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.

5 Tips to Stay Within Your Wedding Budget

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No matter how much or how little you are going to spend on your wedding, sticking to your budget is important. One of my closest friends recently got engaged, so I wanted to write this to help her along with others. I have seen so many people go off the rails with their budget, and end up with a massive credit card bill they can’t pay. The Knot reported that the average wedding cost is now $31,213. If you haven’t actually started planning a wedding that may seem like a lot of money, however once you start adding the cost of everything up, it can often be hard to stay below that amount- especially if you are getting married in a big city.

Without even knowing it you can easily exceed your budget, so I have five tips for staying on your wedding budget:

  • Create your budget prior to looking at wedding venues

When my husband and I got married, we looked at every venue in the Seattle area- online that is. I requested pricing from each venue before even considering to view it. Don’t go looking at venues that are out of your price range, it will be depressing. I have always loved the Fairmont Olympic hotel in Seattle but with the number of guests I had and what I had envisioned, it was way out of my budget so I didn’t even bother looking at it. And that leads me to my next tip:

  • Create a tentative guest list prior to looking at wedding venues

Don’t waste your time looking at a bunch of venues to find out weeks later that one you love only holds 125 people, and you’re going to have to invite 175 to your wedding. It’s another way to be disappointed right off the bat. Have your budget and guest list PRIOR to walking through any venues.

Wedding 1

  • Shop around for your dress

I went to many bridal shops when looking for a dress but told the sales women I wasn’t interested in trying anything on that was over $1,500- again, don’t bother looking at something if you can’t afford it. You have to prioritize what is most important to you on your wedding day and for me it was more about the ceremony and the reception. I knew I could find a dress I loved without spending over $2,000. I found a dress I loved, at a bridal boutique I loved, for a decent price. I wondered however if anywhere else carried the dress so I called around to some local bridal boutiques and found the exact dress for $300 less elsewhere. Because I loved the original bridal boutique so much and I wanted to buy it through them, I asked if they would match the price of the other shop and they agreed to. It never hurts to do a little research and ask questions!

  • Keep track of your spending

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s harder than you think. You’re excited about the big day, and before you know it you’ve spent way more on one area of the wedding than you had intended to. Don’t forget this money won’t magically appear so stick to your budget and write everything down along the way.

Wedding 5

  • Don’t forget the “extras”

This is by far the most important and something I even ran into when planning my wedding. When you’re creating your budget, you may forget about things like gratuity and taxes. My wedding reception venue had roughly 10% (state sales) tax and 18% gratuity not built into the quote I received. For every $10,000 it works out to about $2,980 in taxes and gratuity. And that’s just the reception. Don’t forget about your photographer, transportation, and everyone else you have to tip that day. Also, things like décor tend to add up quickly- without even realizing it I had spent $30 in basic, small candles per table which came out to about $540 in candles! Outside of your wedding day itself are tons of activities- bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and your honeymoon. What is most important to you? Would you rather spend $1,000 to go away for your bachelorette party or put that money toward a honeymoon with your new husband? Everyone is different. I chose to stay somewhat local for my bachelorette party so that my husband and I could go to Europe for our honeymoon. It’s all about prioritizing and deciding what you want most.



How To Get What You REALLY Want By Saving

Thanks to Millennial Money Man for allowing me to write a contributing article. He has a similar story to mine, and has great advice for millennials looking to get out of debt.

Friends are always asking me how I paid off my student loans so fast, paid for part of a wedding, and saved enough money up to buy a home. I’m a big believer in what I call, “conscious spending”. I truly believe no matter how much money you make there is opportunity to save more.

I was making $30,000 a year at my first job post college. I was working for a startup and made friends quickly because most of us were under the age of 25. One thing that stood out to me was the amount of money people were spending. Most of my new friends were making under $40,000 a year and spending money like they made $100,000. Starbucks coffee and breakfast EVERY morning, followed by lunches out resulted in a minimum of $20/day spent on food WHILE at work.

That’s $400/month and doesn’t take into account the after work happy hours and dinners out!


While I was unhappy with how little money I was making, I was bringing my lunches and drinking the free coffee at work. It allowed me to put about $1000/month toward my student loans as well as put $300/month into my house savings fund.

I continued to work hard and eventually moved companies where I received a larger pay increase. At this point, my loans were paid off and I started putting more money into my home savings fund as well as putting a little bit away for my wedding.

By the time I turned 26, I had paid off $22,000 in student loans, saved $10,000 for my wedding, and $79,000 for our house down payment and closing costs. Had I spent money frivolously, I wouldn’t have accomplished all of these goals in four short years.

I did take several vacations after college, but I saved for them, I didn’t charge them on my credit card. I also enjoyed going out to dinner with friends or shopping occasionally, so I am not suggesting you give up everything you love.

You have to be purposeful in your spending.  What is it that you really want? Do you enjoy your $5 coffee that much, and your lunches out? If so, great, that is what YOU ARE CHOOSING to spend your money on because it is important to you. But if you want to save for that house or whatever it may be, you need to comb through your finances and see where you can cut back.

Happy Saving!