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Stop the Trend Spending

From hoverboards and iPods to boy bands, trends will come, and they will undoubtedly go. Anyone who has experienced and come through the other side of a trend can look back and laugh, but we aren’t sure about their wallets. At Education Loan Finance, we refer to spending on the latest “it” items as “trend spending”. Always following the latest trends can wreak havoc on your personal finances.  We are not saying don’t do anything trendy and live under a rock. What we are saying is that rewarding yourself for making good decisions is important, but evaluate that choice carefully. Let’s take a look at the latest trend spending taking place, how much money is actually being spent and how it could add up over time.

 

Vaping

We’ve all been there, walking or driving along when you see the occasional cloud of vape on the sidewalk. If you’re lucky, that cloud of vape isn’t directly in front of you while you’re walking and you’re able to dodge that second-hand vape cloud. In addition to the envied clouds vaping creates, the flavors can range from cereal flavors to candy flavors.  Just like the flavors, the mods come in a variety of sizes too, from huge mod kits that make tons of vapor to tiny USB chargeable vapes like the JUUL®.

 

Vaping has become one of the biggest trends in the U.S. The more vapor you can produce the “cooler” you are according to the vaping community. According to a CDC report released in October 2018, JUUL Labs® account for nearly one in three e-cigarette sales, nationally. While vaping might be the latest trend, remember that its long-term health effects are still unknown. Couple the possible health effects with the cost and you might just convince yourself to stop.

 

JUUL® Starter Kit – $45

Four pack of pods $16.

Let’s assume those are purchased twice a month, so that is 24 x $16 = $384

Total Cost of Vaping for a Year= $429 

 

Assuming that you bought a JUUL® unit to do your vaping and you bought a new pack of pods every two weeks or twice a month, you’d be spending $429.00 a year. Over the course of four years, that’s about $2,000! We didn’t even include any sales tax in this equation, but many states are rolling out taxes on vaping products.

 

Subscriptions

Subscriptions used to be associated with Highlights® magazine or catalogs your Grandma would receive in the mail, but the 21st century has revitalized the subscription. Now, subscriptions can get us movies, vitamins, clothes, music, even dating sites and all are currently available at our fingertips. The subscription box industry, in particular, is experiencing rapid growth. Since 2014, the subscription box industry has increased by 890% according to a 2018 report by Hitwise. Subscriptions, though convenient, can really end up costing you in the long run.

 

The danger is that once your card is on file, it’s so easy to forget about the service. Here’s a list of the most popular monthly subscription services of 2018. Let’s say, you signed up for the FabFitFun® subscription box for a year. Now, this box is sent only four times a year based on the season. The box comes with full-sized premium products. In addition to the box you receive, you get access to the FabFitFunTV which shares workouts, access to exclusive member sales, and you have access to the entire community online.  Now, that box is $50.00 per season or $200 a year.

 

Fancy “Dranks”

It’s hard for a month to pass without seeing some crazy coffee creation from your local Starbucks®. Recently, the Witch’s Brew Frappuccino outshined the previous favorite, Unicorn Frappuccino and became an Instagram® trend.  Drink trends can really spiral out of control and quickly. If you actively participate in social media by checking your Instagram® or Facebook® every once in a while, you can’t help but notice them. In some weird way, all these Frappuccino drinks and IPAs flooding your news feed put pressure on you to join in and go purchase one of these beverages.

 

This pressure to join in on the cool coffee trend can come down on your wallet like a hammer. The average cost for a latte at Starbucks® as of 2018 was $5.75 for a Grande, and that doesn’t include any fancy cake pops! If you bought yourself a latte, once a week for a year, what are you really spending?

52 weeks a year x 5.75 = $299.00 a Year! You’re paying about $300 on lattes a year. Think of how far that money could go towards your student loan debt.

