How To Reduce or Avoid Student Loan Debt: A Guide To Being A Debt-Free College Student

I don’t have first hand experience with student loans, so I happy to introduce someone who knows a thing or two about how to handle them: Gary Dek. Gary is the founder of Gajizmo.com, a site focused on personal finance, career and education advice, and self-improvement tips. Below are his tips on handling student loans and paying for college without a massive price tag.

diplomasWith the rising costs of college and the overwhelming student loan debt most are graduating with, millennials are starting their professional careers with a negative net worth.

I was fortunate enough to attend a 4-year private university and graduate with only $13,500 in subsidized Stafford loans, which I paid off in 10 months. Although I did graduate a year early (note to high school students – those AP classes are worth thousands in the future), I still managed to get a $200,000 education for close to 5% of the cost. And no, my parents didn’t pay for the difference out-of-pocket.

Our host, Erin, did it even better – she’s never had student loan debt (or any other kind). Now that’s the kind of person you want to be taking personal finance advice from.

The following steps will help you avoid overwhelming debt and teach you how to reduce student loans.

Pick A Degree That Will Yield A High Paying Job

If you want to go to a prestigious university that will be expensive, plan to major in engineering, business, computer science, finance, or something that will help you land a job paying at least $50,000 a year after graduation. A decent salary will help you manage your debt.

Studying to be a teacher or artist at the same school will make it much harder to pay off your debt. If high-pay isn’t critical to your dream job, then consider the best public university you get accepted to.

If getting a diploma from a prestigious school is a goal, think about going to a junior college first to get your general education credits out of the way, and then complete your degree at the university of your choice.

Apply For Scholarships

One of the best ways to avoid student debt after graduation is to earn free money – scholarships. There are plenty of organizations giving away free money to those who are looking finance their education. Some scholarships are need-based while others depend on your academic achievements. Here’s how you can qualify:

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Keep up the hard work all through college to maintain scholarships and be eligible for more!

  • Do well in school. If you have a high GPA (grade point average), you may be eligible to receive a scholarship directly from your university. Talk to the Financial Aid Office (FAO) to discuss what types of scholarships are available and if there is paperwork you must fill out to be considered. For private, third-party scholarships, some companies give money to students who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. This is called a need-based scholarship based on your parent’s income. However, there are also opportunities for academic scholarships, or a combination of both. Even if you aren’t a freshmen but your GPA has been high throughout college, you may still be eligible.
  • Be a good athlete. Some colleges are more likely to give better scholarships to athletes than those who excel academically. If you’re athletically gifted in a major sport, apply for scholarships at schools that value your skill. Keep in mind, though, that Ivy League universities do not offer athletic scholarships.
  • Show your leadership abilities. Aside from physical prowess and academic success, being a volunteer, belonging to clubs, and having strong leadership skills is a plus when applying for scholarships. In fact, the group you volunteer for may have scholarship programs that only volunteers can apply for, thus significantly reducing the pool of competing candidates.
  • Are you a minority? If so, there are several scholarships simply based on your ethnic or religious background. Organizations like the NAACP, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and State Farm Insurance can help lower your out-of-pocket expenses.
  • What’s your major? There are scholarships available for specific programs of study such as Spanish or Sociology. These scholarships usually require a minimum grade point average.

Look Into Grants

Government grants are a form of free money as well and are awarded depending on your financial need. They won’t cover your whole tuition, but compared to scholarships, loans, and work-study offers, government grants are the easiest to get. Just fill out the FAFSA application starting January 1st of every year to determine whether you qualify for the following school year.

  • The Pell Grant: Pell Grants are based on financial need, the cost of attendance at your school, and whether you are a part-time or full-time student. The maximum Pell Grant award is $5,550 per year.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Students who can prove that they have extreme financial need can be eligible for this government grant. It ranges from $100 to $4,000 a year.
  • The TEACH Grant. The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant is offered by the federal government for students who plan on teaching at schools in low-income areas or in a “high-need field”. Within the first eight years after graduation, students are required to teach for four years or the grant will have to be paid back like a student loan. The program pays as much as $4,000 a year.

