10 Steps to Financial Success for New Grads

This post is sponsored by SoFi. SoFI recently created a Work Dashboard that you can use to keep track of your goals. This includes a Student Loan Debt Navigator. And if you decide to pay off loans aggressively, SoFI can also refinance your loans (here’s my affiliate link). Please see Step 5 before doing so.

First and foremost, Congrats! You’ve made it out alive (barely, perhaps?). Now that school is out, it’s time to make money in. Whether you’ve started your first job or are just figuring out your next move, it’s important to start thinking about your finances from the get-go and to act intentionally about money. In an effort to get you closer to a life of financial independence (or at least just enough to quit a job you don’t like and have the freedom to pick-and-choose), let’s review 10 steps you can start to take for success. If it all sounds too overwhelming, no worries. Take it one easy step at a time. I recommend breaking them down over a few weekends to ensure steady, solid progress over time.

10 Steps to Financial Success

1. Review Habits

You want to know where you stand with your money. More specifically, you want to know where the money is going. Whether you’re aware of it or not, the way you handle money is centered around the habits you’ve formed over time. The best way to find that out is to create a budget. That is the very first step we took towards our path to financial independence. Without tracking where your money goes, you cannot ever analyze your habits or learn from your mistakes. You don’t know where to improve. This step is so important to our financial journey that I even wrote an entire course around it: How to Master Your Budget. You can access my course for FREE. After the course, I would highly recommend signing up for a budgeting tool, to streamline the process. It makes it more fun rather than feeling like a chore. The one we use is YNAB (You Need A Budget)! Find out how YNAB helped me pay off $84,000 in student debt within my first year of loan repayment.

2. Build Credit Score

If you’re like me, I had a whole slew of debt when I graduated college. I decided to tackle all of my credit card debt and improve my credit score. Graduating from school is a great time to build habit #1: Pay off all your dues in full each month. After you do that, go ahead and tackle the bigger payments like car loans and student debt. By making monthly payments on time, you’ll build your credit score in no time. Don’t forget that a poor credit score can make your life harder in the future, so avoid it at all costs. In fact, it could cost you more money too, since a low score typically lands you a higher interest rate on future loans!

3. Pay Off High-Interest Debt First

High-interest debt increases the amount of money you lose paying off the interest. I had a lot of credit card debt when I graduated dental school because I pretty much had no money and was living off of my dreams and thin air. I tackled credit card debt first because the interest rate on those was 16-24%! YIKES. Get that high-interest debt off your plate, so that you can focus on paying off your student loans (if you have any).

4. Pick a Strategy for Your Student Debt

I am being honest when I say that it doesn’t matter what strategy you pick for paying down student debt – as long as you have one and you stick with it! I personally needed to pay off my student debt as aggressively as possible, but if your lifestyle better matches with the loan repayment and forgiveness programs, then go ahead and do it! It is important to be well-versed in the different repayment options, so do the research and choose wisely.

5. Talk to a Professional

If you have any doubts at all, I would highly recommend speaking with a professional. That’s what I did! I spent my entire first paycheck paying for a financial advisor. They aren’t cheap, but their return is ten-fold! I have two I would recommend. Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner saved us thousands of dollars by picking the correct plan. Andrew Paulson, from White Coat Investor, is another option. Once you’ve decided which path to take, determine if refinancing is something you should do. SoFi is a company that does student loan refinancing but there are plenty others out there, too. Shop around – I’ve listed a few in this previous post!

6. Max the Match and Other Contributions

The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. There are plenty of options out there, but whether you choose a 401K or an IRA, if you have a company match benefit, make sure to maximize it! That is free money that not everyone has the privilege to have. I certainly don’t, but we definitely max out my husband’s match from his company.

7. Save up

I am certain future you will have wants and wishes. There are many things out there you probably plan to buy, some of which are quite big purchases. If you wish to buy a graduate degree, a car, a home, or anything else of that nature, you’ve got to learn how to save up. Remember those habits you formed at the beginning of the journey? Well now it’s time to benefit from them. For me, I don’t mess around with my savings, especially if it’s a short-term goal. I am quite conservative in that way. I stash my savings in a high yield savings account like Marcus, where I can gain interest on my savings at a higher rate than a traditional savings account, without risking losing money (as opposed to investing my savings in a brokerage account). Find out how a Marcus High Yield Savings Account can help you reach your short term goals. If you’d like to sign up, my referral link here will give you a 0.2% APY increase on the current rate.

8. Invest With Your Head – Not With Your Heart

I consider investing an advanced finance skill. However, I can’t argue with the fact that the sooner you start, the better you become. Like any other skill, it takes practice. However, if you haven’t learned how to control your spending, get rid of debt, maximize your retirement opportunities and save money for your future goals, then there’s a chance you’ll lose the investing game – and bad! Perfect Steps 1-7 first, and then remember this advice: Invest with your head, not with your heart.

