Five Things Friday: 1.26.2018

First things first, if you're new to my blog, WELCOME! 

It's my first Five Things Friday of the year! Here goes...

1. Marathon training has been completely on hold this month due to work travel and illness (and the ridiculously cold temperatures we've had this month - I just don't handle the cold well). I'm hoping to get back into a better routine (or any routine) next week. I'm grateful I've been able to keep my nutrition on track thanks to some amazing products that get delivered to my door and I use every single day.

2. I'm on the Partners Board at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and we had our first meeting last week. The Trust is embarking on a new strategic plan and we've got a TON of fun things planned for 2018. Now is a better time than ever to consider becoming a member - there are SO many benefits. Mark your calendars now for Cultured Cocktails, coming April 28!

3. Anybody else check their credit score every week? Just me? I have a standing reminder on my calendar to log in to Credit Karma and get my free updated score each week! It is one of my many great tools I use to keep track of my financial picture. I'm planning to do a longer blog post on this soon!

4. My new Instagram BFFs are Little Miss Lola Doodle and The Cutest Clementine. Seriously, how can you not love these two?!?! 

5. I'm not planning much travel for 2018 (because I'm saving for a Eurotrip!) but I am thinking about squeezing in a trip to Chicago in March (thank you, free hotel nights!). Send me your restaurant recommendations! 

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Happy Friday everyone! 

Student Loans...Ugh.

*Feel free to laugh in my face if I ever tell you I'm going to blog consistently.*

Can we talk about student loans? Most people I know have them, and whether they owe $5,000 or $50,000 or $150,000, they all feel this burden in their daily lives. Most of the time I joke with people that I'll die of old age before my student loans are paid off. I also get frustrated when I think about all the things I'd be able to do if I didn't have to make these payments every single month. Things like buying a house, or take a trip to Europe, or invest more for my retirement. 

In my years of paying on my student loans, I've learned a lot. I've learned that you have to just make the payments every month and be done with it - don't dwell on it or you'll make yourself crazy wondering how you'll ever pay it off. I've learned that people have very different definitions of what is "a lot" in terms of student loan debt. For example, a friend told me how hard it was to make the payments on her husband's loans, and his balance is 10% of mine. 

I've also learned a lot about ways to make the payments a little easier. In some cases, people may be eligible to have their loans forgiven entirely. That sounds great, in theory, until you realize that most people don't qualify. For example, I work for a non-profit organization, which should qualify me for forgiveness of my student loans after so many years of service, but I work for a 501(c)7, which is the wrong kind of non-profit, so I'm not eligible. Sigh. 

Refinancing is something I've learned a lot about and have actually done twice now. A few years ago, I refinanced my private student loans. As a result, I was able to lower my monthly payments and drastically reduce my interest rate. 

Here are my tips for loan refinancing:

  • Shop around for the best rates. There are many websites that will help you do this, including my favorite, Credible (more on them in a minute).
  • Take advantage of auto-pay discounts - many lenders will reduce your interest rate by .25% by setting up automatic payments each month. This also prevents you from missing a payment (which could damage your credit score)!
  • Pay attention to the length of the loan and choose one that fits your budget. This might mean taking a longer loan that has a lower monthly payment, or choosing a shorter loan but knowing you'll have to tighten your purse strings for a while to pay it off sooner. 
  • Take advantage of referral bonuses and get some extra cash money while you're refinancing. 
  • Consider adding a cosigner - this may open up even better interest rates for you. 
As promised, let's talk a little more about Credible. This isn't a sponsored post - I receive nothing from them for writing about this, but I want to share this information with others. However, there are referral links in this post. If you use them to refinance through Credible, you and I will BOTH get $250! 

First, Credible is not a lender. Instead, they will help you shop for rates from many lenders all at once. This will save you so much time! From there, Credible makes it easy for you to submit your loan application to the actual lender that you select. I am so glad I found this site when I was first refinancing because they gave me so much helpful information about the whole process. I needed a cosigner, and Credible emailed him (thanks, Dad!) directly and gave him the link to securely upload his documentation to be included with my loan application. There are other great websites out there that do this loan shopping for you, but personally, I was able to find the best rates on Credible. 

