Before I flipped out and got all frugal on everyone, I was taking out as many student loans as the good ol’ US of A would lend me. At times, I was engaging in some questionable personal finance practices – balance transfers (aka, robbing Peter to pay Paul). I felt pretty helpless, but people around me kept saying encouraging remarks, as the bulk of my loans were for school.
Unfortunately, the investment and loan damage that’s incurred to graduate from university programs varies tremendously. Some programs are a wonderful investment of time and money – they’ll most certainly add up to a great job, benefits, and an easy retirement. Others are a bit more vague. Something just doesn’t sit right when people say one kind of debt is better than others.
In an effort to reduce as many extra costs as I can, I’ve frequently thought about a lifestyle downgrade. What is it, you may ask? Essentially, it’s about getting rid of as many of necessarily technological advances as you can and pocketing the difference in money to pay off debt. With around $30,000 in debt left to pay off, I recognize that every little bit can help. Moreover, the bulk of this $30,000 currently gets taxed at an abysmal, life-suffocating 6.8 percent, courtesy of the federal government. It’s easy to imagine selling some unnecessary creature comforts and design elements to close this gap.
There Are Assets At Your Fingertips
Many articles about personal finance stress removing your daily coffee at Starbucks or packing a lunch. These tips will certainly lead to better budgeting when you’re seriously starved for cash, but there’s more that can be done. Usually, it takes no more than a simple glance at the device you’re using to read this article. Are you using the latest technology? Is that an iPhone 5 in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
Personally, I have a number of assets that are slowly depreciating – losing their resale value every day I own them. About a year ago I bought a white iPhone 5 and a couple years before that, I purchased a Macbook Air. The iPhone 5 was purchased on contract and cost the traditional $199 upfront, but these devices are worth WAY more than that on eBay. The Macbook Air was purchased for over $1,000. Unfortunately, the computer has depreciated quite a bit over time. But how much could I sell these items to restructure my life, spending habits, and pay off the burgeoning amount of student loan debt I have?
Choose Your Medium Wisely
When it comes to selling used goods there are three major options: eBay, Craigslist, or your local pawn store. Pawning your old accessories can be the worst option. Because there is a middleman to the transaction between buyer and seller, you’ll likely lose a lot of value. To their credit, a pawn store needs to make a profit, too – there are margins to any business. For the purposes of making the most you can off of your tech and accessories, let’s rule this out.
Next, we should consider Craigslist. In case you’ve been living under a rock for about a decade (and you will be soon by selling off all these newer technologies), Craigslist is the ultimate local classifieds and it’s completely free to buy and sell online. This method will net you the largest profit as there won’t be any commissions skimmed in the process (unlike with pawn stores and eBay). The one risk is that you’re dealing face-to-face with other people, and they may not necessarily be interested in dealing fairly once you meet in person. Similarly, you’ll likely have to spend more time responding to personal emails and arranging meetings to finally sell the item.
The last (but not least) option is eBay. The auction site has become a behemoth in the tech world. It’s by far the easiest and most populated area for buying and selling goods. As a buyer, it can be a wonderful way to find used goods at deep discounts, but as a seller, eBay is a little less friendly. For starters, eBay takes a cut every time you make a sale. Then, like the mafia, they have created one payment process that they own: PayPal. You’ll suffer another payment cut there, too. eBay ranks somewhere in between a pawn store and Craigslist for the money you’ll make, but it’s a safe platform and guarantees a sale within a certain, set period of time.
Reap Your Rewards And Pay Off Debt
In the end, the goal is to sell off the unnecessarily advanced, profit off the difference of a lifestyle downgrade, and pay off some debt. If I were to sell my Macbook Air and iPhone 5, I’d probably net about $1,000 off the entire transaction. By selling these goods, I could buy a cheap, affordable computer and buy an older, used smartphone.
Using the same methods outlined before, I would recommend looking on Craigslist and eBay for used laptops and smartphones. The Galaxy Nexus – once the hottest phone on the market – now is a bargain at $60 used, off contract. That would take my net profit down to around $960. As a graduate student and heavy researcher, I would absolutely still need a computer for day-to-day work. The most affordable computers on the market are Chromebooks. I could easily buy a used Chromebook for around $125. After buying both downgraded accessories, I would net about $835 for loan debt.
With all lifestyle downgrades there will be sacrifices. Google Chromebooks are not fully-featured laptops and there are a number of restrictions you’ll bump up against. Older model smartphones may have worsening battery life and poor reception at times.
The question then becomes, is the sacrifice and debt payment worth your inconvenience and potential discomfort?
Stephanie @ Six Figures Under says
I have found local buy, sell, trade facebook groups are great for selling things. Of course meeting up with people is kind of like craigslist, but it has the advantage of the public environment of facebook to go with it. You would get outed pretty quickly if you were to no-show or scam.
Best wishes on this endeavor. Every saving strategy has it’s cons. Guess it’s all about keeping one’s eyes on the prize. I look forward to someday reading your post and you are debt free. 🙂
Levi Blackman says
I don’t know about a downgrade but I am working hard at keeping my lifestyle at least level as my income goes up. Lifestyle creep is a big problem for a lot of people I know and keeping it in check it difficult.
Jen @ Frugal Rules says
If this is downgrading, it is a wise way of doing it. Not only that because, as you have made clear, it helps you save money too.
Michelle @fitisthenewpoor says
I am spending today rounding up unnecessary items to sell via Craigslist. I dont really consider it a downgrade as much as it is a lifestyle unburdening!
You always end up realizing you don’t NEED the latest and greatest and actually I tend to feel some release when I don’t have the financial pressure of the newest technology weighing on me. Even if I weren’t still paying off student loans.
Brent @ Vosa says
I’m in the market for a new computer and am very tempted to try a Chromebook. I haven’t adopted the cloud yet, so I’m a little worried about their lack of space. The price point is extremely attractive. Do you, or any of your readers, have a Chromebook?
Sam Lustgarten says
I had the Chromebook, Cr-48, that was given for free from Google. I’d recommend the C720 from Asus. A terrific device with enough power to handle most everything.
A year ago i downgraded from iPhone 4S to 3GS. netted about $360 for my big emergency fund. And i plan to stick to it for longer since it does all i need to survive in this digital age – evernote as info bucket, waze as navigation, email, mobileweb for info lookup and mobile banking, camera to capture practical info like prices or info board announcements fast. And it costs less than a new dumbphone now 🙂