Why Set Impossible Goals for 2021? [The Ultimate New Year’s Savings Hack]

In the 1980s, self-driving cars and smartphones without antennas were only things you’d see in movies — unimaginable futuristic goals. Now, these “impossible” inventions are part of people’s everyday lives. These innovative ideas were thought to be outlandish years ago until creators like Elon Musk and IBM’s team put their impossible goals to the test.

Impossible goals are things you want to achieve that seem out of the ordinary — ones that feel as if you may never reach them, even in your wildest dreams. These goals could be turning your dream side hustle into a full-time job or building your savings from zero in the next year to buy your dream home.

While the end result seems unreachable, a mix of motivation, determination, and hard work can get you further than you think. To see the strategic process of setting and achieving your biggest life goals, keep reading our jump to our infographic below.

What’s an Impossible Goal?

An impossible goal is a goal you think you could never achieve. Becoming a millionaire, buying your dream home, or starting a business may be your life goal, but one too big that you never set out to achieve. Instead, you may stick to your current routine and believe you should live life in the comfort zone.

Becoming a millionaire usually requires investing time, confidence, and a lot of hard work — things that may challenge you. But when you think about the highest achievers, most of them had to put in the effort and believe in themselves when nobody else did.

Flashback to 1995 when nobody believed in the “internet store” that came to be Amazon. While that was considered impossible years ago, Amazon’s now made over $280 billion dollars.

In other words, when you make your impossible goals a priority, you may be pleasantly surprised by your progress. We share how to set hard financial goals, why you should set them, and how these goals could transform your financial portfolio this year.

Impossible Goals Set by the Rich and Famous

4 Reasons to Reach for the “Impossible”

Impossible goals challenge you to shift your way of thinking — getting comfortable out of the safety zone. They help fine-tune your focus for daunting tasks you’re willing to put in the time and work for. Whether you’re looking to become a millionaire, buy your dream house, or pay down your debts, here’s why you should set goals for things you think you could never achieve.

1. You May Be Pleasantly Surprised

Everything seems impossible until you do it. When you’re in elementary school, maybe you thought getting a four-year college degree would be out of reach. Regardless, you put in the time and hard work to become a college grad years later. The same goes for your potential goal to write a book. You may think it’s hopeless to write a few hundred pages in the next year, but you may find it attainable once you hit the halfway point.

2. You Check Off Micro-Goals Along the Way

It’s hard to set your goals too low when you’re trying to reach for the stars. In the past, you may have set small goals like being more mindful with your money. While mindfulness practices are extremely beneficial for your budget, you may need more of a push to save for your dream home. By setting impossible goals, you may find it easier to reach your savings goal this year. You may have no idea how to do it, but your goal is to figure it out. Side hustles, a new job, or starting a business are all potential starting points.

3. It May Not Be as Hard as You Think

It can be uncomfortable to try something for the first time, so to avoid the doubts of reaching your goals, create a strategic plan. Download and print out our printable to breakdown each impossible goal. Start with your big goals and break them down into mini-goals. For example, if you want to start an online ecommerce store, researching the perfect website platform is a good starting point.

4. What Do You Have to Lose?

If you already live a comfortable life, you may only have experiences to gain and nothing to lose. When embarking on this journey, check in with yourself every month. Note all the lessons you learned and how far you’ve come. You most likely will face failures, but you’ll be failing forward rather than backwards. Your first ecommerce product launch may not have gone smoothly, but you may know how to improve for the next time around.

Impossible Goals Roadmap

Impossible Goals Download Button

How To Set Impossible Budgeting Goals in 6 Steps

If your impossible goal is related to finances, your mindfulness, time, and dedication will be required to put you on a path towards your dream life. To get started, follow our step-by-step guide below.

Step 1: Map Out Your Dream Lifestyle

  • Get out a journal and map out your dream life. Some starter questions may be:
  • Do you want to afford that house you’ve always dreamt about?
  • Do you want to have a certain amount of money in your savings?
  • Are you hoping to turn your side hustle into a full-time job?
  • What do you find yourself daydreaming about?

Track all these daydreams in a notebook and curate the perfect action plan to achieve each goal.

Step 2: Outline Micro-goals to Reach Your Financial Goals

Now, list out mini-goals to achieve your desires. Start with the big “unachievable” goal and break it down into medium and small goals, then assign each mini-goal a due date. For example, saving $10,000 this year may take more than your current monthly earnings. To achieve this, you may create passive income streams. If that side hustle is to start a money-making blog, you may need to research steps to successfully launch your website.

Step 3: Believe and Act Like Your Future Self

Think of yourself as the future self you want to be. You may picture yourself with a certain home, financial portfolio, and lifestyle, but your current actions may not reflect your future self. Your future self may invest, but your current self is too intimidated to start. To act like your future self, consider doing the research and finding low-risk investments that suit you and your budget.

Step 4: If You Fail, Learn from Your Mistakes

When working towards your dream life, you may hit roadblocks and experience failures. As Oprah explains it, “there is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” While failure may happen, you’re able to learn from it and pivot. Every mistake you make, analyze it in your journal. Note what worked, what didn’t, and what you want to do better tomorrow to surpass this roadblock.

