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But How Does It Make You Feel?

saving money doesn't have to feel like a sacrifice

Saving money is important. Duh! Right? Everyone likes to save money. Unless you’re one of those lucky souls who won the lottery and ride your Ferrari off into the sunset. For the rest of us, we like saving money.

At least I think people do. Most people would give a quick yes when asked if they wanted to save more money. If you read any of those “x tips to save more” articles on the interwebs, then you know the routine.

Cut your cable subscription, brown bag your lunch, and make water your friend rather than your carbonated pal, Coca Cola.

These are all often repeated tips. Why? Well, because they work. Lots of people do or have them and they can gain from cutting them out. The obvious gain being the saving money part. I mean, do you really need to buy a $10-15 takeout lunch every day of work? I don’t think so.

After doing the cutting back, you’re left with a nice little pile of newly available funds. You usually have a few options: put the money in your emergency fund, invest it, or use it to pay down debt. All solid options.

Making yourself be good with money usually starts with cutting back. The art of really understanding your wants vs. needs. The benefit is clear: you save more money! *fist pump*

Are there any other benefits? This is where people usually draw a blank. They’ve saved their money. There doesn’t appear to be any other advantages.

Well, pull up a chair because your impromptu saving money therapy session is about to start. Put your phone away, don’t check social media, and grab a piece of paper for notes. Let’s begin with a story.

For a long time, I struggled to give up my excessive TV viewing habit. There are just so many good shows! I used to be super into TV. I watched it, rewatched it and loved going over the different plotlines and stories. I even had an old blog where I used to write reviews of movies and television.

I was hooked.

While I’ve never had a cable subscription (#millennialstatus) I did use my parents and friends subscriptions to keep up with shows. When I finally decided to cut down on my TV viewing habits, it was difficult.

It was difficult because there was nothing tangible for me to see from cutting down on my TV viewing. I didn’t have a cable subscription, so it’s not like I was saving money by cutting a bill. Sure, I did have more time in my day, but the added time hit me like it hits most people: I didn’t know what to do with the time.

I sat around, did some extra writing, read some websites. Nothing substantial. However, through a slow progression, I started to see positive results. Without spending so much of my time watching TV, I was able to start studying Spanish again, I picked up a hobby in photography, and I started freelancing again.

Check out some of the photos below that I’ve gotten of Australia so far!

Australia work holiday visa
The South Australian Dingo Fence. Longest fence in the world!
Australia working holiday visa
Squinting while at The Breakaways in Coober Pedy, South Australia

 

Cutting down my TV viewing helped me feel better.

Every day I had something to look forward to. Instead of being huddled by my laptop watching the latest episode of Casual, I spent my time on Duolingo doing Spanish lessons. I watched YouTube tutorials to improve my photos. I sent out more pitches for freelance gigs.

To be honest, all of those new activities still involved me sitting in front of my computer, haha. However, I’m building my identity capital. Doing stuff that fuels me and really makes me feel good (rather than just that ~shook~ feeling I got after binging the latest season of Orange Is The New Black).

The same feeling came over me when I started cooking more rather than eating out all the time. Back when I was living in Thailand, it was easy for me to eat out. I didn’t have a kitchen (yes, really 🙁 ) and eating out in Thailand was inexpensive. I could usually get a meal for 50 or 100 baht ($1.50-3.00 USD). Imagine my shock when I got to Sydney, Australia (a.k.a one hella expensive place) and I realized eating out would break my budget…a lot.

Side note: visit Thailand rather than Australia if you wanna stretch your dollar further!

Once I started actually learning how to cook, my food expenses went down. It would have been easy for me to look at the savings at the ultimate be-all benefit, but it wasn’t. The biggest benefit was I started to feel better. Turns out, processed snacks and soda all the time really isn’t good for you :).

Ask yourself how your expenses and cutting back on some of them will make you feel. Sometimes you may have to cut back in order to gain more (ex. Cutting back on TV to make more time for freelancing). Maybe it will prompt you to pick up something else like a new hobby or activity. Whatever it is, don’t just see the cutting back as a way to save money. It’s always more than that.


