How to Design a Life You Love

In the earliest days of my business, I wasn’t so much running toward a passion or purpose but running away from my disengaging full-time job. And that absence of purpose scared me. This was the next phase of my life, and I wanted it to be infused with intention.

And also… I had no idea how to achieve this.

Then one day, browsing aimlessly in a bookstore (a tactic I recommend anytime you’re struggling with literally anything) I stumbled on a book called Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

At first glance it sounded a little squishy. But I noticed the book is based on a course of the same name, authored by two professors who famously teach at Stanford University – an institution not known for its squishiness. So, I grabbed it.

Its purpose is to help you answer this question: Can we apply design thinking to the “wicked problem” of designing your job, your career, and even your life? Evans and Burnett believe we can.

Design thinking is a means of user-centered design. It’s about designing not the best outcome, but rather the best path for a particular user. In the case of this book, the user is you. Today I’ll introduce you to the five phases of the design thinking process, and how Burnett and Evans might encourage you to harness it in designing your ideal life.

Whether you’re on a quest for joy, change, or a fresh start, welcome to your new beginning.

Design thinking … is about designing not the best outcome, but rather the best path for a particular user – in this case, the user is you.

Step #1: Empathize

Design thinking begins with empathy because you can only design for a user you understand. And since you are the user, this phase is about self-awareness. So how can you get to know you a little bit better? There’s a process Burnett and Evans describe called wayfinding, which is a simple method of self-discovery that puts you in the direction of where you need to go.

Through wayfinding, you’ll discover which activities engage you (leaving you feeling inspired and “in the zone”) and which sap your energy. The process is simple: keep a journal (here's a good example of one). For the next few weeks, keep track of your work and home activities throughout each day. Whether it's writing a sales pitch, reorganizing your sock drawer, or anything else. For each activity, grab your journal and log how high or low your engagement was during the activity (did you enjoy your time spent?) and how you feel afterwards (energized or exhausted, positive or negative?).

This process will reveal some important information about you!

Step #2: Define

The next phase of design thinking is to define the needs or insights you’ve gained through empathy. So after a few weeks, take a closer look at your journal and do a bit of reflecting. What captures your attention? Any surprises? 

When I did this exercise, I validated some things I already knew – I love spending time with people and learning about topics of interest. But the news to me was that I was also enjoying writing copy for my website. This insight led me to start publishing an email newsletter which has since become critical to my business growth.

Now it’s your turn. What insights pop out for you? What assumptions can you validate, and what new things did you discover?

Step #3: Ideate

Now it’s time to develop a set of possible solutions. This phase is meant to be playful and exploratory, leveraging the insights you’ve collected.

Burnett and Evans call this Odyssey Planning. I love this phrase – it sounds more like an adventure in the wilderness than a planning process. How you craft your odysseys is up to you – you can draw, write stories, brainstorm or create a mind map.  But the goal is to generate possibilities using pen and paper.

“Each of us is many,” Evans and Burnett say. “The life you are living is one of many lives you will live.”

So start with three possible lives:

  • A better version of the present – what your life would look like if everything stayed the same, but you added in more of the engaging and stripped out some of what leaves you drained
  • An alternate version of the present – what your life would look like if suddenly your job went away
  • A what-if-money-were-no-object version – what your life would look like if finances weren’t a constraint

Let your creative brain take over here. None of these will be your final life design, so don’t be hampered by too many rules. This is only about possibilities.

Step #4: Prototype

This phase is about collecting data to inform how we turn ideas into action plans. Now that you’ve crafted three possible lives that sound great to you. What can you do to test and validate those assumptions?

Who in your life has lived pieces of your envisioned lives? If one Odyssey involves you opening a restaurant or becoming a stay-at-home parent or launching a side hustle, who do you know who has done these things?

Find and interview people who you trust to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their experience. Arm yourself with as much information as you can, so you can ultimately make informed choices about how to proceed.

Find and interview people who you trust to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their experience. Arm yourself with as much information as you can.

Step #5: Test

The most valuable thing I learned while going through this life design process was that change needn’t be wholesale. You don’t have to throw out one life and take on another. You can take just one step at a time. Here’s where you put your insights, your possibilities, and your data into a blender and take small sips of the smoothie that emerges.

Maybe in your current job you spend a lot of time in meetings that drain your energy. This doesn’t mean you have to quit your job or boycott meetings. But can you craft a small experiment in which you opt out of one meeting per week and replace it with something that really lights you up? (Go back and check your journal to find the things that make you happiest).

This was my approach. I didn’t throw out my business. Instead, I started turning up the dial on things I believed would make me happy – choosing different clients, saying no to certain projects and yes to others.

If I was right, I kept going. If I was wrong, everything was reversible because I was doing this in small steps, rather than giant leaps. This process can be fun and invigorating. The beauty of human-centered design is that there is no right answer. There’s only the outcome that lifts you up.

And now it’s your turn. Are you ready to build the life you love?

 

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Most popular homes and their neighborhoods of July 2019

Summer is underway, and home buyers are dreaming big. Our most-viewed properties in July include several stunning homes that are asking eight or nine figures. But even the most palatial estate needs a top-quality neighborhood to seal the deal. So we took a look at July’s most popular homes to get the rundown on the neighborhood with an assist from What Locals Say, our guide to residents’ insights on their own communities.

Enjoy browsing these big summer dreams—and the very reasonable buys mixed in here, too.

Flatiron District, New York

$98,000,000

Flatiron District penthouse for sale in New York City on Trulia
How many fireplaces can fit in one home? This place tests the limits. See more photos here.