9. Find Your Tribe

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, the same goes for being managing money. You need people in your corner who won’t tempt you to spend your hard-earned dollars. People who will understand if you would rather order pizza than go out. Friends who won’t ditch you because you said no to a few happy hours. You want someone in your corner cheerleading you on your way to financial independence. Your tribe is very important. It can be the making of your success, or the downfall. I don;t want to be elitist, but even your friend group should be an intentional choice.

10. Set A Date

All of this should be given an end date. Make a plan, then set it in a calendar. Life can get in the way – so make sure to revisit your plans, goals, credit score, and debts once every six months. Look at that date you’ve created for yourself when you lose your way. Soon enough, you will be financially free!

I don’t know about you, but navigating the post-grad world can be tough! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the advice out there, or worse, completely lost and with no one to turn to. I hope this guide has helped to at least start the journey. Other related posts that you may find helpful:

How We Made Our Home Cash Flow Positive

Most of the time, I feel that the advice I write in this space comes in the telling of my personal story. I could have titled this article, “What You Need to Have a Cash Positive Home”, but decided to take a more narrative approach, since what worked for me may not work for others. Since starting my road to financial independence in 2017, we have acquired a property that has potential to be a source of income. While I hesitate to insinuate that real estate is a good “investment”, I do have to say that this particular one worked out for us, despite living in the Golden State (Orange County, no less). If you want to know how we got here, read on to hear about the process.

Our story begins in 2017, when I decided to pay off $575k+ in student debt, and suddenly realized that the beautiful live-work loft that we were renting was absolutely and horrific-ly expensive. Even though it fell within the average cost of an OC rental ($2,800 a month for a two bedroom, two bathroom, 1,500 sq. ft. live-work loft with a 2-car tandem parking garage), it became apparent that it could not support my goals. So I went down a rabbit-hole of considering my options.

First, we looked for cheaper rentals. We almost pulled the trigger on renting out a 500-square foot apartment in Huntington Beach for $1,900, but voted against it because it had no garage, was farther from work, and would have likely caused marital issues due to cramped quarters. As much as I loved Mike, we were still growing accustomed to being around each other 24/7. Little did we know a pandemic was written in our futures. Either way, we nixed the idea of moving into a tiny box, although now, I think I could handle it.

Next, I wrote to our current landlord to ask her to reduce the rent. We had a great relationship with our landlord and she was so grateful to our on-time rent payments and our care for her home, that she did reduce the rent from $2,800 a month to $2,600 a month (a savings of $2,400 per year). Okay, so now we were getting somewhere.

Then, I thought of renting out the bottom floor (which had its own entrance, bathroom, and floor). The living space was on the second floor and the bedroom was on the third floor. I told people around me that I was thinking of renting it out and luckily, my brother’s newly graduated girlfriend happened to find a job in Orange County. At the time, my brother was living in my parent’s two bedroom home and she was living with her sister in San Diego, where her internship was located. Her new job in OC meant that she needed a new home, and apartments, like I said, would have likely cost her anywhere from $1,800-$2,400 monthly.

So, we offered her a place to live, for a mere $700 per month. Liiiiiiiiiike, a really nice place to live for any new college grad. Lucky for us, she said YES! That cut down our living expenses to $1,900 per month, the same number we would have had to pay for that tiny room by the beach. By house-hacking, we saved $900 per month, which saved us $10,800 per year. This brought down our yearly cost of rent from $33,600 to $22,800 – quite an amazing feat.

But still!

It killed me to know that $22,800 of our hard-earned, post-tax dollars was going into someone else’s pocket, without increasing our wealth. So I became obsessed with buying a live-work loft of our own. I must have searched Zillow for an entire year straight. I was so in love with our current one and our location, but when one was listed on the market, I couldn’t stomach the $650,000 price tag. It was for 1,500 sq. ft., one bedroom, one bath, and a downstairs office. It was street facing which brought up it’s property value, but after stalking Zillow for a year, I felt that the right price for that loft was about $100,000 cheaper.

The most important thing about the home searching process is this:

We knew what we wanted. A turn-key live-work loft that allowed us to keep Kirsten and that is fairly new for a fair price that will not wipe out our bank accounts. We wanted one in between Los Angeles and South OC, and we wanted a property that can become a rental, a business storefront, or our home. Essentially, I wanted options. Our lives were open-ended at the time, so we wanted our housing situation to be, too. We decided to put the smallest down payment we can (about 5% of the asking price) so that we can get in on the market sooner.

(PS: The loan we did was a traditional loan which included a PMI for only putting 5% down. We also looked into a physicians loan which allowed 5% down without PMI. However, the physician’s loan increased the interest rate, and when we ran the numbers, one ends up paying more for the physician loan over the course of 30 years than a traditional loan. As far as putting more than 5%, we just did not have the cash at hand especially since we were making $6,500/mo payments to my loans. So we decided to put in the least we could, and this kept us from being house broke. We had extra cash to cover the fees and still keep a nice chunk for an emergency fund!)