Saving money is about more than just saving money. How does it make you feel? Click though to read about how to approach cutting back in a positive way.

How To Pay Off Student Loans While Traveling

A lot of people wonder how to pay off student loans while traveling. They usually think it’s something that can’t be done without an inheritance or deferring on your loans. Not so! You can travel while paying off your student loans. Read on to learn how.

A lot of people wonder how to pay off student loans while traveling. They usually think it’s something that can’t be done without an inheritance or deferring on your loans. Not so! You can travel while paying off your student loans.

The way you can do it? Working abroad.

This isn’t the first thought that pops into most people’s heads. Whenever people think about travel, they usually picture sitting on a beach, drinking a cold one, and basking in the rays of the sun. In the distance sits a 4-star swanky hotel where there are a hundred different settings for the bath tub.

That’s more of a relaxed vacation. Travel can mean lots of things. Many people would describe it as being an experience of seeing new places and being immersed in new cultures. It’s not all about sitting on a beach all day long sipping a margarita.

A lot of twenty-somethings with student loans dream of being able to travel and see new places. But they think their student loans prevent them from doing so. They look at travel as something expensive and not possible while paying off student loans.

That’s what I used to think. Before I moved abroad, the idea of traveling and visiting several places never crossed my mind. I had graduated university with $21,000 in student loans and was intent on paying them off as fast as possible. Travel was something that would happen years down the line.

A swift leap of faith involved me moving abroad to Thailand to teach English. In the past year of being here, I’ve gotten to explore lots of Thailand and visit places like Myanmar and China. During this time, progress on my knocking student loans never even had to slow down. I’ve worked like mad for the past several months to make more money but I’ve also gotten to travel quite a bit.

It does take some patience and persistence to stay focused on paying them off your loans while traveling. When I was paying off my student loans, there were times when I wanted to use the extra money I had for a weekend getaway or to go off to another country like Vietnam or Cambodia, but through commitment and utilizing and allocating for fun money, everything worked out.

Here’s how to pay off student loans while traveling

Find a job teaching English abroad

Teaching English is one of the top ways people fund their travels and work abroad. It’s for good reason. Teaching English abroad allows you to really immerse yourself in another culture and see how day to day life is.

Teaching positions are typical 40-hour per week jobs where you spend 20-25 hours each week teaching. The rest of the time outside of teaching is either for lesson planning, making materials, or free time!

Googling “teaching English abroad” will yield thousands of results. The top places to teach English are China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Asia is the most common place people go to teach English. There are English-teaching jobs all over the world but Asia is where the best-paying jobs are. When you’re focused on balancing student loan payments and traveling, having a good salary makes all the difference. The two best countries pay wise are China and South Korea.

South Korea is very popular because it’s a relatively easy place to transition into. Starting salaries for foreign English teachers range from 1.9-2.3 million won. Many jobs provide free housing, free school lunches, and reimbursed airfare cost for your travel to the country. South Korea positions have a lot of benefits!

A salary of 2.1 million won is around $1,850 USD. Many teachers are able to save around $700-1,000 per month. This can put toward extra student loan payments if you desire.

According to Forbes, the average class of 2016 student graduated with $37,172 in student loan debt. If you’re on the standard 10-year repayment plan, paying back loans with a 5.7% interest rate, your monthly payment would come out to $407. Saving $700-1,000 would allow you to pay extra towards your student loans every month.

The blog Great Big Scary World has tips and resources on teaching English in South Korea.

Private tutoring

In an effort to make more money for travel, many English teachers do private tutoring on the side of their full-time teaching job. They usually get private tutoring sessions through inquiries with parents or putting up fliers.

I taught several tutoring classes at a Thailand language center. It was fun and good way to make extra money.

