I finally paid off my ACS student loans!

4 Mar

freedom

It seemed impossible. Paying off over $55,000 in student loan debt $409 a month at a time. But then something happened. My student loans got tossed around from CFS to Chase and then back to ACS, my original loan company.

I realized then that I could either suffer and stress out over the next twenty years, or I could go on a crash financial diet and lose the weight of my ACS student loan off my shoulders once and for all.

I started this crash financial diet a little over three years ago. Here’s what I did:

  • Closed my credit cards down, except for my AMEX. 

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  • Extreme couponing. I got my binder, clipped my coupons, and studied blogs like hip2save.com, southernsavers.com, and wesusecoupons.com I got so good, I was getting tons of stuff for free or making money from buying certain items and I grew my own stockpile.

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  • I stopped buying clothes for almost a year. And I stopped going to malls.

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  • I cancelled our Costco membership.

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  • I worked my ass off. I networked on LinkedIn and made sure my profile was updated regularly. I’m a freelance copywriter, so I took every gig I was offered and worked hard. I put 100% into every job. And agencies kept calling me back. I worked morning, afternoon, and late into the night. Sometimes well past midnight.

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  • I socked away 30% for taxes. And then I saved and saved and saved. Two years ago, I slapped down $27,000 in a single payment to ACS. The instant I did that, the coolest thing happened. The amount towards my principal changed. Before when I sent a $409 payment, $300 would go towards interest. Now $300 for every payment was going towards principal. Every time I made additional money, I sent additional payments. Sometimes, it was just an extra $100. And sometimes, it was an extra $2,000. I basically let go of the money before I had the chance to enjoy it. I knew it was meant to do more than buy the latest purse.

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  • I continued to work like crazy. And just sent my final payment 10 minutes ago!

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Doing this crash financial diet was hard. You have no idea how hard it was not to go buy a car or go on a fancy trip or go shopping for purses and new pretty shoes. But the end result is worth all of it. I saved about $60,000 in interest and shaved off 15 years off of my student loans.

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So what next? I figured if I could conquer my student loans, why not conquer my house? My goal: pay my house off in less than 10 years. We’ll see.

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Kid President gives America a pep talk

11 Feb

My five-year-old loves this video. He has watched it at least ten times. His favorite part is, “…And it hurt man!” It makes him crack up every time.

I really love this Kid President, too. Great delivery.

Super Badass Haunted Halloween Castle Costume w/ ropes, magnets and LED

31 Oct

Jamin Hoyle, my art director friend spent six months constructed what can only be described as a badass haunted Halloween castle costume. This Scottish castle is complete with multiple doors that open up to intricately beautiful storybook scenes. I cannot wait to share this with my kids.

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Disney’s “I Am A Princess” Commercial

5 Oct

 

Growing up, what I loved about the princess movie classics is that they taught me we’re all beautiful and we all deserve happiness. And of course, life isn’t always fair. The more current ones taught me that just because you don’t fit in doesn’t mean you don’t fit in. And that we’re all capable if we believe.

So now that I have a daughter, who is now two, I am curious how she will feel about princesses. In the last couple weeks she has expressed an interest in Disney Princesses, particularly Rapunzel from Tangled. Because she doesn’t talk quite well, I am unsure what is drawing her in. I think it may be the pretty dresses. She is really into fashion. But I am unsure if it something beyond it.

After watching the spot, I think it is cool to redefine princess through a modern Kate Middleton lense, but I don’t quite understand why we need to call all girls princesses and why they need to believe they are.

I feel like the values in this spot are important. And just because one has these values doesn’t make her a princess. It makes her a good person. My daughter is not a princess, but she exhibits some nice values sometimes. Like her compassionate moments where she snuggles with her baby sister. Her passion for exploring when she tries something new without being afraid. Her clapping and support when she sees her big brother do something great. She is not a princess. I will not call her that. Her name is Stella.

Paper Transformed Into Art

20 Sep

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I just stumbled onto the artwork of Yulia Brodskaya, a talented Russian-born artist who lives in the UK. Her work has been featured everywhere from ads for Hermes to a feature in “O” magazine. Her work is seriously amazing. 

I also discovered Canadian artist Elly MacKay in this month’s “O” magazine. Her work is so stunning and breathtaking. She creates these gorgeous small scale paper scenes that are absolutely dreamlike and filled with delight and wonder. She also sells prints of her work on Etsy.

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Koreans throw down gangnam style

7 Aug

Everything about this PSY “Gangnam Style” music video is incredibly awesome. The catchy beat, the cool aging singer, the bright clothes, the girls with their super dyed hair, the kid with the I’m-dancing-my-ass-off face, the synchronized horse dance moves, all the perfectly Korean scenes. Well done.

Everybody loves white space.

17 Jul

When Volkswagen launched their industry-changing campaign, they stumbled on something big. White space. While it may have been shocking back then, it’s still incredibly relevant today.

People these days crave white space–not just in ads, but in our own personal lives. Because our lives have become so busy and cluttered. We have no time. We have no peace of mind. We’re constantly distracted and occupied. It’s no wonder when you look at the all design trends, you realize how much we all just really love and appreciate white space.

