Use the Holidays to Teach Kids About Money

With holiday ads already flooding the airwaves and ‘wish books’ of all kinds crowding the mailbox, the season madness has arrived.Whether you’re a can’t-get-enough-of-Christmas person or someone who’s just shy of bah-humbugging your way through the season, you might be surprised to learn that the holidays are actually a perfect time to teach kids about money and personal finances. 
The season is loaded with teachable moments that can be used to help kids understand the concept of wants vs. needs, how to budget, the importance of giving back to the community and more. Here are some ideas for using the holidays to teach kids about money. 
The 4-Gift Rule- Kids are conditioned from an early age to view the holiday season as a time of excess. The idea that more is better when it comes to gifts is pervasive. If you’d like to curb that kid consumerism and keep gift giving expectations reasonable, try the 4-Gift Rule, which gives kids the opportunity to ask for gifts in four specific categories:

Something I Want
Something I Need
Something to Wear
Something to Read

Limiting gifts to four categories is definitely a money and time-save (less shopping, less wrapping), and it also helps kids focus on and understanding the concept of want vs. need. They can still create a wish list with multiple items in each category, but with the understanding they will receive one thing per category, rather than all of them. 
Budgeting for Gifts- Kids love to be involved in buying gifts for others, which is a perfect way to introduce the concept of budgeting. First, decide on a total amount they’re allowed to spend (whether it’s money they’ve saved, money you give them, or both). Then sit down and write out a list of the people they need to buy gifts for and some ideas for each. Spend some time together researching prices and comparison shopping online, then help kids to make the best purchasing decisions based on the budget. 
‘Tis Better to Give- Why not use the holiday season to teach kids about helping those in need and becoming involved in the community? It helps to take the focus off wanting and puts it on giving instead. There are always plenty of opportunities for giving back this time of year, including: faith-based efforts, adopt-a-family programs, Christmas Angle donation drives and more. Even explaining to kids the meaning and purpose of the ubiquitous Salvation Army bell-ringers is an opportunity to talk about the importance of helping others. 

Free Online Learning Can Increase Your Earning Power

If you have budgeted all you can, but still have trouble meeting your savings goal, it is time to consider how you can increase your income. Updating current skills or learning new skills can help you score extra cash. Using your skills to gain a promotion at work, freelance projects or even a side business can help you earn more money and balance your budget. While training and education can be expensive, it is possible to enhance your skills or learn new ones with free online learning opportunities. Courses and training are available in the areas of technology, business and general knowledge, just to name a few. Following are some of the free online learning options available:
Coursera- Coursera specializes in MOOC’s, or Mass Open Online Courses. Visit and browse through the options offered by more than 100 world-class universities, including Stanford University, Princeton, Yale, Penn State and John Hopkins University, plus many other global and state university partners. Enroll in your chosen course using your name and email address. 
Enrollment in Coursera does not equal enrollment at the actual university, but the educational content is the same. You will take the online class along with thousands of other students around the world, and you will complete homeowrk, quizzes, mid-terms and final exams according to the course syllabus. Complete the coursework while meeting the minimum requirements and you will earn a certificate of completion.
Kahn Academy- This site offers self-paced video courses in math from grade 3 up to calculus and statistics, with options in science, humanities, economics and more. Recently added content, centered in collaboration between Kahn Academy and the AAMC (American Association of Medical College), the site even helps pre-med students study for the updated MCAT.
States, badges, coaches and tracking is available to help those with interest in learning the subject matter to improve their skills and keep track of their progress along the way, all at no charge.
Codeacademy- This site will help wanna-be coders learn how to write code within various programming languages for free. Badges, feedback and dashboard-like tools help the user track their progress and gives motivation to keep going. Codeacademy also offers “Code Year”, a year’s worth of classes to help users learn the program, a week at a time, for free. 
Free online learning doesn’t replace a university education. But anyone with a bit of time, the willingness to learn and an internet connection has the opportunity to take on new skills. 

