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How to Save $10,000 or More on Your Next Starbucks Visit

If you don’t already know this simple hack then you could be paying more than you need to for your Starbucks visits and get free internet anywhere in the world there are starbucks locations.

It’s a simple fact that all of us have cravings and short comings, but it needn’t put a financial dent in your budgeting. After you begin implementing this simple trick you too could pocket as much as $10,000 over the lifetime of your Starbucks visits.

The Epiphany:

Just the other day I was waiting in line at my local Starbucks and when I got up to the counter to place my order the gal that normally takes my order asked me what I wanted. I proceeded to tell her the usual, iced coffee, small, black, no sugar or cream.

Then she looks at me and says “do you have he Starbucks app?”

I looked at her confused thinking to myself “why the hell would I want to get spammed?”

That’s when she told me the magic words. “You can get a free refill when you scan the app”

FREE. RE-FILLs? WhaaaaaaaT?free-refills

Wait, you’re telling me that just by downloading your silly app I can get free coffee? Just for coming and blowing up your wifi, taking up a seat, and pissing in your bathroom WAY too many times every day?

 

Holy shit! That’s Freaking awesome!

Consider this:

And for anyone who doesn’t understand the gravity of this situation consider this.

Home internet costs: $46 a month

Co-working space costs: $1000 + a month

Coffee (smallest itty bitty cup): $2.65 a freakin’ cup

So simply buying a cup of coffee 20 x a month (or once a day) it will cost you $53 a month (that’s basically my internet bill – or what it was) and I get a membership anywhere in the world !!! Booyah!!! (Thank you Starbucks 26,000+ locations)

Ok and if you’re still not convinced to give up one of the fake emails you use for access if you simply get 2 cold brew coffees a day per visit, and you go daily to Starbucks, and assuming that you live for at least another 55 years, then you could stand to save $10,840 and I’ll show you how.

$2.65 for the first cup, then every cup after is free.

Refills cost $0.54

If I bought a cup every day for the next 55 years that would be $0.54 x 1 x 365 x 55 = $10,840.50

If my normal internet costs would be $46 a month, I’m basically paying $7 a month for a global internet/coffee pass that I can get anywhere in the world and I can “cancel” at any time.

Pretty freaking sweet huh?

Right now I’m writing this from good Ol’ Kerrville Tex-ass. That’s right folks. Travel anywhere there is civilization and you have a global 1GBps internet pass and coffee for just about $50 bucks a month.

Hope this helps you guys, if you got value from this post please take a moment to share it with your friends and family on social.

Catch you later.

Kristian

p.s. you can get the starbucks app here: https://app.starbucks.com/

Just open the app, sign up (you can give them any email even one you don’t use anymore) and then just tap “pay”. It will show them a scanner that won’t charge you anything on your refill. Cheers!

How to Better communicate In Life And In Business

Hey Guys and gals, this week’s Vlog is up and it’s titled “Vlog #2 – How to Better communicate In Life And In Business”.

Just some ideas that I had to share about business and communication that I learned from the workshop I went to this past weekend and an update on what i’m up to.

Millennial finance Advice: Should I Move Out of My Parents House?

I got asked the question the other day on Quora “Should I move out of my parents house? or stay at home and save money?” I answered this on quora but I thought that it deserves a video because this is on the tip of everyone’s mind lately.

Only in “Western” countries do we find living at home after the age of 21 strange. In Asian and Latin countries people live at home up until they get married, and even at that point they may choose to live with their parents or have their parents move back in to be able to better take care of their elderly.

This is a sign of a strong communal focus, something that western countries seem to be lacking more and more these days.

So if you are a millennial living at home with your parents or you are just getting out of college and you have student loan debt, check out what I have to say here because this applies directly to you.

Here’s my response on quora

 

Share this post with anyone you think can benefit from it.

How To Save Money On Your Next Car Buying Experience

A lot of people ask me how I paid off $33,555 of debt in less than 3 years and what I could make the biggest difference for them in terms of their bottom line. Knowing how to buy a decent used car and save money on what you should be saving money on is one of the fastest ways to put money back in your pocket. If you haven’t already read the post I wrote about how my girlfriend and I sold our over priced cars to get out of debt and get a better ride then check out: How My Girlfriend and I sold Both of Our Cars and Pocketed $13,800 Cash In Under One Hour…

If you value your freedom, and dislike having to make payments on things, then you are going to like what I have to say here. On the otherhand, if you enjoy overpaying for luxuries which depreciate in value over time and cost you a bunch of money, and your dreams, then you should probably stop reading now.

So, when buying a used car, there are a couple of guidelines that I recommend.

1. Firstly, Detach Emotion From the Car Buying Process:

You are buying a tool, and not a toy. If you want a fancy toy go buy a motorcycle, it will cost less to maintain and be more fun to ride. I don’t care how shiny the hammer is all I care about is does it hit nails well?

A car is good for one thing: getting you safely and quickly from point A to point B. All the other fluff that goes into cars is designed to sell you. Yes, driving fast cars is fun, but that is not what a commuter car is designed for. I’m all for driving fast on the track but that’s what a day at COTA is for, and that would probably cost more than my whole car…

2. Know Before You Go: Do Your Research Upfront and Know if a Car Has an Issue with the History

Research your cars before you show up.

Ask for the vin and check it with a service like Carfax or Vincheckpro (less expensive but checks all the major databases just like carfax).

Check the profile: if the car that is being sold is shot with the same angle or with the same background then you are probably being sold to by a “dealer” or even worse… a junk reseller…

Like this one:

Ask the seller if it’s “Original Paint” – last thing you want to do is spend all that time driving out to see this ‘great car’ and come to find that it was totaled or busted up real bad and then replaced with non-original manufactured parts grabbed from a scrap yard, then “affixed” somehow to the frame…

3. Ask Your Mechanic: Do you know a Grease Monkey?

If you don’t have a personal mechanic that you trust, that knows you by your first name and you know at least a little about their personal life, then ask your friends who they use. If they tell you one of the national tire brands then ask the next freind till you find a mom and pop you can trust. Worst case scenario you can just drive it over to one of the big boys and /or meet the seller there to get it looked at. You aren’t going to be paying for repairs but you want to get it looked at by a mechanic that can give it a once over for any major problems like transmission or motor issues.

4. Made in Asia is a good thing: 

Not all asian countries are alike. Japan and China are not at all culturally alike, yet they tend to be all roped into the same category. One thing that differentiates them entirely is something called TQM (Toyota Quality Managment). TQM, right after WWII, was implimented in Japan and resulted in the smaller companies like Toyota and Honda eventually being able to compete with the major western manufacturers like Ford Motors, GM and Crystler.

Because Toyota focused on designing the car Right and not just FAST, it resulted in huge savings of time and money on the back end (in recalls, law suites, and disatisfied customers). What this means, is that you get a better car, which lasts longer and needs less mechanical maintenance = save more money.

5. Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks: Shop like you’re a Grandma

A mid sized sedan, 4 door, 4 cyclinders, and with under 100k miles will have lower insurance and maintenance costs. If you can shop like your 70 year old grandma would then you will live like warrent buffet does some day. Wealthy and never needing to work a day longer in your life but choosing to do so out of pleasure rather than to just pay the bills.

6. Check your car’s Value Using Kelly Blue Book: 

Working at a Motorcycle dealership we used a system of checking bikes for resell when we wanted to know how much a customer was losing his or her respective shirt.

nadabikes.com is what we used to estimate the value of a used bike and what we (as a dealer) should pay for it in order to make a decent profit (*cough* gauge them *cough*), but it was basically the KBB of the bike world.

Brian, the guy who I worked with, had been there for about 7 years. He told me about the mileage estimation that KBB uses to base their values on and it’s right around 9,000 – 10,000 miles a year for used cars. So a 10 year old car should have right around 90,000 miles in order to be considered good condition. An 11 year old car, 100,000 miles and so on. (1)

So If you shop for a car that is under 100k and is 10 years old you will see values right around the KBB values on their site. Which means that you can estimate, based on how far you drive daily, how many miles you will put on your car in a give 6 months and estimate the rough resell value should you choose to sell that car and get a new one.

This means that you now know the before and after price estimates based on our criteria.

1 – original paint

2- 10 years or older

3 – under 100k miles

4 – Japanese manufacturer

5 – Less than $4,000

7. Ways to shop: Craigslist / Facebook Market Place / Local Used Dealers / Asking friends

Craigslist Marketplace:

If you are looking to save absolutely as much money as possible, and are in no rush to buy a car, AND you are to put in the work to go hunting for deals then craigslist is a great place to shop for your next used car. Just know that you will want to be extra thruough about checking your cars and bring a friend who works on cars and/or is actually a mechanic. Craigslist is not for the faint of heart…

What you may find may shock you, but avoid calling on folks that don’t have pictures, or that have pictures that look like what you saw in another picture. Dealers sell multiple cars, distressed sellers sell A car. Buy from distressed sellers, not junk dealers.

Facebook Market Place:

A growing place to shop locally, kind of like a step up from craigslist. People can see (for the most part) your network and see if they know someone you know. In a way its better than craigslist because there is some social pressure to not lie or cheat people; however, keep in mind there are hundreds of thousands of fake profiles out there just floating around from spammers and scam bots… so be careful.

If you see a car for sale, click on the sellers face icon in that post and it will show what else they are selling. If you notice that they have more than 2 cars, then they may be a junk dealer and I would advise to just simply avoid them.

Local Dealers: Calling around to get a better deal

I prefer this method because this is the only method where reputation becomes an important factor. Car dealers, though they are known to try and scam you, will not sell a damaged car if they are a respectible name in the market place.

I’m not talking about the folks that buy a house and put a bunch of junk cars in their front yard and sell cars on craigslist. I’m talking about the folks that go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to get commercially zoned as a dealership, are located right next to a Walmart shopping center, and who actually pay for advertising on the radio still. Those jokers.

If you are not in a rush for your next car then you can shop around with the local big fish used car dealers to try and score a deal last minute.

Here’s what you do: run a quick search for local deallerships to see what used inventory they may have available. Cars you find which meet the following criteria:

1 – original paint

2- 10 years or older

3 – under 100k miles

4 – Japanese manufacturer

5 – Less than $4,000

If you find a car that meets this criteria you can go ahead and call the local dealership and ask them what they have available. If they tell you anything but the one you found then hang up.

Dealers are trying to get rid of inventory at the end of the month and cannot make a profit on a car that is sitting there and not selling. Dealers will try and buy undervalued cars that folks don’t want and then resell for a mark only if they think it will sell based on national sales data of similar vehicles in similar conditions (aka KBB).

You have the advantage of not keeping inventory and not needing to buy the car, thus you can walk away if things get too heated or you feel you are under too much pressure from the salesman. Don’t think that you have to take there deal, because you don’t you can walk.

Ask your Friends:

Lastly, and this is a good option for most, ask friends through your network who may be selling their car. Chances are, you know someone that is moving, doesn’t need the car, or just want’s to sell it to get a new car. If this is the case, and it meets the above criteria, and your mechanic checks it out and it looks good then go ahead and buy it. Just make sure that you transfer the title to your name using your local DMV as a resource to make sure you have all the right forms.

Always check the VIN for the history report.

You can use these free online tools to get the gist of the history of the car:

  1. National Insurance Crime Buero  – NICB’s VINCheck is a free service provided to the public to assist in determining if a vehicle has been reported as stolen, but not recovered, or has been reported as a salvage vehicle by cooperating NICB member insurance companies.
  2. National Highway Traffic Saftey Administration – you can check to see if there are any active recalls on your car.
  3. Vehicle History Report – VehicleHistory.com provides you access to information from public databases on the vehicles history.

Once you’ve checked those resources, if you’re interested in getting more data that helps to ensure you are investing in a reliable used vehicle and not a lemon, check out Autochecker.com or Carfax.com reliable data backed by Experian and other big data.

To Wrap Things Up:

Once you find a keeper it can take only a couple of minutes to get the car transfered to your name (assuming that you have cash and the seller is willing to part that day with their vehicle).

If you are able to find a car right at 100,000 miles or under, between 10 and 12 years, with original paint for under $4,000 then you are right in the money spot.

Chances are, as long as you’ve followed the other steps, you will be able to use this car for a good 20,000 more miles before needing to sell it for a new one and since most Japanese cars retain their value fairly well it’s a pretty good guess that you will either be using this car for “free” or even make a small profit on it.

If you found this interesting or useful in your car search please click the share button and leave a comment below with any questions you have.

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Why Apple Refurbished May Be A Good Option

Why do People Even Consider Apple Refurbished Macs? If you want to buy directly from Apple, but don’t want to pay full retail, then I suggest you consider an Apple Certified Refurbished Computer.

when I say this to people they usually think either (a) I love it or (b) eww really? I would never buy that I don’t want something like that…

It’s Apple’s certified refurbished program, and it is the best in the industry.

What most folks don’t know is that refurbished is actually tested to higher specs than the new stuff. You can read more about the process on https://www.apple.com/shop/browse/home/specialdeals/refurbfaq_popup

It’s kinda uncommon knowledge that most of the refurbished units are actaully just online orders from customers who either upgraded the processor, when they didn’t need to, or picked a color they don’t really want and just returned it.

And sometimes, and this is very rare sometimes, there is a defect with the computer (called workmanship  – HA! robot workmanship) and Apple accepts the return no questions asked.

However, this is rare, and when it’s a return it’s for something like a hinge is damaged or keyboard key issue or something.

Either way, the computer gets returned, money gets refunded, and the customer gets a new product.

What Does Apple do With Those Macbook Pro Computers People Return?!

They throw them in a dumpster!

 

Haha, No I’m only kidding.

They take them to a warehouse and replace the damaged part, then test everything for full functionality, and then they box them up with brand new materials and put them into the refurbished store.

Anyone that buys Apple refurbished products gets:

(A) The same quality apple products backed by the same manufacturers warranty as new products

(B) the same support on their products

(C) You can add the Apple Care+ on them too

(D) the same return policy… oh and

(E) 15% off your purchase!! Whoot! yeah baby.

