Doctor at desk with laptop

Budgeting on a Fellowship Doctor Salary

A medical fellowship after residency can provide the training you need for a successful career in your preferred specialty. But it also probably means you’ll make far less for a period of one to three years.

Do you get paid during a fellowship? Yes, you do. Medical fellows earn an average salary of $89,175 per year and residents earn an average salary of $57,264 a year. While those are both still above the national median salary of $57,200, they still do not compare to the salary of a full-time attending physician and may require you to set and stick to a budget during your fellowship training period.

The Difference between Residency and Fellowship

Residency usually happens right after medical school and is designed to give doctors the experience needed to serve patients. A fellowship follows residency and is designed to train fellows in a narrower specialty.

While some fellows may earn more than residents, the salary is still lower than for most working physicians. Usually, fellows have to pay for the majority of their living expenses, including housing and at least some meals.

Additionally, most fellows face a high student loan burden as well, with 73% of medical school graduates having some form of education debt. The average student loan debt of medical school graduates, including undergraduate loans, is $250,999.

With a relatively low salary and a high debt burden, being smart with money during fellowship years can be a big part of creating a strong financial foundation.

Fellows may feel like they have too much on their plate to devote time to thinking about personal finance. But just a few savvy budgeting strategies can help fellows live within their means and potentially avoid getting deeper into debt.

10 Budgeting Tips for Living on Your Fellowship Doctor Salary

1. Finding a Budget that Works for You

The first step to smart budgeting is actually making a budget. Start by making a list of monthly expenses in two categories: fixed expenses (those that stay roughly the same every month, such as rent, utilities, and insurance) and variable expenses (those that fluctuate, such as eating out and entertainment).

Next, note how much money is earned each month from fellowship or any other income sources. Use take-home pay after taxes and deductions.

Ideally, expenses should be less than income. If they’re not, work out where costs could be trimmed. With a reasonable budget in place, the next step can be to track spending each month.

Recommended: 23 Ways to Cut Back on Spending and Expenses

2. Living Within Your Means

Expenses should not exceed the money you bring in. During a medical fellowship, you might be tempted to bite off more than you can chew financially with the expectation that your salary will soon increase dramatically. But going into debt isn’t a savvy way to start off your career.

Credit cards generally have the highest interest rates, so even a small balance can balloon into substantial debt down the line. Failing to make payments or using too much available credit could impact an individual’s credit score, which could make a difference when looking for a mortgage or car loan.

3. Choosing Housing Carefully

For most people, housing is the single largest monthly expense. That’s why it’s worth putting in the effort to find an affordable option that meets your needs. In a particularly expensive market, it may be worth getting roommates. Another factor to consider—the closer you are to your workplace, the more that can potentially be saved in commuting costs.

Recommended: How Much House Can I Afford?

4. Delaying the Purchase of a New Car

For those living in an urban area, think about whether public transit or carpooling may be options for getting to work. If a vehicle is non-negotiable, consider a used car rather than a new one. Cars lose much of their value when they’re driven off the lot for the first time, so it may be worth seeking out used cars that are in great shape at a great price.

5. Saving on Food

As a variable expense, food is an area with plenty of opportunities to save. If you have any meals provided for you as part of your fellowship, take advantage of the free food. Eating out can be tempting with a busy schedule, but it may be wiser to limit how often you go to restaurants and how much you spend there.

Since you won’t always have time to cook, preparing meals in batches to eat throughout the week could help you resist the temptation of going out.

When you grocery shop, purchase what’s on sale, learn what produce is in season, and consider purchasing generic brands. Look for nonperishable items in bulk at discount stores. If you’re feeling extra thrifty, clipping coupons could save you some change, too. Some stores even offer coupons through their app—no clipping required.

Recommended: 30 Ways to Save Money on Food

6. Traveling with Rewards Points

During your fellowship, you’ll probably want to go on vacation and take a well-deserved break. But your trip doesn’t have to break the bank. Fellows with a decent enough credit score may qualify for credit cards that offer significant point bonuses, which can be redeemed for travel costs like flights, hotels, or rental cars. Some cards may require cardholders to spend a certain amount upfront to qualify for a bonus, so double check you’re not taking on unnecessary expenses or carrying a balance if you don’t need to.

7. Taking Advantage of Income-Based Repayment Plans, Deferment, or Forbearance

Those with eligible federal loans who cannot afford to make payments may be able to pause their payments through deferment or forbearance options if they meet certain qualifications.

Income-based repayment plans allow borrowers to tie their monthly payment to what they make, and the balance is generally forgiven after a certain number of years (currently anywhere between 20 to 25 years).