We were sitting at Bruxie’s waiting for our chicken and waffles, disappointed at deciding to let go our “dream” loft, but also proud of not allowing emotion to make our home purchase decision for us. It was then that I saw it for the first time listed on Zillow. A loft in the heart of downtown Santa Ana, maybe about 2.5 miles from where we currently lived. It was listed at $499,900 and had the same number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, and parking spaces as the loft we lived in. Also, it was street-facing. The seller was under contract previously, but for some reason, the contract fell through and he decreased the asking price by about $15k. This gave us a clue: He was motivated to sell. He listed it only a few hours before our seeing it, and the next day, we had done a walk-through and placed an offer.

Some might call this an emotional decision but that it was not. We just happened to know what we wanted and did not want. We happened to know the current market. We also happened to know a stellar agent who was a friend of a friend’s, and we happened to know the person who lived next door to the loft we bought. We have done the research, the thinking, and the networking – and everything just kind of fell into place, which is great if you’re a believer in fate.

So we bought the house with a 5% down at 4.6% interest rate (which happened to be more than 2% less than my loan interest rate!) and our monthly mortgage, (plus PMI, plus HOA, plus property tax) was about $3,300 a month. We kept our roomie on for $700 a month and gave her a garage spot for the inconvenience of moving her butt to downtown, so this made our portion of the payment $2,600 – the price we were at before we started house hacking. This was at the end of 2018.

During the pandemic in 2020, we refinanced in the summer, reducing our interest rate from 4.6% to $3.5%, and our monthly payment from $3,300 to $3,000. We even gave our roommate a $100 discount, reducing her rent to $600 a month, for being such a stellar, long-term roommate. Unfortunately, our living situation with her is coming to an end this year, so we decided in January of 2021 to refinance a second time.

This second refinance (5 months after our first) reduced our rate even further from 3.5% to 2.85%! It also reduced our monthly payment down to $2,700 (HOA, property tax, and mortgage insurance included). With our roommate still on board until July/August, we are paying $2,100 for a roof over our heads. Unfortunately, she will leave at the end of summer, and we will have to face a few rental options. However, since we treat her (and charge her) like family, the rental price of that downstairs room will likely increase to a going rate of $1k/month. At that price, our housing cost will go down to $1,700 a month – not bad for OC and more than $1k cheaper than where we originally started.

The refinance put us at a fantastic place to be since our unit has a rental value of about $2,800 – $3,000 per month back when we originally bought it. However, just recently, lofts that were built over the pandemic down the street are now being leased. These 500-800 square foot lofts go for $2,800-$3,000 / month. The proximity to our place will, we hope, drive the value of our unit above $3,000/month as a rental. Either way, it is safe to say that our place is now cash flow positive shall we decide to move on from here after “things return back to normal.”

Both our jobs are taking us south, so if remote work doesn’t remain a thing, we may rent this space out and get a second property. Shall we choose to stay, we can continue to house-hack and rent the bottom floor as either an office space for a WFH parent that needs their “work away from home”, or as a bedroom for someone we know. This will lower our living expense to under $2k/month.

In the meantime, the value of the property is estimated to be at $550k according to our appraisal, and $565k according to Redfin. We are earning equity and when we move on, will also earn rental income on top of that.

The following are the tips that worked for us when buying a property:

  • Know your market. I stalked Zillow for a year for a very particular type of home in a small area.
  • Know your numbers. Don’t accept loans at face value – actually map out the dollar amount over time.
  • Know your must-haves and cant-live-without. For Mike, that was a garage. For me, it was natural light.
  • Know an emotional decision when you feel one. This is why we did not buy the loft “of our dreams”.
  • Know your financial limits. I knew I had my student debt to worry about. I also knew I wanted an emergency fund and to not be house-broke.
  • Know your future goals. I knew this wasn’t going to be our forever home. Our lives are so open-ended, there was no pressure to buy a home that we would live in forever.
  • Don’t ascribe to the “dream home” and all that HGTV stuff.
  • Take Renovations Slowly or not at all.
  • Don’t just buy a home and forget. Continually re-evaluate and find ways to save. That’s why we thought of refinancing.
  • Be open to non-traditional ways of living. House hacking and living with a roommate is the best decision we ever made.
  • Be creative in your solutions. Not only did we house hack, but I also built a bakery out of my kitchen. I operated my own bakery for a year. My house also acts as my WFH blog space, my ROVER dog-sitting space, and now, it is my husband and roommate’s work-office. It is more than a home or a rental property – it is where we work and earn a living, too.

I know this narrative is extremely personal and number heavy, but I also hope it’s been of help.

Thanks for reading along.

Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash

Wardrobe Options for a Tiny Space.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

It has been 2.5 years since we moved into our home and we’ve finally got ourselves a closet! You read that right. There are no doors inside our home (not even to the bedroom or the bathroom) and the only closet we own lies on the first floor (which we rent out), tucked underneath a stairwell. Home projects, like all other things in my life, take time. Especially when we insist on doing upgrades ourselves. They also imbue more meaning. I remember the day we bought this space and Mike helped my cousin patch walls and remove wood flooring. I remember my 31st birthday which was spent painting our bathroom an egret white with my parents. I remember that Spring day that Mike and I laid down plastic tiles and fake grass on our balcony, not knowing how long we would be kept indoors … not knowing it would be a year later, and we’d still be wondering. All these things are not only labors of love, but considered essential work for a life of practicality, frugality, and intentionality.

