How to Write Great Happy Holiday Emails

How to Write Holiday Email newslettersThere’s no better time than the holidays to show your employees and your clients how much you appreciate them. Here are five simple steps to help you craft the perfect email in no time.

Decide on the Audience and Purpose

Before you begin, determine who will be your recipients. For instance, if you’re writing to your team, it will be a bit different than writing to your clients. However, no matter who you are addressing, you’ll probably want to start by expressing your gratitude. After that, you can further refine your message. If it’s to your employees, acknowledging their hard work and dedication is a great place to start. After that, you might tout the many wins you’ve all experienced over the year. If you’re writing to your clients, you might want to share how great your partnership has been recently and that you’re hoping for an even better year ahead.

Keep it Brief

When expressing a seasonal message, less is more. Take time to think through exactly what you want to say. A good way to begin is to write what you want to say imperfectly. Get the thoughts out – it’s okay if it’s too long. Then come back and refine and cut. But be sure to give yourself enough time to do so. Few things are as challenging as trying to write a great message in a hurry.

Personalize Your Message

Craft your message as if you were talking to an individual, as opposed to a group. You don’t want it to be stuffy or overly corporate. Think about what you’d like to hear. Put yourself in the recipient’s place. Even if you feel your audience is more on the formal side, the holidays are the right time to be transparent and real. No one wants to receive a message that feels forced or fake.

Proofread Your Text

This is critical. Read every single word; and do it out loud. This works. Why? When you don’t do this, your brains fills in missing words. When you speak the words you wrote, you’ll instantly discover your mistakes. Imagine sending a holiday message that says, “Season’s Gratings!” Of course, you’d never do this, but this is hyperbole to make a point.

Choose a Clear Subject Line

Straightforward, concise and professional is what you want to aim for. A few simple examples are:

  • Sending You Warm Holiday Wishes
  • Season’s Greeting From [Company Name]
  • Wishing You a Wonderful Holiday Season

However, you can always be more creative and weave in something that happened over the year that will resonate with the audience, something that is specific either to your company’s culture or the culture of your client.

At the end of the year, as crazy as things can get with schedules, parties and shopping, it’s always nice to open your inbox and receive a message that warms the heart. These days, with everything that’s going on around us, it can make a world of difference.

Sources

https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/happy-holidays-email

 

 

How to Host Awesome Holiday Office Parties

Fall is here and so are many of the holidays we love. Whether it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving or December holidays, here are some fail-safe things you can do to make sure everyone shows up and has a good time.

Throw a Potluck

One of the easiest ways to lure people away from their desks is – you guessed it – food. Create a sign-up sheet with different categories to make sure you have enough savory and sweet dishes, and provide options for those with dietary restrictions. If you’re the organizer, you might supply the drinks and utensils, maybe even some appetizers or snacks. Depending on the holiday, you might also suggest a theme. If it’s Halloween, you could ask folks to bring their spookiest fare.

Have a Raffle

This is yet another way to get people out of their offices. Everyone who shows up gets a ticket and on the back they’ll sign their name. At different times during the party, have a drawing. Maybe leave the big prize to the end. You could even stipulate that people must be present to win. Some of the prizes you could offer are: gift cards, smart watches, paid time off (PTO) or tickets to an event (a sporting event, a concert, etc.). A weekend at a local hotel (think staycation) or airline tickets are also attractive options. If resources allow, the sky’s the limit.

Designate Secret Santas

During December, this is always a big hit. Employees draw random names and get paired up with someone. The Secret Santa is given a wish list to choose from to give to their giftee. A smart idea is to set a monetary limit, such as gifts for under $25. After opening the present, the giftee has to guess who gave them the gift.

Set Up Games

Think giant Jenga. Pin the carrot nose on the snowman. Cornhole. These can be scheduled or ongoing. And best of all, it’s easy and uncomplicated. Employees can come and go as they wish. A little competition while everyone is noshing is a surefire way to foster employee bonding.

Host a White Elephant Gift Exchange

This is another classic. Everyone brings a wrapped gift and then you draw numbers. People sit in a circle with the presents in the middle, select their gifts in numerical order and unwrap them for all to see. But here’s the fun part: You can steal a gift that someone before you has unwrapped, which causes that person to either select a gift from the pile or steal from someone else. After three steals, the gift is frozen with whoever has it.