Step 5: Track Your Results Consistently

Host monthly meetings with yourself to see how far you’ve come. Consider creating a goal tracking system that suits you best. That may include checking your budgeting goals off in our app month after month. Find a system that works for you and note your growth at the end of each month. If you’re putting in the time and hard work, you’ll get closer to your goals in no time.

Step 6: Be Patient With Your Budget Goals

Throughout this journey, practice patience. Setting goals may be exciting and motivating, but when you’re faced with failures, you may feel hints of disappointment. To avoid a failure slump, be patient and open to learn from your mistakes. If you didn’t make what you wanted from your side hustle the first year, you’re that much closer than you were last year.

Why set your sights on hard goals? Everything feels out of reach until you do it. All it takes is motivation and determination to achieve the impossible. To boost your lifestyle, budget, and drive this New Year, consider setting goals that feel out of reach. Keep reading to see why these goals may be perfect for you. Why Set Impossible Goals for 2021? [The Ultimate New Year’s Savings Hack] appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

22 Alternative Uses for Baking Soda

A gentle swap for scouring powder

The best thing about scouring powder is its abrasive action. The worst is the harsh chemical smell. To get all the benefits without the caustic chemicals, use baking soda instead. In most instances, baking soda will work just as well as scouring powder.

Simply clean tiles

For an easy, natural tile cleaner, mix together ¼ cup baking soda and 1 gallon warm water. Scrub with a sponge or mop, then rinse. For tough stains, wait 10 to 15 before rinsing.

Love your grout again

Is there anything more satisfying than nice, clean grout? A simple paste of 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water is all you need. Make a new batch each time you plan to attack the space between your tiles.

Remove scuffs

To get rid of scuff marks left on vinyl flooring by dark-soled shoes, rub some baking soda into the spot with a wet rag. The marks will disappear.

Show off crystal-clean crystal

To clean your cut crystal, mix a teaspoon of baking soda with warm water, then dab it onto the crystal with a soft rag. Rinse with water, and buff with a dry, soft cloth.

Supercharge your detergent

To boost the power of your dishwasher detergent, sprinkle a little baking soda in the dishwasher every time you run it. It will also help fight foul odors before they start.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's 12 Dishwasher Tips and Tricks

Know this skillet saver

The teriyaki chicken you made for dinner was delicious, but the sweet sauce left terrible black burns on the bottom of your frying pan. To clean it, first sprinkle the pan with ¼ to ½ cup baking soda, and fill the pan halfway with water. Bring the water to a boil, and the burned pieces should start to release. When most of the pieces are removed, turn off the heat, dump the water, and wash as usual.

As the water boils, you may want to use a spatula to help the process along. 

Get better-tasting coffee

The secret many of us miss: Make sure you clean your coffee maker regularly. Just add several tablespoons of baking soda to your pot, fill it with water, and run it as usual. Then repeat using only water.

Tackle tough appliances

If you haven’t had time to clean up and now there’s dried-on food stuck in the blades of your blender or food processor, bring baking soda to the rescue. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda along with 1 cup warm water to the bowl, put the lid on, and let it blend for 10 to 15 seconds. Wash as usual.

Perk up your plastic

Have plastic storage containers with lingering odors? Wash them with hot water plus 2 tablespoons baking soda.

I can’t even count how many times our boys have left something to fester in a water bottle or thermos! Simply fill the container with hot water and ½ cup baking soda, then let it sit overnight. In the morning, rinse well and it should be as good as new.

The brightest white cabinets

White kitchen cabinets can be beautiful, but they can also show grease, dust, and dirt more than their darker counterparts. To keep them looking their best, add water to a small amount of baking soda until it’s a runny paste. Scrub the mixture on the cabinets, and then rinse with warm water.

Simple step to a shiny sink

For a spectacularly shiny finish on a stainless steel or aluminum sink, rub a liberal amount of baking soda in a circular motion all over its surface with a damp sponge.

RELATED: Domestic CEO's How to Clean Your Sink

Disposal smarts

Instead of throwing away baking soda when it’s finished its 30-day stint in your fridge, dump it down the garbage disposal with running water. It will keep your disposal fresh, too!

Freshen rugs and upholstery

Sprinkle rugs, couches, and upholstered chairs with baking soda and let it sit an hour before you vacuum. It will keep them cleaner and fresher over the long haul.

Sprinkle some baking soda into the bag of your vacuum cleaner to keep it smelling fresh.

Save money on delicate detergents

Use this homemade solution: Dissolve 1 cup baking soda in 1 cup warm water. Add the solution directly to your standard washing machine, or add it to the soap dispenser of a front loader. The baking soda will clean your clothes without harming their delicate fibers.

All-Natural Fabric Softener: Just add ¼ to ½ cup baking soda to the wash cycle.

Erase wall marks

What’s the easiest way to remove crayon, pencil, ink, and furniture scuffs from painted surfaces? Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge, rub clean, and rinse.

Vinyl siding super-cleaner

From bird poop to tree sap to standard weather damage, vinyl siding can get very dirty. And while brand-name cleaners will no doubt get the job done, they tend to be costly and loaded with toxic chemicals. Instead, combine baking soda with enough water to form a paste, then scrub into your siding with a damp rag until the stains lift. Rinse off with a hose and, if necessary, repeat on stubborn stains.

