Debt doesn’t have to be a financial death sentence. You can overcome it. Put together a plan and get to work.

Twelve years ago, my husband, David, and I found our sitting on the floor of our basement apartment as two financial services professionals with $51,000 in credit card debt between the two of us.

Like the cobbler’s kids with unfortunate shoes and the emperor with off-the-rack clothes, we were helping other people with their money and not ourselves.

We put together a debt payoff plan and got rid of that debt in two and a half years and built a business based on our experience becoming and living financially free.

How did we pay off so much debt?

We’re often asked in interviews how we paid off so much debt so quickly.

The underlying question is, “What tools or tricks can you give us to help us become financially free?”

The problem with tools and tricks and that what works for us may not work for you and vice versa. That’s why our first response to that question is that we figured out what we most wanted in life.

We found our “why,” and as Jim Rohn says, “When you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it.” When we figured out what we most wanted and not what we thought we should want or what others thought we should want we had the motivation to pay off our debt.

When times were tough, and they were, we used our why as fuel to continue our path to being debt free and stick with our debt payoff plan.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tips and tricks you can try. Here’s the five-part plan we used to become and live debt free. You can see if some — or all — of this plan might work with your own style to help you reach your financial goals.

Be money conscious.

My husband and I thought we coined this term. To us, it initially meant being clear on how much money we earn, have and spend. It meant having a basic understanding of the economy and how the economies of the world affect us personally.

We later learned that Napoleon Hill thinks he coined “money consciousness” in his book, Think & Grow Rich. Hill talks about money consciousness on a metaphysical level. The results on both a practical and metaphysical level produce the same results, as Hill says, “only those who become money conscious ever accumulate great riches.”

Live below your means.

Living below your means sounds outdated and old-fashioned, but it’s critical to getting and staying out of debt and achieving financial success. This rule affects everyone, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight and everyone in between everyone else.

Living below your means is such a powerful principle that it brings down many seemingly successful movie, music, and sports stars.

Cash is king.

Living on cash gives most people a 20% raise. Studies show that individuals who use only cash spend less money in addition to paying less in interest fees. When we had our debt, we were paying $10,000 a year in interest payments. When we paid off our debt, we gave ourselves a $10,000 raise and dramatically improved our quality of life.

Have a financial plan.

Just like you can’t drive from New York City to Los Angeles without clear directions, you can’t achieve financial goals without a financial plan. A good financial plan includes knowing the starting point of where you are financially and the ending point or goal of where you want to go.

It wasn’t until we knew which direction we wanted to go with our financial lives and our lives in general that we could go from a negative net worth of $51,000 to a positive net worth over $700,000. Therefore, you need to have a financial plan.

Creating and maintaining a financial plan isn’t hard and doesn’t limit us from enjoying life. Our budget and financial plan help us do all the things we want in life by letting us know when we can have and do what we want. As Søren Kierkegaard said, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”

Now, how do you pay down your existing debt?

The Avalanche and Snowball methods.

The Avalanche Method says to pay off highest interest rate debt first while making minimum payments on other debts. Then, proceed to the next highest interest rate debt and so forth until all debt is paid off.

The Snowball Method, popularized by Dave Ramsey, says to pay off the smallest debt first while making minimum payments on other debts. Once the smallest debt is paid off, proceed to the second lowest debt and so forth. The Snowball Method gives quick wins.

For my husband and me, neither seemed fast enough, especially because all our debt was credit card debt and we saw a loophole.

Our Debt Lasso method.

We first contacted all our credit card companies and asked them to lower our interest rates. The Debt Lasso method helped us to start saving money immediately. Any savings we had immediately went towards our debt.

Most companies obliged even if it took some explaining. It helped that despite having all that debt, we rarely missed or were late on payments. The only thing holding down our credit scores were our debt to income ratio.

It, also, helped that we explained how dire our situation was and that we didn’t want to miss or be late on future payments or file for bankruptcy. So, it was in everyone’s best interest to accommodate us.