Named for one of New York City‘s early skyscrapers, the Flatiron District in Manhattan is home to lots of publishers and ad agencies and is also part of the city’s “Silicon Alley” tech business district. Major attractions range from the popular Italian food hall Eataly to Teddy Roosevelt’s birthplace. But despite the bustle, the Flatiron District is also an in-demand residential area, as notable residents like Chelsea Clinton can testify. What Locals Say users describe the neighborhood is just an all-around nice place. “There are parks and schools in the immediate area as well as plenty of fun stores and galleries and movie theaters,” one resident says.1

Available now in the Flatiron District, this extravagant penthouse suite is 19,000 square feet. With 11 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, and truly grand views of the city from its 4,500 square feet of terrace, NYC living doesn’t get much more luxurious than this.


Hearthstone, Yonkers

$399,000

Wood beams on the ceiling are always a plus. See more photos here.

One resident of Yonkers’ Hearthstone neighborhood describes the place as “centrally located to all”—including Yonkers itself and the Big Apple, just 45 minutes away by train.2 Neighborhood restaurants are wildly diverse, featuring Filipino, Korean, Mexican, and Italian cuisines. Residents also enjoy a variety of local groceries, including the fish market and restaurant at Highridge Fishery Seafood, described by one Yelp reviewer as “Yonkers’ best-kept secret.” If you’re seeking entertainment, the Alamo Drafthouse is an upscale movie theater, and for the outdoorsy, nearby Sprain Ridge Park has 278 acres of natural beauty to explore.

Available now in Hearthstone, this charming Cape Cod is the epitome of cozy living. It packs a lot into its small footprint, including three bedrooms, a bathroom, plenty of storage space, and a finished basement. We also love the little deck for summertime relaxation.


Bel Air, Los Angeles

$195,000,000

The hedge maze will make you feel like you’re in a Jane Austen novel. See more photos here.

Bel Air is the stuff of pop-culture legend, thanks to the TV shows set or shot there and the stars, from Jennifer Aniston to Alfred Hitchcock, who’ve called it home. But if you look beyond the big names, big houses, and big reputation, you’ll find neighbors who enjoy a quiet area with abundant natural beauty. “We are surrounded by nature: trees, flowers, birds, butterflies,” says one resident on What Locals Say.3 Right in the neighborhood, Getty View Park is an ideal place to enjoy some of that beauty (and take in a great view of L.A.). And, as you would expect, there’s chic dining and shopping in the area if you don’t feel like venturing out into the rest of L.A.

Available now in Bel Air is the 10-acre Chartwell estate. All told, the property has 11 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms, as well as a 40-vehicle car gallery and a 12,000-bottle wine cellar. And the gardens and L.A. views are downright magical.


Beverly Glen, Los Angeles

$150,000,000

A barber chair comes in the bathroom, but it’s BYO barber. See more photos here.

One resident of L.A.‘s Beverly Glen neighborhood describes it as, “Beautiful, quiet and unique. Feels far away from the city but is close to everything.”4 The small community is tucked between two of the area’s most prestigious neighborhoods, Beverly Hills and Hollywood Hills, and also has easy access to Westwood and Hollywood. Despite its exclusive address, Beverly Glen has a very close-knit community feel. There’s little retail in the area, but Glen Market is a beloved local grocery. And neighbors look forward to annual community events like the Garden Walk and Glen Fair, with music, dancing, food, and kids’ activities.

Available now in Beverly Glen, this luxury home is ideal for anyone who loves soaking up the sun and 270-degree views of L.A. And its 38,000-square-foot interior is worth a peek too, with gorgeously designed spaces including—get this—a candy room, a movie theater, and three gourmet kitchens.


Soundview, The Bronx

$649,999

Peek inside to see the reading nook under a window. See more photos here.

Just north of the confluence of the Bronx and East rivers, Soundview is a working-class community with culture to spare. According to AM New York, “Bronx residents frequent Soundview for two things: Food and music.” It’s easy to see why. The local dining scene has Mexican, Caribbean, and Spanish restaurants—although a single cuisine isn’t enough for local institution Joe’s Place, which proudly “offers three distinct dining atmospheres” under the same roof. Joe’s is also a neighborhood music venue, as is Soundview Park, which hosts summer concerts on the waterfront. “Just nice and calm. No drama,” says one local. “I love living in this area.”5

Available now in Soundview, this two-family home has been well maintained and beautifully renovated. The hardwood floors and stone shower walls lend a contemporary elegance, and the small back deck is a great place to relax outdoors even in the heart of the city.


Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

$695,000

A leaded glass door and wrought iron railings? Yes, please. See more photos here.

The Bensonhurst neighborhood is known as the biggest of Brooklyn‘s multiple “Little Italies” but also as one of the borough’s Chinatowns. The area bustles with sushi bars, innumerable local groceries, nightclubs, and cafes. And with plenty of subway stations in the neighborhood, Manhattan is just 45 minutes away. One lifetime Bensonhurst resident says she’s “seen many changes, but it’s still a safe place to live with great neighbors, shopping, and transportation.”6

Available now in Bensonhurst, this three-bedroom home has both new and old touches. The detailed iron banister, stained-glass windows, and flagstone patio all seem to hail from different eras—but they all work in this warm and welcoming space.

July-most-searched-Trulia-Beverly-Glen-1-e3e6fc

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1 Trulia user, Sept. 2018 “There are parks and schools in the immediate area as well as plenty of fun stores and galleries and movie theaters.”

2Mike P., Sept. 2018 “Neighbors are very friendly and area area is central located to all. wonderful neighborhood! Very quite, shopping is a mile away and Scarsdale train station is only about 1 1/2 miles away.”

3Trulia User, 2013 “I love this area ! The people never want to leave. We are surrounded by nature: trees, flowers, birds, butterflies. The public elementary school is one of the top, if not the top, in the city. The neighbors are multi-generational.”

4 Jenny, Feb. 2019 “Beautiful, quiet and unique. Feels far away from the city but is close to everything. Nice parks. Please do t speed on the blvd, its very dangerous “

5 Dameen T., June 2019“Just nice and calm No drama I love living in this area Very clean and always busy always see the same faces “

6 Msgrace46, May, 2018 “I have lived here all my life have seen many changes but it’s still a safe place to live with great neighbors, shopping and transportation “

The post Most popular homes and their neighborhoods of July 2019 appeared first on Trulia's Blog.