Lift oil stains

Cleaning oil spots off the driveway is difficult, and the cleaners can be quite expensive. Instead, sprinkle baking soda over the stains, then rub with a wet scrub brush soaked with hot water. The baking soda breaks apart oil particles, so with a little elbow grease, you can have your driveway looking new in no time.

Clean battery leaks

If battery acid leaks inside the compartments of your appliances, there’s no need to throw them away. Simply take a few spoonfuls of baking soda and add water until it’s the consistency of toothpaste. Spread it on your battery terminals, let it sit for 15 minutes, and wipe clean. The acid should come off easily.

Must-try for musty books

Place the books in a paper grocery bag with an open box of baking soda. Fold over the bag, staple it shut, and let it sit for a week or two. Your books should smell considerably better when you take them out.

Refresh suitcases

Is your suitcase a bit musty? The night before packing, pour a cup of baking soda in it, close it, and shake. In the morning, vacuum up the baking soda and the smell should be gone.

Get gloves on more easily

Sprinkle a little baking soda into each of your latex gloves, and they’ll stick less when you’re putting them on and taking them off.

If you have kids, you’ve had to clean up vomit. Baking soda can make the job a little less gross if you sprinkle some on top as soon as possible. It will soak up some of the mess and make the smell easier to deal with when you have to go at it with the paper towels.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

12 Habits of Debt Free People

The post 12 Habits of Debt Free People appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Getting out of debt is not easy, but it is possible. Thousands of people do it every year. They do it because of some things they each do. These are the habits of people who are debt free.

habits of people who are debt free

There is no greater feeling in the world than not having debt hanging over your head.  Whether you’ve worked hard to pay off your debts, or never got yourself into a financial bind before, there are things you do to remain financially fit.

If you are struggling with paying off your debt, these folks may be able to help:  Call 866-948-5666.

While we share the secrets to help you get out of debt, staying there can be tough.  It is a change in lifestyle which requires you to give up some bad habits and pick up some new (and better) good ones!  Here are ten habits of debt-free people!

THE 12 HABITS OF DEBT FREE PEOPLE

The 12 habits of debt free people -- strive to follow their lead

1. They are patient

People are debt free all of this in common. When you don’t have debt, you learn to be patient.  You know that all good things come in time.

For instance, if you know you need a new car that you need to start saving now and build up the cash.  It might take three years to get there, but you can do it.

Patience pays off as you can pay for your vehicle in cash rather than having to take out a loan and getting into debt once again.

 

2. Responsible for their actions

The debt free person is responsible with money.  Whether they are 20 or 60, they know the value of a dollar.  They understand and follow their budget and do not allow themselves to get into financial troubles.

When someone who is debt free makes a money mistake, they own it.

 

3. Material items do not matter

When it comes to “stuff” people who are out of debt know that this is not what matters.  Sure, you could have the newest TV, the fastest car and the biggest house — but at what cost?  They know the things that matter most in life and know that money can’t buy them.

In fact, for most debt free people, what matters more in life are experiences rather than things.  They know items will not be around forever, but that creating memories can last a lifetime.

 

4. They live below their means

People who do not have debt do not spend more than they make.  In fact, they often spend much less.  They are saving for the future and increase their emergency fund for that “just in case moment.”

When you are content, you do not need to spend more than you make.  You find contentment with what you have and don’t try to keep up with the Jones’s.

 

5. Think long-term

If you have debt, all you can see what is right in front of you.  That is your debt

People have no debt can see further ahead and plan accordingly. They plan for the big purchase. The emergency fund is ready for the unexpected.   They are prepared for anything that may come up in the future.

 

Set goals to be debt free

6. They set goals

Just like people in debt, they work hard for their money.  However, what they often do is set financial goals.  They might want to go on vacation or get that fancy new handbag.  They set a goal on how to pay for it and then work to achieve it.

It might mean fewer dinners out to save the money to pay for it – but they do it.  Once they’ve saved enough money, then – and only then – will they take the plunge and make the purchase

 

7. They use cash

This may not be the case for everyone, but most people who are debt free use cash.

Even if they use a credit card, they never charge MORE than they have available in the bank to pay off the statement every. single. month.  They have learned that if they do not have the money, they can not spend.  They don’t buy now and worry about how to pay it off later.

 

8. They can say no

When you have a limited budget, you know what you can spend money on and what you can not.  Sure, it might be fun to go out to dinner with your friends on Friday night, but if it is not in the budget, they know and will pass.

 

9. They always save

The one habit that most debt free people have in common is savings.  When they get paid, they first pay themselves. It might be a company funded 401(k) account or even regular savings.  Whatever way they do it, they always save.

The same holds true for any windfalls.  If they get a bonus or money from a family member, they will often set it aside and save it rather than run out and spend it right away.

They also watch to make sure that they are not ever paying more than they should for the items they need. It might mean using a coupon or merely waiting for the right deal to come along.

 

10. They ask questions

One thing we did when we needed a new television, was negotiated a discount by paying with cash.  We knew it did not hurt to ask and for us it worked!  We were able to save 5% off of our purchase – just by using cash.

Those who are not in debt are not afraid to ask for discounts.  They are not afraid to ask for a lower interest rate (if they truly need a loan for any reason).  They realize all that can happen is that they could be told no.  However, they also know that they might get what they’ve asked for!

