Skip navigation
1 2 3 Previous Next

Manage Money

319 posts

With holiday season in full swing, you may notice that being merry is expensive. Between parties, gifts, work events, and charities, the holidays can really drain your wallet.

 

Rather than sitting out on the festivities because you feel like you can’t afford it, start focusing on ways for you to earn more money. The reality is this is easier than you think. Here are some ways you can earn money ASAP.

 

List Unwanted Things Online

 

You likely have things lying around your house that you don’t need or use. Instead of having them take up valuable space, get rid of them and make some money by listing them online.

 

This is actually something I did a few years ago when I was in a bind and needed money quickly. I sold used books, gently used brand name clothing, and collectible gemstones I no longer wanted online. Within a couple of weeks, I was able to generate about $150. Unbeknownst to me, one of the books I was selling was a collectible worth $30!

 

Start Freelancing

 

Freelancing is an easy way to make some quick money with a skill you already have. While you likely won’t make a lot of money if you’re just starting out, you can make enough to get you through the holidays.

 

All that’s required is for you to hang your shingle on sites like Upwork. You can also prospect for clients and send pitches. Additionally, there are several communities and job boards online for writers, designers, and other professions.

 

Freelancing on the side because I needed extra money was actually how I started the career that I have today as a financial expert. At the time, I was just trying to make some extra cash with a skill I already had.

 

Help Your Neighbors

 

Your neighbors are probably extremely busy this time of year and in need of some help—especially if they have kids. For example, maybe your neighbors need a babysitter so they can go to the holiday office party. Maybe they need help organizing the house for their own party. People will pay for these things.

 

One of my friends accidentally started a business one year by helping people clean out their closets. Since a lot of people donate clothing this time of year, my friend would do all the hard work for her neighbors because she actually enjoys organizing. Shortly thereafter, people started asking her how much she charged for organizing closets.

 

Partake In The Share Economy

 

There are lots of ways to make money ASAP in the share economy. From renting out an extra room on Airbnb to becoming a weekend Uber driver, there is no shortage of opportunity for making extra money when you need it.

 

How do you make extra money during the holidays? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to share in the comments below.

I’ll never forget the first Christmas after my student loans kicked in.

 

I was living in New York City and returning to Boston to spend the holidays with my family. Money had been tight for months—even the train ticket back home felt like a splurge. I had no idea what gifts I was going to get everyone, and I was petrified that I’d have to put the whole bill on a credit card.

 

I managed to get by without doing that, but not by much. And the things I bought were not impressive: a basket of nice soap for mom, a Celtics shirt for my sister, a new tie for dad. I felt like I was shortchanging the most important people in my life.

 

When I told my parents this the day after Christmas, they were mad. Mad at me for spending money on them at all when I didn’t really have it.

 

I learned an important lesson from them that day: no holiday gift is too small for the people that love you, because you’re the best gift you could ever give them.

 

As it gets to be the holiday season, I want to remind folks that may be struggling with debt of this lesson. Instead of worrying about impressing people with gifts you may not be able to afford, try these ideas out instead.

 

Go Home

 

Wherever that is for you, and whatever it means for you.

 

Go see your parents, your best friends, extended family, your dog. If these people truly love you, your presence is the best gift you could ever give them—and it’s mostly free, too.

 

This is obviously easier for folks who live closer to home. I live in San Francisco now, which is a bit further from Boston than New York was. The me of a few years ago definitely could not have afforded Christmas gifts if I had to buy a plane ticket home. And, knowing what I know now, that would’ve been fine.

 

If traveling home is an expense for you, I recommend prioritizing that as the best gift you can give your loved ones.

 

Make Something

 

A strategy I’ve had a lot of success with in the past is to make gifts, rather than buy them.  If you’re naturally a crafty person, this is probably your dream come true: You can likely create a masterpiece out of a few old photos and some cheap material.

 

I’m creative, but not a skilled craftsman, so I’ve had a lot of success with websites that allow you to use old photos to create some nice novelty items.

 

This Mother’s Day, I used a bunch of photos to create a blanket for my mom of all the important women in her life: her daughter, her mother, and her sisters. She cried when I gave it to her[LR1] , and I knew I had done something right.

 

Your Voice

 

If all else fails, and you can’t get home or can’t send your family anything, give them the gift of hearing your voice. Give them a call or Skype. Try to be there for them, even though you physically can’t.