Next, we looked for 0% interest-rate-credit-card-promotions with no annual fees. When we found a credit card and promotion that suited us, we calculated the cost of a balance transfer to that card. This strategy required reading a lot of fine print to be clear what we were getting.

At the time, 3% balance transfer fees were standard. There were some that charged less than 3% and even some that charged 0%. The 0% interest-rate-credit-card-promotions with no annual fees and 0% balance transfer fees were gold. Some exist today!

Most of the 0% interest-rate-credit-card-promotions lasted between six to 18 months. The longer the promotion, the more time we had to pay off our debt. Then, we diligently paid off as much debt as we could as fast as we could. When one card was paid off, we put more money towards our remaining debt. We continued this strategy until all our debt was paid off.

This is the five-part debt payoff plan we created to destroy $51,000 of credit card debt and, then, stay out of debt. If it worked for us, it can work for you. So, get working.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

Tired of all the negativity? Time to turn it around. Take steps to adopt a positive mindset.

You’re awesome!

Do you know that?

You’re so awesome that it took 13.8 billion years to create you. You’re awesome because you are star dust. You traveled through the far reaches of space to get here at this time and this place.

The world needs what you and only you can give.

These are truths to think about when you’re in a negative space. When you’re thinking negative thoughts about yourself or your life. We quickly forget about how awesome it is that we’re here on this Earth at this time. Whether part of a master plan or a cosmic accident, it’s amazing that you and I are here.

That doesn’t mean that some days, some weeks, some years are harder than others. Here are five tips to use when you’re in a negative mental place and need to adopt a positive mindset:

Happiness isn’t a destination.

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: Happiness isn’t a destination. If you always wait to arrive at happiness, you’ll never get there. I may ruffle feathers with this, but happiness is a choice. If you want to adopt a positive mindset, start there.

Misery loves company. It’s easy to gravitate toward — or be — the Negative Nancy or the Kelvin Killjoy. If you want to bitch about work, about politics, about last night’s game or anything, you’ll find comradery quickly. Negative people feed off negative people, which can lead to a perpetual cycle of negativity.

People proudly, often too proudly, proclaim that they’re quitting Facebook, taking a social media hiatus or completed a mass-unfollowing. They’re shedding negativity in some way, shape or form. They choose to stop feeding off negativity.

When you intentionally choose happiness every day, you’ll be happier.

Even a fake smile helps.

So, you’ve chosen to go against your “tude” and be happy.

What do you do? For starters, fake a smile. Even a fake smile releases dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin into our bodies. These hormones are known as the “happy chemicals.”

Just when you don’t want to smile is the perfect time to smile. Force a smile for yourself and then smile at someone else. Smiles are contagious, and the world would benefit from a pandemic of smiles. Plus, it will go a long way as you work to adopt a positive mindset.

Connect with awesome people.

We’re social creatures, even possibly social aliens as we are all made of stars. As I said, misery loves company, and some company is perpetually miserable. As Bob Proctor says, you don’t need to cut these people out of your life if they’re important to you. Just spend less time with them less frequently.

Replace your time spent with miserable people with individuals who lift you up. Better yet, as Lisa Nichols says, “Surround yourself with people who make you stand on your tippy toes.” They’ll help you become a better version of yourself.

If you fill your life with more positive people, you’ll feel more positive, and you’ll produce better results. When you harness this power of positivity, you can use it to help your less positive friends and family.

Have positively positive thoughts.

We often think we’re trying to be positive when we’re negative. As Jake Ducey says, when we think positively about getting the things we want, we’re coming from a place of lack. For example, when you say, “I know I can be more positive,” you’re acknowledging that you lack positivity and you’re in search of it. You don’t have it now. So, act as though you already have it.

Oprah said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah made no mention of paying attention to or focusing on what you’re lacking, not even to overcome a scarcity mindset.

