Debt is a four-letter word that is all too familiar to most Americans, especially young adults.
UH Graduate College of Social Work student Steven Hayes is no exception. In order to solve his financial woes, Hayes is one of five contestants from across the US participating in a “Money Makeover” contest. The finalists were chosen based on video submissions that detailed their need for a money makeover and their short-term financial goals.
“Although all the students chosen were in different places and stages in life, they all had similar issues managing their finances,” said financial literacy and consumer advocacy manager for Higher One Mary Johnson. “What made Steven’s video stand out was that he talked about taking time to re-examine his lifestyle and find ways to do things for free.”
The contest, sponsored by Higher One and the New York Stock Exchange’s Money Sense, was created with the goal of helping students learn how to better manage their money and achieve financial freedom.
The top five videos submitted were chosen to be featured bloggers on Higher One’s Game Time site and the contestants received $500 to put toward their goal.
The finalists submit weekly blogs detailing their journey to financial freedom and in November. The person with the most votes and the most improvement will receive an additional $1,500 reward.
Hayes said that his debt crisis is the result of travel and entertainment expenses and he is currently taking steps to change those spending habits.
“I got rid of my extra cable channels and used the money I would have spent on my cable bill towards my credit card bill instead,” Hayes said. “I also stopped eating out all together, which has helped my wallet and my waistline.”
He admits that as a graduate student with a packed schedule that includes classes, internship hours, serving as president of the Black Social Workers Association on campus and writing grants for a non-profit organization, it is sometimes tempting to grab food on the run.
“Seeing as how that (eating out) is part of the reason I am in debt in the first place, I opt instead to stop at a grocery store for fruit and water,” Hayes said.
Another step Hayes has taken to reduce his burden of debt is by challenging the interest rates on his credit cards.
“I managed to talk them down from an outrageous 29 percent to a more manageable 12 percent rate,” Hayes said. “They also refunded $200 that I had already paid at the higher interest rate back onto the card.”
Hayes said he has received a tremendous amount of encouragement and support from colleagues, friends and students in the social work program, and hopes this contest will be a catalyst to a whole new financial freedom.
The contest ends Nov. 19. To check out Steven’s blog and vote for the UH contestant, log on to www.higherone.com/gametime.