The 12 habits of debt free people

11. They pay attention to their bills

When the bill arrives, they not only look it over to ensure it is accurate, they also make sure it is paid timely.  By doing this, they are never late paying bills, which results in late fees.

What they do when the bill comes is always look it over and then place it somewhere they know they will remember to pay it on time.  They may make a notation on a calendar or spreadsheet to remind them of the due date — so it is always paid on time.

 

12. They know that money does not buy happiness

Many times, people in debt are in that situation because they’ve spent money trying to fill an emotion or other need.  Instead of shopping out of necessity, they buy out of emotion.

Shopping to fulfill a need results in nothing more than debt.  Take the time to figure out why you shop.  What is it you are trying to replace?  Work to make a change in that part of your life, and you will find that your desire to shop for fulfillment can fade.

 

Whether you are in debt $5,000 or $50,000, I know you are doing what you can to get out from under your financial burden.  If you start to practice the habits of debt free people now, you can put those ideas to work for you — and get your debts paid down even more quickly!

 

Be debt free with these habits

The post 12 Habits of Debt Free People appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

How Does Cash Back Work?

How Does Cash Back Work?

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Credit card companies typically offer a plethora of rewards options for their cardholders to take advantage of. But cash back has long been a favorite of many, as it gives you the chance to earn cold, hard money for making everyday purchases. If you’re confused about how cash back works, read on for a full explanation.

How Cash Back Works

At its core, cash back refers to a predetermined percentage of a purchase you make being returned to you as cash rewards. Cash back rates typically range between 1% and 5%, though there are some outliers to be mindful of. Credit card issuers will usually clearly label what types of purchases earn what level of cash back. But like anything in the credit card industry, you must read the fine print.

This is mainly because all purchases and cash back rewards are governed by merchant category codes, or MCCs. Credit card companies ultimately determine these designations, with Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover calling the shots. Some common codes are “restaurant,” “department store,” “airline” and “entertainment,” among others. So if you earn 5% bonus cash back at restaurants and you go to Burger King — which has a restaurant MCC — you’ll get that 5% back.

But what these limiting MCCs sometimes don’t take into account are businesses that could fit into more than one category. Included in this group are hotels, superstores like Walmart, tourist attractions like museums and other multi-faceted establishments. In turn, you could lose out on cash back if you’re confused about which category a purchase you made falls into.

As an example, let’s say your family orders room service while on vacation in The Bahamas. You pay with your credit card thinking you’ll get the advertised 3% cash back on dining. When your credit card statement comes in the mail, however, you’ve only received the base 1% earnings. This is because the MCC of your hotel is just that, a hotel, which leaves your credit card issuer blind to what you really bought.

Unfortunately situations like these often offer very little recourse, as your card’s issuer has no ability to change these codes. In fact, only the major credit companies can change their own code selections.

New cardholders will often receive cash back promotions and bonuses. These offers can either be recurring — monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. — or simply for just one period of time, usually at the beginning of your account’s life. Hypothetically, a recurring bonus might look like this: “Earn 3% cash back at supermarkets and wholesale clubs, up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter.” On the other hand, a one-time promotion might allow for 5% cash back on airfare purchases made during the first three months you’re a cardholder.

Depending on your card, cash back may be capped or it could expire after a period of time. While some cards feature both an earnings limit and expiration dates, others may have no restrictions. All cash back cards have their own, unique system surrounding them. So it’s important to refer to your documentation whenever you have a particular question.

Using Your Cash Back Earnings

How Does Cash Back Work?

The vast majority of cash back credit cards offer variations of the same choices for redeeming rewards. Most often, you’ll see statement credits, checks, bank account deposits, gift cards and charitable donations available to you.

  • Statement credit – Instead of receiving your cash back in-hand, you can apply it to your upcoming monthly bill, saving you money in the process.
  • Check – As one of the more direct ways of redeeming cash back, checks allow you to basically do whatever you want with its value.
  • Bank deposits – Eligible accounts usually include checking accounts, savings accounts or investment accounts.
  • Gift cards – With this option, you can convert cash back into retail credit at a store or website at which you want to shop.
  • Donations – Many card issuers have open relations with charities. These partnerships open the door for you to aid your favorite causes with real money.

It’s by far the easiest to redeem cash back through your card issuer’s website that it provides. Here you’ll not only see your rewards status, you will also know every possible redemption you could make. If you’d rather talk to a real person, most companies still have rewards phone lines you can call, as well.

Those who’d rather not have to worry about where their rewards currently stand will find that a redemption threshold might be helpful. Not all cards offer this feature. But if yours does, set a threshold at which your cash back is automatically redeemed in any manner you desire. Additionally, some cards require you to attain a certain amount of cash back before redeeming is possible.

Cash Back With Each Major Credit Card Company

what is cash back

There are tons of different cash back cards, depending on your credit score you may be eligible for some but not others. While it’s impossible to give universal specifics for each credit card company, below we’ve provided overviews of some of the most popular cash back cards.