 

And maybe, if you feel up to it, make them a promise. Promise that next year, once you’ve had time to save for the trip, you’ll be there in person.

 

Any other ideas for small, meaningful gifts? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments. 

Several months ago, I was going through hard economic times. I was moving back to my home state, and my savings were already dwindling due to my tax bills and some medical mishaps.

 

Despite facing a number of moving-related expenses, I made it my financial priority to stay away from dipping into my savings. However, I needed the limited cash I had on hand for immediate expenses, such as food, gas, and shelter.

 

So, I turned to an unexpected source for help: I applied for a credit card with a zero-interest introductory rate. I know firsthand how credit cards can lead to trouble, but I figured I could pay off the debt before the rate expired. It was a risk, but one I felt comfortable taking. Here’s why.

 

Life Happens

 

No matter how much you budget or anticipate for a rainy day, nothing can predict things like car accidents or medical emergencies. That’s why having an emergency fund is so important. It’s also why using those savings for true emergencies is necessary.

 

I could have easily dipped into this money to cover my expenses. After all, my income is limited as a graduate student—even with extra money from teaching and independent contracts. However, I resisted this urge. I wanted to be sure if something bad happened, I could handle it financially.

 

Yes, the zero-interest credit card gave me more debt to manage. But it allowed me to keep my savings intact. Since I have kept a balanced budget and dealt with credit card debt before, I trusted my ability to create a plan that would pay off what I owed before I’d start paying interest.

 

Shop Smart

 

I took advantage of a zero-interest credit card because I was in tough circumstances and knew I’d be able to repay the amount before the interest kicked in. Still, my financial mantra remains the same: keep cash on hand, and seldom use credit cards.

 

Achieving the latter can be tough, especially with the holiday season approaching. You probably want to buy something nice for your loved ones but may not be able to because of budget shortfalls. Purchasing items with a zero-interest credit card (or store credit card) may seem like a “hack” to get around this issue. It’s not.

 

Credit card issuers look out for themselves, not you. They offer zero interest so you’ll spend more than you plan to, and have to repay it all—plus interest. Avoid this trip. Take advantage of these promotions only when it’s necessary and you’re sure you can pay off before the interest kicks in.

 

Have you used a credit card with a zero-interest promotional period? How did things go for you? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to share your experiences below. 

The natural disasters that have recently affected the world are absolutely devastating. These events tug on everyone's heartstrings, whether or not you have any connection to areas hurt by hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, or anything else. Many people want to help, but some are more able to than others.

 

I knew I wanted to do something—I just didn’t know how or what. As someone who is of Caribbean descent, I felt a civic duty to help those in my countries and affected by disasters in general. But as a college student, I don’t have a ton of money to donate, so I wanted to ensure I made the most of it.

 

Here a few options for how you can help the disaster relief efforts, even if you’re a broke college student like me. Every little bit counts!

 

Do Your Research

 

When you donate to a group or organization, you first and foremost want to make sure they are legitimate. Research how they distribute donated money and supplies, paying attention to who benefits from what. If you can't get that information from the organization, or if it seems like they are withholding it, you probably shouldn't give them your money.

 

One way to potentially avoid this issue is to ask your school's student organizational resource center or an office on your campus that deals with student groups if they work with any charitable organizations. If so, find out which ones and how you can donate to them. My college does this, collecting funds and items and giving them in one lump sum to the organization that they partner with. This can take some of the guesswork out of identifying good organizations. 

 

Support Student Fundraisers

 

My school was doing a few fundraisers, most of them led by student groups on campus. As the president of a such a group (called “SoCA,” short for “Students of Caribbean Ancestry”), my team and I threw what we call a “kickback.”

 

We ordered tons of food, played music, got on our school's activities website, and made social media posts saying that we were accepting cash and food donations. By making something fun, we ensured that a lot of people would show up—which boosted our profits both in cash and food.

 

If there are no fundraisers on your campus, create one! If you are unsure of how to go about doing this, hit up your school’s student organization resource center. They can tell you your next steps.

 

Hold A Drive

 

Drives are great ways for people to contribute something when they may not have the funds to do much else. My school did drives for things such as food, clothes, bankets, toiletries, etc. The clothes items sometimes can be pre-owned, as long as they are washed and in good condition. If someone on your campus isn’t already doing this, you can easily create a drive yourself!