Eligibility for these programs largely depends on the types of student loans that the borrower holds and when they were borrowed. Those who are in a qualified graduate fellowship may be able to request a student loan deferment while in a medical fellowship.

If successful, they likely won’t have to make payments during the fellowship. In some cases, borrowers may not be required to pay accrued interest, for example, if they hold subsidized federal student loans.

Borrowers who don’t qualify for deferment but are still struggling financially may be able to apply for forbearance, but would likely be responsible for paying the interest that accrues.

Fellows who are interested in pursuing a career in public health may also consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. In that program, borrowers who work for a qualifying non-profit establishment may be able to get their loans forgiven after 10 years of income-based payments.

8. Trying to Save

Living on a fellows salary may not leave much room for saving, but if at all possible, setting small savings goals could be helpful.

For example, if you don’t already have an emergency fund, you could try to put away some money every month until you have about three to six months of living expenses saved.

Once you have a cushion for emergencies, consider contributing to a retirement account, such as a traditional or Roth IRA. The power of compound interest means investing early can translate into gains over time. The longer money is invested, the more time it potentially has to grow and withstand any volatility.

Recommended: Investing for Beginners: How to Get Started

9. Considering Passive Income

As a fellow, you probably don’t have extra time to take on a side hustle. If you’re looking for ways to potentially boost your pay, consider looking into low-effort side hustles as sources of passive income, which can allow you to earn money without investing much time or energy.

Examples include renting out your room or car, wrapping your car in ads, or creating an online course. It may require some effort up front, but if you can increase your cash flow without working too much, it could be worth it.

10. Refinancing Your Student Loans

Dealing with student loans can be challenging when you’re living on a medical fellowship salary.

Refinancing your medical student loans is one way to help make your debt more manageable and potentially free up some extra cash.

When you refinance your loans—both federal and private student loans—with a private lender, you typically get a new loan at a new interest rate and/or a new term.

Depending on your situation, student loan refinancing can lower your monthly payment. Many online lenders consider a variety of factors when determining your eligibility and loan terms, including your educational background, earning potential, credit score, and other factors. Note: You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.

Keep in mind that when refinancing with a private lender, you do give up the federal benefits that come with most federal student loans, such as deferment, forbearance, income-based repayment programs, and student loan forgiveness. If you plan on using those programs at any point in time, it is not recommended to refinance your federal student loans.

The Takeaway

Fellowships can be an excellent opportunity to hone in on your medical specialty of choice, but the relatively low salary may require some creative budgeting in order to keep expenses in line with income.

Some ideas to consider include creating a passive income stream, shopping smarter at the grocery store, establishing a realistic budget, and finding an affordable living situation.

If you decide it makes sense to refinance your student loans, consider SoFi. SoFi offers an easy online application, flexible loan terms, and competitive rates. They also offer $100 monthly payments for those in residency for up to 84 months.

See if you prequalify for student loan refinancing in just a few minutes.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Boston

If you’re a fan of the show Cheers, the Boston Red Sox, or even baked beans, a Boston vacation gives you the chance to go right to the source. But after having a beer at the bar and attending a baseball game, there are still plenty of things to do in Boston, aka Beantown.

Boston is a highly-walkable city, and each neighborhood has its own personality, like the “secret garden” vibe with row houses in Bay Village, or Charlestown, with its Irish roots. Plus, there are wonderful historical sites, museums, and gardens to explore, as well as great food of all kinds.

Here, you’ll learn about some of the top not-to-be-missed attractions, as well as ways to make sure your trip is as enjoyable and affordable as possible.

Best Times to Go to Boston

If you’re planning your Boston trip, you’re probably wondering when to go. June until October offers great weather, though summer travel can be more crowded. Aim for late September or October to catch the fall leaves and cooler weather.

If you want to plan your Boston vacation around major events, here are a few to consider:

•   January/February: Chinese New Year

•   March: Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

•   April: Boston Marathon

•   June: Dragon Boat Festival

•   August: Saint Anthony’s Feast

•   September: Oktoberfest

•   December: First Night.

If you are planning on traveling during in-demand and potentially pricier times, consider using credit card miles vs. cash back that you may have earned on your rewards card.

Bad Times to Go to Boston

Depending on how much you plan to be outside on your Boston vacation, you might avoid visiting in the winter months, when you may have to battle cold weather and snow. (And if you’re traveling with pets to this incredibly pet-friendly city, those icy months may not be a good time for your four-legged friend either.).

Average Cost of a Boston Vacation

As you build your budget for your Boston trip, it can help to know how much you’ll spend on airfare, hotel, food, and renting a car (though public transportation can get you around town well).

For a couple, the average price for one week in Boston is $4,255. Hotels can cost $131 to $484 a night, and vacation rentals run $280 to $610 per night.

