personal finance

  • Should I Refinance My Student Loans?

    Should I Refinance My Student Loans?

     

    When my husband and I got married, we had over six figures of student loan debt. It wasn’t exactly the ideal way to start our life together. 

    However, it did force us to have a lot of money conversations early on and make sure we were on the same page with our finances. And for that, I could not be more grateful. 

    One of the topics of conversation was the fact that, while most of our debt was from federal loans with reasonable interest rates, he had one private student loan with an astronomical interest rate — About 14%. Yeah, that was painful. 

    One of the first money decisions we made together was to decide to refinance that private loan. With literally only a few minutes of effort, we were able to reduce his rate by about 60%. When we ran the numbers, we found that we were saving ourselves tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. 

    Refinancing a student loan is an amazing way to reduce your interest rate and save yourself a ton of money in the long run. 

    In this article, you’ll learn what student loan refinancing is, whether student loan refinancing is the right choice for you, and how to refinance a student loan. 

     

    Should I Refinance My Student Loans?

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    What is student loan refinancing? 

    Refinancing a student loan is essentially taking out a new loan to replace your old one. When you refinance a student loan, you take out a loan from a private lender. That lender pays off your existing loan, and you now have a new loan with new terms, a new interest rate, and a new monthly payment. 

    You can refinance both private and federal student loans, though certain types of loans may make more sense for refinancing. 

     

    How do I know if refinancing is right for me?

    The primary reason to refinance a student loan is to save money over the life of the loan as a result of a lower interest rate. In the case of Brandon and I, we reduced our loan by more than 60% and saved our future selves tens of thousands of dollars. 

    Here are some reasons that student loan refinancing might be the right choice for you:

     

    You have a lot of student loan debt. 

    Even with aggressively paying down our loans, it’s still going to take Brandon and me years to pay them off. For that reason, any reduction interest rate would have been worth it for us. If you know you’re going to be paying down your loans for many years, refinancing to a lower rate is definitely worth it!

     

    You have high-interest debt

    Even if you don’t have a ton of student loan debt, a high interest rate can be miserable. I know far too many people who see their student loan balances increase because of interest! If you have a high rate right now, refinancing is definitely something to consider.

     

    You have a stable income and high credit score

    While it would be amazing if everyone could refinance to a lower interest rate, that’s simply not how it is. Just like qualifying for any other loan through a private lender, refinancing your student loans with a low rate will require you to have a credit score and income that makes you a desirable loan candidate. If you do have an excellent credit score, you may be able to get a really good rate. 

     

    How do I refinance my student loans?

    Alright, we’ve talked about what student loan refinancing is and when it might be the right choice for you. But how the heck do you actually do it? Luckily, it’s a lot easier than you may think.

     

    Step 1: Review your credit report

    First of all, I definitely recommend doing a quick review of your financial situation before applying for any loans. The last thing you want is to fill out an application and find that your credit score has unexpectedly dropped or that you have a negative mark on there. 

    Checking ahead of time will help you to avoid any unwelcome surprises. If you check your report and your score has dropped or there’s a negative mark, you may want to take some time to get that ironed out before refinancing. 

     

    Step 2: Shop around for different rates

    Don’t just pick a lender because someone else used them. Spend some time shopping around. Lenders will allow you to fill out a prequalification form and it only takes a few minutes. That way you’ll be able to compare a few different offers. 

     

    Step 3: Choose the best offer for your situation

    Once you have all the offers in front of you, you can choose whichever one is right for you. It usually makes sense to go with whichever company offers the lowest interest rate, but make sure to read all of the terms such as the repayment period and forbearance options. 

    If you’re shopping for a loan to refinance your student loans, I recommend Credible. You can see rates from more than a dozen different lenders to find the best loan for your situation.

     

    Step 4: Finalize your new loan

    After you choose a lender, you’ll probably have a bit more paperwork to fill out to finalize the loan. Then they’ll handle the process of paying off your old loan, and it’s just a matter of making your monthly payments!

     

    When is refinancing not a good idea?

    Refinancing your student loans is an excellent choice for some people. In the case of my husband and me, refinancing his student loan is saving us tens of thousands of dollars over a period of several years. 

    But it’s also the case that refinancing simply isn’t for everyone. Let’s talk about a few of the reasons why you might be better off not refinancing your student loans. Some of these reasons are specific to people with federal loans, while others apply to anyone. 

     

    If you’re on the path to student loan forgiveness

    There are several federal student loan forgiveness programs available to individuals working in certain fields, such as teachers and public servants. 

    However, these programs are only available for federal loans. If you refinance loans with a private lender, you are no longer eligible for those programs. If you think you’ll be able to take advantage of one of those programs, you may be better off not refinancing. 

    As a note, please do a LOT of research on these programs before you get your heart set on them. Student loan forgiveness is never a guarantee and plenty of people who expected to have their loans forgiven have thus far been denied. 

     

    If you need an income-driven repayment plan

    Like so many recent college graduates, I remember being so excited when I learned about income-driven repayment plans. After all, I was a low-paid government worker and wanted to be able to reduce my monthly student loan payment as much as I could. 

    Then it became clear that the lower my monthly payments, the longer it would take me to pay my loans off. For that reason, I generally don’t recommend income-based repayment plans (or limiting yourself to your minimum monthly payment). 

    That being said, I recognize that many of us go through situations in life (myself included) when our income is low and we just can’t swing a higher payment. Heck, one of the first phone calls I made after my divorce was to my student loan lender asking them to lower my payment based on my income. 

    If you currently rely on an income-based repayment plan to afford your bill each month, refinancing is not for you. Private companies are far less likely to offer these plans.

     

    If you can’t qualify for a lower rate

    The big benefit of refinancing your student loans is to reduce your interest rate. My husband and I were able to reduce his rate by more than 8% by refinancing — We won’t talk about how outrageous it is that his rate was high enough to be reduced that much in the first place. 

    If you already have a very low rate or you shop around and find that you can’t qualify for a lower one, then refinancing is not for you. You definitely don’t want to refinance for a higher rate!

    If your credit history is preventing you from getting a better student loan refinance rate, take the next 6-12 months and work on boosting your credit score so you can try again in the future. 

     

    If you may not be able to make your loan payments

    The federal government has programs in place that borrowers can take advantage of if they run into financial hardship and can’t pay their monthly loan payments anymore. Private companies aren’t always so understanding. 

    If you’re struggling to make your student loan payments and legitimately fear the day is coming where you won’t be able to pay, I wouldn’t refinance from a public loan to a private one. 

     

    Final Thoughts

    I can entirely relate to the feeling that you’re never going to get those loans paid off. I understand the anxiety that comes with seeing the amount that you owe increasing each month rather than decreasing because your interest rate is so high. 

    Trust me when I say: I understand.

    Refinancing isn’t for everyone, but being able to refinance your student loan can be a serious game-changer for reducing your monthly payment, reducing your interest rate, and saving yourself a hell of a lot of money in the long run. 

    CONTINUE READING

  • How to Rebuild Your Finances After a Divorce

    How to Rebuild Your Finances After a Divorce

     

    No one goes into a marriage planning to get divorced. Unfortunately, it happens — And it often it’s a tough financial blow.

    I got married for the first time when I was 24. I thought I had my shit together — Marriage, house, and a sizeable household income. 

    Less than two years into the marriage, I found myself completely undoing everything I had built over the past several years. 

    People often talk about the emotional toll that a divorce takes, but the financial one was a lot harder for me. After all, I knew almost nothing about finances and found myself thrown into the deep end. 

    The next year was one of a lot of learning and a lot of rebuilding. I had to educate myself about all things budgeting personal finance, and then use the information I was learning to completely rebuild my finances. 

    If you’ve been through this or are currently going through this, I see you and I know how you’re feeling. In this article, I’m talking right to you and teaching you how to rebuild your finances after a divorce. 

     

    Finances and Divorce: How to Rebuild Your Finances After a Divorce

     

    How divorce affects women

    Before we talk about how to rebuild your finances after a divorce, let’s talk about why it’s so important that you make this a priority.

    First of all, divorce is expensive. As if financially starting over on your own wasn’t bad enough, add on the fact that the average divorce costs around $15,000. I was incredibly lucky that mine wasn’t that pricey, but it’s a reality for way too many people. 

    Another ugly truth that it’s important for us to talk about is that divorce uniquely affects women.

    We’re still living in a world where men make more than women, and 69% of husbands make more than their wives. So when a couple gets divorced, the woman’s household income drops more than the man’s. 

    Finally, data actually shows that women are more negatively affected after a divorce, both financially and emotionally.

    I don’t know about you, but I find those numbers horrifying. And those numbers are exactly why these lessons are so important!

     

    Gather your support squad

    If there’s one thing I wish I would have done differently during my divorce, (there are actually a lot of things I would do differently, but if I had to pick just one) it would be to gather my support squad right away. 

    Divorce sucks, and you need your support system more than ever. But more than emotionally, they can be there for you financially. 

    I’m not saying you need to ask people to help you financially, but people may be able to offer insight. There are plenty of people who could have offered personal insight on the topic, and I didn’t take advantage of those resources. 

    Another member of your support squad should also be an attorney. When my ex-husband and I started the divorce process, we promised things would be amicable and that we’d split things down the middle without attorneys. Needless to say, things did not remain amicable and I got a lot less than half of our assets. Even in the friendliest of divorces, hire an attorney

     

    Audit your financial situation

    It’s safe to say that your finances post-divorce look a heck of a lot different from your finances pre-divorce. For that reason, your first course of action should be an audit of your entire financial situation. 

    First, take stock of the amount of your assets. Depending on your situation this might be a home or car from your marriage. It also hopefully includes cash in the bank. 

    Next, count up your debts. Unfortunately, many people come out of a divorce with more debt than they started. It’s best to face this head-on. 

    Finally, add up your monthly income and your monthly expenses (including debt payments). Hopefully, your income is more than your expenses, but if not, we’ll deal with that too. 

     

    Set up your financial plan

    Now that you’ve done an audit of your entire financial situation, it’s time to make your financial plan. Your financial plan is going to look awfully different from the one you had when you were married, so it’s best to start from scratch. 

    Here’s what you should include in your plan:

    • Your monthly budget. Adjust any expenses as needed to make sure your expenses are less than your income. 
    • Your debt payoff plan. If you’ve got debt, then you also need a plan to pay it off. And paying the monthly payments is rarely a good plan.
    • A savings plan. We’ll talk later about building an emergency fund, but just know, you need to have a savings plan. 