We all want to end war, right? As Ducey shared, Mother Theresa used positively thinking positive thoughts best when she said, “I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.” Anti-war demonstrations, the War on Drugs, the War on Crime and the War on Poverty are all counter-productive because they all start from a place of negativity.

If we focus on uplifting each other and the world, we’ll get more positive results.

Motivate yourself in the second person.

We all talk to ourselves. The problem is, as Mel Robbins says, “If others heard how we talk to ourselves we’d be put in an institution.” Too often we consciously and unconsciously speak to ourselves, negatively and it’s the unconscious negative talk about which we really should be concerned.

Positive self-talk in the first-person isn’t enough, though. Internal dialogue like, “I’m happy,” “I’m a good person,” “I can do this,” and other positive statements are acceptable. They’re certainly better than the opposite. However, research shows that there’s a better way to talk to yourself and it’s a way many of the most successful people speak to themselves.

Dr. Srini Pillay says that research shows that talking to yourself in the second person produces even better results. We like to compliment ourselves, but we value compliments from others more. Use this strategy in place of receiving the same validation from others.

The good news is that it’s positively possible to change your negative mindset and adopt a positive mindset. It just takes a little bit of faith and trying some unique, even seemingly weird tricks to turn that frown upside down.

Oh, if none of the above helps, go to Toys R Us. One can’t stay negative playing with children’s toys.

Every single blade of grass,
And every flake of snow –
Is just a wee bit different …
There’s no two alike, you know.

From something small, like grains of sand,
To each gigantic star
All were made with this in mind:
To be just what they are!

How foolish then, to imitate –
How useless to pretend!
Since each of us comes from a mind
Whose ideas never end.

There’ll only be just one of me
To show what I can do –
And you should likewise feel very proud,
There’s only one of you.

That is where it all starts
With you, a wonderful
unlimited human being.

“One and Only You” by James T. Moore

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

You might be a superhero and not even know it. Change the world one person at a time with the right career.

Simultaneous trends of millennials and GenXers are searching for more altruistic careers.

For millennials, they watched their parents suffer through the 2008 housing crisis, subsequent Great Recession, stagnant wages, high unemployment, and low national gross domestic product (GDP). Now many are saying, “If I’m going to struggle, I may as well struggle to do something good in the world.”

Millennials want to change the world, making a difference with what they do every day.

For us GenXers, it likely because, well, we’re older and seeking we’re more meaning in our lives. Many of us worked through the 2008 housing crisis, subsequent Great Recession, stagnant wages, high unemployment, and low national gross domestic product (GDP). Even though we may only have a small piece of our pie, we want to share some of it before we’re no longer here to share it.

For those considering more meaningful first or second careers, here are some jobs to consider:

Good samaritan.

You know how some days, weeks, even years are hard?

Social workers help people manage those times when we can’t manage on their own. From advocating for children who need an advocate to be there for the older adult who’s all alone to everything in between, social workers are there to care.

Life isn’t as easy for all of us and some of us find it harder to deal with than others. It’s social workers who help change these lives for the better.

Money maker.

Unfortunately, the financial professionals who break the rules get all the attention. They deserve the bad press they get.

Their honest, hardworking colleagues don’t.

Financial planners and the people who support them help everyday people with their money every day. Most financial professionals have their client’s best interest in mind, and that’s why this can be a rewarding career.

They help want-to-be parents prepare financially to have their children. They help fulfill the student’s dream of going to college. They assist the widow who lost the spouse responsible for managing the family finances. They help people make sense of retirement and legacy planning.

Financial professionals help make dreams come true, and nightmares go away.

Baby maker.

Among the many ways family planners help families, they help grow families.

Don’t let your high school years confuse you. Having children for many women isn’t easy, particularly since women and couples are having kids later in life.

Family planners can help these women and couples navigate the waters of growing their families with in vitro fertilization (IVF), various means of surrogacy, and any other medical advancements medicine has developed, including the different ways to adopt.

Fixer.

