• 11 Money-Saving Tips For College Students

    I’ve spent years paying off debt accumulated during my college experience so these days I spend a lot of time trying to help young people not make the same mistakes. Student loan debt has surpassed the trillion dollar mark and student graduating with student loan debt have to delay purchases like buying a home or spending more on things they love.

    It’s important for college students to prevent crippling student loan debt by saving money while they are in college. This can be done by saving money on school expenses and by adjusting lifestyles to save money as well.

    Here are a few of the many tips for college student to budget and save money in order to graduate without massive amounts of student loans.

    1. Choose the Right School

    Unless you’ve always had the dream of going to a specific school, it can be beneficial to find a university with a lower price tag for your education.

    In-state tuition and public schools often offer much lower tuition than private or out-of-state schools. Generally you won’t see much return on investment for a middle of the road school and employers rarely ask where you went to school after you get the first job.

    You can also consider an online education in your respective field such as an online social work degree, a business degree, or an information technology degree. However, make sure to see if these schools have the proper accreditation, otherwise many employers won’t recognize them.

    2. Get a Part-Time Job

    Many students use their student loans to pay for their everyday expenditures such as food, rent, and entertainment during their college years. It’s possible to use student loans to cover all living expenses during school but it’s not the best path you can take since doing this can cause you to incur much more debt than necessary.

    Instead to help offset living costs, you can find a part-time job to earn money to pay for your normal expenses. You can preferably find a job in something geared towards your field which will further help your future career earnings.

    Getting a part time job doesn’t usually hurt your grades and employers will recognize your initiative and work ethic. It’s a smart way to save money in college.

    3. Live Frugally

    There isn’t a class at most schools on how to create your first budget but you should seek out sources that teach you how to budget and live more frugally.

    Basic living expenses are generally cheap but can be problematic for many college students who want to spend more than they earn so they can have the latest gadgets, top fashions, or a swanky residence. Living frugally should be your goal in college – not to have the best things among your classmates.

    Luckily, being a “broke” college student isn’t that unusual if you are in the right circles. Cutting living expenditures can help you save tons of money in the long run. Consider cost cutting alternatives, such as public transportation instead of keeping a car on campus, living with parents to save on rent, pregaming alcohol instead of buying drinks out, and shopping at thrift stores for your clothes.

    4. Make a List of Income & Expenses

    Many times it isn’t good enough to simply make a budget in your head. If you only track spending based on what you remember then you will likely end up spending more than you need to spend.

    In order to save money you must list you expenses and track your spending in order to make sure you stay below the income you are bringing in each paycheck.

    Writing down your income and expenses can help you track your spending and make sure that you aren’t spending more money than you should be. There are tons of options to help you do this, such as the online site Mint.com, budgeting printables, excel spreadsheets, and other budgeting tools.

    5. Make Budgeted Spring Break Plans

    You are in college so spring break is a given. It’s perfectly alright to make plans for travel over spring and summer breaks, but don’t overdo it.

    Transportation, hotels, and entertainment can add up to a pricey break, especially if you haven’t planned for it. Instead of going to Mexico or the Caribbean, consider going to a cheaper stateside beach, renting an air B&B at a lake, or even going home to see old friends. You’ll save a lot of money that way if you make plans to do something you know will cost less.

    You can also switch off which breaks you use for travel. Maybe you do spring break one year so you don’t travel over the summer. Or you skip spring break and plan more small trips over the summer. Check to see which options will save you the most while still giving you the travel and social aspects.

    6. Avoid Credit Cards and Loans

    When money is tight, you might think of turning to credit cards and signature loans as a way to get by. However, most of these loans have such a high interest rate that you may be able to not pay them off for an extended period of time. If you do get a credit card, have discipline and use it only in an emergency.

    Though it can be difficult at times, budgeting for college students is crucial not only for the present, but for life in adulthood. Developing good habits will help you save money now, and enable you to budget in the future for expenditures such as a house, car, and student loans.

    7. Get a To-Go Cup

    One of the easiest ways you can save money as a college student? Get a to-go cup for your drinks!

    Eliminate those expensive coffee shop visits with a to go cup. Either make your own coffee or use your cup at the cafeteria but any way you look at it, to-go cups are less expensive than coffee-house coffee.

    As an added bonus, you’ll be saving the environment by not using disposable cups. You also can get extra savings at places that give you a discount for bringing your own cup.

    8. Pay Your Bills On Time

    It’s easy to forget about bills if it is your first time paying them on your own. However, you need to make sure you are paying all of your bills on time. This will save you money and a lot of headaches as well.

    While avoiding those annoying creditor calls is one reason you’ll want to pay your bills on time, it also costs you less money. Late fees on bills can be expensive and they add up if you pay your bills late over and over.

    You probably know that many companies assess late fees and interest charges if a bill is not paid on time, but it can also affect your credit. If your credit score takes a tumble because of late payments, you won’t be eligible for the lowest interest rates on things like car loans and mortgages. What seems like only a few extra dollars now could end up costing you thousands down the line.

    9. Split Your In-Class Time

    Online courses are generally less expensive and more flexible than traditional on-campus classes. Online courses are a great way to stretch your tuition dollars.