All this information can be found at Ed.gov.

Research Loan Options

If you have student loans, there are ways to lower the amount of interest you must pay back.

  • Know the difference between a “variable” and “fixed” interest rates. While a fixed rate might look more expensive upfront, as interest rates increase in the future, variable rates will increase with no ceiling. While the interest rate environment in the United States may be artificially suppressed for the next couple years, remember that your student loan has a 10-year term. Do you believe we will have low interest rates for the next 10 years? I don’t, and would recommend a fixed rate.
  • Know the difference between private and government loans. You can defer government loans, such as a Stafford or Perkins loan, so that you won’t have to start making payments until you graduate. Government loans tend to be cheaper and more flexible. If you become disabled or die, the government will forgive the loan. It’s in your best interest to use government loans instead of private loans, but if you find your expenses aren’t fully covered, you might have to consider a private loan. Fortunately, as of 2014, the U.S. government is doing its best to compete against private lenders and push them out of the market.
  • Have someone co-sign for you. Most of the time, you really don’t have a choice. Since students have little to no credit, lenders require a co-signor. Remember, though, that if you miss a payment, the person who co-signs will be responsible. This is one reason life insurance agents try to encourage young adults to buy life insurance since a death benefit will pay off the student loan and avoid it becoming a parent’s liability. Frankly, the risk of a young, healthy adult dying is slim, so instead of buying even the cheapest term life insurance policy, take the cash and pay down your student debt as quickly as possible.

Other Options to Reduce Student Debt

31833_412558826136_3194986_nGet A Job. With proper time management, you can work while going to college. You may have to manage your time better and forgo a few parties, but when you graduate and find you have little to no debt left over, you’ll be glad you took care of business.

Working through college will not only help you become a better planner, but your future job search will benefit from your past experience. Even if your part-time job during school is unrelated to your chosen career path, holding down a stable job demonstrates responsibility and reliability.

Work-Study Programs. Assuming your FAFSA results offer you a work-study program, you will have a chance to get a job on campus. With work-study, you will be paid to do office work in a department or lab. Some students may even be able to do research with a professor.

The best part about work-study is that down-time allows you to study for classes. For more information on work-study, discuss your options with a student advisor at your school.

Paid Internships. Another way to mitigate your student loan debt is to get a paid internship. A lot of majors require an internship anyways, so you’d be killing two birds with one stone. Not all internships are paid, but you’ll still get valuable experience that will look good on your resume and help you to find a better summer internship or job. Meet with your academic advisors, professors, or the career services center at your school for more information.

Live Within Your Means

Living in affordable housing and being thrifty with your money is really the first step towards making your debt less overwhelming. While living in a college dorm may be convenient and give you ample opportunity to make new friends, sometimes it isn’t the most cost-effective housing available. You may have to spend up to $1,000 a month to live on campus, but with good roommates, you could be paying as little as $400 a month for rent in an off-campus apartment.

Along with your dorm expense comes a required meal plan, which averages about $10 per meal. That’s over $200 a week for crappy dorm food. If you have an apartment with a kitchen, you can spend less than $200 a week on groceries for you and your roommates. If you all pitch in on groceries and cooking, you will save thousands. Just don’t sacrifice your health to save a few dollars.

Finally, resist the urge to splurge on expensive meals, alcohol, and other things you really don’t need. Have a budget in mind to help you avoid credit card debt. If you thought student loan debt is bad at 7% interest, imagine how financially devastated you’ll feel with credit card companies charging you up to 30% in interest fees.

Use Your Entrepreneur Skills

While you’re in college, utilize your special talents or skills to supplement your income. Charge students for tutoring, website design, become a freelance writer, start a personal finance blog to educate others on financial responsibility, or sell products on eBay or Amazon. Not only will you earn decent money, but you’ll develop real-world skills future employers will appreciate. And who knows, you may just come up with the next big thing.