If you’re in pain or recovering from an injury, your physical therapist may just be your best friend. Like any decent best friend, your physical therapist sticks by you through the screams, tears, pain and frustration until you’re 100% again.

Physical therapists help their patients overcome negative conditions and achieve long-term health. Good health is consistently listed on the top of people’s most important things. If you’ve ever been in bad health, you know that returning to good health becomes the most important aspect of life second to family.

Modern-day Aristotle.

Christa McAuliffe, one of the seven victims of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, once said, “I touch the future. I teach.”

Anyone who’s ever amounted to anything is in debt to a teacher. Successful people from President Obama to Oprah Winfrey have publicly thanked particular teachers who helped them achieve their successes.

As a good teacher, the impact you have on a student could world-changing.

Healer.

Sure, doctors get all the glory, and the work doctors do is amazing.

It’s just that when you want that pain medication in the middle of the night and you’re stuck in a hospital bed, your doctor’s not coming to your aid.

That buzzer buzzes straight to a nurse’s station. When you need that very embarrassing, very necessary help in the bathroom, it’s your nurse who saves the day. When everyone else is gone, your nurse is still there.

Want to make a different in people’s lives? Be a nurse.

Sower and reaper.

Other than John Mellencamp, America doesn’t give farmers much love, and that’s a shame.

Everything healthy we eat is grown by a farmer. Growing healthy and nutritious food is an important and noble profession that helps all of us live from day-to-day.

If you’re scared you have to move far away from friends and family, don’t be.

Of course, the most abundant farming happens in the middle of the country, but you don’t have to uproot yourself to root some vegetables. Urban farming is a thriving industry these days, especially with more people in urban areas seeking more healthy food.

Space cowboy.

Being a space cowboy or cowgirl isn’t just for eight-year-olds. It’s for full grown adults, too. Space is the final frontier, and we’re finally making aggressive efforts to conquer space. Space exploration and space technologies already help millions in many ways. Someday, it may even save the human race.

Becoming a space cowperson or one who supports them isn’t easy, as space is only accepting the best of the best. But, if you can pass the test, helping the human race pioneer the space frontier can change the world and, possibly, the universe.

Superhero.

A lot of people do a lot of good work. Truth be told, there are a lot of superheroes out there.

However, police officers, EMTs, and firefighters save and protect lives every day. For many, their career is in their blood, having been passed down from generation to generation. For some, it’s an innate desire to help.

If you have such a desire, the world will be a better place with people like you in one of these jobs.

Many professions that make a positive difference in the world. Sometimes even a seemingly mundane job can make all the difference to someone.

Consider your skills and abilities and focus on giving to others. If you do, nearly any career will help you change the world.

 

 

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

Sometimes those LTRs sneak up on you. Here’s how to tell it’s time to stop wasting everyone’s time and just commit to your S.O.

The event horizon between every STR and LTR is as awkward as a prepubescent’s first kiss.

The duel inside each person pondering “do I like them” and “do they like me” makes Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance seem sane.

The time comes in all relationships when each must decide if theirs is a temporary or long-term ride.

How does one know when it’s time to commit to being two? Here are eight ways to tell when you and your S.O. should gel.

When your laundry detergent and fabric softener have moved in together.

More often than not, do your clothes take a spin together? When it’s no longer necessary to go home to do laundry and to own four gallons of concentrated detergent, there’s a good chance it’s time to commit to sticking together. If you’re washing each other’s unmentionables, there must be a reason you’re clinging together.

When the only vegetable in your fridge is mold.

When your home fridge is as bare as a frat house fridge, and the only thing inside that’s not questionably nuclear is your Arm & Hammer, it may be time to unplug your ice box. That Sriracha sauce must be able to survive time eternal, so grab it, cancel your electric, and take your security deposit to your new life of “we,” “ours” and “us.”

You’re cooking most meals together anyway.

When the water in your toilet has evaporated and left a ring.

