The Cost of Higher Education

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I read an article yesterday that really struck me. A 37 year old woman who attended law school ten years ago, is suing her law school. Since graduating in 2008, she has not been able to find a full-time salaried job as a lawyer and is blaming the school for not providing accurate data on its graduate’s success post law school. Anna Alaburda is now $170,000 in debt with loan interest of 8 percent.

I can’t help but feel aggravated while reading this. Those who know me well know I am all about personal responsibility, and I have written articles previously on the need to take ownership in which university you attend, and the amount you decide to pay for your education.

During my senior year of college, I took the LSAT and applied to quite a few law schools. I got in to several, and liked one in particular. I had interned the previous summer at a law firm and had quite a bit of exposure to the profession. Once I had narrowed down my search, I started looking at how much money each school was offering me in scholarships/grants. When I realized I would need to take out $110,000 in loans for tuition alone (that doesn’t cover any living expenses), I had to rethink if it was really what I wanted. After a lot of thinking and talking to those around me, I decided it wasn’t worth it. A guy I had met the previous summer who was also interning at my law firm, had graduated over a year ago and couldn’t find a job making over $50,000- he had $150,000 in student loans.

Had I decided to go to law school, I would be less than 2 years out of school and probably just like that other intern, with over $150,000 in debt. By not going to law school, I have been able to advance in my career where I now have 5 years of experience under my belt, and can guarantee I make more money today than I would had I gone to law school. It has also allowed me to spend the last 5 years saving money, contributing to my 401k, paying off my student debt from my undergraduate degree, buying a house, and taking vacations.

I’m not arguing that this is the solution for everyone, and who knows what my future earning potential would have been with a law degree, but I am happy with my decision. I’m in a job I love, working for a company I love.

Is Your Workout Worth the Cost?

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Nowadays there is always a new gym opening, or new fitness fad. As a person who really enjoys working out, I have spent a lot of money on fitness related classes and events over my lifetime. From traveling to run marathons, to flywheel spin classes, to barre and pilates. I’ve tried them all and more!

To a lot of people, the thought of spending $150/month to exercise is ridiculous and they could never justify it. In the Seattle area, outside of joining a standard gym, it’s hard to find a workout class or group that is less than this-some are much more. After years of paying a lot of money to workout and hire coaches for marathons and triathlons, I finally stopped because I didn’t want the expense. Instead I joined LA Fitness for $35/month. I loved the savings I was getting but wasn’t happy with my motivation. I find it so easy to workout when I’m training for a race or have a group class to go to, but heading to the gym after work by myself to do the treadmill and weights just isn’t motivating. Over the past 8 months, I’ve hardly made it to the gym and notice a difference in the way I feel about myself.

When I’m not working out consistently I’m less patient, and just not as happy overall. I’m pretty frugal in most aspects of my life and stick to my budget each month, but working out is something very important to me. I made the decision to cancel my $35/month gym membership since I’m not using it anyway, and signed up for a boot camp class that costs more. I don’t really want the added expense but if it makes me more focused at work, a better wife, and happier with myself I think it is completely worth it.

It all goes back to picking and choosing what is most important to you. In choosing to pay for a more expensive workout I continue to bring my lunch every day, and I don’t impulse spend.

Do you spend money on a gym or fitness membership, and do you feel like the money is well spent?

Why I Love My Credit Card

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I applied for my credit card (only one!) when I turned 18 and had an initial credit limit of $600. In 2007, it was pretty easy to qualify for a credit card- even as an 18 year old heading off to college in the fall with no income. Things changed slightly after the financial meltdown, and by 2010 my 18 year old brother couldn’t qualify for a credit card for anything! Because I got my credit card at 18, I started building credit history a full three years before someone who had to wait until they were 21 and three years makes a big difference.

By the time I was 25 and my husband and I were ready to buy a house, I had a credit score above 800 and a lot of history built up- time was on my side. I know a lot of people that still today don’t have the credit history to get a loan on a house with the best interest rates available.

