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Don’t Settle With Staying in Debt

don't settle with staying in debt

Long time, no see! Whew, as explained in a previous post, these past few weeks have brought a whirlwind of changes. I attended South by Southwest 2016 festival in mid-March, went to Oregon for a week, then two days later hopped on a plane and left the country and will be where I’m at for the next five months. I’m living in Bangkok, Thailand at the moment and loving it.

Now I’m back and ready to talk about something weird I’ve been noticing happening lately: settling with staying in debt.

Ah, when something gains in popularity, there eventually starts to be more opposition to it. Right? The main debt topic is student loan debt, but I will touch on others as well. Many people have student loans and as they’ve been talked about more, articles have been popping up discussing ways to pay down student loans faster and getting out of debt.

What I did to pay off $28,000 of student loans in three years.

How I paid off $40,000 in student loans in 1.5 years

What I did to pay off my $50,000 in student loans in five years while on a small salary. 

Most everyone has read at least a few of these articles They’re really freaking inspiring. The people featured in these articles and the ones reading them are looking for ways to pay off their debt and move on with their lives. Personally, the idea of being debt-free seems like one of the best things to experience (I still got them student loans, paying them off as quick as I can!).

Well, eventually articles taking the opposite stance started to gain more popularity.

How to consolidate your student loan debt!

Loan forgiveness programs and jobs to get your student loans wiped away

I have 90K in student loans and in no rush to pay it off fast

The articles detailing how to consolidate or get loans forgiven rubbed me the wrong way. Then essays started popping up of people saying they were in no rush to pay off their student loan debt.

In a way, I could see where the articles were coming from. Seeing countless pieces on paying down debt super fast can get discouraging. You see the big numbers people paid off every month and feel like you could never reach that level.

While at work a few months back, me and some of my co-workers talked about the high price of college nowadays. To my dismay, some of my co-workers talked about how they were in student loan debt but in no hurry to pay it off.

Paying debt off early is good, but I want to live my life you know? 

I don’t want to cut back on things in my life in order to pay off my debt faster. I wanna live life to the fullest. 

Hearing these reasonings led me to think about all the ways people settle with staying in debt (student loan debt, auto debt, and credit card debt).

1. People view frugality and/or cutting back as limiting rather than empowering. 

It sucked to hear my co-workers say these things about their debt because it showed how people still view cutting back as something limiting rather than empowering. Cutting back on things in your expenses, in order to put more toward debt payoff, is  does not have to be limiting. It’s all about assessing one’s priorities and goals.

Do you really need to have a top of the line apartment without roommates? Do you really need that fancy gym membership or deluxe cable package? Are you sure there isn’t any way you can drive your vehicle less so you can save on fuel and auto insurance expenses? The list goes on.

2. Failing to see long term 

We can all agree that life can be expensive. Yeah you can cut back and do without this but there are always unexpected costs and things you can’t avoid. You know what makes handling these occurrences easier? Being debt-free.

Being debt-free opens up more opportunities for you and gives you more flexibility. Ask yourself, what could you do with the extra money you save on interest from paying off debt early?

Being debt-free allows you to embrace your future without being held back by your past.

3. Seeing debt as something inevitable

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think having debt is some horrid thing that should be avoided at all costs. Although it should be minimized. Debt taken on should be thought through and something you know you can manage and have a plan of action to get rid of.

Ask yourself how the debt will affect your life. Be intentional and really know why you are taking on debt.

4. Paying off debt early makes you more awesome

I super duper like people who make it a goal of theirs to aggressively pay off their debt early…and then actually do it. Many of these people understand their priorities and assess their situations. They understand doing some thing for the short term to pay off in the long term.

The take on second jobs, look for additional sources of income, reduce their spending, hustle, and increase their overall grit and work ethic.

People who willingly just pay the minimum amount and move on? They’re too passive.


Debt shouldn’t be something that’s seen as commonplace. It’s limiting and something to be avoided. After all, not too long ago in America, having debt put people in a bad place.

How do you view your debt? Do you consider it a fact of life or something to be rid of as soon as necessary? 

When In Bangkok…

ridesurf_LA

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand.