 

A similar option is to hold a pledge drive. For these, people donate money for every mile you run or walk, or other feats. This is a great way to raise money quickly and create awareness about problems going on right now. See if you can get multiple campus groups to join a single pledge drive. My group and I are in the process of trying to do this. For every $1 donated to Puerto Rico, Walmart has pledged to donate $2, for up to $1 million. We are asking faculty, staff, and students to pledge a dollar on our behalf.

 

And in the end, remember that it’s not always about the amount of money you donate. The support the affected places receive is also a big help. It’s always nice to know that others are in solidarity with you in times of hardship.

 

Do you have a different way you’ve raised money for disaster relief on your campus? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post them below. Then, go out and save the world, Salt Community!

It’s been a little while since the news broke of the major Equifax data breach, but the saga continues. In early October, they announced that another 2.5 million people may have been affected.

 

To refresh your memory, Equifax is one of the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion and Experian are the other two). If you have credit of any kind, Equifax likely has your personal information—name, date of birth, Social Security number, etc. In early September, it was announced that they experienced a major data breach that potentially affected half the American population.

 

While this is massive and terrible, the unfortunate truth is data breaches happen all the time. With the holidays around the corner, it wouldn’t be surprising if a major realtor experiences a breach as well. That being said, you can do three things to protect yourself before and after data breaches.

 

1. Freeze Your Credit Reports

 

At this point, Equifax might as well say, “It turns out pretty much everyone has been affected by our data breach.” As a result, it may be wise to freeze your credit. When you initiate a freeze, no one is able to take out a new line of credit in your name (including yourself).

 

I ended up going this route because the news broke 2 days before Hurricane Irma affected my area. I knew I wouldn’t have power to monitor things, so I just went for the freeze.

 

Here’s the kicker, though—you have to freeze your credit with all three credit bureaus. That’s because not all lenders will check your credit with Equifax. Instead, they may use Experian or TransUnion.

 

Each credit bureau has a number you can call to freeze your report; you may be able to complete the process online as well. Depending on your state, you may need to pay to add or remove the freeze to your account, but the cost is probably worth it for the peace of mind.

 

2. Use A Credit Monitoring Service

 

If you can’t freeze your credit right now, another way to protect yourself is to use a free or low-cost credit monitoring service to keep an eye on your accounts. You can also take it a step further and monitor your Social Security number.

 

Equifax is offering a year of free credit monitoring to those affected, but you may not want to use them since they just had a major breach and other questions have arisen about this service. Instead, you can find free and/or cheap options out there like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma.

 

3. Pay With A Third-Party Platform

 

One reason platforms like PayPal are so popular is because you don’t have to give a merchant your credit card information. This means if that merchant has a breach, your information is less likely to be impacted.

 

You also have the option of using a prepaid debit or credit card. Those who use these tools to make purchases are protected in so far as those cards aren’t attached to their credit or checking accounts. This means criminals won’t be able to clean you out.

 

What have you done to protect yourself from data breaches? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to share your tips in the comments.

For those who have followed my blogs, you know I like to be savvy with my money—especially as someone who provides for herself. But budgeting can be hard to do as a student with limited money and lots of responsibilities. And if I’m being honest, I’m sort of forgetful as well.

 

I’m dedicated to becoming more financially responsible this year, though. To do this, I knew I’d just need a little help crunching my numbers and computing a budget. A few months ago, I downloaded an app called Mint for this, and it’s been a huge help to me.

 

See Your Spending

 

Mint is a really cool budgeting app that you can sync with your bank account(s). I really like its design and user-friendly setup, but I love some of its features.

 

Mint categorizes your money based on what you spend it on, like, beauty, health, dining out, transportation, clothes, or alcohol. It then uses these to display percentages in different graphs. My favorite part is these spending graphs.

 

In the spending pie graph, for instance, the circle is made up of different colors that match certain categories. In my first month of using the app, I immediately saw how large the blue “transportation” pie piece was. Once I clicked on it, it showed me a list of purchases I made regarding transport, and I was shocked at how much money I spent on Ubers.

 

Get Organized

 

This app really forces me to look at not only what-what I spend money on but also how much I spend. It composes a “statement” that reports how I’ve spent my money at the end of each month. I love how organized this helps me be, letting me easily look at a month and pinpoint where, what, and why I spent a certain amount.

 

Mint also tracks your bills, a feature that I find helpful because I’m always forgetting what dates certain bills are due. It always updates minute to minute so all your transactions are recorded. In addition, Mint tracks how much you've earned per month vs. how much you’ve spent. I find this interesting because I want to save more than I spend, and I find it easier to budget when I know where my money is going and how I can stay in a safe zone when spending.

