Tag: Automation

 

How Much do You Really Need in Your Emergency Fund?

Saving up an emergency fund is one of the best things you can do to prepare for unexpected expenses. Conventional wisdom says that you should save up at least three to six months’ worth of expenses.

That’s a lot of money. If you don’t earn Silicon Valley wages or if you’re just starting out from scratch, that can seem like an impossible amount to save, so why even try? But, try this on for size: Maybe you don’t necessarily need to save that much. It all depends on your personal situation.

Luckily, we’ve broken things down to help you decide what’s the right amount for you to save in an emergency fund.

How Much Money Should I Save?

The answer to this question is: It depends.

As with all rules of thumb, the three-month minimum emergency fund rule is a one-size-fits all prospect. For most people, this is great advice, and it’s infinitely better than no advice at all. But there are certain factors about your specific lifestyle and personal situation that may make you lean towards more – or less – than a three-month or six-month emergency fund.

We’ll walk through some considerations here, but in general: The riskier your situation, the more you need to save. If your situation is a little less risky, you may be able to get away with saving less.

Take a look at four questions to ask yourself when determining how much money to save:

1. Is Your Job Secure?

One of the biggest factors to think about is how stable your job situation is. After all, one of the biggest uses of emergency funds is to help you cover your costs if you lose your job. So, consider both your specific job situation and your industry in general.

If you’ve been working at your job for a long time, you may be more immune to layoffs or other unfortunate events.

Also, take a look at how your employer is doing. Do you think the company will be in business six months from now? Lastly, if you’re a freelancer, you may also want to consider saving more money since this is one of the most shaky forms of employment of all.

As far as your industry goes, consider whether it runs on a cyclical cycle. After all, the construction industry is booming right now and you may be able to find a job as a carpenter fairly easy, but five years from now it may not be the same story. The same thing goes for automation — is your job at risk for robots taking it over? If so, consider a larger emergency fund.

2. Are Your Specialized Skills in High Demand?

If you went to college or trade school to learn a specific, specialized skill, that’s supposed to help you find a job. And if you live in an area where that skill is in high demand, chances are you can find employment quickly if you lose your job. But if you live in an area where it’s not in high demand — or if jobs in your field are scattered around the U.S. — consider saving a bit more than normal.

3. How Much do You Need to Feel Comfortable?

Another consideration is simply how much money will make you feel safe. Maybe you’ve been burned in the past with outrageous home repairs, or a lemon (car) to end all lemons. If you would feel more secure and sleep better with a larger emergency fund, then go for it. If you’re OK playing with a bit more risk, then consider cutting back a bit.

4. What Type of Lifestyle do You Lead?

If you lose your job, your emergency fund is meant to tide you over until you can find gainful employment again. Most people recommend cutting back your expenses so that you can stretch your emergency fund as far as possible in this case.

But, consider this: Do you want to live the lifestyle of an ascetic monk while you’re job hunting again? Maybe you still want to go out with friends, or more importantly, attend networking opportunities.

In this case, it might be wise to err on the side of saving more money so that you can still afford these things. Conversely, if these factors don’t matter to you as much, you can get away with saving less.

Needs vs Wants: A Lesson in Essentials Assessment

Even if you don’t want to bump up your savings target to include everyday lifestyle expenses, you at least need to save a minimum amount. And for everyone, this amount will be different, because everyone has different needs.

To figure out what your basic needs are, tally up all the things that you really need to be able to continue on living. Things to include are:

  • Rent/mortgage
  • Necessary utilities (electricity, gas, water, cell phone, Internet, etc.)
  • Groceries
  • Transportation expenses

On the other hand, consider what you can cut out of your budget should you lose your job:

  • Restaurants
  • Unnecessary utilities (cable, HBO, etc.)
  • Entertainment
  • Fun money

Don’t Overfund Your Emergency Savings

We’ve given you some things to think about when deciding how much to save in your emergency fund. But also consider this: It is also possible to save too much money in your emergency fund.

For example, if your emergency fund is the only savings fund you have, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to save for other important things — namely, retirement. It’s a good idea to make sure you’re still saving money for your retirement, whether in a workplace 401(k) plan or an IRA. You may also have other goals you’re saving for, such as health care, vet bills, or a new car.

A Cash Reserve is Essential

Whether you choose a three-month or six-month emergency fund, one thing’s for sure: You do need a cash reserve of some sort and you can use this guide as a primer to help you figure out how much you need to save.