Student Loans Are An Investment In Yourself

While a lack of research and planning can result in overwhelming debt, don’t skip a college education because of financial issues. Consider your degree an investment in yourself that will pay dividends for the rest of your life. College is worth it for most people, and there are options and opportunities available to help reduce or altogether eliminate student debt.

Start a savings account, be frugal with your money and apply for scholarships and grants. If, after exhausting all of your efforts, you still find that you can’t cover your entire tuition and school expenses, talk to your school. The university’s administration will work with you to find financing in forms you may not have thought of or couldn’t access on your own. Make an appointment with a financial aid advisor/counselor for more assistance. The office may even have extra funding left over for the year!

 

Posted in Debt, Student Loans Tagged with: , ,

3 Totally Common Financial Tips You Should Probably Ignore

IMG_3167Whether you get your financial tips by asking friends and family or checking out library books, attending seminars or searching online (at sites other than DailyFinance), impractical pieces of advice abound.

Too many personal finance experts tend to populate their cable appearances, books, columns and blogs with the same simple tidbits. But some of that common advice is also … useless. For each of these three cliched tips, let’s look at some better alternatives.

1. In Debt? Cut Up Your Credit Cards

Certain financial gurus advise people in debt to cut up all their plastic and consider using credit cards the eighth deadly sin. Here’s some advice: don’t.

Find out why and other pieces of advice to ignore on DailyFinance.

Posted in DailyFinance Tagged with: ,

Frugal Find Friday: Go For a Walk

Walk in the ParkAs a New Yorker (okay, New York City resident…I can’t say “New Yorker” for another seven years), I tend to do a lot of walking. It’s one of the main modes of transportation in this city, and you quickly realize distance is all relative. A mile can be a standard walk from point A to point B, while my car-driving-comrades wouldn’t fathom walking a mile in the summer heat. Not when you can roll down the windows and cruise, as Florida Georgia Line would croon.

Lately, I’ve gotten into the habit of going for longer walks than necessary. Instead of walking two blocks up to my subway stop, I’ve started clocking a mile or two depending on how energetic I’m feeling. Not only does this give me a chance to unwind and squeeze a little exercise in after sitting for eight hours, but I like taking various routes to my final destination so I can check out new pockets of my city.

The opportunity to go for a walk also gives you a moment to relax your mind without the constant distraction of social media, TV and the constant bombardment of interruptions we deal with during our waking hours. Well, you could stream Netflix on your phone while pausing to tweet as you walk — but I wouldn’t recommend it. Unless you want to get side-swiped by a bike messenger.

To bring this back to money, I’ve started to use nighttime strolls as an opportunity to catch up with one of my friends who lives in my neighborhood. We both get caught in the “busy trap” of life, but lately we use our spare time for a power talk and walk session. We hit the pavement at 9:30 or 10:00 at night and spend 30 to 45 minutes catching up while walking (at a New York pace which is most people’s power walk) for two or three miles. It’s a great way to clear your mind before bed, and catch up with a friend without the cost and calories of grabbing drinks, drinks or coffee.

You also see some pretty great sites when you open yourself up to just wandering around. Here are some of my highlights from the last month:

  • Peach and I went for a late-night stroll during our trip to Austin and witnessed a proposal (which I shamelessly photographed).

proposal

  • I had a lot of solo time during my recent trip to London and spent most of it just walking around. My first afternoon there I stumbled upon Big Ben, the next afternoon I found Buckingham Palace and the third morning I sauntered into St. James Park while aimlessly wandering.

BigBenSt. James Park

  • My friends and I took a leisurely stroll through Central Park after brunch last Sunday and found a quiet meadow tucked away from the sights and sounds of New York.

In CP

So take this afternoon to just go for a walk!