Has it been so long since you did a Number One or a Number Two in your own bathroom that there’s a ring around the bowl? It’s time to sublet, sell, or cancel. Your exit plan is becoming a waste and it’s time to shit or get off the pot (all puns intended).

When your pet has moved to your S.O.’s.

If your pet has packed their bags and moved in with your S.O., it’s time for you to do so. Your dog can’t stand a minute without you, and your cat pretends they don’t care if you’re there, but both want you around. If your partner sees you more frequently than your best friend, bring everyone together and become a happy family.

When your apartment looks like a wheat farm.

If your once green and luscious plants look like they’re one mill from a cereal bowl, it’s time to transplant yourself with your someone else. Even the hardiest of plants get sad without some TLC once or twice a week. Don’t let your plants die. Consolidate them with your S.O. and make your single home homier.

Everyone wins. Especially the plants.

When your mailbox looks like your inbox.

When your postal box has as much mail as your email inbox, and the post office wants to charge you rent, it’s time to pick an address. Let’s face it, keeping that Plan B is costing you time and money. Save time and money and live with your honey.

You start saying “let’s go home” instead of “let’s go to your place.”

When you act like you have one place but still have two, it’s time to make a move. We have so many decisions to make each day that we often self-select which decisions to make and not make. When decisions about here or there, together or separate disappear, you may have unintentionally picked an L/T S.O.

Your mom knows where to send the Christmas card.

When even your mom knows you won’t receive your Christmas card before President’s Day if she uses the same address as the IRS does, it’s time to commit to your S.O. and update the P.O.

Others can often see something about us better than we can. If your friends and family see you as more permanent than temporary, it may be time to commit.

Committing to an LTR is sometimes scary, but if any of these or other quirks suggest your LTR is your reality, update your relationships status on Facebook and in your head and put in 100%.

Life is too short for 50% and maybes. When you give your relationships your all, you’ll see how much your relationship has to give. Only then will you learn if your long-term thing will be a forever thing.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

Want to make more money without the hassle of a second job? A little ingenuity can go a long way. You might be surprised at what’s available to you.

I became a fan of multiple streams of revenue ever since I started hating my one, single W-2 job.

Even with my emergency savings account, I detested the idea of one person or one entity dictating my cash flow.

If you’re like me, or simply want to make more money on the side, here are seven recommendations for you to increase your income without getting another job.

Update your W-4.

The only thing I detest more than relying on someone else for all my income is giving The United States Government an interest-free loan.

Can I get a “Hell yeah?”

I’m sure I heard something.

Too many of us give Uncle Sam too many interest-free loans between April 15th and April 15th year after year. The IRS reported that it refunded $125 billion in tax refunds last year in 2015 with an average refund of $3,120.

A great start to seeing more money in your budget without getting a second W-2 is to update your W-4. Increase the number of allowances you claim on your W-4 so that you owe or are owed near $0.

You’ll keep more of your paycheck each month, resulting in better cash flow. Sometimes that matters more than whether or not you get a tax refund.

Sell stuff.

Most of us have more stuff than we need. Try watching Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things and tell me you don’t agree. Consequently, stores are bigger and cars are bigger and TVs are bigger, and everything is bigger.

Many of us have tools and exercise equipment we don’t use. We have clothes we bought a year ago that still have their tags.

Most of us have more gadgets than we know we have or need. When I got my first laptop, it was special. When we got our first iPad, it was special. For this article, I did a quick search, and my household of two has three laptops and two tablets. Laptops and tablets aren’t special anymore.

This overabundance is an opportunity to make money. All of these items, new and used, can be sold. You can sell used clothes on sites like Tradesy and Material World. Sell new clothes and gadgets on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Amazon.

Get a roommate.

A quarter of a million millennials live at home with their moms and dads. That sucks for them, but it’s an opportunity for you. If you have an extra-large closet, you can rent it to someone in need of independence. That may be an exaggeration, and it may be illegal, but you get my point.

People need a place to live and rent’s expensive. Having one or more roommates will either increase your income or decrease your expenses. Either way, you’ll have more money.

