Saving for a Child’s Education While Paying Off Your Own Student Loans

Should you save first or prioritize paying down your own loans?

Determining how much482232067(1) to save for your children’s education and how much to spend paying off your own loans can be a confusing prospect. Should you focus on your current loans, or look toward the future? Many people feel conflicted because they feel like they should put their children first, but know they need to pay off their loans in order to help the financial prospects of their whole family.

The following information can help you determine the right path for your family. Although deciding how much to spend paying down debt and how much to save for the ever increasing costs of college can be an emotional conundrum, there is actually a fairly clear-cut answer. Before focusing on just your children, you need to protect the financial interests of your entire family. This means ensuring that you have sufficient savings and that you pay down debt quickly.

First things first, many financial experts suggest that your main priority should be ensuring that you have sufficient savings for an unforeseen circumstance like a medical emergency, or a job loss.

“With the uncertain economy, experts suggest that you squirrel away at least four to seven months’ worth of living expenses,” states Scott Westcott on Yahoo News Finance.

Once you put aside enough money for an emergency, you have to determine where the rest of your money should be spent. Performing some simple calculations can help you see how far your dollar will go in each scenario: paying down debt or saving for college. Most likely, you will find that paying down debt is your best option as far as getting the most bang for your buck.

“Calculate if the potential earnings on your investments for your child’s education will likely outpace the interest rate you’re paying on your student loan debt,” states Westcott.

Even if you can create an investment portfolio that is well diversified and may perform better than the interest rate on your loans, there are many reasons to pay down your debt before saving for college. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not being selfish, but rather are helping your entire family by paying down your loans.

“If you’re concerned about saving for your child’s future education, eliminating your own loans should take priority,” according to the Women & Co. blog at the Huffington Post.

When your child approaches college age, the amount of debt you have will likely influence the places he or she applies to. Paying down debt will also help you obtain a loan in the future when you more accurately know how much college will cost.

“If you pay off your loans and build a solid financial base then you will have more options to pay for college down the road. If you don’t build a solid financial base, then it is harder to not only help your kids but yourself,” states personal finance advisor Andrea Travillian, who is the founder of Smart Step, Inc. “No one will give you a loan to retire, but worst case scenario your child can take out a student loan.”

The realities of retirement planning should be a serious consideration. Not only will your options for retirement savings decrease as you get older, the investments you do make will not have time to go as far if you wait.

“But putting off saving for retirement until you’re debt-free could cost you the most valuable asset you have: time,” warns Sandra Block from Kiplinger. “Thanks to the magic of compounding, even small contributions to a 401(k) or similar retirement plan will grow significantly, especially if your company matches contributions.”

The fact that you should focus on your own debt and retirement doesn’t mean that you will be ignoring the needs of your children until your debt is gone. If you make a very serious budget, you can tackle your debt most efficiently and start putting away money for your children faster.

Lyz Lenz from the Mint Life blog describes how she was able to plan for her own education debt and her children’s by enforcing a strict budget. They bought bulk groceries, cut down on clothes shopping and even reused sandwich bags to save, and it all added up.

“Two months ago, we were able to pay off one loan two months early and we’re inching closer to our goal of eliminating my college debt by early next year,” states Lenz. “‘What will we do with all that money, when we don’t have to pay Sallie Mae?’ I recently asked my husband. ‘We’ll save it for more college,’ he replied.”

The bottom line is to talk to your financial institution about a savings account so that you have money saved for any unforeseen circumstances and find out what your best options are for retirement savings. In the meantime, get serious about your budget and you will place yourself in the best position to begin saving for your children’s education.


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Five Easy Green Beauty Swaps

Quick changes to your beauty cabinet to save time, money and your carbon footprint

Eliminate questionsTeenage Girl Applying Make Up about some of your favorite commercial beauty products by switching to natural alternatives for your beauty routine. Consider these five easy green beauty swaps.

Reduce eye puffiness with cucumber slices
Cucumbers have been proven to help with the swelling and puffiness of eyes. Because cucumbers are usually cool, the cold from the cucumbers can help reduce puffiness of the skin. Ingredients within cucumbers may also help reduce skin irritation. Slice two thick pieces of cucumber and place each piece over eyes for at least 10 minutes. Choose cucumbers over your typical eye cream, and you have a natural product that costs only pennies and can be thrown in the compost pile for recycling after your mini spa treatment.

Treat acne with strawberries
Struggling with skin breakouts? Clear your skin with strawberries. Mix a half cup of diced strawberries with a spoonful of sour cream. Rub gently onto your face and leave as a mask for at least 10 minutes. The strawberries will help remove dead skin cells, tighten pores and give your skin a healthy glow.

Use teabags to highlight hair
Before picking up a box of hair brightener at the drug store, consider soaking your hair in black tea. The tannic acid in black tea can highlight your hair if you soak your hair regularly over time. Start by making several servings of very strong black tea. Pour the tea carefully over your hair and allow it to sit for 30 minutes before rinsing.