So if you aren’t shopping refurbished then you are overpaying by about 15%… haha just kidding.

They don’t always stock exactly what you need, and if your company or your boss is buyin’ why not just get the exact model with the upgrades you want?

But hey, your choice, if you find the right model in the refurbished store then hit it up and grab it fast because there is no guarantee that it will be there for long.

So to recap:

  • Refurbished Macs are tested to the same specs and more than new macs.
  • They receive the same Apple 1 year limited warranty and you can add Apple Care + to them for the same cost (with the same coverage).
  • You get the same support.
  • They come in a shiny new white box, with the words “refurbished” subtly placed on the front.
  • And they look and smell new just like a new Apple MacBook does.
  • Even comes with the little paper between the screen and keyboard.

6 Ways You Can Drastically Decrease Your Food Costs And Double Your Savings

If you are still struggling to pay your rent, or to build your savings up to $1000 dollars in your emergency fund, then you know, every little bit helps.

I personally know folks that spend over $500 a week on groceries and more than that on eating out. When you’re making 6 figures a year that’s not a big chunk of your income but it’s still significant…

Either way, wouldn’t you rather eat really well AND save a ton of money on your grocery and food costs each month so that you can invest it or go spend it on your next travel adventure? I mean imagine saving an extra $500, $1000, or $1500 a month (if you were spending $2k before on dining and eating out), that would be $6,000, $12,000 and $18,000 respectively.

So no matter where you are, using these simple tips can help you save more at the grocery store and effectively eat out less.

1. Make a List Before You Leave for the Grocery Store

This alone with save you time and money should you choose to employ it.

I actually learned this strategy from the book “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy“, where the author, Dr. Thomas J. Stanley goes on to study the wealthiest people in America and their habits and what he believes makes them so successful.

What he finds is that they have a series of habits they employe to save time, save money, lower capital risk and to enjoy more life. It’s a strangely interesting read and I highly recommend it, but even if you don’t get the book take this one nuggets of wisdom.

Make a list before you go shopping. Not only will you save yourself years, yes years, shopping but you will also spend less as you will be more conscious of your core needs and begin to recognize your expenses for what they are, needs vs. wants.

IF you were to save an extra half hour each week shopping, and you lived an average lifetime of 80 years, assuming you started this habit when you were 20, you could stand to see an extra 65 days added back to your life just by making a list and shopping from that list. Not to mention the cost savings of not buying things you either already have or actually don’t need…

2. Eat Before you Go To The Store and Go Out:

Early on in my Debt repayment period, I learned that if I ate before going to the grocery store that I would be able to shop for longer, and without getting hungry, thus spending less money.

This isn’t just true for shopping for food, this goes for shopping in general.

If you are hungry, you will buy more, there is even some science that shows this is the case in multiple studies conducted about buying behavior and hunger.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateashford/2015/02/25/shopping-hungry/

https://www.livescience.com/29360-grocery-shopping-hungry.html

Are you hungry? Best to eat first and shop later, study finds

3. If you are Going to Drink Coffee, Brew it at Home

The average cup of coffee runs right about $4 a cup, depending on which city you live in and whether or not you subscribe to snob mentality or bum mentality (high society coffee vs. anything that’s black and taste like coffee will do…).

This being said, if you’re day starts off with a $4 cup of joe then right there you are looking at an expense of right around $120 a month. If you are paying $7 a cup then you are looking at $220 a month and so on.

4. Stop Buying Organic

First of all, organic is a joke.

Secondly, by not buying organic you will not only be saving money, you will also be not supporting an asinign industry where the process is designed to charge you more money for a premium version of an inexpensive product to produce.

Why should we need to pay premium prices for fruits and vegetables? Shouldn’t the healthy stuff be the least expensive since fruits and vegetables have some of the highest yield in agriculture (in terms of calories and nutrition out per resource put in – certainly a lot higher than animal agriculture).

The answer? Corporate greed.

Organic only means that the people selling this product will charge you more for the food than the other stuff.

Also, eating organic food doesn’t guarantee that you will get healthier.

If you can’t go to the farm and find out what pesticides they are using then I wouldn’t expect the organic product to be any safer than the non-organic product next to it.

Here’s a pretty in depth, and well researched, article explaining some of the common misconceptions about organic agriculture and why people perceive it to be safer than non-organic products.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/natural-vs-synthetic-chemicals-is-a-gray-matter/

The big take aways are that (1) organic and non-organic crops have similar nutritional values (2) there are synthetic chemicals allowed in organic agriculture (3) People perceive synthetic chemicals as more toxic when in reality naturally occurring compounds can have an even greater toxicity.

Read more about it here: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/natural-vs-synthetic-chemicals-is-a-gray-matter/

So what is the solution? The solution is to just shop in season, shop locally when possible, get to know your neighborhood farms, and start to learn how to grow your own crops like John Kohler from growingyourgreens.com  does.

Another reason I don’t shop organic just for the sake of organic, there is a “certification and application process” which can cost as much as $1200…

If there is a $200 non refundable application fee, and the cost to get certified is around $1000 dollars, depending on your state… then you should be able to CHARGE more for your food right? Wrong.

Why would we charge $1200 for farms to produce a “healthier food” when in reality the information is available for free on the internet and the food supply would benefit from becoming this (if it was truly better?).

Oh that’s right, because of mega corporations like Monsanto who want to own the food supply.

Why is this the defacto mentality?

Why don’t we just make a free organic certification course allowing anyone who wants to learn to organic farm? Ah because in a free market competition is key and it helps the consumer get better deals…

Bull. It hurts the farmers, it hurts the consumer, it hurts everyone but the corporations. So why don’t we just buy local and skip the big guys?

5. Meal Prep your food for the week

If you do breakfast at home and lunch and dinner on the go then you are probably looking at another $12-25 a meal for lunch, depending on how fancy you go, and another $20+ for dinner.

One of my friends told me there isn’t a day that goes by he doesn’t spend at least $50… $50 a day of food?

That’s over $1500 a month minimum that you are forking out for stuff that you could make at home for less AND make it healthier.

That’s a whoppin’ $18,000 that could be going into your savings each month if you choose to give up a little bit of the excess.

On average my girlfriend and I spend about $1.25 to make a meal that we do in batches.

Depending on which part of the country you live in you could be looking at more or less, but still your cost will probably be around 15% of the cost of a restaurant meal.

Why?

Well you have to look at all the costs involved with that restaurant meal,

  • Labor – a good 33% of the food cost is the people making it
  • Materials – 15-20% of the food cost is the raw materials (usually its on the lower end and can be lower depending on the restaurants buying power).
  • Overhead – Let’s say 20-40% depending on the location (it can be much more or much less depending on if we are talking about food trucks vs. 5 star michelan restaurants, but this number is just an example of what you could possibly be paying).
  • Margin or Profit – Usually no more than <15% for restaurants. Yes, you are paying for someone to profit, the owner of the business is going to get paid for the service because they provided the capital to start the business, they train the employees, they negotiate the food deals, and they do all of the setup work to make this possible to eat at this location. If you want food to eat but you didn’t pack your lunch or you want to entertain clients then you are going to get to use this persons establishment to gain food in exchange for money that they earned. If you don’t think it’s fair, then buy your own meals and pack your lunch.