Even if you don’t have four grand lying around right now, there are options for book now pay later travel that allow you to pay for your travels over time.

And remember: using a credit card that lets you earn points when you book travel gives you credit card rewards you can redeem for other travel expenses.

10 Fun Must-Dos in Boston

You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to fun things to do in Boston. No matter if you’re a sports fan, a foodie, a shopaholic, or history lover, there’s something for everyone. Here are the best things to do in Boston, based on top ratings online as well as recommendations from people who’ve been there and done that in Boston..

1. Catch a game at Fenway Park

If you’re a Red Sox fan, this is already on your list of must-dos. Fenway Park has been hosting baseball lovers since 1912. You can catch a game in-season (don’t forget to cover the price of tickets when growing your travel fund), or take a ballpark tour to learn about the unique history of this landmark.

2. Follow the Freedom Trail

This 2.5-mile stretch tells the story of early America, with museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers to explore. You can walk the trail yourself or take a guided tour.

Recommended: How Does Credit Card Travel Insurance Work?

3. Stroll Through the Boston Common and the Public Garden

Enjoy a beautiful day by strolling through these two Boston icons. The Boston Common was created in 1634, and was America’s first public park. The Public Garden was the first botanical garden in the country, founded in 1839. Choose your spot for a picnic and people-watching (a great free thing to do in Boston), or take a swan boat on the pond.

4. Get Educated About Harvard University

You don’t have to go to Harvard to go to Harvard! You can take a tour while you’re on your Boston vacation of this nearly 400-year-old institute of higher learning. There are several different tours, including those on the history of the university, a tour of the campus’ art galleries, a tour of Arnold Arboretum, and more.

5. Tour the Boston Opera House

For a beautiful slice of Boston history, as well as the chance to watch a theatrical production, plan to visit the Boston Opera House. Additionally, you can take a tour of this nearly 100-year-old landmark and discover the intricate details of the opulent architecture, but you also can go behind the scenes of a modern production.

6. Dine out in the North End (Little Italy)

If a trip to Italy isn’t in your near future, you can pretend you’re there in Boston’s North End neighborhood. Italian immigrants arrived in this quarter in the 1860s, and since then, Italian restaurants and businesses have sprung up, bringing European vibes to the city.

Save room for a cappuccino and something sweet, or plan to have lunch or dinner to enjoy authentic pizza or pasta at one of the many Italian eateries. (If you swipe a travel credit card as you dine, you can rack up more points to use on when on a trip.)

7. Have a Pint at a Boston Brewery

While the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery ( is the most well-known brewery in the city (and worth a visit), it’s far from the only one. Plan your day to include beer hotspots like Aeronaut Brewing Company, Harpoon Brewery, and Cambridge Brewing Company.

8. Visit the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

It’s hard to get far in Boston without running into a little history. The Boston Tea Party is an interactive experience that puts you in the middle of one of the most famous events in American history. It can be a fun thing to do in Boston with kids.

And after exploring the museum you can, of course, enjoy a cup of tea to commemorate the occasion! Tickets typically start at $25 for kids, $36 for adults. Looking online for coupons can be a way that families can afford to travel.

9. Enjoy the Art and Ambience at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Called a “millionaire Bohemienne,” Isabella Stewart Gardner made a name for herself in Boston’s elite and intellectual circles, and she opened an art museum at the turn of the 20th century. Heavily influenced by her travels to Venice, the museum now houses Isabella’s private collection, as well as modern additions. The museum is typically open daily except Wednesdays, and adult admission is usually $20. Also, there is a $10 million reward if you have any information about 13 works of art that were stolen 30 years ago!

10. Sign up for a Secret Food Tour

Want to know where the locals eat in Boston? Take a Secret Food Tour to find out. Accompanied by a Boston guide, you’ll discover hidden gems that are off the tourist path. You’ll get to try clam chowder, lobster rolls, and cannoli, among other delicacies. After all, let’s be honest: one of the top things to do in Boston is eat! The price of the tours will vary, but a three-plus hour eat-a-thon might cost $89 per person.

The Takeaway

Boston is a vibrant city that was fundamental in the building of America. With history around every corner (not to mention something tasty to eat), you’ll find plenty to love about this city.

Whether you want to travel more or get a better ROI for your travel dollar, SoFi can help. SoFi Travel is a new service exclusively for SoFi members that lets you budget, plan, and book your next trip in a convenient one-stop shop. SoFi takes the guessing game out of how much you can afford for that honeymoon, family vacation, or quick getaway — and we help you save too.

SoFi Travel can take you farther.


What should I eat in Boston?