Source: trulia.com

6 Fun, Inexpensive Ways to Revamp Furniture

FunInexpensiveWaystoRevampFurniture

Dresser Storage

If your country kitchen is running out of room, consider a dresser. Even though you’re used to bureaus being only for bedrooms, it can be a valuable addition to a kitchen for storing napkins, utensils, and more. Repaint the dresser in colors to match your kitchen and you’ll have guests asking where you got your newest piece of kitchen furniture.

Don’t Discard Dingy Dressers

If your furniture is weathered or out of style, that’s not necessarily a reason to replace it. There are plenty of ways to spruce up old dressers, chairs, and tables. Everybody loves quilts, so why not drape one over that old chair that needs re-upholstering? You can also try using colorful fabrics on the fronts of nightstand and dresser drawers. Just get some scrap cloth from your last project or from a fabric store, and attach it to the dresser drawers with a staple gun. To have even more fun with it, we like to paint part of the piece and color-coordinate it with the cloth we’re using.

Handled With Style

If your cabinets are getting old and worn, you can revive them just by replacing the knobs and handles. A good variety should be available inexpensively at your local hardware store. They’ll make your kitchen or bathroom look brand new!

A Gift for Decoration

Dress up an inexpensive set of plastic drawers by covering them in wrapping paper. Choose some paper you love (you can even pick several coordinating designs), and cut the pieces to fit the size of the drawers. Then spread a crafting glue/sealer, such as Mod Podge, on the plastic and smooth the wrapping paper onto it, being careful to eliminate bubbles. Allow to dry, and apply a coat of sealant on top. Not only does the paper look beautiful, but it also hides the contents of the drawers, making everything appear neat and tidy.

Matching Not Necessary

You’ve probably noticed this at the restaurants you frequent, but it’s becoming more and more acceptable nowadays—even hip—to eat your meals on vintage, mismatched chairs. Instead of spending a fortune on a dining-room set, go for the mismatched look and hunt for your chairs at thrift shops and used furniture stores.

Brighten Up the Bookshelf

If you’re looking for an easy, inexpensive way to add a pop of color to a room, look no further than the bookshelf. You can paint the interior back “wall” of the bookshelf a color that either contrasts or coordinates with your decor. It will add a modern touch for not a lot of money! 

Get more great tips on our podcast by subscribing on iTunes or Stitcher! You can also sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our daily tips!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How to Balance Your Life and Budget: 12 Tips to Stay Organized

Life’s a juggling act. You could be building your career, spending time on hobbies, and making time for those you love all at once. Finding a healthy way to navigate all three can be a hard code to crack. Often, one aspect of your life ends up taking more resources than the rest. While hustling your way to the top is good for your career and earnings, you may find yourself out of balance with your health or family. Ultimately, an unbalanced schedule can result in exhaustion, stress, and even burnout.

Learn how to balance your life, career, and budget while reaching your biggest goals. You’ll be working smarter, not harder — here’s how.

make-your-money-work-for-you

How to Balance Your Budget

Balancing your budget is essential for financial success. When you’re free of financial burden, it’s easier to feel relaxed and in control of your life. There are a few tricks to finding a budgeting rhythm that works for you — using a budgeting app is a great place to start.

1. Simplify Your Budget

Make budgeting easy by investing in what you love and saving on what you don’t. Start by downloading our app and tracking your earnings and expenses. Then, see what unnecessary expenses you can cut out. You may love eating out with your friends, but to avoid racking up a hefty bill, limit eating out to once a week.

2. Budget for Extra Expenses

It’s not sustainable to only spend money on things you need. Being strict with your budget could send you into a shopping spiral. There are times when you want to buy a new pair of shoes or eat out with your friends. If you have the money to do so, treat yourself without going overboard by sticking to your budget. Once you find a budget that works for you, set aside a specific amount to spend on extras.

3. Automate What You Can

Make your money work for you without thinking about it. Set a budget and try it out for a few months — adjust as needed. For example, if you feel like you always go over your grocery budget but you never use all of your gas money, reallocate those funds. Once you have all the kinks worked out, set up automatic payments for recurring expenses such as savings account contributions, debt payments, and living expenses. You won’t have to worry about missing a payment or creating a new budget every month.

4. Follow Trusted Financial Gurus

Weed through your social media feeds. Do you follow people that have a bad influence on your spending habits? How about financial experts that help you manage your money? Every month, sift through who you follow and remove accounts that negatively impact your money habits. It’s always a good idea to follow accounts that have a positive effect. For example, Mint’s Instagram account could be the right influence for you!

work-smarter-not-harder

How to Balance Your Work and Personal Life

Working is what helps you pay your bills and live the life you want. But it can easily fill your schedule if you’re overly invested. Whether you work from home or an office, it’s important to make time for things you love — whether it be your family, friends, hobbies, or all three.

5. Set Boundaries In and Out of the Office

When you’re at work, stay focused on work. When you’re at home, stay focused on your loved ones, hobbies, or relaxing. If the lines get blurred, set rules for you and your loved ones. Turn off your work notifications after hours to avoid interference. When you’re working, silence your phone to steer clear of distractions and stay in your workflow. You may find yourself more productive and with extra time to take on more tasks — this could help you earn that promotion.

6. Prioritize Your Time

It’s hard to make time for everything you want to do. Lessen stress by prioritizing your time like you would your budget. List your most important tasks for the next day, followed by your lower priorities. Reference your list throughout the day to help you stay focused on what you need to do. This method saves you time and energy preparing for the day ahead.

7. Make Your Workplace Work for You

To set yourself up for success, start with your work environment. Get focused by creating different “zones” in your home or office. Section off places for working, eating, relaxing, and sleeping. Working in bed feels comfortable, but lacks balance. You could find yourself online shopping over focusing on your work task at hand.