If you make your meals 6 days a week and then go out to eat on that 7th day that is fine! You will still be saving roughly 75% of your former food costs… And if you couple this with meal prep and productive shopping you could be adding a whole lot to your bottom line savings and debt repayment plan.

6. Have a Cooking Party at Your Place to Boost Your Savings

What about entertaining friends Kristian?!

Guess what, rich people have dinner parties too… You can invite friends over for Dinner and cook some of the new awesome meals you’ve learned how to make from pinterest…just kidding.

But this does two things,

(1) it lets you learn to cook, men, this is attractive to women. Seriously though there are a million ideas on food prep on pinterest and my girlfriend gets all her ideas from that site.

And (2) it saves you money but still gives you the social aspect that you are craving.

You want to spend time with friends and enjoy time together, then cook a simple meal and invite your friends over for a potluck once a week, every 2 weeks or even just once a month.

I see people of the Hispanic community here in Texas do it all the time, why? Because it’s part of their culture to spend time with friends and family, but it’s only part of American culture to spend excessively…

They are able to have the same amount of fun only without having to pay the 85% more for food and labor costs of going out.

So am I saying that you can’t go out to eat ever? No I’m not saying that, but what I am saying is that if you are struggling to get out of debt it doesn’t make much sense to go out and spend 70-85% more on food than you need to…

So save your money, learn to cook, learn to meal prep, shop when full, brew your coffee at home, buy local but don’t stress about organic, and enjoy life a little. It’s not a race to a Million dollars like some folks want you to think it is, it’s about enjoying life and spending it with the people that you enjoy being around the most.

If you have to grind your life away to make a million bucks only to be left wondering where your health went, did you really “win”? I don’t think so.

What do you think? Is money the most important thing? Do you employ any of these tactics to save money? Have you used these to help get out of debt?

Let me know what you think in the comments below and be sure to share this with your friends and family and stay tuned for next week.

 

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How I Used Travel Rewards Credit Cards, Debt Free, To Get 3 Free Flights, $150 Cash, and A Round Trip Ticket for My Girlfriend to Florida.

Want to start traveling but don’t have the money for a ticket? Learn how I used rewards programs to get myself 3 free flights and $150 bucks cash!

How I Used Travel Rewards Credit Cards, Debt Free, To Get 3 Free Flights, $150 Cash, and A Round Trip Ticket for My Girlfriend to Florida.

To date I’ve been able to use the points I’ve gained from my Travel Rewards Credit Cards, both the chase freedom and the southwest rewards card, to get my airfare paid for multiple trips, one being a round trip flight to Costa Rica and also flying to Florida twice…once solo, and the other time with my girlfriend.

Did I mention I have points to spare? About 7,605 to be exact as of this writing.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Points Screenshot

I did this all without carrying a balance. I prefer to save for large purchases and simply funnel the money through a credit card when I’m ready to make the purchase so as to take advantage of the cards rewards program benefits and to also keep the money in savings for as long as possible before required payback. If an opportunity comes along to invest the cash for higher rewards then I prefer to use that, however I always keep enough cash in the bank to pay off any balance I have.

If you’re like me, you want to enjoy traveling as much as possible all while maintaining a certain level of comfort. Some folks are ok with “roughing it” to save money, and I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to refill plastic water bottles to save money while traveling. You can have your cake and eat it too…

Folks that understand what rewards travel is understand that with rewards you can buy things like free food onboard airlines, free nights stays, and free airline tickets.

Yes you heard me right, free whole airline tickets can be had when using credit cards with rewards programs. This is merely only the tip of the iceberg but I’ve included some of my personal cards that I’ve used to get free flights, free points, money back and more.

The Chase Freedom Card

Chase Freedom Card

I’ve mostly only used this card for it’s cash-back for spending, which has more than paid for itself, and it’s not hard to meet the minimum $500 in the first 3 months to get the bonus. 

This is a great card for anyone just starting out and is perfect for someone trying to rebuild their credit. You can use it as a cash lending program to yourself to afford expenses and then take the added savings you’d have to pay down debt faster. 

To date I’ve gotten nearly 30,000 rapid rewards points on it, but the real advantage Is the cash-back and the 0% interest they charge for the first 15 months. 

Here’s what the card offers: 

  • $150 when you spend $500, free money basically for buying groceries. 
  • Up to 15 months 0% interest; low interest loan.
  • 5% cash back on select purchases quarterly, get money for spending on your normal expenses.

Save it, spend it, invest it, doesn’t matter what you do with the cash but it’s yours to keep. I used it to pay off part of my $33,555 in student loan debt in less than 3 years.

In my humble opinion this card is a great way for a new traveler to earn enough cash back in a year to fully offset the cost of an airline ticket to somewhere domestic or even as far reaching as the Caribbean (if you are US based) without having to go into any debt so long as you pay off the card each billing cycle.

I never recommend going into debt for travel, but strategically spending money you would have spent and just funneling it through a rewards card first is a great way to earn yourself a little bonus each year.

So to summarize:

With a minimum spending of $500 to earn the first $150 this is a great way to earn a little extra change towards travel in your first year, and without any fees or 0% interest for the first 15 months I think it’s a no brainer.

Click Here to Apply for the Card and if you are approved for the card you can earn a $150 bonus for spending normally on things like groceries, household items and other necessary expenses.

NEW: The Freedom Unlimited Card By Chase

Chase Freedom Unlimited Card

If you are planning to make a larger purchase for a needed expense, like say buying a new ac unit for a rental property, or doing a full overhaul of your transmission on that clunker that you have because in the long run that car will pay for itself if you resist the urge to upgrade and simply have it paid cash, then you can probably use this card.

What it offers:

  • $150 when you spend $500, free money basically for buying things like groceries, phone bill, internet, and gas.
  • Up to 15 months 0% interest; low interest loan.
  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases, which means you get money for spending on your normal expenses.

So to summarize:

Same perks as the chase Freedom, only a little better, you get 1.5% cash back on all purchases regardless of category. So whether your just using it for groceries, or you put all your expenses on it like phone, internet, groceries, and the occasional big purchase, you can expect to get some whopping points back if you do.

If you’ve already been approved for the chase freedom you might want to check out the freedom unlimited card.

Click Here to Apply for the Card and if you are approved for the card you can earn a $150 bonus for spending normally on things like groceries, household items and other necessary expenses.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Card

screenshot-2016-11-03-08-23-13

When I signed up for the southwest Rapid rewards credit card I got the card when they were offering 40,000 points when you spend $1000 in the first 3 months. Shortly there after they changed the offer to 60,000 points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.

So I decided it was worth a shot to give them a call and see If I could get the same offer and low and behold ask and you shall receive. I got them to add an extra 20,000 points when I spent a measly $1000 on normal purchases, groceries, cell phone expense, auto insurance, and anything else I needed to buy. 