Citi Double Cash Card (Mastercard)

Cash Back Rate: 1% at the time of purchase, 1% when you pay them off

Limit or Expiration: No limit; Expires if no eligible purchases are made for 12 months

Redemption Options: As a check, statement credit or gift card

The “double cash” nature of the Citi Double Cash Card means you effectively earn cash back twice: first when you make the initial purchase and again when you pay your credit card bill. The 12-month expiration is fairly standard and the lack of limits on how much cash back you can earn is generous. Statement credits, checks and gift cards are three of the most common redemption choices, so it’s no surprise to see them offered here.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card (Mastercard)

Cash Back Rate: 3% in the category of your choice, 2% on purchases at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, 1% on other purchases

Limit or Expiration: Cash back on choice category, grocery stores and wholesale club purchases is limited on up to $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter; No expiration dates

Redemption Options: Once you have $25 or more, you can redeem as a statement credit, a check or a deposit to an eligible Bank of America® or Merrill Lynch® account

Take note of the combined $2,500 quarterly limit on 3% and 2% cash back in category of choice and at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, respectively. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card also requires cardholders to have a minimum of $25 in earned cash back before they can redeem.

Blue Cash Everyday American Express Card
(American Express)

Cash Back Rate: 3% on U.S. supermarket purchases, 2% on U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department store purchases, 1% on other purchases

Limit or Expiration: 3% rate at U.S. supermarkets is limited to $6,000 a year in purchases then drops to 1%; No expiration dates

Redemption Options: After earning at least $25, redeem as a statement credit in $25 increments; Gift cards and merchandise redemptions from time to time

Amex offers some of the strongest rewards cards around, and the Blue Cash Everyday American Express Card is no exception. It does come with some limits; namely the 3% cash back rate on U.S. grocery store purchases is capped at $6,000 in purchases a year. At that time, cardholders earn 1% in cash back on groceries.

Discover it® Card
(Discover)

Cash Back Rate: 5% in rotating categories like gas station, supermarket, restaurant, Amazon.com and wholesale club purchases, 1% on other purchases; Full cash back match at the end of your first year

Limit or Expiration: $1,500 cap on purchases that earn the 5% rate each quarter; No expiration dates

Redemption Options: Statement credits, deposits to a bank account, gift cards and eCertificates, pay with cash back at select merchants and charitable donations

Discover cards offer great first-year cash back matches and distinctive cash back categories. These traits are on full display with the Discover it® Card. This includes 5% cash back on purchases ranging from dining to Amazon.com. However, there are limits for this rate and you have to opt in to categories each quarter to qualify. This card also offers five redemption options — the most on this list.

Tips to Maximize Cash Back Potential and Minimize Credit Risk

  • Cash back is one of the most prolific perks that the modern credit card market has to offer. But it’s important that you don’t overspend outside of your means just for the sake of rewards. Because many cash back cards come with higher annual percentage rates (APRs), this could force you into large, unsustainable interest payments.
  • Whenever possible, swipe your card for purchases in bonus categories. Not all cards have these to offer, but most do. So make sure you know which cards in your wallet offer bonuses at places like gas stations and supermarkets.
  • Know what types of redemptions — statement credits, bank account deposits, gift cards etc. — work best for you. This will drastically narrow down your card options, making the decision process much simpler.

Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/4×6, Â©iStock.com/Pgiam, Â©iStock.com/Ridofranz

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which SmartAsset.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). SmartAsset.com does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

The post How Does Cash Back Work? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

4 Practical Ways to Leave College Debt-Free

A college student looks down at her notebook and smiles because she'll leave college debt-free.

The following is a guest post by Lisa Bigelow, a content writer for Bold.

When it comes to paying for college, the anxiety about how to leave college debt-free starts early. And for thousands of grads who are buckling under the weight of monthly student loan payments that can cost as much as a mortgage, that worry can last for as long as 25 years.

According to EducationData.org and The College Board, the cost of a private school undergraduate education can exceed $200,000 over four years. Think you can avoid a $100k+ price tag by staying in-state? Think again—many public flagships can cost over $100,000 for residents seeking an undergraduate degree, including room and board. And with financial aid calculators returning eye-poppingly low awards, you’d better not get a second topping on your pizza.

In fact, you’d better hope that you can graduate on time.

The good news is that you can maintain financial health and get a great education at the same time. You won’t have to enroll as a full-time student and work 40 hours a week, either—each of the methods suggested are attainable for anyone who makes it a priority to leave college debt-free.

Here are four practical ways you can leave college debt-free (and still get that second pizza topping).

1. Cut the upfront sticker price

Don’t visit schools until you are certain you can afford them. Instead, prioritize the cost of attendance and how much you can afford to pay. Staying in-state is one easy way to do this. But if you have wanderlust and want to explore colleges outside state lines, an often-overlooked method of cutting the upfront cost is the regional tuition discount. Many US states participate in some form of tuition reciprocity or exchange programs. You can explore the full list of options at the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators website.

Let’s explore how this works. As a resident of a New England state, for example, you can study at another New England state’s public university at a greatly reduced cost if your home state’s public schools don’t offer the degree you want. So, for example, if you live in Maine but want to go to film school, you can attend the University of Rhode Island and major in film using the regional tuition discount.

Some universities offer different types of regional discounts and scholarships that appear somewhat arbitrary. The University of Louisville (in Kentucky) includes Connecticut in its regional scholars program. And at the University of Nebraska, out-of-state admitted applicants are eligible for several thousand dollars in renewable scholarship money if they meet modest academic standards.

If you already have your heart set on an expensive school and you’re not likely to qualify for reciprocity, financial help, or merit aid, live at home and complete your first two years at your local community college.

