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How to Tackle Saving for These 6 Major Life Expenses

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Several times throughout our lives — when we get married, buy a house, have kids — we face mountainous expenses that require us to really double down on saving money.

Spending thousands of dollars in one swoop requires a different savings strategy than just skipping your daily lattes for a couple of months.

Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re facing expensive life events.

Purchasing a Car

Buying a new car can set you back between $20,000 and $55,000, depending on if you’re going for a compact car or a luxury vehicle. Even if you’re purchasing a used car, you may need several thousand saved up.

These steps to saving for a car will prepare you to buy your next set of wheels: figuring out how much to save for a down payment and what related expenses you need to budget for.

Buying a House

Talk about expensive life events.

Housing typically accounts for a large portion of everyone’s budget. Saving to own a home is a financial feat that can require tens of thousands of dollars upfront, not including the ongoing payments over the life of a standard 30-year mortgage.

Our guide to saving for a home while you’re still paying rent is designed to get you closer to your homeownership dreams.

Splitting expenses with a roommate can allow you to squirrel away more for a down payment, and qualifying for a first-time home buyer assistance program can reduce your initial out-of-pocket expenses.

Getting Married

Last year, the average American wedding cost nearly $34,000. That’s a lot of cash to spend on a one-day celebration — even for one you’ll cherish forever.

To help you avoid starting your marriage with extra debt, we’ve compiled 90 smart ways to save money on your dream wedding. Renting your wedding gown and going with used wedding decor could knock thousands off your expenses.

Budget-conscious couples can glean a few tips from these frugal love birds who planned their weddings under $10,000.

Having Children

Oh baby, having kids is expensive. Like, six-figures expensive, according to the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture

Although it’s estimated parents will spend over $200,000 raising a child to adulthood, many new parents are stunned at all the costs that crop up in the first few years — the hospital delivery, diapers, formula, child care and more.

Cut costs when they’re young with these 31 ways to save money on new baby expenses and these creative solutions to affordable care.

Once they get older and you’re swapping Mommy and Me sessions for competitive sports, continue on your money-saving journey with these 13 ways to reduce children’s expenses after the baby years.

Paying for Your Kid’s College Education

Every parent wants the best for their child’s future. Having a college degree can open up doors to well-paying job opportunities and career advancement.

When it comes to funding your child’s education, starting early gives you the best advantage. This breakdown of five common ways to save for college will help you decide the best option for your family.

Taking advantage of financial aid packages can be a lifesaver. Make sure you fill out the FAFSA before each collegiate academic year to determine your estimated family contribution.

Retiring

Saving for retirement is another expensive life event that’s best to contribute to way earlier than you think you should. The magic of compound interest works best when you allow more time for your money to grow.

Figure out how much money you’ll need in retirement, educate yourself on ways to build your retirement savings and open a 401(k), IRA or investment account, if you haven’t done so already.

And if you’re past your 20s, 30s and even 40s and don’t have anything saved for your golden years, here’s advice on how to catch up on retirement savings.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.



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MEFA Student Loans Review: Non-Profit Lender With Low Rates And Fees

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MEFA Student LoansMEFA Student Loans

When you need a private student loan for school, finding a student loan provider who can meet your needs and has reasonable loan terms is critical.

Private student loan providers are not all created equal. So researching providers is a must when it comes to finding a good deal. Looking for lenders that are non-profit organizations can be a good starting point as they may be willing to offer more attractive rates and/or terms.

MEFA is one such non-profit provider. For undergraduate and graduate students who are United States citizens and attend an eligible college, MEFA student loans could be a strong option. We’ll explain the loan features and when a private student loan from MEFA could make sense.

See how MEFA compares to other private lenders in minutes on Credible!


MEFA logoMEFA logoMEFA logo

Quick Summary

  • Undergraduate and graduate student loans
  • Reasonable rates and terms
  • No formal forbearance policy

MEFA Student Loans Details

Product Name

MEFA Student Loans

Min Loan Amount

$1,500

Max Loan Amount

Cost of Attendance

APR

3.75%-5.75%

Rate Type

Fixed

Loan Terms

10 or 15 Years

Promotions

None

Who Is MEFA?

