People often come to Greg and I to ask if they should consolidate their credit cards. So, I thought that I would share our experience with debt consolidation and then let you come to your own conclusion. Keep reading because what I have to say might just change your mind before you decide to consolidate.
means that you are taking out one loan to pay off all the others that you have accumulated. Usually people decide to consolidate their debt to achieve a lower interest rate, secure a fixed rate, or be able to service only one loan.
Our story is like many others. At the time I didn’t realize that. I thought that Greg and I were the only people on the planet struggling to pay our credit cards.
I was still in college and working part-time at a local library. Greg had a full-time job but was unemployed when we were first married. So, we were just barely getting on our feet.
We have never missed a credit card payment, but that’s mostly because we chose not to eat. When you’re paying $450+/month for credit cards on a full-time/part-time income then it’s hard to keep your head afloat.
Back in the day when we were newly married we were just trying to survive. So, we opted for debt consolidation to help us at least feel like we were accomplishing something in our financial life.
I can’t tell you what made us decide to consolidate our debt other than pure desperation, and the fact that we were tired of asking our parents for money. It makes you feel horrible to borrow money from people that you know don’t have a lot of extra to spare.
So, when we received a phone call where they were telling us they could help get us out of debt in 5 years that sounded really good, at the time. It also sounded nice to hear that we would only receive one bill and not have to pay 2 separate credit card bills.
This is why debt consolidation looked so good. Let me show you how much we paid for us to combine those balances and have a “lower interest rate”.
CREDIT CARD #1 = $16, 242.64 (amount owed)
CREDIT CARD #2 = $9, 629.09 (amount owed)
SUBTOTAL = $25,871.73
DEBT CONSOLIDATION PROGRAM = $38 service charge per month
MULTIPLY $38 by 63 months = $2, 394.00
(we were on a 5-year-plan, but it took us 3 extra months to pay it off)
GRAND TOTAL = $28, 265.73
WHAT WOULD I HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
I would not have thrown our hard-earned money down the drain. See, this only sounds like a better deal. What they failed to tell us is that the lower interest rate comes from extending the loan to X amount of years.
Also, consolidating our debts did not help us change our habits in any way. We still accrued a lot more debt ($53,000 to be exact) over the next couple of years. This amount did include the credit cards but since we didn’t learn how to actually manage our money, the debt amount kept going up.
I just wish that we would have done more research. We thought this 5-year-plan sounded amazing. My husband had those credit cards since college, but we wound up paying on them until 2007.
I wish that I could have met someone to give us a swift kick in the behind and motivate us to get out of that debt before buying a house and having children. Fortunately, God did put a man in our life that told us exactly what we were doing wrong.
He told us that if we were going to focus on debt then we needed to find some extra money. Our family told us this also but the difference with this friend was that he gave us a plan to follow.
He suggested that we stop paying retirement which opened up an extra $65 a month. Once we started managing our money and budgeting, that $65 turned into an extra $1,000 a month. How? We paid down debt and used the money we were spending on minimum payments to pay on the next debt.
It took us 3 years to pay down the remainder of the debt.
The cool part of this story is that this man is still in our lives. He is a financial advisor. He isn’t telling us how to pay down debt anymore, but he is telling us how to plan for our future. It’s funny how your life seems to make a full circle sometimes.
Have you entered into a debt consolidation program? If so, please feel free to share your story.Read More
You may find this shocking, but I LOVE TO EAT! If I’m ever asked what I want to do for my birthday, the answer is always the same…go out to eat.
Sometimes eating out is not a choice. Moms are having to run kids here and there. Students have to get back to class or stay up late studying. Dads work a shift or job that doesn’t allow for much of a lunch break.
Well, I have some great news. I am going to share with you how you can save money and still eat out. Here are some things that I have done just this week that has allowed me to eat out 3 times for FREE.
#1. Social media can be HUGE when saving you money on food. Join your favorite restaurants on Facebook so that you can keep up with the latest coupons, deals, or freebies at your favorite dine-in.
#2. Go to the websites of your favorite eateries and enter your email address. I did this recently when eating at Blue Baker and a few weeks I received a coupon for a free signature pizza. I ate last night for free and saved $15.