Posted in Frugal Find Friday Tagged with: ,

Review: The Lemonade Stand (Plus a giveaway)

IMG_0745Long-time readers may remember my first financial lesson came from the rough-and-tumble suburban streets in North Carolina on a hot summer’s morning. To make all my journalism professors happy, I can condense an 800+ word story into a few sentences:  As an enterprising seven-year-old, I set up a doughnut stand during my mother’s yard sale. My father backed my business by fronting the money for supplies. After I sold out and made a nice little profit, he shocked me by taking part of my funds to cover the start up cost as well as pay my younger sister for being an employee.

This moment started a lifelong quest to understand money: how to make it, how to save it and how to invest it.

Betraying over-indulged millennials everywhere, I’m a strong advocate for tough love, especially when it comes to money. This is one of the many reasons I’ve always been enamored with Shannon Ryan of The Heavy Purse.

Shannon, herself a graduate of tough-financial-love school, is a force to be reckoned with in the field of financial literacy. She’s truly passionate about teaching children (her own and others) to understand money and helping parents learn how to create a financially literate generation.

She recently came out with a children’s book called The Lemonade Stand to help explain financial concepts like net profit, charitable giving, saving, budgeting and fairly distributing profits. Much like my Dad, Shannon didn’t shy away from teaching her kids how to handle money at a young age by treating them maturely. She too requires they pay her back for funding their entrepreneurial endeavors.

I started smiling as soon as I flipped the first page of The Lemonade Stand. My Dad would’ve loved to have a bedtime like this, instead of having to read Little Girls Wiser Than Men from The Book of Virtues for the millionth time (I had a feminist streak at a really young age).

Shannon does a great job of simplifying basic financial concepts to make them accessible to kids, without dumbing down the content. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book creates a huge surge in lemonade stands summer. Hopefully the parents can handle fulfilling their part and taking money from their babies.

I posed some questions to Shannon to get her take on how parents should handle talking to their kids about money and her true feelings on tough-love tactics.IMG_0744

Did you have a hard time “taking money” from Lauren and Taylor [Shannon's daughters] when you first taught them about net profit? 
Honestly, no. Does that make me a mean Mom? :) In all seriousness, it didn’t because I have worked with so many people who left home ill-prepared to face the realities of earning and managing their money. And these were smart people who didn’t have an entitlement attitude and had very loving parents. But because money is taboo in so many homes, they had never been taught how to make good decisions with their money. Nor did they understand the long-term ramifications of their bad decisions. It was worth a few initial grumbles to teach my girls that in the real world, employee or business owner, you don’t get to keep everything you earn.

How do other parents respond to the methods your using to teach your daughters financial responsibility?
Overall, very well. It’s interesting because children and money is unfortunately an overlooked topic and missed opportunity for most parents. Whenever I speak at group settings, I have so many people approach me afterwards with a ton of questions because they now see the importance of teaching kids about money. And I love it when I get emails from parents telling me their children have their save, spend and share jars set-up. One young girl went to the bank to open her first savings account and the bank teller asked her what she does with her money. She said, “The 3 S’s, of course – save, spend and share!” LOVE it!

What has been your proudest moment as a mom watching her daughters become financially responsible?
There are so many! A couple that come to mind is how much my girls have embraced sharing. Lauren took to it right away, but Taylor did not want to share. I didn’t want to force her because I wanted her to love sharing and not see it as an obligation. After she experienced firsthand how good it felt to share through our family share goal and saw how much her big sister loves sharing, she was ready to try it. And now she loves sharing. I think we, as parents, sometimes overlook sharing, and it’s such an important mindset to develop in our kids. It definitely helps prevent that entitled mindset from forming too. I am also really proud of how much the girls love earning money. In fact, it is very rare these days for them to ask to buy them something they find at the store. Instead they ask me for more ways to earn money so they can buy it themselves. Music to my ears.