     

    Update your documents and accounts

    After your divorce, be sure to allocate some time to update all of your documents and accounts. First, this might mean letting your insurance companies know about the divorce. If you and your spouse shared a health insurance plan, one of you may need to sign up for a new one.

    Next, be sure to update your beneficiaries! I’m embarrassed to say that it took me a solid year to change the beneficiary on my life insurance policy — my ex-husband would have gotten a nice surprise if anything had happened to me! Be sure to check your beneficiaries on other accounts too, such as any retirement accounts. 

    In some cases, getting someone’s name off a loan might mean refinancing. That was the case with my car loan, and it’s probably the case with others as well. 

    If your divorce involves a name change, then, of course, you’ve got a whole lot of extra work to do to change your name. Change your name with the Social Security Administration, and then be sure to change your name on all of your accounts. 

     

    Be okay with downsizing

    For most of us, divorce means a pretty drastic reduction in household income (in my case it was a roughly two-thirds reduction. And when you’ve got less money, you’ve gotta downsize. 

    The first big downsizing move I made was to move from our three-bedroom house to a studio apartment. At first I thought it would feel way too small, but it was actually the perfect size for just one person! Super easy to clean and very homey. 

    The other downsize I had to make was my monthly car payment. My ex-husband and I had purchased my car together, and the monthly payment was based on what the two of us together could afford. 

    So when it was just me making the payment, I couldn’t swing it. 

    At that point, I was faced with two choices. I could sell the car and downsize to something cheaper, or I could refinance. I ended up refinancing my loan and cutting my payment in half while also getting a lower interest rate. 

    Downsizing is going to look a bit different for everyone, but it really comes down to getting your monthly payments to a place where they fit into your new budget. 

     

    Build up your emergency fund

    Literally one of the first things anyone should do after a divorce is build up an emergency fund. If you’ve already got an emergency fund, make it bigger. 

    Here’s the thing about going from a two-income household to a one-income household. If you lose your job or source of income, you’re now a zero-income household. 

    When you’re married and both bring in income, there’s an extra safety net in that the other spouse would theoretically still be bringing in monthly income. That just isn’t the case when you live alone. 

    So while I think saving three months’ worth of expenses is a good starting point when you’re married, a single person should aim to save twice that. 

    I know this doesn’t happen overnight and if someone had told me this right after I got divorced, it would have seemed absurd. 

    At the very least, you can start putting little bits away now until you can ultimately reach that goal of six months of expenses. 

     

    Cut back on personal spending

    When you’ve got a lower household income, you’ve got less wiggle room in your budget for discretionary spending. While married-me wouldn’t have given it a second thought to go out to lunch or order my favorite takeout, divorced-me was careful to double-check the budget first. 

    I’m not saying you can’t spend money on yourself. I think that after a divorce more than any other time we could use some pampering. 

    But at the same time, we have to be realistic. If you can’t fit the same amount of discretionary spending into your budget as you once could, figure out where you can cut back

     

    Seek out personal finance education

    Probably the best thing I did to help rebuild my finances after my divorce was to immerse myself in personal finance education. I was determined to figure this money stuff out, so I threw myself into every resource I could find. I read blogs, read books, listening to podcasts, read financial news, and just about everything else you can think of. The year after my divorce was probably more educational than my entire four years of college for that reason! 

    If you’re newly divorced (or not) and looking to up your personal finance game, here are some of my favorite resources:

     

    Look for ways to increase your income

    Listen, divorce sucks for a lot of reasons. But it also has its silver linings, one of which being that you now have a lot more free time. And while more free time might not seem like an upside for everyone, it’s a fantastic opportunity to increase your income!

    I was lucky in that I already had my blog up and running when I got divorced. As a result, it was easy for me to use it to make some extra money. 

    Even if you don’t already have a side-hustle in place, you can easily get one up and running! 

    There are so many options out there to help you make extra money. Here are some of my favorite ways to make an extra $1,000 (or more) each and every month

    Increasing your income has to freaking many benefits. First, it can help you to quickly pay off any debt you accrued during the divorce — I ended up having to put a lot of expenses on my credit card at first, and having a side hustle was a lifesaver.

    Having a side hustle can also help you to build up your emergency fund, create some extra wiggle room in your budget (for those of you missing your discretionary spending), or help you save for future financial goals

     

    Know that you can and will rebuild

    Having gone through a divorce myself, I know how impossible it can feel to build your finances. You look at your much-smaller household income and the amount of debt you accrued over the course of the divorce, and it literally feels insurmountable. 

    But I promise you that it is not impossible. You can and you will rebuild, and someday you’ll find yourself in a much better place both financially and emotionally. You got this!

    CONTINUE READING

  • How to Create a Minimalist Budget to Manage Your Money

    How to Create a Minimalist Budget For Your Money

     

    For years I avoided budgeting because of how restrictive it felt. I didn’t want to feel guilty every time I spent my own money!

    Then I discovered the concept of a minimalist budget, and it was a total game-changer. Rather than spending money on things you don’t really care about, you can spend more money on the things you care most about. 

    You’re probably familiar with the concept of minimalism, but minimalist budgeting might be a mystery to you. It’s the same concept — You’re eliminating the non-essentials to make room for the things you truly value. 

    In this post, I’m explaining what a minimalist budget is and how you can create one to help you manage your money without the guilt and restriction that often comes with budgeting.

     

    How to Create a Minimalist Budget to Manage Your Money

     

    What is a minimalist budget?

     

    Minimalism is the practice of eliminating the non-essentials from your life to make more room for the things you truly value. Most people use the term minimalism in reference to physical belongings, but you can apply the concept of minimalist to any part of your life. 

    I particularly like to use it as it applies to budgeting. A minimalist budget is one where you eliminate the non-essentials and the clutter from your budget to leave more money for what you value most. 

    A minimalist budget can help you to reduce your monthly expenses, simplify your financial life, and get out of debt. 

    It’s important to note that budget minimalism isn’t the same thing as frugality. A minimalist budget isn’t about spending less money — It’s about spending money on fewer things so you’re only spending money on what you truly value.

     

    How do you create a minimalist budget?

     

    Like many things, creating a minimalist budget is easier said than done. I’m not going to lie – this doesn’t come naturally and you’re going to be hesitant to make cuts to your budget. Here are a few ways to help you create a minimalist budget that actually works for you.

     

    Identify your financial values and priorities

    One of the key benefits of a minimalist budget is that it allows you the freedom to spend money on the things that are truly important to you. To do that, you first have to identify what your values are. 

    Identifying your values and priorities is an important piece of the puzzle. Consider how often you allow yourself to spend money on something because it’s a “necessity”. Maybe it’s hitting the bar with your friends or that new outfit you’ve been eyeing online. 

    Sure, those things might seem like necessities. But what about when you compare the importance of a new outfit to being able to afford to fly home for the holidays? The outfit doesn’t seem like such a necessity when you identify your real priorities, one of which is that annual trip home for Christmas. 

     

    Make a list of all of your expenses

    One of the first things I think everyone needs to do when it comes to setting up a new budget is to take stock of where they’re currently spending their money. To do this, you need to make a list of all of your expenses. 

    The easiest way to do this is to literally go back through your last three to six months of bank and credit card statements and document every single expense.

    Yes, it sounds exhausting. But I promise you’ll get so much clarity from this one exercise!

    I remember the first time I set up a budget for myself. I really had no idea how much I was spending on anything each month. I set up a budget and was honestly shocked to see how much I’d spent on take-out every month. It was a LOT.

    Not only is this step important to figure out where you’re spending too much, but it also helps you to identify how much you should expect to spend. For example, it’s not realistic to start budgeting $200 per month for groceries when you’ve been spending $600. 

     

    Eliminate unnecessary expenses

    Alright, you knew this part was coming! Once you make a list of all of your expenses, it’s time to start cutting. Go through that list and figure out what you didn’t need to spend money on, or what you could have spent less on.

    Some of these will be easy, as with my example of eating out. As soon as I saw how much I was spending, I knew I had to cut back. Others will be more difficult because lots of things seem like necessities. 

    If you’re struggling to make cuts, refer back to step 1 where you identified your values and priorities. If something doesn’t fit within your values, cut it! 

    For example, suppose you’re spending way too much on food, partially as a result of regularly grabbing lunch and dinner out. If friendship is one of your top priorities, then you probably don’t want to cut that weekly dinner with your best friend. 

    But you could reduce your food spending by bringing lunch to work instead of ordering out. You’ve managed to cut your food budget without sacrificing one of your most important values. 

     

    Use a 50/30/20 budget

    One of the toughest parts of setting up a new budget is knowing how much you should be spending on everything. After all, there’s no handbook that you get when you become an adult that tells you how much to spend on groceries. You just have to figure it out as you go. 

    One of the best ways I’ve found to break up the budget is to do so by percentages. More specifically, I recommend the 50/30/20 budget

    The 50/30/20 budget is a framework that says you should break down your take-home pay like this:

    • 50% for needs, such as housing, transportation, and groceries
    • 30% for wants, such as eating out, entertainment, and hobbies
    • 20% for savings and debt

    Remember, this framework is just a guide, and it’s not going to be right for everyone. For example, Brandon and I have $150,000 of debt that we’re currently paying off, so we spend more than 20% of our budget on savings and debt. 

     

    Simplify your accounts

    Listen, I know it’s popular advice in the personal finance community to have separate bank accounts for your different savings goals. At some point, though, it all becomes more work than it’s really worth. And if you have a good system in place, you don’t need a bunch of different bank accounts. 

    First, popular online banks such as Ally and Capital One allow you to set up “buckets” within a single savings account where you designate different cash for different purposes. 

    Additionally, budgeting apps such as You Need a Budget (YNAB) allow you to budget money for certain purposes. My banking app might say I have $10,000 in my savings account, but I can look at YNAB and see that I have $5,000 budgeting for my emergency fund and $5,000 budget for RV renovations. 

    Another popular piece of financial advice is to shop around for the savings account with the highest interest rate. But then what happens is you’re constantly obsessing over whether your current bank still has the highest rate, and constantly moving your money as banks change their rates. 

    Here is some honestly for you — The difference between a 2% interest rate and a 1.75% interest rate on a savings account can literally come down to a few dollars, depending on how much money you have in the account. Just pick a bank with a high-yield savings account and let it go. 