Volunteer Together

Working side by side with your colleagues for a purpose greater than yourself always cultivates a sense of community. For example, you could print off blank cards with your company logo on them, then ask employees to send a note of thanks to deployed military members. Another thing you could do with the cards is send a word of encouragement to those who live at places like The Salvation Army. The holidays can bring up lots of emotions, and sending positive messages to others is always a reward in and of itself. After all, when you give, you receive.

If you try one or all of these ideas, taking a break from the grind and enjoying a little non-work fun is not just necessary, it’s critical. When employees can cut loose, as well as feel appreciated and cared for, it’s highly likely you’ll have a happier, healthier workplace.

Sources

https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/office-holiday-party

Top Side Hustles

Top Side HustlesIn our current economy, or anytime actually, it can’t hurt to have a side hustle to bring in extra cash. Some of these options can be quite lucrative, but like everything, it takes a little work to create a steady income stream. However, with a little pre-planning, you can do it. Let’s take a look.

Become a Tutor

Are you a math whiz? A wordsmith? History nut? Whatever your specialty, you can earn between $10 and $75 an hour. You might vary your price based on whether you’re tutoring high school, college or adult education classes. You can conduct your sessions online or in-person –totally up to you and your comfort level. All you have to do is create a lesson plan, then spread the word on social media, contact your local high schools and universities, or tack a notice near a central location such as a local coffee shop. When you’re sharing your knowledge and helping others, it might not feel like work at all.

Deliver Groceries with Instacart

If you haven’t heard of this, you might have seen people in grocery stores with their carts stuffed with brown paper bags full of items, list in hand – these are most likely Instacart workers. In sum, this gig is a same-day grocery delivery app. You shop for other folks; you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket when you’re at the store; and you can start earning money the very first week. Oh, and you get tips. According to ridester.com, you can make anywhere from $200 to $1,000 a week. Pretty easy and cool, right?

Rent an Extra Room Through Airbnb

While this might require some prep like buying extra towels and toiletries, as well as communicating with customers, you can make a lot in the long run. It might take a couple of months to get up and running, but you can bring in around 7 percent to 12 percent of your property value per year.

Help with Finances

If you have a background in accounting or finances, you might start up a business doing someone’s books, taxes or other services that have to do with money and/or budgeting. You can make from $20 to $100 an hour. Be sure to check with your city and state to find out what licenses and certifications you need.

Walk Dogs

Yes, dog walking can bring in more than you think. And you’ve probably seen these hearty souls on the sidewalks, sometimes with more than one furry friend in tow. If you live in a big city, there’s ample opportunity to make this work: you can make between $10 and $100 per day. And this is just a ballpark estimate. Plus, you’ll get your steps in. It’s healthy both fiscally and physically.

Write Resumes and Cover Letters

With all the job seekers out there, you could make a good chunk of change doing this. And you don’t necessarily need to be a writer. If you have a background in HR, recruitment or you’ve worked as a hiring manager, you’ll be ready to go. Hesitant about all that punctuation? One word: grammarly.com. This app will help you navigate all those writing questions you might have that inevitably come up when you’re composing. The average you might earn is somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 or more.

One Thing to Note

If you make more than $600, you must report it to the IRS. If you see that your side hustle is booming, if you start making thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a year, you might want to start a business. You could enjoy additional tax write-off opportunities so you can keep more of what you earn.

So start exploring, hang those shingles and watch the extra dough come rolling in.

Sources

https://careersidekick.com/side-hustle-ideas/

https://time.com/nextadvisor/financial-independence/best-side-hustles/

How Much Can You Make A Week With Instacart In 2022?

8 Ways to Save on School Supplies

8 Ways to Save on School SuppliesEven though summer is still somewhat in full swing, school will be starting soon. Yes, you heard that right. This means that you probably need to get prepared for the inevitable cash outlay ahead. But it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Here are some ways to navigate the upcoming expenditures and save a penny or two.

Start Early

We’re talking a few weeks ahead, if possible. If you wait until the last minute, supplies might run out. You may have to spend time online searching and/or driving from store to store – and paying the premium both in terms of products and gas. If you spread out purchases a little at a time, you won’t feel the financial hit so severely. Dive in early and you’ll thank yourself when it’s all over.