8. Schedule Daily “You” Time

Having back-to-back meetings, tasks, or events can drain your energy, especially if the majority of your time is being spent on things you’re not passionate about. Create time for you by putting it on the calendar. Find a few times that work for your schedule and add in non-negotiable breaks. For example, block off your lunch break to check in on your budget.

 

health-is-wealth

How to Balance a Healthy Lifestyle

Having a balanced lifestyle is essential for your mental and physical health. No matter what, there’s always someone to respond to or something to do. If you’re the “yes” person, it’s easy to spread yourself too thin. Instead of taking on every burden thrown at you, here are some tips on how to hit pause and put yourself first.

9. Eliminate Negativity

Filter through your lifestyle stressors by having honest conversations with yourself and others. Do you have friends that don’t positively impact your life? Or do you have a job that doesn’t bring you joy? If so, it may be time to cut ties with negative people or situations. Having relationships that don’t make you happy could influence bad purchasing decisions or habits.

10. Make Time for What You Love

During your free time, what do you do for fun? Working out, going on long walks, curling up with a good book, or anything else that brings you joy. Instead of only enjoying your favorite activities only on the weekends, add them to your daily routine. Make room in your budget for your favorite things throughout the work week.

11. Listen to Your Body

Some days you feel happy and ready to take on tasks thrown your way; other days you’re overwhelmed when it comes to meeting expectations. Fluctuations in your mood are normal! It’s how you handle them that makes the biggest impact. If you’re feeling down, listen to your body and treat yourself to a relaxing self-care evening that’s easy on your budget.

12. Be Patient With Yourself

Know we all have our good and bad days. Instead of being hard on yourself for a day gone sour, list out things you can do to prepare for the future. For example, you may have had a bad day at work. Take some time, stay calm, and brainstorm what you could have done differently in the situation. As you learn from your mistakes, you’ll grow into your career and potentially earn a promotion.

 

are-you-living-life-unbalanced

This process may entail establishing new habits and breaking old ones. In most cases, updating your daily habits takes time. Be patient with yourself and your budget as you seek balance. It isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but could save you daily stress.

Sources: The U.S. Sun | World Population Review | Stress | U.S. Travel

The post How to Balance Your Life and Budget: 12 Tips to Stay Organized appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What to Do this Weekend: Date Night In Ideas

Date-night-in

We are a month and a half into quarantine and date nights in many households have devolved into, ‘What have we not seen on Netflix yet?’  While we are all ready to get back out and about, there are plenty of fun date night at home options to help you enjoy and appreciate your partner.  This post is partially inspired by the fact that we are celebrating our wedding anniversary tonight and I was already doing so research on what to do this weekend.  I figured if I was already doing the work, I might as well share the wealth with you all!  

Check out a few of our best date night in ideas

Name that Tune

This really is a fun activity that we typically do on road trips, but it works just as well for date night.  Play each other your favorite songs from different eras or events in life.  

What song was popular when you went to your first school dance?  Did you ever learn a choreographed dance to a song?  What was it?  What was your first favorite country/hip hop/punk song?  Did you ever dedicate a song to someone on the radio? Make a mixtape?  First breakup/heartbreak song you listened to 100 times?

Music is such an integral part of our memories.  It is sure to bring out some great stories from your partner that you have never heard before and some great stories from your past that you may have completely forgotten about. All you really need is a Spotify account, your beverage of choice!

Wine Tasting

This is an amusing challenge for the nose and tastebuds.  Taste three (or five–no judgment here) wines and figure out which is which based solely on the tasting notes….you know the ‘hints of pencil lead and cranberry.’  This can be made romantic with dim lights and some candles or you can make this more upbeat with some fun background playlists.

Optional additions to make the night more festive: Cheeses, nuts, olives, crackers, honey

Minute to Win It

Impress each other with feats of strength and balance.  This is an evening bound to be full of laughter.  Check out this video for inspiration! Challenges include…

  • Face the Cookie.
  • Stack Attack.
  • Movin’ On Up.
  • Junk in the Trunk.
  • Suck It Up.
  • Penny Hose.
  • Ping Pong Bounce.

Sweets for Sweethearts

Bake together…even if neither of you is an expert in the kitchen, learning something new together is good for relationships!

Here are some recipes that have videos to go along with them

For easy cooking try these 3 Ingredient Desserts

For all those ripe bananas on your counter

For when you can only be trusted with the microwave

20 Questions

It sounds silly, but this really can be a learning experience. If you’ve been together you may think you know all the answers…but remember people’s tastes and preferences change.  Do you really know that sweet tarts are still his favorite candy? Or is Paris still her number one destination? The answers could surprise you!

Double Date 

Yes! This is actually possible via Netflix Party.  Pick a movie ahead of time, grab the popcorn and candy and chat with your favorite duo.  

Take a trip down memory lane

Look at each other’s pictures from your favorite vacation together.  You’ll be surprised to see the vacation through their eyes and their memories.  You can relive the best times together and appreciate it in a whole new way.  Bring in even more sensory memories by adding a favorite food or drink you discovered during that trip.

Or Take a Virtual Trip

Ever wonder what Venice is like during lockdown?

Join Travel Curious on their next tour with your Venetian born guide, Luca, who will take you on a live virtual walking tour of Venice and will end up in the Venetian mask-maker artisan shop. 

Join for free on their Instagram Live feed on May 15 2020 at 15:00pm BST / 10:00am EST

https://www.instagram.com/travelcurioustours/?hl=en

Read What to Do this Weekend: Date Night In Ideas on Apartminty.

Source: blog.apartminty.com

The Best Student Loan Companies For Refinancing

Refinancing your student loans can make good financial sense, and that’s especially true if your current loans are stuck at a high-interest rate. With a new loan at a lower APR, you could save a bundle of money on interest each month and ultimately pay your student debt off faster. Consolidating several loans into one new one can also simplify your financial life and make keeping up with bills a lot easier.