Boston is known for several unique dishes, including baked beans, lobster rolls, Boston cream pie, and clam chowder.

What historical things should I see in Boston?

Founded in 1630, Boston has been the home to major historical events like the Boston Tea Party, which has its own interactive experience and museum. Also not to miss are the Freedom Trail, Paul Revere House, Harvard University, and Boston Public Library.

How many days should I spend in Boston?

Depending on how many sights you want to see on your Boston vacation, three to five days is the ideal amount of time.

Photo credit: iStock/Sean Pavone

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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Understanding How Student Loan Consolidation Works

Understanding How Student Loan Consolidation Works

Student loan consolidation works similarly to other types of debt consolidation. Borrowers can combine multiple student loans into one new loan with new terms and a new interest rate.

The amount you borrow for the new loan covers the principal balance on all of the student loans you consolidated. You’ll have one bill to pay to one lender, as opposed to making multiple payments to different lenders each month.

What Is Student Loan Consolidation?

So what does it mean to consolidate student loans exactly? Consolidation involves combining multiple student loans into one loan, but there are different options depending on whether you consolidate with the federal government or with a private lender.

Federal student loans can be consolidated through the Direct Loan Program. Direct Loan consolidation allows borrowers to combine different federal loans into a single loan. The new interest rate is a weighted average of all your federal loan rates, rounded to the nearest eighth of a percent.

Student loan refinancing is an option available for both private and federal loans. Refinancing also allows borrowers to streamline their repayment with a single lender and qualifying borrowers could secure a more competitive interest rate. When you refinance a federal loan with a private company through refinancing, however, you lose access to federal benefits and protections.

Here’s what to know about student loan consolidation.

Recommended: Types of Federal Student Loans

Why Would You Consolidate Federal Student Loans?

Borrowers with federal student loans generally have the option to consolidate their federal loans through the Direct Consolidation Loan program. These are some of the reasons you might consider a Direct Loan consolidation:

To Simplify Your Repayment Plan

If you have multiple federal student loans from different loan servicers, consolidation can simplify your student loan repayment plan. Borrowers are eligible to consolidate their federal student loans once they graduate or leave school, or if they are enrolled in school less than part-time.

To Qualify for Loan Forgiveness

Consolidation can give you access to federal loan programs you may not be eligible for if you have other types of federal loans as opposed to Direct Loans. These programs can include additional income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

To Secure a Fixed Interest Rate

A Direct Consolidation Loan typically gives you a single loan at a fixed interest rate that’s guaranteed throughout the life of your loan. As mentioned earlier, the new rate is a weighted average of your previous federal loans.

To Lower Your Monthly Payment

Consolidation also allows borrowers to change the duration of their student loan. For example, you may start off with a 10-year payment plan, but when you consolidate you might choose to lengthen the life of your loan. Keep in mind if you lengthen your loan term, you may have lower monthly payments, but you’ll pay more interest over the life of the loan.

Consolidating isn’t the only way for federal student loan borrowers to change their repayment plan, however. Borrowers with federal student loans are able to adjust the repayment terms on their loans at any time without incurring a fee.

Private student loans are not eligible for consolidation through the Direct Consolidation Loan program, but private lenders do offer student loan refinancing. Refinancing can allow borrowers to consolidate their debt by combining all of their loans into a single loan.

Recommended: Guide To Private Student Loans 

How Do You Consolidate Federal Student Loans?

Federal student loan borrowers interested in consolidating their federal loans into a Direct Consolidation loan can apply online or by mail, and there are no fees for applying.

If you’re wondering, “Can I consolidate my federal loans?” the answer is likely yes if you have federal loans. There are a few cases where borrowers are ineligible, but for the most part, this option is available to those who are currently in the process of repaying their federal student loans.

When choosing to consolidate student loans with a Direct Consolidation Loan, borrowers may choose a new repayment plan that extends the life of the new loan up to 30 years.

Borrowers can typically select any of the federal repayment plans, which include a standard repayment plan with fixed monthly payments, a Graduated plan with graduated payments that increase over time, and income-driven repayment plans. Direct Consolidation Loans are still eligible for federal loan forgiveness programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Possible Drawbacks of Student Loan Consolidation

While federal student loan consolidation can potentially give you a lower monthly payment, borrowers could end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan if they extend their repayment timeline. In some cases, lower monthly payments now can mean an extra year or two of repayment later.

If you want a lower monthly payment without making extra payments, refinancing your student loans with a private lender could be an option to consider.

While refinancing with a private lender means you lose all the benefits and protections offered for federal student loans, qualifying borrowers could secure a more competitive interest rate, lowering how much interest owed over the life of the loan. (If, however, you’re refinancing with an extended term, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan.)