    Finally, credit card hacking. Far too many people take out loads of credit cards with different types of rewards, and then only use their favorite. Credit card hacking might be effective if you do it right, but for most of us, it just adds extra unnecessary credit cards to our wallets. 

     

    Automate your payments

    I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of monthly bills. Every month I’m paying bills such as rent, renters insurance, utilities, phone bill, etc. We also pay off our credit card each month so we never carry a balance. 

    If I had to manually log onto my various accounts throughout the month to pay my bills, that would be a huge pain. In fact, I would probably forget once in a while, and that would cause a whole different set of problems. 

    These days, you can automate just about everything having to do with your finances. And I recommend that you do just that. Automate your bills, automate transfers to your savings account, and anything else you can. 

     

    Get out of the monthly payment mindset

    One of my biggest pet peeves about life these days is that everything is based on a monthly payment. For some things it makes sense — I’ll happily pay my Netflix bill every month. 

    But now there are apps that allow you to take out mini loans for large purchases. That way, instead of paying the total amount upfront, you’re paying it off over six months or so. 

    But here’s the thing. Those services encourage you to buy things you can’t afford. If you can’t swing the cost of the shoes in a single payment, you can’t afford the shoes. 

    These services also cost you more money. Nothing comes for free. If someone is lending you money, they’re getting something in return. Usually, it’s an astronomical amount of interest. And even if that’s not the case, they’re normalizing debt, which is not okay. 

    One important component of getting out of the monthly payment mindset is getting out of debt. It’s easy to think about your debt only in terms of what it costs you each month. 

    Your $5,000 credit card debt might only have a minimum payment of $85 per month. Or your $25,000 student loan might only have a minimum monthly payment of $150. And while those numbers don’t seem all that high, they’re costing you so much more than that. 

    Let’s do some painful math real quick. Suppose you have $5,000 of credit card debt with a minimum monthly payment of $85. If you only pay the monthly payment, you’ll pay over $7,900 in interest before you pay the card off. 

    $7,900!! 

    You’ll pay more in interest than you had in credit card in the first place. All because $85 per month seemed like a perfectly reasonable amount to pay to have credit card debt. 

    Here are some rules to live by when getting out of the monthly payment mindset:

    • Prioritize paying off existing debt
    • Don’t take on any additional debt
    • If you use a credit card, only spend what you have in your bank account and pay it off each month
    • If given the choice between a monthly subscription fee and an annual one, pay the annual fee. It’s almost always cheaper. 

     

    Question every purchase

    When you’ve been spending money on the same things for years, it’s easy to see those things as necessities. One of the adjustments you have to make for a minimalist budget is to start questioning every purchase. 

    Minimalist budgeting is about spending money on fewer things, even if it means spending more on those items. It’s about focusing on quality over quantity. 

    Maybe you have a go-to pair of shoes that you buy, but the heels wear out in just a few months. This was me for a long time! I would always buy the same $25 pair of high heels for work. When the heels wore out a few months later, I’d replace them. I didn’t think anything of it, because they were only $25. 

    It turned out that once I started spending more money per pair of shoes, I started spending less money overall. Instead of buying a budget pair that only lasted a few months, I could buy a more expensive pair that lasted infinitely longer. 

    Think about what expenses in your current budget you could replace for a higher-quality item. Instead of buying coffee out every day, what if you invested in a nice coffee or espresso machine. Instead of buying bottled water at the grocery store, what about buying a nice water filter? 

    The goal is to spend money on quality items that last longer. 

    You Might Also Like: How to Reduce Impulse Buying Once and For All

     

    Spend less than you make

    I know I said that budget minimalism isn’t necessarily about spending less money, and it’s not. But just like any budget, the most important rule is that you have to spend less than you make. 

    It’s easy to rely on credit cards and monthly payments that trick us into thinking we can afford more than we really can. But if the amount you’re swiping on your credit card each month is less than the amount on your paychecks, it’s time to change direction. 

     

    Schedule regular budget meetings

    I think we can all relate to a situation where we set up a brand new budget that we swear is going to change our lives, and then we forget about it in less time than it took us to make it. 

    I’ve gotten out of this habit by scheduling regular budget meetings for myself and my husband. We do one budget meeting around the first as I’m planning out the budget for the month, and a quick check-in on Fridays, since that’s the day he gets paid. 

    Even if you’re the only person sticking to your budget, these check-ins are still important! Putting time on your calendar will ensure that you’re actually checking in with your budget and noting whether you’re still on track. 

    You Might Also Like: How to Create a Monthly Budget

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    Whether or not you practice minimalism with your physical belongings, a minimalist budget can be a great choice for anyone! Minimalist budgeting is all about eliminating the non-essentials from your budget to make room for the things that you value most. 

    While budgets often feel restrictive, the minimalist budget is all about freedom — Freedom to spend on the things you truly value without letting the less important expenses get in the way.

     

     

    CONTINUE READING

  • The 10 Best Personal Finance Podcasts for Women

    The 10 Best Personal Finance Podcasts for Women

     

    When I decided to get serious about my finances, podcasts were one of the first places I turned for information. I love learning from podcasts since I can listen as I’m driving, cleaning, or out walking the dog. 

    Over the years, I’ve found myself drawn to financial podcasts specifically created for women. It’s no secret that women have very different financial goals and financial needs.

    Luckily there’s no shortage today of amazing personal finance podcasts created by and for women. Here are a few of my favorites!

    If podcasts aren’t your style, you can check out these lists too:

     

    The 10 Best Personal Finance Podcasts for Women

     

    So Money

    So Money is one of the OG female money podcasts, founded by Farnoosh Torabi. Farnoosh got her start as a financial reporter and wrote her first personal finance book in 2008. 

    Farnoosh talks about issues that are important to women, such as in her latest book, When She Makes More, where she talks about female breadwinners.

    Farnoosh started So Money in 2014 and since then, has published over 1,000 episodes. Farnoosh does solo episodes where she answers your biggest money questions. She also interviews top authors and business owners about their financial journey and best money advice. She’s interviewed amazing women like Ariana Huffington, Gretchen Rubin, and Jen Sincero.

    Listen to So Money here

     

    Clever Girls Know

    The Clever Girls was one of the first finance blogs I really dove into when I decided to get serious about my finances. The Clever Girls founder Bola started the website after successfully saving $100,000 in just a few years and knowing that she had to teach other women how they could save money too. 

    The Clever Girls Know podcast covers all of the financial education and empowerment that women need to help them pay off debt, save money, start growing real wealth, and meet their big financial goals.

    Listen to Clever Girls Know here

     

    The Financial Confessions

    Though you might not be familiar with the Financial Confessions podcast, you’re almost certainly familiar with the company that runs it — The Financial Diet. 

    Founder Chelsea Fagan started The Financial Diet as a personal blog back in 2014. Since then, it has grown into a finance website that publishes great content every day aimed at helping women talk more openly and honestly about money. 

    So it comes as no surprise that Chelsea’s podcast, The Financial Confessions, is all about getting honest about money. On the show, Chelsea sits down to talk to influencers, celebrities, and financial experts in various industries to talk about all things money. They talk about the financial secrets of different industries, how your background influences the way you approach money, and the financial habits they recommend.

    Listen to The Financial Confessions here

     

    The Fairer Cents

    Founders Kara and Tanja started The Fairer Cents podcast to talk about all things money as it relates to women. Kara and Tanja are both successful in their own right. Kara is the founder of Bravely, a community that provides financial empowerment for women. Tanja wrote the book Work Optional, where she talks about her and her husband’s journey to early retirement. 

    On the podcast, Kara and Tanja dive into some of the stickier issues around money. They aim to serve those that have been underserved by financial media in the past, and cover issues like the wage gap and exploring how money affects relationships (and vice versa). 

    Listen to The Fairer Cents here.

     

    Journey to Launch

    Journey to Launch is a podcast hosted by Jamila, a Certified Financial Education Instructor who, along with her husband, is on her way to financial independence by the age of 40. 

    On her blog, Jamila shares the steps that she’s taken to save and invest well over $100K in just a couple of years. On the Journey to Launch podcast, Jamila teaches her audience how to set and create and create an actionable plan to go after their own goals.

    Listen to Journey to Launch here.

     

    Afford Anything

    Afford Anything founder Paula Pant started getting serious about money in a desperate attempt to avoid spending the rest of her life working 9-5 behind a desk. She built successful side hustles and saved enough money to quit her job and travel. 

    Since then, Paula has built a successful real estate business and shares her business and financial expertise on her podcast. Paula talks about being intentional in the way you spend your money. After all, you can afford anything, but not everything. 

    Listen to Afford Anything here.

     

    Money Girl Podcast

    The Money Girl podcast was started by Laura Adams in 2008. Like so many other finance bloggers and podcasters, Laura gained her expertise through her own personal finance journey of learning to pay off debt and get on a budget. 

    Since then, the show has gotten more than 40 million downloads and provides short and sweet personal finance tips to women. Laura’s podcast episodes are easily digestible, as many of them are just 15 minutes. Laura covers topics such as paying off debt, saving for retirement, and developing positive money habits.

    Listen to Money Girl here

     

    She Makes Money Moves

    The She Makes Money Moves podcast is put on by Glamour and iHeartRadio and hosted by Samantha Barry, Glamour’s editor-in-chief. In this 16-episode series, Barry talks about money as it relates to women. 

    She talks about topics such as student debt, divorce, and combining finances with your significant other with financial experts such as Farnoosh Torabi and Stefanie O’Connell

    Listen to She Makes Money Moves here.

     

    HerMoney

    HerMoney was founded by Jean Chatzky, a personal finance reporter. Like so many women, she came to the realization that the traditional money media just wasn’t addressing the unique needs of women, so she started a website and podcast to address those needs herself. 

    HerMoney is all about improving the relationships that women have with money and leveling the playing field for financial security. 

    Listen to HerMoney here

     

    Mo’ Money Podcast

    Like so many other personal finance bloggers, Jessica Moorhouse started her blog in an effort to document her own personal finance journey and keep herself accountable. Seven years later, she’s an accredited financial counselor and provides coaching services to clients.

    On her Mo’ Money Podcast, Jessica talks to finance experts, celebrities, and authors to teach listeners about how to manage their money, make smarter money choices, earn more money, become debt-free, and live a more fulfilled and balanced life.

