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We currently have a little over $30,000 in student loans and a mortgage that sits at around $110,000 to pay for which we are working on eliminating. We really want my student loans gone by April of 2013 at the LATEST. This is a big task to accomplish, but we feel that it can be done with a lot of effort.

There are many reasons why we want my student loans gone as quickly as possibly. While my minimum payments are only around $300 (I’ve heard of much scarier amount from different people, such as $1,500 minimum monthly payments), my interest rates on most of these loans range from 5.8% to 6.8%.

That’s such a high interest rate to me, and I can only think about how much in interest that I’m paying EACH DAY on these loans, and it all adds up so quickly.

The luxury of not having student loans no longer and not having them drag me down is a big plus and positive. We also want to buy a new house in 2014, and having a little less in debt would be a great thing, especially since it’ll most likely lower our interest rate on our future house. We are really working on our credit score and eliminating debt so that we can have the best possible credit score for when we are ready to buy our next house.

Also, having less in debt and not being tied down to my student loans is also good because it’ll free up our cash flow. If something were to happen which would decrease our monthly income, then I would prefer to not have to worry about how I’ll pay for my student loans each month.

Here’s what you can do to eliminate your debt quickly:

1. Make extra money.

This is the main thing that we are working on. Our goal is to make around $2,500 extra each month. Extra money is always nice because applying it to debt is easy and is not like you will miss that money as much as if you were struggling to pay your bills.

There are many things you can do to make extra money in order to pay off your debt faster. You can: get a part-time job at a retail store, become a freelance writer, walk dogs, babysit, tutor, among many other possibilities.

2. Cut your expenses.

We’ve already cut our expenses as much as we already would like to, so that is why we are working on increasing our income as much as we can. However, if you are really wanting to pay off your debt quickly, then you should be trying to cut your expenses as much you can. Try cutting things out that you don’t positively need, such as lattes, clothes, extra snacks, etc.

Also, call up the companies which you do business with and ask if they can lower your bills at least by a little bit. Usually they will say yes. Every little dollar counts, so don’t think you are better than one dollar! :)

3. Pay more than the minimum on your debt.

Paying only the minimum on your debt is definitely better than not paying at all, but paying more is WAY better. You can eliminate your debt much faster because you will be paying less in interest. Interest continues to build if you only pay the minimum payment, which surprisingly is something that a lot of people do not know.

4. Move money around.

I’m not saying everyone should do this, but we have decided to take some money out of our $15,000 emergency fund and we plan on applying a large amount of this towards my student loans. We’ve never touched the money before, so hopefully nothing happens in the mean time while we are trying to build it back up.

We believe that paying off my student loans (in which some are at a high 6.8%) is much more worthwhile to us right now instead of having money sitting idle in our emergency fund. Not everyone should do this though. If you are expecting future house repairs, have an unstable job, or anything else in which you might have to use your emergency fund soon, then moving money around might not be the greatest idea.

What are your plans to pay off your debt faster?

Job Interview Tips

Michelle —  December 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

Searching and applying for jobs can be tiring and extremely difficult. Nerve-wracking is also another word that most likely comes to your mind. Some people spend months and maybe even years to find a job that fits them well. Also, with the economy the way that it is, and the fact that more and more people are going to college in order to hopefully gain a better job after graduation, it has become even more hard to find a job for yourself.

Luckily, I was able to find a job relatively quickly after I graduated from college a couple of years ago. I made sure to look before I graduated, so that I could escape the rush of every other graduate who was looking for a job right at graduation as well. I’m not going to lie though, the interview processes were terrifying to me. Whether it was a phone interview, in-person interview or a group interview, my heart was beating insanely fast at every one.

However, even though I was super nervous at every single interview, I did do well at them. I was offered every job that I applied for, and was able to have my choice (I still work at the same company). I practiced, researched and made sure I was prepared for every single interview and this showed in the results that I had.

Below are some good tips for job interviews, and also what I did:

1. Research.

I researched everything that at least somewhat related to job interviews like crazy. I believe that you can honestly never be TOO prepared for anything. There’s always something that you can learn.

Start with looking up the company that you are interviewing at. Try and see what the dress code is. You don’t want to be too overly dressed or too underdressed. You can see what the dress code is by asking around or perhaps just driving by the building and see what people are wearing as they enter and exit.

Also research the position and industry that you are wanting to obtain a job in. You can look up common questions that the industry tends to ask in interviews. Research anything and everything. There are tons of articles out there.

