Archive for August 2015

How I Escaped College with ONLY $8,000 in Student Debt


student-849828_1280Taking on $8,000 of debt doesn?t sound like a good thing, especially when you don?t have much to show for it other than a piece of paper and a funny looking hat. But when you consider that most students come away from college with much more debt?than that for the same piece and paper and same funny looking hat, I suppose I did ok.

There are several reasons why I was able to escape with such a comparatively low amount of student loan debt and I wanted to share them with you today in case you or someone you know is headed off to college soon.

Utilize Community College

Although I never went to the community college in my hometown as a full-time student, I still took advantage of it being so near to me. I took several classes at the community college during high school for dual credit. Additionally, I took two classes right after my senior year of high school before heading off to an in-state university in the fall. This allowed me to build up 30 hours of transferrable credits before I even went away to college. I was able to start as an incoming sophomore and I graduated with my bachelor?s degree in only three years.

Do Your Research

A lot of students from my community went to the local college before transferring to the same in-state university that I attended. However they weren?t so lucky when it came to transferring their credits. In fact, a lot of them that graduated our community college with an Associate?s degree were only able to transfer about half of their classes to the university.

The morale of this story is to do your research to cut the cost of going to college. If you think there?s a possibility you might go on to a certain university, you better make sure the classes you are taking at your community college are eligible to be transferred in. Otherwise you wasted your time and money taking community college classes that you?ll have to repeat at the university later.

Take a Full-Load

After you get to your university, make sure you are taking a full-load of classes each semester. Some student advisors will recommend that you only take the minimum number of credit hours per semester, but in my experience most diligent students can take more than that and still earn good grades.

I took between 15-20 credit hours each semester and I still graduated with a 3.7 GPA. Taking extra classes each semester allowed me to stay on-track to graduate in 3 years and saved money on tuition as my school charged a flat rate for full-time students no matter if you were taking 12 credit hours or 15 credit hours. That might have changed at some schools now, but you?ll still save on college living expenses if you don?t have to take an extra year of classes due to not having a full-load each semester.

Work Part-Time

Speaking of living expenses, I was able to send back a portion of my student loan money each time it was disbursed because I chose to work part-time during college. My part-time job, along with a side hustle writing for my college paper, was enough to pay most of my living expenses during school and I earned extra by working full-time during the summers and school breaks. This meant that I never had to rely on money from my student loans to pay for my living expenses.

Family Support

This last one is something that I was blessed to have and I know not every student has the luxury of family financial support. My parents were generous enough to help me pay for school tuition during part of my time in college.

This family support combined with the scholarships I received and the money I earned working helped me graduate with just about $8,000 of student loan debt from my three years of attending a university. Getting a college education doesn?t has to be as costly as some students make it out to be if you go in with a clear plan and a goal to keep your costs to a minimum.



Did you take out students loans? How did you keep them to a minimum? Did you work during college? What other options can be used to keep college costs as low as possible?



Photo courtesy of: StartupStockPhotos

4 Cheap Home Improvement Ideas You Can DIY

Home Improvement

View toward the house. You can kind of see the removable projector shelf hanging down from the pergola.As time goes by, you will begin to notice more and more jobs around your house that need to be done. Home maintenance and repair is a never-ending battle, but you can make the task easier (and less expensive) by staying ahead of the game. Try to tackle home improvement projects before they absolutely have to be done so you can keep your home looking great along the way.

By doing these projects yourself instead of hiring a contractor, you stand to save a significant amount of money ? and you just might find that you enjoy this kind of work.

Here?are four home improvement ideas that most people are capable of handling on a DIY?basis. You may need a few simple tools and some basic skills, but these jobs are within the ability of nearly every homeowner.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

This is a classic DIY project, and one that doesn?t require much in the way of experience or know how. One of the keys to a successful painting project is assembling all of the necessary supplies before getting started. Make sure to have things like [easyazon_link identifier=”B000PQTYTC” locale=”US” tag=”wisedollar-20″ cart=”y” popups=”y”]brushes[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B00IJGYDKA” locale=”US” tag=”wisedollar-20″ cart=”y” popups=”y”]rollers[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B000ICKO6A” locale=”US” tag=”wisedollar-20″ cart=”y” popups=”y”]drop clothes[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link identifier=”B00004Z4CP” locale=”US” tag=”wisedollar-20″ cart=”y” popups=”y”]painters tape[/easyazon_link] and more, in addition to the paint itself. By being prepared before the project starts, you will be less likely to run into complications along the way.

