May 11

Student Loan Education

I personally believe the biggest thing that needs to be done about student loans is education about what exact these student loans mean for your life after college. I personally had no idea the extent the amount of debt I was piling up while at school or how exactly it would affect me after graduation. I definitely didn’t have much knowledge on personal finance, investing, or anything of the sort – and I’m still a novice at this.

My parents did teach me the importance of saving money, not wasting money, looking for deals, and never abusing credit. For this I thank them; I have never built up a credit card debt and always pay the full amount each month.

But when it came to student loans, this was brand new to all of us. My parents had never went to college, and my high school guidance counselor never even hinted there was another option. I had great grades and student loans were just part of the process of going to college in my mind.

Most 17-18 year old seniors in high school have no idea the concept of a huge sum of money. The extent of their personal finance probably comes from car payments, car insurance, gas money, and money to hang out with friends. They most likely do not have a mortgage and hopefully don’t have a huge credit card debt to their name. The concept and size of $25,000+ student loan debt is foreign to them.

A few things that I think can prevent situations like my own, or even worse case scenarios is full education on student loans:

  •  Guidance Counselors in High School and parents should be able to tell students that college isn’t the end all solution. It IS possible to learn a trade, get job experience, and still be just as successful within certain professions.
  • Community college is a great option, especially if you are unsure of what you want to do. A majority of people switch majors, so you can save here by making the change at a lower cost.
  • Many state schools have great reputations and can be a lot cheaper per year compared to private schools
  • Before accepting any loan students should be given a screen showing how much they are taking out for that year and then the following calculations would also be mandatory for the lender to show before the borrower accepts: 

      1. We’ll go with an example of $5,000 a year. First of all, the student should be shown how much this $5,000 debt will actually be if it is unsubsidized loan. If that loan is taken out freshman year, it will be closer to $6,500-$7,500 by the time the student graduates. The borrower should be made aware of this amount!
      2. The borrower should be given an estimation of their 4 year cost of going to school based on this first loan. So if they are taking out $5,000 for the first year, it should show them that they will most likely end up with $25,000-$30,000 total in debt after graduation. I believe that seeing the total amount gives a much better perspective than the individual amounts being taken out each year
      3. The borrower should then be given an estimation of how much their minimum monthly payments would be based on that calculated total debt. I think it should also show them an estimate of how much is going to principal each payment, and how much would be going to interest.
      4. The last thing would be that they are able to select various degrees and the area of the country they are in and be given salary estimates. Based on these salary estimates, the net income for each month should be shown and then the student loan payments should be subtracted from that total. The borrower would then be able to see how much money they would have leftover each month after those minimum payments. 

          I believe that if this transparency was shown before every student took out a loan, you would see a lot of people rethinking their choices. That $50,000 graduating salary doesn’t look as good when you have to give half your take home pay to paying that loan off! Just being able to see the huge amount and the effect it will have on you in front of your face would be a huge deal.

          Do you think that education and transparency about student loans would help reduce the amount of debt that students are graduating with?

            Photo Credits for this post: Pixabay

            May 08

            Frugal Tips: If you have to go out to eat!

            Today I’ll be continuing my weekly spending posts as a summary to keep tracking of my extra spending. My weekly spending for this week consists of the following:

            I know, I know – you are probably reading the title and right away you are thinking that nobody HAS to go out to eat. Eating at home can be healthier because you are preparing the food yourself and you know exactly what the ingredients are and you can control exactly what is being added in. A lot of the chain restaurants are notorious for using a huge amount of sodium and who knows what else, and then of course it is up to actual chef. I will definitely agree with all of those points, but I feel like there are sometimes when it is okay to treat yourself.

            But even after all those points, If you are inclined to eating out I’m here to give you some tips that you may have not heard of yet. When my family goes out to eat, we never spend full price if it’s just us (or at least I can’t remember the last time we did). The #1 reason for this is because of a great website called restaurant.com. You can always get gift certificates on this website for 50% off or even more! You just plug in your zip code or local area, then search for the participating restaurants.

            If you are just two people, there are plenty of gift certificates that are $25 for only $15 or $10. At $5 a person – that’s not bad at all for going out to eat. That’s probably around the full price you’d pay for lunch so you are definitely getting your money’s worth depending on the restaurant – thought obviously not as good as eating in. If you are in a larger group, there are plenty of gift certificates that are $50 for $25 or even $70 gift cards for only $30.

            Another thing to check out is all the local deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, etc. Just make sure not to get suckered in to always buying these “deals” and the other ones they have – those expenses add up. They are always offering something like this with a lot of restaurants not featured on that website – more of one time deals.

            Now the most important thing in my opinion is that if you do go out to eat you definitely want to limit those times! If you are going out once a week, make sure you are getting a good deal – but also try to cut that down to once every two weeks and so on. Before you know it – you’ll be eating most of your meals at home.

            I have personally cut down on going out to eat almost completely. The only time I really do it is for necessary social times, like when people from work want to go out or my friends absolutely can’t be convinced to just hang out at home. I almost exclusively make my lunch from work or take leftovers from home if there happens to be any. My senior year at college I prepared a lot of meals with leftovers in mind, it’s necessary a lot of times when cooking for one person. Sometimes I check out the soup in the cafeteria but I haven’t bought a full lunch from there in over a month.

