How to Budget for Paying Off Student Loans

Today, college graduating classes have an average of roughly $37,000 in student debt per student. Although the standard payment plan for federal student loans has a timeline of 10 years to pay off the debt, the average bachelor’s degree holder takes closer to 21 years to get it all paid off. As the numbers continue to climb, it’s obvious that we need to learn more about how to get student debt squared away earlier.

It’s a challenge to live with debt hanging over your head, especially when most jobs straight out of college don’t pay that much (or, in some cases, anything at all.) However, remember that you managed on a strict budget while you were a college student, and you can continue to be disciplined until the debt is paid off, as well. The quicker you can pay off those debts, the more money you’ll save on interest payments, and the more money you’ll be able to put towards your future instead of your past.

Important Things to Remember About Paying Off Student Debt

Realize that paying interest doesn’t actually reduce your student debt. You’ll never get out of debt until you start taking chunks off of the principle. Strive to shave off that principle a little bit each month. The less principle there is, the less interest you’ll have to pay each month!

You need to set a budget. Most of the anxiety about debts occurs when you’re not sure what you can and cannot spend. Setting a budget will give you a plan for when the student loans will be paid off, and let you know how much wiggle room you have with your paycheck each month.

Read up about your loans. Understand what the grace period is for each of them, and which ones have the highest interest rates.

Avoid bankruptcy. While many people feel the only way out of their student debt is through bankruptcy, it is important to remember that there are lots of programs and strategies that can prevent bankruptcy caused by student debt.

More Tips for Paying off Student Debt Faster

Celebrate landmarks (with inexpensive, reasonable treats, of course). Celebrating certain points will help you remember that you’re working towards a goal, and encourage you to continue in the track you’re going.

Meet with a financial manager. They can help you understand your loans, and whether it would be worthwhile to consolidate or refinance your loans. At the very least, they can help you set a payment goal and stick to it. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to hire someone new as your financial manager, but even if you don’t want to go that route, you can meet with someone at your bank to help you get a plan underway.

Pay as much as you can towards student debts AFTER inflexible expenses (like rent, insurance payments, etc.) and BEFORE flexible ones (like entertainment, clothing, snacks, non-essential groceries like chips or tv dinners).

Look for creative ways to cut spending. This might include biking to work in order to save on gas costs (or you could just improve your gas mileage), couponing, making lunches at home so you never eat out at work… whatever works for you.

Don’t be tempted to just use credit cards to pay it off. Credit cards generate interest too, and oftentimes the interest rate is worse than student loans. You also won’t be eligible for tax breaks and loan forgiveness measures that are sometimes accessible to you.

Ask for what you’re worth. Some of the best ways that you’ll increase your earnings (and therefore your ability to pay off loans) is by asking for a higher starting salary or asking for raises when appropriate. This can be a difficult thing to force yourself to do, but you’re an adult now. You might not always get exactly what you ask for, but if you’ve proven your worth to your employer, you will get something.

How to Plan Your Family’s Christmas Ski Vacation

Taking your family out for an awesome skiing and snowboarding holiday experience? It’s one of the best Christmas vacations that you will find. However, you’ll need to be prepared, especially if it’s your first time. Hitting the slopes is a lot of fun, but it can be dangerous if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Here are some tips you should remember for planning your family’s Christmas ski vacation…

Choose Your Locale

If you don’t have much experience with skiing or snowboarding, pay special attention to where you book your vacation. Some resorts are made specifically to accommodate more advanced skiers, so look for a place with a good bunny hill and more easy and intermediate courses than advanced ones. They can also vary wildly in price, so you’ll need to make sure that it fits your budget. Also, check out the resort to make sure that it’s a friendly environment for all members of your party. The real crown jewel is if you can plan to rent ski-in/ski-out property to stay in by the property.

Schedule a Lesson

Even if you’ve been skiing or snowboarding before, don’t take the lift to the top of the mountain without taking a lesson first. Find a resort that offers lessons and schedule one for yourself and any others in your party who need it. Many offer them free as a part of your vacation package; others will ask for a small fee, but it’s well worth it. You’ll be a lot safer and have a lot more fun if you go take this important step. 