 

Find Your Fit

 

For me, having all these tools in one app is amazing. But Mint may not make sense for you. In that case, find a budgeting tool or method that does. Salt offers a debt organizer that doesn’t make you sync all your accounts (if you’re worried about that). We have a simple budgeting worksheet as well if you’re more into pen and paper.

 

Whether you use one of those tools, your own spreadsheet, or a different app, knowing where your money goes is important, especially for young people like me trying to be financially responsible. Tracking my spending has made achieving my financial goals so much easier, and it can do the same for you.

 

How do you track your spending? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to share your favorite budgeting tool in the comments!

 

Salt has no relationship, financial or otherwise, with the products or services mentioned above. We encourage you to read their privacy policy and terms of use to decide if you want to use them.

In the last couple of months, we’ve witnessed one natural disaster after another. Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, flooding—you name it. The truth is that these things aren’t a matter of if; they are a matter of when.

 

I personally went through Hurricane Irma in South Florida. Thankfully, my area didn’t get the worst of it, but it was still enough to throw the entire state for a loop. There was no power for days, cell service was down, debris was everywhere, and the internet didn’t work for at least a week.

 

Natural disasters can also really throw a wrench in your finances. And as hurricane season is still upon us, I wanted to highlight some things you can do to prepare financially for a natural disaster—whether you’re expecting one or not.

 

Stock Up On Emergency Savings

 

I technically have two emergency funds. One is a regular savings account where I can withdraw the cash quickly. Another is extra cash I have invested outside of my retirement accounts so that my money makes more money.

 

I have my contributions to these accounts set on autopilot so that I can set it and forget it. If I have a month where I make more money than usual from my business, most of it goes into one of these two accounts.

 

Because of Irma, I was out of work for a little bit. When that happens for a week or more, your income can take a dip. Had it not been for my emergency savings, I may not have been able to pay rent that month.

 

Pay Bills Early

 

With natural disasters you know are coming (like hurricanes), you need to pay your bills before the disaster strikes. The reason is because you don’t know how long you’re going to be without power or phone service.

 

In my case, I ended up paying my quarterly taxes several days in advance. It turns out that if I’d waited, I would have missed the deadline due to not having power or internet. I also set my other bills to be automatically paid in case I was without power for longer than expected.

 

Some bills (like federal student loans) will postpone your payments if you’re affected by a natural disaster. But if you don’t need to pause payments—and maybe pay extra interest as a result—don’t bother.

 

Know What Your Insurance Covers

 

If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you need to know what your specific policy covers before a disaster hits. I witnessed several friends have a rude awakening when they found out their insurance didn’t cover flooding or wind damage.

 

Take Out Cash

 

The final step in financially preparing for a natural disaster is to take out cash. If the power goes out, you will have no access to ATMs. No power also means that the limited number of stores that may be open won’t be able to run credit cards.

 

Sure enough, a couple of days after Irma hit, one grocery chain opened. Their point-of-sale systems were down, so everything had to be paid for with cash. Thankfully, I didn’t have to use the cash I took out on supplies. Now, it is sitting in a safe place in case there is another big emergency where I should need it.

 

Have you ever dealt with a natural disaster? How did you prepare your finances? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to share your experiences.

Folks, it’s the time of year to break out the candy corn, the spooky decorations, and the costumes. Well, actually, let’s think twice about that last bit.

 

I’ve written about this before, but I’m vehemently against spending lots of money and time on Halloween. You have better things to do than freak out over a holiday that lasts all of 24 hours. I also can guarantee that as your costume idea gets scarier and more extravagant, so does your credit card statement.

 

My past advice has focused on making a costume work without paying through the nose. Today, I want to give some different advice. Rather than shift your ideas to fit your budget, I think you can shift your mindset around the holiday instead. Here’s how.

 

1. Recognize That Nobody Will Care About Your Costume

 

Picture this: You’re at a crowded, dimly lit party where everyone around you is costumed. What do you think are the chances that people stop thinking about their own look for 0.5 seconds, pay attention to your costume, and fall in love with it enough to give you a compliment?

 

I’d bet pretty slim, unless you really went all out with an idea. And if you did, you probably spent a ton of time and money on it. Was a stranger’s compliment really worth all the effort?

 

Halloween is an attention trap because you’re not really donning the costume for everyone else, you’re doing it for yourself. With everyone worrying about their own looks, there’s actually very little time spent admiring others.