    Listen to the Mo’ Money Podcast here.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Podcasts have been one of my favorite ways to consume content, especially when I was just getting started with my own personal finance journey. 

    We know that the money needs of women are so unique. And luckily, there are plenty of podcasts out there specifically designed to help women take control of their money and meet their financial goals. 

    CONTINUE READING

  • How to Develop a Positive Money Mindset

    How to Develop a Positive Money Mindset

     

    Have you ever been at a point in your life where you learn everything you can about personal finance in an effort to get your money shit in order, but you just can’t seem to turn things around?

    Believe it or not, your mindset might be the problem. The beliefs and feelings you have about money play a huge role in the decisions you make and what you make your money situation mean about you. 

    I’ve definitely struggled with a negative money mindset in my life. After my divorce, I spent a lot of time beating myself up about my debt, my lack of savings, and just my general lack of money expertise. 

    I can honestly say that changing my mindset around money has been just as instrumental in changing my circumstances as changing my money behavior was. 

    In this post, I’m sharing what a money mindset is and what steps you can take to turn yours around and develop a positive money mindset. 

     

    How to Develop a Positive Money Mindset

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    What is a money mindset?

    Your money mindset is made up of all of the beliefs and feelings you have about money. People have either a scarcity or abundance money mindset, though to be honest, most of us probably fall somewhere in between. 

    You have a scarcity mindset if you believe there’s not enough money. You’re constantly telling yourself that money is tight and that you’ll never have enough to meet your goals. 

    If you have a scarcity mindset, you also probably beat yourself up about your money situation. When I struggled with a negative money mindset, I spent a lot of time beating myself up for taking on debt. 

    Not only do people with a scarcity mindset have negative thoughts about money, but they also often have negative thoughts about people who do have money. They might think that wealthy people aren’t good people. They probably also think that the more money someone else has, the less there is for the rest of us. 

    You have an abundance mindset if you believe that there’s plenty of money to go around. You trust that even if you spend the money you have now, more will come around. Everything will be okay. 

    When you have an abundance mindset, you don’t make money mean more than it does. You don’t make your money mistakes mean anything about you, just like you don’t make someone else’s money mean anything about them. 

     

    How to have an abundant money mindset

     

    Identify your current money beliefs

    Whether you realize it or not, you already have money beliefs that influence the way you think about money and the world. These beliefs might be a result of something your parents taught you during your childhood. 

    Think about phrases such as “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Most of us have heard it, partially because most of our parents probably said it. But have you ever stopped to think that your parents repeatedly telling you that actually taught you that money is finite and that there’s never going to be enough?

    Or maybe your parents told you that “money is the root of all evil.” If your parents drilled that into your head as a kid, you’re probably going to have some weird mental blocks about earning a lot of money. 

    You probably also have money beliefs based on your past experiences. Have you ever made a really stupid money mistake, and then for years afterward tell yourself that you’re bad with money? 

    What that really does is convince you that you’re bad with money. And far too many people develop that belief without ever trying to convince themselves otherwise. 

    If you’re struggling to identify what your current money thoughts are, write it out. Sit down with a notebook and just spend twenty minutes writing down everything you can think of about money. Eventually, something is going to come up. 

    Once you’ve identified what your current money beliefs are, you’ll start to identify where those beliefs came from. More importantly, you’ll see that you can change your beliefs.

     

    Understand that money is neutral

    One of the most important parts of changing your current negative money mindset to a positive one is recognizing that money is neutral. 

    So many people have a belief that money is evil, or that a lack of money is holding them back. Money isn’t evil and it isn’t out to get you. It has no value until we give it value. It has no meaning until you give it meaning. 

    I say all of this because a lot of people blame their money (or lack thereof) or their debt for the problems in their lives. The sooner you can come to terms with the fact that money isn’t out to get you, the sooner you’ll be able to change your mindset around it. 

     

    Focus on being grateful for what you have

    It’s easy to focus on all the things that are going wrong in your life. Regardless of your financial situation, you’re probably more likely to focus on the bad than the good. 

    You might spend a lot of time worrying about your debt or about going over budget on your grocery shopping. Yet you give almost no thought to the good things that your money has done for you. 

    Listen, it’s easy to look at your next-door neighbor with the luxury car or your friend with the designer clothes and feel bad about your life. But it might put things into perspective to remember that a huge portion of the world’s population is living in poverty. And if you live in a developed country, you’re luckier than most. 

    Whatever your financial situation, find ways to be grateful for it. Yes, even the things that are easy to complain about. Here are a few examples:

    • I’m grateful for my debt because it pushed me to get serious about personal finance
    • I’m grateful that I make more money in my current job than I did in my last one
    • I’m grateful knowing I’ll be okay even though I went over my grocery budget

    Each of those thoughts takes something that could be perceived as negative (debt, a moderate income, going over budget) and spins it in a positive light. 

    I guarantee that if you think hard enough, you’ll realize you have a lot to be grateful for. I know that for myself, I’m most grateful for the goals my money allows me to have. My husband and I are able to make plans to travel full-time and have adventures because of our financial situation. 

     

    Learn to love your money

    People are weird about money. These days it’s still a fairly taboo topic. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re talking to someone, tell them that you love money and see how they react.

    Here’s the thing though — You can’t expect to have a positive money mindset if you don’t have positive feelings about your money. 

    Part of the reason we feel weird about loving our money is that it’s not a topic people normally talk about. It’s weird for me to say that I love making a lot of money, because I’m not supposed to tell people that I make a lot of money. 

    Loving money is also a bit taboo because, let’s be honest, it probably makes us seem like we’re selfish or materialistic or bragging. There’s an element of guilt that comes with it. 

    If this is what’s holding you back, just remember that you can be generous and giving and still love your money. In fact, one great reason to love your money is that it allows you to help others. 

    There are lots of reasons to love your money. You can love your money:

    • For security it provides
    • For the goals it will help you to reach
    • For the good it will allow you to do in the world

     

    Get better with money

    I realize that this post is supposed to be about money mindset and not actionable budgeting advice. But one factor that’s had the biggest impact on my money mindset is getting better with money.

    You see, I used to have a really negative money mindset. Part of this was a result of the fact that I had zero confidence when it came to money. And my lack of confidence was a result of the fact that I just wasn’t good with money. 

    For years I thought I had my financial shit together. It turned out that I was just married to someone who had his financial shit together, and he managed the money. When we got divorced and I was on my own, it became abundantly clear that I had no idea what the heck I was doing. 

    For the next few years, I threw myself into learning everything I could about managing money. As my knowledge of finance increased, so did my confidence when it came to money. And as my confidence increased, my money mindset got better. 

    The best advice I have for getting started with personal finance is to do what I did — Read personal finance books and blogs. Here are a few to get you started:

     

    Set financial goals

    One of the negative money beliefs that many people have is that they’ll never be able to do all of the things they want to do. They won’t be able to go on that dream vacation or buy that dream house because they won’t have enough money. And because they believe it to be true, they don’t really take steps to change it. 

    I can tell you right now that if you don’t actually take steps to reach your financial goals, you won’t reach them. There will never come a day where you just magically have enough money in your bank account to achieve your financial goal. 

    When you actually take steps to set and go after goals, you start making progress on them. And as you start making progress on them, your money mindset gets better and better because you realize what is possible. It’s a constant cycle, and you get to decide which direction it goes!

    If you want to get started with setting financial goals but aren’t sure how, check out my guide on how to set goals and plan your best year ever

     

    Create a money mantra

    If you need to change your beliefs about money but can’t quite get there, a money mantra is what you need. I know the idea of a mantra sounds a little woo-woo and not like something that actually works, but it really does. 

    First things first, what the heck is a money mantra?

    A money mantra (aka affirmation) is a short but powerful statement that you repeat every single day (preferably multiple times per day) until you believe it. 

    Your mantra can be something written on a post-it at your desk that you say out loud. I prefer to write mine in my journal every day. 

    Here are a few mantras you can try if you aren’t sure where to start:

    • Money flows easily to me
    • Making money is easy
    • There is always more than enough money
    • I am financially free

    The first time you repeat your money mantra, you’re probably going to feel a bit ridiculous. After all, you’re probably not going to believe it right away. 

    A while back I started working on a mantra saying I can make as much money in my business as I want. At first it felt so clearly false. But now that I’ve been practicing it for a while, I actually believe it. 

     

    Read a money mindset book

    Hands down my favorite way to learn about money has been reading books. Learning about money mindset was no exception.

    I loved Jen Sincero’s first badass book, You Are a Badass. So when I saw she had a money mindset book coming out, I knew I had to read it. 

    In You Are a Badass at Making Money, Sincero shares her personal money journey. She talks about overcoming her bad money habits and her negative money mindset.

    This pulled me in right away because so many of the negative thoughts about money that Sincero said had held her back are thoughts I have had about money too.

    I love that she wrote the book from her own personal experience, and I genuinely think everyone can find something in this book that really hits home with them, from identifying the money beliefs that are holding you back to transforming your relationship with money.

    Finally, I just love Sincero’s writing style and sense of humor, which made it really easy to read.

    Click here to grab a copy of You Are a Badass at Making Money.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Having a negative money mindset is so hard to overcome, in large part because a lot of us don’t even realize what our money mindset is.

    The things that we believe about money are a direct result of the experiences we’ve had so far. And unless you want your future to replicate your past, it’s time to make some mindset changes. 

    I know that honing in on my mindset and learning to have an abundant money mindset has been seriously life-changing.

    Changing my mindset has helped me to embrace my debt, while also paying it off faster than I ever would have thought. It’s helped me to drastically increase my income. Finally, it’s taught me to completely change the way I look at my life and my money. 

    I know that the tips in this blog post can do the same for you!

    CONTINUE READING

  • How to Build an Emergency Fund & How Much You Should Save

    How to Build an Emergency Fund & How Much You Should Save

     

    There were way too many years where I didn’t realize just how important an emergency fund was. I made enough money to pay my bills every month. But when an unexpected expense came up, I’d have to put it on a credit card or pull money from a different spending category. 

    Having a fully-funded emergency in place is seriously life-changing. It provides so much peace of mind and helps ensure that little bumps in the road don’t rock your financial world. 

    In this post, you’ll learn what an emergency fund is, how much you should have in your emergency fund, and how you can save enough money for an emergency fund. 