Be In Shape

Skiing and snowboarding aren’t actually all downhill. On occasion, you’ll have to push yourself along with your poles or arms. You’ll also need some core strength to stay balanced and make turns. Make sure that your body is fit enough to do so before you hit the slopes. 

Be Prepared for the Real Thing

Many people find it helpful to brush up on the technique of the sport before they try it themselves. You could look into booking a private lesson at an indoor slope or watch training videos for advice before your trip so that you’re as prepared for the real thing as possible. 

Gear Up

Experts recommend that you don’t borrow your gear, as it is fitted specifically to the owner and might not fit you properly. Renting is a good option, but for the best experience possible, you’ll want to buy your own gear. You’ll need your skis and poles or snowboard, the boots that attach to that gear, a good pair of high socks, snow pants, a ski jacket, goggles, and a hat. Those are the basics, and you won’t regret purchasing them. 

Pack a Bag

Bring a small rucksack that you can take with you on the trail. As the day goes on, you might find yourself getting warmer or colder, and you should have the means to add or shed layers wherever you are. You’ll also want to have an emergency kit and some water and snacks in there as well. 

Check the Weather

The heavier the snowfall, the better the skiing or snowboarding, but that doesn’t mean you want to be on the slopes during a heavy blizzard. Know what the weather is forecasted to be before you schedule your trip to minimize the chance of you getting stuck in unpleasant and dangerous conditions on the slope. Another important thing to remember about the weather is that it will affect your drive up to the resort. Winter driving can be incredibly dangerous, so make sure that you have a car that is winter-ready.

Hydrate and Snack

Carry plenty of water and snacks with you in your pack and use them! Though it seems like you will mostly be gliding down the slopes, skiing and snowboarding is hard work, and you keep your body hydrated and fed to keep going. You’ll also want to have this in case of an emergency. 

Wear Sunscreen

Just because it’s cold does not mean that you are safe from the sun. On the contrary, the effects of the sun are actually worse when you ski than it is when you go to the beach. The sun reflects off the snow and hits your skin with doubled force. Protect any exposed skin by slathering it in a high SPF sunscreen several times a day. 

Exercise Caution on the Slopes

Accidents happen to the best of skiers and snowboarders, but a lot of them can be prevented if you’re cautious. Read all the signs on each hill you encounter to make sure the terrain is at your level. Don’t go on a slope that you aren’t ready for. Be prepared in case of accidents. Above all, listen to the advice of your instructor, and if you have a question, ask. This is your best bet for a fun-filled and accident-free holiday on the slopes!

Getting Involved Your First Semester on Campus

our first semester away for college is one of the most exciting times. You are moving out of your parents’ house, you are finally on your own, and just imagine the new social life you are bound to be part of. Since there is a lot going on around campus find something you know you’re going to enjoy! If you get overwhelmed, ask your friends and roommates if they are interested in something specific and you can tag along with them. We’ve got a couple of tips and things to look and be prepared for during that first semester. 

Get a Student Pass for Games and Activities

Since most college campuses’ have a sports team this gives you the opportunity to sign up for a student pass to the student section of various sporting events and activities. Being in the student section in the middle of some serious school spirit is a great chance to meet new friends that you can go to future activities with. They may even know about more events that you are interested in that you may have missed. 

Check out the Campus Calendar

There’s usually always something going on around campus. Whether it is homecoming parties and activities or a block party put on by different houses or dorms that you can go to with friends or roommates. These events usually have activities, lots of new people to meet and free food. When living alone for the first time and learning to budget, free food is a great thing to happen upon at parties. Some parties will even have so much leftover food they start sending it home with party-goers. Grab some and take it home and box it up in your Tupperware for a meal later in the week!

Stay Healthy

Staying healthy when you’re living away from home for the first time especially if you’re not used to doing grocery shopping on your own and making your own meals. One way to keep yourself accountable is to ask your roommates for help. You can go grocery shopping together and rotate making dinners for everyone throughout the week. Perhaps one of your roommates is studying nutrition and they could help you make a meal plan and grocery list! But staying and eating healthy will be easier if you are doing it with people around you and you aren’t alone! Eating healthy and clean food has also been proven to help keep focus and keeping your energy up and is more sustainable than endless amounts of energy drinks and shots while you’re trying to study for a big test coming up. 