However, if you work in a public service field, as a teacher or social worker, for example, student loan refinancing will cause you to lose access to federal student loan repayment benefits you can get through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Can You Consolidate Student Loans When You Have Private Loans?

With federal student loan consolidation, you can only consolidate federal student loans. No private student loans can be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

If you have private student loans, you can consolidate those student loans through refinancing. Both federal and private student loans can be refinanced into one new loan.

When you refinance, a private lender gives you a new loan (which is used to pay off your private and federal student loan balances), and then you have to pay back that one loan.

In addition to combining multiple student loans into a single loan, you may also qualify for a lower interest rate depending on many personal financial factors, including your credit score. Refinancing at a lower interest rate may reduce the money you spend in interest over the life of your loan.

Recommended: How Do Student Loans Affect Your Credit Score?

What Is the Difference Between Consolidating and Refinancing Student Loans?

Programs like the federal Direct Consolidation Loan do exactly what they say: consolidate all of your federal student loans into one loan.

But you might not actually save on interest payments, because the new loan is a weighted average of your old interest rates, slightly rounded up. So your average interest rate will likely be slightly higher than what you paid before.

In contrast, refinancing student loans with a private lender could result in a lower interest rate for qualifying borrowers. And unlike the federal loan consolidation program, it is possible to refinance both federal and private student loans.

When you refinance with a private lender, you’ll lose the borrower-friendly benefits that federal student loans have, like income-driven repayment plans, or deferment, forbearance, and loan forgiveness programs. These borrower protections include the emergency relief measures enacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These protections, currently set to expire at the end of August 2023 , have temporarily set interest rates on all federal loans at 0% and paused payments on federal loans.

Be sure you review any and all of the special features of your loans before committing to any changes.

The Takeaway

Student loan consolidation allows borrowers to combine their existing student loans into a new loan. For federal loans, this can be done through the Direct Consolidation Loan program.

Student loan refinancing is a similar process, where a borrower pays off their existing student loans and borrows a new loan with a private lender. The interest rate on this new loan is determined by the lender based on factors like the borrower’s credit score and history.

Refinancing to a lower interest rate could help borrowers spend less money in interest over the life of their loan. If you’re considering refinancing your student loans, SoFi offers flexible terms, competitive rates, and no fees.

Learn more about student loan refinancing and see why it may be a smart option for you.


Is consolidating student loans worth it?

While it may not save you money, consolidating federal student loans with a Direct Consolidation Loan can make repayments simpler, since you will only have one payment. You can also secure a fixed interest rate or change your repayment term, and you may become eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness or additional income-driven repayment plans. Student loan refinancing with a private lender may save you money if you qualify for a lower interest rate or you change to a shorter repayment term, but you will lose access to federal loan benefits and protections if you refinance a federal student loan with a private lender.

How long does it take for a student loan consolidation to go through?

The length of time it takes for a student loan consolidation to go through varies by lender and whether you are planning to consolidate federal loans with the government or refinance with a private lender. As a general ballpark, federal loan consolidation can take up to two to three months. Refinancing with a private lender may only take a few weeks.

What are the advantages of student loan consolidation?

There are different advantages of student loan consolidation, depending on whether you consolidate federal student loans or refinance with a private lender. As mentioned earlier, a federal Direct Consolidation Loan can simplify payments, give you a fixed interest rate, and help you qualify for certain federal programs. You can also lower payments if you lengthen your repayment term, but you will end up paying more interest over time. Refinancing federal or private loans with a private lender can save you money if you qualify for a lower interest rate or shorten your repayment term, but you’ll lose access to federal benefits and protections.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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Should I Spend My Year End Bonus?

Do you receive a year-end bonus? Lucky you! While you may be tempted to go on a shopping spree or take your gang out to a great dinner, hold on a second. Yes, you can use some for fun, but you might also want to put some of a year-end bonus toward your financial goals.

Smart bonus money moves may include paying down debt, helping to fund a short-term savings goal (such as a downpayment on a house or establishing an emergency fund), as well as investing the money to potentially achieve long-term growth.

There’s no one right formula for spending (or not spending) a bonus: Each person’s financial situation and future goals are entirely unique.

But here are some ideas for using your bonus — or any other cash infusion, in fact — that can help improve your financial wellness today and tomorrow.

Allocating Some Money to Fun

You worked hard all year. So it’s totally understandable if you want to put some of your bonus money simply towards a few wants vs. just needs.

With any financial decision, it typically doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and that includes your work bonus. In fact, taking a balanced approach to your money might actually help you to maintain the stamina that financial goals often require.

Although the exact split is ultimately up to you, to avoid overspending, you might want to consider putting roughly 90% of your bonus towards your financial goals, and devoting about 10% to “fun money.”

