Category Archives: Money Monday$

Mondays spent highlighting my own experiences with finances, tips & tricks, and relevant discussion about a range of monetary topics including student debt, budgeting, and saving.

Tardy Tuesday…

Does time ever get away from you? Do you lay down at night and ever wonder where all those hours went? Is this starting to sound like one of those informercials that play late at night?

Well, it seems like the last few days have gotten away from me. I had a fantastic weekend that was busy and relaxing at the same time. There was a beach day on Saturday at Far Rockaway which was a smashing success but left me drained for the rest of the day. And then a day spent indoors cleaning and cooking–we made beef bourguignon a la Julia Child.

Blog post to follow.

But let’s get back on track first.

So here’s a belated “Monday Monday” if you will.

So recently there have been two developments in the student loan game that sort of negate one another. First off, President Obama just signed off on a bill that would keep student loan interests fixed at 3.4% for the next year. Which is good. I mean it helps out thousands of students this upcoming school year who are going to take out loans. But that fixed interest rate is only guaranteed for a year. Who knows what it’ll just up to 365 days from now. It’s a start though.

Secondly, starting this past Sunday, graduate student loans going forward will no longer have a grace period. Traditionally, you take out your loans, finish school, have six months to scrabble together some income and then your loans start accruing interest. Now loans will start accruing interest while you’re still in school. So by the time you graduate your loans have already been billed interest for the last two or four years or more if you’re in a PHD program…

Every now and then I think about going back to school to pursue a graduate degree. In what exactly? I’m not sure. But the idea of tacking on more debt terrifies me. So as much as I would like to increase my skill set, actively learn, and have summers again I’m hesitant to take on more schooling with no guarantee that I’ll be able to make ends meet afterwards.

I just found this resource on Kiplinger–a personal finance site–that breaks down the best value colleges for those considering a return to school. They have a ton of other related tools as well including information about stocks, taxes, and general basics.

Interested in learning more about your loans? If they’re held by Nelnet you can attend a webinar for more information on their Money Mondays!

Now here’s what I really want to ask you…

Do you want more informational posts like these or more personal ones about what I’m dealing with? A little of both?

I want to hear from you!
So comment, email doogenblogs@gmail.com or tweet @doogencreates 

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Money Monday$: Guest Blog–A Drop of Jewel

Happy Monday ladies and gents! I hope y’all had a fantastic weekend. I know I did. I headed up to Maine for Julia and Eric’s wedding and it was so lovely to see them and take part in their special day. It was a wedding straight out of Pinterest but still so reflective of who they are as individuals and as a couple.

In a tiny and fun little Fiat 500!

And here’s a car rental tip if you live in NYC or another large city:

When you’re researching a rental try using a pickup location just outside of the city. Instead of picking up our car in Manhattan, we got it at the Westchester airport instead which is a quick train ride ($7 each way) and bus ride ($2.25) away. It took us about the same amount of time to get to the Westchester airport that it would have taken to get the car out of the city and the rental was at least 30% less. Just because we changed locations! Try it out the next time you rent a car and let me know how it goes!

In other moola related news…

It’s an exciting day because Jewel from A Drop of Jewel will be guest blogging about some money saving tips and tricks for the recent grad…and pretty much anybody! She spent the entire month of June blogging about finances and budgeting so head on over and take a look for more tips!

“So college is over and you’re out on your own. You’ve traded in juggling books for juggling bills. I can bet that managing your personal finances was not part of the curriculum either. Student loans are knocking at your door waiting to be paid back along with the rest of your debts. If you’ve managed to land a good job, congratulations you’re ahead of the masses. My suggestion to you would be: Be confident in your position at work but never get too comfortable. Layoffs, downsizing, and unemployment for degree-holding graduates are at an all time high
just like everyone else.

That is why it is so important to save some of your earnings. No one ever wants to think they will be laid off from their job, but it certainly does happen. The question is how prepared will you be if that should occur? Sure, you may qualify for unemployment should you get let go but unemployment is barely enough to survive off of. If you’re not prepared, unexpected unemployment can easily cause a chain reaction in your life. When you lose your income, you can’t pay all your bills. When you can’t pay all your bills, you get late charges tacked on until it gets to the point where your bill is sent to collections. Once it gets to collections and you still can’t pay, it goes on your credit report. Your credit becomes all messed up making it harder for you to buy anything else on credit, harder for you to rent or buy a home, and ultimately harder to land another job (as most good jobs do credit checks these days).