    If you’re one who has to work full time or has an extremely busy schedule, splitting up your in-class time will be a huge factor in getting your degree. For example, if you’re going to school for nursing, it can be an incredibly stressful profession, and nurses tend to work long hours that span through weekends and holidays. Thankfully, online nursing programs offer flexible schedules that allow students to cultivate their various abilities. This way you can split your time between volunteering with hands on programs and getting your degree via online simultaneously.

    Using online classes to knock out some of your pre-requisite classes will help lower your overall bill and you won’t miss out on much of the college experience.

    10. Use Your Library Card

    Did you know that your library card is the key to savings in multiple ways? Libraries might not be your favorite place but they can offer savings and knowledge you need to take advantage of while in college.

    The library has more than just books and your metropolitan library is a great place to check out music and videos for free. Just make sure you return them on time. You don’t need late fees.

    You can also often get free online courses and access to many paid platforms just by having a library card. Check with your library to see what your library card gives your access to.

    11. Use Your Abilities

    In addition to being more careful with your money, there are also ways to earn some extra money while you are in college.

    Since finding a traditional job and scheduling classes around it poses difficulties for the average student, using your talents and creating your own side business on the Internet is a great way to earn a little extra money. If you’re good with the Internet, help people sell things through an online auction site like ebay. If crafts are more your thing, sell your designs on Etsy. If you’re in computer science or design, market your skills as a web designer.

    As a student you’ll make less than an established professional in the field but that’s a selling point for many small businesses.

    Saving While In College

    Being a student is a time for frugality. Cutting costs doesn’t have to mean giving up on pleasures entirely, it just means finding creative ways to do them.

    Being a student can be an expensive time of your life. With minimal money coming in, it’s more important than ever to watch the money going out. That’s why every student needs ways to save money. I hope you enjoyed these quick and easy money-saving hacks!

  • How To Set Up A Debt Snowball

    There are many reasons to pay off debt and there are almost as many ways to successfully create a debt payoff plan. The debt snowball plan of paying off debts is a great system front-loaded with rewards and positive psychological wins that has helped millions of people pay off debt.

    With the debt snowball you attack debt by tackling the smallest obligation first. You then roll that payment amount into tackling the next largest debt. You continue this process knocking off bigger and bigger debts with a larger payment amount, just like a snowball rolling down a hill.

    Why the debt snowball works

    The debt snowball is derided by many as the worst way to repay debt because it doesn’t take interest rates into account. This means for many people it is not the best mathematical choice. So why does the debt snowball method work so well for people paying off debt?

    The debt snowball method works well because the small victories people achieve up front when paying off debt. For many people seeing those small debts paid off quickly helps keep them engaged and ready to tackle bigger challenges.

    The debt snowball might not be the best way financially to pay off debt compared to a technique like the debt avalanche strategy, but it uses psychological strategies that work for many people.

    how to set up a debt snowball method plan

    How to set up a debt snowball

    Setting up a debt snowball is actually very straightforward. There’s only 5 steps to setting up and completing a debt snowball.

    Step 1: To start you will list all of your debts from smallest balance to largest balance regardless of interest rate.
    Step 2: Make minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest debt balance.
    Step 3: Pay as much as possible on your smallest debt balance until it is completely paid off.
    Step 4: Take the minimum payment from the previous loan and all your extra income and apply it to the next largest debt balance.
    Step 5: Repeat until each debt is paid in full.

    There are many examples online of setting up a debt snowball to repay debts.

    When we starting paying off debt together my husband and I set up our debt snowball as follows:

    • Loan 1: $1,043.99
    • Loan 2: $5,400.05
    • Loan 3: $5,792.96
    • Loan 4: $31,129.13

    Total debt: $43,366.13

    You can see how we worked through the debt snowball with our debt snowball playlist where we adding videos showing our progress working through the debt snowball.

    The debt snowball method worked well for me when I paid off $22,000 in student loans and $5,000 in credit card debt in my early 20s so I knew that the method would work well for me again. While the interest rates of our newer debt snowball meant the lowest interest rate debt would be paid last, I knew the method was effective.

    If you want to see how long it will take you to pay off your debt using the debt snowball method, you can use a debt snowball calculator is a great way to see how quickly a debt snowball can get you out of debt.

    Using the debt snowball method

    Using the debt snowball to pay off debt is very simple in practice and works well for many people.

    The first step is to make sure you are covering the minimum monthly payments on all of your debts. You should not stop paying your debts unless you are unable to cover you basic living needs like rent or food.

    After you’ve covered all the minimum payments on your debts, you work on attacking your debts in the order of the debt snowball list you’ve created. You will send all your extra money toward that first smallest debt.

    Every single month you will put all your extra money budgeted for debt payoff toward your smallest debt. You do this even if you are paying more interest on a different one due to interest rate. Once you’ve paid off the smallest debt you then take that entire amount and send it to the next smallest debt.

    Rinse and repeat by knocking off debts from your list and then sending all the freed up money toward the next debt in line.

    In practice the debt snowball might look like this: you have a dental bill for $1,000 that you are paying interest-free, and two credit card bills for $5,000 (at 22.9% interest) and $1,500 (at 15.9%), and a student loan at $26,000 (at 6%). With the debt snowball you’d pay the dental bill first. Once you completed that loan you’d move on to the $1,500 credit card and then the second credit card and finally the student loan.

    With the debt snowball you may end up paying off interest-free loans before you tackle the bigger interest debts.