Frequent flyer miles are just an added perk. I use my Alaska Airlines card for everything from groceries to monthly utilities and I’ve been able to take many free flights using miles I have earned. From a trip to Chicago to run the Chicago Marathon, to my honeymoon in Europe, most of my recent trips have been covered by miles I have earned just paying my monthly living expenses- if only I could get miles for my monthly mortgage payment!

Credit cards aren’t for everyone. If you’re someone who can’t control your spending, credit cards probably aren’t for you. My husband and I stick to a budget, and pay off our credit card each month so running up debt isn’t worrisome to us. A lot of people see their credit limit as “free money” (someone actually told me this once!) and spend until their card is maxed out. Then they’ll pay it down a little, and spend to the max again. This is a HORRIBLE idea. You will end up paying so much in interest and will never get out of debt if this is your philosophy. I do however think if you’re a responsible spender, credit cards can be a good thing.

4 Tips For Creating A Budget

Tips for creating a budget

Creating a budget (and sticking to it) is the best way to start saving money, however it can seem overwhelming for those who don’t know where to start. Below I have some tips for how to create a seamless budget.

  • Look at your previous month’s spending. Pull all bank statements, debit card, and credit card transactions to see where you spent your money last month. This will help guide you in planning your budget for next month. I prefer to download my statements into excel and categorize each of them. E.g. water, sewer, electric, and gas would all fall under “utilities”. I then sum up each category so I can see how much I am spending on groceries vs eating out or entertainment. This is usually how my sheet ends up looking (note- these are not actual numbers, I just made them up):


Details $ Spend Category   Category Sum Total
Movies $22.50 Entertainment   Entertainment $159.02
Gas $110.00 Utilities   Utilities $110.00
Rent $2,000.00 Rent   Rent $2,000.00
Shopping $100.00 Entertainment   Groceries $275.00
Groceries $125.00 Groceries      
Dinner Out $36.52 Entertainment      
Groceries $150.00 Groceries      


  • Follow the 50/20/30 rule for easy budgeting. This is a great way of thinking for someone creating their first budget. You should aim for 50% of your budget to be directed toward your fixed costs. This include rent/mortgage, utilities, car payments, gym memberships, and everything else you pay for monthly that doesn’t fluctuate much in cost. 20% of your take home pay should go toward savings and long terms goals. That includes contributing to your 401k, building your emergency fund, and making additional payments (beyond what is required per month) on debt. 30% of your take home pay should be spent on lifestyle choices. I mentioned gym memberships in fixed costs, but many would also consider this to be a lifestyle choice. Groceries and other expenses that change from month to month fall under this category. If your monthly fixed costs are taking more than 50% of your take home pay, you need to reevaluate how you’re allocating your pay check. Do the math with your own take home pay. If you make $3,000/month, no more than $1,500 should go toward fixed costs, $600 toward savings and long term goals, and $900 toward lifestyle choices.


  • Start creating your budget. Now that you know how much you tend to spend each month, and how much of your take home pay you should be spending on each category, it’s time to put pen to paper. I prefer to do my budgeting in excel because I can manipulate it anyway I want. There are of course great tools out there as well to help you create a budget like Mint, but I find it just as easy to create an excel spreadsheet. When you’re just starting out with your budget, it also forces you to keep a closer eye on what you’re buying. For example, if I go to target and buy both clothing and groceries, I can look at my receipts and add them to the appropriate category instead of just labeling them entertainment OR groceries.


  • Track your budget. Once your budget is created, make sure you’re tracking your budget. I look at my spending at least three times a week. My husband would say I’m obsessed, and I get it, not everyone is going to look at their budget that often but I do encourage you the first month to pay very close attention to your spending and how you’re tracking to your budget. If one area is coming in over (your car breaks down or you have another unexpected expense) try to pull money away from your lifestyle budget and not your savings and long terms goals if you can. If you’ve never followed a budget before it might seem difficult but I promise if you stick to it for a few months it really will become second nature.


Good luck and Happy Saving!