I am a firm believer in the importance of going through the slog, so that we might grow. And rather than paying someone to inlay an undoubtedly beautiful custom wardrobe, we prefer to pinch our pennies and make wishes with our eyes shut tight – so as to be free from the 9-5 grind that most people call life. I mean, decisions such as these are the reasons why I was able to quit a job that I disliked without any future job in place during a pandemic, or why I can afford to work two days a week in my profession in order to pursue other interests such as baking, dog-sitting, and writing.

Despite my exuberance around its inception, it is, after all, just a closet.

All of this to say that the pride I feel from finally having a closet comes from the very days in which I held out “just a little longer” to find the solution that sat well with my values – a solution that was frugal, environmental, practical, and simple. One could never know the would-have-been but I would wager that if I hired a contractor to build me a more beautiful wardrobe inlaid into that tiny crevice behind the showerhead, I might have felt a hint of anti-climactic disappointment or regret at our hard-earned dollars being spent.

When you wait for 2.5 years for the solution that you feel is right in your heart, there is no space left for “what-ifs”. You’ve already imagined and therefore lived out in your mind the alternatives. The right things come to you at the right time. I am a believer in that, too.

This project cost me $149 – which was the cost of the Tarva dresser from Ikea. The labor was donated by me and Mike. We took out the existing built-in cabinet using hammer, screw-driver, and little force. The wall behind it was rough, and the floor was disgusting, a collection of dead bugs, cat litter, and dust bunnies. None of them were a match for my favorite cleaning tool – this vacuum, which is the most expensive and worthy appliance I have ever purchased. Now that the dresser is in place elevated by some legs, I live in peace knowing that I can vacuum the floor underneath it. Mike sanded the walls and added plaster before repainting it our beloved egret white. We had to remove a bit of baseboard, but other than that, the process was easy going and took perhaps 5 hours, including building the dresser from scratch.

In the meantime, these were some of the swoon-worthy dressers I dreamt of, but none of them ended up being the one.

  1. This White Armoire from CB2.
  2. A Vintage Cane Armoire from Anthropologie.
  3. A Cheaper Version of the Cane Armoire from UO.
  4. A Modern Wardrobe from West Elm.
  5. This Slim Minimalist Open Wardrobe from West Elm.

A word to those carving a similar path.

  • Love what you’ve got.
  • Think long and hard.
  • Be patient.
  • Believe in the one.

I live my life as follows. When it’s right, I’ll know.

How to Travel the World For FREE

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

I am all about optimizing life through “life hacks”, and one of my favorite ways to do that is by traveling the world for free by travel hacking. When Mike and I first got married, our financial planner asked us to prioritize our goals in life and traveling the world made the top of the list. But how were we to do that when I was sinking in my student debt of $575k after going to dental school? Determined to live out our dream while tackling my debt, I fell upon the topic of travel hacking. Since our marriage, we have been to Alaska, Canada, Mexico (4 times!), Oregon (twice!), Washington (twice!), Colorado, Arizona, Germany, Australia, New Zealand (twice!), as well as the Bay Area (5+ times). Out of all of those flights, we only paid for the Germany one due to a sweet deal that landed us in their country for under $500 each (roundtrip), which ended up being cheaper than if we bought the flights in points. In total, we have taken more than a dozen roundtrip national flights and 8 roundtrip international flights since tying the knot. Just this month, we booked a two-week trip to Iceland for Mike’s birthday and paid for the roundtrip United Airlines flights fully in rewards points through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The savings from travel hacking are huge and before we get into why this is crucial to our financial independence plan, let me first give a brief overview on what travel hacking is.

What is travel hacking?

Travel hacking is a way of taking advantage of credit card sign up bonuses and earning tens of thousands of rewards which can then be traded in for flights, hotels, and car rentals. In order to hit reward bonuses, we open one credit card at a time and use it for all of our daily spending, which will always cause us to hit the minimum required spending in order to redeem the bonus. Once we hit the sign-up bonus, we move on to our next credit card.

The key to success lies in opening multiple credit cards and receiving large sign up bonuses. Once you receive the sign up bonus, continuing to use the credit card will earn you very little in rewards points – an inefficient way to earn a free flight. To optimize the strategy, you must move on to the next card.

It takes a lot of organization to keep track of credit cards opened, as well as discipline to not spend haphazardly with your newfound line of credit, but it is very much worth it. I would say that travel hacking is one of the core fundamental principles of the F.I.R.E. community and it has been absolutely instrumental in both fulfilling our dream to travel the world and getting us closer to being debt free.

Why Travel Hacking Brings You Closer to Financial Independence.

Travel hacking is essentially using your every day spending such as grocery buying, paying bills, and other living expenses (that you would end up doing anyway with or without a credit card) to earn you reward points in an efficient manner. It is a great method because it does not require you to spend more money than you normally would.