#3. Buy one of those cards from your local band, cheerleaders, schools, wherever that have the Buy 1 Get 1 free deals. I love these! The kids at church know how much I use coupons and they will always hit me up to buy one. These usually cost about $10 but I can get my money back after my first purchase.
#4. Look for these booklets. They can be found at college campuses, bookstores, etc. Again, great coupons and this booklet is FREE.
#5. Look for mailers from local eateries that are close by. We live across from a Freddy’s and received a mailer telling us when they were having $1 hot dogs and ice-cream.
#6. Sign up for texts. I just signed up to receive texts from Chick-Fil-A by sending the word SOCO to 411247. Hopefully something good will come out of that! I also receive texts from Sonic telling me when they have $1 deals or when something is on sale. We scored some awesomely, amazing waffle cones last week for .50 each. You can sign up for texts with Sonic by clicking here.
#7. Lastly you can sign up under my blog to keep up with the latest freebies. I have on my page titled FREEBIES or you can follow me on Facebook at Savvy School of Savings.
So, I know I missed something? What was it? Feel free to tell me how you score food for free…legally.Read More
One thing you may not know about me is that I was the first in my family to graduate from college. I have God to thank for that and my parents. They instilled in us from an early age that college was not an option. They wanted both my brother and myself to have a degree.
My parents know how hard it is to work without a degree but somehow we always made it financially.
My dad worked at a research center and then always had side jobs. I always saw my dad working. He would help a friend run his ranch or mow lawns for the elderly. He would never ask for much but people were always glad to pay my dad. He was and still is a very hard worker.
The great thing about this story is that we never starved because my dad did not have a degree. He was able to always provide for us because he worked so hard.
I hope that you realize that sometimes just good old hard work is the answer to a lot of your financial problems.
Through financial coaching, I am starting to converse more with college students. One question I often ask: “Is your job going to pay for your student loans?”.
Since most kids that I encounter are drowning in student loan debt, I believe this question to be highly relevant.
I have talked with students who have taken out more than $50K in student loans yet have no degree. How are you ever going to pay off this loan working a job that pays $7.25/hour?
You have to think about these things before just running out to get a degree that is going to require you to spend a lot of money upfront.
I have stated in another blog that student loan debt is THE ONLY debt that should be accrued while in college. That way when you do start your new career you are able to focus solely on paying down that debt.
Trust me, you don’t want to start off your new life just accruing more debts. If you marry someone who is in debt and then the both of you accrue debts together – it’s all downhill from there.
I would love to hear your comments below on the topic of college. It seems to be a hot one lately and since my kids are still elementary age I am almost clueless in this area. What have you taught your kids about college going to college and are they attending a university right now?Read More
Yes, yes you can. Here’s a list of things you HAVE TO DO if you want to live within your means.
1. Learn to say no. It is okay to tell your friends that you can’t go out tonight because you simply don’t have the money. If they’re good friends they will completely understand and might even learn something from your fearless heart.
2. Don’t eat out. If you do, choose wisely. When my husband and I became debt free we decided to go out to eat at a high-priced restaurant (something we do maybe once a year). As we sat down to supper I couldn’t believe how many college students were eating in this restaurant. They acted like it’s something they do every weekend. STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! Don’t waste or hard-earned money (or you parent’s money) on something like food.
3. Have a plan. Create a budget. Don’t go to college without one. You may not regret it while you’re young, but you will look back at some point and wonder where all that money was spent.
4. Don’t go out and buy a brand-new car. This is the biggest mistake you’ll ever make. I see so many kids in our town with the big heavy duty pick-up trucks and wonder how they can afford the gas. My guess is, they can’t. Go buy a good car that will get you back and forth but is still economical. I paid $5,000 for my first car (in cash) and I drove everywhere with that little car.
5. Live off what you make. If you don’t make much money then don’t spend a lot of money. It’s really just that simple. Today while reading “Wisdom Meets Passion” Dan Miller talks in the book about how he and his wife lived off $200/month that he made working as a teacher assistant. How did they live off that much? They lived within their means. He also paid for his college career with cash and now has millions of dollars. Hmmm..I wonder why!?
6. Get a job! I don’t mean to harp on this, but I have worked since I was 15. I really don’t understand kids that don’t work. I see so many kids in high school just loafing around town when they could be spending their time and energy working and saving for their future.
