This is a guest post by Jen Wu.
Hello, ReadyForZero Blog readers! I’m glad you’re here on this online community. I have been a timid reader of this blog for a little over a year, and have found great knowledge and – dare I say – financial success, with the content here. I am a big ReadyForZero fan and I check the blog every day for new content!
I found ReadyForZero when I started my current job last summer and wanted to really take control of my budget. At this point in my debt repayment journey I had paid off two high interest loans, however I didn’t know how much I was paying on a monthly basis and what my interest rates were. I started to read a lot of personal finance articles and blogs and gathered that the first step to analyzing your budget is to track your spending and your debt.
I sat at my computer with an excel spreadsheet and started to form my spending categories. I wanted to see examples of how others categorized their budget, so I did a quick Google search, which brought me to the ReadyForZero Budgeting Spreadsheet.
I’ve since made many adjustments to my excel spreadsheet, thanks to the above post. And I’ve been hooked on the ReadyForZero Blog since then. For months I spent my free time reading the archives of the ReadyForZero Blog, and I took note of things I never knew about personal finance, particularly related to student loans.
How Does Debt Affect You?
Debt has a different effect on everyone; personally, I was getting worn out and stressed out thinking about my debt repayment timeline.
Through college I was always nervous taking out any of my student loans, but I chose to fund my education this way. Because of this, I knew after I graduated I needed to pay off my debt as fast as possible. I have both private and federal student loans and as I said, I had made progress by paying off two of my three private student loans which had very high interest rates – I’m talking about 8%-9%!
Afterwards, I realized I did a good job, but didn’t know the overall details of my loan repayment process. I literally just threw any extra income I may have had at the end of the month towards these loans but I didn’t know how much I had paid monthly, how much I saved thanks to making extra payments, how much interest I paid, whether I should consolidate, etc.
All these topics were very unclear and it made it seem like I’d be in debt my entire lifetime. I needed to learn more about my debt and thankfully, I stumbled upon ReadyForZero. Thanks to this blog, I’ve learned of some valuable resources and habits to keep me accountable.
The ReadyForZero tool addressed a lot of the questions I had. After I upgraded to a smart phone, I finally signed up for the ReadyForZero tool and have been enjoying it. The initial sign up was easy and very straight forward.
Prior to getting the ReadyForZero tool, I was constantly checking my online accounts and logging the same information in my excel spreadsheet to track my spending. My old method worked out okay, but I soon realized that going back and forth between all these different applications was getting somewhat monotonous. Not to mention, I was getting confused trying to remember about six passwords!
The ReadyForZero tool is so clever in that it allows me access to my financial information in one place. I’ve used other online tools as well, but I found they aren’t as intuitive as ReadyForZero. The first thing I noticed was the fantastic user interface! It’s easy to access and navigate your online account and the app is so convenient since most people have their smart phones on them at all times.
The other thing that I thought was genius is that the interest rates on student loans and credit cards are shown near the balance! I know this may sound crazy, but with so many different accounts and interest rates, I had to hunt down my student loan statements every month to do some calculations and determine how best to allocate my budget.
Student loan details with interest rate shown in ReadyForZero
I also really like how organized the ReadyForZero tool keeps me! Right when I log in I can see what has and has not been paid.
You wouldn’t believe how helpful this is to me!
As you can see, I like to pay all my bills at the beginning of the month
Another amazing feature of the ReadyForZero tool is that it flat out tells you how much you’re paying in interest a day. Talk about a wakeup call!
I used to try to calculate out this dollar amount every quarter or so to keep myself accountable. Before I paid off my first two private student loans, I was paying about $9 in interest a day. It’s somewhat frightening how much a small amount can add up daily. This is similar to people trying to drop their daily coffee shop purchase, only in my case, I don’t even get to enjoy a tasty latte.
I appreciate the gamificaiton of the tool, with the progress bars for each account. And I love getting congratulatory notifications when a milestone is met. You are granted bronze, silver, or gold medals when you reach a financial milestone, such as paying 50% of the debt off. It’s lovely when I receive an unexpected positive notification.
My milestone notifications in ReadyForZero
My Debt Repayment Plan
After using ReadyForZero for a few weeks, I came up with an aggressive repayment plan that I know is ambitious – but with the ReadyForZero tool and this blog, I am confident I will get the encouragement I need to keep on going.
My intention in learning about my debt was to reassess my budget, and I’ve determined that I can allot about 40% of my take home income towards my student loan debt. I am positive the ReadyForZero tool with all it’s nifty graphs will motivate me through this challenge.
My debt-free timeline graph in ReadyForZero
I dream of the day I will be debt free.
I’m aggressively paying back my loans because of the stress they cause. They have been weighing over my head like a black cloud for what seems like a lifetime, but with ReadyForZero’s guidance I don’t feel the pain as much. I can’t wait to get a gold medal for paying off my student loans.