At the same time, it removes the need for you to budget as much money as a regular person would for travel. For us, personally, travel hacking has saved us over $10,000 in flight tickets. That’s $10,000 that I was able to redirect towards paying down my student debt. It’s $10,000 I didn’t have to earn to maintain my lifestyle, which gave me more freedom to eventually quit the job that didn’t suit me. Imagine what would happen if you placed an extra $10,000 into your Marcus Savings Account. How much closer would that bring you to other goals, such as buying a home?

However, the real kicker in all this is that travel rewards are PRE-TAX dollars. You are never taxed on the travel rewards that you earn, or the flights that you redeem. If you do not travel hack, you are using POST-TAX dollars to pay for your travel adventures. Do you realize how much money you are actually losing? Take my flight example. Let’s say we saved $10,000 even on flights. Let’s assume for simplicity sake that we are in the 25% tax bracket. We would need to earn $13,333 first, then get taxed 25% of that, in order to buy $10,000 worth in flights. Meaning, travel hacking has actually saved us an additional $3k on top of the $10k that technically we never had to earn through our jobs anyway. This is why I really recommend travel hacking to everyone. Even if you don’t have a dream of trotting the globe, you will eventually need to take a flight either for a honeymoon, someone else’s wedding, or taking your kids to visit their dream college across the country. So why not start earning free money today?

How to travel hack?

Travel hacking is simple, easy, and for me, very fun! I first heard about travel hacking on Choose FI even before I became a guest speaker on their podcast. They now have a free course which you can sign up for here. They taught me everything I know and I would recommend reading the course fully before starting your travel hacking journey.

Personally, my top 3 favorite travel rewards cards are:

These are my referral links and I posted them here to try to connect as many people as possible to the best credit cards for travel hacking. If you know someone who loves to travel, especially young college students and new grads who may feel (like we did) that it would be impossible to travel, do share this post with them. You could change their life!

Here are a few posts on where we’ve been thus far:

Here are related posts on how we travel:

How I Made $789.45 in April 2021 Blogging From Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

April was a record month for the blog! It was the first month of ‘normalcy’ in 2021, since I no longer had to cover for traveling coworkers at the dental office, thus giving me extra time at home to focus on my other side hustles. Despite creating only 9 blog posts, I was still proud to earn over $700 via the blog. In April 2021, I earned $789.45 blogging from home. Before I go into the nitty gritty details of this month’s Extra Income Report, which you are always welcome to skip to below, here is a little summary as to how I make money blogging, as well as a few recommended posts if you want to increase your income.

Related Posts:

I started blogging right after graduating from dental school without ever thinking I’d earn money from it. At the time, I turned to this blog as a place to record my daily life. Ever since teenhood, I have kept some sort of journal or diary, which has evolved over time from paper to Xanga to Melodramatic, and now onto WordPress. For almost twenty years, I’ve processed information through writing, but never once did I think I would earn money from it.

It’s been three years since owning this site but I am happy to say that it is now getting a little bit of traction and has started to earn me a little income. If I wasn’t working as a dentist during the day, I could see how this could become a steady day job. Still, even with my day job, it had turned into a fun side-hustle for me. I decided to log my earnings for my own personal tracking but also to share publicly how much one can make blogging from home.

Now that remote work seems to be in the near future for many, I do think that blogging is a good option for people who wish to work from home. Likewise, it is an opportunity to be your own boss and have your own space. Since you are writing your own content, you have the flexibility to work whenever you want to, which I know can be a good or bad thing. Of course, you can always practice habits that will separate work from home. Lastly, this is a great hobby or job for creative people. You have autonomy over how to execute your ideas and thoughts, making this a very freeing experience for those who don’t quite fall neatly into a traditional work environment or big company hierarchy.

But first, how did I start to monetize the blog?

If you are new to blogging, you may not know that you can earn income from owning such a space. I certainly didn’t. But then I took this course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketingand it changed my life.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is working with brands that you love in order to spread the word about their products and in return receiving commissions for any referred patrons. Sometimes these are physical products from almost any company you can think of. Other times, they are intellectual products such as courses or services that help improve other people’s lives. The best part is that you don’t have to “sell out” to do affiliate marketing. You don’t have to scheme or cheat people. For me, it’s really just promoting companies that I believe in. For example, the companies I choose to partner with are those that promote sustainably sourced products using fair trade and ethical factory conditions. I like to promote small name businesses trying to create social or environmental impact. I try to keep it to an exclusive few even though I’ve been approved for over 2,000 different companies (so far).

There are a few nuances to affiliate marketing and I didn’t know much about it prior to the course. But the course helped me to learn A LOT and it’s just another case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You could learn it all yourself, but it’s hard to without a guide to get you through the basics.

I highly recommend this course if you wish to monetize your blog but don’t know where to start.

Extra Income Report

Now, onto the numbers. In April 2021, I made $789.45 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $637 is from sponsored posts. I count the monetary value of products that I receive as “income”. I do not accept products for review without first learning about the company and product. As a minimalist, I also only look for products that we currently need. I am honest in all my product reviews and list both pros and cons because I want to be as helpful to the consumer and the company, both. Companies that have supported the blog this month include Balmuda USA and Clove.
  • The rest of the income ($152.45) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog which continually earn me commission for every successful sale. It is the best method of passive income for bloggers, as it connects your audience with valuable products and services that you recommend, while paying you for your work.