Wow, these past few weeks have been a whirlwind. I didn’t think I would take three weeks off from this site but things got busy! Ha ha. The last time I published a post, I was in the midst of attending the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, TX. All day was filled with attending panels and doing activities. There is so much great stuff to do while going to SXSW.

Just a few days after SXSW was over, I went to Portland, Oregon. The state is so freaking beautiful. Oh my gosh. There’s so many breathtaking hikes and views to see. Definitely put Oregon on your list of places to visit for your next getaway.

I was supposed to meet up with another personal finance blogger, Melanie from Dear Debt, while up there, but unfortunately schedules conflicted. Next time!

Just two days after getting back from Oregon, I hopped on a 14+4 hour flights and headed to Bangkok. I’m going to be in Bangkok for the next six months, teaching English. Woo!

Yeah it’s weird and something slightly unexpected. I decided on it back in January of this year. I was driving to work, to a job I was less than happy about, and wondering how to get out. I job searched for a bit but came up frustrated. (finding a decent paying job, that has benefits and is satisfying is like hitting the jackpot).

While job searching, my mind kept trailing back to a TESOL program I had heard about from a travel blogger a while back. I kept thinking about it and eventually applied, thinking “What the heck, it’s not like I’m actually going to do it.”

I had a conversation with one of the coordinators and then put it to the back of my mind. A week later, after another morning of waking up and wondering what was next, it hit me: this is it. Do it. 

And I did.

I applied and got my passport, got a visa to enter Thailand, gathered my documents, bought a one-way ticket, and set off.

Being here now feels weird (in a good way). You see, I was never one of those people who studied abroad or got to spout off all the places they’ve been. Studying abroad was never an option for me. I was always focused on working to pay my bills and get through school.

I would always roll my eyes whenever I would hear other people talking about how studying abroad was a “must” and to “just do it and not worry about the money”. Yeah, right. The study abroad programs were always out of reach for me financially.

When I graduated college and started a full-time job, I thought my time for extended travel was over. I was okay with that. Taking one week trips to places isn’t so bad.

Now, I’m getting to be in a new, unfamiliar, exciting place for six months. Something I never thought was possible. It’s crazy to me that I’m still even able to be here. Yesterday I was looking at inexpensive flights to India, Hong Kong, and other places…and it’s actually a possibility for me to take them!

I’m not some world traveler now. I do have a job teaching English, making a micro-salary (that I’m actually able to somewhat live on). Although, I will have breaks from school and do plan to take as many trips as I can.

In comes this site. I’m going to back at posting financial stuff next week. (back to the routine, yo!). I’m still pondering how I’m going to incorporate my life abroad into the mix. I really want to address some of the financial stuff of traveling and already have some ideas.

Now I just gotta get started!

This post is kinda choppy since I’m writing it at 8am in the morning before I got to training. Starting to carve out a time for writing, though! I look forward to getting back to the routine! 

SXSW 2016: Day 1

everybody wants some

South by Southwest Festival 2016: Friday, March 11.

President Obama Keynote

The lines for Obama were out the door, down the streets, and going on and on. A SXSW lottery was held so regular badge holders could win tickets to the speaking event. Sadly I didn’t win 🙁 I got to watch the live stream though 🙂

It was big news. President Obama was the first sitting president to visit SXSW. Considering the event was held during the Interactive (Technology, Data, Innovation) portion of the festival, a big focus of what Obama talked about was on the way technology is shaping our world.

Obama recognized the importance of embracing new talent and tech developments and how the government should get more involved in adapting tech advancements to better help citizens.

He cited examples including how more simpler and faster process of applying for college financial aid on the FAFSA website and the social security application being made more accessible.

Some depressing figures cited included how the U.S. ranks 31st out of 34 in voter turnout for developed nations.

“It’s easier to order pizza than it is to vote in this country”- President Obama

Obama’s closing remarks were how this country needs it’s citizens to step up, get involved, and look for ways to improve. It was reminiscent of former president JFK’s quote. 

No Tipping. Hospitality Included. 

I was interested a lot in this panel, wondering how a restaurant went about paying their servers more and abolishing tipping. The no-tipping debate has grown in the past year and questions about it have risen. Can restaurants implement no tipping without raising their menu prices surging? Is tipping even constitutional?

Dan Meyer, one of the panelists, owns The Modern in NYC. Since raising server and cook pay and eliminating tipping, the restaurant’s business has surged and become more profitable.