Stay Fit

Most college campuses’ have a gym on campus and offer a lot of different, and occasionally free, classes that you can get involved in. Ask your friends and roommates if they want to go with you to these classes so you don’t have to go alone. Whether it is just a run around campus, using some equipment in the gym or yoga or high fitness class that you’re interested in. Getting a group of friends to go is sure to make your class and workout fun and something you will look forward to. Getting in a good workout has many benefits and can help break up your study sessions so that your mind doesn’t get too exhausted sitting and doing the same thing for long periods of time. Allow yourself to study for an hour, head out for a short workout, then reward yourself with your favorite treat before you head back to hitting the books. 

Keep Your Mental Health in Check

A lot of college students experience a dip in their mental health when they head off to college and are learning the ins and outs of living alone. Be aware if you’re experiencing these feelings prior to going to college that you may not have access to your primary care physician back home. So make sure before you head out you’ve received the on any medications you may need so you don’t catch yourself in a bind. If you aren’t wanting to take any medications you can make your mental health a priority by getting enough sleep, allowing time to be alone, and getting yourself out of your dorm can be a big help when it comes to your mental health. 

This first semester of college is supposed to be a fun, new experience. Don’t let anything get in your way of having a memorable time. By getting involved on campus it allows you to meet more people, find things to do that you may have missed and being able to live with some great friends that are your roommates. Getting everyone out of the dorm whether it is for grocery shopping, hitting the gym together or going to a good party with them. Getting out of the house will be really helpful and will help you stay motivated and positive through the hard times in the semester. Make sure if you need help with your mental health that you get help sooner rather than later. If you aren’t sure how you will react to a new environment it is important to be prepared and have your doctor get your prescriptions in order ahead of time so you aren’t scrambling for something when you are already struggling. Try combating these harder days for your mental health by taking some time for yourself, going out for a workout, stay hydrated and try meditating. College will be a great experience if you allow yourself to get involved with different activities on campus.

Happy studying!

Helpful Ways to Stay Sober at Parties

Going to parties when you don’t drink alcohol, either because you are trying to change your life and stop drinking alcohol or because you haven’t drunk alcohol before and don’t want some short term alcohol abuse to become a long-term problem, can be a challenging experience. If you have recently had alcohol issues, it may even be worth avoiding parties with alcohol altogether, for the moment, but that might not be realistic in the long-run. 

The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can have fun and comfortably avoiding partaking of alcohol at these parties. Friends who still drink but who are supportive of your decision to become sober can still very much be a part of your support system. It does, however, require an extra measure of caution if you are going to spend time with them. If you are in the process of overcoming alcohol addiction and have friends or family members who drink, here are some tips for staying sober.

Have a Plan in Place

It helps tremendously before attending a party, wedding, or other events to make a plan for how you will avoid temptations and pressures to drink. Decide to arm yourself with a glass of club soda from the very start, for example, and to maintain a comfortable distance between you and the refreshments table. It will also help to leave on the earlier side, before guests who are drinking start to get buzzed. You could even plan specifically to be the designated driver, which will both keep you accountable and put you in a role where no one is going to pressure you to drink.

Be Comfortable Saying No

Some ways of saying ‘no’ to alcohol work better than others. Stating that you never drink, for example, will likely cause others to probe for more answers, asking you why you have taken on such a lifestyle. For some people, they are still developing enough confidence in their sobriety that may be necessary to be comfortable expressing it. Putting it in simpler terms, however, will usually suffice. Simply tell those who ask that you’re not drinking tonight. Perhaps you’re the designated driver or are taking a prescription that interferes with alcohol; he or she won’t know. The key is to find a way to express your sobriety for the night in a way that makes you feel comfortable.

Ask a Friend to Hold You Accountable

Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where you are surrounded by others who are drinking—at a wedding, for example. If you are unsure about your abilities to withstand the pressures to drink, confide in a close friend or family member who is a part of your support system. You could have a friend remain sober with you, or at the very least help to fend off any pressure to drink that might come.

Remember the Purpose of Your Sobriety

It helps to remind ourselves of the many positives to choosing not to drink when you are having a difficult time resisting temptation. It’s important to make this reason specific to you, personally. Maybe you don’t drink because you are trying to improve your general physical wellness and are trying to be healthier. Maybe you don’t drink because you have a history of alcohol abuse and it is critical for your mental well-being that you maintain the sobriety you’ve worked for. Remind yourself of how staying sober will benefit you physically, mentally, and financially, and think about the negative short-term consequences of drinking that you are avoiding simply by not drinking on this particular occasion.