     

    How to Build an Emergency Fund & How Much You Should Save

     

    What is an emergency fund?

    An emergency fund, just like the name suggests, is a chunk of money that you set aside for an unexpected financial emergency. 

    An emergency fund is a safety net you can use for one-time expenses such as a broken-down car or longer-term financial emergencies such as a job loss. 

     

    How much emergency fund should I have?

    There’s a lot of debate as to how much you should have in your emergency fund. If you follow Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, he recommends an emergency fund of $1,000 until you pay off all your debt. Once your debt is gone, then he recommends that you save an emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of expenses. 

    Depending on how much debt you have, I don’t think $1,000 is nearly enough. My husband and I are working on paying off about $150K of debt. It’s going to take us several years to get there, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable going years with only $1,000 in our emergency fund. 

    My comfort level before paying off debt is about three months of expenses in our emergency fund. I feel confident that in our career fields, we’d be able to at least partially replace our income in that time. Once we pay off our debt, we’ll work on building our emergency fund to last 6-9 months.

    There are other things to take into consideration when it comes to the size of your emergency fund. If you’re single, you might want more of an emergency fund than someone in a two-income household who has another person to rely on in the case of a job loss.

    You Might Also Like: Is it Better to Pay Off Debt or Save Money First?

     

    Where should you keep your emergency fund?

    It’s best to keep your emergency fund somewhere easily accessible and highly-liquid. If an unexpected expense comes up, you want to be able to get to your money as quickly as possible. A high-yield savings account is a great option. You’ll keep your money safe while earning a little extra money on interest. 

    If you’re tempted to invest your emergency fund in the market, I highly recommend against it. The market can be volatile, and the last thing you want is for the stock market to drop at the same time you need to use your emergency fund. 

     

    How do I build an emergency fund?

     

    Step 1: Decide how much you want to save

    I talked about how much I recommend having in your emergency fund, but you’re the only one who can ultimately decide how much you’ll need. Once you know how much you want to save, you can figure out how long it will take you to get there. 

     

    Step 2: Figure out how much you can save monthly

    This step is where budgeting comes in. If you don’t know how much you can save every month for your emergency fund, it’s probably because you don’t have a firm grasp on your monthly budget. Let’s change that!

    If you don’t already have a budget set up, check out my guide on setting up a monthly budget

    If you already have a budget in place but don’t have extra money left over to put toward your emergency fund, go through and figure out where you can make cuts.

    If you’re currently making extra debt payments, that might be a good place to cut until your emergency fund is in place. Otherwise, find some other discretionary spending such as eating out or a vacation fund you can divert budget money from. 

     

    Step 3: Make it automatic

    I used to tell myself that I would save whatever money I had left at the end of every month after my expenses. And time after time the end of the month would roll around and I would have spent everything, with nothing left to put into savings. 

    Finally, I changed my strategy. I set up an automatic payment to go through the day after my paycheck hit my bank account every month. Then I could only spend what I had left after savings. 

    It’s easy to have the best of intentions when it comes to saving. But I think we can all relate to a situation where we spend more than we plan to. Setting up an automatic transfer to savings is the best way to make sure it happens every month. 

     

    Step 4: Save any windfalls

    I don’t know about you, but I love those cash windfalls that come in throughout the year. Sometimes it’s a tax return (or finding out you owe less in taxes than you had saved, which is what happened to me this year). It could also be a little bonus or a raise at work. 

    Another windfall many people don’t think about is that extra paycheck some people get a couple of months per year. If you get paid every other week, then there are actually two months per year where you get three paychecks instead of two. I always look forward to those months, as my husband gets those extra paychecks. 

    While it might be tempting to spend those extra windfalls on something fun, there are probably better uses for them. If you’re still saving your emergency fund, then throw those windfalls in there. Once your emergency fund is fully funded, then you can throw those windfalls toward a different financial goal! 

     

    Step 5: Find ways to earn extra money

    At some point, there’s only so much you can cut from your budget. Even if you’re as frugal as can be, the money can only go so far. That’s where extra money comes in. 

    I love having a side hustle. I started my blog years ago and worked on it alongside a full-time job. A few years later, I added freelance writing to the mix. Now that I’m working on my business full-time, I’m already looking for another side-hustle to add to the mix. 

    The good news, it’s SUPER easy to earn extra money every month. Some of my favorite side hustle ideas are super easy to get started and can earn you $1,000 (or more) every single month.

     

    Step 6: Reevaluate and rebuild

    Your financial needs are going to change a lot during your life. You might decide today that $5,000 is plenty for an emergency fund for you. But fast-forward a few years and your life might look totally different. 

    In that case, you’ll need to reevaluate whether your current emergency fund is still sufficient. In general, the higher your monthly expenses get, the bigger your emergency fund will need to be. 

    The other thing to keep in mind is that something you’ll need to rebuild your emergency fund. Emergencies are bound to pop up sometimes — that’s what the fund is for!

    When you find yourself needing to spend some of that money, be sure to build it back up to where it was. It might be that it was a relatively small expense and you can get the fund back up in a month or two.

    In the case of a job loss where you end up draining the entire fund, it’s going to take you a lot longer to get it back to where it was. 

    Don’t get down on yourself if that happens — that’s what the fund is for! Your life will probably be a constant back and forth of building up the fund and then having to use it. 

     

    Final Thoughts

    I think we can all agree that unexpected financial emergencies suck. But they’re also inevitable and something we should all be prepared for. 

    If you use the tips in this post to boost your emergency fund, you’ll have a lot more peace of mind next time one of those unexpected costs rolls around. 

    CONTINUE READING

  • Is it Better to Pay Off Debt or Save Money First?

    Is It Better to Pay Off Debt or Save Money First?

     

    One of the questions I am asked most often is whether it’s better to pay off debt or save money first. And honestly, it wasn’t all that long ago that I was the one struggling with this dilemma. 

    When I was newly divorced and desperate for financial advice, I read article after article that told said things like:

    • “Put all of your disposable income toward debt!”
    • “Build an emergency fund to fund 3-6 months of bills!”
    • “Max out your 401(k) and your Roth IRA!”

    As someone who was living paycheck to paycheck, I was crushed. How the hell was I supposed to do any of those things (let alone all three of them) when I could barely pay my bills every month? 

    Because of the amount of anxiety I had around this question, it honestly comes as no surprise that so many people are also struggling with it. 

    In this post, I’m answering that age-old question we’ve all had at one point or another. Which should you do first: pay off debt or save money?

     

    Is it better to pay off debt or save money first?

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    Remember, it’s not one or the other

     

    First things first, you don’t have to choose between just saving money or just paying off debt. You can do BOTH. 

    I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. In fact, I can guarantee you it’s going to be tough. 

    The first thing you’re going to need to do is to take stock of where you’re at. First, take some time to figure out exactly how much debt you have. It sounds obvious, but I know far too many people who just blindly make their minimum payments every month without really paying attention to how much they owe. 

    My favorite tool to gather all of my debt information in one place is Undebt.it. This tool allows you to add and manage all of your debt accounts, among other functions that we’ll cover later on.

    The other thing you need to consider is your life situation. How much money do you have coming in? How much money do you have in savings? What are your monthly expenses? All of these factors will help you choose between prioritizing saving money or paying off debt.

     

    Start by building your emergency fund

     

    Regardless of whether you have debt and how much debt you have, building your emergency fund should be your very first goal. How much you actually need in your emergency fund comes down to your comfort level, among other life factors. 

    To figure out how much of an emergency fund you need, really think carefully about where you are in your life and what you need out of an emergency fund.

    Today my husband and I both bring in income (I’m self-employed and he has a good job). Because we share expenses, I know that if I were to lose all of my freelance income tomorrow, we’d be able to get by for a while on his income. 

    But just a few years ago it was a very different story. Three years ago I was single, living alone, and barely making ends meet. If I had lost my job during that time, it would have immediately been an emergency.

    Your life situation will tell you a lot about how much money you should have in savings. If you’ve got kids or are a one-income family, you’ll need a lot more of a cushion. 

    Alright, so how much should you save in your emergency fund?

    Dave Ramsey recommends putting $1,000 in your emergency fund before you aggressively pay off debt. I highly recommend more than that. There are plenty of house or car repairs that cost more than $1,000 on their own. And what about job loss? For most of us, $1,000 isn’t even enough to get by for one month. 

    Like I said, how much you should actually save depends entirely on your lifestyle. I’m pretty risk-averse, so I would shoot for a minimum of a few thousand dollars. 

    Another thing to remember is that your emergency fund and your debt are totally intertwined. Nearly half of families don’t have enough to cover a $400 emergency. So when those emergencies do inevitably pop up, those families are going further into debt to pay for them.

    Having an emergency fund doesn’t prevent you from paying off your debt — It helps to avoid debt!

     

    Take advantage of an employer 401(k) match

     

    Just like there’s a bare minimum for what you should save for your emergency fund, I also think there’s a minimum for what you should save for retirement.

    Listen, I know how hard it is to care about retirement when you’re in your early twenties. I was lucky enough to get a job out of college that had mandatory pension contributions so I didn’t have the opportunity to opt out. And let me tell you, I’m so grateful that was the case. 

    If you start saving for retirement in your forties, it’s going to seem overwhelming. If you start saving in your twenties, it’s going to be a hell of a lot easier and more painless.

    When it comes to saving for retirement, the most important factor you should look at first is whether your employer offers a match on your 401(k). If they do, take advantage of it. This is literally free money. Try to contribute as much as they’ll match. 

    If you can do more than that, that’s great. But if you’ve got a lot of debt to tackle, I would hit your employer match and then turn your attention to the debt. 

     

    Make a plan to pay off your debt

     

    If you’re going to prioritize paying off your debt, you need to have a plan in place. And no, making the minimum payment on all of your debts every month doesn’t count as having a plan.

    As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, my husband and I are currently in the process of paying off six figures of debt (around $150,000 to be more specific). 

    Had we continued to make all of our minimum payments every month, we would have been paying off that debt for literally the rest of our lives. And after putting a plan in place to pay it off faster? We’re scheduled to pay it off in about seven years. 

    As you can see, there’s a pretty big difference there, and it’s all because we made a plan.

    To make our debt payoff plan, we used the tool Undebt.it.

    The first thing you’ll do when you sign up for Undebt.it is to add all of your debt accounts. This means consumer debt, car loans, student loans, and any other debt you’re carrying. 