Here’s another fun fact: in some places, graduating from community college with a minimum GPA gives you automatic acceptance to the state flagship university.

2. Leverage dual enrollment and “testing out”

When you enroll in a four-year college it’s pretty likely that you’ll spend the first two years completing general education requirements and taking electives. Why not further reduce the cost of your education by completing some of those credits at your local community college, or by testing out?

Community college per-credit tuition is usually much cheaper than at four-year colleges, so take advantage of the lower rate in high school and over the summer after you’re enrolled in your four-year college.

But beware: you’ll probably need at least a C to transfer the credits, so read your institution’s rules first. Also, plan to take general education and low-level elective classes, because you’ll want to take courses in your major at your four-year school.

If you’ve been given the opportunity to take Advanced Placement courses, study hard for your year-end exams. Many colleges will accept a score of 3 or higher for credit, although some require at least a 4 (and others none at all). Take four or five AP classes in high school, score well on the exams, and guess what? You’ve just saved yourself a semester of tuition.

3. Take advantage of financial aid opportunities

After taking steps one and two, you probably have a good idea of what the leftover expense will be if you want to leave college debt-free. Your next job is to figure out how to cut that total even more by using financial aid. There are four types to consider.

The first is called need-based aid. This is what you’ll apply for when you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Known as the FAFSA, this is where you’ll enter detailed financial information, and you’ll need at least an hour the first time you complete this form. Hint: apply for aid as soon as the form opens in the fall. It is not a bottomless pot of money.

There is also medical-based financial aid. If you have a condition that could make employment difficult after graduating from college, you may be eligible, and qualifying is separate and apart from financial need and academic considerations.

The third type of aid relates to merit and is offered directly by colleges. Some schools automatically consider all accepted applicants for merit scholarships, which could relate to academics or community service or, in the case of recruited athletes, athletics. At other universities, you’ll need to submit a separate scholarship application after you’ve been admitted. Some merit awards are renewable for four years and others are only for one year.

If you didn’t get need-based or merit-based aid then you still may qualify for a private scholarship. Some require essays, some don’t, and some are offered by local community organizations such as rotary clubs, women’s organizations, and the like. Don’t turn your nose up at small-dollar awards, either, because they add up quickly and can cover budget-busting expenses such as travel and books.

4. Find easy money

Small-dollar awards really add up when you make finding easy money a priority. Consider using the following resources to help leave college debt-free:

  • Returns from micro-investing apps like Acorns
  • Tax return refunds
  • Browser add-ons that give you cashback for shopping online
  • Rewards credit cards (apply for a travel rewards credit card if you’re studying out of state)
  • Asking for money at the holidays and on your birthday
  • Working part-time by capitalizing on a special talent, such as tutoring, photography, or freelance writing

Leave College Debt-Free

Finally, if you have to take out a student loan, you may be able to have it forgiven if you agree to serve your community after graduation. The Peace Corps is one such way to serve, but if you have a specialized degree such as nursing, you can work in an underserved community and reap the rewards of loan forgiveness.


Lisa Bigelow writes for Bold and is an award-winning content creator, personal finance expert, and mom of three fantastic almost-adults. In addition to Credit.com, Lisa has contributed to The Tokenist, OnEntrepreneur, College Money Tips, Finovate, Finance Buzz, Life and Money by Citi, MagnifyMoney, Well + Good, Smarter With Gartner, and Popular Science. She lives with her family in Connecticut.

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Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You.

Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You

It wasn’t until a few months after my husband and I got married that I decided to check both our credit scores. While my husband’s credit score wasn’t horrible, it certainly didn’t qualify as “excellent.” This got me thinking about how newlyweds’ financial histories can affect both spouses’ finances moving forward, and how critical it is to acknowledge this reality—ideally before getting hitched.

Why It’s Important to Have a Good Credit Score

Manisha Thakor cuts right to the chase in her book On My Own Two Feet: “Your credit score is essentially your financial reputation in numeric form.”

Aiming for an excellent credit score—generally defined as 750 or more—is a worthy goal, owing to the range of ways in which it can save you money. Credit scores are critical when applying for loans—for instance, car loans and mortgages. In addition, many employers consider prospective employees’ credit scores during the hiring process.

A high credit score means you can access lower interest rates when borrowing, because creditors will view you as reliable. The perceived risk that you’ll default on your loan is lower compared to those with poor credit scores. Lower interest rates, especially on large amounts borrowed over significant timeframes, can save you thousands and thousands of dollars!

A poor credit score can indirectly hurt your financial efforts as well; consider the fact that when you’re paying over the odds in debt repayments, you’re committing fewer dollars to saving and retirement planning.

photo credit: LendingMemo via photopin cc

Till Debt Do Us Part

Marriage makes you one combined financial unit.

However, that doesn’t mean your credit scores are merged; your credit history continues to be maintained on an individual basis. One spouse’s poor credit cannot directly damage the individual score of the other spouse.

That being said, if you apply for a loan as a married couple, creditors look at both your credit scores to determine your eligibility and terms. So, if one of you has the credit of an angel whereas the other’s credit history is limited or even littered with missed payments and liens, you may find your application is denied.

But, this is not just about loan applications—poor credit can belie more than just a few bad credit card habits. Other financial follies, like paying taxes late, not focusing on saving, and day-to-day overspending, could be lurking in the closet.