Know Your Limits

It is important to know your limits when it comes to spending time in environments that could tempt you to pick up the drink again. Many recovering addicts who are in the early stages of recovery overestimate their abilities to resist temptations to drink, joining in on drink-centered celebrations and late-night parties. Be diligent about avoiding your triggers, and remember that this is one circumstance in which you don’t want to step outside of your comfort zone.

Redefining Balance in Your Life

Most of us need a little bit more balance in our lives. If you ever feel frazzled and you’re losing control over everything around you, you can probably relate to this need. The lack of control and balance in your life is something that happens gradually, and often you don’t realize how much balance you have lost, until you go to restore that balance. But not only do you need to restore that balance, but you need to redefine what it means to have balance in your life. If you don’t have a clear vision of the balance that your life needs, you will never be able to maintain it.


When most people think about the balance of their life, work is the first thing that comes to mind. Work can look like so many different things, which is often why it is so difficult to balance out in your life. You may have a full time job that takes up most of your waking hours week after week. And many of us have a hard time truly leaving work at work, focusing on work problems and issues once we are home.

In addition to your career, there are household items that demand a lot of time, and this also constitutes work. Childcare is another thing that, while it feels unfair to label it as work, is absolutely work.

This is often just scratching the surface of the things in your life that are work. So, how is it possible to gain any balance when there are so many work related things that are pulling your attention in a hundred different directions at once? There will always be exceptions, but you should strive to have specific hours that you spend on work tasks. If you have a 9-5, leave that work there. Don’t bring projects home with you, and don’t answer emails regarding work issues when you are home. Specify certain hours that you will be doing housework. If you have hours set on a daily basis, it will be easier to keep your home clean and will not take more than your designated daily hours to keep things clean.

Down time

Down time sometimes feels like something you’ll never have again. You think back to the simple times when you were in high school, college, pre children, pre career, that you had time to do absolutely nothing. You will probably never have such an abundance of free time ever again, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to have some free time in your life. In fact, it is necessary in order for you to thrive and have an enjoyable life. Depriving yourself of free time is going to stress you out and make you less productive when you are focusing on other things. Every single day, no matter what deadlines or dishes you have, you need to let yourself take a break. Schedule it in before you start your day, so you don’t have an excuse to skip it when you are feeling overwhelmed.


It’s important to separate downtime from scheduled time to do things that you enjoy. Downtime should be time that you are able to sit and not worry about things. Spend that time catching up on your favorite tv show. But you should also schedule out activities of things you enjoy. Date nights, grabbing drinks with friends, brunch on the weekends, going to the movies. These won’t happen every day, but are important to have on a weekly basis.


Your health is important, and often neglected when you are overwhelmed and busy. It doesn’t take a lot of time to plan out healthy meals for your week, but it’s important to do so, and to stick to it. Finding time to be active and workout, even if it is just going on a walk in the evening with your dog, will improve the quality of your life, and you’ll find that you have more energy for other things during the days.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going Back to School

Going back to school is a dream that many people have, nowadays. There are many reasons for this. For some people, they may not have even pursued higher education in the first place (not that there’s anything wrong with that), others may have left school to pursue a job opening or family goals, and others still may have gotten their degree in a field that isn’t bringing them the happiness or success that they crave.

Regardless of the reason, going back to school can be a great way to shift the current priorities of your life, but it has many drawbacks of whether it is feasible financially or timewise. Here are questions you should be asking yourself before you go back to school…

Will It Let Your Pursue a Career That Makes You Happier?

First of all, consider the reason that you are going back to school. One of the most valid reasons to go back to school is because it will enable you to get a job in a field that brings you far more happiness.

This happiness can come in different forms. Maybe you got a degree in accounting, but find that you hate the day-to-day work more than anything else and want to switch to a career where you can use your hands more. In this example, happiness comes from a desire to enjoy the actual work being done. Other times, getting a degree to work in a more lucrative industry may help bring happiness in the form of additional income. Consider what happiness looks like to you, and whether going back to school is a realistic way to achieve that happiness.

