How To Resist Spending Money (even if you really, really like spending it)

If you’re like most people, you like spending money. I 100% fall into the category of people who get a thrill doing it – I’m a natural spender. I like the feeling of knowing I earned my money, and I equally love the feeling of spending it. Long story short, spending money makes me very, very happy. But when you start a blog about paying off $50,000 of debt in a short amount of time, you need to get creative to fight the urge to spend your hard-earned cash.

Pay Yourself First

I have a confession: I didn’t know what “paying yourself first” meant for the longest time. Were others giving themselves a pass to spend money on themselves? Why in the world would they do that? It took listening to multiple personal finance podcasts to realize that paying yourself first means automatically putting back money into your savings/investment accounts before you even have the choice to spend it. GENIUS. This method works perfectly for people like me because if there’s money in my account, I WILL SPEND IT. But if you take it away from me even before it hits my account, it’s like it was never there.

For student loans specifically, I use an app called ChangEd for automating student loan payments. ChangEd rounds up every dollar you spend, takes the change and holds it until you reach $100. Once $100 is met, it sends a check directly to your student loan servicer. I literally do not have to do any work. CHA-CHING.

Don’t Tempt Yourself

If you’re like me/a shopaholic in any form, you may enjoy walking around stores just because. That may sound bizarre, but if I’m bored, I’ll opt to walk around Target for an hour to kill time. It seriously brings me great joy to walk every aisle, browse, stand in an aisle for a half hour comparing products, find each clearance section, etc. I could do this all afternoon. But guess what happens when I do this? I inevitably buy something. It’s the dreaded Target curse: I walk in to buy q-tips and BAM! I walk out with a new shirt, a bowl that was on clearance, a bottle of wine AND those super cute salt shakers shaped like dogs (everyone needs a pair, right?!)

So how do I stop spending money? Simply eliminate the root cause – I stop going to Target unless I absolutely need to. If I were trying to lose weight for example, would I go to my nearest donut shop or buffet in my spare time? No. It works the same way for spending – do not tempt yourself by stepping into a store unless you need to. And if you have to, go directly to the item you need to purchase and walk to the cash register ASAP (#selfcontrol). It will be the fastest 10 minutes in Target of your life, but will save you SO MUCH MONEY, I promise.

Find Alternatives to Eating Out + Entertainment

One of my biggest budget line items is eating out and entertainment. When I didn’t limit my spending on food, I could easily spend $500 a month at restaurants. That’s why when I cut my restaurants budget down, I needed to find alternative solutions without sparing my social life, as much of the time spent in restaurants was with friends.

Instead of meeting at a restaurant with friends, why not host everyone at your house? Last night, for instance, one of my best friends had my girlfriends and I over to her home for her birthday. Instead of spending a ridiculous amount going out, we opted to stay in, watch a movie on TV (also a money saver!), paint our nails and enjoy each others’ company. We are able to do this as long as we want (since we don’t feel like we need to leave a restaurant ASAP) and as cheaply as possible (splitting take out and bringing our own wine, which is $5-10/bottle versus $6-12/glass). Let’s bring back welcoming others into our home and girls/guys nights in (GNIs, my favorite!)

If You Need To Spend, Do Your Research

Tis’ the season for Holiday shopping, which means there’s no denying that I’m going to have to spend money. If you need to spend money on gifts, I recommend doing your research before automatically purchasing something. There are so many great apps out there that help you save money with very little work such as Ebates, Shopkick, and Ibotta. By spending less than three minutes on Ebates today (while standing in line at the cash register, mind you) I was able to get 8% cash back on a purchase at Express for much-needed work clothes. Also, utilize Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as much as possible – I was just able to score a gift at 20% off AND free shipping, whereas I’d normally be paying extra money for shipping alone (the worst).

In the end, resist the urge, friends. I know it’s hard when there are sales on EVERYTHING this time of year, but thinking about your decision first and shopping around can save you so much money if you simply put the time into it. Do you have any extra tips on resisting the urge to spend money? What are your best resources for saving money if you need to spend it?

Traveling On A Budget: Colombia

If you know me, you know that I love to travel. I believe that traveling feeds the soul, and though I’m on a journey to become debt free, I can’t stop my wanderlust. I like to travel as much as my budget allows, and Tom and I have a goal to travel internationally at least once a year. After each trip, I’ll document my best money savings tips and share them with all of you. Today I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite trips we’ve taken to date – Colombia!