Working Holiday Visa

Australia and New Zealand are two countries that offer one-year working holiday visas to people from several different countries. The visas allow you to work in the country for up to six months with one employer. 12 months in total.

From the countless articles I’ve read, the general gist is that Australia is the best for doing a working holiday. Australia and New Zealand have the same high cost of living, but backpacker/working holiday jobs are more plentiful and higher-paying in Australia.

Kate From The States saved 10,000 AUD in six months from her working holiday.


Now, when you’re wondering how to pay off student loans while traveling, the above options are good ways since they make you money. However saving money when you do travel is also important.

Below are some tips on cutting costs.



WWOOFing & Workaway

WWOOF stands for world wide opportunities on organic farms. Through the website, you can find volunteer positions where you get free room and board in exchange for work. Many long-term travelers do this. It’s a great way to reduce expenses while still being able to experience new things and places. You don’t even have to know anything about farming. Usually the jobs involve fruit picking, cleaning, and general landscape work.

Workaway is also another great option.

Couchsurfing

I used to think of couchsurfing as this weird thing to avoid…until I actually tried it. It’s great. I used it for the first time when I made a trip to San Diego for a conference. My host was fun to talk to and gave me great information on things to do in the city.

A few tips would be to make sure to go with someone who has lots of positive reviews and has a verified badge. Trust your gut. Always make sure you have the funds to book accommodation in case your host cancels or it doesn’t work out.


Basically, when you’re wanting to know how to pay off student loans while traveling, it comes down to working abroad and choosing budget-friendly options when you travel. Teaching English in good-earning places like China and South Korea where you are able to save up to $1,000 every month really helps.

Thailand (the place I’ve taught in) isn’t as great when it comes to making a good salary. However, I’ve made it work through getting a job at a school that offered higher pay and also doing tutoring sessions during the nights and weekends.

I paid off $21,000 in student loans in 18 months. 11 months of that was spent while abroad teaching English.

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How did you go about paying off your student loan debt? Do you like the idea of long term travel and working abroad? 

Not Another Emergency Fund

how to build an emergency fund

Can you ever have too many blog posts talking about emergency funds? Personally, I think so but others might disagree. The “blog post talking about an emergency fund” has been done over and over again in the personal finance world. And this post is about to be another one 🙂

When I first started reading personal finance blogs, I was a soon to be university grad who didn’t have a lot of money in savings. I read countless times about the importance of an emergency fund and why everyone needs one. It helps in case of unexpected expenses! Job loss! Your car breaking down! You need it!

I liken the experience of it to that of being told to eat my vegetables growing up. It should be something that happens but I still don’t listen to it all that often. I mean, you have to actually set aside money for some hypothetical event. When you have things constantly eyeing for your attention at the current moment, saving money for future emergencies can fall through the cracks.

However, I’ve always known of emergency funds. Even as a money newb who first started reading personal finance blogs, the concept of money set aside for emergencies was never foreign to me. I don’t think it’s foreign for most other people either.  

Even as a money newb who first started reading personal finance blogs, the concept of an emergency fund was never foreign to me. I don’t think it’s foreign for most other people either. 

People know unexpected expenses pop up. They know they should have money set aside for an emergency. The problem lies in people’s perception of an emergency fund. Many people don’t fully know how an emergency fund works (problem one) and they usually underestimate the amount they need in one (problem two). 

For the longest time, I thought an “emergency fund” was the small amount I had in my savings account. I also thought it was the leftover “buffer” amount I had in my checking account after I paid all of my bills. Most people think of emergency funds along this same line.

Having this way of thinking led me to dip into my savings account for not so critical reasons. I would take money out when I really wanted to buy some nice, but unnecessary, thing or when I would go on a vacation and need money for it.

Constantly seeing the money sitting in my bank account made me feel okay to spend it. Everything about my way of thinking of emergency funds was misguided.

An emergency fund is a dedicated account used only for real emergencies, like a job loss, medical bills, car repairs, and so forth. It’s not for when you really want to buy new clothes. It’s not the money that’s left over in your bank account after you pay your bills. That’s a buffer, not an emergency fund.