A New Floor

A more advanced project, laying a new floor is something that is still within the capabilities of many homeowners. If you wish, for example, to replace your carpet with a laminate floor, you should be able to acquire all of the tools you need for a modest cost at the local home improvement store.

Also, instructions for doing this kind of job can be found all over the web. With a little bit of study and a patient approach, you can save thousands by putting in the new floor yourself.

Upgraded Landscaping

Gardening and lawn care is probably the most popular DIY job around the house. Taking good care of your exterior spaces not only gives you a nice outdoor area to enjoy, but it also can help to maintain your property value in the long run.

Take your climate into consideration when designing your landscaping so that you are aren?t fighting against Mother Nature all year long. For example, if you live in a hot and dry climate, try to minimize your use of grass so you don?t have to constantly water the yard to keep it green.

Finish the Basement

If your home has an unfinished basement, you can instantly add to your living space by finishing off the square footage down below. This is the most advanced job on the list, and you may need to call in contractors for specific bits and pieces of the work that you don?t know how to do. For example, don?t attempt to do electrical work unless you are qualified to do so.

Hiring a professional for contract work on a limited basis is far more affordable than having to go back and fix things that you did wrong. With that said, there should be plenty of jobs in the basement that you are capable of handling, which will lower the overall cost of the project.



Have you ever tried to DIY these things? What other house repairs and upgrades have you DIY-ed? Can you think of any other cheap ways to add value to your house?



Photo courtesy of: Shane Adams

4 Reasons Why You Should Live With A Budget


office-620822_1280Budgeting is something that is talked about A LOT in the personal finance world. This is because budgeting is one the basic concepts of personal finance that can really get you started in the right direction toward getting your finances in order.

Almost everyone can benefit from budgeting no matter their personal situation. It doesn?t matter if you have a lot of debt, no debt, or fall somewhere in between. There are still benefits of budgeting. Here are four of the benefits of budgeting.

Budgeting Keeps You Aware of Your Goals

One of the benefits of budgeting is that your budget helps keep you aware of your goals. Some of your goals might be financial, like getting out of debt or saving up for a down payment on a house. But other goals may not seem financial, but believe or not reaching them still requires you to be in control of your finances.

For example, you might think you?ve been working really hard so you should take a vacation, but if you don?t have your finances under control you might not actually be able to afford a vacation. Looking at your budget will let you know if taking a vacation is possible or not.

Budgeting Allows You to Spend Money without Worry

Having a budget doesn?t mean you can?t spend money on fun things. In fact, having a budget means you can spend money without having to worry so much. Before I had a budget every time I swiped my debit card I hoped that it went through and I wasn?t over my limit. But now that I have a budget and I watch my finances closely I know how much money I have to spend on fun before I?ve hit my limit.

Budgeting Saves You Money

Another benefit I?ve personally seen since I started budgeting is saving money. Before I had a budget I spent money willy nilly without know if I could actually afford something. This often resulted in me acquiring overdraft fees on my checking account and I even had a couple of checks bounce. This was an expensive lesson for me to learn as each of the overdraft fees and bounced check fees were about $30 each. Ouch!

Budgeting Gives You a Warning

Just because you have a budget in place doesn?t always mean you stay within it. I?ve been budgeting for a couple of years now and I still struggle to stay within my budget sometimes. But budgeting does give you a warning most of the time before any major problems strike. For example, I haven?t over drafted my account a single time since I started budgeting because I have a warning on my account when it drops below a certain balance, and I also compare my spending to my budget frequently so I can stay on track.

There are so many benefits of budgeting your money month in and month out. The best thing about budgeting is that there are so many different ways to do it so you are bound to find one that works for you. There are free budget spreadsheets you can use, or you can use a budgeting app like Mint, or even an old-school pen and paper method, as long as it works for you and helps you stay on top of your finances.





Photo courtesy of: FirmBee

4 Side Hustles I?ve Tried and Why They Failed

side hustles

18058792993_7935bed1b2_zI never really thought about it until I started reading personal finance blogs a couple of years ago, but I?m a chronic side hustler. I?m always looking for unique and fun new ways to bring in extra money in addition to my main income source, which up until recently was a full-time office job.

Needless to say as a chronic side hustler I?ve tired quite a few side gigs out in the past with varying degrees of success. Everyone?s experience with these side gigs will not be the same, but I wanted to share with you four side hustles I?ve tried and why they failed for me.