College Ave and Earnest topped our list, but since student loan refinancing is an incredibly competitive space, you’ll also want to spend time comparing student loan companies to see who offers the best deal. Many lenders in this space offer incredibly low APRs, flexible payment options, borrower incentives, and more. This means it’s more important than ever to shop around so you wind up with the best student loan for your needs.

What You Should Know About Refinancing Federal Student Loans with a Private Lender

The lenders on this list can help you consolidate and refinance both federal student loans and private student loans. However, there are a few details to be aware of before you refinance federal loans with a private lender.

Switching federal loans to private means giving up federal protections like deferment and forbearance. You also give up your chance to qualify for income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Income Based Repayment (IBR). Income-driven repayment plans let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income for 20 to 25 years before ultimately forgiving your remaining loan balances, so this perk isn’t one you should give up without careful thought and consideration.

Best Student Loan Refinancing Companies of 2021

As you start your search to find the best student loan for your lifestyle, take the time to compare lenders and all they offer their customers. While there are a ton of reputable companies offering high-quality student loan refinancing products on the market today, there are also companies you should probably steer clear of.

To make your search easier, we took the time to compare most of the top lenders in this space in terms of interest rates offered, fees, borrower benefits, and more. The following student loan companies are the cream of the crop, so you should start your search here.

Our Top Picks:

  1. Splash Financial
  2. College Ave
  3. Earnest
  4. SoFi
  5. CommonBond
  6. LendKey
  7. Wells Fargo
  8. PenFed Credit Union

Student Loan Refinancing Company Reviews

1. Splash Financial

Splash Financial may be a newer company in the student loan refinancing space, but their offerings are competitive. This company lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and their variable rates currently start at just 2.25% APR.

Not only are interest rates offered by Splash Financial industry-leading, but the company has a 95% customer satisfaction rate so far. Their cutting-edge technology also lets you apply for your loan and complete the loan process online, meaning less hassle and stress for you as the borrower.

Check Out Splash Financial’s Low Rates

2. College Ave

College Ave offers student loan refinancing products that can be tailored to your needs. They offer low fixed and variable interest rates, for example, and you’ll never pay an application fee or an origination fee. You can even qualify for a discount if you set your loan up on autopay, and a wide range of repayment schedules are available.

College Ave also offers a wide range of online calculators and tools that can help you figure out how much student loan refinancing could help you save and whether the move would be worth it in the end. Considering their low variable rates start at just 2.74% APR, there’s a good chance you could save money by refinancing if you have excellent credit or a cosigner with great credit.

Get Started with College Ave

3. Earnest

Earnest is another online lender that focuses most of its efforts on offering high-quality student loans. This company lets you consolidate debt at a lower interest rate than you might find elsewhere, and you get the option to pick a monthly payment and repayment period that works with your budget and your lifestyle.

While you’ll need excellent credit to qualify for the lowest interest rates, loans from Earnest come with variable APRs starting at 1.81% and low fixed rates starting at just 3.45%. To qualify for student loan refinancing with Earnest, you’ll need a minimum credit score of 650 and a strong employment and income history. You also need to be current on all your bills and cannot have a bankruptcy on your credit profile.

Refinance and Save with Earnest

4. SoFi

Also make sure to check out student loan refinancing company SoFi as you continue your search. This online lender offers some of the best student loan refinancing products available today, including loans with no application fee, origination fee, or hidden fees.

SoFi lets you apply for and complete the entire loan process online, and they offer live customer support 7 days a week. You can also check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, which makes it easier to see how much you could save before you commit.

Get Pre-Approved with SoFi in Less than 2 Minutes

5. Commonbond

Commonbond is another online student lender who lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. With student loan refinancing from Commonbond, you could easily save thousands of dollars on interest with a new fixed interest rate as low as 3.21%. Repayment terms are offered for 5 to 20 years as well, letting you choose a new monthly payment and repayment timeline that works for your needs.

You can apply for your new loan online and note that these loans don’t come with an origination fee or any prepayment penalties. Your loan could also qualify for forbearance, which means having up to 24 months without payments during times of financial hardship.

Apply Online with Commonbond

6. LendKey

LendKey offers private student loans and flexible student loan refinancing options to serve a variety of needs. You can repay your loan between 5 and 20 years, and their refinance loans don’t charge an origination fee.

You can use this company’s online interface to check your rate without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and variable APRs start at just 2.01% for graduates with excellent credit. LendKey loans also receive 9.3 out of 10 possible stars in recent reviews, meaning their customers are mostly happy with their decision to go with this company.

Save Thousands by Refinancing with LendKey

7. Wells Fargo

While Wells Fargo is mostly popular for their banking products, home mortgage products, and personal loans, this bank also offers student loan refinancing products. These loans let you consolidate student debts into a new loan with a low variable or fixed interest rate, and you can even score a discount for setting your loan up on autopay.

Terms for Wells Fargo loans are available anywhere from 5 to 20 years, meaning you can choose a repayment schedule and monthly payment that suits your needs. Wells Fargo also lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Get Started with Wells Fargo

8. PenFed Credit Union

PenFed Credit Union offers unique student loan products powered by Purefy. You might be able to qualify for a lower interest rate that could lead to enormous interest savings over time, and PenFed lets you choose a repayment term and monthly payment that fits with your budget and lifestyle.

You can apply for student loan refinancing on your own, but PenFed Credit Union also allows cosigners. Low fixed interest rates start at just 3.48% APR, and you can check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Learn More about PenFed Credit Union

What To Look For When Refinancing

If you decide you want to refinance your student loans, you’ll be happy to know the refinancing market is more robust than ever. A variety of lenders offer insanely attractive loan options for those who can qualify, although you should know that student loan companies tend to be very finicky about your credit score. Some also won’t let you refinance if you didn’t graduate from college, or even if you graduated from an “unapproved” school.

