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6 Tips for Creating Your First Budget

When it comes to resolving financial issues or achieving specific goals, the solution almost always has to do with budgeting.

Tracking your income and expenses to ensure that you spend less than you earn might seem like a simple concept… yet only one in three American households actually do it. Granted, technology has made it easier than ever to monitor your finances on an informal basis. Still, being able to view your transactions online at any given moment is no substitute for actually creating a budget, setting specific financial goals, and following through with them.

Admittedly, my husband and I have been a little willy-nilly with our budgeting over the past few years. As long as we paid our bills on-time (plus extra towards debt) and still had some money left over at the end of each month, we were generally pretty happy. However, now that we’re trying to squeeze out $2,000+ in student loan payments every month, we need to follow a very strict budget in order to make it happen.

Here are a few things I have learned through this process:

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May 2014 Student Loan Update

Four weeks ago, I announced that my husband and I were setting a goal of paying off $40K in student loan debt in 20 months or less. Now that the first month of our super-aggressive repayment plan is complete, here is an update on our progress so far:

Amount Paid Towards Loans: $2,080.39
Loan Balance Remaining: $37,556.42

All in all, I’d say this first month was a success… but there are definitely things that we can do better going forward. Here is a rundown of some of the good and bad things that happened this month:

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Our Plan to Pay Off $40K in Student Loans in Less Than 2 Years

Now that our income situation has stabilized, it’s time to get serious about getting out of debt. And that means tackling my husband’s $40,000 in student loans with full force.

As of today, the balance on these loans is $39,548.31. I would like to have this debt entirely paid off by the time we turn 30. Given that our 30th birthdays will be in January 2016, this gives us about 20 months or just under two years to accomplish this goal.

Can we do it? I honestly don’t know. But dammit, we’re going to try!

As of right now, the minimum monthly payments are just under $500. In order to get rid of this debt by January 2016, we will need to pay at least $2,000 per month. (Note: This is literally my entire take-home income.)

So how exactly do we plan to do this? Here are a few ways we could make room in our monthly budget:

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Amazon Prime Price Increase

We’ve known this was coming for a while, but now it’s official:

After nine years, Amazon is increasing its Amazon Prime membership fee from $79 to $99. Additionally, the cost of an Amazon Student membership will increase from $39 to $49 per year.

While a $20 increase may seem a bit jarring, Amazon Prime is still relatively inexpensive when you look at it on a monthly basis. A streaming plan on Netflix or Hulu Plus costs $7.99 per month. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime (which includes both streaming and free 2-day shipping) will cost $8.25 per month after the rate hike.

On the other hand, if you don’t actually use your Amazon Prime account on a regular basis, this may be a good time to re-evaluate whether or not you want to renew the service.

How do you feel about the price increase? Do you think Amazon Prime is still worth it?

How to Budget for a New Baby

Guest post by Naomi Shaw.

There is nothing sweeter than hearing the pitter-patter of little feet running across your floor and hearing the words “I love you” uttered from a tiny little being that you created.

If having children is something that you have always dreamed of, you are in store for a real treat. However, you should be aware that there is a lot of financial obligation that comes along with having a family. Children need a lot of things, and the cost of all of those things can really add up.

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Navigating Unemployment

It’s official: After five months of searching, my husband is officially back to work! The best part? He’s earning significantly more than he was at his previous job. Woot!

For those who are curious, here are some things that helped us stay afloat over the past few months:

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14 Tips for Paying Down Debt

As of 2013, it is estimated that the average college-educated millennial carries approximately $29,000 in student loan debt and another $2,700 in credit card debt.

Add in our relative lack of experience, mismatched skill sets, and the fact that there simply aren’t enough well-paying jobs to go around in today’s economy… and it’s easy to see why so many 20-somethings are struggling to become financially independent after graduation.

Despite these early challenges, it is possible to break free of debt and start your journey into the land of positive net worth. Here are 14 tips for paying down your debt in 2014:

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5 Ways to Earn Money Online

When money gets tight, we are generally faced with two options: earn more or spend less.

A lot of the content on this blog focuses on ways to spend less money – or, at the very least, get the best value from the things you do buy. However, there is a limit to this approach. In other words, there are only so many things you can cut from your budget before you start feeling really miserable.

Once you’ve trimmed the fat from your budget, it’s time to start looking at ways to increase your income. You have much more control over this than you probably think. Even if you don’t have the time, energy, or means of transportation to pick up a traditional part-time job on top of your existing workload, there are more flexible options. You just have to be a little creative.

Here are five ways to earn income online from the comfort and convenience of your home:

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Eliminating Redundant Expenses

Are you looking to cut back on expenses in the new year? If so, there is an easy way to save money without having to compromise your quality of living.

If you examine your budget carefully, you might discover that you’re spending quite a bit of extra money on redundant (duplicate) expenses. In other words, are you paying more than one company for the same product or service? If so, it’s time to choose one or the other.

Here are a few common redundant expenses to look for – and how to get rid of them:

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