Airbnb.

If you don’t want a full-time roommate but have the space for an occasional guest, try Airbnb or competing marketplaces to make money on your extra space. Alternatives to Airbnb include VRBO, Tripping, and Couch Surfing.

After a vetting process, you can rent your extra space to travelers looking for a homier or a more affordable experience than a hotel. You can pick and choose what dates to rent your space, so you’re not constantly hosting. When you travel away from home, you can make money while you’re away.

This is a great way to make more money. And other areas of the sharing economy, including driving for rideshare businesses while you run errands, can be a good way to make a few extra bucks.

Blog.

My name is John Schneider and I’m a blogger. You should be a blogger, too. I think most people could make money blogging about their expertise, their hobby, or whatever they want.

I think most people could make money blogging about their expertise, their hobby, or whatever they want.

When you start a blog and create a following, your site traffic is money. You can monetize your site with affiliate advertising, such as Google Adsense, and Amazon.com affiliate codes. You can add particular affiliates that are appropriate for your particular niche. You can even sell your products and services.

If you make art, design clothes, are into woodworking, or do any number of creative things, you can monetize your hobby and sell your creations in a store on your website. If you already have a hobby, you may as well make money doing it.

Take surveys.

Data is king in these days of statistics and algorithms. Businesses and organizations want to know more things about more stuff.

Use their piqued interests to make top dollar. Rather than scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, go to sites like My Survey, Swagbucks, and others to earn money taking surveys.

Write a book.

This suggestion may be another version of monetizing a hobby, but Les Brown says that the graveyard is filled with a library of unwritten books.

With sites such as Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, it’s never been easier to publish a book. If you’re already writing or want to be a writer, publish your book.

Granted, for every story you read about a self-published author who rakes in $500,000 a year, there are thousands of stories of self-published authors who make nothing.

As a self-published author of three books, I know from experience that it isn’t easy. There is a social strategy, though, to get one book in front of a lot of people or gain a following by self-publishing books regularly.

As co-blogger Miranda Marquit would caution, don’t self-publish a book through a company that needs an unreasonable amount of money from you first.

If you’re already writing or want to be a writer, you may as well try to earn some money. If nothing else, you can tell your next date that you’re a published author.

These are just seven ways to have a second, third, or fourth income without needing an equal number of jobs. It just takes a little creative thinking. Hopefully one of more of these ideas will help you increase your income or, at least, inspire ideas of your own to make more money.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

More formal education isn’t always better. Before you take on even moar student loan debt for a graduate degree, stop and run the numbers.

The only thing better than bigger is more, right?

Depending on what we’re talking about this is arguably true.

When talking about a pint of Ben & Jerry’s with a dose of Golden Girls, more is better.

When talking about the housing bubble, student loan bubble, and Taco Bell, not so much.

Moar student loans? Maybe not better.

College tuition has been on a steady increase since the 1990s, and college graduates are graduating with more debt than ever. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of students to graduate with debt increased from 1.1 million to 1.3 million.

Too often now, college students graduate with a mountain of debt. They’re forced to move back home with mom and dad and take a job with pay not commensurate with their student loans. Many graduates are underemployed and are seeking a better future.

The daughter of a good friend of mine recently graduated with $100,000 in student loans with a degree in social work from a premier college in a major city. She moved back to her small hometown and took the first job she could get because she was afraid not to have money to pay her student loans. She currently earns $13 per hour. She’s now considering graduate school to increase her opportunities because her big city degree is too expensive for her little city job.

For many, the logical next step is to either kill time or make a better future is to get their graduate degree. This, often, requires taking on more student loans – and the cycle continues.

Is a graduate degree worth it?

As with any investment, one must look at the potential return on that investment. About 70% of undergraduates already have about $30,000 of student loans to repay. The cost for graduate school on the low end for public colleges is another $30,000.

Will $60,000 in student loans do for a student what $30,000 can’t?