MEFA is the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority. They are a non-profit organization based in Boston, MA. MEFA provides student loans for undergraduate and graduate students alike. MEFA was created in 1982 by the Massachusetts state legislature at the request of colleges and universities across the state.

What Do They Offer?

MEFA offers private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students. They also provide student loan refinancing. While MEFA is a Massachusetts-based organization, they lend to families in all 50 states.

A MEFA loan only covers one school year. Students must apply each year that they will be in school. For example, if you want a loan to cover four years of school, you’ll need to apply four times for four loans.

Students can borrow up to the cost of attendance minus any financial aid. Minimum loan amounts are $2,000 for private schools and $1,500 for public schools. Cosigners are generally required for undergraduate loans.

Qualifications

Students must be enrolled at least half time in an accredited degree-granting undergraduate or graduate program and maintain satisfactory academic progress as outlined by the school. The school must be a non-profit but can be public or private. Loan applications are subject to MEFA credit approval standards.

To find out your actual loan rates, you’ll have to go through the full application process, which does require a hard credit check. If you are using a cosigner, they will also require a credit check and the final loan amount can depend on the cosigner’s finances. Upon approval, any loan rate that you might receive will fall within the ranges stated below for undergraduate and graduate loans.

Undergraduate Loans

There are several types of student loans for undergraduates to choose from. Fixed rates vary from 3.75% to 5.75% APR. Note: rates subject to change.

  • Immediate Repayment (10-year term): Payments begin immediately (28th day of the month following the final disbursement). 3.75% – 5.30% APR
  • Immediate Repayment (15-year term): Payments begin the same as above. 3.95% – 5.35% APR.
  • Interest-Only Repayment (15-year term): Interest-only payments begin immediately. Payments that include principal begin after the undergraduate anticipated in-school period. 4.25% – 5.40% APR.
  • Deferred Repayment (15-year term): Payments are deferred until six months after the student graduates or no longer meet academic qualifications. Deferments are available for a maximum of 60 months. 4.38% – 5.50% APR. 
  • Student Deferred Repayment with Co-Borrower Release (15-year term): Same terms as “Deferred Repayment.” However, the co-borrower can be released after 48 consecutive on-time payments. 4.62% – 5.75% APR.

Graduate Loans

There are two types of graduate student loans available from MEFA. Both have fixed rates. The same loan minimum and maximum amounts apply for graduate as undergraduate loans.

  • Interest-Only Repayment (15-year term): Payments begin the 28th day following the final loan disbursement. The principal will be added to loan payments once the in-school period ends. 4.25% – 5.40% APR.
  • Deferred Repayment (15-year term): Payments are deferred until six months after the student graduates or no longer meet academic qualifications. Unlike undergraduate loans, deferments on graduate loans max out at 36 months. 4.45% – 5.50% APR.

Are There Any Fees?

MEFA student loans (for both undergrads and graduates) come with no application or origination fees. They also don’t charge fees for late payments or returned checks. Finally, there are no prepayment penalties on MEFA student loans.

How Do I Open An Account?

To apply for a MEFA loan, visit https://www.mefa.org. Keep in mind that MEFA doesn’t offer pre-qualified rate quotes. If you submit a loan application, a hard credit inquiry will be placed on your credit report.

Is My Money Safe?

Since MEFA doesn’t take deposits, there isn’t any money to lose. If you’re approved for a MEFA student loan, the funds will be disbursed directly to your college or university.

Is It Worth It?

For students who need to take out private student loans to help pay for school, MEFA student loans could be worth it. They have competitive rates and terms and do offer some in-school deferment options.

However, one major downside to MEFA is that they don’t have any formal hardship forbearance policy. And since they use traditional loan underwriting methods, it’s likely that you’ll need a cosigner to get approved for a MEFA undergraduate student loan (and only one of their loans offers cosigner release).