    If the debt snowball method makes you crazy because of the interest rates, you may want to consider the debt avalanche method or a debt consolidation loan.

    How to make the debt snowball work for you

    Once you’ve got your debt snowball set up you can set about the business of making the debt snowball even more effective.

    First, make your budget and see how much extra money you have to put towards the debt each month above the minimum payments. That extra money is how you will eliminate the debt that you are tackling.

    Next, find ways to free up even more money for your debt snowball. You can do this one of two ways: increasing income or decreasing expenses. You can decrease expenses by eliminating bills or living frugally or giving yourself less spending money each month. You can increase income by doing a side hustle or by increasing your income at your regular 9 to 5 job.

    Your debt snowball will be most effective when you are able to find even more money to throw at the debt each month. The more money you put toward your debts, the more you will progress in the snowball and the faster it will go.

    My favorite way to increase the effectiveness of a debt snowball is to use these spots of found money to make debt snowflake payments. The small daily savings and “found” money that you can add to the debt repayment in terms of debt snowflakes can truly add up and make a difference.

    Is a debt snowball right for you?

    When choosing your debt repayment method you have to select the right method for you, whether that is the debt snowball or the debt avalanche or another method.

    Using a debt snowball calculator will let you compare the different options and decide which method is the best for paying off your debts.

    It can be tempting to go with the debt avalanche plan for paying off debt but you have to think about more than just the numbers. You know yourself and how you handle money and what motivates you. The best debt payoff plan is the one that you will stick with. A debt payoff plan does you know good if it is mathematically the best choice but you abandon it. That’s why the less financially effective method of the debt snowball might be the best one for you – because it includes motivational wins that help you stick with it.

    For me, I like breaking down larger goals into smaller ones. Having more frequent milestones and payments is motivating to me. (It’s also why I combine the Weekly Transfer Method with the Debt Snowball.)

    Breaking down large goals into smaller subgoals can help you stick with an overall plan. This is especially helpful if you think it will take years to pay off all your debt.

    If you think the debt snowball method will motivate you to pay off debt, then that is the method you should choose.

  • December 2019 Online Income Report – $1,372.82

    Welcome to my monthly online income report! And to the biggest income report so far! December 2019 was my best online income month yet.

    Each month here on the blog I share what I earned from online endeavors like this personal finance blogmy YouTube channel, and my Etsy shop. I like sharing real numbers to inspire myself and others.

    online income report celebrate money

    I know that earning more online income could stop me from working 45 hours each week so I’ve tried to squeeze as much work into online income generating activities as possible. Because I’m back to working full time hours for a season I’m unable to put more than a few hours each week into my online income activities, but the income this month has me hopeful that I can continue growing the income by being extremely helpful and reaching more people.

    Growing my online income is so important to my current financial goals and that focus matters so much to my family right now! It also means that as my income grows, I’m helping more people.

    Why Share An Online Income Report

    I’m sharing my online income reports as a YouTuber (my main priority these days even though I started years ago as a blogger) to show people that it is possible to make money online. Lots of people want to know how much small youtubers make and if you can make money from a small YouTube channel.

    I’m a small YouTuber that started just so I could share videos of my Alaska vacation, but it’s turned into so much more than that over the two years that I’ve been making videos on YouTube.

    Once I realized I could also earn money with the videos, I decided to set a goal of making YouTube into a side hustle. My original goal with earning income on YouTube was to earn at least $600 dollars a month to help pay for the additional daycare expenses for my daughter.

    Any amount of money would help our financial situation since we had increased expenses and I wanted to work less as well. Those two things don’t go together without added stress, so my plan was to increase my side hustle income!

    I knew that earning money online was possible because I had done it once before as a blogger on a small scale and even though I’d let that income and blog life go, I had seen hundreds of others do the same and more by reading their online income reports. If people could earn tens of thousands a month online, surely I could earn $600 a month.

    Income reports inspired me to try to work harder and do more while building my online income through my YouTube channel

    While I’m not earning a full time income online currently, I am happy to show that I’ve grown my income to hit that original online income goal and I’ve been able to help a lot of people along the way. It’s amazing that we can earn money creating and sharing content online.

    Previous Online Income Reports

    If you’re interested in past income reports, you can see all of them here:

    Online Income Reports – Pennies Not Perfection

    As you can see from past income reports, my online income in 2019 has been trending much higher than my income last year. The growth is not viral or explosive but it is moving up every single month.

    I’m consistently earning $1,000 a month now when I was only earning $300-500 last year when I started tracking my online income. That might not seem huge since it’s small numbers but that means I have doubled my monthly online income!

    It’s amazing to think that I have earned over $1,000 a month with Pennies Not Perfection and other online activities these past few months.

    I like sharing these numbers to show small YouTubers what is possible with a channel that isn’t huge or growing by hundreds of thousands of subscribers in a year. While that would be amazing, it is possible to still earn income as a small channel.

    Seeing these numbers in this format helps me to see the growth I’ve already had and inspires me to keep growing.

    I plan to grow this blog/website around my channel as well and hopefully these income report numbers inspire anyone looking to grow from humble beginnings online.

    December 2019 Online Income Report

    Here are the main income sources broken down by what I earned for the month of December. I’ve included referral links to each if you want to join too!