What Do You Do After You’ve Said I Do?

While bad credit isn’t good news, it’s not necessarily a reason not to get married. And, it’s not necessarily the precursor to divorce! It is, however, an alarm signaling that it is time to get clear on your joint financial situation and start communicating. Make sure you do this respectfully and compassionately to minimize blame and financial stress. (If you’re the type of person who’d like to know this information from prospective partners before things get serious, there are now dating sites catering just to you.)

Once you’ve identified that one of you has less-than-optimal credit, it’s time to take action. Here are four top tips for taking immediate action:

1. Check your credit report for mistakes: Errors are, unfortunately, pretty common and can be really detrimental. Check your report at least once per year.

2. Make payments on time: Yes, this is stating the obvious, but it needs to be said! Mary Beth Storjohann of Workable Wealth says, “35% of your credit score is based on how you pay your bills (making this the biggest determining factor for your score)! Are you often late of missing payments? The impact of just one 90-day late payment goes way beyond the three months you took to pay, so set up automatic bill payments.”

3. Lower your debt-to-credit ratio: This is how much debt you have as a proportion of your overall credit limits. 30% of your credit score is based on the amount of money you owe versus the amount of credit available to you. The higher the amount of credit you’re utilizing, the more negative the impact on your score. Keep the debt level as low as possible (30% of your limits, or less).

4. Pay down your debt faster: Make more than the minimum payments wherever possible by utilizing the snowball method or targeting the balance with the highest interest rate to pay down first.

photo credit: natloans via photopin cc

Alongside these tips, it’s super important to remember that improving your credit score won’t happen overnight. The length of time it takes for your score to improve is directly related to reasons for the drop. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years for your credit report to reflect the positive changes you’re making. As Mary Beth notes, “The most important thing is to be proactive in clearing up any issues.” In addition, two of the criteria factored into your score are the length of your overall credit history and the average age of your accounts.

So, don’t be discouraged—be patient and give it time.

And, Finally, Some Tips on What Not to Do!

There are always two sides to every coin so, while you’re following the tips above, make sure that you’re not unwittingly hurting your score and negating your good work.

Be mindful of the following ways that you could be hurting your credit score:

1. Opening too many new accounts: This comes back to the point that the average age of your accounts is a key factor. Opening lots of new accounts reduces that average.

2. Closing too many old accounts: Older accounts indicate that you have managed payments for a long time and increase the average age of your accounts. When you close credit card accounts, this also decreases the amount of credit available to you, which can reflect negatively if you have other accounts that are still carrying high balances (it essentially increases your debt to credit ratio).

3. Signing up for lots of retail incentive programs: Every time you apply for credit, the company issuing the credit will request information about you from the credit bureaus. Too many of these requests can reduce your score.

4. Over-utilizing your credit. Mary Beth advises, “If you’re depending on your credit cards to fund your daily expenses and lifestyle needs, but aren’t able to pay them off in full at the end of each month, something needs to change. Start tracking your spending and get a handle on your expenses.”

In summary, start taking positive steps, be aware of actions that can hurt your credit, and focus on building solid financial foundations for the future.

This post was written by Erika Torres of GoGirl Finance. GoGirl Finance is a fast-growing community of women seeking and providing financial wisdom across money management, lifestyle, family and career. For more finance tips, follow GoGirl Finance on Twitter @GoGirlFinance

The post Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You. appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

9 Ways To Successfully Balance School And Work

Advice For Balancing School And Work #balancingschoolandwork #timemanagementtipsMore and more people are choosing to attend college and work at the same time. This can be those who are going straight from high school to college or adults going back to college. Whichever applies to you, balancing school and work will be an important part of how successful you will be.

Whether you are working a part-time or full-time job, balancing school and work can be tough. There are many working students in college who are able to manage both, but there are also many who aren’t able to.

If you don’t balance them both well, it may lead to stress, lower grades, low-quality work being produced, and more.

No one wants that and I’m sure you don’t either.

This is supposed to be the time of your life where you are growing and changing, not feeling like you are drowning in everything that is going on around you.

There are ways to many ways to start balancing school and work so that you can graduate college while working a job.

I took a full course load each and every semester (usually 18-24 credits each semester), worked full-time, and took part in extracurricular activities. It was definitely hard and I won’t lie about that. However, sometimes a person doesn’t have a choice and has to do everything at once. Or, you might be choosing to multi-task and are wanting to learn how to better manage your time.

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Working while you are going to college can help you not take out as many student loans, or you may be an adult who has to work to support your family while you are going to college. Either way, time management for college students who are also working will help you succeed at every aspect of your life.

Working while I went to college helped me take out less student loans, and I am so happy I found that balancing school and work was possible.

Related post: How I Graduated From College In 2.5 Years With 2 Degrees AND Saved $37,500

Whatever your reason may be, below are my tips for time management for college students who are also working. The tips below are what helped save me!

My advice for balancing school and work.

 

Find your motivation for balancing school and work.

There are many reasons for why you are both working and going to school, but sometimes you need to remind yourself why you are working so hard.

It can be really easy to watch others around you who aren’t doing both and feel jealous, stressed, or angry. But, remind yourself why you are working so hard.