Pros and Cons of an Online Education

Despite significant coverage of online education in recent years, finding a balanced perspective can be remarkably difficult since conversations tend to be highly partisan. Online schooling is either presented as the inevitable and awesome educational wave of the future or talked about as a cheap facsimile of the traditional classroom experience.
For potential students trying to make a decision about their own educational journeys, this can be confusing and even distressing. You certainly don’t want to choose the wrong path for yourself, so how can you know if an online degree program is the right option for you?Here is a list of Pros and Cons to help you make an informed decision.
Pros on Online Education
You have tons of flexibility. Online learning has opened up educational opportunities for people who might not have had them before, whether due to geography, family responsibilities, even being differently abled. With online education, no matter where you live, as long as you have a computer and reliable internet connection, you have options.
Not only that, but you have the convenience of deciding when and where you engage in your online classes. Though there will likely be deadlines for assignments and exams, and you man encounter some live lectures and scheduled group discussions (or hangouts for group projects), with online education, you can generally work through the course material at your leisure. You can also long in and access course work and lectures at virtually any time, which are handy for reviewing the materials for exams.
You have tons of options too. You’ll find practically any type of degree you’d want offered online: associate, bachelors, masters, certificates, and even doctorates. Though there aren’t as many online as in-person college choices, you can still conduct a college search to find the online program that fits your needs, including whether you want a hybrid (online and in-person) or an entirely online program.
The cost is generally lower. No matter what online college program you attend, you will almost certainly save money on room, board, or commuting costs. (Just keep in mind that even some predominantly online programs have an in-person component, such as one weekend on campus a month, which may require you to pay for travel and lodging.)
Online programs tend to be cheaper than their in-person counterparts as well, since colleges can save money on overhead costs. However, this isn’t always the case. You may find little or no difference in tuition costs between a college’s online/hybrid and in-person programs, especially as online education becomes more mainstream (which is good for online ed’s reputation but potentially bad for cost savings).
You can complete the program faster. Going through an online college degree program on your own, you may be able to finish more quickly than in a traditional program. This can be especially helpful to students who want to use online programs to complete a degree, since they may be able to take only the classes they need to graduate, rather than general education. It also puts you into the workforce much sooner.
You will be working with a driven group of peers. It takes a lot of dedication, determination, and drive to earn a college degree online, so although attrition rates still seem to be higher among online classes, the students who do stick with them are the kind of people you want in your professional network.
You will get better at writing and communicating in general. When most or all of your interactions take place online, it’s communicate well or bust. You will be judged primarily on your writing abilities, so you will learn to put forth your best work and clearly articulate your meaning.
Online class discussions are a unique and democratized experience. In an online class, you will almost certainly have to participate in discussions- often for credit. So if a fear of public speaking has held you back in the past, you may enjoy the ability to type out your responses and review them before you post. And when everyone is required to participate, you can read and learn from all of your classmates’ thoughts. Finally, it’s’ harder for one or a few people to dominate the conversation when everyone is required to speak.
Cons of an online education
You need to be highly motivated and self-directed. The freedom that makes online education such a blessing for some can be a burden for others. If you struggle with procrastination and time management – or with school in general, like many students do – it can be hard to get through your online course work on your own.
Sure, traditional college programs require a hefty dose of time-management skills too, but because online courses are primarily self-directed, you need that much more motivation and self-discipline. You’ll get all the same lectures, readings, essays, homework, and group projects as an in-person class, but you’ll be expected to work your way through it largely on your own.
Self- discipline is also a finite resource, and it takes a lot of it to carve out time to watch lectures and work on projects, particularly if you are letting them into the end of a busy day or workweek. And, obviously, the more responsibilities you have to juggle, the harder the balancing act becomes.
You’ll have limited face time with professors and peers. Even though your online college professors might hold digital “office hours”, you still may find it difficult to engage with them, whether you have questions about the material or are looking for some professional advice or mentoring. Professors are also much more “hands off” in teaching online classes, so if you’re looking for extra help or one-on-one time with them, you’re going to get very little (if any) of it.
As for you peers, forget about old-fashioned socializing. You’ll be relegated to chat rooms and online hangouts. Opportunities for study groups and networking after class are hard to come by too. Again, it’s not impossible, but it’s definitely going to take extra effort, like organizing a meet-up in a central location.
You lose the campus experience. No study sessions in the library. No joining campus clubs and gaining extracurricular experience. No running to the academic or career center for help. No college computer labs with their plethora of fancy (and expensive) software. No hitting up a frat party on the weekend. Your house is your lecture hall, and your neighborhood is your campus. Again, this might be part of the appeal of earning your degree online. But if you think you’ll regret missing the on-campus experience, especially if you’re coming straight from high school, you may want to reconsider attending an online program.
You need to have the right technology. You need a fast, reliable, and up-to-date computer and internet connection. Most online schools will post the technology recommended- or required- to take their courses. If you don’t have it, you’ll need to get it, which can be an extra financial burden. And depending on the online school and their IT services, you may not have much support if you need help.
Your peers and professors may not be as good at communicating as you would like. Online learning is probable a new undertaking for your peers and perhaps eve your professor, so you may need to be patient with them when your online-only interactions are not quite as fast/helpful/friendly/easy to understand as you would like.
You may encounter misconceptions about online education. The reputation of online education has been steadily improving, especially as more and more “traditional” schools like UNC Chapel Hill, Taxes A&M, and University of Florida get in on the online education game.
Still, a lot of people think of online education as easier and less reputable than an in-person education. That’s simply not the case. To be sure, there are some lower-caliber online degree programs out there- and that’s not including scam “schools” or diploma mills. But online education programs vary in their selectivity and rigor just like brick-and-mortar schools do. And their course work is just as challenging as it would be in person, if not more so, given the self-discipline required to complete an online degree.
You need to beware of online education scams. Though the government and law enforcement and cracking down on diploma mills and other online degree scams, they’re still out there, preying on students. Red flags included a guaranteed degree, guaranteed scholarships, lack of accreditation, super-short programs (we’re talking a couple months or even weeks), and virtually nonexistent admission requirements. Basically, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
This is also why it is so important to conduct a thorough college search, regardless of whether you want to get an online or in-person college education. This means you should know the overall reputation of the school and your intended major; its student outcomes like job placement, student debt, and graduation rate; and how its mission and values jibe with your own.
Your major might not be covered (or covered well) online.  Not all majors are available online, and even among those that are, some work better in a virtual setting than others. If you’re interested in a more hands-on major, like those in the health profession, you may be better served by an in-person degree program.

