3 Ways to Prepare for Student Loan Payments

The time has come. College grads are about to walk into the real world.

If you fall into this group, this also means it may be time to start paying back your student loans. According to Student Loan Hero, 71 percent of 2017 graduates carried student loan debt.

And, monthly student loan payments are typically between $200 to $300 a month. That’s a lot to swallow, especially if you won’t be earning much at your first job.

To help you tackle your student loan payments, it’s important that you first understand your repayment options, including the ins and outs of grace periods. Take a look at our primer on preparing to pay down your debt.

Understand your “grace period”

First things first: What is a grace period?

A grace period gives you a period of time after you graduate during which you do not need to make payments. When this timeframe ends, you’re on the hook to start making payments. If you don’t have a grace period, your payments start kicking in immediately.

“The first thing recent grads should do is see if they even have a grace period,” says Adam S. Minsky, an attorney specializing in helping student loan borrowers.

While most undergrad loans do have some sort of grace period, Minsky says the length of time can vary depending on the type of loan you received. For example, direct subsidized government loans have a grace period of six months, whereas The Federal Perkins Loan Program has a nine month grace period.

Got multiple student loans that you’re thinking of consolidating? If you really need a window of time to prepare become making payments, be aware that consolidating loans can make that grace period go away. Yet, there is a way around this caveat: make sure you put a grace period “delay” on your application. This will alert the servicer not to process the loan consolidation application until the end of your grace period, says Minsky.

Weigh your repayment options

Did you know that as a borrower you can choose different options for paying back your loans?

In the case of federal loans, you have seven different repayment options to choose from, depending on your eligibility. These repayment plans determine how much you pay, when you pay, and how long it will take you to completely pay off your loans.

Typically, if you do not request a repayment option, you’ll automatically be placed in the Standard Repayment plan. Under this plan, your monthly payments are fixed and spread out over 10 years. However, there are several other plans that may work better for you.

For example, you may qualify for an Income Driven Repayment Plan, whereby payments would comprise 10 percent of your discretionary income. In order to start the process and be considered, you must first fill out the application on the StudentAid.gov site. Another option is the Graduated Repayment Plan. For this option, your monthly payments start out on the low end and increase over time. Only certain types of federal loans are eligible for this plan. You can find out whether or not you are eligible by visiting StudentAid.gov. To figure out which repayment option is best for you, you can also run the numbers via calculators provided by StudentLoans.gov and StudentAid.ed.gov.

Some types of borrowers – particularly those with government jobs or those employed by a non-profit – can enroll in a repayment program under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). This program forgives the balance on Direct Loans after you make 120 qualifying payments.

The earlier you start making qualifying payments, the sooner you’ll reach the requirements needed for forgiveness. Just be aware: any payments you make during a grace period don’t count, so you’ll have to forgo the grace period by immediately enrolling in a repayment program, according to Minsky.

Start making payments ASAP

Let’s say you landed a job right out of college. If this is the case, you’ve got some money coming in and you may want to start paying back your student loans during your grace period.

“Since 2012, there’s no interest subsidy for most federal loans during the grace period, so you can save money long-term by paying something towards your student loans during this time,” says Minsky.

Even if you don’t have a full-time job lined up, you can still start paying back your loans immediately. Perhaps you can get a part-time job while you’re hunting for a job in your field. Or, you can start a side hustle and take advantage of the gig economy.

You can also sit down and create a budget incorporating your student loan payments.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the more you understand your student loan repayment options, the better off you’ll be. So, make sure you educate yourself on the types of loans you have and your applicable grace periods. From there, you can create a plan to pay back your loans. Once you wrap your mind around this and budget for your payments, you can start saving for your other goals.

 

Gender Pay Gap: What Jobs Really Offer Equal Pay?

Most logical people would argue that two people doing the same job should earn equal pay, but we know that is not always the case. In many roles at many companies, women are paid less than men for doing the exact same thing, which is known as the gender pay gap. While we know this is wrong, a number of professions actually do offer gender pay equality. If you want to know what jobs have successfully removed the gender pay gap, follow along to learn more.

How bad is the gender pay gap?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, on average, women make 83 percent of what men do across all industries. The worst profession for women is in the legal industry, where women make a little over half of what men earn. Sales, security, production, and personal care professions all offer women 25 percent of what men earn, or worse.