2. Practice.

When I was practicing for my interviews, I researched every possible question that I could have. I then wrote and typed everything up, along with all of my answers just so that I could remember everything more easily.

You could also see if someone would help you practice. Maybe they can try asking you questions that will hopefully catch you off guard and you can answer them the best way possible.

3. Be prepared.

Being prepared applies to many different areas. Such as when you determine what the dress code is. Make sure that you 100% have the correct clothes to wear to the interview. Try everything on days before hand, so that if something doesn’t fit or doesn’t look right, then you can buy or find something that might work better.

Also, make sure that you arrive on time. Try not to arrive too early and definitely do not arrive late. I’ve always hear to arrive 10 minutes early. If you arrive any earlier, than just stall and maybe wait in your car. You don’t want to catch the interviewer off guard and make them feel rushed.

Also, if you have a phone interview, try and dress up for it. Yes, no one will see you, but if you dress professionally, then you are more likely to act professional on the phone. Also smile. It also shows in the way that you talk, even though no one can see you.

What did you do to get the job that you wanted?

Some people might believe that a credit score should not be focused on because you should be paying for everything with cash, however, there are many times when a good credit score is needed. I am one of those people who do not see credit scores as something bad.

A good credit score and loans have allowed me to go to both undergraduate and graduate school and earns degrees, obtain a reliable and nice car, buy a house and many other things.

A good credit score can allow you to buy things with credit and hopefully get a very good interest rate. Our credit score was good, and therefore we were able to score a great rate on our car loan.

Yes, we could have paid for the car with cash, but we chose not to because we would be earning more by investing this extra cash instead of putting it all directly towards our new Jeep. Have a low interest rate on your loans can be very helpful because even just a small difference in your interest rate can equal a savings of hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.

I put nearly everything on my credit cards, and it is all to gain rewards points mainly. My credit score is still good and high because I follow many of the tips that are listed below.

There are many things that you can do in order to increase your credit score:

1. Make sure your utilization rate does not go above 30%.

I have a friend who recently told me that she has one credit card and she has owed around $450 on it for months, and her credit line is $500. She thought by always paying the minimum payment and not over-withdrawing on her credit that she would be fine, until I told her otherwise!

One thing that many people do not know about is that your utilization rate must be watched. If your total credit limit is $1,000, try not to spend more then $300 on your credit cards.

2. Pay your balance in full.

Not carrying a balance every month is key. I put a lot of expenses every month on my credit cards, and I still make sure to pay them off completely every month, and most of the times before the months is over and anything is reported to the credit bureaus. You should also keep in mind that even though you pay your balance in full every month, that this amount will still be reported to your credit bureaus, and this is why you do not want your utilization rate to be too high as well.

We make sure to pay our balances in full every month so that my utilization rate stays low and also because I do not want to pay any fees due to carrying a balance over and then owing money due to interest.

3. Look at your credit report.

Different people have different timings for when they like to look at their credit report. Maybe look at it every other month, every quarter, twice a year, and AT LEAST once a year.

You should be looking at your credit report and make sure that everything is reported correctly and that nothing is on your credit report by mistake. There is always the chance that something was reported incorrectly and is now negatively affecting your credit score.

What are you doing to increase your credit score?

How to Improve Your Finances

Corey —  December 9, 2012 — 2 Comments

As the Holiday season approaches, many families are left wondering where all of their money went. Whether it is end of the year expenses, Christmas presents, or other random expenses, it’s not uncommon for families to be left wondering where all of their cash went. I know what this is like. Years ago my wife and I struggled. We weren’t to the extreme of relying on food stamps and other government assistance, but suffice it to say that we did not even think about getting each other presents for the Holidays.

Yet, even though I can relate to financial challenges around this time, we have made improvements to our finances in ways that we wouldn’t have imagined just a couple years ago. If you are wondering how to increase your savings around this time of the year, here are some practical steps to help you along the way.

1 – Analyze Your Spending

The first thing you can do to increase your financial situation is to determine where you are spending your money. Most families get carried away on their spending because they are not keeping track of where the money is going. One of my friends always felt like she didn’t make enough money. When I asked her where she was spending money, she looked at me with a dumb look on her face. She’s not a bad person, nor is she irresponsible. It was just that she wasn’t paying attention to where she was throwing her money away. As it turns out, she was eating out too often and also buying lots of gadgets. While it’s never easy to change your spending habits, it’s impossible to do if you don’t know what your are spending money on. I’m convinced that those who use a payday loan every once in a while do so because they don’t stop to analyze their spending.