Recycle your old shoes for a change.

23 Apr

We’ve all got them. Old shoes. They’re tucked away in our closets, under our bed or even in the attic. And they’ve sat there, waiting for what seems like an eternity. And they will probably continue to sit there for a very, very long time. So put your memories aside and think about giving them a second chance and a fresh new beginning.

I just discovered Shoe Box Recycling and think it’s a fantastic idea. There is so much we waste and this really is something so simple. Just print out a label and mail your shoes. And someone, somewhere in this world will get to enjoy your shoes as much as you once did.

Chevy Sonic Super Bowl Spot and More

4 Feb

This Chevy Sonic spot is incredibly entertaining. Everything about it is cool. The music, the tricks and the fact that it’s for Chevy.

This Chevy spot is hilarious thanks to its awesome casting.

And the Chevy YouTube Channel is beautifully designed and makes me want to look at everything, which is saying something. Because these days, with two little ones and a third on the way, I have literally zero down time.

Steve Jobs on Design and Creativity

2 Feb

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

“Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.

This appeared in Wired Magazine in February 1996. 16 years later, this is still true. Maybe even more so.

Free Banana Man!

22 Sep

I grew up in Stafford County, back when it was straight country. (I remember every year learning gun safety in school. Yeah, it used to be that country.) It was a sleepy town with not much going on. Taco Bell was always the place to be.

And now it’s like the 12th richest county in America with tons of people and fancy stores. Basically, it’s kept up with the times.

So seeing this video of an autistic freshman running around the Colonial Forge football field during half time and then getting suspended for the rest of the year really bothers me. It was half time. Nothing was happening. He did not interrupt a show. He simply entertained a crowd. What does it say about us as a society if we completely supress creative spontaneity? I mean people love it. Think flash mobs.

Creative spontaneity is something really valuable today. In a world, where most people live in a rat race, creative spontaneity is not only entertaining, but  something this world needs more of. It wakes us up. It inspires. It moves us–if just for a moment.

I am extremely disappointed that the school would take it as far as punishing a child for an entire year. And then to ban bananas from the school menu and ban anything that has a banana on it. Even kids who wore “Free Banana Man” on their shirts were supposively punished with Saturday school. What year is it? 1961? I guess I was wrong. Stafford County has not kept up with the times. I guess it will never change.

What if non-profits hired Extreme Couponers?

24 Jun

Similac $5 coupon

I’ve been couponing for about 6 months now. And in that short time, I have learned how to amass a stockpile where a lot of the items didn’t cost me any money, just my time. It’s definitely a learning curve as I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but thankfully, I haven’t given up. And it’s paying off.

Just today, I bought $160 worth of groceries for $28. My haul included free salads, free toothpaste, free chocolate candy, free shampoo, free conditioner and even free canned vegetables. I was running low on items, because we’ve either donated items to the nearby homeless shelter or friends and family on assisted living. And doing all of this got me thinking, non-profits should hire Extreme Couponers.

I mean really, it should be an entirely new job category. Couponing has taught me that you can pretty much get anything for free–from baby formula and food to office supplies like paper reams and tape to paper goods like paper towels and napkins. And then of course, there’s always free or next-to-nothing cleaning products like hand soap, cleansers and let’s not forget magic erasers ( I think I have like 10 boxes.) 

My point is imagine how much farther people’s donations would go if non-profits and shelters hired Extreme Couponers. I bought a two months supply of Similac formula (30 quarters, 20 cans, 1 tub) for about $15. The retail is about $200. So think about it. Disaster strikes. Babies need feed. Someone generously donates $200.

Without an Extreme Couponer, the non-profit spends $200 on:

-30 ready-to-feed quarters

-20 formula cans

-1 powder tub

Now if they hired an Extreme Couponing and said you have a $200 budget, get what you can get. Here’s the probable outcome: 

30 ready-to-feed quarters

-20 formula cans

-1 powder tub

-25 toothpastes

-25 toothbrushes

-25 flosss

-25 mouth wash

-100 bars of soap

-100 shampoos

-100 conditioners

-100 body washes

-100 hand soaps

-100 deodorants

-100 boxes of pasta

-100 bottles of barbecue sauce

-500 instant noodles

-20 half gallons of soy milk

-100 bags of salad

-100 paper towel rolls

With an Extreme Couponer, they would have gotten like $3000 worth of stuff for $200. Sounds crazy, but it’s actually quite real. Think about it. If citizens opened their wallets and donated $1 million to help a cause and let’s say 50% went to manpower. With the remaining $500,000 budget, extreme couponers could get like $3 million worth of stuff.

Now I am not saying I could do that. Right now I am consistently getting at least 70% off my grocery bills. But extreme couponers who save 95% off, well even if you paid them $50,000 and they turned a $100,000 budget into $1 million in products and food, then it’s totally worth it.

Oh, never mind. Why in the world would companies and non-profits want to stretch their dollars anyway?