In fact, according to the 2016 report (based on 2014 data), there was no industry where women made as much as men for the same job. The best was construction and extraction related jobs, which offer women 91.3 cents for every dollar male counterparts bring in.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Researchers are working on understanding causes of the gender pay gap and identifying solutions. But in the meantime, there are some great opportunities out there where women do get their fair share, according to BLS data from 2016.

Industries with equal gender pay

The 2016 BLS study found that on average, women make 82 percent of what men do on average. But a few jobs stood out where women make equal or more than their male counterparts. Women workers for the win! Here is a list of professions where women can expect equal pay, with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Occupation Women’s earnings compared to men’s
Sewing machine operators 111%
Combined food preparation and serving workers 106
Teacher assistants 105
Counselors 102
Transportation, storage, and distribution managers 100
Stock clerks and order fillers 99
Physical therapists 97
Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks 97
Receptionists and information clerks 97
Advertising sales agents 97

While these jobs may not all be the most desired in the world, there are some great professions on here with solid earning potential. For example, the average physical therapist makes $85,400 per year (2016 BLS data). That is a great income level no matter your gender. If you are trying to overcome a gender wage gap, the small 3 percent gap isn’t a huge hurdle to overcome.

Combat the gender pay gap in your business

If you are a male and lead an organization, do your part to promote gender pay equality. You have access to all data and have the power to instantly solve the gender pay gap in your business. Of course, that does come with some costs. But these are costs that should have been happening all along! If you already offer fair and equal pay among your employees, kudos. You are doing the right thing.

If you really want to make a difference as a man in business, start a business and ensure fair pay practices across genders. If you are a woman, consider starting your own business, as women-owned businesses are often quite successful! And if you are not a business owner, be an outspoken advocate for equality in the workplace. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this problem won’t be solved in one. But with a long-term focus on fixing the gender pay gap, a solution is attainable.


This article originally appeared on Due.com

 

Financial Infidelity: Do You Keep Money Secrets from Your Spouse?

Financial infidelity means keeping a money secret from your spouse. With a divorce rate today of about 50 percent, any form of infidelity could easily lead to a relationship breakdown. And while a little white lie about money may seem like no big deal, but financial infidelity is as serious as any relationship secret. Let’s take a look at how money and relationships intersect and what you can do to make your relationship as open, honest, and fair as possible with a focus on long-term relationship success.

Is financial infidelity a big problem?

Before we dive into how to solve money troubles with a significant other, it is important to understand the problem. If you fight with your significant other about money, you are not alone. A study last year found that 48 percent of American couples argue about finances. That is huge! Nearly half of all couples argue about money.

study from SunTrust found that money is the leading cause of relationship stress. The survey found that 1 in 5 Americans has made a purchase of $500 or more secretly without telling their spouse. Six percent of respondents go as far as to keep a secret bank account! If you don’t trust your spouse so much that you need to secretly keep money without their knowledge, you probably have bigger relationship and trust issues than just money, but money is clearly the big symptom of the discord.

How to avoid money fights in a relationship

There are a few specific personality traits and money disagreements that tend to percolate to the top. According to Elite Daily, here are the four biggest causes of money friction in a relationship:

  1. Spending versus saving – If you have a saver mentality and are dating or married to a spender, you know how frustrating it can be when your SO (significant other) splurges on even the smallest purchases. From a daily lunch at the local burrito or sandwich shop to a big dollar purchase online or at the store, watching money fly out the window can push you to the edge! If this is an issue in your relationship, consider the other’s perspective and try to calmly explain yours. Finding middle ground and creating fun money budgets for each half of the couple can help smooth things out.
  2. Expectations that one partner pays more – The battle over who pays goes far beyond the first date. Even long-time couples often have different views on who should be bringing what to the table. In many cases, the male is expected to pay for the majority of costs, even if both partners have similar earnings. There is no right or wrong way to approach this. Open communication and setting clear expectations can help avoid this little argument turning into a blowout.
  3. One partner earns a lot more – If you earn a lot more than your partner, or they earn a lot more than you, stress and double standards are probably not far behind. It is easy for the lower earner to expect the higher earner to pay more. But when income in a relationship is not distributed equally or distributed as earned, it can lead to resentment.
  4. Wants versus needs – One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. One partner’s need is another partner’s frivolous purchase. What one of you thinks is a need versus a want may differ. It is okay to have different values, as long as they don’t bust the budget. This is where a fun money budget comes into play. If you have a certain amount to spend guilt-free, you don’t have to fight over it.