How old should a child be when their parents parents should start teaching him or her lessons about money?
I believe parents should start talking to their kids when they are toddlers, around 3 years old. Now this often surprises parents. I don’t think you should start talking to them about your investment portfolio, but toddlers, in particular, are watching and mimicking you, including how you handle money. They are very sensitive to your emotions and take your words very literally too. At this stage, it’s more about being a good financial role model and being mindful of your words and actions around money. Plus it also makes everyone comfortable with the topic of money and sets the stage for when they are older and those conversations deepen.

Have your daughters’ understanding of finances ever surprised you?
Absolutely! My girls overall love to talk about money, especially their goals, but they are kids. Some days I wonder if they understand all the things I talk to them about. And then, of course, that is when they surprise me with the depth of their understanding. I taught them to set goals that make their hearts happy and when we were on vacation last summer, we offered to buy the girls a little souvenir. They talked back and forth with each other and declined our offer to our surprise. Their reason – they liked the souvenir, but they didn’t LOVE it, and they wanted to wait until they found something they LOVED so the family money wouldn’t be wasted. They truly get and I am incredibly proud of them.
Thanks, Shannon!
Hey Reader – Scroll down to find out how you could win an iPad mini!

bookreview-giveaway

The Lemonade Stand – iPad Mini Giveaway

July 14-31, 2014

Sponsored by The Heavy Purse

Co-hosted by Are Ya Gonna Eat That, Broke Millennial, Budget and The Beach, Budget Blonde, Budgeting for More, Busy Mom Budgets, Cash Cow Couple, Cents and Sensibility, Club Thrifty, Color Me Frugal, Debt Debs, Debt Roundup, Disease Called Debt, Eat Laugh Purr, Enemy of Debt, Eyes on the Dollar, Femme Frugality, Financially Blonde, Frugal Rules, Living Richly Cheaply, Luke 1428, Making Sense of Cents, Money Saving Dude, Monster Piggy Bank, Not Now Mom’s Busy, Reach Financial Independence, Shoeaholic No More, Stacking Benjamins, Tackling Our Debt, The Broke and Beautiful Life, The Finance Girl, The Frugal Farmer, The Random Path, Thrifty Dad, VeegMama, and Young Adult Money.

We’re Giving Away an iPad Mini to One Lucky Reader!

Help us celebrate the release of The Lemonade Stand and join Shannon in her mission to increase financial literacy in both children and adults. Broke Millenial readers can receive $3.00 off The Lemonade Stand with the coupon code TOUR3114.

“Everyone handles money. Unfortunately, not everyone does it with confidence. Money has long been a taboo topic in many homes, which makes it even harder for parents to know where to start or what to teach. So I created a series of children books to help parents ease into these important conversations. Financial literacy is one of the most loving gifts you can give your children, and I encourage you to make money conversations a priority in your home.”

The giveaway runs from July 14-31, 2014 and is open worldwide.*

* A winner located outside of the United States will receive a cash equivalent prize via PayPal.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in Review Tagged with: , ,

The Case for College Students to Have Credit Cards

5856793551_2efa2e32af_mIncoming freshmen receive dozens of warnings before stepping foot onto their college campus for the first time:

Mom and dad caution them to not get carried away with extra curricular activities and instead focus on their grades.

Older siblings kindly suggest avoiding any beverage with the word “jungle” in the name.

Financial experts yell, scream and throw their arms in the air about avoiding credit cards.

While jungle juice should be avoided, there is actually a case for college students to sign up for a credit card. Here are three reasons why a credit card will set them up for a healthy financial future.

Find out the 3 reasons on US News

[Image taken from Flickr]

Posted in Credit Cards, US News' My Money Blog Tagged with: ,

Double Dose of Credit Card Fraud

“I’m sorry, your card has been declined.”

“Umm, okay could you try it again?”

“I swiped it twice times. It isn’t working.”

2438005410_6100c23246_mThis is never a conversation you want to have after trying to pay for brunch, but it happened to me last month. No sooner did the last words come out of the waitress’s mouth than I saw my phone light up with an 800 number. I answered and heard the words, “We believe there have been fraudulent charges on your card.”