            Photo Credits for this post: Pixabay

            May 05

            Weekly Spending – 4/28/13 – 5/04/13

            Today I’ll be continuing my weekly spending posts as a summary to keep tracking of my extra spending. My weekly spending for this week consists of the following:

            Sunday 4/28:
            None

            Monday 4/29:
            Gas – $10

            Tuesday 4/30:
            None

            Wednesday 5/01:
            None

            Thursday 5/02:
            Lunch – $11

            Friday 5/03:
            None

            Saturday 5/04:
            None

            Total Week Spending: $21

            First of all – can’t believe that it is May already…looking forward to the warmer weather finally arriving! Gas spending for this week consisted of $10 on Monday – not bad at all. It seems that gas prices are slowly creeping back up for the summer though. I also spent $11 on Thursday for dinner. Normally I wouldn’t really go out for lunch during the week but my boss suggested we should go to lunch as a team, and I always think this is a good opportunity for networking and building relationships. At least I didn’t have to make lunch on Thursday night for Friday! $21 for the entire week is really good I think, but this is definitely at the low end of the scale for me. We’ll see if I can keep it up throughout the month.

            Photo Credits for this post: Veezzle

            May 04

            Frugal Tips: Carpooling

            It seems that one of the main things I read on personal finance and blogs dealing with frugality and saving money to tell you ditch the car when it comes to commuting. You move as close to possible to work and then use a bicycle or walk to commute. I fully agree that this can cut spending down tremendously especially when your cost of fuel plummets as well as the maintenance on your car for when only using it for long distance trips when necessary.

            Right now that is just not in the plans for me; as much as I would like it to be in the future. So I’ve been looking for other ways to cut down on the costs of commuting. I have looked into a few mass transit options and while they are less than convenient, I will admit I still haven’t fully researched those options.

            But this leads me to a new solution: carpooling! I’m lucky that I have coworker that lives around me that is also looking to save some money and is willing to carpool with me. We are going to start out with each just doing 1 day a week, so I’ll be driving 4 days a week instead of 5, not a bad way to start.

            Here’s the current breakdown:

            • My drive to work is around 16 miles each way, for 32 miles round trip
            • That’s around 160 miles a week just from commuting!
            • 52 weeks in a year, but I’ll use 48 to account for holidays, working from home when it snows, etc: so that’s 7680 miles a year – just from commuting

              Here is how my new commute will look:

              • 32 miles round trip for 3 days a week: 96 miles
              • One day I will be getting a ride
              • On the day where I drive my coworker, it will be a 44 mile round trip
              • That totals to 140 miles a week, so I’ll save around 20 miles a week
              • That will have me end up around 6720 miles a year – almost 1000 less miles!

                Just for fun, if we both decided to do 2 days a week it would like:

                • 32 miles round trip for 1 day a week
                • Two days I’ll be getting a ride
                • Two days where I drive, it would be 88 miles a week
                • That would be 120 miles a week
                • I would now be all the way down at 5760 miles a year

                  After looking at the numbers, it’s really amazing that more people don’t take advantage of this! Now I know it’s hard to coordinate a lot of the times, and like I said – I’m lucky to have a coworker that lives such a close distance to me. But it’s amazing when you are sitting in traffic and every single car only has 1 person in it. Imagine how much better the traffic would be if only 25% of those people could carpool a few days a week? Or if we stopped using the car to take 2-3 mile trips to the grocery store and instead took bicycles.

                  As you can see from the above picture, carpooling has gone down dramatically over the last thirty years. If you can carpool, take mass transit, or even ditch the car all together and take a bike to work – I would highly recommend it. At an estimated cost of $0.50 a mile, these savings can really add up over the course of employment.

                  Photo Credits for this post: Pixabay
                  May 01

                  Unbury Me!

                  Now I don’t know if you are like me – but if you read my first post you’d know that I hated the thought of student loans. I didn’t want to look at them, I didn’t want to acknowledge them, I just wanted them to go away and pretend they weren’t there. Now that I have finally acknowledged them I want to establish a target of actually getting rid of them (not just by hoping they magically dissapear – though if this somehow did happen you wouldn’t hear me complaining).

                  While living at home is not the optimal solution that I was looking forward to after college, it helps me keep my spending way down and allows to me to put that money towards my loans instead of paying a full rent every month. In this post I’m going to tell you exactly how I plan on paying off these loans, and hopefully establish some sort of timeline!

                  I have come up with a few scenarios to pay off my loans using the awesome yet simple website called unbury.me. It’s super easy to use as well as modifying once you have already put in all your information – and it’s free. I’m going to be using the avalanche method to pay off my loans, and while the psychological aspect of using the snowball can have its advantages, I think for myself I’ll gain the biggest psychological advantages by paying the least amount of interest possible.

                  The first scenario I’m going to talk about will be the conservative method of paying off my loans, with trying to aim for $1500 payments a month: I will have fully paid off my loans in about 5 years, but have paid about $17,000 in interest still. That really sucks – but the 5 years part doesn’t sound TOO terrible.

                  The second scenario for paying off my loans would be aiming for $2000 payments a month: This brings me to a debt free solution over a year ahead of the $1500 payments! I also end up “only” losing near $12,000 in interest – a savings of $5,000 which would be great.

                  Just for fun, I’ve also done a scenario where I somehow manage to make payments of around $2500 a month just to see how much of a difference that would make:
                  My loans would be fully paid off in just 3 years, and I would end up paying less than $10,000 in interest. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I don’t see this scenario ever playing out realistically though, as great as it sounds. With my fixed expenses it would basically be living with zero spending money each month. The constantly rising cost of gas wouldn’t help my cause either.

                  I think what I’m going to end up targeting is somewhere in between the $1500-$2000 payments a month and hope to have my loans completely paid off sometime in late 2017/early 2018. Hey, maybe I will even have months where I can strive to get my payments over $2000. I know next month when I use some of my overly large emergency fund to completely eliminate one of the loans I will definitely be over that amount. I hope you too will follow me along in my journey to become debt free and maybe even make progress on your own if you are in a similar situation!