Your motivation can be any number of things, like avoiding student loan debt, providing for you family if you are going back as an adult learner, and so on. Your motivation will be what you need when you are struggling to balance both work and school.

Related: 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed

 

Carefully plan your class and work schedule.

My first tip for working college students is to carefully plan your class and work schedule.

Some students just choose whatever classes are offered. However, it is much wiser to carefully craft your school and work schedule so that everything flows together efficiently with a minimal amount of time being wasted.

To start balancing school and work with a carefully planned out schedule, you should start by researching when the classes you need are offered and start trying to eliminate any gap that may fall between your classes. Having an hour or two break between each class can quickly add up. Also, if you happen to have time off between classes, then using this time to do your homework and/or study can be a great use of your time.

Another time management tip is to try and put as many classes together in one day so that you aren’t constantly driving back and forth between school, work, and home. Balancing school and work can be hard, but it starts with creating a schedule that uses your time efficiently.

Related post: How I’m a Work-Life Balancing Master

 

Eliminate any time that may be wasted.

There are many time sucks that you may encounter each day, especially as you are balancing school and work and switching back and forth between the two. A minute here and a minute there may add up to a few hours wasted each day.

The time you save could be used towards earning more money at your job, studying, socializing, or whatever else it is that you need or want to do. For working college students, every minute is important.

There are many ways to eliminate the things that are wasting your time, including:

  • Cut down on your commute time. If you can find a job near your college campus then you can eliminate a lot of traveling time.
  • Find a way to work remotely. If you have a job that allows you to work remotely, then this can help you start balancing school and work time even better. You may even be able to work in between class breaks.
  • Prep your meals ahead of time. If you can make your meals in bulk ahead of time instead of individually making each one, you will be able to save a lot of time. Making your own meals is more than just time management for college students, as it means you will probably eat healthier and save money.
  • Be aware of how much time you spend on social media and cutback on TV. The average person wastes many, many hours each day on social media and watching TV. Cutting back on this may save you hours each day without even realizing it. TV and social media can be very distracting too, which is why it is so important to be aware of how it might be negatively impacting how you are balancing school and work.

Related post: 75 Ways To Make Extra Money

 

Separate yourself from distractions.

Time management for college students is hard, but it is even harder for working college students because there may be even more distractions.

Noise in the background, such as leaving your TV on while you study or a party your roommate may be throwing, can distract you from what you need to be doing. If you are trying to study or do homework then you should try to find a quiet place to get work done.

There are going to be so many distractions while you are working and going to college, and learning to separate yourself from those distractions will be one of the best ways to manage your time. I know it can be hard, trust me, but I also know how eliminating distractions can be a huge help.

You may want to close your bedroom door, hide the remote from yourself (trust me, this works!), go to the library, or something else. Sometimes you will have to force the distractions out, but it will help you save time and focus on what needs to be done.

Related: How To Be More Productive: 17 Tips To Help You Live A Better Life

 

Have a to-do list and a set schedule.

Having a to-do list is extremely helpful time management for college students, especially those who are working too. That’s because a to-do list will show you exactly what has to be done and when you need to do it by. You will then have your responsibilities sitting in front of you so that you will have to face reality.

You can have a to-do list that lists out your daily, weekly, or monthly tasks. You can use a planner, a notebook, Post-It notes, you can color code things, use stickers, etc. Just find a system that works for you and stick to it.

Balancing school and work will be much easier if you make a to-do list and keep a set schedule. So, write out what needs to be done each day, and knowing your schedule will keep you on task.

I know that when I am stressed out it can be easy to forget things, so having a to-do list eliminates any valuable minutes that I may waste debating about whether or not I forgot to do something.

 

Be a productive procrastinator.

We all know how bad procrastinating is, but sometimes you can actually waste your time on things that need to be done. I know that sounds strange, but it is actually quite helpful.

Here’s an example of what I mean: If you need to write a paper but find that you are procrastinating, then procrastinate by studying for a test. Now, you will still have to write that paper, but you will have already gotten the studying out of the way.

Balancing school and work is easier if you find tricks like this that make every moment you spend a productive one.

 

Take a break when you really need one.

Good time management for college students who are working often means that you are using trying to use every moment of your day as efficiently as possible. But, there are times when balancing school and work can feel extremely stressful.

In times like those, when you feel like you need a break, take a short one to help you come back refreshed and focused on what you need to do.

You can go for a walk, read a book, get in a workout, take a nap, etc. Taking a break when you need one will help prevent you from feeling burnt out, which is a danger when you are balancing school and work.

 

Find other college students who are doing the same.

I know that you aren’t the only one who is balancing school and work, and it might help you stay focused if you are able to find others who are working and going to school like you are.

Finding a friend who is doing the same can motivate you, they can help you stay on task, and you might even find someone to study with.

 

Working students in college need to be realistic.

While one person may be able to work like crazy and attend college at the same time, not everyone can do that.

If your grades are dropping, then you may want to analyze whether you should drop your hours at work or school. What is more important to you at this time and for your future? We can’t do everything always, and being realistic will help you understand your limitations so that you don’t burn out.

With the tips I’ve listed that help with time management for college students who are also working, you’ll be able to rock both your job and your college classes at the same time. Don’t forget to fit in time for fun as well. Good luck!

Are you one of the many working college students out there? Why or why not? What tips for time management for college students can you share?

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