Pro tip: save a big purchase for when you open your account, i.e. if you are thinking about getting a new laptop for work or you need to buy some work clothes or you will be buying new tires for your car and getting other service work done on your car, why not just funnel the money you have saved through your card and get the points for using it? Just be sure to not carry a balance the next month.

Why do I love flying southwest?

  • The crew members love what they do, and they have a lot of fun at work. They are actually one of my favorite reasons to fly southwest…The crew make every flight a fun one.
  • Their rewards program is straight MON-AY!
  • Spend $1000 in first 3 months get $690 approx.
  • No Blackout dates, and points don’t expire as long as your account has activity.
  • 3,000 anniversary points each year
  • VIP status gets you even more goodies like free wifi and priority boarding.

When you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months you get 40,000 points you can use towards no black out date flights (there is about a .017 rewards point redemption rate so this is about $680 in flight redemption – pretty good).

Also you get 2x points on all SW tickets, money spent at partner hotels, and partner car rentals, as well as no foreign fees, chip protection and fraud alert.

Oh and you also get 6,000 anniversary points each year you stay with SouthWest. 

The only con to this card is the $69 yearly fee but I’ve had friends confirm that you can call and have them wave the fee, if you ask nicely, for the first year. Even after the fee, the $600+ in flight savings easily pays for itself.

Click here to apply for the card and if you are approved for the card you can earn a 40,000 point bonus for spending normally on things like groceries, household items and other necessary expenses, that’s over $500 in flight rewards on Southwest!

What is my next Travel Rewards Credit Card?

screenshot-2016-11-03-08-22-08

The United Mileage Plus Explorer Card

This is another one of my favorite cards and the next one I will get.

Though sometimes a little more expensive, United is one of my favorite major airlines because of their extensive network of flights. They literally fly to every continent but Antarctica. See map below:

united-flight-map

Reasons to get it: 

  • 40,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months
  • Priority boarding
  • First bag flies for free (and they have an actual tracking system for the bag so it is located every step of the way).
  • Oh and another thingno pesky foreign transaction fees, damn near ate me alive in costa rica with this one…

I honestly have a love hate with United because of their merger with Continental and the changes that the employees have had to deal with (having personally known a few flight attendants for 20+ years).

If you’ve ever tried to track your bag using something like Lug Lock Luggage Tracker then you know it can be rather difficult. When an airline offers to check your bags they are assuming the risk should your bags get lost, and united uses a point to point tracking system to ensure that your effects are checked at every leg of your flight. 

Though customer service isn’t what they are known for, the 40,000 bonus points on $2,000 in the first 3 months is a good enough reason to get me back in their seats.

Beyond that, they also offer 20% off inflight purchases, 1st bag flies for free, no foreign transaction fees, and 2 united club tickets a year (lounge service!).

Go here to apply for the card: United Mileage Plus Rewards

Some final Thoughts…

I never recommend getting into debt; however, strategic spending on a travel rewards credit card for normal expenses (gas, groceries, car payment, rent) and then paying off your card balance each month is one of the best ways to earn free flights and rewards.

Keep in mind too, there is nothing wrong with having multiple cards open at the same time, if you are smart and don’t use them for petty purchases but instead use them to fund smart purchases that you’ve saved for, then you can reap some major rewards.

I wouldn’t recommend getting a travel credit card if I have a lot of outstanding debt; however, for those who pay off their cards each month and operate on a cash basis it’s nice to get a little reward for your spending every now and then such as free flights, hotels, car rentals and cash back.

Now I only put automated expenses on this card and I simply leave it at home. By automating your expenses and then automating the payments you never miss the money as you already budgeted for it and you don’t see it go.

So don’t think that spending $500 a year on coffee on these cards is going to be worth it, use it when you have a major purchase or expense for your business and then reap the rewards.

What about you, how do you use travel rewards programs (or don’t) to travel around the world? Let us know in the comments below.

If you found this article interesting or valuable please share it with your friends and family.

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5 Hidden Costs To Website Ownership

So how much does it cost to start a website or a blog as some like to call them? Having a website is much like have a physical business, you either buy or lease your location, you pay people to work in it, you have tools and assets you must maintain, and so on.

I used to think that running an online business would be free, well it’s not, but at the same time it doesn’t cost nearly as much as running a physical brick and mortar business and I’m going to show you how those costs break down in this article.

Currently there are approximately 644 Million (1) website(s) and another 51 million a year or  140,000 starting up every day (2).

To be relevant you will need to know how to make your website visible on the web, and what most bloggers won’t tell you, is that websites actually do cost money to run and maintain, and it’s not as simple as clicking a button and money pops out…

But whether you are just getting started, or you’ve been in business for a while and are looking to add online to the mix, understand that you will need to pay something to do it. Time, money or energy.

Yes, I said it, you will pay to setup a website even if you get started with a free service like blogger or tumblr.

Remember, these sites own you, and if they ever crashed or just decided to turn off the power you are left helpless wondering what happened to your website, and for a lot of folks a good chunk of their business.

So what are the costs of site ownership? They are as follows:

1. Picking A Hosting Provider

This cost refers to where you website, or blog as some like to call them, is physically housed. This means that if you were to travel to the hosting providers site, you could actually walk up and touch the server that holds the data that is your website or blog.

If you were to go to a file on your computer desktop and open it you are essentially accessing information the same way your website is accessed only the website, in most cases, is held on a remote computer by a company that pays high level technicians to maintain their computer and keep it up and running 24/7. 

A great hosting provider will have very little to 0 downtime and will have some level of support included in even the most basic package hosting plan.

The less you pay, the less margin they have to pay to good support staff, so don’t be surprised when you have to DYI everything on your free WordPress blog or blogger website…

What should a Website Cost?

Roughly $49 – $500 a month ( the bigger your site, the more sophisticate the hosting and security plan).

Yes you can get started with free services like Blogger, Tumblr, wordpress.com and so on, but keep in mind you will have some limitations in terms of functionality and how you can design the website to look, unless you are quite familiar with HTML.

When I was hosting my WordPress site on wordpress.com,  I had the basic package which is about $4 bucks a month. The sucky thing was that it barely let me customize the site…

I still had “blog at wordpress.com” on the page and I didn’t have access to google’s FREE analytics tools which tells you how many people are coming to your site, from where, and how long they stay on each page, which can really help you make your site better.

$4 a month doesn’t seem like much until you realize that you don’t even own the site, you have free range of the content but not the plugins or the design, and really that’s half the site…

The only plus side to having the personal plan and above on WordPress.com is the chat support with a person who knows more about WordPress than you do… unless you know more about WordPress then they do… then it just doesn’t make sense unless you are paying for the “business plan”. 

If you are someone who has been using WordPress since 2009, like me, then you really know more than the basic site support staff has to offer and you can install an instance of WordPress on your own hosting plan like in this free WordPress setup guide I wrote, and get up and running with ease.

This DYI option offers greater flexibility and control of your site, and if you use a theme like thrive themes then you can setup your entire site without needing to know HTML Code at all!