I talked about this with another festival attendee. He informed me of a case on the other end of the spectrum. A restaurant in LA had decided to implement no-tipping back in 2015 and it failed for them.

Joe’s Crab Shack has been experimenting with this. Their servers will start to be paid $12-14 an hour in some of the locations.

Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some

The film called a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused premiered premiered on Friday, March 11th at SXSW. The movie follows a group of college baseball guys in the days leading up to starting the college semester. It made me remember when it was a simpler time 🙂 (the movie takes place in the 80’s).

The line started 3 HOURS before the premiere time. I waited in line for 2.5 hours. It was worth it. First time seeing a film at SXSW!


This first day of SXSW  2016 was awesome! Definite improvement over the last time I came in 2014. Stay tuned for the next few days!

Photo credit

The New American Dream

the new american dream

What’s this “American Dream” all about? Judging from movies and the ever constant article about its relation to millennials, I think it went like this: work hard in high school and get good grades, go to *the best* college, again…get good grades, graduate, find a good-paying job, get married, buy a house in a suburb with a white picket fence, have 2-3 munchkins, continue working at your job for years to collect a pension+also count on social security to support you, and live happily ever after.

Hahahaha. Sorry,just writing it is funny. It’s interesting to see the shifts in perception millennials (and even younger Gen X-ers) have when it comes to the ever elusive “American Dream”.

Buying a house or…?

When I graduated college, I kept being told by my parents friends and other older adults that I needed to buy a house because “renting is throwing money away”. The statement isn’t quite true. People are doing several things rather than buying a house young.

The first of two big things going on is a lot more people nowadays are moving back home after graduating from college. It’s a buzzkill to relive in a childhood bedroom again but hey, the rent is too damn high and Sallie Mae wants her money.

The second big thing is the tiny house movement. It’s grown a lot in popularity with many articles and shows like Tiny House Hunters and Tiny House Nation covering it. I LOVE the tiny house movement. It’s one of my near goals to be able to build one of my own. 😉

SO MANY people buy houses before they’re ready. The concept of home is changing. One of the things that boggles my mind is the lack of affordable housing. It’s a strong reason why so many are still living with their parents, renting, or living in a tiny house/RV. Why are houses so massive nowadays?!?

Jobs & Stability

What do you define as a “stable job”?

My first thought is the tech industry, many think it’s this lucrative and stable career path yet companies all around are doing mass layoffs. I’ve started to see more and more articles about having an emergency fund with 3-6 months of expenses saved up. Layoffs seem to be happening more frequently than in years past.

With stagnant wages, job security woes, and mountains of debt, side hustles seem like an essential thing.

Retirement

Many people still appear to want to retire at the traditional age of 65. Pensions are for the most part a thing of the past. Every now and then, my mom and uncle (both in their sixties and retired) nag me about how I need to get a job with a pension because “these 401k’s aren’t working for people”.

It made me think about how my generation has to reallllyyy plan for retirement, something previous generations didn’t have to focus on as much. Despite the retirement crisis and social security woes, people still aren’t actively taking charge of retirement planning (<—-amusing article, go read it, I’ll wait).

People appear to be more focused on keeping up with the norm: buying a large house, new cars (with *all* the extras), and $10-15 drinks at the bar.

Kids

So many people ask me when I am planning on having kids, how many I want and so forth. It’s strikes me as a little odd since I’m a 21 years old and single. Nonetheless, it’s worth pointing out kids are super expensive. Really, really, expensive. (#RIPwallet).

The amount of kids people are having is decreasing and some are opting to not have any at all. Whether or not a CNN Money estimate is accurate is beside the point. Raising a kid is expensive. People are becoming more aware of this nowadays.


What’s your american dream? Not sure? I’ll tell you mine…

My personal american dream:

  • Be as financially literate as possible and aware of where my money is going
  • Have a healthy emergency fund at all times (3-9 months expenses depending on where I am in life)
  • Work a job in a career I enjoy, that propels me forward
  • Not have a mortgage control me (Not opposed to buying a house, but when I do it will be something I know I can afford and manage)
  • Be conscious and weighing the options when taking on debt
  • Max out my Roth IRA ever year (not going to happen this year because of debt payoff but within 2-3 years I want to start maxing it out every year)
  • Never let a flashy ad or society encourage me to take on debt I don’t need

There are more, but those are the ones I could think of off the top of my head. Plus I didn’t want the list getting too long, haha.