    Advertising Income – $802.75

    • YouTube Advertising Channel 1 – $621.35
    • YouTube Advertising Channel 2 – $119.29
    • Adsense & Sponsored

    Affiliate Marketing Income – $418.19

    • Amazon – $214.26
    • Awin – $117.73
    • Capital One – $80.00
    • Impact Radius – $6.00
    • Shareasale – $0.20

    Product Sales Income – $151.88

    • Etsy Products – $151.88

    Total Income: $1,372.82

    This is the amount earned in December 2019, before any fees, expenses, or taxes.

    That means I don’t keep all of it it and at least 25% will be gone for taxes before it hits my bank account. I also won’t be paid all of it in the month it is earned since each source pays out at different times.

    However, I must say with much excitement: I continue to stay above the $1,000 mark in income earned!

    This makes me hopeful since the income has been consistent month after month being over $1,000 a month. Of course I know that this could change at any moment but I’m grateful for the continued earnings!

    I hit the goal of earning $1,000 in a month from mostly YouTube generated activity which is insane and exciting and worth all the work that has gone into it. I’ve been making videos for over 2 years now and not a single one has gone viral.

    What I Worked On In December 2019

    In December I worked on a few different priorities both growing income sources I already had and creating new ones.

    Made for videos for my YouTube channel.

    I started the month of December with Vlogmas which was an experiment to do daily videos during the month of December. I started the month with videos that were more vlog and lifestyle focused which ultimately did not get me as many views as normal.

    I switched my strategy halfway through the month when I realized videos about Christmas and my life weren’t working out in terms of views and revenue. I decided to focus on daily videos on my normal finance topics and the ad revenue increased later in the month.

    Made affiliate marketing improvements.

    I continued with my implementation of tweaks I learned from taking the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course. I feel like this has helped me save a lot of time, even if this month’s affiliate income does not reflect it!

    I added additional affiliate marketing programs for products in December as well! I plan to keep my number of promoted affiliate partnerships to under 20 so that they are manageable and never something I haven’t used myself. I’m super excited about some of the new products I’m now promoted.

    I also continued to make tweaks on my existing ones should help increase the affiliate revenue. I’m very happy with the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course so far because it’s helped me focus into a better direction.

    Added products to my Etsy shop.

    I continued to add more products to my Etsy shop and increase the amount of higher priced products. While I’m still not comfortable creating and selling products at a truly high price point, I did start offering items that were more than $2!

    This resulted in a higher amount per order so my overall revenue from my Etsy shop increased. I will not be adding expensive products any time soon but I’m thrilled to have small increases like this.

    This is also the third month in a row when I’ve earned over $100! I earned over $150 this month so I’m hoping this is a continued upward trend in revenue from Etsy. I love making products more than I expected and it is thrilling to see people using stuff I’ve made because they like my style.

    I briefly got annoyed this month about people directly copying my style but I am trying to work through the emotions because no one will achieve success just being a copycat. They may think they can but they will always be a budget version of something better, so I’m trying to remember that when I get annoyed. I briefly thought that sharing my income reports like this was a mistake because it does encourage people to copy, but then again I was inspired by others who did income reports too. I plan to just stay in my lane and not look at what anyone else is doing any longer… because they don’t matter.

    December 2019 Online Income Wins

    Time to celebrate some things that went right with online income in the month of December!

    Income over $1,000.

    Like I’ve mentioned, my first goal with online income was to get to earning at least $600 a month to help pay for daycare and debt payments. More recently I challenged myself to start hitting $1,000 a month.

    This month I feel like I sailed right past that $1k mark yet again and I’m thrilled that I’m consistently earning over $1,000 a month with Pennies Not Perfection.

    This is the best side hustle by far of any I’ve ever done! It definitely took a lot of work to learn the skills needed and it’s take a long time to ramp up to this level of income, but I love being able to earn online income through making videos, writing blog posts, recommending and creating products that help other people. This allows me to be creative, supportive, and encouraging which is all the things I want to be in life.

    Advertising income over $800.

    December is a great month for advertising income because the last month of the year is always higher paid by advertisers. My CPM on videos was much higher in December and thanks to increased number of videos I also managed to make more overall.

    I’m not sure how much my revenue will drop in January with lower CPMs but I’m excited to keep adding videos. I also plan to keep adding videos that are more evergreen and on topics that can reach a broader audience. Paycheck budgets are my “bread and butter” with ad revenue right now but ultimately I’d like to be able to create videos less often but still earn money with ad revenue.

    What I’m Working On Next

    So what’s on tap for next month? I’ve got a few things planned:

    Grow the products in my Etsy shop. I plan to create more items and also promote what is already there. I have a big goal of eventually getting to 50 items listed in 2019 so I’m hoping I can continue to add products and grow the amount of listing and sales.

    Create more affiliate focused videos. I made a couple affiliate product focused videos and they did quite well for my channel based on the response and the income. After taking Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing I have so many ideas to implement and just need to find the time to do so. I’m planning to create more affiliate focused videos by focusing on single products and being super helpful in the content. I honestly never want to create anything that isn’t helpful to at least one person.

    Popular YouTube videos on my channel:

    Thanks for reading/watching/following along with this online income journey! Stay tuned for more online income reports.

  • How To Get A Reluctant Spouse On Board With Budgeting

    How do you get a reluctant spouse on board with budgeting? How does everyone convince their spouse to pay off debt? Why does it seem like everyone is working together on their finances except you?