Does It Make Financial Sense?

Unfortunately, the biggest roadblock to going back to school for most people is whether or not it is financially viable. There’s no getting around it, school is expensive. Aside from medical debt, student debt is one of the most common forms of debt that drive people to declare bankruptcy. For some career paths, though, it’s simply not realistic to break into specific industries without an applicable degree. The good news, though, is that there are several key cost-saving measures to consider, listed below.

Is There an Online Option?

When you go back to school, you’re paying a premium price for instructors, buildings, facilities, amenities, additional staff, potential housing, and lots more. Online schooling options are able to cut out a lot of extraneous costs because there are fewer upkeep and startup costs per class, and thus they tend to be significantly less expensive than attending school on a physical campus. So you should consider if there is an online option that makes sense for the degree you are seeking to attain.

Is a Tech School Right?

People’s idea of higher education is often tied to a traditional 4-year college, but this isn’t the only option. Tech schools provide fast-tracked programs to work in a variety of advanced trades and technical industries. They are also available for a fraction of the price, and can almost always be done in less than two years, if not 6 months. This makes tech school a more affordable and realistic option for many people.

Will Your Work Pay for Your School?

Another way to make the option of going back to school more financially feasible is to see if your work is willing to help you pay the cost of attaining a higher degree. If you are going back to school to further excel in your current career field, then your employer has a vested interest in your training. Some companies already have programs set up to help their employees do this, but if that doesn’t currently exist, it might be worth starting a dialogue with your employer to see if that is a possibility.

Can You Learn the Same Skills Outside of School?

While higher education is a terrific way to develop an understanding of complex concepts and get training in many fields, there are some industries where you can get equal or superior training by learning on the job. If this option is open to you, you should do a quick cost-benefit analysis to determine if your specific goals are better met by jumping right into the field you want to work in, rather than going to school first.

Accelerated Online Degree Programs: Frequently Asked Questions

Taking a fast-track degree course online is a great way for professionals to acquire higher education while in a full-time job. Also, online programs cost less than regular classroom-based college degrees, and they offer more flexibility in terms of completing assignments and time and location of study.

If you’re looking to acquire a college degree fast, here are five frequently asked questions that will answer your basic queries about degree programs available online.

Can I do an advanced course such as Master’s or PhD online?

Yes. Several reputed colleges offer advanced online degree courses in a number of subjects. You can enroll for an accelerated Associate’s degree, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and even a PhD.

Where should I enroll for an online program?

Many established colleges and prestigious universities now also offer online degree programs for working professionals. Choosing the right institution for an online college degree depends on a number of factors; however, the most important question you should ask is if the institution and the course being offered are accredited to a recognized accrediting agency.

Should I opt for a college that has regional accreditation or national accreditation?

It has been seen that regional accreditation is more respected that national accreditation. So if you have a choice, opt for a program accredited to a regional accrediting organization. For educational institutions it is harder to acquire regional accreditation because of the strict rules governing the same.

At the same time, studying with a regionally accredited college may cost you more, but it also has several advantages: If you’re a working professional, your employer may offer to reimburse your tuition; you can use your credits from a previous course (at a regionally accredited college) to the present course; and you can seek state license in different lines of work.

How can I fast-track my online college degree program?

One way to do this is to take an exam such as CLEP in a subject that you don’t want to study all over again. By taking this exam for a small fee, you can get up to 12 credits on your course. This not only accelerates your college education, but also saves you tuition money for those subjects.

Other ways to fast-track your online college degree is to take accelerated classes; receive credit for past education, work or life experience; or receive credit for military training.

What are the key points to consider when choosing a fast online degree program?

First and foremost, the college must be accredited to a respected accrediting agency. The other key factors that should influence your choice of an online course are: cost of the program including any hidden fees, length of the degree course, minimum admission requirements, start and end dates of the program, learner-faculty ratio, class size, and, last but not least, financial aid available for the said course.

For in-depth information on fast-track online degree courses, visit, a trusted information resource that has been helping higher education aspirants find the right online course for over a decade.

Should You Go Back to School or Back to Work?