For anyone who is planning on setting up a niche website, or “blogging as a business”, I suggest that you register your website with your own hosting provider like namecheap.com, Siteground, Bluehost.com, or hostgator.com.

I wouldn’t use Godaddy because they just charge too much and they try and up-sell you on everything, and they are notorious for having so – so support even though you are paying them a premium.

The hosting provider that I use is Siteground, and get their $3.95 / month package they offer.

You get 1 site, which allows for up to 10,000 visits a month, 10 gb of ssd space, free daily backups (this is a HUGE plus), and a bunch of other goodies hidden behind the more info icon…I Use Website Hosting Provider Siteground

Couple other things to note. Though I’ve never used blue host and host gator before, I’ve never really had a need.

Once I started using Siteground and namecheap to register my domain names and then point them to my WordPress websites, I’ve found that siteground just does such a great job that I don’t want to change to anyone else.

And since they have great customer service, super fast SSD servers, and they allow you to hook up to Cloudfair I just haven’t needed anything else.

That doesn’t mean that Bluehost and Hostgator aren’t great, I just have never needed to use them. I do know a few folks who do use them though and have told me that they have had no issue with running their online businesses from these other hosting providers.

What about Free “blogging” websites?

Other websites like blogger and Tumblr are totally free; however, the biggest downside to this option is that you don’t actually own the site.

You certainly own the ‘content’ on the site, but you don’t own the site, and what that means is that if google makes a big change in the way they serve up website information to potential searchers, then you’re “FREE” blog could definately take a hit.

Also I don’t know a lot of folks that use free blogs to really build online businesses or build websites for offline businesses. 

Besides just not performing well in the search results I think they look a little ammeture when it comes down to it, but that’s just opinion. They also usually lack the customizations that most clients prefer which is another draw back.

Lastly, should you ever choose to move over to a platform like WordPress to gain more functionality and have it all in one platform, then you will need to migrate your content.

Not a big deal if you have 10-25 pages, but if you have 25-100+ pages of content or you have a lot of customizations on the platform (google blogger) then you will be frustrated with the pending redesign and migration fees and or time that is needing to be invested when you are ready to move over. 

Siteground may be able to help with the migration of blogger websites since they are written in HTML, totally freebie blogs like tumblr and wordpress.com blogs they won’t migrate.

What about doing e-commerce websites?

For e-commerce I strongly recommend looking at shopify instead, it’s plug and play and a whole lot easier to setup than trying to get up and running with blogger.com or a free website.

Some folks may be familiar with WordPress’ e-commerce plugin woo-commerce, but personally I haven’t set it up on my own websites.

I’ve heard that it requires quite a bit of knowledge to make it look good. Can you do it? sure. But why deal with the headache when you have a platform designed as a store like Shopify?

Shopify has TONS of integrations, is designed to function just like a brick and mortar store, only online, and allows you to just the simple marketplace to find apps that you need like accounting integrations such as quickbooks or xero, marketing apps like Mailchimp and facebook marketing kits, inventory management, dropshipping, pinterest integrations and so much more.

Shopify is an easy to use all in one content and store. It’s very flexible and is a great way to start an online business.

You can start a 14 day free trial of shopify at https://www.shopify.com , it’s near the bottom. 

But this post isn’t about e-commerce, I can go into that in another post, what I wanted to focus on here was if you were wanting to start up an informative, or content based, site.

For content driven websites, WordPress is still the best option out there.

2. Support For Your Website

With a lot of “Free” site hosting, you don’t get support, mostly because you don’t really need it. Users that go with FREE often aren’t really interested in starting a business, or rather, “focused” on starting a business… Sometimes these hobbies turn into full fledged businesses, but many times they don’t. 

In this case, going with free is not a bad thing because it requires little to no upfront investment and sometimes can be converted later into a business.

Note: the best “free” websites to start writing as a hobby on are wordpress.com and blogger, they are the easiest to transition to paid for, but if you know that you are going to start a business or are focused on that you might as well just start hosting your own site from day one to get familiar with how to setup and edit the site in WordPress rather than have to convert it over and then re-learn the dashboard (i’m guilty of this…)

Another key thing to note is that with many of the ‘done for you’ services out there, they included some level of support but often it’s limited in nature or the support staff really has no idea what they are talking about…

Things that you could use support for:

you need help pointing a domain to another domain…

you need help with putting a video into your site…

you need help migrating your site from one site host to your new site host…

you need to speak to a human…

A good support staff can help you with this. This is why I love siteground, because this is part of their hosting, not some premium add on…

Siteground has free migration assistance and support from their team with optional paid for backups, oh yeah, they backup all their servers so that if your site crashes one day or you screw up the code by pushing a button you aren’t supposed to then they can help you recover it. That’s $19 bucks if you do that, so don’t go touching buttons until you know what they do, but it’s nice to know that is there for you when you need it.

3. Backing Up One’s Website

This is so absolutely critical, unless you want all your hard work to go away you need a backup of your site.

Have you’ve ever had a computer crash, lost all your data, gone to the repair store or the Apple store only to be told that it’s truly dead, and realized that you never made a backup and all your family photos are gone?

Then you know what this would feel like and how painful this can be.

Having a quality backup of your site is like having a copy of every family photo on your computer, or every photo you’ve ever uploaded to your computer, backed up on another computer. 

If your computer was lost or stolen it would be ok, manageable rather, because you had a second one that you could still get all the photos from.

If you backup your site you are protecting yourself from that “oh shit” moment when you realize that everything is gone.

Some reasons to backup your site: 

your site gets hacked and you need to revert to a backup…

your site host servers go down…

you make a change to your site and want to revert it…

you accidentally make a change to the site’s root directory and screw up your search in google…

So without much else being said, this is a must.

I don’t know if free websites do this, but most of them make it really difficult to move your site if you ever choose to, and some even charge you (wordpress dot com) to do it for you. Which if you are moving over a 5 page site you don’t need to pay for, but if you’re moving a 100+ page site you might as well. You wouldn’t try to do your own dentistry, even if you had a certificate to do so, so just leave it to the experts – $129

4) Tools For The Website

For Keyword Research

If you are starting a business online, and not just blogging for a hobby, then you will likely need a keyword research tool to help you understand your SEO potential for your site. 

Some common tools associated with running an online blog or business include SemrushMoz, Ahrefs.com, and google keyword planner.

All of these tools allow you to get monthly searches and gather the data behind the terms that people are using to find information and products online. Some with varying degrees of accuracy. 

Moz, Semrush and Ahrefs charge you for access to their databases with documented backlinks, search terms, and crawled pages to give you an idea of search volume for certain terms.

Why this is relevant is if you are writing about wedding photography and you want to find out the best title to put in your article, then you can go to these websites and type in terms like “wedding photography” and see other search terms that people are using to find wedding photography items, supplies, designs, local wedding photographers, etc. You can see estimated search volume and how many other websites are competing for this word, so that you can focus on the words with less competition and get traction sooner.

It’s pretty invaluable information to have.