 

Health Food

The latest trend in the food and beverage industry is likely to come from your favorite online health influencer. It’s also likely that drink ends in a vowel like Kombucha, Matcha, or bubble tea. These drinks have been around for decades, but lately, they are skyrocketing due to a new health movement. Kombucha and other fermented drink sales were up 35.6% in 2017 according to FoodNavigator-USA. This fancy probiotic drink can really end up costing you at $3.75 per bottle. If you’re looking to drink it once a day, it adds up to $1,368 a year in total cost on Kombucha. We aren’t saying to deprive yourself of the latest health trends, but we’re suggesting to think wisely before deciding to purchase it. Really understand how that small amount of money can add up to a lump sum that can easily be applied to debts. Maybe even try making your own Kombucha, there are tons of websites and directions available online.

 

Bubble Tea or as some may know it as pearl milk tea, boba juice, or just boba, has been in the US for years, but it’s recently gaining major trend status in 2018. There have been multiple chains arising that specialize in Bubble Tea. You may know these chains as Kung Fu Tea® or Boba Guys®.  Bubble Tea could make a great date or even a trendy place to stop with friends. It offers a nice alternative to the usual coffee or beer we’ve all grown accustomed to. We wouldn’t recommend making Bubble Tea a daily habit or even a weekly habit because like Kombucha the small amount spent could really end up adding up.  The average cost for a Bubble Tea is $3.50, and if you choose to go every day for a year, it equates to about $1,277. That is some serious money that can be used to get out of debt or start investing in retirement fund money.

 

Quick Food

Food is important because it keeps us alive, but that doesn’t mean we need to spend all of our income on it. Simple changes to your everyday life like packing lunch for work could really help you save in the long run. Eating out can be expensive, time-consuming, and even dissatisfying. Before you pick up your cell and place an online order, let’s take a look at these stats. According to the 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, Millennials ages 26-34, spent $3,416 annually on food away from home.

 

Imagine for lunch every day at work you bought a burrito from Chipotle®. Just a burrito is about $8.00. Now, our cost has no fancy drinks because we learned our lesson on trend spending on sparkling water when the office has free and classic H2O available. We’ll assume that you work five days a week and it’s typically Monday through Friday. We aren’t going to account for vacations or days off in our math. Let’s see what your yearly cost for lunch is…

 

$8 Burrito Cost x 5 days in a work week = $40 a week spent

$40 x 52 work weeks per Year = $2,080 spent a year

 

Though it’s so easy to get sucked into the trend of going out to lunch and grabbing something easy, please be cautious. Apps like UberEats®, GrubHub®, and Seamless® may seem convenient, but they can cause unnecessary costs.  Try to cut back on eating out or ordering in food. We know, easier said than done. Especially, when it comes to working all day and having to make yourself dinner when you get home.  Add to it cleaning up any dishes you may have used, and it just gets overwhelming. This doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation though, try packing your own lunch weekly. If that seems like a lot maybe only purchase lunch on Fridays. These small life changes could have an impact on your finances, and they are just creating good spending habits as you move further on into adulthood. Just remember that the amount of money spent on food could pay off student loans, or be added to the down payment on a house.

 

Give & Take

Whether you are trying to get out of debt or save up money to achieve a financial goal, there is always a little give and take. You deserve to enjoy yourself and treat yourself every once in a while with the latest trend, but don’t get so caught up in the trend spend™ craze that you lose any sense of the amount you’re spending.  Trends may be great – I mean, after all, they did become a trend, but you need to stay focused. If you are finding it difficult to stay focused on your financial goal, try making a compromise of the situation. It will always help to remind you that it’s just that, a trend. Trends will come, and they will go, but your finances will be with you forever. Be the financially responsible you that we know you can be!

 

Avoid These 7 Money Mistakes

 

 

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FDIC-Backed and Why You Should Care

You know the orange Chance cards you used to draw when you played Monopoly? Remember the one where the little guy was so broke he was wearing his pockets on the outside of his pants? Well, imagine that guy is your bank, and through bad luck or bad decisions, they negatively affect your life. You go to get a loan, and they aggressively try to get you to borrow more than you can afford. Or, when you show up to get your money, they just shrug, and you’re out of luck. Things are different today and the protections for account holders and borrowers for certain banks are better than ever, but how did we get here? What exactly does FDIC insured mean?

Banking used to be very risky.