    If you’re like me and my husband, it wasn’t easy to get on the same page with money instantly. While I had big dreams of budgeting our money tightly and paying off debt my husband wasn’t ready to make the changes we needed. He wanted to keep spending money like he wanted, when he wanted, and every month I ended up in tears when what I had budgeted didn’t match what we had actually spent.

    After 3 years of marriage and creating budgets for two years, we’ve finally recently gotten on the same page with money. It took A LOT of trial and error since my husband was reluctant to pay off debt or save heavily for goals.

    Today I’m sharing many of the things I did to get my spouse on board with budgeting and paying off debt.

    Have a positive money conversation… or two.

    Having an honest conversation about why you need help and support with budgeting and why it matters to you is the first step to getting your spouse on board. For many couples this can be the first and last step because many supportive spouses immediately get on board once they realize how important it is to their partner.

    However, not every spouse gets on board with budgeting and spending wisely with just one conversation. For many of us, there must be many conversations about this topic.

    Unfortunately when you are having the same conversation over and over again with a partner it can often devolve into a negative experience full of blaming, shaming, nagging, and overall negativity. To really be effective with having these money conversations you have to do them without shaming or guilting or nagging.

    If you can’t get through this type of financial conversation without defaulting to the negative habits of blaming and shaming, try writing a letter or email where you aren’t as emotionally charged. Sometimes you can get your thoughts out about why succeeding with money is so important when your brain has a chance to rational process your reasons without the impulsive desire to get defensive or angry.

    write your spouse a letter about why budgeting matters

    Focus on your money wins together.

    Focusing on the wins that you’ve made with budgeting already while including your spouse is a great way to slowly engage them and bring them on board.

    Instead of constantly nagging or feeling like your conversation is at a standstill, focus on talking about the wins and things that went well. Instead of screaming at your partner that they went over budget or spent too much or whatever frustrates you, tell them about what went well. “Say honey, last month we managed to spend less on our utility bill! That money will really help us reach ___ financial goal. I’m so proud of us.”

    You can praise your partner for the things that went right first and foremost even if the thing that went well really had nothing to to with them. Tell them how the wins will help you get other, even bigger wins with your money. Include them on the team to share in the successes not just put them in the place of the enemy doing all the wrong things until that is all you can see.

    This is something I had to learn to do after many fights with my husband and analyzing my husband’s nature. He wanted to be my teammate but he kept falling into the role of my adversary because all I could see were the places he wasn’t on board. Once I started talking about that less and giving him more credit with out successes he got more and more on board. 

    Try separate spending money accounts.

    One way to get your spouse on board is to give the more freedom with separate spending money. While I think it’s important to have your money together when you are married and you should NOT separate your money altogether, it can be very helpful to separate your spending money.

    I firmly believe even when budgeting as a team, everyone needs a bit of freedom where they don’t have to account for each dollar they spend. 

    You may also want to increase your spouse’s spending money or budget categories where you constantly butt heads. Maybe you can spend $100 on groceries when you are the only one eating. As a single person that might work but as a pair, maybe it doesn’t and it makes your partner rebel even further. If your spouse needs more spending money than you do, try increasing what they get and don’t have to account for in order to win overall.

    Adjust your timeline expectations.

    You may also just need to adjust your expectations about how quickly your spouse will get on board. Sometimes getting your spouse on board with budgeting takes a couple months. Sometimes getting your spouse on board with paying off debt can take a long time. You may not be the couple that gets on the same page instantly.

    If you are continually butting heads on money but your partner is amazing in every other way, maybe you need to adjust your expectations of how quickly you think they should get on board. Sometimes it takes people longer than others to grasp a concept or to change their habits. Financial habits can be very hard to change for some people after years or decades of doing things one way.

    You might be expecting your spouse to change instantly because it makes so much sense to you, but ultimately you need to adjust those expectations to better fit the reality of your situation. Your expectations are probably making everything harder when they are not meeting your expectations about getting on board with budgeting or paying off debt.

    Take your spouse to a financial class.

    Taking your spouse to a financial class like Financial Peace University can be very helpful when you are trying to get them on board financially.

    I add this last on the list because actually having the knowledge on what to do doesn’t mean certain people will do it. Sometimes going through a financial literacy class does not change habits. My husband and I went through FPU before we got married and that didn’t solve our money problem or prevent our money fights.

    Knowing what to do doesn’t always mean someone is going to comply or change deep seated behaviors to change. For many people doing a class like FPU is the step that is needed in order to finally get on board and make handling money click.

    getting your spouse on board with paying off debt

    Keep trying to make it work together!

    Remember there is not a one size fits all answer here on how to get on the same page with your finances. Every person and every couple approaches money differently and getting on the same page needs an unique approach.

    There are lots of behaviors and habits and emotions around money and those vary from person to person. Finding what works for your reluctant spouse and you as a couple can take a while but you should keep trying to find the right solution. You have to find the things that encourage and motivate your partner to get on board. 

    It may take a lot of work, tears, and trials but eventually getting a “reluctant spouse” on board is totally worth the effort! Working together on your financial picture with a spouse on the same page is amazing!

  • First Time Home Buyer Tips

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the home buying process lately since I bought our home three years ago and have helped numerous family members through the process as well.