Conduct a Supply Audit

Dig into those drawers, closets and storage bins for school supplies from last year. Chances are, you bought a set of, say, pencils and all are not used. When you’re done, put what you’ve found in a central location and make your shopping list. Be sure to keep this list handy (on your phone, or in your bag if you’ve handwritten it). Another way to keep track of what you already have is to snap a pic of it.

Swap With Friends

Do this before you spend any money. Organize a small gathering with other parents, trade your wares, figure out what you need, then get going.

Head to the Dollar Store

After you’ve audited and swapped, check out these bargain basement stores. Here, you’ll find big savings on basics like notebooks, pencils, plus hand sanitizer and facial tissues.

Scour Thrift Stores

While thrift stores might not have supplies in terms of schoolwork, they’ll definitely have back-to-school clothes you can buy for a song – aka pretty darn cheap. You might look for backpacks here, too, which are a must-have. Tip: Don’t let your kiddos wear their new duds immediately. Save them for the first day (and days after) so they’ll feel like they’re starting the new year with a 100 percent fresh start.

Shop on a Sales Tax Holiday

Lots of states have these and during this time (or day or weekend), you can buy computers, clothing and school supplies without paying sales tax. Here’s a state sales tax holiday list for you.

Follow Popular Stores on Social Media

Many companies send their followers coupon links and advance notice about juicy sales. Several to watch on Facebook and Twitter are Staples, Office Depot, Target, Best Buy, as well as Coupons.com and RetailMeNot.

Make One Trek Solo

While taking the kiddos along can be fun and a great bonding experience, chances are they’ll plop things in your cart you might not want – and run up the bill. By yourself, you can get in and out quickly and control the cost.

Going back to school can be a challenging transition, both for kids and parents. However, if you plan ahead and stay on track, you can give yourself an A+ for all you’ve accomplished.

Sources

16 Tips to Save Money on Back-to-School Supplies & Shopping List

How to Manage Your Aging Parents’ Finances

How to Manage Parents FinancesTaking over your aging parents’ finances is not easy. But it’s something that can be handled in an organized, compassionate way. Here’s a roadmap that shows how to embrace it and do the right things for everyone involved.

Start the conversation early. Right now, your parents might not need any help. They might be handling everything just fine. But there will come a day when they can’t – and they’ll need your help. The National Institute on Aging recommends that parents give advance written consent to designated family members so they can discuss personal matters with doctors, financial representatives and Medicare officials. If you don’t have this, you’ll be faced with some road blocks. If you open the dialogue now, you’ll circumvent obstacles, as well as get a better feel for what their future needs might be.

Watch for the signs. If you don’t see your parents often, and even if you do, the signs of when you need to step in might be a bit hard to detect. That said, there are some things to look for that will indicate that their needs are changing.

  • Unusual purchases. If you find out that your folks are buying things that don’t match their lifestyle, or entering lots of contests and sweepstakes, then it’s time to speak up. Behavior like this might get out of hand – or worse, they might be getting scammed. Older people are most vulnerable to the vultures out there. 
  • Stacks of unopened mail. Watch for this, as the letters might be unpaid bills and/or solicitations for sweepstakes. Both are problematic.
  • Complaining about money. If your folks seem to be always low on cash, or say “no” to activities that they usually enjoy, talk to them. They might need your help for a number of reasons, whether it’s reconciling accounts or remembering how to pay bills, or if they even paid them.
  • Physical setbacks. Fading vision can impede driving to the bank and arthritis can be painful while writing checks or typing on the keyboard. Whatever ailment your parents might suffer from, this could be a cue that they need your assistance.
  • Memory problems. This is somewhat self-explanatory, but specific things to look for are not knowing what day or year it is, or just forgetting things that your parents once always remembered.

Start slowly. Instead of charging in and announcing that you’re taking control, take baby steps. Maybe offer to write checks for them. Or offer to pay a bill or two. Gradual, gentle steps make them feel more at ease and comfortable with the new way of doing things.

Gather important documents. Things to collect are account numbers, credit card info, birth certificates, insurance policies, deeds and wills. Make sure they’re all current and up-to-date. Put them in a secure location so you’ll have easy access when you need them.