They have an awesome referral program as well - if a friend refinances after using your unique referral link, you BOTH get $250! Who doesn't want an extra $250 just for helping a friend out? If you have student loans (and again, who doesn't?), I encourage you to check out Credible and please use my referral link to help a sister out! 

I am happy to answer questions people have about student loans (and if I don't know the answer, I will help you find it!). Comment below if you've ever refinanced your loans and share what your tips and tricks! 

Walmart Grocery Online

Disclaimer: I received compensation from SavvyConnect to shop using Walmart Grocery Online, however, I was not asked to give a review and opinions are entirely my own. This is not a sponsored post and I was not compensated by Walmart in any way. 

On Friday, I mentioned that I had recently had a great experience with Walmart. Yes,

that

 Walmart.

As part of a market research study, I was asked to try out Walmart Grocery Online. Over the course of a few days, I added items to my online cart, much like you do with any online shopping purchase (or the way I'd make a grocery list, if I were shopping in-store). I was able to find everything I was looking for, including some specialty items like flaxseed and a Keurig water filter refill. I found a coupon for $10 off my first purchase, so of course I used that! After I had everything added, I was able to select the store and pickup date and time. 

Unfortunately, this service isn't available at my local Walmart Supercenter in Cranberry yet, so I had to drive abour 15 minutes to the Baden store, which really wasn't a big deal. In fact, the experience was so great I'd happily drive back there again to use the online pickup. 

I received a confirmation email that explained what I needed to do. They said I'd receive a call 15 minutes before my pickup window (you get an hour) and then whenever I was about 10 minutes away, I could call them back and they'd have everything ready to go as soon as I arrived. It also included a map of the store outlining where I should go and park for online pickup.

As it turns out, I forgot a few items and also had some non-grocery items I needed to look for, so I went early to shop in the store. While I was shopping, I received a call from my personal shopper (shoutout to Ryan!) saying my order was ready and to call him back whenever I was 10 minutes away. As I was just getting into the checkout lane (with only 1 person in front of me), I called him back and he said he'd have everything ready to go. 

I pulled into the designated space and within a minute or so, out came Ryan with a cart containing my items. He came around to the driver side and asked if I wanted to check any of the produce before he loaded the car. Everything was GREAT (and the spaghetti squash was HUGE). He had selected everything and prepared the order personally. He also verified that there had been no substitutions on my order (in certain cases, they may substitute an item for a similar item of equal or greater value). 

He loaded everything into the back of my car and then asked if I'd like the loaf of Italian bread up with me so it didn't get smashed - super thoughtful! He also handed me a reusable shopping bag full of goodies, as a thank you for trying out the service! He also told me I could

refer others with a $10 coupon

(full disclosure, if you use my referral link, I get a $10 coupon too!). 

I highly recommend this service. Everything was so easy. I can definitely see this being helpful to busy people or those with kids. I've read a few other reviews of the service online and many people have said

you can still use paper coupons as well

! It looks like you need to present them at pickup, or you can always take your receipt and coupons to customer service. You can also use the Walmart Savings Catcher app as well!

Click

HERE

to save $10 off your first purchase using Walmart Grocery!

Have you used the service before? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Savvy Shoppers!

Hey all! My next post is live over at the Smart Panel Blog. It's a good one - all about shopping apps and extensions to make your life easier and save you money! You can check out the post here

For some reason, the links I included in my submission weren't included, so I've made a list for you here to easily find the apps I've mentioned in my post:

Ibotta (referral link!)

Walmart's Savings Catcher

Target's Cartwheel

Ebates (referral link!)

Honey (referral link!)

CamelCamelCamel (or Camelizer? They seem to use both)


Also, thanks to the 2+ hours I spent on the phone with our new work email provider's help desk guy (while he set up my Outlook and then we proceeded to watch computer on its slow descent into computer hell), I learned about a new site: Slick Deals. It's a crowdsourced page where you can find the lowest price for basically anything on the internet! 

Thoughts? Tell me about your favorite shopping apps and extensions in the comments!