4 Questions You Should Ask Before Deciding on Graduate School

So you have a bachelor’s degree, but you’re wondering what comes next. Maybe you want to unlock the door to your dream job. Maybe you’re ready for a promotion and a raise. Or maybe you think the job market is still too weak in your field. There are lots of reasons to consider a graduate degree, but be financially wise about it. Here are four questions you should ask when making this important – and potentially costly – decision.
1. Do I need a graduate degree for my career?
The first thing to ask is whether your dream job even requires a graduate degree in the first place. Doctors, of course, have to attend medical school, lawyers _almost _always have to grind through law school (though legal apprenticeships are allowable in some jurisdictions), and top-notch academics generally have PhD’s. But, for many high level jobs, graduate degrees aren’t needed, and relevant work experience can be just as good.
We crunched some federal labor market data on management occupations (which are generally the highest paying jobs) to show you just how wide the differences are across industries. If your career is in education or health, you may want to seriously consider grad school to advance: 36 percent of managers have a master’s degree or above. It’s different in the hospitality industry, where only 7 percent of managers have been to grad school. Of course, the numbers are just the beginning of the story, and even within industries the needs vary widely. So do your homework, including talking with people in your industry who can attest to a degree’s value, and figure out what the norm is for your career.
2. Will graduate school give me a salary bump?######
Next, ask yourself how a graduate degree will likely impact your salary after graduation. Again, every situation is unique, but we recut the federal labor market data to show you a typical “salary bump” from an advanced degree. If you work in government or health services, having an advanced degree can open up jobs that pay you 50 per cent more. For all you urban farmers out there, be mindful that your graduate work on Socrates doesn’t necessarily make you a successful avocado grower: the typical advanced degree holder in agriculture takes jobs that pay less. So don’t assume graduate school will always translate into a huge — or immediate — raise.
3. What does graduate school cost – both in money and time?######
Many students rush to graduate school for the benefits – but make sure you carefully understand the costs too. Obviously there’s tuition (may range from $30k all the way up to $120k!), books, fees, and in some cases the room/board that you otherwise wouldn’t be paying. But there’s also what you give up to attend (what economists call opportunity costs): your old salary and career advancement. If you have to take out student loans to finance your education, these add interest costs and could impact your credit after school. Of course, you can lower the burden of these costs with scholarships, fellowships, and working in school.
Working while getting your graduate degree may mean you’ll be in school longer, and not every institution offers evening and weekend classes, but they don’t involve sacrificing salary or career advancement. Some companies may even set aside financial assistance for employees going to school; it never hurts to ask your HR department.
Think hard also about the length of your desired degree and the number of years you plan to work after graduating. A typical master’s is two years, while the typical PhD is around seven years. So even if a doctorate gives you a bigger weekly salary bump (which it doesn’t always), you still might make more over your whole career with a master’s because you spent less time in school. For similar reasons, you should investigate programs that meet on nights and weekends, letting you earn a regular salary and make progress to an advanced degree. Financially, this might be the better choice.
4. Are there better alternatives?######
Today, there are many alternatives to traditional grad school. If you explore these routes, consider their unique risks. Be particularly careful with for-profit universities or for-profit companies. Some are pioneering the future of education, and some are just making a quick buck.
A fast growing option is the online degree, many now offered by accredited and prestigious institutions. An online degree could give you the flexibility to earn credits while in school or taking care of a loved one. But also consider that you won’t get all of the benefits of in-person study groups, on-campus research facilities, and the ability to network with classmates. Taking classes online is also a different learning dynamic than in-person and may not be right for everyone.
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) through sites like Coursera or edX are often low-cost and taught by faculty from top universities. These sites have also begun to offer certificates in specialized fields, which may be useful in demonstrating command of specific skills (such as a programming language). But so far these credentials aren’t really equivalent to a comprehensive graduate degree, and there isn’t reliable data yet if they affect your salary or your career advancement.
Skill-based boot camps are intense, on-site, 8-12 week programs that help you learn a discrete skill (particularly coding) fast. If you’re thinking about graduate school through the lens of _changing _careers then a boot camp may make sense, though understand that they are predominantly for-profit and still largely unregulated.
It may also pay off more to build up your portfolio of work on sites like Dribble, Github, or a personal blog. To some employers, especially in startups, real projects speak more than fancy degrees. Your personal projects also let you explore your passions, and passion can push many people to learn more than the fear of a bad grade.
There are many reasons to go to graduate school – professional, intellectual, personal, etc. But whatever motivates you, a careful, clear-eyed weighing of the financial costs and benefits should be part of your decision.
Shouvik Banerjee is the Founder and CEO of AverPoint, a platform to bring crowd-verified evidence into editorial and marketing content. AverPoint’s mission is to empower authentic, evidence-driven brands like give individuals the information to make better choices.