Consider power of attorney. This is key. Even if your parents don’t need your help at the moment, there will come a time when they will. There are several types of POA to consider: financial, medical or general decisions. Unlike written consent, this gives you legal authority to act on their behalf when they’re unable to.

Communicate what’s going on. Once you’ve started to manage your parents’ finances, keep your siblings, as well as theirs, in the loop. This way, if you’re unable to handle something, you can ask for backup support.

Keep your finances separate. It might be the easiest thing to do – mix your parents’ finances with yours – but in the long run, it’s not such a good idea. It can become a slippery slope. Granted, there may be times when your parents need a loan, but for the sake of clarity and personal record-keeping, it’s best not to jeopardize your own retirement and savings goals.

If you need more help, reach out to the National Alliance for Caregiving. As we all know, the circle of life is inevitable. But caring for your parents might be one of the most important things you’ll ever do – and chances are, you’ll want to get it right.

 

Sources

https://bettermoneyhabits.bankofamerica.com/en/saving-budgeting/aging-parents-finances

8 Ways to Negotiate Medical Bills

Negotiate Medical BillsAccording to statistics from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employer-budgeted healthcare costs increased to an average of $12,792 per employee in 2021. Employees can help keep employer healthcare costs – and their premiums – down by planning ahead and negotiating fees for service.

Call Before Your Treatment

When you’re busy, sending an email might expedite your request. However, it’s best to stop, take a little time to pick up the phone and talk to a real person. Ask for the hospital’s billing department and get an estimate of how much your procedure might cost. (Write down the name of the person you speak with, plus the day and time.) Send this to your insurance provider to find out what your plan will cover. Then contact the hospital and let them know how much you can afford. When you’re recovering, you’ll have less worry about how to pay.

Offer to Pay in Full Up-Front

If you have the resources to do this, go for it. Consumer Reports estimate that you could save 20 percent off your bill. Ask to speak to someone who has the authority to grant you this deal and again, jot down the details of your call. However, if the treatment is more than you can afford, you might consider medical debt consolidation.

Shop Around for Less Expensive Providers

Insurance companies usually offer cost estimates for treatments. Some companies like UnitedHealthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield even have cost comparison tools. If your insurance provider doesn’t offer this, try third-party sites like Healthcare Bluebook and GoodRx to shop and compare. Remember that though important, cost should never be the top consideration when deciding on a facility for your healthcare.

Understand What Your Insurance Covers

And what it doesn’t. Ask for a Summary of Benefits and Coverage from your provider to find out exactly what’s what when it comes to coinsurance, deductibles and more. Being prepared is always a good idea.

Ask for an Itemized Bill

After your treatment, you’ll receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your insurance company. This isn’t a bill and might be updated while your claim is being processed. But the first thing to do when you receive these are to check them for errors – humans make them!

Make Sure Services are In-Network

Before your procedure, check to see that all your labs, anesthesiologists and other services are in-network. Some states prohibit out-of-network providers from charging out-of-network prices when performing care at an in-network setting. Learn about your state’s level of protection at The Commonwealth Fund.

Seek Assistance Programs

Ask your healthcare provider – the hospital or lab’s billing department – about financial assistance and/or charity programs. Thankfully, hospitals have a standard procedure for helping those who are unable to pay their bills. Some hospitals even have discounts for people who don’t have access to medical insurance. You might also ask your provider about medical debt forgiveness. If this is an option, you’ll be asked to share tax returns and other relevant documents. Other resources to help you navigate your healthcare expenses are the Patient Advocate Foundation or the PAN Foundation.

Get on a Payment Plan

Generally, healthcare providers offer no-interest payments and are available to anyone who needs it. Better still, you won’t have to meet eligibility requirements like you would with payment assistance programs. But when setting something like this up, make sure you agree to a plan that you can stick with. Otherwise, your bill might be turned over to a collection agency.

As you know, your health is your most precious asset. Make sure you’re fiscally prepared to care for it.

Sources

https://www.lendingtree.com/personal/how-to-negotiate-medical-bills/

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/health-plan-cost-increases-return-to-pre-pandemic-levels.aspx#:~:text=Budgeted%20health%20care%20costs%20increased,of%205.2%20percent%20from%202020.

