This post is by staff writer April Dykman.
As many longtime readers know, GRS founder J.D. Roth used to write “Spare Change” posts, which were a quick round-up of personal finance articles from around the web.
He also used these posts as a chance to share bits and pieces about non-financial aspects of his life.
Well, today I’m going to do those two things and attempt to revive a reader favorite! Though for now, these will only be posted monthly (J.D. used to post them on an almost-weekly basis).
OK, enough background intro. Let’s dive in.
The past couple of months, I haven’t gone to a gym. I’ve barely set foot in a yoga studio. Instead, I’ve been renovating a house, which has taken up almost every evening and weekend for the last two months.
While that can be a workout in itself on some days, it’s not the same thing as lifting weights or doing a backbend. So to fit in fitness, I decided I’d have to go minimalist with my workouts: 30 minutes each morning, at home, so I can jump in the shower and get on with my day.
At first, I was kind of nervous about it. Would I really do it on my own? Is 30 minutes enough? The answers turned out to be yes and yes.
Yes, I do it because I put my workout clothes next to the bed and workout first thing in the morning. Even before coffee! I can’t take credit for that idea, though. I’ve read that advice a few times, and it wasn’t until month two that I actually followed it.
And yes, it turns out that 30 minutes is enough. In fact, I’ve been surprised by the results! I picked two activities that reportedly burn calories and build muscle in the least amount of time: jumping rope and kettlebells. I alternate that with yoga, and I’ve never felt stronger. Last week I did the best handstand of my life! (And seriously, guys, kettlebells are killer. I almost died the first time I did this workout.)
The funny thing is, I’m spending less money on fitness than I have in years. My “gym” is a corner of the living room where I store two kettlebells, a jump rope and a yoga mat. Obviously, I didn’t quit the gym to save money, and I definitely plan to get back to yoga class when my schedule allows. But if you’re short on cash, time or you just like working out at home, I wholeheartedly recommend a cheap mini-gym like mine and using free online videos for workout routines.
And speaking of saving money, here are some tools and articles from around the web:
Are you saving as much as the next guy?
First, ING U.S. can tell you if you’re keeping up with the Joneses, in terms of their savings, that is. They’ve launched three peer comparison tools. The first is INGCompareMe, which allows you to create an anonymous financial profile that’s compared to others in your peer group. The second is INGMySavingsScore, which gives you a savings score based on what you’ve saved for retirement versus a savings estimate based on your age and income. And the third tool is ING State of Savings, which uses the savings scores to show you how people in each state compare on their savings progress and goals. Turns out that in my home state of Texas, we’ve saved an average of 2.7 times our annual income for retirement, which ranks us as 11th in the nation. Not bad!
Grad-student loan rates reduction
Education finance company Sallie Mae is lowering interest rates for graduate students on April 1. Sallie Mae announced that it would lower the maximum interest rates on its “smart option” private student loans for grad students to 8.875 percent for fixed loans, compared with as high as 12.875 before. The maximum rate for variable rate loans will now be 7.5 percent, down from as high as 10.125 percent. The new rates are available for students in a master’s or doctorate program, enrolled either full or part time. While lower rates on student loans are always welcome news, don’t forget that private student loans lack protections that federal student loans offer, like income-based repayment plans, forbearance, and the ability to rehabilitate defaulted loans. Borrower beware!
And finally, I have a love-hate relationship with coupons. I love saving money, but I hate how they make me consider buying things I otherwise wouldn’t want! Last week Ellen passed along a press release about a savings site called Hopster, which customizes your coupons based on brand loyalty, such as purchases and social media interactions. You can also earn points and “boost” your coupon values. It seems like a good idea, but I’m still leery. After all, right now my J.Crew habit is in check. But if you send me really awesome coupons, I’m sunk. Know what I mean?
Have any of you tried Hopster? If so, tell us what you think about it in the comments!
GRS is committed to helping our readers save and achieve their financial goals. Savings interest rates may be low, but that is all the more reason to shop for the best rate. Find the highest savings interest rates and CD rates from Synchrony Bank, Ally Bank, GE Capital Bank, and more.