If you’re getting a $5,000 bonus (after taxes), for example, that means you would have $500 to spend treating yourself. The other $4,500 would then go towards putting a big dent in your money goals.

Recommended: Benefits of Automating Your Finances

Chipping Away at Debt

If you have debt — whether from a student loan, car loan, or credit card debt — a bonus can be a great way to start whittling away at whatever balance you have to contend with, or even wiping it out completely.

Doing this can help you avoid throwing more money away just on interest charges, and if you manage to wipe out debt completely, you’ll have one less financial responsibility to stress about every month.

How much of your recent influx of cash should be directed toward debt reduction is entirely personal, and will depend on your situation.

Some financial planners recommend that people with high-interest debt consider putting around half of their annual bonuses toward paying down that debt. But this decision will depend on your individual circumstances.

Since credit card debt typically costs the most in interest, that can be a great place to start. Many credit cards charge close to 20% interest or higher. So if your goal is to ultimately build wealth, it may be smart to minimize credit card balances or, even better, pay them off completely.

It would be unreasonable to expect that you could out-invest what you are paying out in credit card interest.
The same idea goes for any high-interest or emotionally stressful debt on your balance sheet.

Recommended: 5 Reasons to Switch Bank Accounts

Saving for a Short-Term Goal

If you haven’t yet started, or haven’t quite finished, creating an emergency fund, getting a bonus is a great time to beef up that financial cushion.

While many people don’t like to think about the possibility of their car breaking down, a medical emergency, or job loss, should one of these unexpected events occur, it could quickly put you in a difficult financial situation.

Without back-up, you can risk landing in debt should you experience a financial set-back.

How much to sock away for a rainy day is highly personal. But a common rule of thumb is to create an emergency fund that has enough money to cover three to six months of living expenses. You may need more or less, depending on your situation.

If you already have a decent cash cushion, you may next want to think about what large purchases you are hoping to make in the not-too-distant future, say, less than five years.

This could be a downpayment on a home, a renovation project, taking a special family vacation, buying a new car, or any financial step that requires a large infusion of cash.

Then consider using at least some of your bonus check to jump start these savings goals, or add to previously established ones.

It’s a good idea to put money you are saving for a short-term goal (whether it’s a downpayment or an emergency fund) in an account that is safe, earns interest, and will allow you to access it when you need it.

Some options include a savings account at a bank, an online savings account, a checking and savings account, or a certificate of deposit (CD). Keep in mind, though, that with a CD, you typically need to leave the money untouched for a certain period of time.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!

Invest for the Future

Bonus money can also help you start investing in longer term goals, such as retirement or paying for a child’s education. Using bonus money to buy investments can help you create additional wealth over time.

For example, a lump sum of cash can work wonders in boosting your retirement savings. Even if you’re technically on track for retirement, adding more money to your IRA or 401(k) today can leave you with a larger income stream when you’re older. If you’re already contributing to these accounts, be aware of the annual limits.

You can contribute to your retirement using your bonus in a couple of ways. Many companies will automatically deduct from your bonus for your 401(k) at the same rate as usual.

You can also ask your company in advance if you can have a special withholding for your bonus. You may be able to fill out a form (or go onto the company portal) to designate up to 100 percent of your bonus to your 401(k).

If you can’t direct that money to your 401(k), and you’re eligible for an IRA, consider maxing that out instead.

Either one can help get you closer to a great retirement–and may also help you save significantly on taxes in the short term.

People who have kids may want to consider putting some bonus money toward starting, or adding to, a college savings account, such as a 529 plan (which in some states can offer tax benefits).

For financial goals outside of retirement, you may want to look into opening a brokerage account.

This is an investment account that allows you to buy and sell investments like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. A taxable brokerage account does not offer the same tax incentives as a 401(k) or an IRA, but is much more flexible in terms of when the money can be accessed.

How much of your bonus you should put towards long-term investments is an individual decision that will depend on your current financial circumstances.

The Takeaway

No matter the size of your hard-earned bonus, it’s a good idea to think about how it can best serve you and your goals in both the short and long term. Some smart ways to use bonus money include getting ahead of high-interest debt, setting up or enlarging your emergency fund, saving up for a large purchase (such as a home), as well as beefing up retirement savings and other long-term investments.

You can mix and match smart spending and smart saving to fit your financial situation. One easy way to do this is to sign up for an online bank account from SoFi Checking and Savings. You’ll earn a competitive annual percentage yield, pay no account fees, and you’ll spend and save — all in one convenient place. Whether you’re saving for something specific or storing cash until you’re ready to invest, SoFi Checking and Savings can help you put that year-end bonus to good use.