7. Keep yourself out of debt. The only debt that really makes sense to me while in college is student loan debt. I really don’t like this kind of debt, but have stated that I had to take out a $10K loan. I had it paid off in 5 years and could have paid it off much faster if I hadn’t accrued more debt.
8. Also, consider your job. Are you going to make enough money to really justify taking out a lot of money in student loans? So, here’s what I’m saying:
I graduated in 2003. I also had a job about 3 months later. My job started off making around $30K per year. If I just had student loan debt with nothing else I could have easily paid off that loan in 1 year. My husband also had a full-time job. We could have lived off 1 1/2 incomes while we paid down that debt.
You have to think this way when it comes to college. I don’t understand taking out $130K in student loan debt and then being a stay-at-home mom. Or taking out $100,000 in debt to work a job making $28K/year. This is really happening, people. I hear it on Dave Ramsey’s radio show all the time!!!
Please consider these tips to avoid making a lot of the same mistakes I did.
Share with us what you are doing or have done to save money while in college? How were you able to live within your means?
Wow! There is a serious epidemic facing our kids today and it’s called DEBT.
What’s sad is that they learn this word early on in life. Mostly when they start off to college.
The problem with debt is that it’s like a drug. It is highly addictive. You see how much you can spend on credit and how quickly you can get the things you want (not necessarily need) and then you’re hooked.
Don’t let it start in your 20’s. You can avoid student loan debt. It may not be easy, but it is doable!
GO TO WORK
I’m a teacher. I love to teach. I was a born teacher even before I had any kind of degree.
Find your talent. Find you what you like to do and make money doing it.
My dad was always the type that liked to work outside. So, he taught us early on to get small jobs. He would mow yards, cut pulp wood, help on a friend’s farm. That’s what he loved. I didn’t necessarily enjoy mowing a yard, but I did it for the money. He was always fair and would pay us our portion.
When I wanted to buy my own car at the age of 19, I went to work. I worked as a waitress every day after school and then would work at a camp during the summer. So, when summertime came I worked 2 jobs. It didn’t bother me. I bought a car to get me to college and a computer.
Find something that works around your schedule. If you can’t handle a full-time job and full-time classes then cut back on something. Maybe take summer sessions or mini-mesters to help catch up on your studies.
IS YOUR DEGREE REALLY WORTH IT
Is your degree really worth getting a PhD. I am an educator. I have taught for many years in a public school. I could have stayed on and gotten my Master’s Degree, but all I would have done is accrued more debt and made very little.
Education is one of those areas where it’s not worth just stopping at a Master’s. So I chose to just get my Bachelor’s. I don’t regret my decision at all.
I have seen people doubt whether they should really be getting their PhD in a certain subject because they have friends out there already making a 6-figure salary with a Bachelor’s or Master’s.
Research your subject area to see if it’s really worth staying in past a Bachelor’s. I am always a firm believer in education, but I learn best by getting out there and doing it. Not just sitting in a classroom listening to someone talk about it:)
HAVE A PLAN
The best advice that I could give to you is to have some sort of plan. Make a budget.
I did wind up having to take out $10K when my husband and I got married. That’s not something I’m proud of but we didn’t see any way around it since we weren’t budgeting in our own lives.
So, I worked for 5 years in a Title I school and I was able to get $5K excused from my loan. That left us with $60 left to pay on the loan which we did in cash. So, I paid off a $10K loan in 5 years.
If we had been budgeting and not spending so much money on eating out, I would’ve probably paid off that loan in 1-2 years. Here’s what we should have done…
We needed to sit down and say Okay. We make X amount of money. We have X amount in student loan debt. We need to pay X amount per month and have this paid off in X amount of years.
Get it? I’m not saying it’s just horrible if you just have to take out a loan, but you have got to have a plan. I have heard of people racking up $50K, $100K, $150K worth of student loan debt. Where’s their plan? Is their job going to make enough money to pay off this debt?
If not, then it’s time to get 2-3 jobs and really start whacking away before you wind up hurting yourself even more in the long run.
The other day I was asked this question by a friend “So what can you do if you already have student loans?”. I thought Wow! What a great question! I had never taken this into consideration before. So, what’s next for you kids (or adults – if you were like Greg and myself) out there who are still paying on student loans?
Go to Work!