This was our first ever international trip together so it will always have a special place in my heart. But how in the world did we choose Colombia of all places, you ask? A couple of reasons:

  • We wanted to travel somewhere nontraditional. I had never been to South America before, so it automatically rose to the top of my travel list. Tom lived in South America for a year after college and also studied abroad in Peru, and he’s fluent in Spanish. He only had fantastic memories of South America and the fact that he would be able to translate for the both of us was a plus (Yo no hablo español!)
  • We wanted to travel somewhere warm. Our trip fell in February, which if you don’t know, is DEAD WINTER in Minnesota aka the worst time of the year. With below zero temperatures and minimal daylight hours, we knew we wanted to travel anywhere over 60 degrees with sun, ASAP.
  • It was cheap. Honestly, this was the ultimate deciding factor. We are able to snag tickets under $300 round trip (!!) On top of that, we knew the exchange rate was going to work very well in our favor traveling in South America (hello, lobster dinners with mojitos every night!)

So we packed our bags, made sure our passports were up to date, and were off to Colombia! We flew into Cartegena first (think: beautiful coastal city with private islands) then took a $50 plane ride over to Bogota for the last few days of our trip. Here are my suggestions for traveling on a budget to Colombia:

At Mount Monserrate in Bogota, Colombia – looking over the entire city!

Track airline prices to get the best deals

Since we’re usually open on where we want to travel, I use Kayak Explore when I’m first searching for flight prices. We typically know what month we want to travel in, so 6 months to a year prior I start searching for the countries that are cheap to fly to in the month we are traveling. Once I’ve narrowed the country down, about 3-5 months out I put a fare notification on that city through Google Flights. This allows me to track the fares and watch the pricing over a long period of time. As soon as I see a fare that is too good to pass up, I book it! Another budget friendly tip for fare searching: I’ve recently subscribed to Scott’s Cheap Flights to find amazing flight deals. Scott’s Cheap Flights send out about one email a day with ridiculously good flight finds for international travel. Today’s email featured flights to Colombia for $200-300 round trip. If only I knew about Scott’s Cheap Flights before I did all that flight tracking myself! 🙂

Stay at hostels or Airbnb

During our week and a half in Colombia we stayed exclusively at hostels, knowing that we’d likely get the cheapest stay that way and enjoy having a reliable source to get information on what to do in the area. I’d heard stories about how wonderful the hostels were in South America for less than $20/day, and wow were they right! We were able to stay in the best areas of Cartegena and Bogota, get free breakfast in the morning and also stay in a private room (no worries about locking up all of stuff all the time, thank goodness). Our hostel in Bogota was ridiculously nice – it even had a TV in it (insane, right?) If hostels aren’t your thing, I’d recommend looking into an Airbnb, which I’ve had much success with in the US and Europe. I mean, look at this beautiful oceanfront apartment for $40 night!

Take advantage of the exchange rate

With the amazing exchange rate from the dollar on Colombia, we were able to do, eat and drink pretty much anything we’d like. I’m talking about lobster dinners with cocktails for under $40 total for the both of us. That’s one of the many reasons I advocate for traveling in South America versus popular destinations like Europe where you’ll pay $5 for a water bottle alone. One of my favorite things we did with amazing exchange rate in Colombia was stay on a private island for a night. We stayed in the cutest hut literally ON the ocean for under $100/night. And I’m not kidding when I say it was private – there was only about 10 of us total on this island! We spent our days laying out on the beach drinking mojitos. Now that’s my idea of a perfect vacation 🙂

That’s our adorable hut in the background (equipped with a hammock, of course). And look at those crystal clear blue waters. Can I go back now?!

So I have you convinced you yet? I would go back to Colombia in a heartbeat and hope this post has inspired you to travel somewhere out of the traditional locations. Trust me, there’s so much beauty in the world – especially in the places you wouldn’t think of. Happy wanderlust-ing!

Traveling on a Budget: Las Vegas

If you know me, you know that I love to travel. I believe that traveling feeds the soul, and though I’m on a journey to become debt free, I can’t stop my wanderlust. I like to travel as much as my budget allows, and Tom and I have a goal to travel internationally at least once a year. After each trip, I’ll document my best money savings tips and share them with all of you.

So let’s start – Las Vegas!