Medical Debt Consolidation: Using a Loan to Pay Medical Bills (lendingtree.com)

State Balance-Billing Protections | Commonwealth Fund

How to Get Your 2022 Finances in Order

Believe it or not, the New Year is here. If you’re trying to wrap your head around everything that’s ahead, one of the best things you can do is prepare yourself financially. Here are a few tasks you can get started on right away.

Look Back at 2021

Depending on how in-depth you want to go, this could take a couple hours or more. That said, ask yourself these questions: Did you spend as planned? Where do you want to adjust, increase or decrease spending thresholds? What kind of unexpected expenses came up? How did you handle it? Think about what you’ll do for the upcoming year. When it comes to money, the cliché “hindsight is always 20/20” will often ring true.

Tackle Your Debt

If you want 2022 to be the year you become debt free, it can happen. We’re talking about consumer debt, not your mortgage, rent, car payments or any other necessities. A good strategy is to make a list of your credit cards, balances and interest rates. Start with the account balances that are the highest and create a payment plan, then move down the list until you’re finished. Balance transfers to cards with zero interest (for a limited time) are a smart idea, too. Then freeze your spending for 30 days, or however long you need. It might take some time, but these days, financial freedom is well worth it.

Increase Your Retirement Funds

Good news: the maximum contribution limit for your 401(k)s increases by $1,000 in 2022 compared to 2021, for a total of $20,500. If you’re 50 or older, the limit is $27,000, which is great for those closer to retirement. If you can’t max out your contribution, just increasing it by one percent can have an incredible effect. According to calculations from Fidelity Investments, if you’re 35 and earning $60,000, this tiny bump could yield an additional $85,000 to your retirement fund over a 32-year period. That’s equal to putting aside $12 per week (how easy is that?), assuming a 5.5 percent return and consistent salary growth.

Create a Back-Up Plan

This probably isn’t something you want to think about, but it’s necessary should something happen to you. Take few minutes to update your beneficiaries on all your financial accounts, including retirement, investment and benefits accounts. Next, make sure you have a durable power of attorney, someone you trust to take care of all your monetary affairs. After this, designate a health-care proxy or power of attorney, who can speak for you if you become incapacitated. Finally, update your will. Decide who will inherit your assets. If you have children, you can even assign guardians for them. In the long run, if the worst-case scenario unfolds, you’ll save your loved ones a lot of time and trouble.

Carve Out Time for a Life Audit

This task might sound big, but it’s necessary if you want to achieve your dreams – financial or otherwise. Start with a pen or pencil, about 100 sticky notes, a journal and a large space, perhaps a door, board or wall. Turn your phone off, then get started. Look back at your life. Assess where you’ve been, where you are and where you’d like to go, then brainstorm. Do you want to save a certain amount of money this year? Put away some cash for a dream trip? Learn a language? When you think you’ve finished, then organize your goals into three categories: personal, work/career and money. After that, further divide them short-term and long-term goals. Take a photo of your notes and keep it near to remind yourself of what you’re trying to accomplish. More often than not, your dreams involve money, which is directly related to your priorities and how you budget.

Budget for 2022

Now that 2021 is in your rearview mirror (and perhaps you’ve even done a life audit), take what you’ve decided upon and create a budget you can live with. Then, download a budget app to keep you on track. If last year’s budget worked well and you’re already on your way to living your dreams, just hit “repeat.” If not, make necessary changes. That said, no matter the status of your finances, it might be a good idea to increase your emergency fund, given all the uncertainty we’re facing in our world.

If you think about it, taking time in January to look closely at your finances is kind of like going to the doctor for your yearly checkup: You want to make sure there are no red flags you need to address. After all, your fiscal health might be as important as your physical health.

Sources

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/17/use-this-checklist-to-get-your-finances-in-order-before-2022.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/23/why-you-should-increase-your-401k-or-ira-contributions-by-1percent.html

https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/retirement/save-more

8 New Year’s Resolutions for Dealing with Debt in 2022

5 Affordable Ways to Share the Holiday Spirit

Holiday SpiritThe holidays are a season of giving. While much of this involves financial expenditures, you can also give in ways that are more affordable and may hold more meaning. Here are some suggestions about how you can engage in acts of generosity and return to what the season is all about.