Middle aged woman in school

For long-term parents who are either stay-at home parents, or else work very rarely, there can be a bit of a shock that comes when your kids finally reach the age where they all move out and start living their own lives. This time will probably be a mixture of sadness and relief, but the part that surprises most people is how much it shocks their sense of purpose. When you’ve spent the better part of 2 decades, at least, with raising children as your primary goal, then the sudden absence of that purpose can leave one feeling empty.

Typically, when considering where to go next with their lives, people consider two major possibilities: should I go back to school? Or back to work? This is a dilemma that honestly depends on the specific person’s situation, but there are some things to consider that make this decision a little easier…

Consider career happiness

First of all, if you are considering going back to work full-time, then you want to make sure that you will be able to do something that you somewhat enjoy, or at least something that you don’t absolutely hate! Because of this, it can make your choice rather easy if you find that you don’t necessarily have the qualifications to do something in a field that interests you. Oftentimes, people will find a way to get a position around something that they are in to, but other times they will need to go back to school for a period of time to put themselves in a position to do so.

Is it financially viable?

Obviously, the big question about going back to school is how much it is going to cost. It’s no secret that the price of higher education continues to climb, year after year. Do you really want to add that enormous expense to your pocketbook this late in life? Maybe you do. But the financial viability of going back to school is something you always need to consider. The good news is that there are many ways to get a secondary education for a relatively minute cost, such as applying for scholarships or taking classes at a community college.

Check out online school

Aside from cost, the practicalities of going back to college are easier than they’ve ever been for a lot of people. That’s because the landscape of higher education continues to change, particularly with how it interacts with the internet. Online classes have enabled countless people to get an education from a remote location, or take classes at a completely different institution than they go to, physically. It’s entirely possible that you’ll be able to work towards your education with online schooling, while at the same time going back into the workforce.

Consider a tech school

Higher education is a gigantic commitment of time and money. Sure, you may love the idea of going back and getting a degree, but several years of college is something that can be harder to justify later in life. For some people, though, with specific career interests, tech schools are a perfectly viable option. Tech schools tend to be very low cost, and can be completed within a matter of months, rather than years. Tech schools nowadays offer all kinds of programs, from metalworking, to cosmetology, to graphic design.

Look for an accommodating job

Again, there are a lot of different ways that you might be able to have your cake and eat it to, as it pertains to working while getting an education. Lots of the companies that are actually worth working for will have some degree of flexibility, in terms of letting you go to school while working there. If you are able to schedule your classes on one or two days a week, then it’s entirely possible that you will be able to find a job that is willing to work with that schedule while you are going to school.

5 Points to Consider When Selecting a Private School

Education is the best gift that parents can give their children. But providing education from any school is no longer enough. You need to find a school that provides quality education. This will ensure that your child is better prepared for the future. With this objective in mind, more and more parents are opting for private schools for their children. But how do you select the best private school from among so many of them out there? Outlined below are 5 essential points that you need to consider when selecting a private school:

Academic track record

The academic quality of the school is one of the most important aspects that you should look into when making your selection. Do not base your decision on the academic results of just one or two years. Look at how consistent the school has been in delivering academic excellence over a period of several years. This will help you to get an idea of the school’s ability to deliver quality education to its students.

The culture of the school

It is important to pay attention to the culture of the school before you send your child to study there. Talk to the school leadership and try to understand the school’s current culture. Ask what plans the school management and leadership has to improve the school’s culture and how do they plan to go about doing it.


The number of private schools is increasing by the day. If you search on the internet, you will get a long list of results even before you can finish typing properly find private schools near me. However, you have to act wisely before investing your money to provide education to your child in a private school. In this regard, do not forget to check the school’s accreditation. Make sure that it is accredited by an organization that is recognized by the Department of Education.

Student/teacher ratio

A school is often considered to be as good or bad as its students. This also offers an idea about how well the students are taught in the school. To understand how much care is provided to the students, look at the student/teacher ratio of the school. Get information about the average size of the classes. A teacher will be able to provide ample care to the students if their number is small. When a teacher has to manage a class with a large number of students, obviously it will be more challenging for him or her to look into the needs of every student.

Holistic development opportunities

For holistic development of your child, he or she must be exposed to extracurricular activities. Ensure that the school you are considering for your child’s admission offers opportunities to pursue other interests apart from studies. Check whether the school encourages the students to pursue their interest in sports. Are there opportunities for the students to go on field trips and learn new things? Make your decision after considering all such points.