Oh, Las Vegas. The city of sin. Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right? 😉 I’m a sucker for Vegas because there is so. much. to. do. From shopping to Cirque de Soleil shows to gambling to drinking giant margaritas out of giant cups that you can walk around the strip with to dancing until the sun comes up, Vegas truly never sleeps. Luckily one my best friends decided to throw her Bachelorette party there this past June (search for #MegGetsLIT on all social media to get a snippet of our shenanigans) and though I was in full frugality mode, there was no way I was going to miss this celebration.

The bride’s shirt says “I said yes” and ours say “We said Vegas” – hehe 🙂

Here are some of my suggestions on traveling on a budget in Las Vegas:

Stay on the strip for reasonable prices

We talked a lot about whether we should stay on or off the strip, and we came down to the agreement that we would stay on the strip so we could walk to most attractions instead of constantly having to Uber/Lyft, which can add up very quickly. Many of my colleagues suggest that we stay at higher priced hotels such as Planet Hollywood, but instead we chose to stay at The Polo Towers Suites. The Polo Towers is my hidden gem of Las Vegas. You are still located on the strip (sandwiched between MGM and Planet Hollywood) so you are literally a minute walk away from the strip but for a fraction of the price. We ended up booking a package deal through Expedia so we were able to save even more money, and booked a two bedroom, two bath (BEST IDEA EVER especially with 6 girls) suite. Many people have never heard of The Polo Towers since it’s not one of the big hotel names on the strip, but it was totally worth every penny (especially every penny we saved!) Plus, when you’re in Vegas, you’re barely in your room anyways, right? 😉

Use Promoters

Since we were in town for a Bachelorette party, we wanted to party. Our itinerary was filled with back to back dayclubs and nightclubs. Cue the art of using promoters. In Vegas, promoters main job is to fill the clubs they work for with people. To do so, they will put you on their “guest list”, which means 99% of the time, you and your friends get in free (and if it isn’t free, they will tell you). This applies to even the most popular, newest clubs in Vegas. It’s as simple as texting the promoter the schedule of clubs you want to get into, they’ll put you on their list, you arrive at a specified time (usually around 9-10 p.m. before it gets really busy), you stand in their promoter line (which can be long, but again, rule of thumb is get there early) and boom – no cover. By using promoters, we were able to party at Hakkasan with Tiesto, Marquee Beach Club, Omnia with Calvin Harris and Encore Beach Club with The Chainsmokers absolutely free.

Pre-Game

Ah, bring yourself back to your undergraduate college days. Drinks in Vegas are not cheap (we are talking $11 for a bottle of WATER! #insane) so pre-gaming is a must if you are trying to stay on a budget. We bought bottles as soon as we landed since none of us checked bags, but we could have saved much more if we bought bottles back home. Just be sure to drink responsibly – you don’t want to be the sloppy girl that gets kicked out/not let in to the clubs at all for having too good of a time 🙂

I hope you are able to use some of these budget-friendly tips the next time you are in Vegas. I’d love to hear any other tips you may have in the city of sin, so feel free to comment on what you do to save money when you are vacationing in Las Vegas. Cheers!

Part Two: How I Plan To Pay Off $50,000 of Student Loan Debt

This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure for more information.

Last week I wrote about the first part of my plan to pay off $50,000 in student loan debt. This is Part Two: How I Plan To Pay Off $50,000 of Student Loan Debt. Click here to read Part One.

Track My Debt Payoff

Now that I have a plan in place, I am going to track my spending in each budgeted category through Mint. Each morning, I log onto Mint and make sure my transactions are being correctly categorized. I use the Mint app to quickly look at expenses when I’m on the go.

Student Loan Hero also has a visual that will help me track my payoff throughout the year. If I pay my loans off in four years, I’ll pay $4,700 in interest. If I continued to pay off my minimum payments, I would end up paying $12,000 alone in interest. That is completely unacceptable and honestly disgusts me that loan servicers are okay with taking that much money from student loan borrowers. That alone should be my motivation for paying my debt off faster.

When I Shop, Save Money While Doing It

This plan seems pretty straightforward, but I know it’s not going to be easy. It’s actually going to be really hard. I’m going to have to say “No” to some pretty great experiences unless I prepare for them in advance. I’m not going to be able to eat out at my favorite restaurants as much as I want to. I can’t give in to making a quick Starbucks run on the mornings when I’m tired and craving a Caramel Macchiato (even though they are delicious and I live across the street from a Starbucks… #theworst)

I need to utilize as many savings tools as possible if I want to make this work. One of the resources I plan on using is Ebates. I’ve heard some pretty great things about it from other bloggers. Basically, Ebates gives you money back for shopping. It sounds too good to be true! If I plan on purchasing anything online, I will be sure to check if I can get cash back on Ebates first and purchase through their site if possible.