How to Create Your First Budget

There are many milestones of being an adult. Signing your own lease for the first time, being able to rent a car, having someone call you ma’am.
But being an adult also means being responsible for your own finances. Like many things, you can’t have a successful financial future if you don’t plan for it. The best way to do that? Create a budget.
Creating a budget can seem daunting, but it just requires a series of steps. See below for help on creating your first budget.
Track your expenses######
Before you can start a budget full of limits, you need to know how much you’re spending right now. Take two or three months to spend normally and track your transactions in Mint.
Fixed expenses like rent, insurance and utilities will be easier to monitor than variable expenses, such as groceries, entertainment and travel, which will fluctuate month-to-month.
You should also write down what your income is. That amount will be the same every month for many people, but if you work hourly, on commission or are self-employed, tracking your income for a few months will give you a good idea of how much you take take in each month.
Write down your main goals######
Make a list of what you want to save for. Is there a friend’s wedding in Ireland in six months? Write that down. Do you want to buy a house in two years? Put it on the list.
Then, do some research on how much each of those goals will cost and write that amount down as well. Once you have the goal, the amount you need to save and when you want to achieve that goal, you can figure out how much you need to save per month to make it happen.
List your debts######
Once you have your goals, income and expenses figured out, it’s time to write down everyone’s least favorite part of budgeting: your debt. Write down what you owe, what the interest rate is, how many months you have left and what your monthly payment is.
While you have to pay the minimum each month, you also have two strategies to choose from when it comes to paying off debt early.
You can choose to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. This will save you the most on how much total interest you pay each month.
Another popular method is to pay off your debts in order from smallest balance to largest balance. This will help you knock out your debts faster and make you feel like you’re making more progress toward your debt.
Start a retirement plan######
One of the most important parts of budgeting is making room for a retirement plan. Ask your HR department if your employer offers a retirement plan and if you are eligible. Many 401k plans also have free matching funds so make sure to put in enough to receive the matching.
You can also start a retirement fund on your own if your company doesn’t offer one. Many people recommend investing in index funds through an IRA or individual retirement account. Robo advisors such as Betterment and Wealthfront can create personalized retirement plans based on your age and other factors.
General recommendations say you should contribute between 10-15% of your salary toward your nest egg.
Put it all together######
Create a spreadsheet and add up how much you spend each month, what you should save for your goals, how much you should put away for retirement and how much debt you owe. If those numbers add up and are less than what you earn, you’re golden.
But for many people, that amount is greater than what they earn. That’s when they have to make sacrifices and changes to their budget. Maybe they need to move to a new apartment and save on rent or eat out less. Maybe you should postpone your goal of buying a house or take a break from traveling until you pay off that credit card.
The key is to make sure you don’t spend more than you earn and have a little bit extra each month just in case.
_Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Debt Free After Three.**