Set shared goals but allow for individual freedom

In real life, things don’t always look like a movie. After the honeymoon period wears off, real-life goals, stresses, and obligations remain. Never go into a relationship expecting your partner to change. If you don’t like their money habits, it may be better to cut things off from the start. (Credit score dating anyone?)

When you do get into a serious relationship, you have many money questions ahead. As you tackle them one by one, remember that it isn’t reasonable to expect your SO to never spend money. Even if you are the primary income earner with a stay-at-home spouse, you have to expect that they will want to treat themselves every once in a while. And that’s just fine!

To find the right balance between family savings, shared fun money, and individual fun money, work together to create a good budget you can stick with over time. Tweak as necessary until you have it right and both of you are on board with the plan.

Work together for a financial infidelity free lifestyle

Just as you wouldn’t want to find out your significant other had a secret relationship on the side, it can be devastating to land on the wrong end of financial infidelity. If you are keeping financial secrets, it’s time to change that and move to an open and honest relationship with clear, trusted communication about money. If you suspect your spouse is cheating with money, consider confronting them for an honest discussion. Long-term financial success requires an effort on both sides, and with honesty and a team driven focus on your money goals, you can get on track for a long and happy financial future together.


This article originally appeared on Due.com

 

Easy Ways to Stretch Your Household Budget (Without Sacrificing Convenience)

It’s no secret that stretching your family budget can go a long way.

Yet, when you think about cutting expenses, you may dread the thought of giving up lattes, foregoing dining out to eat at home, and negotiating lower rates for your Internet service. More importantly, cutting out your favorite things may not work long-term.

So, we’ve come up with other ways to save money. Check out these 6 ways to stretch your household budget.

Grocery Services

Buying groceries online is convenient and can also save you money.

For starters, when you shop for food online, you won’t have to deal with the temptation of walking through the store and picking up items that weren’t on your list. Plus, as you add food items to your virtual cart, you’ll see your total charges increasing – instead of waiting to hear the damage report at the checkout counter. This way, you can always remove items if you know you’re spending too much.

Online grocery delivery services like Amazon Fresh, Instacart, and Google Express all have garnered great reviews, but they come with monthly fees. So, if you shop at a local Walmart, Meijer, Kroger or other regional supermarket chain, find out if your store offers a free grocery pick-up service. This way, you can order and pay for your items online. From there, you can schedule a time to go to the store and pick up your groceries curbside.

Switch Your Cell Phone Provider

If your phone bill is outrageously high each month, you don’t have to ditch your phone entirely to get it under control. It may be time to look into switching to a prepaid phone service, which is often cheaper than a contract service provider.

Republic Wireless is a prepaid company that I’ve been using for three years. Their plans start at $15 per month and come with unlimited talk and text. You can also choose how much you want to pay based on the amount of data you need on a monthly basis. Plus, you can keep your smartphone if it’s compatible or use one of Republic’s Motorola or Samsung smartphones.

Other affordable prepaid phone services include Straight Talk and Boost Mobile, both of which are compatible with iPhones. As an added bonus, Boost Mobile offers affordable family plans with unlimited data, so the whole family can stay connected.

Amazon Subscribe and Save

If you shop frequently on Amazon, you may have heard about the company’s Subscribe and Save program. It allows you to choose from thousands of products and set up recurring deliveries for these items automatically within a one to six-month time frame.

This is an ideal service to use for toiletries and household items. Plus, when you sign up to receive at least five items in one month, you’ll unlock up to 15% in savings for your merchandise – on top of Amazon’s current discounts and free shipping. To make your shopping experience more convenient, Amazon sends a reminder email days before your next shipment will go out. This way you can review everything and make any necessary changes.

Baby Reward Programs

If you’re a parent, you know how expensive it is to run a household with children.

Registering with diaper and baby product companies is a sure-fire way for you to get samples, coupons, and other freebies. For example, Huggies provides coupons and discounts on diapers via its website, while Pampers has a rewards program that allows you to earn points for purchases. You can then redeem your points for free diapers and other baby products.

If you’re looking to save on other baby items, the Honest Company has subscription bundles for diapers and wipes, as well as formula and other necessities. You can automatically order product bundles every four to six weeks and cancel at any time.