Also, keep in mind that no matter how much you decide to save, the most challenging thing is to get started. Once you get going, however, you can rest a bit easier. Just think: Even if you don’t have a fully-funded emergency savings account yet, every bit you save today will help keep you protected in the future.

 

4 Inspiring Stories to Motivate You to Become More Financially Literate

Let’s say you’re hanging out with a bunch of wine snobs. Everyone is talking about their favorite merlots and chardonnays and wineries. And you, a consummate beer lover, keep your mouth shut, for fear of being perceived as an uneducated philistine.

If you don’t know much about personal finance, you might behave similarly. Chances are, you don’t want to announce that there’s no money in your bank account at month’s end. You also don’t want to tell anyone that you don’t know the difference between a 401(k) and an IRA.

Your knee-jerk reaction might be to bury your head in the sand.

If you’re clueless about your finances, you’re in good company. It turns out that 32 percent of young adults have limited money management skills, according to a University of Illinois study.

But, here’s the good news: You can start taking charge of your financial situation at any time. And,  in honor of Financial Literacy month – and to give you inspiration –  we’ve rounded up stories and tips from people who went from being financially illiterate to money-saving champs. Take a look:

Get Your Side Hustle On

When Logan Allec graduated from college, he was a financial mess. At 21 years old, he had more than $35,000 in debt, no car, and zero balance in his bank account. The little money he earned straight out of college went toward rent and student loans.

Allec remembers sitting at his cubicle one morning, pondering what his life would look like in the future, and he suffered a minor panic attack.

“I saw future me living a life of want and need,” says Allec, who is now a CPA and owner of Money Done Right.

To turn things around, Allec focused on boosting his income while lowering his expenses. To increase his take-home pay, he worked as much overtime as possible at his day job while side hustling. To save on rent, he moved in with roommates and ended up sharing a room with three other guys, which lowered his rent by $275 a month. He also cut costs by preparing food at home instead of eating out, and opting for generic rather than brand-name items at the supermarket.

By the time he turned 22, Allec had over $10,000 in his savings and investment accounts, and was adding $2,000 to his balance each month.

Start Small

When Jon Dulin became interested in personal finance, he read books and blogs, and listened to podcasts on the topic.

“I wanted to understand how people build wealth so they could choose to work or not work,” says Dulin of MoneySmartGuides.com

Dulin found that all the money experts were saying the same thing: It starts with saving money. But he was still skeptical.

“I didn’t think that it really was this simple. I was certain there was a trick or secret no one was willing to share.”

Regardless, he started squirreling money into his workplace’s 401(k) plan.

“I was saving twenty dollars a paycheck. It felt pointless, but I did it anyway.”

To his surprise, by the end of the year he had close to $1,000 after growth and dividends. By the end of the second year, he was closing in on $2,000. Dulin was in disbelief.

“I realized it was that simple. Now I find every way I can to save money, even if it’s five dollars, because I know that it will grow into larger sums,” he says.

Pay Yourself First

A few years ago, Todd Kunsman was stuck in an apartment he could barely afford, had a high car payment and two student loans. To make matters worse, he was laid off from his job a few weeks shy before Christmas. This left Kunsman with just a few dollars each week in his checking account to scrape by on.

He started getting knee-deep in reading books, following blogs and listening to podcasts on his own time in order to learn more above finances and investing.

“I realized that becoming financially literate was on me,” says Kunsman.

“And while there is a lot of information, it’s not that hard to understand once you take time to digest the material.”

Fast forward to the present, and Kunsman has invested over $70,000, knocked out 95 percent of his student loan debt, and his car is fully paid off. Plus, he’s maintaining a 65 percent savings rate.

Kunsman also adopted the pay yourself first mindset. Each time he gets paid, he socks away a percentage for retirement and for his savings. To stay consistent, he suggests auto-saving for your money goals. And of course, be patient.

“Even if you can only save a few bucks each week, by the end of the year you’ll be amazed at your progress. We all have to start somewhere,” says Kunsman.

Track Your Spending

Camilo Maldonado grew up in poverty and was never taught how to manage money at home. But when he went to college and had to stretch his dollars and handle his own finances, he began using a money management app to track his spending. Knowing how much he spent in all areas — meals, entertainment, travel — changed everything.