I motioned at Peach to pay the bill and I scurried outside to better hear the Visa representative read a list of over $500 in charges made throughout the state of Georgia. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the fraudsters who spent $19 at Jersey Mike’s Sub shop and purchased a lot of gas – come on, at least treat yourself!

The conversation with the Visa rep only took about five minutes to go over recent charges, confirm which ones were fraudulent and get reissued a card.

I brushed off the situation thinking it happens to everyone and thank goodness I have multiple credit cards so I don’t just rely on one.

Then exactly a week later my phone rang at 8:00 in the morning, waking me from a deep Saturday morning slumber.

“Hello?” I mumbled into my phone without even checking the number.

“This is American Express fraud alert.”

I shot up out of bed.

Again? In a week?! My mind went into hyper-drive. How could two of my credit cards fall prey to thieves within the span of a week? Did someone steal my social security number? Did I seriously have the misfortune to come into contact with two skimmers in such a short time span? (My boss thinks I left my wallet in a hotel room I stayed in recently and someone copied my numbers down.)

When my brain returned to normal function, I repeated the process I’d gone through with the Visa rep a week before. I confirmed which charges were fraud, nearly $1000 throughout South Africa, then got issued a new card.

I said a silent prayer that I still had two credit cards because I was in the middle of traveling for my best friend’s bridal shower and bachelorette party and the hotel, rental car and events had all be secured with my credit card.

Except now I was on the defensive and convinced someone was waging war against my identity. I didn’t want any of my other cards to fall victim to fraud, but I couldn’t call my bank and tell them yet because I needed access to my MasterCard while I traveled.

Instead, I went to extreme measures and started by putting a fraud alert on my credit report – even though you only have to do this with one bureau because they report it to each other, I decided to just do it myself with all three. Then I went one step further and issued a security freeze on my credit reports.

The fraud alert just notifies the bureaus you’ve recently been a victim of fraud. They’ll monitor for requests coming in for new lines of credit and verify that you’ve authorized the request.

A security freeze makes your credit report Camp David.

The bureaus aren’t allowed to release your information to an inquiring lender without your direct consent. This means it would be incredibly difficult for a fraudster to apply for a credit card in my name or even worse apply for a major loan.

However, a security freeze also makes it a pain for me to apply for credit. Should I want to apply for a new line of credit I’ll have to call the bureaus, tell them my super-secret pin and “thaw” my credit report.

I can’t even use CreditKarma, Quizzle or CreditSesame right now because they can’t get at my report to give me a score.

When I returned home I had my bank reissue my MasterCard just to be proactive about the situation.

I realize I overreacted a bit to my situation, but it just seemed far too suspicious that two of my credit cards were compromised within a week. I still don’t really have an answer as to how it happened, but it’s frustrating how difficult it can be to ward against credit card fraud.

My boss at MagnifyMoney used to work in risk management and then headed the credit card division at Barclaycard, so the man knows a thing or two about credit card fraud. In response to my plight, he wrote a blog post on MagnifyMoney.com about 3 strategies for fighting credit card fraud.

I’m following his advice, but don’t regret the peace of mine I received from placing the security freeze on my reports.

Have you had issues with credit card fraud or identity theft? How did you handle them?

P.S. You should check out LBee’s story about identity theft. It makes mine a complete walk in the park.

Image taken from Flickr, Gif from Gifphy

Posted in Credit Cards Tagged with: ,

Frugal Find Friday: Volunteer for Free Admission

girlscouts

Ah, Girl Scouts. My first experience with volunteer work.

Volunteering often invokes the image of selfless people giving of their time to help humanity (or animals). Or high school kids looking to round out a college application. Regardless, volunteer work often requires donating your time for a greater cause.

Then there are people, like me, who like to volunteer labor in exchange for getting something for “free”.

When I first moved to New York City, I clutched a copy of “The Cheap Bastards Guide to New York City.” I read that book cover-to-cover looking for survival tips in this often-expensive city. One of my favorite suggestions focused on scoring free entertainment. I quickly learned that I could volunteer to usher at off-Broadway playhouses and in-exchange, I could watch the show for free.