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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.


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Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Columbus, Ohio

While cities like New York and San Francisco may soak up a lot of the travel attention, a trip to Columbus, Ohio, can offer a great getaway in the middle of the country. Columbus is a vibrant city with one of the country’s top Millennial concentrations — which means that dining, festivals, concerts, and other entertainment options are often (but certainly not always) targeted towards a youthful, energetic demographic. This large, bustling city is filled with diverse neighborhoods and communities, each with its own unique vibe.

So, check out these fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio. You’ll learn about the 10 best things to do in town, plus find tips on when to travel and how to make your visit as affordable and enjoyable as possible.

Best Times to Go to Columbus, Ohio

Consider the weather. Columbus tends to experience a nice spring (although spring and summer can both have rainy spells), and summers are warm without typically being too hot. Autumn can be gorgeous with mild temperatures.

Columbus is a city of festivals throughout the year, particularly as temperatures warm up, covering a wide range of interests and audiences. Explore ones of interest, and schedule your trip for a time that dovetails with the activities you want to attend. Bonus: Many festivals are free, ideal for the frugal traveler.

The jewel in the crown is the Ohio State Fair (, chock full of entertainment (including but not limited to live concerts), food, playgrounds, competitions, and so much more.

Other festivals of interest include the:

•   Columbus Arts Festival

•   Pride Parade

•   Jazz and Rib Fest

•   Dublin Irish Festival

If you’re a college football fan, you’ll likely love visiting Columbus in the early fall and being surrounded by serious pigskin energy among some of the most passionate fans in the land. You’ll encounter tailgate parties, pep rallies, and random people on the street, shaping and shouting the letters “O” and then “H” before listening to people holler back and shape with their arms the letters “I” and then “O.”

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Bad Times to Go to Columbus, Ohio

Two factors may cause you to reschedule: weather and traffic. From November through February, temperature can be darned cold with ice and snow often in the forecast. If you are flying into Columbus at that time of year, you may want to see if your credit card travel insurance will cover you, should your flight get significantly delayed or canceled.

March can be pretty chilly, too. Plus, if you aren’t going to Columbus for Ohio State-related activities, you might want to avoid steer clear; roads can be congested with restaurants, bars, and other venues likely to have long waiting times.

The same can be true when students are coming and going at the beginning and ending of semesters and when fair goers are flocking to the Ohio State Fair.

Average Cost of a Columbus, Ohio Vacation

Costs will vary based on how you’ll get there: driving, for example, or flying. If the former, current gas prices will play a role; if the latter, it’s wise to look into how to get cheap flights.

Here are more specifics:

•   If you’re traveling solo, expect to pay about just about $900 for a week’s trip. What you’ll spend, of course, depends on where you’ll stay and whether it’s a budget inn or a more luxurious hotel; where you’ll eat; and admission prices to anywhere you choose to visit.

•   No matter how frugal or freewheeling you plan to be, it’s helpful to know how to save money for a trip. You can then enjoy yourself without worrying that you don’t have enough cash for what you’d hoped to do.

•   The average price for a hotel room for a couple is $115 and, altogether, the average price of a trip for two is about $1,800 although the same caveats exist as described above. Here’s how to save money on hotels so you’ll have more in your pocket for dining, sightseeing, and so forth.

•   Using your credit card and taking advantage of credit card rewards can help with expenses, leaving you more for discretionary spending.

•   Columbus has walkable sections and an excellent public transportation system (more on that below). However, if you are looking to zip around from one end of the city to another, you may want to look into renting a car and add the amount needed to the goal you are saving in your travel fund.

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10 Things You Must Do in Columbus, Ohio

Columbus truly is an exciting, diverse city — and so, when you visit for the first time, it just makes sense to enjoy that variety: art, music, science, nature, history, sports, architecture, shopping, and good eats. Then, when you return, you can explore the kinds of places you appreciated in more depth.

Here are 10 of the best things to do in Columbus, culled from top-rated online reviews and in-the-know travelers.

1. Tour Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Stroll through 13 acres of lush gardens, exotic plant life, and seasonal beauty while also viewing art exhibits and cultural presentations. Attend a class — whether arts and crafts, culinary, gardening and so forth — and visit the iconic 1895 John F. Wolfe Palm House.

2. Revel in Some Art

To soak in more beauty, visit the Columbus Museum of Art, which focuses on outstanding American and European works of art from the late 19th and early 20th centuries: paintings, photography, folk art, glassworks, and more. Frequently changed special exhibits ensure that each visit can be fresh and interesting.

3. Explore German Village

This is a unique neighborhood where German settlers arrived in the mid-1800s, and it’s now one of the country’s largest privately funded historic districts. Homes from the 1840s to 1890s are preserved — not recreated — and visitors today can stroll through the neighborhood, appreciating the architecture and shopping and dining.

