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Monthly Archives: June 2019
Seven strategies for paying off student loans
Graduation is a time of celebration. You’ve finished four—ok, maybe five years of school, and you’re ready to conquer the world. Do you know what else you should be ready to conquer? Your student loan debt.
In 2018, the total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. was at an all-time high at nearly $1.5 trillion. Spread over 44 million borrowers, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. While the idea of repaying your debt may be overwhelming and a seemingly impossible feat, take heed. We’ve got a few words of wisdom that can help you get started. With some self-discipline and a little sacrifice, you’ll be able to wipe out that I.O.U. sooner than you think.
Here are some practical strategies you can use to get your finances in order, knock down that debt, and be well on your way to financial freedom:
1. Live like a college student
You’re eager to venture out into the real world and live on your own. You want to rent a cool apartment that doesn’t include a hand-me-down couch and four other roommates. We get it. But if you can stand it, try not to inflate your current lifestyle too quickly. By keeping the same penny-pinching habits you used in college, you’ll be able to send a bigger chunk of your paycheck to your lender. The quicker you pay it down, the faster you’ll graduate to a more comfortable lifestyle that doesn’t include a repayment plan.
2. Send more than the minimum payment
If you continue to send the required minimum loan repayment each month, it’ll take the full term of your loan to pay it off. You’ll also wind up paying the maximum amount of interest. Consistently sending more than your $50 minimum payment, for example, will not only help you pay the balance down more quickly, it will significantly reduce the total amount of interest you pay over the term of the loan. Increasing your payment by any amount will save you both time and money, and who wouldn’t want that?
3. Pick up a side hustle
If you need more money, find a way to bring in additional income. Maybe you DJ on the weekends, wait tables at night, or work as a freelance photographer. Whatever your talent, parlay it into a side hustle. The key here is to have enough discipline to take the extra income and pay down your student loans. It’s not a way to save for a vacation, to buy a new car, or a Louis Vuitton bag—right now, anyway. If your objective is to tackle your student loans, keep your eye on the prize!
4. Send extra payments
Did you get a tax refund, a bonus at work, a little extra cash in your birthday card? It might not be the most exciting thing to do, but paying down your loan with a windfall, no matter how big or small, is the financially smart thing to do. Making extra payments, whether it’s each month, every quarter, or whenever you happen upon some extra cash, will speed up your loan repayment and reduce your total interest expense. The faster you pay it down, the more money you save, and the quicker you get out from underneath that student loan debt.
5. Add loan repayments to your gift wish list
C’mon, how many Starbuck’s gift cards do you really need? When friends and family ask you for birthday or holiday gift suggestions, you might tactfully ask them for a cash gift to pay down your student loan balance. Check out sites like LoanGifting or Generosity, now a part of GoFundMe, to make it official. Services like these are exclusively dedicated to helping reduce student loan debt by accepting and processing loan repayment donations. Set up a profile, connect it to your loan account information, and gift-givers can help you on your road to financial freedom.
Be sure to read the fine print, though. Setting up an account is free, but there are some fees deducted from each financial gift.
6. Refinance your student loans
Consolidating and refinancing your student loans at a lower rate can help you reduce the amount of interest you’ll pay. It may also allow for a shorter repayment term and a quicker route to becoming debt free. With one loan, one monthly payment, and a more competitive interest rate, it’s worth a look. There’s no harm in evaluating your options, especially when there may be an opportunity to save some cash and reduce your debt more quickly.
7. Look for employers who can help
Student loan repayment assistance is an employee benefit that’s growing in popularity. In fact, according to Forbes, it was the hottest employee benefit of 2018. Check out their list of ten companies that are already on board.
There are other similar programs, too. Government employees may be eligible for the federal government’s Student Loan Repayment Program. Nurses and teachers may be eligible for the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program and Teach for America, and public sector employees may be able to receive assistance through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
Weighted down with student loan debt isn’t the ideal way you’d like to begin this next chapter of your life, but it’s a reality for most college students. You can make the minimum payments, repay your loans as scheduled, and live happily in the process. But, if you’re anxious to finish those monthly payments and begin investing in your future, use these strategies and get started sooner than later.
2019 What’s Ne[x]t Scholarship Winners
The What’s Ne[x]t Scholarship winners are in and what a class we have this year! In honor of our 85th Anniversary, we are awarding a new total of $16,000 to three deserving students in the amounts of $8,500, $5,000, and $2,500. Congratulations to Demi, Melanie, and Joy! Each of these ladies demonstrated an exceptional commitment to their community, a strong academic background, and a bright vision for their future. We are honored to have them each as one of Georgia’s Own and can’t wait to see their dreams take flight.
$8,500 Scholarship Winner
Demi Adeoye (Kennesaw) – Economics/Pre-Med, University of Georgia
$5,000 Scholarship Winner
Melanie Kemp (Lilburn) – Engineering Management, Johns Hopkins University
$2,500 Scholarship Winner
Joy Nwoke (Loganville) – Pediatric Pharmacy, Mercer University
Disney on a Dime: An insider’s perspective on how to stretch your Disney Vacation dollars
Disney World–it’s the most magical place on earth. With it’s flying elephants, princess palaces, and dancing cast of characters, it’s a child’s paradise and a dream vacation. Who wouldn’t want to visit Cinderella’s castle, bump into Buzz Lightyear in the park, or have dinner with Mickey and Minnie?
