Welcome to Common Cents, a blog with a common sense approach to money management! I’m Lauren, the creator of Common Cents and I’m so excited to share my story with you!
In early 2017, this site was created for anyone looking to further their financial education and learn about the fine print hidden in their every day finances. Whether you’re looking for information on tackling your student loans, need help improving your credit, or want to learn more about saving for retirement, you’ve come to the right place!
I’m here to help de-mystify the financial jargon and provide the financial education we all wish we’d been given in school – because while we all know that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, it would have much more helpful to know how to do our taxes or budget for car payments! If you’ve ever asked yourself why we weren’t taught any of the financial skills we would need as an adult, this site is for you! We cover:
- Student Loans
- Credit Cards
- Getting out of Debt
- Saving Money
- Improving your Credit Score
- Budget Tips & DIY Projects
- And so, so much more!
Our content has been featured by a number of sites and our following is growing everyday; check out some of our featured posts below!
Now that you know a little about Common Cents, here’s a little about me…
Like so many of my peers, at barely 18 and fresh out of high school I made one of the biggest financial decisions of my life with little to no idea what I was getting myself into – you guessed it, STUDENT LOANS. With no financial education to speak of and little concern about how I was going to pay them back, I did what everyone else was doing and took out tens of thousands of dollars in loans to pay for my degree.
I lived as frugally as anyone could expect for the next four years of college, working 3 jobs to pay my rent and bills, eating employee meals whenever possible and doing my best to stay above water… but with graduation looming, the inevitable panic set in – how on earth was I going to pay these things back?! I graduated in the summer of 2009, with employment at almost 10% (the highest it had been in nearly seven decades) and with my teeny tiny resume, I entered the workforce.
My first job out of college wasn’t much, but it was at least a paycheck. I got a tiny studio apartment in a sketchy part of town, and worked my tail off to try to make ends meet. With my grace period coming to an end all too quickly, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to make my loan payments when I was just barely scraping by, so I made my next great financial mistake, and applied to grad school.
After struggling to make a couple of payments, I was able to defer my loans a little while longer and started a masters program in Architecture; I absolutely loved the work, but in the back of my head I knew that I was just digging myself further into debt. After only 1 semester, I made the agonizing decision to leave the program and head back to work, now further in debt than I was 6 months ago. This was probably right around the same time that I started wondering why we hadn’t been taught anything about subsidies, deferment, or their consequences back in high school…
Upon re-entering the workforce, I got a slightly better paying job with a little more room for growth, and stuck it out at that company for a year and a half, earning a few pay raises along the way and was able to at least make my student loan payments, if not very comfortably. I worked a few different jobs over the next few years, and eventually moved back to Southern California with my now-husband, and was making my minimum payments but nothing more.
My new job was in the accounting department, and I was lucky enough to be able to take a number of accounting courses in tandem with my career. I was able to expand my Excel skills (I’ve been called an Excel “wizard”), learned a great deal about accounting, and started to put my entire life into spreadsheets. This was another turning point for me, but this time for the better…
One day I started to dig into my student loans, and upon creating amortization schedules for each of them, I was absolutely appalled at the interest I was paying. I could not believe that even after years of making my payments, I was still barely making a dent in the principal loan amounts, and had little to show for all the skipped travels and fun events I’d missed out on to make those payments happen. It was a crushing blow to realize how much I’d given up and how little headway I’d made, but that realization instilled a sense of urgency in me that I carry to this day – I did not want to live under the weight of these loans anymore!
This is when I got serious – I did a ton of research, asked questions, called my loan providers, and read just about everything I could on the subject. I started making extra payments on my smallest student loan in 2014, and was amazed at the sense of relief I felt just seeing that payment go entirely toward the principal. I kept making small additional payments, and after one more new job and a big jump in pay, I doubled those extra payments each month. In August of 2015, I paid off my first student loan in full, and felt such a sense of pride – I finally knew that this was possible, and was beyond excited to start tackling the rest.
While managing my own student loan payoff, I also talked both of my younger sisters through the maze of student loans they were navigating, and was able to help them avoid some of the mistakes that I’d made. In helping them wade through the fine print, I realized that I’d become something of an expert on what not to do and was able to give some real advice on alternatives. Tons of research paired with my real-world experience and a new career in accounting had given me a unique understanding of what it means to have a financial education.
Through all of these trials and tribulations, I’ve had some great wins as well; to date I’ve paid off 4 out of my 9 loans in full, and am more than halfway done with my student loan principal balance. Every bonus and every tax return goes toward getting out of debt, and I’m seeing the results that I thought were impossible just a few short years ago. I was encouraged by a number of friends and family to share my unique financial education, along with everything I wish they’d taught us in high school – credit cards, budgeting, saving for retirement and so much more – and just like that, Common Cents was born.
Currently I work as the Senior R&D Program Resource Analyst for a large medical device manufacturer and love that every day presents new mathematical and monetary challenges for me to solve. I live in sunny San Diego County with my incredible husband and our dog Bruce, where we like to spend a ton of time outdoors and on the water. In the past several years I’ve taken control of my finances, cash-flowed a wedding, and built this blog from the ground up. Through all my ups and downs, I love that I see money as a tool now instead of a source of stress.
I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but at 30 I am a homeowner, an investor, am saving for retirement and have excellent credit. I spent the better part of my 20’s working to better manage my finances, and am excited to share my various successes and failures along the way; keep an eye out for more of my trials and triumphs, with a healthy dose of common sense! Thank you to all of my readers and friends who have been such a tremendous source of support along the way – I couldn’t do it without you!
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Lauren has been featured by the following sites; check out the links below to read more!