Google Keyword planner does the same thing, with less accuracy, in hopes that you will use the data to make purchases for advertising. They allow you to setup a free account with Adwords and see similar data, only backwards.

They show you the amount of search in ranges (not very accurate but gives you an idea) and then the cost per click of that term. This is a good enough indicator that a term is highly relevant (or at least that you can charge advertisers for that word) and that there is enough search volume. 

All these tools essentially teach you the same thing about estimated searches.

For SEO – Optimizing Your Website With Search

You will want to download and use Yoast’s Free plugin because it’s great for basic blogs and for beginners with WordPress.

They do have a premium plan that offers support from their team, in addition to more focused on page keywords, and an interlinking tool to help with SEO.

For Email followup

There are so many free email marketing tools that this could deserve it’s own site, but I’ll keep it short.

Use Aweber for the best auto responder, delivery rates, and if you can afford the $19 a month you will also get awesome US based support.

If you are trying to go no budget or low budget get Mailchimp is free to setup and run up to the first 2000 subscribers and 12,000 emails delivered monthly, and then after that you can pay per use.

Another thing to note is that Mailchimp now has auto follow ups you can use, there is tagging and A/B testing available so you can run two different headlines against one another, and you can test out different wording and you can integrate it pretty much anywhere.

And keep in mind there are a ton of paid for services out there as well, but you can pretty much ignore them until you get to at least a 10,000+ person list.

There are many other tools out there on the market and I certainly don’t have experience with them all; however, if you are already running a successful business offline and simply need an online presence and need help ranking then I suggest you check out an SEO agency or hire someone with SEO skills like the folks at rainmakerdigital.com.

Hiring someone who knows SEO, and is an experienced practitioner who plans to stay up to date on all the rules and regulations, can save you time and earn your more business more customers.

5. Time

This is the biggest cost, and the most overlooked in my opinion, especially if you have a successful business already.

If you are reading this and you have a business earning you $100+ an hour already, then you would be wasting money if you didn’t hire an experienced SEO or Webdesigner who can do all of this for you.

It’s literally taken me weeks to learn everything that I have about design, SEO, keyword research, and I’ve invested thousands of dollars in my education to learn about online marketing and business.

If you are not yet running a business and looking to start one and have the time to “learn by doing” then by all means, but if you already have obligations with your business and don’t have time to waste then consider hiring a professional to help you with setting up and maintaining your online portions of your business. 

Keep in mind, if you have the free time to do so, then by all means learn through trial and error, there’s nothing wrong with losing $48 on a hosting plan if you decide that blogging as a business isn’t for you, or you don’t like the site design and or wordpress in general. 

But if you are already in business and you understand how important your time is, then you can see why hiring someone to do all of this is a smart investment. 

So Realistically What Should All This Cost Me?

Well if you are starting and running your own blog as a business, and you have little to no knowledge of SEO, SEM, Email Marketing or online advertising then you may be able to get a site up and running for only a few hundred dollars. I’ve outlined some common scenarios for folks who could benefit from starting up an online presence: 

For the Budget Bloggers or the “Dabbler”

I suggest you start with a free service like Blogger or Tumblr, then eventually if you start to like writing or documenting your chosen topic, consider transitioning it to one of the hosting providers that I mentioned.

 

For the Ready to Get Started Blogger

$48 for a year of hosting on siteground or bluehost / hostgator

+ $11 for a domain on namecheap (free if you setup with sitegroundbluehost, or hostgator)

+ Moz, Semrush or Ahrefs

+ Free Email marketing with Mailchimp or you can sign up for Aweber and get awesome support, help with campaigns, and unlimited deliverable emails.

+ Free Yoast Plugin for SEO

= $59 plus time.

You can realistically expect to make a few hundred a month after 6-12 months of serious blogging in your niche and promoting a course or affiliate links on your site.

The big focus should be delivering valuable content to your readers each week, every 2 weeks, or every month (however frequent you choose to blog).

For the Just Getting Started Small Business Owner

If you already run a business and you are looking to get your business online it would look more like:

$250 for a logo design (unless you have your logo design already)

+ WordPress design ($500 – $2500)

+ $35 – $290 a month for hosting on high end servers such as WP engine

+ hire your own copy writer and designer (varies but expect to pay $20-100 a post or page – expect to need anywhere from 10 – 100 pages for your site depending on your services)

+ Email marketing (varies depending on who you use)

= $1610 – $8230 for the first year (fixed costs like logo design, wp design, and copy are constant the first year, other ongoing costs include hosting, email marketing follow up and ongoing SEO – which are factored into the first year of service estimate).

For a more detailed estimate reach out by contacting me.

For The Established Business Owner

If you are a multi-location business, or you run a franchise, you will want to hire an agency or a company with copy writers, SEO on staff, or work with a full service suite like Rain Maker Digital where you can get all the services done for you with measurable ROI metrics and KPI’s or consider hiring your own staff who can be on the clock working for you to help dominate your SEO and SEM efforts, social media marketing, and your client touch points. 

 

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Debt Snowball Vs. Avalanche

First off, what is a debt snowball and why the hell would I want one?

The debt snowball method is simply a metaphor for paying off debt.

If you have any kind of debt, then this applies to you. Mortgage debt is something entirely different which we can discuss in another section, but if you have credit card debt, personal loans, student loan debt, charge card debt, auto debt then this is all applicable.

The Debt Snowball Method:

Snowball Giff.gif

Ok, so what is the debt snowball method for paying off debt?

This is simply put paying off your smallest balance loan first, while maintaining your minimum monthly payments on all your other debts thus avoiding accruing interest (keeping those other debts at bay), and then rolling the first payment into the second payment when the first payment has been paid off.

In effect your total paid towards debt is constant each month but it is a means of paying down your debts and principles faster than if you were to continue making the minimum payment each month on your monthly debts.

The Debt Avalanche Method:

Avalanche Method.gif

The debt avalanche method is paying off your highest interest rate loan first, while maintaining your minimum payments, then rolling the first payment into the next highest interest rate loan.

Just like with the debt snowball method you are paying the same minimum payments towards each of your loans, only you are paying off the highest interest rate loan first thus saving you money in the long run. I will show you how in just a moment.

One Thing To Focus On

Of the two loan repayment methods there isn’t a “better” one, rather, both methods work but which would you rather see? Quicker results or knowing that you will hit your overall goal faster? I will illustrate what I mean below.

Now we are also going to assume, for this example, you can find a way to earn an extra $500 a month, maybe as an uber driver or walking dogs, starting your own side business or working some place else.

If you can generate that extra $500 you will be able to apply that directly towards your loan and thus repay your loans back much much faster.

Here’s an example of the Debt Avalanche in effect with the same numbers:

You would take the highest interest loan and pay that first. In this case it would be your  payment and continue paying your other minimum payments:

Credit card – $189 – %19.99 Loan

Auto – $350 – %5 Loan

Student Loan – $250 – %3.6 Loan

Total Payments each month = $789

Here’s what you would see:

The Debt Avalanche Payoff Method

So paying off with the Avalanch method, and applying as little as $500 extra a month towards your payment, can result in you paying your loans off 5 years and 5 months faster than not paying the extra $500 and this will result in a savings of $5,756 in interest.