Transitioning Your Finances to Life After College

Just graduated from college? Congratulations! You’ve made it to one of the major milestones in life, and you’re looking at a world of possibility.
So how do you make the most of starting this new, post-university phase of life? One of the most important things to understand as you transition from college student to real world, on-your-own adulting is how to start managing your money so you can not only pay all your expenses, but also start saving and build wealth.
Create Your Own Systems######
Have you ever heard of engineering your environment to successfully build a new habit? Just like you might make a morning workout habit stick faster if you lay out your gym clothes the night before, you can take actions to set up systems that make building good financial habits easier.
In terms of your finances, engineering your environment means taking steps like:

Building and using a budget
Tracking your spending
Automating bills and other transactions, like monthly student loan payments
Automating transfers to savings

Using a budget creates a framework within which you can use your money. Tracking your spending makes you more aware of how you’re using your money within that budget. And automating transfers between your checking and savings accounts makes it easy
You can use a number of tools to help you develop and stick with a money management environment that works for you. For example, a tool like Mint provides a comprehensive overview of nearly every aspect of your finances — from your budget and spending to your credit score and investments — which makes it a great place to start.
Another app to consider is Digit, which makes small automated transfers from your checking into your savings. If you’d rather get a jumpstart on investing, try Acorns too. Acorns works in much the same way as Digit, but instead of putting small amounts of money into a savings account, the app invests the money for you.
Remember that there’s no right or wrong way to set up budgets, track spending, or create automated savings plan. What’s important is recognizing the need for a structure, and developing one that works for you.
Manage Your Money When You Make More######
After graduation when you start your career in earnest, you’ll likely make more money than you did back in your college days. This is great for you, but it can also cause some financial problems if you don’t think ahead. In other words: mo’ money, mo’ problems
The biggest pitfall of earning more is succumbing to lifestyle inflation. This happens when you spend more as you earn more. Essentially, you build a spending habit — not a savings habit. And this is a problem because it’s extremely difficult to cut back your spending once you’ve adjusted to a certain level of luxury or lifestyle.
If you avoid lifestyle inflation from the very beginning and make saving at least 10% of your income a priority, you’ll always find it easier to save money no matter how much you make. You don’t have to start off saving 10% right away, but it’s a great goal to work toward as your income increases.
You should also take advantage of a full-time job with all the benefits it comes with as you start your career. Don’t wait to open a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan if any are available to you. If your company offers to match your contributions, put in at least enough to get the full match. That’s free money!
If you don’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement account, you can still save as soon as you start working. Open a Roth IRA and save what you can. And remember, as you earn more, contribute more to retirement (instead of getting caught up in spending more).
Continue Your (Financial) Education######
You may have just graduated from college, but don’t let learning end here. The best way to set yourself up for financial success in life is to continually seek to learn more about your money. Ask questions and seek answers. Do research. Get multiple opinions and consider different perspectives.
There are more resources available to you than ever before. In addition to personal finance, money management, or investing books that you can buy, tons of information about these subjects is available for free on blogs and podcasts. While most bloggers are sharing from personal experience, there’s a lot that you can learn from what other people have tried — and if nothing else, tuning into the conversation can keep you inspired and motivated to reach your own financial goals.
Staying interested and involved in your finances will help you better manage your money on a day-to-day basis and for the long-term. No one will care more about your cash than you do, and continuing to learn is without a doubt a prerequisite for building wealth.
Kali Hawlk is a freelance writer and the co-founder of Off The Rails, a free mentorship platform for creative women. She’s passionate about helping others do more with their money, their work, and their lives. Get in touch by tweeting @KaliHawlk.