While you should be aware of any lender-specific eligibility requirements before you apply with any student loan company, there are plenty of other factors to look out for. Here’s everything you should look for in a student loan refinancing company before you decide to trust them with your loans.

Low Interest Rate

Obviously, the main reason you’re probably thinking of refinancing your loans is the potential to save money on interest. Lenders who offer the lowest rates available today can potentially help you save more, although it’s important to consider that you may not qualify for the lowest rates available if you don’t have excellent credit.

Cosigner Requirements

Also consider that most lenders will offer better rates and loan terms if you have a cosigner with better credit than you have. This is especially true if your credit isn’t great, so make sure to ask family members if they’re willing to cosign on your new student loan if you hope to get the best rate. Just remember that your cosigner will be jointly liable for repayment, meaning you could quickly damage your relationship if you default on your loan and leave them holding the bag.

Low Fees or No Fees

Student loans are like any other loan in the fact that some charge higher fees or more fees than others. Since many student loans come with an application fee or an origination fee, you’ll want to look for lenders that don’t charge these fees. Also check for hidden fees like prepayment penalties.

Discounts Available

Some student loan companies let you qualify for discounts, the most popular of which is a discount for using autopay. If you’re able and willing to set up automatic payments on your credit card, you could save .25% or .50% off your interest rate depending on the lender you go with.

Rate Check Option

Many of the top student loan refinancing companies on this list make it possible to check your interest rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This is a huge benefit since knowing your rate can help you figure out if refinancing is even worth it before you take the time to fill out a full loan application.

Flexible Repayment Plan

Also make sure any lender you go with offers some flexibility in your repayment plan and your monthly payment. You’ll want to make sure refinancing aligns with your long-term financial goals and your monthly budget, and it’s crucial to choose a new loan with a monthly payment you can live with.

Most lenders in this space offer repayment timelines of up to 20 years, which means you could spread your payments over several decades to get a monthly payment that makes sense with your income. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll pay more interest over the life of your loan when you take a long time to pay it off, so you may want to consider prioritizing a faster payment plan.

The Bottom Line

Student loan refinancing may not sound like a lot of fun. However, taking the time to consider all your loan options could easily save you thousands of dollars. This is especially true if you have a lot of debt at a high interest rate. By consolidating all your student loans into a new one with a lower APR, you could make loan repayment easier with a single payment and save a ton of money that would otherwise go to straight to interest without helping you pay off your loans.

The first step of the loan process is the hardest, however, and that’s choosing a student loan refinancing company that you trust. The lenders on this list are highly rated, but they also offer some of the best loan products on the market today.

  • Work with College Ave, our top pick, to refinance your student loan.

Start your search here and you’re bound to wind up with a student loan you can live with. At the very least, you’ll have a better idea of the loans that are available and how much you might save if you decide to refinance later on.

The post The Best Student Loan Companies For Refinancing appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

50 Ideas To Help You Get Out of Debt!

The post 50 Ideas To Help You Get Out of Debt! appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

When it comes to trying to get out of debt, I’ve seen and heard it all.  From the person who gets three jobs to the guy who sold his dream car – just to make it all happen.  It got me to thinking – what are some of the craziest ideas out there to help you find your way out of debt?

find money to pay off debt

I decided to make a fun post about the craziest ideas people have tried just to try to get their debts paid off.  The funniest thing is that these really do work!  Who knows?  Maybe one of these will inspire you too!

If you are struggling  with paying off your debt, these folks may be able to help:
Call 866-948-5666.

50 IDEAS TO HELP YOU GET OUT OF DEBT

SELL ITEMS

Things are that – just things.  They don’t define us, and they don’t always make us completely happy.  My husband and I sold so many items when we were trying to get out of debt that we were able to raise more than $1,000.  The thing is – I can’t even remember what we sold (which proves that they were things we obviously did not really need).  Here are some unconventional ideas of things you can sell:

1. Hair.  This may sound bizarre, but people will pay for long hair!  Crafters often use it for making dolls, so they will pay to buy it.  You will need to have at least 10″ or more to sell, and the price will vary greatly. You can visit eBay to learn more and get started.

2. Toilet paper / paper towel rolls.  Have you been on Pinterest and seen the number of craft projects which require a paper towel or toilet paper tubes?  They are all over the place!

You can get onto local sites such as Wallapop, Craigslist or even visit eBay and list your products for sale.  It may sound crazy, but it actually can work.

3. Gift cards.  If you get a gift card for any reason, be it a return or even a gift, you can turn around and sell the card.  You won’t get quite face value for it, but you also can at least get paid cold hard cash.

They don’t have even to have the full value on them.  For instance, if you had a $100 gift card to your favorite sporting goods store, but you only have used $26.48, you can still sell your card, and another person can use the remaining balance.

Visit Raise.com to learn more about placing your gift cards up for sale.

4. Daily Deal vouchers.  Did you buy a deal on LivingSocial and haven’t yet redeemed the voucher, you can sell it.

5.  Sell things you don’t need.  Use eBay, Craigslist or LetGo to sell the stuff you do not need anymore.  Go through your home and decide what you need and what you could sell to raise some quick funds to pay off your debt!

 

SIMPLE IDEAS

These are things that just make sense and most people think about…but you may not have thought of every one of them!

6.  Budget.  Of course, it seems this should go without saying, but it is not always obvious. If you don’t have a budget, you have no control of your money.  Learn How to Create a Budget.

7. Coupons.  Start using coupons to save as much as you possibly can at the grocery store.  Then, use the amount you save to pay towards your debt! Read more about How to Use Coupons.

8. Change where you shop.  If you live near an Aldi, start to buy groceries there.  Skip the clothing store and find consignment stores to find gently used clothes.  Read more about How to Shop at Aldi.

9. No more dinners out.  This is a tough one, but it works.  Best of all, its not something you will have to give up forever!  Just think, if you spend $100 or more a month dining out that is more than $1,000 to pay towards your debt in just one year!