Believe it or not, that’s pretty much how things were for a long time in the United States, and it happened quite a bit. Lending practices were not necessarily based on sound data and information. More than a third of the banks in the1920s closed their doors, and deposit holders had little recourse. That’s why many people of that generation had a deep distrust of banks and why you may have heard stories of people stashing money in their mattress or burying it in a jar in the backyard to keep it safe.

The creation of the FDIC.

You’ll notice that most people aren’t hiding money in their bed these days, and no one is wearing their pockets on the outside of their pants anymore. Sure maybe no one ever really wore their pants that way, but it could also be because Congress passed the banking act of 1933 and created the FDIC. FDIC stands for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, but we usually just say FDIC because the government loves acronyms. The FDIC is quite literally an insurance company and just like other insurance companies, they provide protection from an unforeseen event, in this case, a bank failure. They also function as a regulatory agency to make sure banks are following laws and guidelines.

What happens when an FDIC insured bank fails?

When a bank becomes insolvent, the FDIC essentially takes over the bank. Almost no matter what, the bank will still have some deposits and assets. The FDIC will try to sell the bank’s deposits and loans to another member bank. In this case, you the customer will find their deposits at a new bank. If for some reason the FDIC cannot successfully sell the bank, they will issue a check to the depositor directly.

It’s not the 1920s anymore, why should I care?

Sure, the Roaring 20s and all its banking peril are long in the past, but you might be old enough to remember the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980s or the financial collapse of 2008. These were both significant events that wreaked havoc on the banking industry. Banks can still have problems and sometimes big problems. In fact, from 2008 to 2012, 465 banks completely failed. While most everyone felt the effects of the financial collapse in some way, bank depositors were spared significant loss thanks to the FDIC. This is why you absolutely want to make sure your bank is a member of the FDIC.

What else does the FDIC do?

Member banks are subject to strict overview of the FDIC. They monitor debts and assets and help to ensure banks have enough cash on hand for safe and responsible operation. They aren’t just guaranteeing your money, they are actively working to make sure the bank is healthy. Additionally, they work to make sure banks are compliant with the latest consumer and banking regulations.

Are there protections for borrowers as well?

Yes. The FDIC isn’t only focused on depositors, they protect borrowers as well. So if you are in the market for a home loan or you are looking to refinance those student loans, it’s important to pay attention to which lenders are FDIC members. Member lenders are under scrutiny to make sure the debt to income ratios for borrowers aren’t outside what borrowers can afford to realistically pay. You want to work with a member bank to ensure an upfront and transparent process.

Are all financial institutions FDIC insured?

No, not all financial institutions are FDIC members. The FDIC examines and supervises approximately 4,000 banking institutions in the United States.

 

Tips for Finding the Perfect Lender

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Deposit_Insurance_Corporation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bank_failures_in_the_United_States_(2008-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBOFiDpmESI

Why It Is Time to Say “No” to Retail Therapy

A wise blogger at Forbes recently said, “The road to bankruptcy is paved with good deals.”

Think about it. Each of us has a favorite store, accessories, tech goods, or some other non-essential item that is either just a little too pricey or is simply out of our budget…that is, until a sale hits — at which point, all budgeting bets are off.

If you want to start saving money, paying off debts, and generally begin to improve your financial situation, this has to stop — right now. Stop letting the blow-out sales blow out your budget. Not sure where to start? Try your closet.

For many people, one of the biggest budget-busting expenses is clothing. While the U.S. apparel industry is a smart $12 billion business, our ability to see and be influenced by more people, thanks to the internet, has caused us to continuously want more, want to look a certain way, and to splurge. These spending habits on clothing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mean that the average American family is annually spending somewhere around $1,800 on apparel and services (2015 statistics). Furthermore, as clothing prices have dropped over the decades — and as each of us are increasingly willing to place non-essentials on credit cards — purchasing extraneous wardrobe items has become too simple. For example, today’s American woman owns roughly 30 outfits, but in the 1930s, that number was nine. NINE outfits. Regardless of the actual number of items in your wardrobe, chances are that most of us do not even wear half of them, even if seasonal pieces are excluded.

As the average home size increases, our collective desire for more “stuff” is further depleting our hard-earned dollars. Furthermore, this “shopping for sport” or retail therapy takes up valuable time, both for shopping and maintenance, that could be spent in more productive ways, such as learning something new, building a career, spending time with family, researching more ways to save money, or doing other healthy things like exercising or sleeping.