Kids on the way? You can still save! If you’re expecting, consider setting up a registry with Target. This will net you more than $50 in free items, including samples of diapers and wipes, breastfeeding storage bags, diaper rash cream, and other products from top brands like Honest and Pampers.

Online Consignment Shops

Shopping for gently-used clothing is often more affordable than going to department stores and paying full price. At the same time, shopping at thrift stores can be a time suck as it can take hours to find what you’re looking for.

This is why you may want to try out online consignment shops instead. This way, you can find the used clothing you need quickly, pay a fraction of the retail price, and have the items delivered to your door.

ThredUp is one of the top online consignment shops specializing in women’s and children’s clothing, shoes, handbags and accessories. ThredUp buys gently-used clothing and resells the merchandise on its site. So, while you’re shopping, you may also want to consider making some extra money by decluttering and selling some of your unwanted clothes.

Switch to a Bank With Lower Fees

An easy way to stretch your household budget is to check on your bank fees to see if you’re incurring any unnecessary charges.

It’s important to find a bank that offers a free checking account, free ATM withdrawals, and overdraft protection. If your current bank is costing you in fees, you can easily switch to a bank with no hidden fees and save money.

Saving Isn’t Always a Hassle

Saving money and stretching your dollars doesn’t always have to be a penny-pinching hassle.

To get a jump-start, go over your budget and identify the areas where you’re spending the most money. Then, start using some of these free tools to effortlessly cut back on your spending.

 

The Hidden Costs of Dating

When it comes to dating, spending money on dinner or a movie may seem like a no-brainer. But, in the quest to find “the one,” all those dinners and other dating costs add up – big time.

Yes, dating can be a money suck. For this reason, it’s important to budget accordingly and be prepared for the costs that go along with the dating game. Luckily, we’re here to help with a primer on the hidden costs of dating. You may want to start saving money now!

Beautifying Yourself

First things first – you probably want to dress to impress. If you’re a lad, this may mean a sleek blazer or a signature timepiece. If you’re a lady, you might do some online shopping to bring out your most alluring self.

Case in point: When Morgan Quisenberry, an advertising professional who blogs at Diary of an Online Serial Dater, was newly single six years ago, she spent a lot of money on getting “gussied up.” Besides pouring money into new outfits, Quisenberry, 35, shelled out about $40 at Drybar to get a blow-out and $60 for a pro to do her makeup – for each date. Looking back, those costs weren’t worth it. “I feel like guys don’t really notice or appreciate the extra effort you put in for a date,” she says.

The moral: even if you don’t go the extra mile with professional updos and makeup, buying cosmetics and hair products for your own best DIY look can add up.

Intimate Wear—and Other Things

While your dude friend may be groveling over the fact that he’s been paying more than he would like on dinner dates, movie tickets, and what have you, let’s not forget about the amount of cash a lady may be shelling out for sexy lingerie. Sure, you can go Dutch on dates, but garb for a fun night out, intimate apparel included, can easily cost you – and you alone – anywhere from $30 to a few hundred bucks.

Transportation

When you live in an urban sprawl like L.A., dating someone across town can feel like a long-distance relationship. And shuttling from each other’s places can take time and cost money for gas or ride share services. For Quisenberry, who went on about 100 dates in five years, she averaged about $20 per date on rideshares. So, make sure you factor in transportation costs.

Dating App Subscriptions

If you’re hardcore serious about finding “the one,” you might want to consider paying for a dating subscription. If you want a premium subscription plan on a free dating app, such as Tinder Plus, you could be paying anywhere from three dollars to more than $20 a month. To sign up for OKCupid’s A-list, for example, it’s $19.99 for a month-by-month subscription and $9.99 a month if you sign up for a six-month package. Features include robust search options, no ads, and the ability to visit profiles incognito.

For strictly paid dating sites? It’s $42 a month for Match.com and $60 a month for eHarmony. While you can get a discount if you sign up for several months at a time, you may also be looking at several hundred dollars a year for your online dating subscriptions.

Matchmaking Services

An elite-level matchmaking service will cost you elite level dollars. We’re talking upwards of several thousand dollars. Quisenberry decided to go for it after finding that “all men in L.A. had a Peter Pan syndrome.” After much deliberation, she signed up for a “Five-Bachelor Package” at a high-end dating company. This included three coaching sessions with a professional matchmaker and five dates with potential mates.