 

2. Wear What Makes You Happy

 

Once you’ve accepted that nobody cares about your costume, it’s a lot easier to just do what you want. If that involves donning an extravagant costume, all the power to you. To some, it might mean not dressing up at all or going for the drug store witch hat with an all-black outfit.

 

This is a great state of mind to be in because it allows you to make decisions solely on your budget, not the expectations of others. If you really don’t have the money to pour into a costume, then don’t. Put on an old jersey and be a “sports player,” Better yet, just go unapologetically as yourself.

 

3. Enjoy The Night

 

When you’re dressed up in a way that works for you, and you’ve stopped caring about what other people think about your look, you’re in position to have a great night, completely free of costume mishaps!

 

Recently, I had to dress up as an angel for a non-Halloween related party (it’s a long story). I put time and money into the costume, only to realize that my wings were too big: I was smacking everyone in the face with them as I walked through a crowded dance floor. As you can imagine, people were not happy.

 

To avoid being thrown out of the place, I performed some hacky angelic amputation that involved me ripping the wings out of the costume on the spot. It ruined my look, but I no longer was bumping into people. Nobody cared that I had a ruined costume, and once I stopped caring too, I actually had a great night.

 

What’s your attitude on Halloween? Are you flagrantly pro, or against like me? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments.

I swear I see an article about the latest “life hack” at least once a week. Sometimes, these hacks are fun and useful: I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about cooking from BuzzFeed’s culinary arm, Tasty.

 

Other times, though, I’m a bit worried they’re preaching easy ways out of long-term problems. “Money hacks” in particular stick out to me as problematic. Here’s why.

 

1. Sometimes, They Aren’t Really “Hacks”

 

One common financial hack is to join the “gig economy.” Sure, having a side hustle can put a few extra dollars in your pocket every month, but often they don’t simplify your life like a “hack” should. I know this from firsthand experience.

 

When I graduated college, I was on an entry-level salary and confronting the full burden of my student loans. While my financial situation was never dire, things were definitely tight month-to-month. So, I decided to moonlight as a résumé writer in addition to working at my day job. Folks would submit their résumé and cover letter to the online service I contracted for, the service would route the work to me, and I’d have a few days to turn around a sparkly clean résumé and potentially a cover letter too.

 

It got overwhelming fast. My inbox was clogged with requests within days. It got so bad that I started having to work on weekends and even during my day job to fill my quota. I lasted about a month before I dropped the gig.

 

2. Hacks Distract You From The Actual Problem

 

In my story above, I essentially gave away my time to perform dead-end work. It seemed like the right thing to do because it paid, but it was actually counter-productive.

 

It was counter-productive because it didn’t solve the actual problem: I was having money problems because I was in an entry-level position and had a salary that didn’t match my debt load. To fix that problem, I was going to have to either (A) pay down my debt or (B) build the skills to get promoted or to find a new job.

 

Option “A” wasn’t going to happen for a while, but if I had focused on “B” instead, I could’ve used my time to learn new skills, drive an extra project at my day job (also my “real” job!), network with people in the office, and much more.

 

Even though there was no tangible, monetary benefit to those activities, they would have been better for me in the long term. Case and point, when I started focusing more at my real job, I eventually nabbed a 10% raise after my first year. It didn’t make my money problems go away entirely, but it helped a lot more than getting short money to write hundreds of résumés did. This brings me to my last point.

 

3. Real Money Hacks Consider The Long Term

 

Not all money hacks are evil. A bunch of great ones are floating around out there related to investments, insurance, and more.

 

But unlike cooking, money is tough to “hack” instantly—the lottery being maybe the only exception. The most helpful hacks are little things you can do repetitively that add up to have big benefits, like starting a 401(k) and contributing a little bit (seriously, any amount is good) each month to take advantage of pretax savings, compound interest, and an employer match.

 

Any good money hacks to share? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments.

I have a love-hate relationship with my cellphone provider. I love my phone, and I love the access to new phones I get from my plan, the service, and the unlimited data. But I absolutely hate how expensive my phone bill is.

 

Because I’m on an individual cellphone plan, my rates are high. It’s not like on a family plan, where it’s two lines for $50 apiece and you can share costs. For one line, I pay about $115 a month by myself—and the bulk of that is because of my data plan.

 

That’s about to change, though. Thanks to a tip from my old roomie, I’m going to slash my bill in half this school year. Here’s how.