If you’ve ever ushered, you know this is the cake-walks of volunteer work, especially at small, off-Broadway playhouses.

Within a month of living in New York, I got on the free-usher circuit. The first show I worked was Unnatural Acts at the Classic Stage Company. To this day, it’s one of my favorite plays I’ve ever seen and I got to watch it entirely for free.

I showed up about an hour before doors opened, dressed in black, and had to prep playbills and check that the house was clean. After we opened, I helped a handful of people get to their seats. Then I got to sit in an empty seat to watch the play. During intermission I lingered awkwardly in the lobby to point out the restroom to inquiring patrons. After the curtain fell, I helped the house manager tidy up.

Fast-forward three years, and I’m still a fan of volunteering for free or significantly discounted events, as are some of my friends.

Recently, my friend Lillian sent me a few examples of events she planned to volunteer for in exchange for free admission. A few were beer festivals (genius) and another was the Tough Mudder competition (hopefully on a different week than the beer festival).

I know there are tons of events (especially in New York) to volunteer for and get free or discounted admission. For example, Governors Ball, Bronx Zoo, MoMA, but I’d love to hear what else is out there.

Let me know where to volunteer for cheap/free admission in the comment section!

*LINK LOVE* Let’s Get Emotional

Girl Scout image taken from Flickr

Posted in Frugal Find Friday Tagged with: ,

How to Tell a Bride ‘No’

You’ll find that I’m on a bit of a the bridesmaid kick. Here is my story for US News’ My Money Blog on how to tell a bride no!

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A beautiful and incredibly reasonable bride!

The wedding industry is a multibillion dollar market, and most bridesmaids can understand why. The average cost of being a bridesmaid hovers around $1,700, according to Mint.com. Perhaps some bridesmaids can handle paying two months worth of rent to be in a wedding, but what happens when the invitations to be a bridesmaid starts to tip the scale toward paying $6,000 or $10,000 a season? You have to learn when to tell a bride the abhorrent word – no. Here are some ways to soften the blow.

Expensive Bridesmaid Dresses and Shoes

The typical cost of a bridesmaid’s dress – before alterations – is about $150, Mint reports. Every bride promises it’s a forever piece that her bridesmaids will wear to future cocktail parties and other weddings. In reality, most of these dresses are unflattering, uncomfortable and going to the consignment shop the day after the wedding.

Before complaining about the cost of the dress, consider the other factors. Do you have to travel? How much will the hotel cost? Are there other areas you can be saving money so the cost of the dress seems reasonable?

No?

Find out my tips on handling a bride at US News’ My Money Blog

Posted in US News' My Money Blog Tagged with: , ,

Frugal Find Friday: Summer in New York City

The wealthy may abandon Park Avenue for refuge in the The Hamptons, but some of us are willing (read: have to) tough out the strange smells and extreme heat of summer in New York City. Below is a list of free or cheap things to do for New York City dwellers or potential visitors. I updated this list from my Broke Millennial’s Guide to New York City for Cheap(ish) with new tips I’ve found over the last year.

Free:

IMG_2146

Oddly they didn’t want to just give me the hosting gig at The Late Show

IMG_0897

Then obviously get a Nathan’s hotdog after…

Suggested Donations:

  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The 9/11 Memorial
  • P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center (MoMA’s sister museum)
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art
  • 
Queens Museum of Art
  • The Cloisters – free ticket with your Met ticket (which is donation only!)
  • Whitney Museum of American Art – Friday evenings 6:00 pm – 9:00 (pay as you wish)

Free Hours:

  • The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – Friday evenings from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • The Museum of Moving Image – Friday evenings 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • Brooklyn Botanical Garden – Saturdays from 10 am – noon
Bklyn botanical garden

Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom festival) is worth paying for

Cheaper with ID’s or Standing in Lines:

What other fun cheap or free things are there to do during the summer in New York City?