Disney World is almost a right of passage for kids these days, and many young-at-heart adults eagerly head back every year. So how do you swing a sweet vacation without breaking the bank? We’re not gonna lie—it’ll cost you a pretty penny, but there are ways to save money without sacrificing fun. We spoke with Erin Sistar of The Vacation Wizards travel agency to find out just how you can experience the magic of Disney without blowing your budget. Check out these money-saving tips:
The majority of vacationers are diehard believers that booking a hotel close to, but not inside the park, will help save big bucks. Surely any accommodations on Disney property would be more expensive, right? Often times, that’s not true.
While Disney does have several premium hotels located on property, they also have four more reasonably priced value resorts: Pop Century, All-Star Sport, All-Star Movies, and All-Star Music. With a reservation at any of these hotels, you’ll enjoy the on-property conveniences, but avoid the $20+ daily parking fee at the park. It will also include Magic Bands for the entire family, a $20 per person value.
Your magic band is a virtual backpack of conveniences that you wear as a bracelet. It electronically holds your room key, park passes, fast passes, dining reservations, pictures, and more, right there on your wrist! It also syncs with your My Disney Experience account, an app that you’ll use while you’re in the park.
If the value resorts are still too steep for your budget, you might choose one of the many Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotels. These hotels are held to the Disney quality and standard of service, have a Guest Services desk that can assist you with your Disney vacation planning, are convenient to the Disney resort and provide transportation to all the parks. Many of the hotels also offer complimentary breakfasts and evening receptions.
Unless you’re a Florida resident or active or retired military, you’ll rarely find a discounted Disney park ticket. So how do you stretch your entertainment dollars? Book your room and your tickets together in a basic package. While you’ll still pay full price for the tickets, a package will include a discount on the price of your room. It will also protect you from falling prey to scammers who sell “discounted” tickets that you’ll eventually find are expired or have been previously redeemed.
One of the simplest ways to get the most bang for your buck is to book your Disney vacation with as much lead time as possible. Did you know that you’re able to book a Disney hotel room 499 days in advance? If you want the most economical price, your reservation should be made no less than seven months ahead of your departure date and ideally closer to one year. It will also afford you the greatest variety and availability for specialty dining, character dinners, and other limited space activities during your stay.
Everyone has to eat, but should you buy a Disney Dining Plan? Food can eat up a lot of your budget, especially when you’re eating on the run. The dining plan is a fabulous option, but it’s not for everyone.
If you’re a family of four and have two tweens or teens that are eating you out of house and home, buying a meal plan is a no-brainer. And, it gives you the added convenience of a now all-inclusive trip. But, if you have two little ones who live on goldfish and eat a few bites from Mom or Dad’s plate, it’s not worth spending a few hundred dollars.
Disney offers three different dining plans so you can choose the option that works best for your family:
This is the least expensive meal plan. For each person and for each day of your visit, it includes:
- Two quick-serve meals where you order at the counter and seat yourself
- Two snack credits that can be used to purchase items like a coke, popcorn, pretzel, or ice cream
- One refillable mug, which may be used at any of the resorts, but not at the park
- One alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink credit to be used at your meal
Disney Meal Plan
This mid-level plan replaces the two quick-serve meals from above with one quick-serve meal and one table service meal, which includes character dining.
Deluxe Disney Meal Plan
This is the most inclusive and most expensive meal plan. It replaces the two meals above with three meals, which can be any combination of quick-serve and/or table service meals.
If the meal plan isn’t for you, there’s no need to worry. Disney will allow you to bring food into the parks, within reason, of course. They’re generally more lenient when you have little ones afoot. Grown teenagers carrying a full-sized cooler, however, probably won’t get by so easily.
Be sure to bring your own water bottles into the park, too. It’s hot, it’s busy, and you’ll undoubtedly get thirsty running from ride to ride. You’ll find water fountains everywhere, so fill up those bottles and go! You can also go to any quick serve, snack counter, or cart and ask for a cup of water. And yes, it’s FREE. Finally, if you’re in the park during your table service meal, you can kindly ask your waiter to refill them with cold, icy water.
Another way to stretch your dining dollars is to bring some of your favorite food from home. Well, sort of. There’s no need to pack those pop-tarts and oatmeal packets in your suitcase when there’s Amazon Pantry. Place your order online and ship it to your hotel so that it arrives on the day you check-in.
Our last no meal plan, money-saving food related trick has to do with those magical character meals. If you’re planning on making a reservation, opt for breakfast or lunch. The dinner option is much more expensive.
Lunch is a great time because you’ve been in the park all morning and you’re likely ready to put your feet up and enjoy some AC. Your little one might even take a quick nap.
Breakfast, on the other hand, lets you enjoy the rest of the day and leave the park when you’re ready. You won’t feel pressure to stick around for later reservations if the fam is ready to go.
A trip to Disney World is one of the most fun and memorable vacations you’ll take, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Use these tips and your smart spending will help make your Disney vacation even more magical!