So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $4,743!! Of that, $2,446 was earned in 2021.

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but as something I do for fun, I think it’s a nice little additional income. Over time, I hope to continue posting more income reports. Maybe it will help others looking for a side-hustle get a feel for whether blogging could become an alternative for them.

As always, my goal with this blog is to promote intentional living. Writing is a way to create a lifestyle that is in tune with what you want to do. Sure, it may not be the perfect job, but if working from home and having flexibility help allow you to live your dream life (one that includes traveling the world or becoming a stay-at-home parent), then I hope this space brings you that value.

If you are interested in starting a blog, I use WordPress. Feel free to sign up using my affiliate link.

If you already have a blog, I want to refer you to the course that helped me monetize mine. It’s a really great starting point. It’s called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

Save

Preparing for the Resumption of Student Loan Payments

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

I don’t pretend to know what anyone’s financial situation is like. I know that our stories are different, and depending on where we lie on our path, the story changes with time. I have already written about what one should be doing with their federal student loans at this time, but the advice is not finite. I find that the best mode of action, historically, has been to share with others what I myself am personally doing with my student loans, and letting others walk away with what they’d like to keep for themselves. So here it is. A little update on me, preparing for the resumption of student loan repayment once the 0% interest resumes at the latter part of 2021.

WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO

For the past year, I have been holding onto my usually aggressive student loan repayment sums for multiple reasons. Firstly, the uncertainty of the economic and social situation due to the pandemic. Mike spent 10 out of the 12 months last year not working. I honed in on only working part-time at one of my offices so as not to spread disease among different population groups. Family members lost jobs and we didn’t know who would need our support. Siblings moved back into parent’s homes, parents themselves moved, and a majority of our immediate families went without work or school for most of 2020. So I paid my minimum payment (in order to avoid forbearance just in case it affected the terms of the loan in the long-run) and took the rest of the income and invested it into a High Yield Savings Account.

Meanwhile, to compensate for Mike not working, I maxed out my 401K for the first time ever, and dabbled into a brokerage account. But for the most part, we enjoyed the relaxed vibe of staying at home and doing nothing for the most part of 2020. I wasn’t as tight on finances as I should have been. I have financial independence to thank for that – and you can read how pursuing financial independence has actually benefitted us during times of COVID.

Regardless, I am starting to feel that the end of an era is near. With the available vaccinations increasing in Southern California, I am anticipating the reopening of most of our economy, which will also signal the end of the student loan forbearance (currently scheduled for September 2020). So, like any Spring bird preparing for what’s ahead, I am gathering my resources like figments of a bird’s nest, and preparing for the return of my aggressive student loan repayments.

THE GAME PLAN

Because my loan was huge ($575,000), we initially stayed with a student loan forgiveness program instead of refinancing back in 2017, in case something unexpected came our way (oh, sayyy COIVD?). However, now that the loan amount is dwindling, we are starting to see the light. The OG plan was always to refinance once the loan reached under $300,000. Why this number? I have found that this number is the threshhold for many student loan refinancers. Many of them won’t even consider a refinance if the loan amount is more than $300,000. It is also the threshold that transitions one from a high interest rate (ours is 6.8%!!) to a lower interest rate (around 3%).

Luckily, under the REPAYE plan, the interest rate was half-subsidized by REPAYE, which meant we were able to stay in the student loan forgiveness program while paying interest fees around what we would have paid if we had refinanced. This is why it is important to understand your loan repayment options, which you can definitely learn more about here. This subsidy ends after three years, and we reached that mark during COVID (November 2020). Luckily, due to the 0% interest rate in effect right now as part of the COVID relief program, we have not jumped into the 6.8% interest rate bracket. However, our goal is to be under $300k by the time the 0% ends and refinance to an interest rate that is hopefully lower than 3%. I do not recommend refinancing your loan before the deferment period ends, but I do recommend preparing for it by planning to pay off the largest chunk you possibly can and then refinancing to a better rate to make the going easier for you in the future. Think of it as a snowball method.

OUR PREPARATION

We are doing a few things to prepare for Fall. None of these things are out of the ordinary for us. They are actions that I’ve been advocating for years. Although I must say that we’ve loosened the reigns a bit recently. Our frugal muscles have become droopy, and it’s time to exercise. Here is what I plan to do in the upcoming months.