6 Ways to Say “No” to Retail Therapy

  1. Banish the idea of retail therapy. You do not need more clothes to be happy and, chances are, your spending in this category could be causing you stress.
  2. Focus on quality clothing over quantity. Invest in a few timeless clothing pieces that will last longer, rather than buying more cheap clothing pieces that will go out of style or deteriorate quickly.
  3. Before you buy anything, ask yourself if you really need it, if you already have something like it, if it is worth “X” hours at work, or if it fits into your budget. In most cases above, if the answer is “no,” do not purchase it.
  4. If you do buy something, save the receipt. Return it if you do not wear it within a week.
  5. Start rediscovering what you already own! Revisit your wardrobe to find new ways to put outfits together. Need some inspiration? Check out Pinterest. Only pin outfits that you already have the pieces to complete the look or something similar. While you are working on your closet, cull it of any clothing that just is not working for you anymore.
  6. Create a capsule wardrobe. If you can, try to create one that mostly features pieces you already own — but make sure you love 100% of them. A capsule wardrobe is a versatile, minimalistic wardrobe that is meant to de-stress the idea of getting dressed, ensuring that you are going to love what you have to wear, all while minimizing spending habits on clothing. To achieve your ideal capsule wardrobe (a wardrobe that really suits your style), you may have to do a little shopping, but any wardrobe pieces you buy should fall under the principle of quality over quantity.

Going through your own closet to see what you already own — whether to rediscover or to build a capsule wardrobe — is a great way to appreciate what you already have, but it is also a great way to declutter and destress your life. Putting the brakes on a shopping habit, all while honing in on your ideal wardrobe, can be a great way to maintain a budget and feel great about what you already own, so let this be the year you say “no” to the idea of retail therapy and say “yes” to better finances, less stress, and a happier you!

Saving Up for the Holidays

It is officially November, which means it is the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year — the holiday season! It is also the season of giving, and while you want to spread the holiday cheer, showering your loved ones with gifts in the week leading up to the holidays is not easy on the wallet. In order to do this without breaking the bank, it is a good idea to start saving up at least a month or two in advance so you will have some wiggle room in your budget. Here are some money-saving tips to try as we approach the holidays:

  • Set a Budget

As with every financial decision or purchase, you will need to assess your budget, income, and savings to determine how much to spend on gifts. From there, set a holiday spending limit (around 1 to 1.5 percent of your annual income is recommended). Remember that this amount will include not only gifts, but it should also include any food, gift wrapping items, travel expenses, and decorations as well. Now that you know the amount of money you will be spending, make a list of all the people you need to buy for and set limits for each person. Divvying up your money and setting limits will save you from overspending.

  • Dedicate a Place to Put the Funds

Because you are saving up for something in particular, it may be helpful to separate your holiday savings from your main savings or checking accounts. Whether you store cash in a special place in your home or open a separate account with your bank, keeping your holiday fund in a different spot will ensure that you do not dip into it before you need to.

  • Save the Money

You have an amount you need to save, a place to put it, and only a few months to save. Some may choose to borrow from their main savings account to help, but this may not be an option for others who need to come up with all the gift-giving money outright. For those individuals, it is time to get creative and find ways to fill up your holiday fund to the amount you set. Try a “no-spend” week or month. Set a goal to not go to restaurants and cook more at home instead. Use up all your gift wrapping materials before you buy new ones. Sell furniture, gadgets, clothes, and other items you do not use anymore. Use coupons to cut down on spendings for groceries and toiletries. There are endless possibilities to reduce spending and fill that holiday account with money. If you are on Pinterest, check out our “Money Tips” board for more inspiration.

Relieve Financial Stress This Holiday Season

The holiday season is supposed to be enjoyable and relaxing — not stressful. Instead of waiting until the last minute, saving ahead and budgeting can help tremendously when it gets down to the wire. You will be able to give generously to your family and friends without feeling guilty about your spending, thereby saving yourself from financial stress. Happy holidays!

Creative Ways to Save Money After Graduating from College

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