*LINK LOVE* Lessons I found Inspiring this Week

*AS SEEN ON*

Check out my new gig and read about my first business trip: Our Journey to the Chambliss Center Inspired by Paycheck to Paycheck Documentary on MagnifyMoney

 

Posted in Frugal Find Friday Tagged with: , ,

Perhaps I Should Move to Germany?

A few weeks ago, I met up with one of my favorite personal finance bloggers, Shannon from Financially Blonde. I consider Shannon a mentor and have often gone to her for career advice. To my delight, she provides plenty of non-career related tips like the importance of creating a lasting friendship with a bartender.

Shannon and I were catching up about my new job when I disclosed my salary.

“How can you live on that?” she burst out. “I have clients who struggle to pay their bills on that salary.” To which I laughed.

Before I continue, let me rewind.

Shannon and I come from very different career backgrounds. She’s been in the finance world her whole career and experienced the monetary luxuries associated with being successful in the banking industry. I, on the other hand, started out my career in entertainment – often making less than $1,000 a month before my second and third jobs. Then I moved into public relations, which at the time felt like a huge spike in my income but on the scale of NYC living provide a paltry sum.

For the first time, I’ll disclose some numbers.

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This was a really fun phase of surviving NYC…

So, when Shannon about choked on her oyster after I disclosed my current salary, I had to chuckle.

I can survive living in an expensive city with a salary south of six figures because I don’t have debt. Rent alone costs me $12,000 a year, which used to account for just shy of 50% of my post-tax salary. But oddly enough, I’ve rarely felt financially vulnerable. I usually feel I have enough disposable income to do the activities I want (travel) and still sock away a significant amount into my savings account.

Until Shannon’s reaction, I’d never really given much thought to how I managed to survive  and save money in an expensive city with a small salary. I simply did.

The next day, I got my answer.

I was driving along I-80 in my rental car (obviously I don’t have a car in New York) experiencing an odd sensation that could only be described as part paralysis from fear that I’d die in a fiery crash after going a year without driving and part getting lulled to sleep by motion of the car.

In an effort to both stay awake and distract myself from visions of getting t-boned by a semi, I turned to my trusty Planet Money podcasts.

The episode (entitled Can An Economy Be Too Good?) discussed economic issues in the European Union with an interesting emphasis: Germany’s success is causing a problem for everyone else.

The reporters to drew an amusing correlation between the EU and St. Elmo’s Fire to illustrate how Germany has it together and therefore “secretly screwing the rest of them.”

In simplest terms: Germany has a trade surplus or an imbalance (lots of exports going out, plenty of money coming in and not much money being spent on goods from other countries in the EU). According to an NPR analyst, no country in history has ever been so successful and so frugal.

He goes on to say, “If every consumer everywhere behaved like the German consumer, then the world would be in an almost permanent recession.”

A winemaker from Italy remarked how Germans have an attitude that you’re cool if you buy something at a reasonable price rather than spending a lot of money. He recalled his childhood friends, who were German, saying Saturday morning was “a day to fix the toys rather than buying new toys.”

An economics editor from a German newspaper seems to confirm this stereotype by summing up the country’s mentality based on a famous ad for an electric appliance. His translation of the ad’s slogan: “a thrifty person is smart, clever and cool.”

Then it hit me. This is how I behave. I’m just in a country where being thrifty isn’t considered smart, clever or cool.

I’m a hoarder of cash (possibly to a fault). I rarely go shopping. I prefer to make my own meals instead of eating out. I still refuse to furnish my apartment outside of the bare essentials (I figure I’ll be moving eventually…) and the only thing I gleefully fork over money for is travel.

My default thrifty habits are the sole reason I’ve financially survived living in New York City. Well, the lack of debt has helped a lot too. Maybe it’s time I go someplace where my mentality is the norm.

Perhaps I should just move to Germany?

(Then I’d have more legitimate reason to root for them in the World Cup)

Gif taken from GIPHY

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