 

Ditch The Data

 

This school year, I’m getting rid of my unlimited data plan. Now, why would I do that? Well, my roommate showed me that instead of paying for data at all, she uses a prepaid, pay-as-you-go plan and relies on our school’s Wi-Fi for all her data needs.

 

Honestly, I couldn’t believe how simple an idea this was—and how big my savings would be. I have my phone on the school's Wi-Fi at all times anyway, so why should I shell out an extra $55 for unlimited data? I reviewed my actual data usage to see how much I really need. As a result, I’m not going to part with all my data, but I do plan to reduce it significantly.

 

Will This Work For You?

 

Reducing my data would pretty much halve my bill. It’d be great to worry less about paying such a hefty bill each month, especially since I’m paying more for other school-related costs this semester. As an added bonus, I’m almost done paying off my iPhone. Pretty soon, I’ll just pay for my little bit of data and the service—so my phone bill should be dirt cheap in no time.

 

This tactic isn’t for everyone. But I highly suggest checking out this option if you (1) pay your own cellphone bill, (2) live on a campus that offers Wi-Fi, and (3) don’t use that much data. Odds are, you already pay for the school’s data via the tech fee in your bill anyways. The way I see it, why pay that fee and a separate data fee when one can knock out the other?

 

Does anyone else have any tips for saving money on a cellphone bill? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know down below!

According to recent data released by Pew Research Center, 15% of 25- to 35-year-old millennials live at home with their parents. What’s more interesting, though, is that this isn’t because of a lack of work. In fact, most of them are employed. Many of them actually choose to stay there.

 

I was one of those millennials until relatively recently. I lived at home for 7 years after graduating college for various reasons. From unemployment to starting a business to helping care for a family member, I didn’t leave home until I was 29.

 

That being said, there will come a time when most people move out. But how will you know the right time has arrived? Here are some signs it may be time to leave the nest.

 

You Can Afford It Without Sacrificing Important Financial Goals

 

One of the reasons it took me so long to leave home was because I wanted to be able to afford rent, food, and retirement contributions. For a while there, I would have had to sacrifice saving for my future in the name of independence in the present.

 

For many, staying home is a good idea while they pay down student loans, save money, and build a foundation for their finances. Some also decide to build businesses like I did. Once the foundation is built, you can consider leaving.

 

You Have An Emergency Fund

 

I would not have moved out if I didn’t already have several months’ worth of living expenses in the bank.

 

In hindsight, that money came in handy because a couple of months after moving to downtown Miami, I had to deal with a hurricane. This means I lost a week’s worth of billable work. Had I not had savings, I might have been in a lot of trouble.

 

Experts say you should have anywhere from 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses in the bank. Financial gurus like Dave Ramsey suggest starting off with saving $1000 and building from there. Use this calculator to see if you’re financially prepared.

 

An Opportunity Falls Into Your Lap

 

I had been looking for my own place for months before I found the apartment I live in now. All my efforts were futile due to soaring rents.

 

And then, out of the blue, an opportunity fell into my lap. A friend I’d met through a blogging event needed a roommate. She lived in a great apartment in an awesome neighborhood and the price was right. I moved in right away.

 

Sometimes, when we’re ready, opportunity comes knocking without us having to look for it. If this is the case, take it as a good sign that it’s time to move.

 

Do you still live at home? What are you waiting for to make the leap? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments.

I make an effort to check my retirement accounts quarterly. I find it to be a strangely enjoyable experience because it’s nice seeing cash add up from monthly contributions, employer matches, and more. It makes me forget that I’m dealing with a massive amount of student debt for a second!

 

And then, a voice whispers in the back of my head: “What if you took some of this money out early and used it to pay off some student loans? Imagine how much easier life would be.”

 

I admit it’s a tempting offer. But thankfully, I always manage to log out before I can start acting on it.

 

It can be really tempting to liquidate a long-term investment or savings account for something you want in the short term. Here’s why that may not be such a good idea, and how you can resist the urge to act on it.

 

With Money, You Have To Think In Terms Of Decades

 

This isn’t an easy thing to do. It’s arguably an impossible thing to do. How could you know what your financial needs will be 10, 20, 30 years from now, when you have no idea what your life will even look like then?