Combine corn meal and banana for a foot cream
Soften your feet naturally with items from your pantry. Begin my mashing a ripe banana in a bowl Add several tablespoons of corn meal, until the banana has a gritty consistency. Spread liberally on feet and allow to sit for 30 to 45 minutes. Wipe off the mixture and rinse well with water.

Reduce frizz with banana and avocado
Does humidity make your hair a frizzy mess? Before buying a bottle of anti-frizz hair product, make your own in just a few minutes by mixing banana and avocado. Begin by mashing one ripe banana with a fork. Cut an avocado in half, remove the seed, and scoop out the green fruit. Mash the avocado with the banana. Apply to hair and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes, and then rinse hair thoroughly.

Some beauty items are a little more difficult to swap with natural items (like makeup or hairspray). Check the eco-rating of your beauty products at GoodGuide.com found here: http://www.goodguide.com/categories/184398-makeup. With just a few easy changes, you can reduce the cost of your beauty routine while making choices that are better for your skin and hair, as well as the environment.


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How to Make Your eBay Business Profitable

Steps to profitable eBay auctions

Whether you’re looking458666515 for a venue to sell your handmade earrings or you just need to get rid of some of those miscellaneous objects laying around the house, eBay may be of some assistance. eBay, a website that allows others to either list items to sell or buy other people’s items, can help you make a profit off essentially anything you’re looking to get rid of.

However, selling an item on eBay is not artless. With any type of moneymaking outlet, there are a set of rules you must consider to make a decent profit. Follow these steps when listing items on eBay:

Take good pictures – and plenty of them. The photo is what the buyer sees first, so naturally, that’s what ultimately makes them take a closer look at the item. Take as many detailed photos as possible from all different angles to be sure the buyer knows precisely what it looks like. Some photo-taking tips include taking it on a digital camera (instead of your phone), take it against a clean backdrop and avoiding using a stock photo.

“Buyers want to see the actual item you are selling,” says Justin Hartenstein, founder of Advanced Automotive Concepts in Metairie, LA.

Write detailed descriptions. Once you draw them in with the photo, they’ll want to make sure they know for sure what they’re purchasing. Make sure the listing is as accurate as possible, especially its condition. For example, if it’s a book you’re selling, be sure to note its tear on the cover or if it’s a shirt, discuss its loose thread on the upper right shoulder. These are things that sellers often overlook or opt not to share with buyers, which can cause issues later on, like the buyer wanting a refund or leaving negative feedback.

Build your reputation. When you sell an item, the buyer has the option to give you positive or negative feedback regarding their experience with you. Make sure that you have a few positive feedbacks before you start selling seriously.

“If you’re new to eBay, trust is everything,” explains Jody Rogers, president of Beachcombers in Altamonte Springs, Florida. If that’s the case, you might want to perform some small purchases before diving into the big ones. People may automatically write you off if you have no feedbacks, especially if someone else (with many positive feedbacks) is selling the same item you are.

Check completed listings. When determining how much to list your item for, always check completed listings for the actual selling price, as well as the listings that are current. You’ll often hear, “Wow, this item is listed for hundreds or thousands of dollars!” People can list their items for any price they pull out of the sky, but it’s the price that it actually sells for that counts. Checking these listings will help you establish a reasonable price. Note that if your prices are too high, buyers may choose to buy from someone else.

Keep a trend. It’s best to sell items that are similar and within the same niche.

“If you make it easy for people to buy something, they will want to buy more from you — and you have to have related merchandise in stock,” says Angie Cash, a stay-at-home mom who’s been selling on eBay for years. “So, for example, if you’re selling collectibles, you should also carry the display racks, books and other accessories those particular collectors will want to have.”

Pay attention to postage. Investing in a good postage scale is one way to do this. Weigh your item with all shipping materials and add enough for handling to pay eBay’s commission, plus the cost of the shipping materials. That way, you’re not incurring any undue fees. Also, purchasing postage through eBay or PayPal is less expensive than the post office. In addition, you should use priority mail when possible as this allows you to get free shipping materials and carrier pickups.


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Pros and Cons to Online Degrees

Why many are choosing — or aren’t choosing — online education

Going to college usedbankingon_e_a003015533 to mean packing up your belongings and heading to a university for four years to receive your continuing education. However, new opportunities have been available at a number of colleges for quite some time, and many modern-day students are taking advantage. In fact, there are currently more than four million people receiving an online education — and that number grows steadily each year.

“Online courses have a place, and they are here to stay,” says Andy Zucker, a senior researcher for Concord Consortium, a nonprofit pioneer in online education. That said, while there are many benefits to this type of education, there are also some negatives. If you’re considering receiving your degree online, be sure to weigh the pros and cons:

Pros:

Cost – More often than not, the costs of taking online classes are lower than those associated with the traditional classroom. In addition, with online courses, you’re saving on expenses such as gas, parking, housing and campus food.

Also, sometimes universities request various fees such as lab or equipment usage fees, whereas an online education does not.