2 – Reduce Your Spending

Once you know where your money is going, start by selecting areas that can be eliminated or reduced. It is often difficult to change these spending habits, but you may be able to find easy ways to save a lot of money. For example, if you are going to the movies every weekend, maybe it’s time to reconsider that habit. By simply watching movies at home, you can still enjoy the same hobby (even making popcorn at home), while also saving nearly $100 a month (for two people). That sounds like an easy fix to me.

While improving your financial situation is clearly more complicated than a two-step process, it often starts with these two areas. After you have minimized your spending, if you are still struggling, it may be time to look into bigger changes: this could mean a job change where you can earn more money, or it could mean moving to a cheaper location. This may sound extreme, but it could mean the difference between happiness and stress.

Buying a home is definitely a large investment. There are a lot of things that should be thought about, but what if renting your home is actually a better investment for you and your family? And what if buying your next home is clearly the better and wiser choice?

We bought our house when we were very young. We were 20 and had rented a house for a little over 2 years before, but knew we were ready. Buying a house was nearly the same amount as renting an apartment, and it was actually CHEAPER than renting an actual house in the area.  Luckily our house is worth nearly the same amount of what we bought it for a couple of years ago and hasn’t bit hurt too badly by the housing market.

However, it did hurt some areas of our lives in that dreams of traveling constantly were definitely put on hold. We do wish we would have waited a little longer, just to find the perfect house instead of being rushed by our lease being up.

Here are some factors which should be considered:

How long do you expect to live there?

How long do you think you will stay at this residence? If you are going to buy a house, it is generally said that you should try and live there for around 5 years or longer in order to make it valuable and worthy as an investment. If you are only going to live somewhere for a couple of months or even just one year, then renting is probably a better bet. This is because the cost of buying and selling would be too high if you don’t live i n a house long enough.

If you buy a house and don’t expect to live in that city long, it can also hurt or delay your plans. There is a lot less flexibility if you want to switch jobs or anything else. If you want to travel the world, then a house might hold you back because you will always have that mortgage to pay (which means you would have two residences to pay for at once).


Where I live (the Midwest), the cost of buying your own house and renting an apartment are nearly the same. The cost of living and housing is very cheap in the Midwest, which makes buying your house almost always a better bet.

Of course there are cheap apartments, but when you are comparing buying versus renting a home that are similar, then that’s where you might be able to see the value in buying instead of renting.

However, as we all know, there are many areas in the world where the cost of housing is very high. A house here in the Midwest might be very nice and big and only cost $250,000. Whereas this same house might cost $800,000 or more in a different area such as Los Angeles.

All costs should be thought about when you decide to buy a house. Will you be able to afford it still if something goes wrong? Something such as a furnace might cost over $5,000 to fix. Then there is also the roof, mowing the lawn, fixing broken windows, repairing driveways, and so on. The list of possible maintenance is endless.

The other costs included are home insurance and property taxes as well. Our property taxes are over $200 per month (we pay it annually though), so it definitely adds up quickly.

If you rented instead, then most of these costs and maintenance would just transfer to your landlord and the worries of something breaking would not be yours.

Would you rent or buy your next home?

What are your reasons?

Lowering Your Food Budget

Michelle —  November 26, 2012 — 3 Comments

Food always seems to be our biggest budget buster. Between going to restaurants, going out with friends, buying too many snacks and everything else, we can never manage to stay within our food budget.

Our main reason for being so bad with our food budget is almost entirely due to laziness. And the fact that the Mexican restaurant up the street has the best food ever. Not kidding… We really want to work on our food budget so that we can save money for other things in our life, and also to pay down my student loans.

However, until we get this under control, it will make everything else in our lives just a little more difficult to achieve. Every loan and savings goal that we have will take just a little longer than necessary.

Below are some things that we are doing to cut down on our food budget:

1. We are limiting our going out to eat at restaurants.

We are really working on going out to eat less. Food at home can taste just as good, as long as we put some effort into it. Also, now that we have similar schedules, it makes it easier for us to eat at home together. When you go out to eat, you need to factor in the actual meal, taxes, tip, and the gas to get there. It all adds up very quickly.

Eating at home more often is also nice because you can spend more quality time together, which a price cannot be placed on.

2. We have a menu plan.

Having a menu plan has been a lifesaver for us. It works wonders in so many ways. Planning what we will eat is actually fun, and I can mix up what we usually eat. It is also great because if I menu plan and write out exactly what we need at the grocery store, then I am cutting down on any food waste.