    Next, Undebt.it will prompt you to decide in what order you want to prioritize your debts. Essentially they’re asking if you want to do a debt snowball (where you prioritize the lowest debt amount) or the debt avalanche (where you prioritize the highest interest rates).

    From what I read, the debt snowball seems to be a lot more popular. I understand, as paying off small debts can give you a lot of motivation. If that’s what you need, go for it. 

    We chose to go with the debt avalanche instead. Because of the amount of debt we have, paying off the high-interest debt first is going to save us tens of thousands of dollars in interest. 

    Once you’ve added all of your debts and have chosen what order you want to tackle them in, Undebt.it is going to ask you how much money you want to put toward debt every month. 

    This part is challenging and totally comes down to what fits within your budget. Try to find a number that is quite a bit more than just your minimum payments, but still low enough that you have money to save and money to live a little. 

    I know there are plenty of people who think you shouldn’t spend any fun money until you pay off debt. I 100% don’t fall into that camp. If it’s going to take me years to pay off debt, my husband and I are going to go out to eat and go see our favorite bands while we’re at it. My opinion is that you should still set aside some money for things that bring you joy. 

    Once you’ve got your number, you’re done! At this point, Undebt.it will tell you when you’re scheduled to pay off your debt. You’ll have to go in monthly and manually enter the payments you’ve made. As an alternative though, you can sync Undebt.it with the budget app You Need a Budget (YNAB), and it will automatically keep up to date with your balances. 

     

    Make a commitment not to go back into debt

     

    Paying off debt is glorious. We’ve got a long way to go before we’re debt-free, but even paying off just one debt is an amazing feeling.

    But paying off the debt isn’t enough. 

    For all of this to work, you also have to commit to yourself to never go back into debt (outside of a mortgage). 

    In some cases, this will be easy. Most of us aren’t planning to take on more student loan debt after we pay ours off. 

    But what about credit cards? Can you commit to never putting something on a credit card if you don’t already have the money to pay it off?

    Can you commit to saving up to purchase cars in cash rather than taking out a loan? 

    After paying on my car loan for years, I was determined that we’d purchase our next car in cash. It might not be the nicest car, but it feels pretty darn good not to be making payments on it. 

     

    Once the debt is gone, go all-in on saving

     

    When you get to this point, you’ve done the following:

    • Build an emergency fund
    • Put enough into your 401(k) to get your employer match
    • Paid off all of your debt (YAY!)

    I haven’t made it to this stage yet — we’ve got a way to go on our debt. But I can only imagine how great it feels to be debt-free. We’re probably years away, but I’m already planning what I’m going to do with that extra $2,000 per month when the debt is gone.

    For many people, it’s probably tempting to spend that extra money. It’s like getting a huge raise, right?

    And while I totally agree that becoming debt-free means you can start using some of that money on wants instead of needs. 

    But this is also the time to up your savings game in a big way. 

    First, this means building a hefty job-loss fund for yourself. Aim for six months of expenses in case you and/or your spouse lose your jobs. 

    Now that you have more disposable income, you can also start putting more into your retirement account. The younger you start saving for retirement, the more you can take advantage of that compound interest! 

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    I know so many people stress out about whether they should be saving first or paying off debt. I struggled with this dilemma for years. 

    The good news is that you can do BOTH.

    It is possible to save a solid emergency fund to help you out in a tough situation, while also slaying your debt. 

     

     

    CONTINUE READING

  • The Best Personal Finance Blogs for Women

    The Best Personal Finance Blogs for Women

     

    I first started reading female personal finance blogs a few years ago out of absolute necessity. 

    I had recently gone through a divorce and was pretty much at financial rock bottom. I decided it was time to educate myself, so I started reading personal finance blogs to learn everything I could about managing my money. 

    The blogs I found most helpful were the ones specifically geared toward women. Women have entirely unique financial needs, and I love reading sites that cater to them. 

    Over the past few years, I’ve found so many amazing personal finance blogs. I was even inspired to rebrand my site to start talking about personal finance. 

    In this post, I’m sharing some of my absolute favorite female finance blogs to help you take control of your money and reach your financial goals

     

    The Best Personal Finance Blogs for Women

     

    The Financial Diet

    The Financial Diet is one of the first blogs I found when I started diving into personal finance content. The Financial Diet started as a personal blog years ago, but it’s grown into a daily online magazine sharing personal finance content for women. 

    One of my favorite things about The Financial Diet is that because they have a large crew of writers (myself included!), you get many different perspectives. 

    Not only does The Financial Diet post daily blog content, but the founder also has a podcast where she interviews influencers and money experts about financial topics. 

     

    Making Sense of Cents

    Making Sense of Cents is one of the biggest female personal finance blogs out there. Michelle started the blog years ago as a way to document her own money journey, but it’s turned into a lot more than that. Now it’s one of the most popular blogs out there. 

    One thing I really love about this blog is that despite how much Michelle has grown her site (she makes six figures per month), she still keeps it personal and makes it feel like she’s talking directly to her readers. 

    Not only does Michelle share personal finance advice, but she also helps to teach others to start and grow their own blogs. 

     

    Clever Girl Finance

    Clever Girl Finance is a personal finance blog for women. The blog was started by Bola, who started the site to share her financial expertise. Bola is a Certified Financial Education Instructor who was able to save six figures in just three years. 

    I love that the information that Bola shares is directed at women, who have entirely unique financial needs. Not only does the site share financial blog posts, but Bola also offers financial courses and a podcast. 

     

    HerMoney

    Rather than being a personal finance blog from someone sharing their money story, HerMoney is a digital media company that shares personal finance content for women. 

    HerMoney was started by Jean Chatzky, someone who spent two decades reporting on finance topics. The site focuses on improving the relationships women have with money. 

     

    Stefanie O’Connell

    Stefanie O’Connell has become one of my go-to bloggers for personal finance information specific to women. Stefanie, like so many twenty-somethings, found herself living a life she couldn’t really afford.

    One of the things that most drew me to Stefanie’s website doesn’t teach you how to pinch every penny you can. Instead, she helps women increase their income and manage their money so that they don’t have to sacrifice the lifestyle they want.

     

    Fitnancials

    One thing I love about female finance blogs is that so many of them share the story of women who were going through a hard time in their lives and were able to turn things around. 

    On Fitnancials, Alexis shares how she turned her life around when she was struggling financially. Alexis teachers her readers about how to manage their money, as well as how to increase their income. 

     

    Afford Anything

    Afford Anything is a personal finance blog written by a woman who, like so many others, had a desire to ditch her 9-5 job for a life with more freedom. 

    Paula, the writer behind the blog, learned everything she could about personal finance. She learned to save more money while also boosting her income. 

    As someone who recently made the leap from employee to self-employed, Paula’s blog has offered great advice and been a confidence booster when I worried about whether this lifestyle was really possible for me. 

     

    And Then We Saved

    And Then We Saved is a blog that focuses on helping women to get out of debt fast. Anna started the blog as a way to share her own debt payoff journey and now helps other women with theirs. 

    In addition to sharing blog posts about paying off debt, Anna also has a book and boot camp course both dedicated to the same mission. 

    As someone who’s currently in the middle of a pretty huge debt-free journey, I’ve really appreciated what Anna has to offer! 

     

    Women Who Money

    Women Who Money is a personal finance blog that was started by women for women. The site was started by two women who reached financial independence and left their full-time jobs to help women with their money.

    This blog focuses on issues that women want to hear about including making career decisions or starting a business, improving your financial situation, and saving for retirement. 

     

    Financial Best Life

    There are plenty of personal finance experts out there who focus on teaching you to spend less money and pinch your pennies. I always appreciate the ones who focus on helping women to afford the lives they actually want. 

    On her blog Financial Best Life, Lauren teaches women how to control their money, increase their income, and reach their financial goals. 

     

    Dear Debt

    If you’re in the process of paying off debt, then Dear Debt is the blog for you. On this site, the writer Melanie shared her journey of paying off $81,000 in debt. 

    Now, Melanie teaches other women to pay off their debt. Not only that, but she also teaches women how to pay off debt without sacrificing their mental health, which we all know can be an uphill battle. 

     

    Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

    Girls Just Wanna Have Funds is one of the OG personal finance blogs for women. Ginger started the site as a way to help and inspire women to create financial security for themselves. 

    One of the things that really drew me to Ginger’s blog is that she talks about her journey of starting over financially after leaving her marriage. I related to this so much when I left my own marriage and was left financially broken. 

     

    How to start a personal finance blog

    When I first started my blog, I didn’t talk about finance at all. In fact, I didn’t know anything about finance at all. Instead, it’s something I became passionate about after my divorce and began sharing my own money journey.

    Like so many other female personal finance blogs, I’ve found sharing my money journey to be incredibly motivating, as well as a great way to connect with other women going through the same things I am. 

    If you’re considering starting a personal finance blog yourself, I 100% recommend it! Here’s how to get started:

    1. Decide what to blog about. This part can be hard, but you can always change it later! Just think about what topics you’re interested in, and topics that you already know a lot about.

    2. Choose a domain name. Try to choose a domain that matches your niche or your own name. I just use my own name!

    3. Secure your social media handles. You’ll want to make sure that your social media handles match your domain, so grab those ASAP.

    4. Sign up for a hosting plan. If you’re starting your blog in WordPress (which I highly recommend), you’ll have to sign up for hosting. The provider that I recommend and personally use is SiteGround. I’ve never had an issue with them and they have amazing customer service! Plus their plans start at only $3.95 per month!

    5. Install a theme. Your theme is the framework for your blog design. Pretty much all themes are super customizable, so it’s best to just choose one and get started. My favorite choice is the Divi Theme because it’s a drag and drop theme that allows you to design your blog however you want without knowing any code.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Reading personal finance blogs has hands-down been one of my favorite ways to learn as much as possible about finance. 

    Not only do personal finance blogs allow you to learn about all things money, but it allows you to do it from so many different perspectives. You really learn that everyone has their own story and challenges to overcome. 

    I hope that some of these blogs can help you to start tackling your own money journey!

    CONTINUE READING

  • 17 Foolproof Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

    17 Foolproof Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

     

    I know from personal experience that when you’re living on a tight budget, saving money feels damn near impossible. Every dime is going toward paying your bills, and there’s little to nothing left at the end of the month. 