For the best chance of growing and keeping an emergency fund intact, people would be better off putting the money in a savings account at a bank different from where they do their day-to-day banking. Doing this helps when you’re someone who isn’t a natural saver.

Online banks come to the rescue with this. They’re best when it comes to holding an emergency fund. Ally Bank’s 1.00% APY for accounts blows past the traditional average 0.06% APY.

How much to keep in an emergency fund? There’s two common rule of thumbs: $1,000 in a starter emergency fund, then leveling up to 3-6 months of expenses stashed away.

Do what makes you feel most comfortable. From my senior year of high school all the way to after graduating university, I had the same old Ford Focus that I had bought on my own. Fully paying for my car at age 17 felt awesome but having to go through car repairs every year because the car was old was not so awesome.

My car situation and job situation were the two biggest things that influenced my emergency fund. It’s why I kept way more than $1,000 in an emergency fund while I was paying off my student loans.

Two big reasons I want to keep a good sized emergency fund now is because, one, I will be moving back to the states in the next year. That’s gonna entail moving around and getting a new job, a.k.a major money vacuums.

The second reason is because of an experience I’ve long fantasized about since I was a kid: buying a car with cash. I got a taste of this when I bought my first car at 17 and paid for it in full on my own. The current car I use, a Smart Fortwo, is completely off.

So, for the next few years, I won’t be buying a car with cash, but it’s still on my list. Walking into the dealership, they ask me how I’m going to finance the vehicle, I put on sunglasses and gaze into the distance and say “I’ll pay with cash.” Then they’ll look in shock as I put down the cash or write a check (<–do people still use those?).

I’ve been watching too many movies, but yeah, that’s kinda how I see it playing out.

Overall, I keep a good sized amount in my emergency fund because I’m aware of my own situation, spending habits, and priorities.

How much do you keep in an emergency fund?

Investing 101 For Millennials

When I first started learning about investing for millennials, it was overwhelming. All these different terms were thrown around like risk tolerance, bull market, mutual fund, and it was a lot to take in.

After reading through several blog posts, I headed to the nearest bookstore to learn more. There are a lot of beginner-friendly books on getting started with money management, investing for millennials, and getting yourself in good financial shape. The ones I read were great. They talked about budgeting, paying yourself first, automating your savings, and eliminating debt.

Reading up on the topics was great but it felt like something was missing. The books would usually devote a chapter or two talking about investing and the importance of it. Once I had gotten through several of the books and blog posts, the advice all centered on the same key things to remember when investing: pick low-fee index funds, consistently contribute to your brokerage accounts, and have a passive, hands-off approach to your investments (a.k.a don’t pull your money out when the media tells you the sky is falling).

The advice was good. Although I was never sure exactly who the advice was aimed at. It was for money management newbies for sure, but what age group? Millennials? Gen X-er’s who need to catch up on retirement contributions? I was never fully certain.

There are articles on the interwebz about investing for millennials, but the articles were short and would usually talk about one part of the investing equation: what to invest in, where to invest, setting up a brokerage account, and what the heck a “brokerage account” even was.

I didn’t find many resources putting all of the information together. A resource showing how investing doesn’t have to be scary and how to get started and set yourself up with a passive investment portfolio filled with low-fee index funds. The kind of portfolio many investors recommend, including billionaire Warren Buffet.

Talking with friends, acquaintances, and strangers, I noticed a common theme emerge. Millennials had a vague idea of the importance of investing but they were still reluctant and confused.

I know investing is important but I’m afraid of losing money and I don’t have a gigantic sum of money to get started. 

Well, I created a resource to help fellow millennials out.

The Investing 101 For Millennials course is a free 7-day email course that walks people through all the investing basics.

  • investing myths
  • compound interest
  • developing a mindset to not be worried when the stock market has a downfall
  • and more

The course even has videos to talk more about investing topics. If you’ve been wanting to learn more about investing but have been stuck in confusing lingo or scared to get started, click the image below to learn more about the course.