Households waste a lot of money on food waste. Have you ever thought about how much leftover food you have thrown away recently? What about anything that you had past expiration and had to throw away? Menu planning allows you to buy only exactly what you need, since you know what you will be cooking!

3. Don’t go shopping hungry.

This is something that probably everyone knows, yet a lot of people still do it! I still do this a lot and this is something that I am working on. Try to at least get a snack in before you leave to go grocery shopping.

If you don’t eat before hand, then everyone knows what will happen: EVERYTHING will look delicious and you will be thinking about all kinds of recipes in your head that you “should try and make” but in reality probably never will.

4. Use a basket instead of a cart.

If you know that you don’t need or want to buy a lot of things when you are at the grocery store, then just get a basket instead. You will be forced to buy only what you truly need because there are only so many items that you can carry before your arms will hurt like crazy. I do this a lot and it has really worked for me.

Whenever I think about getting something, I wonder how much weight it would add to the basket and whether the item is worth it or not for me to carry. Most of the time, the item is not worth it.

5. Use coupons.

This is also something that we are currently working on. I haven’t couponed in a while, but in the past it did work. The main thing to remember is to use coupons on things that you actually NEED and not to just use coupons because you have one. Buying things that you will never use it wasted money, no matter how much money you actually saved.

What are you doing to lower your food budget?

Holidays can be very expensive. Whatever holiday it is that is celebrated, there are most likely numerous dinners, presents, parties and so on that are going on between your family, friends and work. Last month I talked about how to save money on travel over the holidays, but what about all of the other expenses that feel like they are “required” over the holiday season?

We tend to spend a lot over the holiday season (luckily almost none of it on travel because almost everyone is right here in the same area), but the costs of attending dinners, parties and giving gifts can really add up quickly.

For example, this year we have Thanksgiving to go to which is at the same place as always (his grandmother’s home). The WHOLE family goes which is over 100 people. Each person just brings one item that will be enough for everyone. Our job this year is to supply hot chocolate. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but the hot chocolate maker that we need is $75, and the hot chocolate, water jugs, cups and marsh mellows will probably be at least another $30 to $40. And this is JUST hot chocolate!

Of course I do realize that this is not a lot of money (and I really do not mind spending money on holidays at all, because I love them so much), and that the holidays are not all about money, but it just adds up very quickly!

With the hot chocolate idea above, I could do things to make it cheaper (such as just using a very large pot), but with many young kids, it would just be too difficult and probably not safe for a pot to be running for half a day. Thinking of other ways to save money is never a bad idea and this is what we plan on doing.

Ways that you can save money over the holidays:

1. Stick to your budget.

Try and find the best deals for the food and presents that you need. Don’t try and justify one purchase, because you will most likely do this across the board and before you know it, you will have spent twice what you wanted to.

If you think that you cannot control your holiday spending, maybe hide your credit card from yourself for the month. “Saying” that you will pay it off when the bills come but not being realistic about it is not a good idea.

2. Gift exchanges.

If you are a part of a big family which will require a lot of gift giving, try and see if anyone would want to have a “secret santa” type of gift exchange. Not having to give so many gifts can greatly cut down on the costs.

Most likely, there will be other people who would want to do this as well. It also cuts down on the time needed to find gifts. Instead you can find one really good gift instead of 10 “average” gifts.

3. Use coupons.

Many stores and restaurants have lots of coupons available over the holiday season. Matching up coupons to the items that you have already planned to buy can help you save a lot of money as well.

Using coupons on your purchases will only really work well if you have everything planned out well. Buying things just because you have a coupon is most likely not a good idea either because you might change your mind and decide that the present is not good enough.

4. Holiday cards.

Holiday cards are always nice to send and receive, but if you can, try taking the pictures yourself and printing them off a website yourself. They will most likely still look great and the personal touch will definitely be liked.

Also, instead of taking the holiday pictures yourself or having them professionally done, you can always glance over pictures of you and your family from earlier in the year. I am sure there is something great out there, and you never know, something might work out! I know of many families who do this instead of spending $300 on professional holiday pictures.

5. Make gifts.

Not all handmade gifts are cheap, which is a big misperception that many have. However, if you already have the materials on hand, then why not use them? There are so many gifts out there that are possible for you to make. Maybe you could bake cookies, knit mittens or something else. I’ve always loved receiving handmade gifts much more than anything else.

How do you find ways to save over the holidays?