    I was at the point where I had nothing in savings, and every unexpected expense ended up going on a credit card. 

    Eventually, I figured out that even making small changes in my monthly spending could make a huge impact, and I was able to start saving more money than I thought possible. 

    In this post, I’m sharing all of the changes I made to help me actually start saving money, and tips that you can start using today to save money on a tight budget. 

     

    17 Foolproof Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    Pay yourself first

     

    Regardless of how much extra income you’re able to set aside in savings, you have to take that important step of actually sticking to your savings goals.

    First of all, I always keep my savings in a separate savings account. That way I don’t have the option of impulsively swiping my debit card to use some of that savings. 

    But the most important thing that I do is to pay myself first — and by myself, I mean my savings account. On the same day every month, I have an automatic transfer to move money from my checking account into my savings account. 

    I do it at the beginning of the month, so I don’t have the opportunity to spend it on something else first. And because it’s automatic, I never have to remind myself to save. 

    You see, I found that for years I always told myself I would save whatever I had left at the end of every month. Yet at the end of every month, there’d be nothing left to put in savings. 

    Paying your savings account first is the absolute best way to make sure it gets done every month. The rest of the advice on this list doesn’t mean much without this one!

     

    Review your budget

     

    If you haven’t reviewed your budget in a while (or you don’t have a budget), now is the time to fix this. It’s easy to set a budget for yourself and forget about it, but you’ve gotta keep reviewing it to make sure it still fits your life. 

    Things change and people go through different seasons of life. I’ve gone through seasons of life where I was driving a lot for work and had to budget more for gas. I’ve also gone through seasons where I spent little on gas, but a lot more on eating out. 

    I do this just about every month. As I’m budgeting out my income for the month, I ask myself whether my current budget really makes the most sense for where I’m at in life right now. If the answer is no, I change it up. 

    I do all of my budgeting in the app You Need a Budget. This app is hands-down the best I’ve used for setting up a budget and actually being able to stick to it.

    Not sure where to get started with your budget? Head over to my guide on starting a monthly budget.

     

    Save your extra paychecks

     

    For my entire career in politics, I got paid on the first day of every month. I loved getting paid monthly because I could pay all my bills and budget for the entire month at once. Then I knew right away how much I had for the rest of the month. 

    Then I got married, and my husband gets paid biweekly. At first, it seemed inconvenient — It would have been nice to stick to my once-per-month budget. 

    Then I realized that people who get paid biweekly have two months every year where they get paid three times instead of two — Then I started to come around to it. 

    We plan our budget under the assumption that my husband gets two paychecks per month. So during those lucky months where he gets three, we’re able to send them directly to savings. 

    If you get paid biweekly, take a look at a calendar and figure out what months you’re going to get three paychecks. Then make a plan to save that money or use it to pay off debt!

     

    Set up sinking funds

     

    You know those months where everything is going according to plan and your budget is right on track — and then something unexpected pops up? Maybe it’s a medical bill or a car repair you weren’t planning for. 

    Those expenses are the worst because there’s no way to know when they’re coming, and you hate to use your emergency fund for them (especially if you’re just getting yours started). 

    I struggled with this for years, and then I learned about something that seriously changed the game in my budgeting practice. 

    Sinking funds. 

    Sinking funds are when you set aside a certain amount of money every month for expenses you know you’re going to have, but you aren’t sure when. I have sinking funds for irregular spending categories such as medical bills, car maintenance, and pet expenses. 

    I also use a sinking fund for Christmas. Rather than go into a state of panic when November rolls around and I realize how much money I’m about to drop on Christmas, I put some aside every month so I know we’ll have plenty when Christmas rolls around. 

     

    Track every dollar you spend

     

    Have you ever made it to the end of the month and wondered where the heck all your money went? Sometimes we don’t realize just how much we’re spending until we make it to the end of the month and there’s no money left. 

    The single biggest way I was able to get a handle on my spending was to start tracking it. I remember the first time I sat down and figured how much I was actually spending — I was shocked at how much money was going toward eating out!

    I track all of my spending in my You Need a Budget app. The app connects to my bank accounts and automatically pulls all of my transactions. Before YNAB, I used to just track all of my transactions in an excel spreadsheet, which also worked great! 

     

    Separate wants vs. needs

     

    One of the biggest problems run into when cutting their spending is that they aren’t able to separate needs from wants. I’ve been there — I could easily convince myself that eating out was a “need” because, hey, you gotta eat. 

    If you’re really going to cut your spending, you need to get really honest with yourself about what counts as a need and what counts as a want. 

     

    Try a 50-30-20 budget

     

    One of the most effective budgeting methods I’ve found, especially for those living on a tight budget, is the 50/30/20 budget

    This budgeting system directs you to spend 50% of your take-home pay on necessities like housing, utilities, transportation, and groceries. 

    The next 30% of your budget goes towards wants — This is anything you want to spend your money on but don’t have to. 

    The final 20% of your budget goes toward debt and savings. This would be expenses like student loans, credit cards, retirement accounts, and your emergency fund. 

    One of the most eye-opening things about using this budget is realizing just how much you’re spending on housing. In parts of the country where housing is expensive, you might have to spend more of your pay on rent or your mortgage. But using this budget might also be a sign it’s time to change your housing situation. 

     

    Refinance your student loan

     

    Brandon and I have a lot of student loan debt — Like, a combined six-figures. Most of that debt was in the form of federal loans with fairly low interest rates. But a bit of it was a private loan with a 14% interest (painful, I know).

    One of the best money decisions we made to help save money every month was to refinance that loan. 

    If you’re shopping for a loan to refinance your student loans, I recommend Credible. You can see rates from more than a dozen different lenders to find the best loan for your situation. We were able to go from a rate of more than 14% to less than 5%.

     

    Analyze your biggest money leaks

     

    It’s probably safe to say that we’ve all got a money leak or two, which is the splurge item that you tend to spend a bit too much money on. For Brandon and me, those money leaks are food and concert tickets. 

    Once you can identify your money leaks, you can start to address them. For us, this meant making several changes. 

    First, we cut back on eating and drinking out. We also started cooking budget meals at home, and making cocktails at home on the nights we felt tempted to go out. Finally, this meant restricting ourselves to one concert per month. 

    Everyone’s money leaks will look a little different. The key is figuring out what yours are and finding a way to cut down your spending while still allowing yourself the occasional splurge. 

     

    Rethink your car payment

     

    Car payments suck. In a perfect world, no one would ever have a payment for their car and we’d all simply buy cars we can afford. Unfortunately, most of us have been at a point in our lives where that’s not possible.

    When I bought my current car, I was married to my first husband. I got the car in the divorce, but I also got the car payment. I powered through it for a few months until it became clear that I couldn’t keep up with the payment. 

    I refinanced my car loan and ended up with a much lower monthly payment and a lower interest rate, which was a nice perk. 

    Your car payment is a low-hanging fruit way of saving money every month. Whether it’s refinancing your loan or buying a car you can afford without a monthly payment, figure out what works for your life right now. 

     

    Negotiate your bills

     

    For most of us, it would never occur to us to try to negotiate our monthly bills. But it turns out that you totally can. 

    There’s even an entire market of apps you can use to negotiate your bills on your behalf. Apps like Truebill, Trim, and Billshark all help you figure out where you’re spending too much money and negotiate lower payments. 

     

    Cut your utility use

     

    Your utility bill is one that you can’t get rid of — But there are definitely things you can do to lower it every month. 

    First, consider changing the temperature on your thermostat. If you can stand your house a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter, you can save yourself a heck of a lot of money. We cut our bill in half in the months we don’t regulate the temperature in our apartment!

    You can also reduce your bill by using a programmable thermostat. Turn down the heat or AC while you’re at work, and have it automatically turn back on before you come home. 

    You can also do little things like using energy-efficient utilities and simply using less electricity. 

     

    Use cash-back apps

     

    Cash-backs apps aren’t going to get you rich, but they will help you to save a little money here and there. And that’s exactly what you’re working toward when you’re on a tight budget. 

    A few of my favorite cash-back apps are Ibotta and Fetch Rewards, which give you cash-back for scanning your grocery receipts. Another favorite is Rakuten, which gives you cash-back for online purchases.

     

    Unfollow and unsubscribe

     

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram as much as the next person. But I also know that when you see influencers sharing so many gorgeous clothes and products, it can be hard to resist doing a little shopping. 

    Similarly, it can be hard to resist spending money when you get an email from your favorite clothing store saying they’re having a huge sale. 

    If you find yourself having a hard time passing up deals when you see them on Instagram and in your emails, it might be time to unfollow and unsubscribe from anything that convinces you to spend money you don’t have. 

     

    Tackle high-interest debt

     

    One of the most frustrating things for me when I started my money journey is that I kept reading finance advice that told me to aggressively pay off debt. 

    If I don’t even have the wiggle room to put money into savings, how on earth am I going to put extra money toward debt?

    Then I started paying attention to how much I was paying being charged in interest every month on my credit cards. And I realized just how right they were. 

    Paying off high-interest debt is one of the best things you can do to put more money in your pocket every month and, more importantly, save you a lot of freaking money into the long run. 

    Trust me, I know how hard it is to put extra money toward debt when you’re just scraping by. But if you do everything else on this list, I promise you’ll have some money to spare!

     

    Avoid unnecessary fees

     

    A 2019 survey from Chime Bank found that the average American spends $329 per year on banking fees. I don’t know about you, but that sounds insane to me. 

    Those fees include overdraft fees, account fees, fees to redeem rewards, fees to receive paper statements, and fees for account inactivity. 

    If you don’t pay close attention to your bank transactions, go through your bank account for the past few months and try to spot any fees your bank has charged you. If you find any, it’s time to either switch banks or change your behavior. 

    If it’s the case that the fees you’re paying are a result of overdraft fees, try to figure out why that’s happening. Is it that you’re not paying attention to your balance, or that emergencies are popping up that you have to pay for? What back-up plan can you put into place instead of swiping your card when there’s no money in your account?

    If the fees aren’t a result of your behavior and it’s just that you have a fee-happy bank, it’s time to switch banks! There are plenty out there that don’t charge these ridiculous fees. 

     

    Start a side hustle

     

    Listen, I can share all the advice in the world about how you can save money every month. But at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can cut. 

    Rather than relying solely on cutting expenses to help me save more money, my favorite way to do it has been by increasing my income through side hustles. 