What do you think about previous depictions of the “american dream” vs. today’s definition? What’s your idea of “the american dream? 

Photo credit

Small Ways to Save without Cutting Lattes

smallwaystosave

Is there anything better than sipping on a morning cup of coffee after a groggy wake up? Rolling out of bed after hitting the snooze button three times. It’s one of those days where things just aren’t working. Mornings are crunch time and you have to get out the door before traffic gets bad. The only redeeming quality for this time is stopping by your nearest Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts to pick up that sweeeet and joyful latte.

It’s the the little things, right? Right.

Despite your addicting latte habit, you’re trying to save some money. There are the big ticket items to go through (cutting cable, eating out, looking for ways to save on car insurance) but what about the small stuff? I like to call them money leaks.

Money leaks are areas where you don’t really notice your money slipping away. If you’re a person without a budget (which let’s be honest, most don’t have one), then the money is gone before you fully realize it.

*cue the horror showdown that happens when you look at your bank account*

I wonder what amounts like an extra $30 or $50 or even $100 per month could bring me. Right now it’s all about paying off student loans. Maybe it’s different for you.

Subscriptions 

I love Spotify, I mean I really love it. It’s playlists make it so much better than Pandora. It just gets me, ya know? Haha. Anyways, despite the love, I recently cut it. I mainly used it for ambient music while working and dealing with ads wasn’t as bad as I thought. $10.81 per month saved.

Photoshop was the next thing I cut. I did graphic design stuff in college and used it a lot. As time went on, I realized using things like PicMonkey or Affinity Photo are cheaper alternatives. $10.81 per month saved.

I’m willing to bet, subscription expenses have risen for many people. There are clothing and jeweler services like Bombfell and Roxbox and magazine, music, cloud storage, and other subscriptions that can drain away money.

I saved $21.62 per month eliminating some of my subscriptions, how much can you save?

Drinks

I’m not just talking about alcoholic beverages here. I used to go to the grocery store and get those individual packs of beverages to drink.Snapple’s only cost one dollar, so I would load up on them.

Have people forgotten about drink mixes? Koolaid! That Country Hill lemonade stuff I always see. With these you can make quarts and have beverages for only a handful of change each.

Also, next time you go to the bar for happy hour with friends, just get a water or cranberry juice, it’s cheaper and you’re morning self will thank you. 🙂

Memberships

Be honest with yourself, do you ever actually use your gym membership? You saw that New Years crossfit commercial, dropped the candy and ran to the nearest gym to sign up. Now it’s March and you’ve only been once.

Personally I still have a gym membership since I regularly attend it. My membership is to Planet Fitness and it only costs $21.70 per month. Super affordable compared to most others.

Evaluate whether you use your gym membership or not. There are lots of free workout/yoga/zumba workouts online. Consider looking into lower cost gyms as well.

Expensive Cell Phone Plans

Why. Do. People. Pay. So.Much. For. Their. Cell.Phones???

Seriously though, people spend a ridiculous amount on their cell phone plans every month. Did you know the average American now spends around $110 per month on their cell phones.

I’m with Cricket and I spend $35 a month (taxes and fees included). I get unlimited talk/text and 2.5gb high speed data. Check out Cricket, Republic Wireless, or Ting if you want to lower your cell phone bill.

Credit Card Interest

I don’t have much experience with this considering how I just got my first credit card back in October and it has 0% APR for the first year. But my personal banker did tell me people throw away money on credit card interest a lot. The best way to combat this is to call the company and see if there are any promotional offers or other ways to lower your interest rate.


I’m still looking into different ways money “leaks” from my bank account. I’m stopped renting Redbox movies, don’t get “convenience foods” at the grocery store or gas station as much and cut down on my subscriptions.

I still get to get my morning coffee! Granted I don’t go to Starbucks every weekday (more like 1-2 times a week), it’s still nice to find ways to cut expenses without sacrificing coffee runs.

What are ways you’ve cut expenses? Do you still drink+enjoy a morning latte? 

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