    Since buying a home is one of the largest purchases a person will even make, it is one that should be carefully planned for and free of mistakes. A mistake when buying a house can be one of your most costly mistakes ever made. Unfortunately we made many mistakes when we bought our first house but now I get to use that experience to help others avoid those mistakes.

    I’ve been learning and sharing as much as possible about the home buying process so others in the same stage of life don’t either.

    Our First Home Buying Experience

    We bought our first home in 2016 with bad credit, not a huge down payment, and not enough knowledge about the process. However we picked a great area, a beautiful house, and we love the home we are in!

    As first time home buyers we decided to jump into the real estate market before we had perfect credit. We had improved my husband’s credit by continually monitoring it for free with Credit Karma but it still hovered under 700.

    Having lower credit when we bought our first home meant we got an FHA loan in order to buy our home. This was helpful because we were able to jump into the market sooner and ride the wave of rising home prices, but it also meant we pay PMI every month until we are able to refinance.

    We made some mistakes and did some things when we bought our first home. Since then I’ve walked through the home buying process with dozens of my friends and family. I love being an advocate for first time home buyers and sharing tips on what to do and what to avoid.

    Home Buying Tips For First Time Buyers

    If you are buying your first home then there are some things you should definitely try to do in order to make the best of your experience.

    Improve your credit.

    The biggest thing you can do to improve the process is to work on improving your credit score for the year or two before buying your home.

    Having good credit will make getting a mortgage easier and less expensive because you will have access to better loan terms. It will also open up doors to certain agents who don’t want to work with clients who may not be able to secure financing due to poor credit.

    If you don’t know your score, checking your credit score is the first thing you should do (it’s free) and then you can work on improving it over time.

    Start your downpayment savings early.

    Saving up a downpayment can feel daunting if you are just starting out but it is a critical aspect of buying your first home and getting the best deal possible. The earlier you start your downpayment savings fund the easier it will be to save up a 20% downpayment.

    The more money you are able to save up the better you will look to potential sellers and lenders. Higher downpayments mean you won’t waste money on PMI and you will be better able to secure a loan with good terms.

    Learn about mortgage options.

    The world of mortgages can confuse people because there are a lot of options out there. The most common mortgage types are the following:

    • Conventional mortgages – These loans conform to standards from government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They generally require higher downpayments like 20% but can go as low as 3%. These loans usually require higher credit and you don’t pay PMI.
    • FHA mortgage loans – These loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration and allow down payments as low as 3.5% and have lower credit score needs. This makes them more appealing to first time buyers but they also now usually have PMI for the life of the loan.
    • VA loans – VA loans are for veterans and are guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs sometimes require no down payment at all. For disabled veterans especially these can be amazing loan options.

    Learn about mortgage loan options available to you, the terminology involved and figure out what fits your situation the best.

    Determine how much house you can afford.

    You should sit down before looking at home and determine how much house you can actually afford. You likely will get approved for much more debt than you should actually use so take the time to find out a realistic range for home purchase prices you feel comfortable with.

    To do this you can run several home affordability calculators to see what you can actually afford to spend. You can also get those average numbers and then run a couple mock budgets with the mortgage numbers included.

    Research neighborhoods.

    You likely won’t be able to buy your dream home in your dream neighborhood with your first home. That means you need to get clear about where you actually want to buy. What neighborhood is right for your first home purchase?

    Start researching neighborhoods and learn what you like and don’t like about different ones. Look at things that people don’t normally consider like your commute times to work, how busy the neighborhood is at different times of day, if the neighborhood has an active online group. Try to get a feeling for each neighborhood you are considering before looking at specific houses.

    Stick to your budget.

    You know that price range you sat down and calculated to see how much home you could afford as a first time buyer? You need to stick to that. You should only look at properties that cost less than the amount you were approved for and stay within the price range you set for yourself.

    It can be easy to get swept up in a hot real estate market where people bid against each other and your agent may even encourage you to look at more expensive homes. Resist those situations and avoid the emotional traps by setting and sticking to a strict budget.

    Don’t rush the process.

    A lot of first time buyers get caught up in the excitement of the process and the urging from family or general society over the idea that they “must buy a house” during a certain time or market.

    It’s best to ignore all this and take your time. Buy your first home when you are ready and feel prepared and confident.

    Double check all your paperwork.

    Mortgage lenders are humans and can make mistakes. As an example, we wanted to put 5% down on our house and our mortgage person repeatedly kept putting 3.5% on the paperwork. I reminded her each time to change it but she didn’t in the end and we were too scared right before closing to make a fuss. So we put down 3.5% instead of 5% which costs us money every month. Should we have checked our paperwork? Yes, it could have saved us from this earlier in the process.

    So learn from our mistake and double check because the people making your loan can easily make mistakes that cost YOU money, not them.

    Those are the best tips I have for buying your first home and now let’s talk about things you should avoid.

    Home Buying Mistakes To Avoid

    There are some common home buying mistakes that we made as a first time home buyer, but you don’t have to make those same mistakes.

    1 – Not saving up 20% down payment.

    Saving up an adequate down payment for the home you want to purchase is critical but it’s a mistake many of us make – including us!

    Saving up a 20% down payment would have saved us thousands in PMI fees and interest. It likely would save you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in the long run as well. While saving up a 20% down payment takes more time it is worth the savings.

    2 – Not saving an emergency fund first.

    Saving up a large emergency fund on top of your down payment can seem daunting. That is a lot of money to save! Many people skip saving up enough and then move in to a new home hoping for the best.