    Today I run my business full-time, but for years I worked a full-time job while I worked on my blog and wrote freelance articles on the side. 

    If you’re interested in using a side hustle to increase your income, feel free to check out my list of 11 ways you can make an extra $1,000 per month

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    When you’re on a tight budget, saving even the smallest amount seems like an impossible task. Trust me, I’ve been there myself. 

    But since I started going all-in on my personal finance, I’ve learned so many legit ways to save money every month even when there’s not a lot of wiggle room in the budget. 

    If you’re on a tight budget, I hope you’ll give a few of these tips a shot to help you start putting money away to help you build an emergency fund or pay off debt. 

     

     

    CONTINUE READING

  • 11 Ways to Make an Extra $1,000 Per Month

    11 Ways to Make an Extra $1000 Per Month

     

    When my husband and I got married, we knew we had some financial goals we wanted to meet pretty quickly. 

    Together we have six figures of debt, and we knew we wanted to pay that off as soon as possible. Thinking about making these student loan payments twenty years from now sounded miserable, so we settled on a payoff timeline of about seven years. 

    We also had some big purchases we knew we wanted to save for. We also had plans to give up our apartment and buy an RV so we could travel the country in it.

    We also know that we’ll probably want to buy a house when we’re done traveling, so we wanted to start preparing for that early. 

    So I guess you could say we’ve got an expensive few years ahead of us. 

    The best way for us to aggressively pay down our debt and save for our financial goals at the same time has been to increase our income. 

    $1,000 in extra income per month can go a long way!

    In this post, I’m sharing how you can make an extra $1,000 to start tackling your financial goals. 

     

    How to Make an Extra $1,000 a Month

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    Why is it good to make extra money?

     

    How many times have you read a personal finance book or blog post that said you should stop buying lattes or start clipping coupons to reach your financial goals?

    Yeah, it might not be terrible advice and those things can help you to save a few dollars here and there. But are you really going to pay off your student loans or buy your dream house by saving a few dollars here and there? Probably not. 

    Rather than ruthlessly cutting small things from our budget, Brandon and I have found the best way to reach our financial goals is to make more money. 

    After all, we really wanted to be able to aggressively pay off debt while also enjoying live music and eating out, since those are our favorite things to spend money on. 

    Making an extra $1,000 a month can make a huge difference in helping you to reach your goals. 

    With $1,000 extra income per month, you could pay off your student loans in just a few years rather than the 10-20 years it’s scheduled to take. 

    With $1,000 extra income per month, you could save the downpayment for your dream home in just a few years. 

    With $1,000 extra income per month, you could take an amazing vacation every year and still have enough to aggressively save for retirement. 

    I’m telling you, making extra money is the secret you’ve been looking for!

     

    What are the best ways to make extra income?

     

    When you first think about it, $1,000 sounds like a lot of money. And don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely more than spare change. 

    But when you do the math to figure out exactly what you have to do to hit that number, it’s actually not as hard as you’d think!

    An extra $1,000 could be:

    • 25 hours per week at $10 per hour
    • 10 hours per week at $25 per hour
    • $250 from four freelance clients each
    • 10 online courses sold for $100 each
    • 8 musical lessons taught for $125 each

     

    Start a blog

     

    I can honestly say that starting a blog was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only is it something that I genuinely enjoy doing, but it is also an amazing way to bring in extra income every month. 

    There are plenty of different ways to make money blogging depending on what interests you. You could make money through affiliate marketing, sidebar ads, working with companies on sponsored content, or selling your own digital products like eBooks and online courses. 

    You can start a blog on just about anything. I’ve seen successful blogs in just about every niche you could think of. As long as someone out there is interested in it, you’ve got a potential audience. 

     

    Become a freelancer

     

    When you work as a freelancer, you’re an independent contractor providing a particular service to another person or company. 

    If you’ve got a specific skill set such as freelance writing, graphic design, or managing social media accounts, you can find work as a freelancer online. 

    In 2018, in addition to running my blog, I started picking up freelance writing clients. In just a little over a year, I was able to take my freelance writing income from just a few hundred dollars here and there to $10,000 per month. 

    My favorite resource to get started with freelance writing is the online course Earn More Writing. In this course, six-figure freelance writer Holly Johnson teaches you how to get started with freelance writing and make serious money online. 

     

    Start a YouTube channel

     

    We’re living in an increasingly visual world, so it’s not surprising that video continues to become a bigger and bigger deal every year. 

    And while it might seem like it’s too late to start a YouTube channel (hasn’t it all been done already??), there’s definitely still room for anyone who has something unique to bring to the table. 

    Certain niches tend to really go hand in hand with video, but honestly, people have been successful on video in just about every niche!

    If YouTube sounds right for you, I recommend finding an online course on video and editing. With so much competition out there, people really expect high-quality videos. 

    Start sharing your creations with the world, and before you know it you’ll start bringing in extra money. 

     

    Become a virtual assistant

     

    One of the awesome things about the rise of online businesses is that it’s created an entirely new career — Virtual assistants. 

    A virtual assistant (aka a VA) is an independent contractor that provides administrative services for online clients. 

    Plenty of online business owners higher VAs to help them in all areas of their business. Some do really basic administrative tasks like responding to emails, while others might have a more narrow specialty like running someone’s Pinterest account or doing all of their social media scheduling. 

    You can find VA jobs on just about any job board these days. You can also join Facebook groups for business owners and find anyone looking for VA services. 

     

    Start a service-based business

     

    Plenty of people make extra money by offering services to people in their community. If you have a talent, chances are other people are willing to pay you for it. 

    For example, the photographer Brandon and I hired for our wedding actually does that as a side hustle, and she has a different job she works as her full-time gig. 

    She’s at the point where she’s definitely making more than $1,000 per month, but you’ve gotta start somewhere! 

    A service-based business could also be something as simple as mowing people’s lawns in the summer or shoveling their driveways in the winter. 

    Plenty of people offering service-based businesses start off just to make some extra money and then end up going full-time later on. 

     

    Teach English online

     

    One of the easiest ways to make $1,000 per month is by teaching English online. You can do this by using a site like VIPKID

    VIPKID is an online education service that connects kids in China with English teachers. And no, you don’t have to be an actual English teacher to join. 

    On VIPKID, you can make up to $22 per hour teaching short half-hour lessons to kids. The best part is that you can make your own schedule, meaning you can make an extra $1,000 per hour at the most convenient times for you. 

     

    Start an Etsy shop

     

    If you’re crafty, Etsy can be a great way to make some extra money every month. Etsy is an online marketplace where you can sell anything that is handmade or vintage.

    You can sell hand-made items on Etsy like jewelry or knitted items. You can also sell digital items. Plenty of people sell printables and spreadsheets of all kinds. 

    I had an Etsy shop as a part of my business model for a number of years, and it was a great way to make a little extra money every month. 

    My favorite online course is called Mastermind Your Marketing. If you follow the advice in the course and gain a good reputation on Etsy, you can easily bring in an extra thousand dollars every month. 

     

    Join the gig economy

     

    One of the great things about technology today is that there is no shortage of apps you can download and immediately start making money. 

    These apps exist in what is called the gig economy, where you make money by picking up gigs.

    One way to make money with apps is by driving for Uber or Lyft, where you make money by driving people around in your own car. You’re basically a freelance taxi, and you can pick up a few rides whenever you’ve got time. 

    You can also make money online by delivering things. Apps like DoorDash and GrubHub allow you to sign up to deliver food. Other apps such as Instacard pay you to go grocery shopping for other people and deliver their groceries to their homes. 

    There are also gig apps that don’t require driving anyone or delivering anything. Sites like Rover, for example, allow you to make money by pet sitting or walking people’s dogs. Sounds like a fun way to make money to me!

     

    Teach others a skill

     

    You might be noticing a trend with this list, but the gist of it is that you can find a way to monetize just about any skill. 

    Depending on the skill, you might be able to teach lessons in your community. 

    For example, let’s say you’re skilled at a particular musical instrument. Chances are there are people in town who are interested in taking lessons. 

    If you’re teaching people locally, you can start sharing your services on social media. You could also offer a few lessons for free and ask those people to spread the word about your services. 

     

    Rent out a room on Airbnb

     

    If you have an extra room in your house or a house or apartment you’re not always using, you could make extra money by renting it out on Airbnb. 

    This can be a great way to make a bit of extra money without too much of a time commitment. 

    Even if you don’t live in an area with a ton of tourism, there are almost certainly people coming into town for events, businesses, or to visit friends and family. 

    I know it can sound super sketchy to let a stranger come stay in your home with you, but you can screen the people who stay with you. 

    Plus, someone coming to visit the city is probably going to be spending most of their time out, so you won’t run into them too much. 

    I’ve even read about people who rent out their apartments during their city’s tourist season and then just crash with their parents anytime someone books the place. 

     

    Get a second job

     

    So many people are constantly on the lookout for the next big side hustle that they forget all about the original side hustle: getting a second job. 

    Often, these are the side jobs where you can actually earn the most money the most quickly. 

    You might think that sounds crazy, but hear me out!

    I started my blog in 2014. It started as a hobby, but it didn’t take long for me to learn that people actually money from their blogs. As soon as I learned that, I wanted in. 

    I worked on my blog for an entire year before I made a single dollar. That first year was spent building a framework I could make money from home with later. 

    It was another year or so before I was making $1,000 per month. 

    Now don’t get me wrong — Plenty of people make a lot more money with their blogs a lot more quickly. But to do that, you have to devote a lot of time to it. As in, you skip all those happy hours and weekend plans with friends because you’re always working.

    Contrast that with my husband who side-hustles as a bartender for a couple of nights per week. 

    When he started that job, he was immediately able to start earning $1,000 per month (or more). There was no period of “building a framework”. 

    While it took me a couple of years to get to earning $1,000 per month on my blog, it took him no time at all. 

    So if what you’re really looking for is just an extra $1,000 per month, getting a second job might be the quickest way to make it happen. 

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    An extra $1,000 of income per month can have such a big impact on your life. It doesn’t take that many hours per week to get there, and yet it can actually be life-changing. 

    I can tell you that when I was going through my divorce and at my lowest financially, that extra monthly income is what got me through it. 

    Whether you want the extra month to pay off debt, save for a financial goal, or just live a little bigger, all of the tips on this list can help you to get there. 

     

     

    CONTINUE READING