Before you apply for any MEFA student loans, be sure to compare them with other private lenders on Credible. And if you’re looking to take out a private student loan without a cosigner, check out our guide.

MEFA Student Loans Features

Min Loan Amount

  • Public school: $1,500
  • Private school: $2,000

Max Loan Amount

Cost of attendance

APR

3.75%-5.75%

Auto-Pay Discount

None

Rate Type

Fixed

Loan Terms

10 or 15 years

Origination Fees

None

Prepayment Penalty?

No

In-School Payments

  • Immediate payments
  • Interest-only payments
  • Full deferment

Co-signers Allowed?

Yes, but only on one undergraduate plan

Grace Period

6 Months

Eligible Schools

Accredited non-profit degree-granting undergraduate or graduate program (public or private)

Servicer

American Education Services

Customer Service Phone Number

1-800-266-0243

Customer Service Hours

Monday-Friday, 8 am – 8pm

Customer Service Email

mefaloans@mefa.org

Address For Sending Payments

American Education Services
P.O. Box 65093
Baltimore, MD 21264-5093

Promotions

None

The post MEFA Student Loans Review: Non-Profit Lender With Low Rates And Fees appeared first on The College Investor.



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Introducing Coverage Critic: Time to Kill the $80 Mobile Phone Bill Forever

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A Quick Foreword: Although the world is still in Pandemic mode, we are shifting gears back to personal finance mode here at MMM. Partly because we could all use a distraction right now, and even more important because forced time off like this is the ideal time to re-invest in optimizing parts of your life such as your fitness, food and finances.

Canadian Readers – we have also collected some recommendations for you at a new Canadian Mobile Phone recommendations page.

Every now and then, I learn to my horror that some people are still paying preposterous amounts for mobile phone service, so I write another article about it.

If we are lucky, a solid number of people make the switch and enjoy increased prosperity, but everyone who didn’t happen to read that article goes on paying and paying, and I see it in the case studies that people email me when looking for advice. Lines like this in their budget:

  • mobile phone service (2 people): $160

“NO!!!!”
is all I can say, when I see such unnecessary expenditure. These days, a great nationwide phone service plan costs between and $10-40 per month, depending on how many frills you need.

Why is this a big deal? Just because of this simple fact:

  • Cutting $100 per month from your budget becomes a $17,000 boost to your wealth every ten years.

And today’s $10-40 phone plans are just great. Anything more than that is just a plain old ripoff, end of story. Just as any phone more expensive than $200* (yes, that includes all new iPhones), is probably a waste of money too.

So today, we are going to take the next step: assigning a permanent inner-circle Mustachian expert to monitor the ever-improving cell phone market, and dispense the latest advice as appropriate. And I happen to know just the guy:

Christian Smith, along with colleagues at GiveWell in San Francisco, circa 2016

My first contact with Chris was in 2016 when he was working with GiveWell, a super-efficient charitable organization that often tops the list for people looking to maximize the impact of their giving.

But much to my surprise, he showed up in my own HQ coworking space in 2018, and I noticed he was a bit of a mobile phone research addict. He had started an intriguing website called Coverage Critic, and started methodically reviewing every phone plan (and even many handsets) he could get his hands on, and I liked the thorough and open way in which he did it.

This was ideal for me, because frankly I don’t have time to keep pace with ongoing changes in the marketplace. I may be an expert on construction and energy consumption, but I defer to my friend Ben when I have questions about fixing cars, Brandon when I need advice on credit cards, HQ member Dr. D for insider perspectives on the life of a doctor and the medical industry, and now Chris can take on the mobile phone world.

So we decided to team up: Chris will maintain his own list of the best cheap mobile phone plans on a new Coverage Critic page here on MMM. He gets the benefit of more people enjoying his work, and I get the benefit of more useful information on my site. And if it goes well, it will generate savings for you and eventual referral income for us (more on that at the bottom of this article).