    We made this mistake and while we got lucky, not everyone does. Sometimes people move in and immediately have emergency repairs or problems that cost thousands of dollars.

    3 – Not shopping for mortgages.

    Shopping for mortgages is another area where you can make a big mistake by not looking around for the best deal.

    You should make sure you look around for several different mortgage options and find the best deal to save you money. While you might be worried about getting qualified if you’re credit isn’t the best, mortgage companies are still working for your business. Find the best offer with interest rates or low closing fees or

    4 – Not looking at more houses.

    An easy mistake to make is falling in love with your first home. We should have looked at more houses during our search even if it just confirmed the first one was the right one. Make sure you explore multiple homes and neighborhoods in your search for the right house!

    We love our house but we made several big mistakes when we bought it. Today I’m sharing the 4 mistakes we made buying our first house so hopefully you can avoid these common first time home buyer mistakes and have a very smooth process!

    Buying your first home can be a very nerve wracking process but it also can be one of the best financial moves of your life! I’m happy to be sharing my experience buying a house for the first time to help others!

    5 – Not budgeting for closing costs.

    Closing costs are something first time home buyers forget about budgeting for because it’s not a well covered topic. I shared our closing costs in my video about how much our first home cost because it helps people to see real life examples.

    Generally closing costs will run between 2% and 5% of your loan amount depending on who you use as a mortgage lender. You can shop around and compare prices for certain closing expenses like homeowners insurance, home inspections and title searches, which will lower the amount you must pay at closing. You can negotiate to have the seller cover your closing costs as well.

    Those are some of the most common issues that we encountered and have seen others make as well.

    Saving Up Your Down Payment

    One thing that is super important is the down payment. Below are the things you might want to consider when deciding how much to save up for a house.

    What will you have to pay for when buying a home? 

    There are a lot of expenses that come with buying a house, including a lot of unexpected expenses. All of the expenses associated with buying a home should be considered and budgeting for when decided what amount of house you can afford. Being prepared for all these expenses will make the process a lot easier.

    For example, you’ll have to pay for all of these items:

    • House price – The price of the home you purchase is the largest expense and the first one you should consider. Make sure you think about the interest rate on your mortgage in this number too because it’s not just the initial price that you will be paying.
    • Property taxes – Depending on where you live your property taxes could be rather high. Before offering to buy a house check on the property taxes for that specific house. You might pay $2,400 a year more for a house located in a city while a house 5 minutes down the road costs less in property taxes each year just where it is located. This is definitely a budget item to consider.
    • Home insurance – You will have to properly insure your home against the unthinkable. Make sure your home is covered for any additional needed insurance above the basics to cover things like earthquakes and flooding.
    • Utility bills – This can be hard to gauge before buying a home but it’s a good idea to get a general sense of how much it will cost you each month for utilities in a home. You can call your local utility provider and ask for the average bill over the last 12 months for the address. I do this every time I move because it helps to know what I’ll have to spend to get basic services.
    • And more – This list could go on and on! when closing there are inspection and closing fees. When moving in there are moving expenses and new furniture purchases. Then there are home repairs and yard maintenance and so on. There are a lot of things to consider so sitting down and writing everything out will help you consider what you will have to spend.

    Make sure you remember all the extra things that cost money when buying a house.

    How much money should I spend on a house?

    It’s a hard question to answer for someone else. It depends on a lot of personal factors like the area you live in and your income levels.

    Generally people are told to take out a home loan that is around 25% to 30% of their after-tax take home income. Spending a third of your income on housing is an acceptable amount that is widely encouraged by financial advisors.

    In my city there are lots of adorable homes in the range of $90,000 – $110,000. Based on two incomes I will probably end up purchasing a home somewhere in that range. Since it’s a ways off there is still a lot of time before deciding on the exact number to spend on a house. I will definitely have a more exact and very strict budget before actually buying a house. It helps to have a budget for home spending before even looking at houses.

    I’d also suggest spending way less than you are approved for when buying a house. The last house I planned to buy was roughly half the price I was approved for and I thought that was a very reasonable and cute house. You don’t have to max out your budget and spending capability when buying a home! Do what feels right and give yourself some spending breathing room.

    How much should I save up for a down payment?

    Currently I’m working on saving up for a house down payment. It’s a small fund currently and grows just a tiny bit each month. This is going to be my number one goal and I plan to stash away as much as possible in this account.

    Depending on the lender, and the state of the economy, you can put down as little as 2.5% on a home, or you can be asked to put down 20% to 30% of the purchase price.

    How much money you put down on a house will depend on what you lender requires and how much you can afford.

    The standard minimum is usually 20% and this will prevent you from paying PMI, private mortgage insurance. Adding that expenses can make a home unaffordable so it’s often best to avoid it.

    Most financial experts recommend that you save up enough to put 20% down on a house. People like Dave Ramsey urge you to do this but also make concessions for first time home buyers and concede that it’s easier sometimes to only save up 10% of the purchase price.

    But the golden standard is definitely a 20% down payment!

    If you plan to purchase a home for a price of $100,000 then the down payment you will want to put down is $20,000. You can scale up from there to the house price in your area.

    Paying Off Your Home

    Once you have a mortgage you may want to pay it off faster. Many people love the feeling of being completely debt free, mortgage and all.