“When I graduated and got my first job, I was already comfortable with living within my means. That experience in college fundamentally changed my attitude toward money,” says Maldonado, now a co-founder of The Finance Twins.

“If you don’t track where your money is going, you’ll never be able to master your personal finance situation. You also don’t have to use a fancy program if you don’t want to. You can start with your bank and credit card statements and a blank sheet of paper. It’s that simple,” he says.

Start Today

Are you ready to increase your financial literacy?

Even if you don’t feel like you know enough about your money matters, you can learn from these financial tips and take action today. In turn, you’ll start to make headway toward your money goals. What could be more motivating than growing your net worth?

 

This Millennial Saved $200K Before Turning 30 — Here’s How

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The majority of millennials have next to nothing in their bank accounts.

You’ve probably heard the stats: Millennials couldn’t cover a $1,000 emergency, and they have an average of $36,000 of debt. And when it comes to retirement — which, to most millennials, seems like a billion years away — 66% haven’t saved a cent.

The blogger behind Fiery Millennials, however, is tipping the scales. Gwen Merz is only 28 years old, and has already saved $200,000 for retirement. Want to know how she did it? Merz revealed her savings story to us — and also offered advice for fellow millennials who want to prepare for their futures. To learn more, keep reading.

Stumbling Upon Financial Independence

One day in college, Merz was using the 2000s relic known as StumbleUpon when an article about FIRE (financial independence, retire early) popped up in her browser. Merz, who had grown up poor, immediately became “hooked” on the ideals of frugal living and financial security.

“Here are these people who never have to worry about having enough money ever again,” she says.

“That was very appealing to me, as someone who internalized a lot of those lessons about poverty early in life.”

Though she couldn’t save much money as a college student, Merz says learning about FIRE gave her a “really good foundation” for her adult life. When she totaled her car, for example, she didn’t take out a loan, and instead bought a used vehicle with cash. And when she graduated debt-free, thanks to a full-ride scholarship and her service in the National Guard, Merz was “so ready” to put financial independence (FI)  into practice.

“I was super stoked that I got to put money in my 401(k) and open a Roth IRA,” she says. “So nerdy, but it’s true!”

The Road to $200K

After she graduated college in 2013, Merz landed a full-time information technology job at the Fortune 100 company at which she had interned.

Her base salary? A lucrative $65,000, plus bonuses that averaged $7,000 to $8,000 after taxes, and a 10% 401(k) match.

While her peers spent their paychecks on nights out and new clothes, Merz saved 60% to 80% of her income (which increased each year and eventually came close to six figures).

“It was really good that I got started so young because I didn’t have any set habits or lifestyle expectations,” she says.

Merz maxed out her 401(k) — the limit is now $19,000 per year — and her Roth IRA — the limit is now $6,000 per year — and put the rest into a health savings account (HSA) and other taxable accounts.

After six years of saving, her retirement accounts reached a balance of more than $200,000.

Cutting ‘The Big Three’

Despite her ample salary, Merz admits it wasn’t always easy to save so much.

“At the beginning, it was definitely harder. But that’s only because I was still trying to live a typical American life.”

As an example, she cites the fact that she was living in a three-bedroom house by herself — a decision she now deems “ridiculous.” So she got a roommate, and cut her monthly housing budget from $900 to $450.

She also kept the 2005 Pontiac Vibe she purchased in college. Whereas most of her peers have bought one or more new cars since graduating, her vehicle will soon hit the 200,000-mile mark.

“It’s the big three you have to watch out for: housing, cars, and food,” explains Merz.

“If you can keep those three to a manageable level — or figure out how to get rid of one — you’re going to be so much better off than the average American.”

Or, as she puts it: If “you make one or two different choices in life, that can make all the difference.”

How Millennials Can Save (No Matter Their Income)

Merz is the first to acknowledge that the FIRE movement is dripping in privilege.

“Some people say everyone can achieve FI — that’s just not true. It’s a lot easier to save half of your income if you’re earning a lot of money.” And, as she points out, it’s even easier if you don’t have student loans or dependents.

Still, Merz believes anyone can learn lessons about budgeting and consumption from the FI movement. Even if someone can’t save at high rates, for example, they can maybe build an emergency fund or open a Roth IRA.

If you want to start saving — regardless of your income — Merz says your first step should be automation.

When Merz received her first paycheck, she set up automatic withdrawals that funneled money into her savings and investment accounts.

