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The Secret to Spending your Refund Check

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John Egan
Leadership Educator

via GIPHY

STATESBORO — “Ok, it’s the second call in thirty seconds. I’d better pick up.” This is my usual line of thinking if my wife calls twice while I’m in a meeting.  I get the garbled robot version of my wife provided by my schlocky phone from a no-name provider.   “Whose idea was it to get this $18-a-month phone plan!?” Hmm… I guess it was my idea.

I can tell the machinelike voice is slightly panicked and eventually gather there has been an incident with her pristine ‘98 Camry with a meager 270,000 miles on it.  The accelerator being stuck was no big deal really.  Slamming the car in park did stop the car.

This moment caused me to briefly question my quest to live free of debt.  Recently, a co-worker shared an encouraging video from the New Orleans artist Dee-1.  Here is a smattering of lyrics from his song entitled No Car Note

Every month something break always some drama.  I see my mechanic more than my mama.  Everybody got jokes on my whip…

I don’t care what they drive.  I don’t mind how they roll.  I don’t want what they got.  So what if my car old? I love my 98 Honda. Think I’m finna let it go? Nope Nope (Why not?) Cause I ain’t got no car note. I ain’t got no car note. No note, no note, no note.

Why is Dee-1 celebrating a broken a/c and windows that won’t roll down?  He does mention that “I used all that extra money to stack up saving” and “Even if you make more than me I save more than you.”  However, one important line is at the heart of his celebration: “I feel like a king not being in debt no mo.”  How do you think king’s generally feel?  A few adjectives come to mind: empowered, free, in-charge, powerful and confident.   Being free of a significant monthly payment allows you to change careers, follow a different calling, move to a different city, and take risks that are important to your values.  

Of course there are times when taking on well-planned, responsible debt makes sense.  For instance, you may be currently receiving student loans as a carefully considered investment in your future.  But do you plan to buy sneakers or a TV with your refund check? Or do you have a spending plan that ensures you are only taking out the loans you need? Perhaps Dee-1 is speaking to you through his song Sallie Mae Back:

Needed tuition needed room and board. Had to pay for books so I took out loans to feed the boy.  Graduated wasn’t making quite enough to pay em back…

I got 2 jobs really got on my grind. No time to whine I can’t ride the pine. In the game right now my time to shine.  Started paying them loans back one at a time…

But guess what? I finished paying Sallie Mae back Mae back…

Refund checks tied to student loans are not free money, and you may likely have the shared experience with Dee-1 of getting on your “grizzy” for multiple years (typically 10 years at $280 a month).  By taking out less or immediately returning any extra, you can put yourself in a position to have much lower monthly payments or even eradicate your debt a few years after graduation.  If you are now feeling “some type of way” about your student loans, you should immediately take action to develop a spending plan.  Ask a friend or family member to help!  

Soon after getting married, my wife and I completed a simple budgeting worksheet through a Dave Ramsey course we took together.  This first step clarified our values, led to eventual freedom from the lender, and now informs our daily living. Our next step required bringing our spending plan to life.  For this purpose we have utilized three different tools in various seasons: Mint.com, Money Under 30 Budgeting Spreadsheet and the envelope system (very effective!).  Just find whatever works for you and do it!

 

*The products, services, and entities referenced in this post are the author’s examples and do not represent endorsements of same by the author, the Office of Leadership & Community Engagement, or Georgia Southern University.

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