 

My thought is, you really can’t. But what you can know is that your financial needs will likely only increase as you get older. It makes sense, right? You might be renting an apartment in a major city now, but you may own a house one day. You might be feeding just yourself for now, but what if you have a few kids down the road? And, the sad reality is that as we get older, our bodies probably need a lot more health care than when we’re young and spry.

 

Step 1 to not touching those investments is the realization that future you, whoever that is, will likely need the money you’re building up a lot more than you need it now.

 

Also, keep in mind that if you’re thinking of pulling money out of a retirement account, what you see there won’t be what actually ends up in your bank account. If you’re younger than 59-and-a-half, the IRS automatically smacks your wrist with a 10% penalty on early withdrawals. Plus, you’ll obviously have to pay the taxes on any pre-tax contributions you put in!

 

Consider The Impact Of Your Choice

 

The thing that makes me click away from the withdrawal button every time is pretty sobering. I go to a retirement calculator, and project what my account balance would be if I kept contributing what I contribute and kept my current balance. Then, I calculate the same thing, but with no balance (as if I took out everything I’ve saved.)

 

The difference is usually hundreds of thousands of dollars! The power of compound interest is no joke.

 

Student debt sucks, but is taking out a huge chunk of it now worth not having hundreds of thousands of dollars more when I’m older? I don’t think so.

 

Should Everyone Leave Their Savings Alone?

 

As I’ve said before, everyone’s situation is different. While in my case, I think not withdrawing from my retirement savings makes sense, that might not be true for everyone.

 

For example, there might be some folks out there who have really toxic debt: the kind with double-digit interest rates that just seems to grow, and never shrink.

 

Now, I am not a financial adviser, and you should probably speak to one before considering anything like the following. However, if you find that you have debt with an interest rate that’s outpacing the rate of return of your investments (usually estimated to be around 7%), then it may make sense to throw everything you have at that debt to get rid of it—even if it means paying the IRS’s early withdrawal penalty.

 

As long as you know the facts about your money and debt, you can begin making a plan that makes sense for you to maximize your financial happiness.

 

Have you ever withdrawn from a long-term investment before? Was it the right move for you, or do you regret having done so now? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments!

“Hey, bro, open up. I know you can hear me. I need the electric bill money. I can’t deal with your excuses anymore. If you have money to party, then I know you have money for the electric bill.”

 

The conversation went something like that in the early morning hours 4 years ago. One of my roommates was collecting money for the electric bill. He’d just about had it with a couple of my other roommates—and so had I.

 

These guys played video games with their friends until 5 a.m. on weekdays. They also ate food that was not theirs, let random people sleep in our shared living room, and yes, did not pay their part of the electric bill on time.

 

I’ve had good and bad experiences with roommates, but nothing was worse than the year of **** I had with those two. But what choices do you have when you’re saddled with a deadbeat roommate? 

 

Set Ground Rules

 

The best way to deal with obnoxious roommates is don’t live with them. (Easier said than done, I know.) If you can’t afford to pay rent yourself—which is probably the case if you want to live in a major city—then set rules with your roommates from the very beginning.

 

For instance pay utility bill on time, no loud noises after 11pm on weekdays and no robbing off food. Put these rules in writing for a “roommate agreement,” and require everyone to sign it. That way, if the obnoxiousness continues, you should be able to leave the apartment (if possible) or kick out the bad roommate. I wish I did this. Instead, I endured a “year of ****.”

 

Keep Bills Separate

 

In almost all my living situations, I’ve been fortunate enough to have contracts where every individual was responsible for their own part of the rent. The exception? One management company that made all the tenants pay the electric bill apart from rent.

 

The splitting of that bill became an issue that left the account holder knocking on my roommate's door at the beginning of every month. If your management company doesn’t let you keep bills separate, do it on your own—and outline how this works in your roommate agreement.

 

You might pay the electric bill yourself each month, while your roommate covers the cable bill. Decide how often you’ll “settle up” (monthly, quarterly, etc.) because the amounts aren’t likely to be equal, but this beats having to hunt down your roommate for money each month. 

 

In this instance, I decided that as soon as my contract was up I would live on my own—even if I lived in a small apartment. There comes a point where sanity and peace beat saving money.

 

How have you dealt with bad roommates in the past? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post your tips in the comments.

Fall semester hasn’t started yet, but shopping for fall semester definitely has. I like to think of myself as a mindful, money savvy student. Therefore, I’m always making sure to get the biggest bang for my buck.

 

I’ve gotten really into couponing, and as an avid shopper (online and in person), I’m always looking for places that give out discounts for being a student. Here are a few of my favorites that require only a university email or student ID.