One way to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of a graduate degree is to look at the potential increase from a salary with an undergraduate degree to a salary after a graduate degree.

Considering that many employers pay employees just enough to get them to stay and that wages have been stagnant for decades, there’s a good chance a salary increase won’t help you pay off your student loans faster.

The second way to evaluate the ROI of a graduate degree is to compare the maximum salary potential with an undergraduate degree and the maximum salary potential with a graduate degree.

For this method, a 2015 study done by SoFi that compared the ROI of earning different graduate degrees based on wage increases for each of the first 10 years after graduation from graduate school may help.

It’s also important to determine if you have the stamina to complete a graduate program when your primary driver is income. The benefits of credits obtained for graduate degrees are reduced when the graduate program isn’t finished.

How can you keep your cost low if you must go?

If graduate school is in your future, it helps to lower your costs of school. If you’re considering graduate school and already have student loan debt from undergraduate school, you’ve likely exhausted all education savings and gift accounts, such as 529 Plans and Uniform Gift to Minor Accounts. However, it may help to find out if you have relatives or even friends with money in 529 Plans that aren’t completely used.

One benefit of 529 Plans is that they may be transferred to another beneficiary if the original beneficiary doesn’t pursue a higher education or doesn’t use all the money in their 529 Savings Plan.

It’s also helpful to exhaust grants and scholarships offered by the federal government, state governments, and schools.

Research www.grants.gov and apply for grants that are appropriate for you. You’re likely already familiar with FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Complete an application at www.fafsa.ed.gov to apply for federal student loan assistance authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to help subsidize your graduate degree.

Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 covers Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and the Federal TEACH Grant, along with other grants, loans, and work-study programs. Research www.ed.gov to find additional grants for which you may qualify. Simple ways to search grants and scholarships available through your state are through your state’s Department of Education or state grant agency website or with Scholarships.com.

Get that (scholarship) paper.

A trick to get the most money available through grants and scholarships is to be a bottom feeder.

Most people shoot for the higher, five-figure grants and scholarships. The competition for these higher-dollar grants and scholarships is stiffer. Fewer people apply for lower dollar scholarships and grants, which makes them relatively easier to win.

By creating systems and standard responses that just need to be nuanced from application to application, acquiring the lower dollar grants and scholarships may be your best strategy for keeping your costs low.

Get your employer to invest in you.

Finally, get an employer to pay for all or some of your graduate degree. If you’re currently employed, contact your human resource department to determine how your employer may be able to assist. Reimbursement usually covers up to a certain dollar amount in each year and doesn’t require repayment. It does typically require that the student meet a minimum GPA.

Tuition reimbursements over $5,250 a year may generate a tax payment for the employee. This will likely require that you work full-time and go to school part-time and will take you longer to complete graduate school, but it will mean less student loan debt for you.

If you aren’t currently working for an employer that offers tuition reimbursement, consider finding a job with a company that does. UPS, Home Depot, Starbucks, and Apple have businesses in most parts of the country and all offer excellent incentives, including tuition reimbursement.

It may be that more is better for your situation. If so, be strategic with how you get more because at some point it may get cost-prohibitive. It may be that more school isn’t necessary if you’re creative or strategic with your career planning. Don’t get so wrapped up in the “more mentality” that you don’t see this.

Have you gone back to school? Did it work for you? Or was it an unnecessary expense? Join the conversation in the #Adulting Facebook community.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

Getting your first car is a big step. You don’t want to screw it up. Figure out whether it makes sense to buy or lease.

It’s time to get your first car.

This is an exciting time, a time that heralds adulthood.

With all their bright and shiny and “new-car-smell,” even those adulting hard can make a child’s mistake.

Don’t let emotions cloud your judgment.

I’m not a car person – most cars look like Jettas to me. But even I get a euphoric high when I sit in a new car with its new leather, unblemished windshield, latest technology, and spotless dashboard.