“I never saw that money and didn’t miss it because I had never known what it was like to have that much,” she explains.

The good news with this automated saving approach is it can eliminate the need for budgeting. Since Merz covered her necessities and investment goals by paying herself first, she could then give herself “free reign” to spend whatever was left.

“There’s a lot of guilt and decision making that are involved with budgets. But if you artificially lower the amount of money that you have to spend… it’s easier to save.”

If your employer offers a 401(k) program, Merz also urges you to sign up. Not only will your contributions grow over the next several decades, potentially funding your retirement, but they will also lower your taxable income right now. For example:

  • Say you earn $50,000 per year and contribute $5,000 to your 401(k). You can deduct that $5,000 from your income, meaning you’ll only pay taxes on $45,000 of earnings.

 

  • Many employers match 401(k) contributions up to a certain percentage. A “3% match,” for example, means your employee will  match every dollar you contribute, up to 3% of your paycheck.

“There’s no reason to not save up to the match,” says Merz. “They’re giving you free money — who does that?”

When This Fiery Millennial Will Retire

When Merz began her FIRE journey, her goal was to retire at 35 with $635,000. But in the years since, her outlook has shifted.

“I don’t really have a number or a date in mind anymore. It’s less about early retirement now — and more about how can I optimize my life so I’m at peak happiness,” she says.

Even if she doesn’t retire early, Merz has learned a lot from FIRE, saying: “It’s been interesting to see all the things society says we need that I am actually quite comfortable living without.”

She has also given herself a significant amount of financial freedom in the years to come. By frontloading her retirement savings — and giving her accounts decades to compound — Merz could stop saving for retirement now and still have a healthy nest egg at 65.

“I gave myself the gift of not having to worry and stress out about money in the future,” she says.

 

How to Budget on an Irregular Income

Understanding exactly how to budget can be difficult, even for someone with a consistent income. But, think about how complicated budgeting would be if you had an irregular income.

This is what millions of Americans deal with all the time.

Freelancers, small business owners, and salespeople all have incomes that can change from month to month. Sometimes the fluctuation can be drastic, and it can make it hard to save money.

If you find yourself in this situation, how can you develop a budget when you don’t know what your income is? Keep reading as we walk you through five steps to budget on an irregular income.

1. Calculate your bare-bones budget

The very first thing you need to do is calculate your bare-bones budget. These are the essential expenses that you need to cover each month. Make sure to include categories like housing (rent or mortgage), utilities, groceries, insurance, transportation (car payments, public transportation), and other essential costs.

Housing, insurance and car payments can be easy to factor in as the monthly amounts stay about the same. However, your utilities and groceries can fluctuate. To get an accurate figure, calculate how much you’ve spent, on average, for each category during the past 12 months.

While these are the critical expenses you need to cover each month, you should also include retirement, savings and debt payments. While these are not required, they are still important.

2. Add in your discretionary expenses

Now that you’ve calculated the bare minimum you need to get by, it’s time to calculate your discretionary expenses. These are things that you spend money on but can live without.

These expenses include going out to dinner, a date night at the movies, the cost of your daughter’s dance class, etc. Figure out how much you spend on these expenses, on average, each month.

Looking back through bank or credit card statements is a great way to locate these expenses.  Budgeting apps link Mint also do a good job of breaking down your expenses into categories.

3. Build up an emergency fund

Many of you have probably heard of an emergency fund. Its sole purpose is to cover an unexpected expense. If your income is always changing, an emergency fund is a must. The last thing you need is to have an emergency pop up during a lower income month and not have anything saved.

Simon Moore, a contributor to Forbes, recommends three to six months worth of expenses in an emergency fund. David Bach, a personal finance expert, takes it a step further and recommends that you save one year’s worth of expenses.

To get started, consider opening a Chime bank account. Chime’s Automatic Savings program is a great way to build your emergency fund. Here’s how it works: Each time you use your Chime Visa® debit card, Chime will round up your purchase to the nearest dollar and transfer the difference to your savings account. Plus, Chime makes it simple to save each time you get paid. As a Chime member, you can automatically deposit 10% of your paycheck into your savings account.

4. Pay yourself a reasonable salary

Having an irregular income can be stressful. This is why a budget is so important. It helps you forecast your monthly expenses. It also gives you the ability to see how much you have in your bank account so that you can perhaps pay yourself a salary.