If you do have dinner out, skip the soft drinks and go for water instead, which is free!  Make sure you also pass on the appetizers and consider splitting a larger entree to pay less.

10. Give up your hobbies.  If you are an avid golfer, you might give that up for some time and use the monthly dues to pay towards debt.

11. Menu plan.  By planning your meals, you not only know what you will have for dinner, but it also helps you plan your shopping trip.  That ensures you have all you need on hand when you get ready to cook all of your meals – saving you from running to the store for that “one item,” which often leads to more.  Read more about How to Create a Menu Plan.

12. Ask for rate reductions.  Contact your creditors to see if they would lower your interest rate at all. This is not always something that works, but it is definitely worth a few calls to see if it won’t work for you. Learn the tricks to asking for a rate reduction.

13. Avoid paying monthly fees.  If your bank charges monthly fees, ask them to waive them.  If they will not, consider moving to another one which offers free banking.  Even $5 a month is $60 a year that you are giving to them, just to have your account.

14. Keep the change.  I always use cash.  I don’t even pay with change.  If the total is $6.42, I hand over $7 and keep the change.  I roll all of this once a year and usually have quite a nice amount saved up.  Best of all – I never miss it!

15.  Overbudget.  This is a fun way to get extra money.  We may budget $300 for groceries every two weeks, but I will do what I can to keep my shopping way under this amount.  Then, I take anything left over at the end of that two weeks and save it (you could use it towards your debt). It’s a fun way to challenge yourself to see how little you can spend!

16.  Change insurance.  Make some calls to find out of you can get a better rate on your auto and home (renter’s) insurance.  You can sometimes find a better deal by bundling or even by increasing your deductibles a bit.

17.  Skip the evening movies.  If you love to visit the movies try the matinee instead!  You can usually pay less by catching the afternoon show. Make sure you pass on the snacks too, as those can add up quickly!

18.  Don’t buy books.  Instead of buying books, visit the library or get free Kindle books.  No need to buy them at all, when there are ways you can get them for free!  Find out more ways to get free books.

 

EXTREME IDEAS

These are ideas which do not work for everyone, but have worked to help others get out of debt very quickly!

19. Stop retirement contributions.  If you are in debt, you might want to take that 15% you were saving for retirement and throw it all towards your debt.  As soon as you are debt free, you can start that contribution again (and maybe even do more than that to other accounts).

20. Cancel cable completely. If you really want to go drastic, you need to take all steps necessary to do so.  Cable can run more than $100 (or even more than $150) per month.  If you can cut out cable entirely, you might quickly free up $100 or more every single month!

21. Sell your car.  If you are leasing a vehicle, that is a simple way to throw money away, as you will never own it.  Turn in the vehicle and then take out a loan to purchase a much older car, where you will pay less per month.  Best of all, you will own it in a few short years!

If you have an expensive vehicle, you can also sell that and then purchase an older car, which will reduce your monthly overhead (and possibly taxes and insurance).

22. Move.  If you are renting or even if you own your home, consider downsizing to pay less each month.  I know many people have opted to sell their home and use any income to pay towards debt, and then they rent until they are debt free.  Then, they save to get the house of their dreams, which they can purchase debt free!

23.  Turn off your home phone.  This can run $30 or more a month.  Just use your cell phone and cancel your home service.

24. Downgrade your cell phone.  Try to reduce the data you use to see if you can’t lower your monthly payment on your cell phone.  Stick with your home internet for most of your data usage, and you can use your phone less and less and rack up the savings.

25.  Swap services.  Instead of paying for babysitting, exchange time with another couple.  You watch their kids for free, and they can do the same for you.  You might be able to swap your tutoring for haircuts or your lawn mowing for handyman repairs.

26.  Make gifts.  Instead of buying people gifts for birthdays and holidays, consider making them yourself.  You could even offer a “service” gift where you will babysit once a month for a year, etc.  Find a way to give from the heart instead.

27.  Budget bill your utilities.  If you can, arrange for budget billing with your services.  This can make it easier to include your budget and will avoid those swings in the summer or the winter when certain utilities may be more expensive.

28.  Drop the gym or country club.  If you have a membership of any sort, just cancel it.  If you work out at the gym, try to find free videos you can follow at home or create your own workout plan. If you like to golf, go with a friend instead of paying for your membership.

29.  No more coffee trips.  Make your coffee at home each morning and cancel that run through the drive-thru.

30.   Take your lunch.  It is great to go out to lunch every day, but pack your lunch, and you’ll ensure you eat up leftovers.  Not only will you waste less food, but you’ll also save a nice chunk of money every month.

31.  Carpool.  Take turns driving to work and save money on fuel and also wear and tear on your vehicle.

32.   Set up no spend months.  This is a tough one, but see if you can go a few weeks without spending anything more than you need to survive.  That means no dining out.  No entertainment.  No clothes.  Just food and fuel and that’s it!

 

MAKE MONEY

This is a bit different than working from home.  These ideas help you make a bit more money just doing things you might already do – like search the internet, shop, etc.  These sites will pay you money to do just that.  Then, turn around and apply anything you make towards your savings.

33. Swagbucks. Use this site to get paid for doing searches and other things you normally do online!  Click HERE to learn more about Swagbucks.

34. Sell crafts on Etsy. If you are good at crocheting, woodworking or anything at all, look at selling your wares on Etsy. It is a simple platform and the costs are very low, which allows you to keep most of what you make from each sale.

35. Rent a room in your home.  If you have a walk-out basement, consider renting out the space to make more money.  Just check with your local laws and homeowner’s association to ensure this is allowed before you jump in to start this one.

36. Sell stocks.  If you have investments, considering selling them and using the proceeds to pay towards your debt.

37. Give music lessons.  If you know an instrument or you can sing, consider selling your time to help teach others.

38. Tutor.  Find your expertise and teach others.  You never know who you might be able to help!

39. Start a blog.  You may not get rich with your blog, but it can turn into a nice stream of income!  Learn more about How to Start a Blog.