The problem is that those dastardly auto dealers are marketing and money masterminds. They’ve figured out how they can oversell and overfinance even people like me who don’t really care about cars.

When getting your first car, you want to leave emotion at the door and realize that you’re probably not going to be driving your dream car.

You may have the budget for a Ford Pinto, but they’ll get you into a Mercedes Maybach if they have their way. It’ll just take 15 years to pay off and cost you more than most people’s mortgage and your first-born child.

But, hey, that new car smell.

Therein lies the birth of car leasing. Why buy a practical car you can afford and own outright when you can buy an impractical car you can’t afford and will never own but will look good on you?

Some things to consider when considering leasing a car.

Lessees don’t own.

The first thing to realize if you decide to lease those hot wheels is that you never own your car unless you choose to buy out your lease at the end of your term.

Most people don’t buy out their leases at the end of their term, no matter how committed they are.

Your ideals are usually high when you sign the lease. However, just like you say you’ll only have one mimosa at brunch, you almost never buy out your lease. At the end of your three to

At the end of your three- to five-year term, unless you have a large sum of money and want to do so, you’re without a car. This is why people become habitual lessees.

You’re always a guest.

All the while, as you lease a car, you’re borrowing it. You must treat the car like you’re borrowing it. This may sound like the above concern, but that’s about managing your money.

This is about living life.

For starters, leased cars come with mileage limits. The mileage limit is usually capped at 12,000 a year or 36,000 miles over three years, the most common term for leases.

Even if you’re an average driver, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) says you’ll probably average 13,476 miles a year.

So, unless you’re below average, toward the end of each year or your lease term, you’ll probably have to be conscious of your mileage limit. You could find yourself paying a penalty if you go above that limit.

The other way you’re always a guest in your leased car is that if your vehicle experiences wear and tear beyond the norm, you must get it fixed.

Of course, the definition of “normal” is subjective. And, of course, most responsible car owners repair and maintain their cars to keep them in good condition. As a lessee, though, you don’t have the option. Your leased car must be repaired and maintained to keep it looking as good as possible.

Lessees need better credit.

Most people who lease cars do so because they can’t afford to purchase them outright or finance them.

Likewise, those who lease cars tend to have less money to use as a down payment on their car. Therefore, the manufacturer or lender assumes more risk. To mitigate financial risk, manufacturers and lenders require higher credit scores to lease cars.

If you’re getting your first car, there’s a good chance you have a short or non-existent credit history and, likewise, a lower credit score. This will make finding favorable leasing terms harder.

Some things to consider about buying a car.

By now, you’re saying, “Okay, leasing a car sucks, but buying one is hard.”

That’s not necessarily so. By being strategic about buying your first car, you can save yourself money with little complication.

The best way to get a car is to pay 100% cash for it up front. Because most people can’t do that, the second-best way to get a car is the most practical. That’s by putting as much down as possible, ideally no less than 20%, on a certified pre-owned car with low-interest rate financing.

Occasionally, dealerships offer 0% financing. If there isn’t an ideal promotion when you’re in the market to buy a car, credit unions offer great financing terms.

By getting approved through a credit union before shopping for your first car, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration by not negotiating these terms with a car dealership.

When to lease your first car.

I can only think of one situation when leasing a car makes sense. That’s when someone or something else leases it for you.

For example, my father sold steel to manufacturers. For several years, he was in charge of the Tri-State region and did a lot of driving to sales calls. One perk of his job, because of his required travel, was his company gave him a car.

Even though this was his work car, he used it for work and personal driving. His employer wasn’t in the business of owning cars, so they leased him a car, and he got a new car every three years. Other than the gas he used for his personal travel, all the expenses of his leased cars were his employer’s.

Unless someone or something else to leases a car for you, it likely doesn’t make sense to lease a car. Even if you can get someone or something else to lease a car for you, plan for the day you can buy your own car. Save $200 to $400 a month in an account for when you do buy your own car.

You’ll be happier if you do and will be closer to buying the car you want.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!