Cook Food

Nothing nourishes the heart and soul, not to mention your stomach, like food made with love from your own kitchen. Baking cookies is always an easy and fun thing to do, but a main dish (with protein) or hearty casseroles are also good options. People who are homebound due to an illness, those going through financial difficulties or even new moms will appreciate the gift of a warm meal. You might also ask co-workers, local churches or homeless shelters if they’re looking for some extra sustenance during this time of year.

Create Necessity Bags

Giving to those on the streets during the holidays is an easy, inexpensive way to make a difference. Fill a gallon-sized food storage bag with things like gloves, toothpaste and toothbrush, hand sanitizer, sanitary wipes, bottled water, snacks and a gift card to a grocery store. Then contact your local organizations and charities to see where the needs lie. You might also carry these bags in your car and when you see someone, give it to them. Moments like these are invaluable to those in need and for you, too.

Volunteer Time

Showing up with an extra pair of hands is often what someone needs. A great place to check out is VolunteerMatch. Just type in your ZIP code and you’ll find all kinds of opportunities to help everyone from seniors to children in many sectors, including education, arts and health. You might also find ways to help animals or read to the blind. These are feel-good, money-free ways to experience the joy of giving.

Donate Craft Items

How many times have you thrown away your toilet paper rolls or egg cartons? This year, save and donate them to nearby schools or community centers. All it takes is a few phone calls to find out what their craft needs are. You’ll also be helping the environment – sharing some love for Mother Nature. How simple is that?

Declutter Your Dwelling

This one has so many terrific benefits. You can get rid of clothes and belongings that crowd your closets, which is a wonderful feeling. One option is to sell them on eBay Charity and donate to a nonprofit of your choice. You choose what percentage of the sale goes to the organization (from 10 to 100 percent). eBay will even give you a credit on your selling fees based on the percentage you choose. If you want to give away gently used professional clothes, Dress for Success and Jails to Jobs, are groups that empower people to look their best when making a fresh start. If you’d like to rid yourself of shoes you’ll never wear again, Soles4Souls is a great resource and you can ship up to 15 pairs of shoes without paying a fee through the Zappos for Good program. Talk about good for the sole, er, soul!

For the most part, should you choose to get into the holiday spirit with these activities (aside from a few costs here and there), the main thing you’ll be spending is time. However, experiencing the joy of the giving is priceless.

Sources

https://www.discover.com/online-banking/banking-topics/affordable-ways-to-spread-generosity-holiday-season/

10 Ways to Pay Off Student Debt Faster

Pay Off Student DebtIf the thought of paying off your student loan causes a bit of anxiety, worry no more. Here are some ways to pay it off faster. Check them out.

Sign Up for Auto-Pay

This might seem like the most obvious thing to do, and yet, some alums don’t take full advantage of it. The psychology of this works well. When you decide to put your payment on auto-draft, you never miss it. You get used to living on a certain amount of money. Better still, there are lenders who offer refinancing at lower rates, ranging from 1.8 percent to 7.84 percent. But there’s more: Some lenders offer cash-back bonuses. With that said, the catch is you give up important benefits like income-driven repayment and student loan forgiveness. However, refinancing can help you save a bunch – like thousands of dollars.

Pay Bi-Weekly

If you can swing this, it makes good sense. Why? Interest on your student loan accrues daily. Just cut your monthly payment in half and make two payments per month. This way, it might be easier to juggle your finances, as opposed to doling out one big chunk every month. Also, paying more often gives you the feeling that you’re making progress – and you are because of the daily accrual. #WinWin

Use the Debt Avalanche Method

With this approach, you’re paying off your highest interest debt first. Makes sense, right? After you do this, make minimum payments on all of your other loans. If you have any extra cash left over, pay your highest interest loan. Keep at this until you’re paid in full.

Claim the Student Loan Tax Deduction

This is cool. You can write off up to $2,500 of your student loan interest. Now, the amount you can write off depends on your income because there are phaseouts and gradual reductions in place. Just use the 1098-E form (you can get this from your loan servicer) to figure out how much interest you’ve paid. Then get going.

Pay While Still in School

Talk about getting a head start.You’ll cut down on interest (a good thing) while forgoing in-school deferment, and start paying down your debt pronto.

Pay Off Private Student Loans First

Should you have public and private student loans, this is the best strategy. Here’s why: private loans don’t offer student loan forgiveness or income-driven repayment. And they have limited deferment options. You’ll be better off doing this, given all the stipulations that exist for these kinds of loans.