Another resource I use on a regular basis is my Target Red Card. It’s a debit card, so it works exactly the same as my regular bank debit card, except it takes 5% off my entire purchase. 5% doesn’t seem like much, but it really adds up over the year and when I’m making large purchases. Extra savings bonus: if you bring in your own bag, you get 5 cents off per bag! Not only are you being green, but you’re also saving money 🙂

Hold Myself Accountable Each Month

I plan to blog each month on my progress – the main reason I created this blog was to hold myself accountable during this process. Like I said earlier, I know it isn’t going to be easy, but I know that when I’m finally living a completely debt-free life, it all will have been worth it.

Do you have any tips on paying off large sums of debt? What kept you motivated during the process? How do you keep yourself accountable?

How I Plan to Pay Off $50,000 of Student Loan Debt

This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure for more information.

So, here I am, month one of my goal of paying off $50,000 of student loan debt in the next four years (or less). How exactly do I plan on doing that, you ask?

Here are the main components of my plan, some of which I’ve already done:

Remove Unnecessary Spending

In 2014, I had a debt emergency (more on that in a later post). My emergency forced me to look at all my spending and cut anything that was not completely necessary to my life. Starbucks 3 times a week? Gone. Netflix account? Gone (my 4-year-old nephew was not pleased). Those super cute shoes, even though they were on clearance? Had to walk away (no pun intended).

Since then, I’ve learned to strike a balance between needs and wants by considering costs. For example, I do have Netflix again, but borrow an account from a family member. I also have Spotify because I love the easy access to all music, but four of my friends and I share a Family Premium Plan – meaning it’s $3/month for me instead of having $10/month just by buying a bulk account.

Create A Budget and Stick To It

This was the hard part for me. After taking out unnecessary expenses, I created a budget that outlined the main categories of my expenses. Your budget may contain more categories or be more specific, but the categories I decided on were:

  • Gas
  • Bills & Utilities – includes internet, electricity, cell phone and any healthcare expenses
  • Student Loans
  • Savings for unexpected expenses (I use Digit to do this)
  • Groceries
  • Eating Out
  • Charity
  • Rent
  • Splurge (anything else I want to spend on – shopping, manicures, etc.)

I then tallied my income for a month, meaning the total of two of my paychecks since I get paid bi-weekly. Using tracking from my Mint account, I set an amount that I could spend in each category. The one rule you have to follow: your total expenses must be less than your total income. No additional spending allowed.

This was the hardest part for me and will continue to be the hardest part. Based on my Student Loan Hero account I know that if I want to pay off $50,000 in four years, I need to pay $1200 to my student loans each month. Prior to this, I was paying about $500 each month. So somehow, I needed to figure out where I could shift the $700 I was spending on random stuff (probably those cute shoes and extra cocktails) and put it towards my loan payment.

Refinance My Loans

I have 3 different loan servicers, so I desperately needed a way to see how much total debt I owed in one place. I found Student Loan Hero and couldn’t be any happier. Student Loan Hero allows you to sync all of your loan information to their system to track your total loan balance and interest rates. It clearly shows how much you’ll pay over the life of a loan with your current interest rate and allows you to calculate a sooner payoff date. Student Loan Hero helped give me motivation for this blog – it showed me exactly how much extra I need to pay on my student loans each month if I want to reach my goal of paying off all of my loans in 4 years.

Student Loan Hero also showed me that the largest student loan I had, which was actually a Parent Plus Loan under my dad’s name, had a balance of over $28,000 and had the highest interest rate at 7.9% (my other two were are at 5% and 3.3%). I knew having an interest rate of 7.9% was too high and I needed to find a way to lower it.

I filled out an application to get this loan refinanced and was approved within a matter of days. My interest rate went from 7.9% all the way down to 4.7%. I was thrilled! Now, paying off my loans in four years is actually reasonable if I try hard. I don’t know why, but I was always nervous of the term “refinancing”. In reality, I was wasting thousands of dollars that I was paying off just in interest. Student Loan Hero helped guide me through the process, checking my potential interest rates did not affect my credit at all, and my rate cut in half within a week. Why didn’t I do this sooner?

Check out Part Two: How I Plan To Pay Off $50,000 of Student Loan Debt.