By: Devin Morrissey
If you stretched your income through the holiday season that’s a good indicator you didn’t budget as effectively as you should have this last year. Let’s change that!
Resolve to find unique ways to save money this year. Your future self will thank you. Consider these money saving hacks for 2018.
Get a Handle on Your Student Loans
If student loans are sucking up all your extra income, it’s going to be hard to save anything for your future. This year, it’s time to do something about those looming bills. Here are a few options for handling your student loans:
- Income-Driven Repayment Plans
If your low income is making your payments impossible to make, this plan could benefit you. You’ll have to meet the income requirements, but your payment should drop to just 10 percent of your discretionary income. Discretionary income is the amount you earn yearly over 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
- Refinance or Consolidate Your Loans
If you have private loans, refinancing could be a great option for you. Federal loans would have to be transferred to private in order to refinance, and this would eliminate your options for loan forgiveness, deferment options, or income-driven repayment plans. However, if you don’t qualify for any of the Federal programs, refinancing or consolidation could get you a lower interest rate.
To refinance or consolidate your loans, you must have excellent credit and a stable income. It is your responsibility to ensure your income is stable and substantial enough to make your new monthly payments. Otherwise, you risk going into default and facing legal action.
- Budget for an Aggressive Repayment Strategy
If you don’t qualify for Federal or private repayment programs, your last option might be to set a strict budget for aggressive loan repayment. You want to pay off your loans as fast as possible because the longer it takes you, the more interest you will have to pay on your loans.
A budget is essential to know how much you can afford each month. Making random payments based on how much you have in your account could leave you high and dry in a time of need. It might be tempting to sink every penny into your loans but you still need money for food and an emergency fund.
If you have multiple loans, try to pay the one with the highest interest rate first. And look into auto-pay programs that will help you avoid late payments and (depending on the lender) might even get you a discount.
Whichever repayment method you choose, your student loans are probably running your bank account thin. Generating extra income would make budgeting and loan repayment a lot easier. Here are some ideas for earning extra money.
Freelance in the evenings
The easiest way to save money this year is to earn a little bonus income on the side. Whether you use this extra money as spending cash, to grow your savings, or pay off your debt faster is up to you. No matter what you do with it, extra income will make saving money easier.
But freelancing, taking on extra gigs, or starting a side hustle takes a lot of work and organization. You want to make sure your time is spent wisely and you’re actually making a profit.
There are tons of productivity tools to ensure your side business is a success. Here are a few that come highly recommended:
StayFocused is a browser extension that keeps you focused when working in the evenings so every minute spent on work is a productive one. It blocks distracting sites after you’ve spent a certain amount of time on them, based on the settings you chose.
BaseCamp will organize your various clients and projects so you stay organized and never miss a deadline. It’s also a great place to store files that you and your clients can access at any time.
Squarespace is the easiest way to build a website that’s beautiful and functional. You’ll need a place to show off your side business and attract clients. If you’re not into design and site-building, this is a great way to get a site without paying somebody thousands of dollars to do it for you.
PayPal is probably the most common way freelancers send invoices and get paid. It’s fast, secure, and most of your clients will be very familiar with using it.
Upwork is a great place to find work. If you’re just starting your freelance business, this is a great place to start.
99Deductions is a tool that will really help save you money! Just enter what you do and it will give you a list of tax deductions that apply to your profession or freelance work.
Now that you’ve got a plan to reduce your student loans and make a little extra side income, here are some unique ways to save money on your monthly bills.
Unique Ways to Save
Finding unique ways to save is fun, especially when you can impress your friends and family with these tips! Check out these three ways to adjust your money and budget.
Do you live somewhere with multiple energy suppliers? Not all states have this option, but if you do, definitely take advantage of it. You can potentially lower your energy bills by mentioning to your provider that you’re considering switching to their competition. Or, the competition might offer lower rates or sign-up discounts.
Cell phones and internet access can be major money pits. With a new smartphone coming out every year it can be easy to get blinded by new and shiney toys. Try to stick with your phone as long as possible, or consider downgrading to a less expensive phone and cheaper monthly plan.
Internet providers also have to work with tough competition, so they’re often a phone call away from big discounts. Call your internet provider every six months to reinstate whatever promotional discounts they have available at the time.
Last but not least, research budget grocery stores in your area. Most cities have grocery stores that either offer the same products at discounted prices or similar products under different brand names but are virtually the same as anything you’d find in other grocery stores.
Use these money saving hacks in the coming year. Reduce and pay off your student loans, generate some extra income, and find unique ways to save every month. Learn more about personal finance and money matters on our blog.