So to complete this introduction, I will hand the keyboard over to the man himself.

Meet The Coverage Critic

Chris, engaged in some recent Coverage Criticicism at MMM-HQ

I started my professional life working on cost-effectiveness models for the charity evaluator GiveWell. (The organization is awesome; see MMM’s earlier post.) When I was ready for a career change, I figured I’d like to combine my analytical nature with my knack for cutting through bullshit. That quickly led me to the cell phone industry.

So about a year ago, I created a site called Coverage Critic in the hopes of meeting a need that was being overlooked: detailed mobile phone service reviews, without the common problem of bias due to undisclosed financial arrangements between the phone company and the reviewer.

What’s the Problem with the Cell Phone Industry?

Somehow, every mobile phone network in the U.S. claims to offer the best service. And each network can back up its claims by referencing third-party evaluations. 

How is that possible? Bad financial incentives.

Each network wants to claim it is great. Network operators are willing to pay to license reviewers’ “awards”. Consequently, money-hungry reviewers give awards to undeserving, mediocre networks.

On top of this, many phone companies have whipped up combinations of confusing plans, convoluted prices, and misleading claims. Just a few examples:

  • Coverage maps continue to be wildly inaccurate.
  • Many carriers offer “unlimited” plans that have limits.
  • All of the major U.S. network operators are overhyping next-generation, 5G technologies. AT&T has even started tricking its subscribers by renaming some of its 4G service “5GE.”

However, with enough research and shoveling, I believe it becomes clear which phone companies and plans offer the best bang for the buck.  So going forward, MMM and I will be collaborating to share recommended phone plans right here on his website, and adding an automated plan finder tool soon afterwards. I think you’ll find that there are a lot of great, budget-friendly options on the market.

A Few Quick Examples:

Mint Mobile: unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 8GB of data for as low as $20 per month (runs over T-Mobile’s network).

T-Mobile Connect: unlimited minutes and texts with 2GB of data for $15 per month.

Xfinity Mobile: 5 lines with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 10GB of shared data over Verizon’s network for about $12 per line each month (heads up: only Xfinity Internet customers are eligible, and the bring-your-own-device program is somewhat restrictive).

Cricket Wireless: 4 lines in a combined family plan with unlimited calling, unlimited texting, and unlimited data for as low as $100 per month (runs on AT&T’s network).

Ting: Limited use family plans for under $15 per line each month.

[MMM note – even as a frequent traveler, serious techie and a “professional blogger”, I rarely use more than 1GB each month on my own Google Fi plan ($20 base cost plus data, then $15 for each additional family member). So some of these are indeed generous plans]

Okay, What About Phones?

With the above carriers, you may be able to bring your existing phone. But if you need a new one, there are some damn good, low-cost options these days. The Moto G7 Play is only $130 and offers outstanding performance despite the low price point. I use it as my personal phone and love it.

If you really want something fancy, consider the Google Pixel 3a or the recently released, second-generation iPhone SE. Both of these are amazing phones and about half as expensive as an iPhone 11.

——————————————-

Mobile Phone Service 101

If you’re looking to save on cell phone service, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the industry. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to skip over a lot of nuances in the rest of this post. If you’re a nerd like me and want more technical details, check out my longer, drier article that goes into more depth.

The Wireless Market

There are only four nationwide networks in the U.S. (soon to be three thanks to a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint). They vary in the extent of their coverage:

  • Verizon (most coverage)
  • AT&T (2nd best coverage)
  • T-Mobile (3rd best coverage)
  • Sprint (worst coverage)

Not everyone needs the most coverage. All four nationwide networks typically offer solid coverage in densely populated areas. Coverage should be a bigger concern for people who regularly find themselves deep in the mountains or cornfields.

While there are only four nationwide networks, there are dozens of carriers offering cell phone service to consumers – offering vastly different pricing and customer service experiences.