See you on the inside!

Investing 101 for Millennials


Investing For Millennials FREE 7-day email course. Pin for later.

Are you confused about the world of investing and want to learn more? Enroll in my free 7-day Investing 101 For Millennials email course.

Do You Have Your Best Interest In Mind?

Is it really you, though? I’ve found whenever you don’t have a set of values and plan in place, it can be really freaking easy to let others dictate what’s best for you. Lesson learned? People love to spend your money for you. Especially when you don’t have any sort of plan for it.

Many moons ago, I was very stressed for a very dumb reason. Okay, maybe not so dumb. Looking at it now, it feels dumb but back then I didn’t think so.

When I was a teenager, age 18, new to college, I had this idea of how I wanted my life to look. A swift move caused me to declare my major as public relations-mass communication. The move came after I had my initial sit down with an academic advisor. 

“You need to choose a major right away. You already have enough credits that you’re technically almost a college junior. Not a freshman” 

I don’t remember what I said. I might have just mumbled an ‘Oh’ and preceded to point to a major I vaguely had in mind. Public relations appealed to me because I liked finding ways to get the message out about something. Being able to improve my speaking skills (since I was super introverted) was also a plus.

My advisors in my program assured it was the best thing for me. They talked about how everyone improved their professional development so much through it. I went along with it because I thought they had my best interest in mind.

The media program at my university was a typical media one. It was a competitive fast-paced environment where people loved to be defined by their work. Getting an internship or job at a well-known company was how they defined success.

So, naturally, the best interest in mind appeared to be getting a job at a prestigious media company.

Unpaid internships were very common in the field. Following the best interest of the masses involved depleting your bank account and hastily working a low-wage job in addition to an unpaid internship. It was all about getting ahead. And this seemed like the only way.

Thrust into life after graduation, a whole lot of spendy things presented themselves. Everyone knows houses and weddings can be expensive but what about everything else? Buying furniture, getting actual kitchen supplies (rather than just eating Ramen), and the cost of attending other people’s weddings.

Since these expenses rarely get talked about, the money can have a tendency to part from your bank account without much notice.

 

A few years ago, on a sunny day, I made my way to a Mercedes Benz dealership. I was looking to get an extra key for my smart car. (Mercedes-Benz distributes the Smart Fortwo in the U.S.)

Before I could make my way to the parts desk for the new key, a snazzy car salesman started talking to me. He made a reasoning why I needed to ditch the Smart Car and opt for something more roomy and nicer. He went on and on about how I deserved it and could afford it.

Me? A person who was working an entry-level paying job affording a Mercedes Benz? LOL.

But for a moment, I thought he had my best interest in mind. He was very convincing in the way he talked and reasoned. My monthly car payment would provide me peace of mind and reliability, he said.

Remembering Chevy’s very convincing millennial-targeted car ads didn’t help. 

My dad even told me I should get a new car. They were new and reliable! He said. This was my dad. Surely he had my best interest in mind!

Luckily I never did listen to my dad about getting a new car. I kept my old one and continued to drive it. Since then, I’ve learned a car payment isn’t a common, necessary thing. I’ve also been slowly learning that my work doesn’t define my purpose or constitute the image of success. That has to come from me. No prestigious media company required.

So, who has your best interest in mind?

I wonder about this a lot. Not just for me, but for others. When you see something so much, it starts to seem normal. People finance new cars they can’t afford and way more house than they need. When you see people spending a lot of money on professional development and self-care (ugh) you start to feel like you’re doing something wrong if you’re not spending a lot on it.

I guess it’s easy to say ‘me’ when asked who has your best interest in mind. Is it really you, though? I’ve found whenever you don’t have a set of values and plan in place, it can be really easy to let others dictate what’s best for you.

People love to spend your money for you. Especially when you don’t have any sort of plan for it.


Who has your best interest in mind? 

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