40.  Visit garage sales and upcycle.  Find items very inexpensive at a yard or garage sales.  Put in some elbow grease, paint and creativity and turn them into something you can sell for a profit.  Check out flea markets and farmer’s markets for larger items and for places where you can sell your items.

41.  Find holiday work.  When the holidays roll around, many stores hire employees for a short 6 – 8 week period.  Sign up and put in some extra time after your regular job and make some extra cash you can use to pay down your debt.

42.  Become a mystery shopper.  This is a great way to get some things for free.  This is not a way to get rich but is an excellent way to get some of the things you need for free (which allows you more money to pay towards your debt).

43. Become an eBay master.  Purchase items on clearance or at deep discounts and then sell them for a profit on eBay.   You can still offer prices which are less than in the store, but more than you paid.

44.  Ask for a raise.  Don’t be afraid to ask for one.  Make sure you share the additional work or responsibilities you’ve taken on as a reason why.  Or, if it has been a while since you last had a raise, you can mention that too.  It never hurts to try.

45.  Sell an eBook.  If you are an expert in any field, or if you love to write, create a book you can sell on Amazon!

 

MENTAL

While there are things that you can physically do to save or to make money, you need to get your brain into the right mindset too.

46.  Make your goal visible.  If you want to get out of debt so you can afford to save for a vacation, tape a photo of the destination where you see it each day.  It could be on your office wall, bathroom mirror or the refrigerator.

47.  Learn to be happy with less.  Sure, a new TV might be fun to own. It could be enjoyable to go out to dinner.  However, do you need those things?  Probably not.  Find a way to be happy spending time at home spending no money at all, and you’ll realize how much those things don’t matter.

48.  Learn to say no.  You may need to tell friends you can’t go out to dinner.  It may mean telling the kids that they can’t get that treat at the grocery store. You may need to say to yourself that you do not need to grab that afternoon latte.  Learning to say no can easily keep more money in your pocket.

49.  Give more.  This may seem crazy, but it actually works.  When you give more of yourself to others, you feel better.  Best of all, giving is not always financial. It can mean your time or even your prayers.

50. Surround yourself with the right people. If your friends encourage you to spend money, then you might want to distance yourself from them (at least until you can get better control over your finances and self-control).  Find other people who think like you do so that they can encourage and build you up.

There you’ve got it.  Fifty ways to help get you out of debt!  Which are you getting ready to try?

ideas to help find money to pay off debt

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Source: pennypinchinmom.com

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

Dealing with a bill collector is never fun and it can be particularly stressful when you’re sitting on a mountain of debt. Sometimes debt collectors fail to follow the rules outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If that’s the issue you’re facing, it might be a good idea to file a complaint. But if you’re personally making any of these mistakes, your debt problem could go from bad to worse.

Check out our credit card calculator.

1. Ignoring Debt Collectors

Screening calls and avoiding bill collectors won’t help you get your debt under control. Debts generally have a statute of limitations that varies depending on the state you live in. Once it expires, the collector might not be able to sue you anymore. But you could still be responsible for paying back what you owe in addition to any interest that has accumulated.

In addition to the potential legal consequences of unpaid bills, letting old debt pile up can destroy your credit score. Unpaid debts can remain on a credit report for as many as seven years. So if your debt collector is getting on your last nerves, it might be best to stop hiding and face him head on.

2. Saying Too Much Over the Phone

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

If you decide to stop dodging your bill collectors, it’s important to avoid sharing certain details over the phone. You never want to say that you’ll pay a specific amount of money by a deadline or give someone access to your bank accounts. Anything you say can be used against you and agreeing to make a payment can actually extend a statute of limitations that has already run out.

A debt collector’s No. 1 goal is to collect their missing funds. They can’t curse at you or make empty threats, but they can say other things to try and scare you into paying up. Staying calm, keeping the call short and keeping your comments to a minimum are the best ways to deal with persistent bill collectors.

Related Article: Dealing With Debt Collectors? Know Your Rights

3. Failing to Verify That the Debt Is Yours

When you’re talking to a bill collector, it’s also wise to avoid accepting their claims without making sure they’re legitimate. Debt collection scams are common. So before you send over a single dime, you’ll need to confirm that the debt belongs to you and not someone else.

Reviewing your credit report is a great place to start. If you haven’t received any written documentation from the collection agency, it’s a good idea to request that they mail you a letter stating that you owe them a specific amount of money.

If you need to dispute an error you found on your credit report, you have 30 days from the date that you received formal documentation from the collection agency to notify them (in writing) that a mistake was made. You’ll also need to reach out to each of the credit reporting agencies to get the error removed. They’ll expect you to mail them paperwork as proof of your claim.

4. Failing to Negotiate the Payments

The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

No matter how big your debts, there’s usually room for negotiation when it comes to making payments. If the payment plan your bill collector offers doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to throw out a number you’re more comfortable with.

Sometimes, it’s possible to get away with paying less than what you owe. Instead of agreeing to pay back everything, you can suggest that you’re willing to pay back a percentage of the debt and see what happens. A non-profit credit counselor can help you come up with a debt management plan if you need assistance. Whatever you agree to, keep in mind that the deal needs to be put in writing.

Related Article: All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

5. Failing to Keep Proper Documentation

Whenever you communicate with a bill collector, it’s a good idea to take notes. Jotting down details about when you spoke with a collector and what you discussed can help you if you’re forced to appear in court or report a collector who has broken the law. Collecting written notices from bill collectors and saving them in a folder can also help your case.

Bottom Line

Dealing with bill collectors can be a real pain. By knowing how to interact with them, you’ll be in the best position to get rid of your unpaid loans and credit card debt (that is, if you actually owe anything) on your own terms.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Steve Debenport, ©iStock.com/RapidEye, ©iStock.com/JJRD

The post The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com