    Paying off your mortgage faster can be a very simple process that will hardly even affect your budget at all. Follow these two simple ways to pay off your mortgage in order to pay off your first home.

  • Side Hustles Ideas For Moms

    As a mom, especially a stay at home mom, it might feel like you need to bring in more money but it’s impossible with your kids. Luckily there are tons of ideas out there for moms who want to start a side hustle in order to bring in extra money for their family.

    Side Hustles Ideas For Moms

    • Watch other people’s kids during the day. In home daycare are popular for parents because they don’t cost as much, but when you are providing the care it’s a great side hustle and gives you the ability to be with your own child. In our state you could have 3 children besides your 1 child and if each child is paying $200 a week then the side hustle can offset not having a traditional job.
    • Host parent’s night out nights.Charge $30 per kid for a couple hours of babysitting. Add in several kids and you’ll have a nice side hustle on a weekend night especially. You can advertise on sites like Next-door or Care.com and you’ll grow a lot by word of mouth.
    • Dog walk and dog sit. This is something you can do with your little ones. There are plenty of people who work during the day or have to travel but need their dogs taken care of while out of the house. Fill that need. You can use sites like Rover.com and your local Next-door of Facebook groups. You can offer dog walking, dog sitting, drop-in visits, overnight stays, etc. You can also accept and decline jobs as you have time and availability. For an animal lover this one is perfect!
    • Bake and sell cookies, cupcakes, or cakes. Multiple people I know in real life have done this and one made it into her full time job. If you can make cute cookies with designs or pretty cupcakes that taste good, then you can definitely do this as a side hustle. Once people know you are doing this and taste your treats then word and business spreads.
    • Photo Booth operator at weddings. Photobooths at weddings are very easy to run and most owners don’t want to work every wedding – or they can’t when double booked. For this hustle you drive the Photo Booth to the venue, set up, stay on site to help or leave depending on the style and contract, and then breakdown and take the booth back. You can reach out to the photo booth owners or photographers in your city to find ones that need help. You can work 5-6 hours working a wedding Photo Booth as a side hustle or for more money, buy and operate one yourself as a side business! 
    • Create a cute setup for photographs and offer sessions using it. You can charge up to $20 for 15 minutes of time using a beautiful setup in your yard or home for people to take family photos or Christmas photos. People bring their own cameras and you just provide the space! You could also work with a professional photographer to loan them the space for a flat fee like $100 for the day and have them do mini sessions there where they earn more but don’t have to worry about setup.
    • Officiate sports leagues as a referee. If your kids are playing sports then you likely already know plenty about the sport, especially if you also played it. You can sign up to referee games in the same league or others to earn money while your kids are playing as well. This is usually a weekend or weeknight activity which can work well if your partner can watch the kids if they aren’t also playing.
    • Travel agent from home is an option where you can plan trips for others and get paid for it. There are agencies that offer these jobs or you could also sell your services and promote yourself like a business. People who specialize in certain areas like planning Disney trips seem to do well with this as they become known as an expert.
    • Teach English online or tutor kids on a specific subject. There are plenty of people making $1,000 of more teaching English online to kids in China with services like VIPKids. For more money per hour you can tutor children in your own area on a specific subject you excel at. Even better can be SAT or ACT prep tutoring which pays well per hour due to the payoff for the student at the end. You can advertise your services on local sites and once you get one client word of mouth can spread your skills.
    • Sell old stuff – It’s a great option to sell stuff you have instead of donating it. You can sell stuff on Ebay, Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, Poshmark and Mercari. You can decide which site to use based on what you are selling and whether you want to meet up in person or not. You can also use garage sales and thrift shops to find items to sell. There are tons of cool Youtube channels where people do this for a living and you can learn a lot from them.
    • Resell items you find at yard sales or via clearance sections. Reselling can be super lucrative once you figure out the things that will sell well for you. There is definitely a learning curve but there are many resources out there to assist your learning. You can buy things cheaper at yard sales or in clearance sections and then resell on sites like Ebay or even locally on Facebook marketplace.
    • Driving Delivery Gigs – Similar to Uber and Lyft, you can drive for Postmates, Uber Eats, Instacart, Doordash and any meal delivery service that pays drivers and you collect tips for running errands for people. This is great because you can do it when you want and close it off when you aren’t interested or are busy. 
    • Mystery shop – This won’t be super consistent or huge income but you can sign up with mystery shopping companies that give you assignments to check our stores or restaurants. You go and buy something and fill out paperwork in order to get paid per shop. It’s easy to do around your kids schedule.
    • Direct sales companies. Don’t be annoying but direct sales opportunities are an option for side income. Don’t be super salesy on your friends and family in a way that puts them off but be available if anyone is interested in your prod
    • Work opposite shift jobs of your partner. – If your partner works during the day, look for jobs that have night time hours like waitressing or bartending. Even just a few hours a week can help your income situation if things are tight and you won’t be missing time with your child. Sometimes this can have an added benefit of giving you a social outlet you need too!
    • Clean houses. My mom was a stay at home mom but I remember going with her to clean people’s houses. She’d clean large houses for country music stars and smaller houses in nice suburbs and it gave her enough money to stay at home with all of us. People love to pay for a clean house since most of us hate cleaning. If you love it or are good at it – offer up your services! One day a week of cleaning houses can bring in a couple hundred dollars.