Guest Post: Using Mint to Pay Down $14,000 in Credit Card Debt

Our guest blogger, Kathryn Bradt, is one-half of the duo behind the Dames in Debt blog. The Dames are sisters working off their combined $250,000 worth of student loans and consumer debt while keeping it real about the struggles of being twenty-somethings in expensive cities with limited funds.
Credit cards…love them or hate them, these little pieces of plastic (now featuring the “new” technology that is a slow-as-molasses electronic chip) are a frequent part of our daily lives. With the exception of food truck purchases, I can’t remember the last real transaction I made in cash, and with the advent of credit card rewards programs, I can’t remember the last time I used my debit card instead of my credit card.That is, until December 26, 2015, when I officially kicked off my “You desperately need to stop paying $150 in interest each month” credit card repayment plan.
How I Got into Debt######
I didn’t get into credit card debt because of a lot of frivolous spending. Sure, there were a couple major clothes purchases that were probably unnecessary (or wholly unnecessary), but most of my debt was accrued paying for living expenses.
Over three years of law school and a summer of studying for the bar exam, I put nearly all of my living expenses onto that sad Visa whenever my student loan refund ran out – about 9 months’ worth of living expenses.
How much debt does 9 months of living expenses, a couple clothing splurges, a lot of stress-induced fast-food, and a 14.9% APR interest rate total? $14,055.92. Ouch.
After passing the bar in October 2015, I found a full-time lawyer job as an Assistant Public Defender (my dream job!), and I knew it was time to end my relationship with credit card debt.
Setting Up a Plan with Mint######
Being a longtime Mint user, I knew I could use the Goals feature to help me pay off this debt. In the past, I’d set many savings goals and had great success with them, so I figured a debt repayment goal would be just as helpful.
Since my account was linked, Mint easily tallied the debt total, interest rate, and the minimum payment – and actually showed me that if I continued to make only minimum payments, I would end up spending 18.5 years in debt and $23,000 in interest. Super depressing.
After accepting my new job, I tweaked my Mint budget to account for my new income, updated my savings goals (emergency fund, anyone?), and established my new fiscally-responsible “fun” and eating out funds. After doing this, I saw that I had enough left over to make monthly payments that were 4x bigger than the minimum payment!
With my payment calculated and my goal set, I automated my monthly payments, and BOOM! I’m going to be credit card debt free by July 2017.
Making Progress######
With Mint, I’ve been able to create a plan that’s doable. I was able to see what it would take to pay off my debt in 12 months versus 24 months, and I think it’s important to see those differences and what you would be giving up to get there, or spend in interest, as the case may be.
I picked a payment that I know I can make each month, but also gives me room to maybe add some extra money here and there. And the best part? Each time I make one of those extra payments, Mint automatically updates my goal completion date for me.
Life’s looking up now that I have my credit card debt under control. As a public interest attorney (read: not the kind of lawyer that makes six figures), I have made peace with my student loans hanging around a bit longer, but that credit card debt? It needed to go.
Now, I’m on a 15-month journey to high-interest-debt-freedom, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve got big plans for that money once I’m done paying off the credit card…retirement savings!
Quick Tips######
If you’ve got a lot of credit card debt, there are definitely some things I recommend doing to fast-track your debt repayment. Here are some tips to get you started:

Track _all _of your transactions with Mint and make sure they are categorized correctly. The trend charts will really show you where you can (and must!) spend less money in order to pay down your debt.
Add a monthly budget to cover your interest payment each month, that way you can account for how much of your monthly payment is really going to paying down your debt.
Stop using credit cards to float cash! Seriously. Learn to live within your means. If you just can’t make it work, then it’s time to pick up another job. I kept my part-time jobs for the first few months of having my new, full-time job to help transition my finances.
Make your monthly payments (or automate!) the day after your paycheck deposits, that way you don’t have the opportunity to spend that money on something other than debt.
When making more room in your budget to contribute to your debt, start with your take-out food budget and monthly memberships (gym, cable, phone, massages, etc.). These are the easiest to lower or eliminate without feeling like you can’t have any fun.
It never hurts to call your credit card company and ask about lowering your interest rate. My company lowered mine 0.9% to an even 14.0% APR – all because I called and asked them about it! Every little bit helps when paying down high-interest debt.


Kathryn Bradt is an Assistant Public Defender in Richmond, VA. When not in the courtroom, she writes about personal finance, life, and her addiction to procedural cop dramas as the East Coast Dame. Representing both coasts of the United States of Indebtedness, the Dames blog about millennial budgeting, saving money without feeling deprived, and how to live first-class on coach funds.