  • Tightening up the Master Budget. Since we eliminated a majority of our spending due to the lock-down, I have found that over the past year, I have loosened significantly the reigns on spending buckets that would usually have tightly closed lids. The savings we received from cancelling subscriptions, gym memberships, and most importantly, international travel trips has given me a lot of leeway with home and lifestyle improvements. Now, it is time to tighten the purse strings once more. If you need a refresher on mastering a budget, you can refer to my free course here. Don’t let any stone go unturned. You can create monthly frugal challenges to make the saving more fun. Here’s a few of mine.
  • Resume Side Hustles. In order to protect my family and my patients, I had decided to stop my dog-sitting and my bakery last March. I also decided that it would be best to only work at one dental office at a time. But now that things are opening up again, I have started to resume my side hustles. I have returned to the bakery where I once worked as an early morning baker and have started the position of Wholesale Director in March. I love being back with the Rye Goods crew, and truly enjoy my alternative work life. I also have continued to write for this blog, as well as guest write for Bogobrush. If you wish to grow your income, too, check out my ever growing list of ways to earn extra money here.
  • Research Refinance Options. If, like us, you plan to finagle your way down to the smallest loan amount possible with the hopes to refinance for the lowest rate possible in order to snowball your way to student debt freedom, then I highly suggest starting the research on refinance options today. There will be different companies vying for your attention. It would be best if, when the time comes, you are well-versed enough to be able to refinance in a jiff. The worst possible scenario is choosing a refinance company that won’t give you the best deal, or waiting so long that you will be stuck paying the high interest fees when loan repayments resume. A few things to note. Do not apply to them if they pull your credit. You want to maintain your good credit score for when the actual time comes. Also, the smaller your debt, the better your rate. So save, save, save! Lastly, make sure you have budgeted out enough emergency funds to cover your monthly payments after exiting from your student loan forgiveness program in case of job loss or an emergency. Preparation is key before pulling the trigger. Here are a few refinance options that I’ve been recommending to colleagues.
  • Speak to Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner. Still don’t know what to do? Speak to Travis and his team at Student Loan Planner. They are knowledgable and give great advice. I highly recommend their services for those who do not know what to do with their loans. I send all of my closest friends and family members to him because I trust his team and know that they are up to date with the finest details regarding student loans.

I feel like a warrior getting dressed for battle. It has been a long year of nothingness. I must admit that it was lovely and nice, but I am ready to get on my horse and face the challenges of loan repayment once again. Instead of our usual yearly update (because there is nothing to update you on), I hope that this post suffices. I will write a lengthy one as September draws near, as well as after our planned refinance.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

How I Made $535.13 in March 2021 Blogging From Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

March was a very slow month for the blog. I spent the first week of March traveling and then worked many dentistry days plus built the bakery significantly. Despite creating only a handful of blog posts, I was still proud to earn over $500 via the blog. In March 2021, I earned $535.13 blogging from home. Before I go into the nitty gritty details of this month’s Extra Income Report, which you are always welcome to skip to below, here is a little summary as to how I make money blogging, as well as a few recommended posts if you want to increase your income.

Related Posts:

I started blogging right after graduating from dental school without ever thinking I’d earn money from it. At the time, I turned to this blog as a place to record my daily life. Ever since teenhood, I have kept some sort of journal or diary, which has evolved over time from paper to Xanga to Melodramatic, and now onto WordPress. For almost twenty years, I’ve processed information through writing, but never once did I think I would earn money from it.

It’s been three years since owning this site but I am happy to say that it is now getting a little bit of traction and has started to earn me a little income. If I wasn’t working as a dentist during the day, I could see how this could become a steady day job. Still, even with my day job, it had turned into a fun side-hustle for me. I decided to log my earnings for my own personal tracking but also to share publicly how much one can make blogging from home.

Now that remote work seems to be in the near future for many, I do think that blogging is a good option for people who wish to work from home. Likewise, it is an opportunity to be your own boss and have your own space. Since you are writing your own content, you have the flexibility to work whenever you want to, which I know can be a good or bad thing. Of course, you can always practice habits that will separate work from home. Lastly, this is a great hobby or job for creative people. You have autonomy over how to execute your ideas and thoughts, making this a very freeing experience for those who don’t quite fall neatly into a traditional work environment or big company hierarchy.

But first, how did I start to monetize the blog?

If you are new to blogging, you may not know that you can earn income from owning such a space. I certainly didn’t. But then I took this course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketingand it changed my life.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is working with brands that you love in order to spread the word about their products and in return receiving commissions for any referred patrons. Sometimes these are physical products from almost any company you can think of. Other times, they are intellectual products such as courses or services that help improve other people’s lives. The best part is that you don’t have to “sell out” to do affiliate marketing. You don’t have to scheme or cheat people. For me, it’s really just promoting companies that I believe in. For example, the companies I choose to partner with are those that promote sustainably sourced products using fair trade and ethical factory conditions. I like to promote small name businesses trying to create social or environmental impact. I try to keep it to an exclusive few even though I’ve been approved for over 2,000 different companies (so far).

There are a few nuances to affiliate marketing and I didn’t know much about it prior to the course. But the course helped me to learn A LOT and it’s just another case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You could learn it all yourself, but it’s hard to without a guide to get you through the basics.

I highly recommend this course if you wish to monetize your blog but don’t know where to start.

Extra Income Report

Now, onto the numbers. In March 2021, I made $535.13 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $74 is from sponsored posts. I count the monetary value of products that I receive as “income”. I do not accept products for review without first learning about the company and product. As a minimalist, I also only look for products that we currently need. I am honest in all my product reviews and list both pros and cons because I want to be as helpful to the consumer and the company, both. Companies that have supported the blog this month include TushyMonk ManualLunettePact, and Everlasting Comfort.
  • The rest of the income ($161.13) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog prior which continually earn me commission for every successful sale.
  • For the first time ever, I also earned $300 writing for another blog.