 

Now lets compare that to the Debt Snowball Method:

The snowball method you would take the lowest balance remaining loan and pay that first. In this case it would be your auto payment, apply $500 extra payment:

Auto – $350 – %5 Loan

Credit card – $189 – %19.99 Loan

Student Loan – $250 – %3.61 Loan

Total Payments each month = $789

Here’s what you would see:

The Debt Snowball Payoff Method

Paying off the Snowball method and applying as little as $500 extra a month towards your payment can result in you paying your loans off 5 years and 5 months faster, saving $5,451 in interest.

So Which is Better, Debt Snowball or Debt Avalanche?

Well if we look at the two repayment periods, keeping all else constant, we can see that both methods show the repayment being 5 years and 5 months faster. Thus saving us the same amount of time.

The Key difference is the interest saved. By simply paying off the highest interest rate loan first and then rolling the excess savings from the previous loan into the next loan repayment we find that we can save $5756 – $5451 = $305.

It may not seem like much, but that’s extra money that you put back in your pocket just by changing the order you repay your loans.

So is it worth it to use the Avalanche method instead of the snow ball method? You decide. One gets your better results in the long run (the avalanche), where as the other gets you instant relief sooner (the snowball).  And we all know that the sooner we can get out from underneath the crushing weight of debt the better.

To get your repayment time frame head over to Nerdwallet and plug in your loans into their repayment calculator and find out which method is best for you. Check out the repayment calculator here.

Learn to Replace Any Habit in 7 Simple Steps

We all have a habit that we wish we didn’t, maybe it was biting your nails, eating junk food when we are stressed, or shopping when we feel lonely.

Since habits are so simple and easy to form, is it any wonder that we have problems in life?

So what is a habit and how does one go about forming new ones?

According to dictionary.com, habits are “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”.

So now the question becomes… How does one change a habit. The simple answer is, merely create a conflicting habit which takes over.

Want to stop stress eating? Practice deep breathing.

Want to stop caffine? Try drinking tea or decafe instead. Change your diet to a more health and energy promoting one, and go to bed earlier.

Want to stop biting your nails? Wear gloves.

Every “bad” habit as a remedy and the solution comes in the form of continuous reinforcement.

But Where to Start?

Once we recognize bad behaviors or behaviors which are less favorable, we can begin to change them by putting into practice systems that allow the good behaviors to flourish and the bad ones to die off slowly.

The first part of habit creation is noticing a behavior you wish to change.

The second part, and often the hardest part, is implementing system to support such change.

The third, and final stage of habit restructuring, is revisiting the system, evaluating the outcome (does it work?), and modifying the system for further support of the new habit creation.

An Example of A Behavioral Change Project:

Lets say you want to lose 20 pounds in the next 3 weeks.

Rather than go on a crash diet and then give up after 10 days of doing it, why not make an activity become your behavior change.

Your results won’t be instant, but you will be focusing on the behavioral change rather just the results, weight loss, that you desire.

Lets make a plan to drop some weight and do it through adoption of a healthier diet.

We will break things down into a series of steps which you can follow for any habit which you wish to replace.

Step 1: Recognize bad, or unhealthy behaviors, and document them.

At this stage we don’t need to try and change ourselves, at least not yet, our sole focus is to document what we are doing wrong and try to capture all of it on pen and paper or on a notepad on your phone or computer.

An example of a bad behavior could be eating junk food and fast food during the week or during times of stress. Don’t judge yourself, just write it down.

This could be due to not cooking at home, not being prepared with healthy food options at home, running out of time due to lack of preparation, or simply laziness, but again we aren’t judging or trying to change our behaviors in this stage, we are merely documenting them.

Step 2: Research a solution

Look at blogs, websites, ask friends, find an expert or a perceived expert who can help you.

Start by gathering 2-3 recipes which you wish to make that week from sources online like pinterest, forksoverknives.com, or another health food blog which you follow.

I found one on Pinterest i’d like to make (and in fact I’ve made this the last 3 years of my lifestyle change).

Next step is to print off the recipes and make a meal shop list for the ingredients.

Step 3: Map Out A Plan

I like to call this the “initial roadmap” for success.

In our initial weight loss example, changing that behavior, we could try cooking for ourself for a week and make all of our meals in advanced thus saving both time and money in the process and teaching us a valuable skill.

This is how you will replace the unhealthy bad behavior with healthy good behavior.

The best way to save time at the grocery store is to make a list before you go shop. You can literally save yourself hours at the store and walk away with more money in your pocket too. For more on why list shopping is superior to “free-balling it” check out: How to cut your grocery shopping time in half.

So make a list of all the ingredients you will need for the recipe to make 6 days of meals, give yourself a cheat day, they are good for you.

Cross anything off the list that you already have in the kitchen (spices, cream, almond milk, etc).

Take your refined list and save it to your iPhone.

Step 4: Take the first step, it’s always the hardest.

In our example it’s shopping for the groceries. The first trip to the store you might feel like it’s a major waste of time, you can’t do it, you spend too much time reading labels, or a number of other excuses that come to mind. That’s ok. You are learning.The first time I went to the store I sure as hell wasnt as efficient as I am today. I was reading labels for what felt like hours. Seemingly making little to no progress… but what I didn’t realize was that I was building up a mental library of every food that I bought, in addition to a mind map of the store. If you shop at the same store weekly you will begin to realize that you know where your staples are located. So the trick is to just go when there are no crowds, learn what you need, make a list before you go and eat something, then make the shop. You will save time, money and sanity if you do it like I’ve outlined in How to cut your grocery shop time in half.

Step 5: Batching your work for better, faster results.

Follow the recipes and make large enough batches to prep food for the whole week, portioning them out and labeling with datesIf you are making food for one meal it takes a whole lot less effort to make an additional 5 meals all at once rather than 6 individual meals separatly. So save time, and energy, and make bigger batches of your meals and you will find weight loss will happen naturally as well. Which leads me to my next point…

Step 6: When your result is completed ahead of time you can focus the energy on other things.

Just open up the container and eat the meal when you need it, it’s ready and delicious, and the best part Is that you know exactly what’s in it. When you have a result delivered directly to you and you pay a smaller amount, whether it’s in time, money, or energy, you gain back additional energy you can use on other more important projects.

Step 7: Incorporate one new habit a month until you have 12 new habits a year.

With our meal example, you can simply add one new recipe to the rotation each week and by the end of the month you will know 12 new recipes, one for each meal of the day. You will know exactly what goes into the meals and you will have full control over your budget for your meals too, spending less money on what doesn’t matter and reinvesting the difference in the betterment of your life.

Also, one last thing…

Don’t forget to track everything. Measuring your results, be it weight loss, money saved, time saved or happiness gained, it’s important that you benchmark where you are and where you were.This system will help facilitate a healthy habit and end with the results of losing weight and feeling better. If you take this approach to everything you do, this approach of systematizing everything, you may actually find that you become more creative in the process.

How to Change Any Habit