I know what you’re thinking…Man, that seems a little abrasive! Well, it is! Work now while you’re young and have energy. In my post “What is an Emergency Fund – Pt. 1″ I refer to Proverbs chapter 6 where it talks about how ants work to store up their food and then it is there when they need it. Did you hear the word work? That’s what it takes! Work hard now so that you can enjoy your life later and are not haunted by these loans. I would even suggest that maybe you work two jobs if your first job is low paying. I mean, what do you have to lose? Especially if you’re not tied down with a spouse or child then now would be a great time to make as much money as you possibly can. Even if you do already have a family in place you could probably still get a temporary job delivering pizzas or in a restaurant making tips. This past year we accrued some pretty hefty medical bills, so Greg decided to go to work. He already had a full-time job during the day and decided to deliver pizzas at night. We knew that this was something temporary and would be over quickly so we just did what had to be done. Was it hard? Yes! Was it stressful? Yes! Did his wife threaten to pull out every hair on her head if he did not quit within a certain time frame? Why, yes, I think she did. It was a difficult time in our life, but to start off the new year without $2,500 owed to a hospital was a great feeling. You have to think of how badly you want to get out from underneath this debt.
Make Paying Off Your Debt Your Top Priority
Saying that brings me to my next point. While reading “Taming the Money Monster”, I just had to underline this section in a chapter about debt. It said, “Immediately upon graduation, establish paying the debt as your top financial priority”. Wow what our marriage would’ve been like that first year had I followed this advice. I was offered a teaching position at a middle school near Dallas where I would’ve started off making $36,500. That’s a lot of money for a girl who’s worked part-time since she was 15. Instead of taking them up on that offer, we decided to move to College Station where I was making several thousand dollars less than that. Not only did we have this “ingenious” idea to up and move but we also had no jobs when we arrived here. I had just graduated in May 2003 and left behind everything to start a new life in College Station. Do I regret the move? No! I absolutely love this area, but that decision put a major strain on our marriage. If we had been smart, we would’ve stayed put and I would’ve taken that job offer. I could have worked there for a few years to pay off that loan, stayed in our apartment, and kept my paid-off car until we had enough money saved to place a down payment on a nice home. Instead, we made every stupid mistake we could’ve possibly made. So, if I could give you a warning I would tell you exactly what Ron Blue said in the quote above. Make a plan and stick with it. Okay, so you have student loan debt. Sit down, work out a budget, and come up with a plan for paying that loan off quickly. Make this your financial priority before starting off your marriage and raising your family on debt. Fortunately, I was able to work at a Title I school for 5 years and filled out paperwork for a loan forgiveness program. They excused $5,000 of my student loan and we wrote a check for the $100 or so that was left on that original $10,000 loan. It took us five years to get our act straight, how long will it take you?
Quit Buying on Credit
The mistake that we’ve made (like so many others) is that once you buy one thing on credit you start purchasing LOTS of stuff that you “need” using credit. If you have not been attacked already, you will be completely swamped with credit card offers immediately after graduation. I would not recommend using a credit card until your student loans are paid off. If you think this impossible, it’s really not. We haven’t used credit cards in 4 years and yes there are things that come up that we just pay for in cash. If we don’t have the cash then we wait until we have the cash to pay for that particular item. There is really nothing that you just absolutely need after graduation. You really don’t “need” a brand new car. This was a mistake we made. We started making more money in our paychecks so we just started racking up on debt. It was crazy!!! You need a car that will get you to and from work. If your family lives out of town, then invest in a horse. They’re cheaper and can help you save on gas. You really don’t “need” a high-end apartment or a house. People will tell you that now you can afford these things because you have a full-time job. This is not necessarily true. One thing we did not realize when purchasing a house were all the hidden costs. You don’t just pay for the house and then you’re done. If your hot water heater goes out, you pay the bill. If your entire front yard is flooded because of a water leak you pick up the tab. Think about these things before accruing more debt. When we lived in an apartment, our landlord had to pay for anything that went wrong. I really miss that landlord! I wonder if he would come stay with us now and just fix our problems. Maybe he would still pick up the tab on some things. Probably not. Don’t get caught up and start purchasing on credit just because everybody else is doing it. Be your own person! Live your own life and for goodness sakes, don’t make the same dumb mistakes that I have made.
Do you feel overwhelmed with student loans? What is your plan in getting rid of them as soon as possible?Read More