To start, try paying yourself based on your budget the previous month. You can do this by combining the totals from your bare-bones budget and discretionary expenses and depositing that in your checking account on the first of the month. This will cover the entire month worth of expenses. Everything else you might have made will be put toward either short- or long-term savings.

By doing this, you are never spending more money than you actually have. Instead, your income is based on the past.

5. Pay your bills using a zero-sum budget

If you’ve never heard of a zero-sum budget it’s a fairly simple budgeting method where every dollar has a purpose.

At the end of every month, your income minus your expenses should leave you with zero in your checking account. For example, if you have $200 left in your account at the end of the month, your job isn’t done. That $200 needs to be allocated to something. For example, perhaps it will go toward debt payments, retirement or short-term savings.

So, to pay your bills using a zero-sum budget, you need to start with your list of bare-bones budget items and discretionary expenses. Go down the list and pay each item, starting with the most important. Once all those are taken care of, see how much money is left over. Remember what we talked about – every dollar has a purpose. Look for a place to allocate the extra cash.

One important thing to note with a zero-sum budget is that you need to pay attention to your variable expenses throughout the month. Make sure you’re staying below the amount you budgeted for items like groceries, clothes and anything else that fluctuates.

Irregular income doesn’t need to complicate the budget

You can still budget – even with a fluctuating income.

As long as you stick to your budget and live on the income you generated from the previous month, you should begin to see your financial situation improving. Are you ready to give it a try?

 

Stop These Six Bad Money Habits and Save More Money

It’s hard to resist meeting up with friends after work for drinks, or buying that new pair of shoes right after you get paid.

But, if you want to save more money, you may have to do something to curb your spending habits. For example, do you buy a sandwich five days a week at the local bodega next to your office? Do you grab a latte every day on your way to work? Indeed, these purchases add up – fast.

Here are six habits you can easily change in order to save more money.

1. Buying coffee every day

Did you know that buying coffee Monday through Friday – especially cappuccinos and other fancy coffee drinks – can run you $25 a week or more? That’s more than $100 a month and $1,300 a year!

Instead, try brewing coffee at home and taking it with you to work. If you don’t have a coffee maker at home, purchase one on sale. Heck, you can even splurge on a fancy Nespresso machine. I bought one on sale for $199 last Christmas and absolutely love it. Yes, it was expensive. But, I now make my own lattes at home every day instead of spending five dollars a day for these drinks (yes, that’s $35 a week!)

Think of it this way: Less than six weeks of coffee runs paid for that fancy machine, which included a starter pack of 24 coffee pods. Each pod now costs around 90 cents. This leaves $4.10 a day on the table – or almost $1,500 a year to put into a bank account.

2. Purchasing lunch at work

Buying lunch every day while you’re at work will run you a pretty penny. According to CNBC, if you eat lunch out, you’ll spend an average of $10 per lunch, or about $2,500 a year.

Yet, if you make your own lunch, you’ll spend only about five to six dollars per lunch, leaving you with an extra $20-$25 a week or $1,000-$1,300 that could go into your savings account.

3. Paying full price

We get it: Not everyone likes to shop for deals or make use of those reams of CVS coupons like I do. But, you don’t have to be an expert coupon clipper to make a few small money-saving moves.

For starters, you can use shopping apps that will give you coupons, provide you with cash back or find you the best deals. Some top apps in this category include Honey, Ebates, Ibotta, and RetailMeNot.

Looking for local restaurants, activities or even a new gym? Before plunking down full price, search for neighborhood businesses on Groupon. For example, I wanted to try barre classes but I also know that boutique barre studios are expensive. So, I purchased a 10-class pass for about $79 on Groupon (or less than eight bucks a class) to a popular barre franchise. I used those classes but also discovered that I would prefer cardio classes to barre. That was a good thing as the regular price for a 10-class pack is $230! All told, using Groupon meant I saved $151.

4. Not sticking to your budget

A budget helps you stop overspending and get ahead financially.

If you haven’t created a budget yet, now is the time to do so. And, if you have a budget and still overspend, now is the time to buckle down. Why? Because if you don’t stick to your budget, it’s difficult to reach your financial goals and save money.

For example, if your budget only allows for $100 a month of “fun money” and you spend $200, that extra money has got to come from somewhere. It may mean you’re not paying off as much of your credit card debt, or you’re not saving $100 a month. Instead, commit to staying within your budget and perhaps figuring out ways to earn a bit more money each month. For instance, you can start a side hustle like driving for Uber or Lyft, walking dogs, or even teaching Pretzel Kids yoga classes.