Use Employer Repayment Assistance Programs

This is a sweet deal. Check with your employer to see if they offer such a program. Generally, they offer reimbursement or allocate funds to help you. Don’t forget to ask!

Pay During the Grace Period

This is the six-month period after graduation. While this might not be something that’s initially appealing, think it through. It helps keep interest in check and prevents your balance from growing during your grace period. Also, starting earlier means you’ll finish earlier. Gotta love that.

Consolidate Federal Student Loans

This is a great idea for those with limited resources. You can lower your payment and extend the repayment terms. You’ll most likely pay more interest, but for a short-time solution it’s a good one.

Exceed the Minimum Payment

If you have the means to make this happen, by all means, do it. Another great way to make incredible progress is to make double payments. If you can’t pay double, at least try to pay over the required amount. It’ll help eat away at the interest and eventually, the principal.

Student loans are great while you’re in school, right? They enable you to get the education you want. And while paying them off might be overwhelming, if you use these methods, you’ll be ahead of the game and pay them off sooner than you think.

Sources

107 Ways to Pay Off Student Loans Faster (That You Can Start Right Now)

7 Ways to Save for a Home Down Payment

Save Home Down PaymentSo you want to save for a down payment for your dream house, but you aren’t sure how to get there. It might even feel overwhelming. But take heart, here are some tried and true methods that you can start today that will help you save sooner than you think.

Save a Fixed Amount Monthly

This is super easy, but first you need to figure out how much of a down payment you want to make. Remember, the higher your down payment, the lower your loan and monthly mortgage payment will be. With that said, put this amount on auto draft and deposit it into your savings account. Once you get used to this, you won’t miss it. Never use this savings for any other purpose except your down payment. Keep your eyes on the prize and stay the course.

Lower Your Expenses

If you don’t have a budget, make one. Review how much you’re spending on necessary items like rent, utilities and food. Also look at how much you’re spending on discretionary things, like going out to eat, subscriptions to magazines, driving instead of walking, etc. You might also evaluate how much those short-term indulgences mean to you. Only you can decide, but if you stick to a budget and start saving, the dream of a down payment can become a reality.

Skip Vacations For a Year

This one might be hard to swallow. However, if you save the money you’d otherwise spend on your vacation, you can make a significant contribution toward your down payment. If skipping a vacation is out of the question, try a staycation; or at least drive or take a bus or train to someplace near you that won’t cost an arm and a leg, like a natural park, an area lake or even, if you’re lucky enough to live near one, a beach. With every decision you make to delay gratification and focus on your long-term goal of home ownership, you’ll be more likely to stay on track.

Reduce Your High Interest Rate Debt

Credit card interest rates can really eat into the amount of money you are trying to save. If you can pay them off, do so – and start with the one that’s the highest. When you’ve paid it off, close the account and move on to the next one. You can also apply for a card with a temporary 0% interest rate (for maybe 15 months) and transfer your other balances to this one card. Good options include Bank of America’s Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card, Discover it Balance Transfer and Citi Double Cash Card.

Borrow From Your Retirement Plan

If you want to expedite getting into a house and are comfortable doing this, the look for penalty-free withdrawals from your retirement plan. Many company-sponsored 401(k) or profit-sharing plans allow you to borrow against your nest egg to purchase a home. Just ask your HR or payroll department.

Sell Some of Your Investments

While this option might not be instantly appealing, think of this as a way to move some of your current investments into another – your house. Once you’ve moved in and are paying your mortgage, you’ll be building equity. As your house increases in value, so does your investment.

Look Into Down Payment Assistance

Yes, this is a thing! There are organizations that might be able to help you, like the Federal Housing Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service and the Veterans Administration. Another source is your local housing authority.

These are a few options to help you move toward a down payment. But no matter what you choose, don’t wait. Get started today. This way, you’ll be packing up and moving in no time.

Sources

https://www.bbt.com/education-center/articles/top-10-ways-to-save-down-payment.html

https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/balance-transfer?gclid=Cj0KCQjwtMCKBhDAARIsAG-2Eu8NmKerM3dO4cPjC0KvMCj_S3HPjJ_r4ge6MV50wWiQf51VLK4HOwUaAncZEALw_wcB