4. Visit Capitol Square

Another fun thing to do in Columbus is to see its seat of power. Located just eight blocks from the German Village, Capitol Square includes the Ohio Statehouse, Senate Building, and Atrium where public tours are offered. The stunning Statehouse is designed in the Greek Revival style, a popular choice in the early and mid-1800s because democracy was born in Ancient Greece.

5. Cheer on the Team at Ohio Stadium

Ohioans love their Ohio State Buckeyes football team with its 39 Big Ten Championships and eight National Championships. Getting tickets to a game wouldn’t be easy, but the stadium itself is a sight to see, the fourth largest on-campus football facility in the nation with a seating capacity of 102,780. Since opening day in 1922, more than 36 million people have watched games here:

6. Shop Til You Drop

Imagine more than 1.7 million square feet of shopping, dining, and entertainment venues with plenty of open air squares, parks, and fountain — and that’s Easton Town Center. This is one of the leading urban retail centers in the country with more than 30 million annual visitors and 200 retailers (including Gucci and Tiffany)

7. Be Surprised by Science

When thinking about things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids, COSI Center of Science and Industry) jumps in front of mind. From skeletons of giant dinosaurs like T. Rex and pterosaurs to a planetarium that helps children and their families to explore space, COSI is full of engaging science exhibits and interactive experiences. The Big Science Park is perfect for play and the Little Kidspace is ideal for fun

8. Time-Travel at Ohio Village

Need another top 10 thing to do in Columbus, Ohio? Step back in time to see what village life in Ohio was like in the 19th century, watching artisans demonstrate old-fashioned skills. You can also tour period homes and other building, try circa-1800s activities yourself (which are also fun things to do in Columbus with kids), and perhaps watch a game of “base ball” using rules of the era,

9. Indulge in the Arts

This state-of-the-art center offers culturally diverse performances and provides art education in a 1928 building that was created and managed solely by African Americans. Jazz fans: This is a landmark location for this stellar form of music while also serving as a modern center for multiethnic and multigeneration arts.

Enjoy the Riverfront

When looking for free things to do in Columbus, Ohio, no trip is complete without a stop at the Scioto Mile. More than 175 acres of gorgeous parkland stretches along the riverfront in the heart of downtown Columbus. Besides being an ideal place to walk and bike, you can enjoy urban festivals, listen to outdoor music, and much more. If you’re traveling with a pet, this can be a terrific place to spend an afternoon.

Advice on Getting Around

Many of these fun things to do in Columbus, Ohio are located in or near downtown, but this is a large, sprawling city of more than 225 miles in size — the biggest city in Ohio. So, when planning your trip, map out where you’re going to ensure that you’ll spend less time traveling from one spot to another and more time enjoying the sights. Although most attractions are open year round, check to ensure the ones you want stay open through the winter.

Although individual areas and neighborhoods—such as German Village, Ohio Village, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and the Scioto Mile are all quite walkable, getting from one section of the city to the next requires transportation. Fortunately, the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) provides bus service; in 2018 and 2020, COTA received the American Public Transportation Association’s Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award.

The Takeaway

The best things to do in Columbus, Ohio will depend on your taste, interests, available time, and budget — but one thing is for sure: This vibrant city is filled with places to visit and activities to enjoy. Our list of the 10 best things to do in Columbus, Ohio is a great starting point, and then you can branch out from there. From museums to parks to historical sites and excellent shopping, this city has something (or more) for everyone.

SoFi Travel is a new service exclusively for SoFi members. Through a partnership with Expedia, we make it easy to find the lowest rates and book your reservations — for flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, and more — all in one place. Earn 2x rewards when booking with your SoFi Mastercard or debit card. And when you redeem your SoFi rewards for travel, you get a 25% bonus: $100 of reward points are worth $125.

Wherever you’re going, get there with SoFi Travel.


Is Columbus a walkable city?

Plenty of neighborhoods and venues are quite walkable and, whenever that isn’t practical, the city has an award-winning public transportation system. Some of the best free things to do in Columbus, Ohio, include parks and gardens, each of which is walkable for most people.

What food is Columbus, Ohio, famous for?

Foods include the Columbus-style pizza with thin crusts with toppings right up to the edge, then cut into squares. Buckeye candy — peanut butter and chocolate in a buckeye shape — are in demand. So is the peanut butter and chocolate doughnut from Buckeye Donuts.

Is Columbus, Ohio a fun city?

With its hipster-urban vibe and a plethora of fun things to do, the answer is “yes”!

Photo credit: iStock/Sean Pavone

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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