Baby-Making Prevention

Fact: many of us are doing everything we can not to have babies. At least while we’re single. The good news is that most insurance plans cover birth control. But, if you’re getting birth control without insurance coverage, it can cost anywhere from $10 to $50 for a month’s supply of birth control pills, according to Planned Parenthood.

If you’re a lady who wants to get an intrauterine device (IUD), most health insurance plans do cover the cost, but may not pay for all brands. If you don’t have insurance, expect to pay upwards of $1,300 for the IUD, plus any additional fees for the actual procedure.

Time Costs Money

You know what they say: while you can technically make more money, you only have so much time. Not only can dating be a money suck, it can be a huge time suck, too. Swiping left and right, engaging in chats that may go nowhere, quibbling over whether your feelings are reciprocated—you get the picture. Indeed, dating can be a complete hit or miss, and there’s no guarantees and no definitive time frame as to when you’ll meet a suitable partner.

With this in mind, make sure you factor in all of the not-so-obvious expenses. This way, you can budget more effectively for love – even if it takes a lot longer than expected.

 

How to Keep a Side Hustle and a Day Job Simultaneously

While it seems as if everyone is turning a side hustle into a full-time gig, the reality is not everyone wants to do that. Heck, not everyone even should do that!

Contrary to how you may be feeling, it doesn’t make you any less of a business owner to keep your day job. That being said, you do need to find ways to stay sane during all of this. After all, you’ll be working quite a bit.

Tip #1: Prioritize self-care.

If you want to keep a side hustle and a day job, you will need to prioritize self-care. If you don’t, you will likely lose your mind with all the work you have to do.

Back in the day, I had a regular job, a side hustle and I was taking classes for a certification simultaneously. I had almost zero time for anything outside of that and the time that I did have was spent exercising.

Whether it was yoga or kickboxing, I was at the gym twice a week no matter what. This gave me the energy I needed to keep hustling and helped me deal with the stress related to the pressure I was under.

Tip #2: Know how much money you want to make on the side (and why)

I recently interviewed someone who has three businesses on the side of his day job. His success has a lot to do with the fact that he knew exactly what he wanted – to be financially independent by the age of 35.

Because he was so clear on what he wanted, he knew how much he wanted to earn and how. This allowed him to maximize the time he had outside of his job so that he could create three profitable businesses.

Tip #3: Take your side hustle seriously anyway.

Just because your side hustle isn’t your full-time gig doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. In fact, you should see it as a business like any other.

The problem many people run into is they don’t see their side hustles seriously. They just think it’s a hobby or a way of making some extra money – not necessarily a business.

This leads to problems in a few ways. First, you lose motivation to work on it. Second, because you don’t take it seriously then you allow other things to easily get in the way of growing your business.

Before you know it, you no longer have a side hustle that is providing you with extra income and you’ve reverted back to just having a day job.

Tip #4: Build a team.

While all business owners need to think about building a team, I would argue that it’s especially important with a side hustle. The reason is that you have limited time to create an extra source of income.

While I was recently interviewing people who successfully kept a side hustle on the side of their day jobs, I noticed they all focused on having team members. They wanted to remove themselves from certain tasks so they could focus their limited time on making more money.

Final Thoughts

It’s more than acceptable to choose to keep your side hustle as a side hustle. After all, not everyone needs to be self-employed full-time. Just make sure that you still take it seriously so you can create another source of income.

 

6 Affordable Ways to Become Your Healthiest Self

You may have cheated on your diet too many times this year or paid for a gym membership that you only used twice. Sound familiar?

Indeed, I’ve been there. Two years ago, I was working at a job I didn’t like and my harmful habits were not what I would call mentally, physically, and financially healthy. I sat all day, snacked on junk food and candy, and was too overwhelmed to manage my money properly.

I turned things around and so can you. With 2018 right around the corner, this is the perfect opportunity to make positive changes and improve your health. To get started, check out these  6 easy and affordable tips.

1. Get More Sleep

Getting enough sleep at night is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health and restore your energy each day. Plus, it’s absolutely free!

With this said, 40% of adults state they get less than the recommended amount of sleep each night, according to a Gallup poll. This isn’t good news because you should be getting at least eight hours of sleep each night in order to fully rest and restore.