 

Just remember—even though these service providers offer discounts, they still may not offer you the best deal overall. Consider these added bonuses for items you were planning to buy anyway (and can already afford!).

 

Computers

 

Every college student needs a computer to survive, but really good ones, like Macs, can be really expensive (I know from experience). If you plan to invest in a Mac, Apple offers a program in which you’ll receive a free pair of Beats headphones with a Macbook—plus $200 off your purchase.

 

Microsoft offers one of my favorite student discounts. Microsoft Office, which includes student essentials such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, can cost you over anywhere from $60 to $300. Isn’t that outrageous? Anyways, if you’re a college student, Microsoft lets you download a full package of these items for up to 4 years. You just need to select your school and type in your your email. This was so helpful to me, as I mainly use Word for all papers I write and PowerPoint for most presentations.

 

Decorations

 

No matter how you and your roomie split the move-in responsibilities, you’ll want some personal items to make your dorm feel homey. One site I like for this is UNiDAYS. This is literally just website you can sign up on, and it gets you instant access to discounts for being a student. They have major home goods retailers, as well as for clothing and electronics. Ones I frequent (like Hollister) give me an added 10% off my total purchase as well.

 

If you love art like I do, and want to hang up some of your own work, then JOANN fabric and craft store is a great place for you to check out. They offer 10% off with their student discount program. I usually buy my canvases in bulk, and this really helps out when I do.

 

Other Favorites

 

Amazon offers its Prime service, which includes 2-day shipping, free to students for 6 months. After that, it’s $45 for the year, which is about half off the cost of a regular Amazon Prize membership.

 

H&M is another very popular store that offers student discounts. They’ll give you 15% off just for flashing your student ID in stores. They have great business casual/professional wear!

 

These are just some of the most relevant places I use. As I find more, I will let you all know. Sign up or log in with your Salt account to comment below and let me know of any other places that gives freebies for student!

 

Salt has no relationship, financial or otherwise, with the products or services mentioned above. We encourage you to read their privacy policy and terms of use to decide if you want to use them.

 

With the exception of college, I’ve lived in a major city all my life. Because of this, I can’t really ever picture myself not living in a city. I live for the street life, culture, and events. I even feel weird if I don’t hear traffic.

 

Because I live in a city (Miami), I often get asked how to afford it. Cities are not cheap, and cost of living keeps going up in cities all over the country.

 

In total transparency, since I always assumed I’d be living in a major city, I also always assumed I’d have to find ways to earn a lot of money. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t find ways to make it more affordable.

 

The reality is it is doable to live in a city and still save a lot of money. Here are four things I do to make this happen.

 

1. Find A Roommate

 

While some people groan about having roommates, I would argue you can get more bang for your buck.

 

I live in a condo in a great neighborhood near downtown right next to the ocean. My portion of the rent (which includes all utilities and association fees) is actually slightly less than what I would pay for a small one-bedroom apartment more inland. I even pay less than my brother—who lives about an hour north of the city.

 

By the way, moving to a condo also allowed me to give up my gym membership because I have access to a 24/7 gym, a pool, and a basketball/tennis court.

 

2. Give Up Your Car

 

The great thing about cities is they usually have public transportation or other methods of getting around. Granted, not all cities are created equal in this department, but if you can get rid of your car, then you’re saving a significant amount of money.

 

For example, as soon as I walk out of my building, I have access to two bus lines and a free trolley. I can also walk to my office and most places where I need to run errands. If I’m going further out, I can just use a ride-sharing app (which by the way costs me less than owning a car—I’ve done the math).

 

3. Shop At Thrift Stores

 

When you live in a city, you often have a lot of access to thrift stores. You can get anything from clothing to kitchen appliances at dirt-cheap prices there. Everything in my kitchen is secondhand. Same goes for my furniture.

 

4. Enjoy Free Entertainment

 

Perhaps the best part about living in a city is all the access to free entertainment. There is always something going on, and it rarely has to cost a lot of money. In the last few weeks, I’ve been to fashion shows, a brunch, and a marketing event—and they all cost me nothing.

 

Is rent more expensive in a city? You bet. But you’re pretty much paying for the convenience of not having to spend money on other things like transportation and entertainment. And, if you play your cards right, you could possibly end up saving more by living in a city.

 

Do you live in a major city? What do you do to reduce your cost of living? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post your tips in the comments!