I used to make all of my money by babysitting. Not to brag, but because of my high level of maturity I was able to start making money with this side gig at age 10. Granted, at that age I pretty much only babysat my brother and my little cousins, but it still paid (occasionally).

I got my first real babysitting gig at age 12. There was little expense on my end since my parents, or the parents of the children I was babysitting drove?since I couldn?t drive yet. Even still I was a pretty in-demand babysitter. The reason this gig failed for me was that I don?t especially love children. As?I got a little older I didn?t want to spend every evening on the weekend hanging out with little kids, I wanted to hang out with my friends instead. 🙂 While babysitting can be a great way to earn extra money, it’s not for me.

Cleaning Office Buildings

This is a more recent side hustle I took on while I was working at my full-time job. My office?s janitor quit unexpectedly and I was the replacement. I cleaned the building for just over a year before I was forced to quit due to having too many irons in the fire when my freelancing business took off.

The pay of this side gig was great and it didn?t take up that much time, but cleaning isn?t very fun and the people in my office are not very respectful, so it made me resent them a little bit more since I was stuck cleaning up their messes.

Part-Time Retail Job

As a high school student this was my only job, but then in college I started working my retail job only on the weekends and I continued that all through college and for just over three years after I graduated. I quit this side hustle earlier this year after growing tired of working for just over minimum wage and having to deal with so much drama in the workplace.

Not every store is the same, but the retail store I worked in had more drama than a girl?s bathroom at our local high school. I finally figured out that my time was worth way more than what I was getting paid at that retail store.

Selling Products

A couple of years ago I get recruited into a pyramid scheme. Luckily, I haven?t lost much money on the deal (yet), but I haven?t made a ton of money either. This is mostly due to the fact that I?m not a great salesman and the company I joined is already way oversaturated in my small town.

I am still semi-involved in this side gig, but mostly so I can get my own products for free?from the sales I do make to my customers.



Have you tried any of these side hustles with different results? What side hustles have you tried and failed at? Why did they fail?



Photo courtesy of: Caitee Smith

3 Reasons Why an Unsecured Loan Can Help You Pay Off Debt Faster

Unsecured Loan

11415401116_1c9c55b68e_oGetting rid of debt should be something that is at the top of everyone?s financial to-do list. If you have debt that is costing you in the form of interest charges each month, you should make the elimination of that debt your highest priority. While there is nothing wrong with paying some interest on your mortgage or even a car payment (at a reasonable rate), credit cards and other high interest debts should be dealt with as soon as possible.

In many cases, taking out an unsecured loan can make it possible to pay off debt quicker?and save money along the way. While this won?t be a viable option for everyone, it can be the perfect choice for individuals in the right circumstances. Following are three reasons to consider using an unsecured loan to pay off your debts.

Better Rates

By far, this is the biggest reason to look for an unsecured loan that you can use to pay off other debt. Depending on your credit history, you may be able to get an unsecured loan in the range of 6-8%. If you are using that money to pay off credit card debt, for example, you will be coming out way ahead in the long run.

The idea is simple ? take out a loan in the amount that you need to eliminate your credit card debt, and use that money to pay off the cards. You will obviously have to switch from making credit card payments each month to making loan payments, but the interest rate savings will be huge. This can be done through a company like Avant, which allows you to get funds in potentially one business day, so you can pay off the cards and start saving money right away.

Consolidate Your Payments

This benefit comes in the form of simplifying your life a little bit. Rather than making payments to several different credit card companies every month, you can just make one payment on your unsecured loan after you have wiped out those credit card debts.

This will streamline your accounting and make it easier to keep track of where your money is going on a monthly basis. Also, by reducing your overall number of accounts, you decrease your chances of forgetting to make a payment and incurring a late fee.

Eliminate Some of Your Cards

While it may be?a good idea to keep one or two credit cards on hand for emergencies and other benefits?you don?t want to have too many of them available as a temptation. Once you pay off your balances using an unsecured loan, close some of your accounts so that you only have one or two open and available to use.

In the best interest of your credit rating, keep the oldest accounts open, as those have a positive effect on your credit score. That being said, you might want to try and move some of the available credit, if possible, to another card so as to not negatively impact your credit utilization ratio – which will also hurt your credit score.



Have you ever considered taking out a personal loan to pay off high interest debt? What other creative ways have you used to help pay off your debt? How have you seen people misuse a personal loan?



Photo courtesy of: Mark Moz