If you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, make a commitment to go to bed earlier or wake up a little later if possible. This may involve cutting some tasks out of your schedule and having a more productive morning and nightly routine, but it will be well worth it.

2. Drink Enough Water

It’s ideal to drink about two liters (eight 8-ounce glasses) of water per day. Most of us, however, fall short of this goal and may become dehydrated without realizing it.

To increase your water intake, start tracking it daily. You can also infuse your water with fresh fruit if you think it will improve the taste. Last year, I bought a 22-ounce water bottle and it was an easy way to train myself to drink more water on the go. I knew that once I filled up my water bottle for a third time during the day, I was getting closer reaching my daily water intake goal.

3. Find Out Exactly Where Your Money is Going

Financial health can also contribute to your physical and mental health. If you’re stressed about money, it’s a good idea to keep an updated budget and this way you’ll know exactly where your money is going.

For starters, clarify how much you’re earning each month and make a list of all your expenses. See if there’s any money leftover to make extra debt payments. And, make sure you’re not racking up unnecessary bank charges, as this can put a strain on your finances. If this is the case, consider switching to a free bank.

The next steps to getting your finances in order include building up a rainy day fund and automating your savings. Lastly, it’s now time to focus on going after your long-term goals.

4. Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Consuming sugary foods and beverages can be a hard habit to get rid of because sugar can be addicting. Yet, you don’t have to go cold turkey right away.

To start cutting down on sugars, read the labels whenever you buy something. Some code words for sugar include lactose, malt syrup, cane crystals, crystalline, and fructose (i.e. high fructose corn syrup). Once you see these words on the ingredient label, try to swap them out for healthier options. For example, perhaps you can switch to a less-sugary breakfast cereal, or replace your fruity yogurt with plain Greek yogurt and then add fresh fruit on your own.

Passing on sugary foods and better yet – cooking at home – will also help you save money and perhaps even make more money.

5. Make Time to Exercise

When your schedule gets busy, exercise is one of the first things to go. But, you can make changes to fit exercise into your life.

First, you need to make a real commitment based on your own needs and goals. For example, while you may not be able to do a hardcore gym session daily, you can try working out at least three days a week to start.

You also don’t need a gym membership if it’s not in your budget. You can go for walks or run around the neighborhood, rent exercise DVDs from the library, watch videos online, or download an app. To find time to exercise, I’d recommend bumping it up in your schedule so you can get it out of the way early in the morning before work. You can also find a friend who wants to exercise with you.

6. Prioritize Self Care

If you’re overwhelmed, worn out, and just plain exhausted, make it a point to prioritize self-care. Self-care involves making your health and well-being a priority by listening to and attending to what your body needs long-term.

To start practicing self-care, I recommend creating a list of things that energize and inspire you, as well as things that deplete you. This way you’ll know exactly what brings you joy and motivation, and what drains your energy and happiness. Use this list as a guide to make long-lasting lifestyle changes.

Commit to YOU

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to improve your health without spending tons of money. It all starts with your commitment to a better lifestyle that will reward you physically, mentally, and financially.

Are you ready to become healthier in 2018?

 

How I Came Clean About My Debt Without Feeling Shame

Being in debt can feel like the worst thing in the world, especially if most of your debt is high-interest consumer debt that you brought upon yourself for spending more than you earn.

Trust me, I’ve been there.

When I first realized the extent of my debt, I felt shame and embarrassment. For these reasons, I kept my money issues to myself. But, I needed to deal with it somehow, so I started an anonymous blog to talk about my debt. I also did this to stay accountable to myself as I worked toward improving my finances. I kept my debt secret for a long time and didn’t disclose my financial state to anyone I knew personally, including my friends and family.

Why We Feel Shame About Debt

Looking back, I simply felt too much shame about the hole I had dug myself into. I now realize that the way I felt is not uncommon among those who find themselves mired in debt.

A report from WalletHub showed that the average credit card debt per household in mid-2017 was $7,996. And, even though debt is common, most people still feel a lot of shame when they can’t seem to pay off their mounting bills. Some of your shame may come from feeling incompetent when it comes to handling finances. Or, perhaps you’re embarrassed because you now recognize that you were blinded by the allure of spending using your credit card. But, there’s one thing that we can probably agree on: it’s not smart to get yourself into debt.