So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $3,954!!

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but as something I do for fun, I think it’s a nice little additional income. Over time, I hope to continue posting more income reports. Maybe it will help others looking for a side-hustle get a feel for whether blogging could become an alternative for them.

As always, my goal with this blog is to promote intentional living. Writing is a way to create a lifestyle that is in tune with what you want to do. Sure, it may not be the perfect job, but if working from home and having flexibility help allow you to live your dream life (one that includes traveling the world or becoming a stay-at-home parent), then I hope this space brings you that value.

If you are interested in starting a blog, I use WordPress. Feel free to sign up using my affiliate link.

If you already have a blog, I want to refer you to the course that helped me monetize mine. It’s a really great starting point. It’s called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

How I Made $616.46 in February 2021 Blogging From Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

February was a good blogging month considering I made a little bit more than January over a fewer number of days. February was a shorter month and I worked more days in dentistry, covering for doctors who were on vacation. I wish I could have spent more time blogging and there were definitely a few goals that I did not reach, but overall, I am still happy with my earnings. In February 2021, I earned $616.46 blogging from home. Before I go into the nitty gritty details of this month’s Extra Income Report, which you are always welcome to scroll down to below, here is a little summary as to how I make money blogging, as well as a few recommended posts if you want to increase your income.

Related Posts:

I started blogging right after graduating from dental school without ever thinking I’d earn money from it. At the time, I turned to this blog as a place to record my daily life. Ever since teenhood, I have kept some sort of journal or diary, which has evolved over time from paper to Xanga to Melodramatic, and now onto WordPress. For almost twenty years, I’ve processed information through writing, but never once did I think I would earn money from it.

It’s been three years since owning this site but I am happy to say that it is now getting a little bit of traction and has started to earn me a little income. If I wasn’t working as a dentist during the day, I could see how this could become a steady day job. Still, even with my day job, it had turned into a fun side-hustle for me. I decided to log my earnings for my own personal tracking but also to share publicly how much one can make blogging from home.

Now that remote work seems to be in the near future for many, I do think that blogging is a good option for people who wish to work from home. Likewise, it is an opportunity to be your own boss and have your own space. Since you are writing your own content, you have the flexibility to work whenever you want to, which I know can be a good or bad thing. Of course, you can always practice habits that will separate work from home. Lastly, this is a great hobby or job for creative people. You have autonomy over how to execute your ideas and thoughts, making this a very freeing experience for those who don’t quite fall neatly into a traditional work environment or big company hierarchy.

But first, how did I start to monetize the blog?

If you are new to blogging, you may not know that you can earn income from owning such a space. I certainly didn’t. But then I took this course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketingand it changed my life.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is working with brands that you love in order to spread the word about their products and in return receiving commissions for any referred patrons. Sometimes these are physical products from almost any company you can think of. Other times, they are intellectual products such as courses or services that help improve other people’s lives. The best part is that you don’t have to “sell out” to do affiliate marketing. You don’t have to scheme or cheat people. For me, it’s really just promoting companies that I believe in. For example, the companies I choose to partner with are those that promote sustainably sourced products using fair trade and ethical factory conditions. I like to promote small name businesses trying to create social or environmental impact. I try to keep it to an exclusive few even though I’ve been approved for over 2,000 different companies (so far).

There are a few nuances to affiliate marketing and I didn’t know much about it prior to the course. But the course helped me to learn A LOT and it’s just another case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You could learn it all yourself, but it’s hard to without a guide to get you through the basics.

I highly recommend this course if you wish to monetize your blog but don’t know where to start.

Extra Income Report

Now, onto the numbers. In February 2021, I made $616.46 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $73 is from sponsored posts. I count the monetary value of products that I receive as “income”. I do not accept products for review without first learning about the company and product. As a minimalist, I also only look for products that we currently need. I am honest in all my product reviews and list both pros and cons because I want to be as helpful to the consumer and the company, both. Companies that have supported the blog this month include TushyMonk ManualLunettePact, and Everlasting Comfort.
  • The rest of the income ($543.76) was due to affiliate link commissions. These are links that I have posted throughout my blog prior which continually earn me commission for every successful sale.

This is the first income from the blog this year! So far, since March of 2020, I have earned $3,419!!

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but as something I do for fun, I think it’s a nice little additional income. Over time, I hope to continue posting more income reports. Maybe it will help others looking for a side-hustle get a feel for whether blogging could become an alternative for them.

As always, my goal with this blog is to promote intentional living. Writing is a way to create a lifestyle that is in tune with what you want to do. Sure, it may not be the perfect job, but if working from home and having flexibility help allow you to live your dream life (one that includes traveling the world or becoming a stay-at-home parent), then I hope this space brings you that value.

If you are interested in starting a blog, I use WordPress. Feel free to sign up using my affiliate link.

If you already have a blog, I want to refer you to the course that helped me monetize mine. It’s a really great starting point. It’s called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.