy levels. You don’t even need a fancy water bottle. Just make sure you’re regularly drinking a glass of water and you’ll reap the benefits.  

Mom was right about fresh air.

Nobody says you have to become a bodybuilder to lose weight. Going outside to walk or ride your bike can be a great way to keep your weight in check, get the mental health boost, and feel connected to your community. Even better: find someone to go with you! Don’t forget about the benefits of biking or walking to work. Saving money on transportation while getting your heart rate up is an incredible way to tighten your budget and burn some calories. Plus, it’s worked right into your routine, so it won’t feel like exercise.  

Be kind to yourself and have patience.

Thankfully we millennials are pretty good about self-care. We’re the first generation to really spotlight mental wellness as a really important part of your overall health. Mental wellness can suffer when you decide that you need a big change and try to overhaul all of your habits at once. Have some patience and realize that it’s not easy to change overnight. You’re still going to have some slip-ups, and you’re not going to experience a #TransformationTuesday overnight. Sure, physical health and financial health are important, but so is mental health. Make sure you’re not setting unrealistic expectations, and be sure to take rest days even when you’re hitting things hard at the gym.   If losing weight is only part of your goal and you really want to look at how to save money, check out our student loan refinancing options. You can call us any time to talk to a specialist and see how we can help!  

5 Financial Mistakes to Avoid in Your 20s

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.