Credit lenders don’t care whether you have a job or not. They want their money either way. So to avoid this chain reaction, start saving NOW! The ideal amount to have saved up is about six months worth of your salary. This may sound like a lot and almost impossible to do, but it’s not. The following are just a few tips to help:

  • Pay Yourself First: I’m sure you’ve heard this expression before, but it’s such good advice I had to repeat. I hear friends say all the time that they can’t save because they have too many other financial obligations. Well…there are always going to be other financial obligations. Once you decide on a reasonable, comfortable amount for you to set aside each month for savings, just do it off the top. Before you pay anyone else, take the money out your check and put it in your savings. A lot of jobs these days allow you to link your direct deposit into two different accounts so you can have it transferred to your savings automatically. This is the best way because you don’t  even miss it. Really.
  • Take Baby Steps: Six months worth of salary is a lot. Whatever your salary may be; it may seem like it will take forever for you to save that amount of money. So start small. When I first started building my savings, I only saved $25 from each paycheck. Once I started paying off other debts and loans, I was able to increase the amount little by little. Whenever I got a pay raise, I would increase the amount again. You can do it too !
  • Get a High Yield Savings Account: This is something I’ve been looking into lately since American Express keeps sending me the advertisements for it (lol). This is a safe secure way to have your savings make money for you while you are still adding to it. American Express and ING Direct are two that I know of that are offering high interest on savings accounts. These rates are higher than your regular, traditional savings accounts and some of these high yield accounts have compounded interest. This is a small way to help get to your goal a little faster.
  • Don’t Touch!: Some of us are good at saving, yes. However, we sometimes find ourselves dipping into the stash. The best advice I can offer is to pretend the account doesn’t even exist. Of course there are some types of accounts where you can get penalized for withdrawing from the savings, but I don’t really care for those. I like having access to my money without any threats of penalty. However, if you know you don’t have the self-discipline not to touch, then this type of account might be good for you. Whatever you have to do to get control, do it and stop dipping into the savings.

So what is the overall takeaway from this? Start saving your money. By putting some money to the side, you will be able to save yourself in the event you should ever face difficult financial times.”

Thanks Jewel for the great post!

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Money Monday$: Post-Grad Life

Happy Monday all!

I hope all your weekends went well. I spent mine working and then spending time with the Spigelman/Surfaro clan. Most recently, at a Mets vs. Yankees game.

Let’s not talk about the game though…le sigh.

What we can talk about is what seems like an unending conversation about the dim and grim situations us twenty-something college grads have found ourselves in.

When I was 18 and first started college, I originally thought I was going to be a doctor. I took science course after science course in conjunction with math classes that I hated. And after a while, I decided that this was not the path I wanted to take. Instead I subscribed to that wonderful part of college that said “Take classes that interest you! Take part in great moral discussions! Learn for the sake of learning!” Which, of course, is fantastic. What wasn’t so fantastic was the fact that I had no balance or guidance to also mention that I should consider double majoring so that I could learn about what I wanted AND get a second degree at the same time.

If there was one thing I could tell college freshman–aside from “Beware the student loan monster and apply for internships and network and be true to who you are while simultaneously not being afraid to try out new things” it would be to…

DOUBLE MAJOR.

 And here’s where you might be thinking “Duyen, what does this have to do with money?” Well, if you’re going to a four year university as a full-time student the cost of tuition is going to be about the same whether you take the minimum number of credits or 20 credits more than that. So the more classes you take, the more bang for your buck.

If we’re going to have to pay through the nose to get a degree, wouldn’t it make sense to get two if you can? This also would allow you to pursue a degree in something you love, like say English Literature or History or Music Theory, and in something with a more pragmatic function like Mathematics or Communication.

Of course, a degree or two is not a guarantee for job or financial security. As evidence by this recent article in The Atlantic. But it’s a start.

And if you’re out of school, like me, going back to school might seem like a tempting option to avoid the dismal job market. But before breaking out the GRE and LSAT and MCAT book it might be worth looking into getting a Certificate for a particular skill. Schools and post-grads and employers are catching on to the value of such programs as noted in this recent NYT article.

So before enrolling in grad school full time, thus incurring more debt, I would strongly consider taking a course to advance a particularly desirable skill set. Most colleges offer things like this in their continuing education programs and there are plenty of free (or really cheap) courses available online too.

Here are some resources I found:

Coursera

Udacity

Straighter Line

Khan Academy

Skillshare

Saylor Foundation

And ultimately, you have to have a sense of humor about these things. Sarah Shanfield writes about what it means to be 25 today. And one of the takeaways is that “We can’t control the economy or our entry into grad school, but we can laugh with one another and slowly pay off our credit cards.”

Here’s to being a post-grad right?

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Money Monday$: Budgeting

Hello! I hope you had a nice weekend and enjoyed yourselves. I played some PAC-12 Alumni softball and only managed to strike out once…and made a trip to Target–one of my favorite places. We brought home a new storage unit and a DIY project that may or may not make an appearance depending on how well it goes.

Insane Money Origami

It seems that since last Monday there has been some moving and shaking in the world of college affordability and financial transparency.

On Tuesday, Veep Biden met with 10 college presidents to include a “shopping sheet” as part of college admissions packages that “simplify the current process of comparing colleges. It would clearly state the cost of a year of classes, the student’s net cost after grants and scholarships, financial aid options to pay that cost and estimated monthly payments for federal loans. It would also provide information about the colleges’ retention and graduation rates and the share of graduates who default on their student loans.”

Hopefully, other schools which catch on and make things like this standard practice.

And I can pretty safely agree with Thomas F. Cooley when he says “Clearly the best way to protect consumers is to educate them.”