Convenience – “They can fit an education in when they have time for it, rather than when we decide to hold classes,” says Allen Gathman, associate dean for online learning at Southeast Missouri State University. If you’re someone who works better at 2:00 a.m. than 8:00 a.m. or you perform better after re-watching lectures, then an online education may be for you. Receiving your education online means you can do your work and review your notes whenever and wherever you please. These classes are also especially convenient if you’re working full-time or have children to tend to.

Helps shy students – “Some people are really reluctant to participate in class discussions,” says Gathman. “They won’t speak up in discussions on controversial subjects. With an online forum, they’re much more willing to write something than they would have been to say it standing up in front of people in class.” Also, Gathman says, “Forum discussions, if used well, can be much more thoughtful because students have more time to reflect and consider when they’re writing.”

Cons:

Isolation – While you can still easily communicate with professors and students, getting your degree in the comfort of your home is just that — and that eliminates social interaction with others. That’s important because studies show that being involved on your college campus is important and can benefit students — and that’s simply not possible when getting your degree online. Whether it be joining clubs or just meeting students, interface with others doesn’t happen.

Too much freedom – Some argue that online courses may offer too much flexibility in that, if you don’t have good self-discipline, your work may never get done. “In terms of self-discipline, there’s no set time to show up, and when you do show up, there’s nobody feeding you the information,” says Gathman. “You have to budget your time, keep up with your work and actively participate more than in a classroom.” For many, it can be a hard transition from traditional school to doing work from your home, and that can hamper your abilities and grades.

Doesn’t accommodate the non tech-savvy – If you’re not the greatest with computers or have slow Internet connection, you may become frustrated and your studies could suffer as a result. Before signing up, be sure you’re someone who can handle such challenges and that you have back-up plans in case of a technological mishap (i.e. a close-by library, a friend or family member’s computer, etc.).

Regardless of what you choose, we can help you with the financing to help get you through it.


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Electric, Hybrid and Diesel – Are They Right for You?

There are many options available to help reduce your carbon footprint

Gas prices haveCheck out AOFCU's auto rates! been high for quite some time now, so it’s no surprise that fuel efficient alternatives have been gaining popularity. Whether it’s a hybrid, diesel or even a fully electric model, there’s something available that both peaks your interest and can help make visiting your gas station a smaller part of your schedule or not necessary at all.

Diesel gaining popularity
Automobiles that are powered by diesel have been gaining traction as of late and with good reason. Diesel models are primarily more fuel efficient, more reliable and they last longer. But don’t think for a minute that they’re anything close to the diesel models of long ago.

They’re also super clean and efficient
One great example is the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel that starts at an MSRP of $25,810. The Cruze Diesel is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produces 151 hp and an impressive 264 lb/ft of torque while achieving up to a class-leading 46 mpg highway.

“It’s hard not to take acruze_ext shine to the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel,” according to Edmunds.com. “Big-torque performance and hybrid-baiting efficiency is an alluring combination, while the Cruze’s intrinsic goodness continues to impress three years after its launch.”

Hybrid option flourishing
For those interested in a hybrid, that combines both electric and gas engine components, and makes for excellent fuel economy and quiet performance, the Toyota Prius family (MSRP starting at $19,080) offers four models. The entry Prius c can achieve up to 53 mpg city.

“If you thought a hybrid car was out of your price range, the 2014 Toyota Prius c will surprise you with its affordability and wealth of standard features.” The Prius v can comfortably seat five and also swallows up to 34.3 cubic feet of cargo. And with its flexible seating and cargo configurations, it can haul larger items like bicycles and strollers.

The Prius v delivers the best fuel economy for a crossover or wagon that’s available today. The standard Prius is the one that started it all, and with 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway, it’s easy to see why it has become a perennial best-seller. In fact, Toyota estimates that if everyone would join the Prius club, the United States would have saved nearly 1.5 billion gallons of gas since 2000. A Prius Plug-in model is also available.

Electric meets luxury
For those who want to steer completely free of the gas station, the Tesla Model S is arguably among the best cars on the road today. The model S is the world’s first all-electric premium sedan and has been gaining non-stop praise with the highest rating ever from a leading Consumer Magazine and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“As an all-electric luxury sedan with ample range and performance that rivals or surpass conventionally-powered models, the Model S has no true rivals,” added Left Lane News. The performance of the model S is so much more than you would expect from an electric car. Drivers can expect a 4.2-second sprint to 60 mph with up to a 265-mile driving range. The available high-powered charging allows for up to 58 miles of range per hour of charge, which means you’ll be back on the road in a flash.

The Model S features available “5+2” seating, which basically means you can carry up to seven people, and a 17-inch color touchscreen display with Internet connectivity keeps you close to what matters most. An all-glass panoramic roof is the largest of any sedan on the market and its active air suspension helps the Model S achieve a ride like no other. This is truly a car you have to see to believe.

Regardless of what you choose, stop by today and let one of our representatives get you approved for an auto loan that works for you.


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