Expensive services running over a given network will tend to offer better customer service, more roaming coverage, and better priority during periods of congestion than low-cost carriers using the same network. That said, many people won’t even notice a difference between low-cost and high-cost carriers using the same network.

For most people, the easiest way to figure out whether a low-cost carrier will provide a good experience is to just try one. You can typically sign up for these services without a long-term commitment. If you have a good initial experience with a budget-friendly carrier, you can stick with it and save substantially month after month.

With a good carrier, a budget-friendly phone, and a bit of effort to limit data use, most people can have a great cellular experience while saving a bunch of money.

MMM’s Conclusion

From now on, you can check in on the Coverage Critic’s recommendations at mrmoneymustache.com/coveragecritic, and he will also be issuing occasional clever or wry commentary on Twitter at @Coverage_Critic.

Thanks for joining the team, Chris!

*okay, special exception if you use it for work in video or photography. I paid $299 a year ago for my stupendously fancy Google Pixel 3a phone.. but only because I run this blog and the extra spending is justified by the better camera.

The Full Disclosure: whenever possible, we have signed this blog up for referral programs with any recommended companies that offer them, so we may receive a commission if you sign up for a plan using our research. We aim to avoid letting income (or lack thereof) affect our recommendations, but we still want to be upfront about everything so you can judge for yourself. Specific details about these referral programs is shared on the CC transparency page. MMM explains more about how he handles affiliate arrangements here.



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Three tips to managing your money post-COVID world

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This article was created by StackCommerce. While Postmedia may collect a commission on sales through the links on this page, we are not being paid by the brands mentioned.

Managing your finances has always been a crucial aspect of your personal life, but with a global pandemic underway, uncertainty is surrounding more than just your savings account. Checking out and not keeping a close eye on your financial well-being is not an option. Instead, taking stock of how you manage your money may bring you greater peace of mind in this troubling time.

Uncertainty surrounds everything from your paycheck to federal interest rates but focusing on these three goals for managing your money may help you find some additional security in a post-COVID world.

Find a high savings rate

Saving money becomes even harder during a crisis, but one of the smartest things you can do now is open a high-yield savings account. Explore different online banks and see what they can offer as far as the annual percentage yield.

The national average rate is 0.06 per cent but a few online savings accounts are even offering more than 1.0 per cent annual percentage yield. That kind of rate will actually

boost your savings

or your emergency fund over time, giving you a better cushion in future times of uncertainty.

Create an emergency budget

While you watch your high-yield savings account grow, take the opportunity to set up your emergency budget. The best way to avoid a financial emergency is to make sure you have a cushion to get you through hard times. Whether it’s an unemployment cheque, a paycheque, or even worker’s compensation or paid sick leave, a good rule of thumb is to stash away a small percentage of it for a rainy day.

And it doesn’t get any rain more than during a global pandemic.

Paying close attention to your budget and using a personal finance tracker like

iFinancer Income & Expense Tracker

is a great way to make sure you know where your money is going. It’ll help you avoid dipping into your savings account unless you need to, and allow your emergency budget to carry you through to more stable times.

Maintain your credit

While many banks and lenders have temporarily adjusted their lending policies in response to COVID-19, these changes can impact your credit and even end up hurting you in the long run. Keep an eye on any habits that affect your credit like payment history, new credit accounts, and amounts owed.

Are you using your credit card more or thinking about applying for a personal loan to get you through some financial hardships? Try to reduce your spending in order to put less on your credit card and pay attention to loan modifications during these uncertain times.

Tracking your expenses to avoid overspending is easy with

iFinancer

. With this tool, you can get notifications to alert you of possibly overspending and it includes various tools to help you save more money, thus maintaining a healthy credit score.

COVID-19 has caused a lot of stress on society in the past few months. Your financial wellness in the future doesn’t have to be part of it.

iFinancer Income & Expense Tracker can help you plan for a more viable financial future. Normally $30, you can get it for

36 per cent off at just $19 USD now

.



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