That’s what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created to do. If you have access to a phone or the internet you can receive financial advice, information, and clarification on anything from banking fees to mortgage payments and credit card debt.

Now that there are some resources there, how do you go about promoting financial literacy? How many teenagers and young adults and older adults really want to sit down and take a hard look at their finances? I mean, it’s a tough thing to look at and realize that getting that Big-Gulp sized coffee every morning is costing you more each month than your monthly commute. It’s hard to create a budget, in the first place, and  then stick to it.

But, I think that’s the first step.

I found these templates from Nelnet and Google Docs that can help get you started. First, keep track of what you normally spend. And the most important thing is to be honest with yourself. You have to be willing to record those impulse buys and hold yourself accountable otherwise you’ll never really know what and, more importantly, where you’re spending your hard-earned moola.

Once you get a look at what your money is going towards you can start prioritizing what to spend on.

Of course you have fixed expenses like your rent/mortgage, utilities, and insurance but then there are those expenses that can vary greatly from month to month like your groceries or gas/transportation. Then there are your “wants” like clothing,travel, entertainment, booze, eating out, TV/Cable, etc. After tallying your monthly totals, here are few things to consider:

1. You should be spending less than what you’re earning. If you’re in the red each month, you should take a look at your budget and start making some adjustments. Even the smallest change like eating out one night less a week can make a big difference in your budget.

  • Tip: Try to pay for things with cash or your debit card. It’ll force you to rethink your purchases. It’s always tempting to swipe your CC because it may seem like you’re spending less but it will continue to add to your debt that you’ll have to pay interest on. And who wants to pay interest on the at $3 block of cheese you bought?

2. If you are spending less than what you’re earning you have a few options. You can put it in your savings or you can pay more than the minimum on your credit card or student loans payments thus saving you some money in the long-term by reducing the amount of interest you’re paying over the life of the loan. Or a mix of both.

3. Be flexible. A budget is meant to be a guideline not a live-or-die by standard. Some months you’ll splurge on a new outfit or a trip (Although, it cannot be called “splurging” if you do it every week. That’s called “denial.”) but as long as you’re being mindful of your spending, paying down your debt–not adding  to it–and putting something away for a rainy day, everything will turn out alright.

What budgets have worked for you? What advice would you give someone just starting out? What do you wish someone had told you about budgeting?

Comment below or email doogenblogs@gmail.com or tweet @doogencreates

*Note: I’m not a professional financial planner. These are things that I have culled from my own experience and learning. Take what you will, leave what you don’t want.*

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Money Monday$

Politics, Money, Religion–things you’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table, right?

Well, it seems like money is something you’re never really supposed to talk about. It’s taboo to talk about stipends and mortgages and rent payments and credit card debt and salaries…and why is that?

Wouldn’t it make sense that we would should talk about something that is essentially the baseline for how you live?

I’m not saying that you need money to have a good life. And I’m definitely not talking about bling, fast cars, and luxury meals–although, wouldn’t that be nice if those were my problems? I’m talking about managing your money to live the way you want to.  I am simply asking about how in the midst of all this talk about education and prevention when it comes to eating healthy, safe sex, politics, and policy–we don’t include financial literacy.

This particular topic is one I have become more and more interested as I’ve started to work my way through all the red tape and paperwork and forms that come with my student loans AND as I’ve seen more articles, blog posts, info-graphics, and conversations center around people drowning in their student loans.

I went to UCLA–a big public university in a bankrupted CA. My last quarter there, I saw a 33% increase in tuition costs. My parents weren’t able to foot the bill, I had some grants, and loans made up the difference. I’m a smart kid but that’s the thing–I was just a kid. Taking out over $25,000 in loans. With no credit history. Isn’t there something wrong with that picture?

My understanding is that when you go the bank and ask for a loan for a new car or a house or anything, really, they do extensive checks on your credit score, your purchase, etc. etc.  And here I was, 18 years old, with barely a few hundred dollars to my name, given this enormous sum of money. I knew I would have to pay it back eventually and I didn’t spend it frivolously but I also never really thought about what the payments would be like, how the interest would build on itself, or how having five different servicers/lenders would be such a pain in the ass.

Just like we educate children about not taking candy from strangers, maybe we should start educating them about not taking money all willy-nilly from interest hungry lenders.

So here’s my bright idea, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and mouthing off about my money. Every Monday. (That’s the hope for now.)

If you’re a high school senior, recently accepted into college…Congratulations! And good luck. Check out your school’s financial aid office–and since those are packed–come to terms that you’ll have to figure most of it out on your own. Most schools now have a Net Price Calculator to help you figure out your total cost. But I would advise just taking a good hard look at what your actual expenses are (rent/tuition/books) and taking as few loans as humanly possible. Then get a work-study job. And try to Know Before You Owe.

If you’re paying off your loans, it would be nice to know what they all were right? The National Student Loan Data System has your records here!

Maybe my own experience will help make someone else’s journey easier? If nothing else, I know that misery always loves company.

Have a question or suggestion? Want to talk about something specific? Feel free to comment and let me know what you want to see on Money Monday$! If you’d rather not address it publicly, you can also email me at doogenblogs@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear from you!

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