Another thing leading to feelings of shame and embarrassment: you may not feel comfortable talking about money. Thus, you don’t seek help. This can often result in a vicious cycle. You hide your money matters because you feel shame, plus you don’t talk about it. Instead, you put on a show and continue spending like nothing is wrong. All the while, you’re secretly stressing because you’re getting deeper and deeper into debt.

How I Got Over the Shame of Being in Debt

So, if you find yourself in this boat, what can you do to turn your money sitch around for the better?

Well, taking a page from my book, I recommend coming clean with yourself and your family about the extent of your debt. Trust me, I know it’s hard but if I can do it, you can too. Although I was nervous to share my financial problems, I can tell you this for sure: I no longer feel shame about my past financial situation. I stopped the cycle in its tracks. Plus, because I had been using my blog to tell Internet strangers about my finances for a year, revealing my debt had become more “normal” to me and this helped pave the way for me to talk about money with those I care about most.

Another big perk about my blog that I can share with you: many of my blog readers revealed stories about their own debt. This made me truly appreciate that I’m not alone, and neither are you.

Coming Clean to My Family

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was Christmas day when I came clean about my debt. Although it was a tough conversation to have, I felt good knowing that my family had a clear picture of what was going on. Plus, since I had already been working on improving my finances for about a year, I had a plan to get out of debt. To boot, I could show progress up to that point.

My family was supportive and made sure to tell me they were proud of me for taking charge of my finances and working to improve them.

Benefits of Being Honest About Your Finances

After the big debt reveal to my family, I realized that admitting your financial problems to your inner circle can have several benefits.

For instance, my friends and family now open up to me about their finances as well. Plus, we all work together to stay accountable and avoid overspending on impulse purchases and guilty pleasures. It’s no longer “weird” for us to talk about money, and we all benefit from the honest conversations.

Turn Your Guilt Around

Keep in mind that although it’s no fun to feel guilty about your debt, this can be a turning point for you. As you can see from my own experience, you can use your guilt and shame to propel you to change your behavior and work up the courage to come clean. You may be surprised by how supportive your friends and family are. They may even personally help you get your finances in shape. Take it from me, this is a better alternative than digging a deeper debt ditch.

 

Struggling With Money? Here’s Why You Need to Speak Up

It’s not easy to talk about money, especially when you’re not managing it well. In a society where appearances are sometimes more important than the truth, it’s easier to put on a good face — and maybe buy a shiny new car — than to admit that you’ve got money issues.

It doesn’t help that money is a taboo topic. According to a 2014 survey by the American Psychological Association, 32% of Americans feel uncomfortable talking about money with family. But even if you grew up thinking that talking about money is a no-no, here are 5 reasons why discussing your struggles is crucial to your financial future.

1. Vulnerability is empowering

The main reason it’s hard to talk about money problems is the fear of judgment. In some families or circles of friends, that fear is more than a mere possibility. But if you continue to act like nothing’s wrong, nothing will change.

Even if you don’t expect your family or friends to be super helpful, talk about it anyway. The act of sharing something you’re grappling with can give you the emotional strength to face it.

This process also forces you to be honest with yourself about your situation. Once you reach this point of self-honesty, it’s easier to take the next step and address it.

2. They might have some good advice

There may not be a financial advisor or money coach in your family or circle of friends, but that doesn’t mean your friends and family can’t offer guidance. Since they all deal with their personal finances on a daily basis just like you, they may have experiential knowledge that may be useful.

And, since money can be a tough topic to talk about, it’s likely that you don’t know what their experiences are until you ask. For example, if you’re considering bankruptcy, a family member or friend may be able to talk about a similar experience and how they got through it financially and emotionally.

Even if they don’t have experiences that they can draw upon, your family and friends may still know about some options that you haven’t considered yet. But again, you won’t know until you ask.

Along these lines, your inner circle may know of some good resources you can tap into. They may know a financial advisor or money coach that can help you out. Or perhaps they recently read a great book on managing finances, or know about some good websites that offer helpful advice on various personal finance topics.

3. They’re not perfect either

We’ve all made money mistakes.

Even if your family members or friends are in a good place financially, they may still be able to empathize with your situation based on past experiences. In some cases, that empathy can help you feel as if you’re not alone. It may also give you the confidence to get back on the right track.

4. They can keep you accountable

By reaching out for help, you may get more than you expect. For example, maybe someone in your inner circle will even volunteer to be your sounding board, aka accountability partner.

As you’re working toward improving your financial situation, having this partner can help you stay on track. For example, you can set up a time to chat with this person once a week to talk about how you’re doing. Or, if she has experience managing money, you can even ask her to take a look at your budget and help you see your blind spots.

5. They care about you

Above all, it’s important to understand that your family and friends care about you and want you to succeed.

This doesn’t mean that discussing money will be an easy conversation. It also doesn’t mean that your family and friends will have all the right answers. But it does mean that your loved ones will do anything they can to help you figure things out.

Next steps

Some of the best financial advice you can get comes from the people closest to you.

As you consider your situation, think about family members or friends that you feel most comfortable approaching to talk about your finances. And, if you don’t feel comfortable at all, push yourself a little. Once you get over that first conversation, your path forward will become a lot easier.

 

How to Avoid Falling Into the Money Comparison Trap

Everyone has one of those relatives. You know who I’m talking about—the ones who seem to be wildly successful in every area. Maybe your cousin just bought a house, or your sister just landed a high-paying job and just returned from an amazing vacation.

What’s even worse: these relatives aren’t afraid to talk about the latest and greatest around the holiday dinner table – as you quietly sit and listen. And then, as the conversation lulls, Uncle Bob turns to you and says, “so, what’s going on in your life now?”

It can be tough to resist comparing yourself to your more-successful relatives in these situations. Thankfully, there are a lot of ways you can get over this trap. Read on to learn more.

Luck is a bigger player than most people realize

Sure, your successful relative worked hard to get where she is. But, what people often don’t acknowledge is the role luck plays when it comes to getting ahead.

Your relative may have simply got lucky because she works in a well-paying field or lives in an area where real estate isn’t as expensive as the Northeast city you call home. Or, maybe your cousin Tom has never dealt with hardcore student loans because his parents paid for his college education. There are thousands of other ways your relatives may have ended up where they are today.

But, there’s good news too: you can also be lucky, maybe even in ways that your more-successful relatives aren’t. Maybe you have talents that they don’t have. Just think: you can use your talents to create a side hustle to earn extra money and improve your situation.

Move ahead financially

Good news! You’re not stuck where you are today. You can always improve your financial state.  

Remember when you graduated from the kids’ table to the adults’ table at holiday family gatherings? You can do the same thing and graduate to a better personal finance situation.

I’m not gonna lie and say it’ll happen overnight or it won’t take a lot of work. It’ll probably be quite the opposite, in fact. You’ll need to make sacrifices, get out of your comfort zone, and become more disciplined. Maybe it’ll even be harder for you than for others. But, you can do it.

Practice gratitude

You might have noticed a theme here. By being thankful for the things you do have, you can directly counteract the negativity surrounding your supposed “failures.” In fact, it’s been proven that showing gratitude can actually help your finances improve.

But how do you actually do this and make it stick?

For starters, it’s important to focus on rewiring your brain so you can instead see a more balanced side with the positive aspects of any given situation. This isn’t so easy because, as humans, we’re biologically hardwired to always recognize the negative side of things. To get around this, try keeping a daily gratitude journal and each day, write down three things that you’re grateful for and why.

It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering like “I was promoted to a director position.” It can literally be as simple as “I am grateful for the heat in my apartment” or “I am grateful I don’t have a serious health condition.” These are good things after all, right?

You can also practice gratitude rituals before regular daily occurrences. Saying a quick mental thanks every time you eat a meal or arrive home from work can go a long ways towards shifting your perspective from the negative to the positive.

Boast about your wins

Okay, so we aren’t advocating to actively compete with your relatives and rub your successes in their faces…but, a little boasting can help motivate you to continue to improve your situation.

Think about how great it will feel to show up at a family holiday gathering and say, “you know what? I’m debt-free now,” or “guess who just got a fantastic new job?”

Just remember, don’t become that person who won’t stop talking obsessively about his achievements. Let your relatives know how you’re faring financially, briefly bask in the glory, answer any of their questions, and move on to celebrate everyone else’s successes.

Wrapping up

Family holiday gatherings can be tough at this time of year, especially if you’re struggling to make ends meet and save money. But we also know that falling into the money comparison trap with your relatives can only serve to make this time of year more difficult.

To that end, if you remember these tips and stop comparing yourself to others, you can instead focus on more productive things—like moving ahead financially!