Pick something that you can do around your schedule with little to no start-up costs. Most importantly, remember that you’ve got to live within your means if you’re going to save money.

5. Overspending on credit cards

It’s easy to spend too much with credit cards, yet this can cause you to go into debt and lead to a never-ending cycle of racking up interest. This, in turn, makes it hard to save money as any extra money you have may be going toward paying down high credit card balances.

To avoid this, try taking a break from your credit cards. Instead, use your debit card or cash. This way you’ll be more likely to buy things you can afford. Better yet, if you’re a Chime member, you can save when you spend by using your Chime Visa Debit Card. Each time you make a purchase, Chime will round up the transaction to the nearest dollar and deposit this extra change into your Chime Savings Account.

6. Not automating

Automating is our No. 1 money-saving hack. Chime helps you do this by rounding up your debit purchases. But did you also know that you can automatically save money with every paycheck?

This hack helps you save as you won’t have to manually transfer money to your savings on your own. Better yet, you won’t blow that cash on the day you get paid on a purchase you’ll later regret. Chime members, for example, can automatically save 10% of each paycheck into their Savings Account. This way your hard-earned money hits your savings automatically. Out of sight, out of mind.

Are you ready to save more money?

Even if saving money is a struggle, there are ways you can start saving right now, simply by changing a few habits. For starters, try brewing coffee and making lunches at home, shopping for deals, and sticking to your budget. From there you can take a break from your credit cards and use your debit card or cash instead. Lastly, make savings automatic.

If you follow these six simple tips, you’ll be on your way to changing your financial habits and saving more money. Are you ready to give it a try?

 

Chime’s Automatic Savings Features

When it comes financial wellness, saving money can feel like an uphill battle.

Just like how overdoing it with carbs and sweets can sabotage your health, spending more than you can afford can be disastrous to your money.

Okay, duh. Knowing what’s good for you is one thing. Actually doing it is another. If it were easy, we’d all be rock stars with money. But changing habits and shifting mindsets can take a ton of work. The good news is that there are a few simple, no-brainer tactics to save more money. My favorite one? Automatic Savings.

Here’s why auto-saving is so awesome, and how Chime’s two features, Save When You Spend and Save When You Get Paid, can help your money situation.

Why Auto-Saving Is King

As a finance nerd who has been obsessed with money since I was young (weird but true), I’ve found that the less I have to think about managing my money, the better. Granted, I do spend more time than the average person looking at my spending plan and poking around money apps. But on the day-to-day, I don’t quibble over every purchase, or fret over whether I’m saving enough.

That’s because I’ve put as much as I can on auto-pilot. I’ve set up auto payment for most of my bills, and I auto-save for my goals. This includes tucking away funds for a trip to Vietnam, a splurge fund, and a birthday bash for my mom’s milestone birthday next year. I can enjoy guilt-free spending and feel good that my money is being squared away for things that are important to me.

If you’re concerned that auto-saving might mean a greater chance that a fishy transaction might slip past you, set up alerts. I check my main checking account every few days and get alerts for major transactions through a money-saving app.

So how can you get started auto-saving? If you’re a Chime member, here are two top ways:

Save When You Spend

How it works: Every time you pay a bill or make a purchase with your Chime Visa® Debit Card, the Save When You Spend feature automatically rounds up transactions to the nearest dollar. These round up amounts are transferred from your Spending Account into your Savings Account.

For example, if you spend $1.50 on a cup of coffee in the morning, the feature will round up your transaction to two dollars, and you’ll save 50 cents. Did you throw down $8.25 for lunch at the neighborhood sandwich shop? Save When You Spend will round it up to nine dollars, and 75 cents will go toward your Savings Account.

How to make the most of it: The more you use your Chime Visa® Debit Card, the faster you’ll build your savings. So, use it to pay for everyday purchases and bills, and watch your savings grow.

You’ll also want to determine how to best use the money in your Savings Account. It can be used for when you’re having a slow month workwise and barely scraping by. Or, you can use it to cover bills. Or, maybe you can use the funds to pay for unexpected expenses or minor emergencies.

The beauty of it is that you access funds in the account immediately. So there’s no lag time between when you need the funds and when they are available to you.

Save When You Get Paid

How it works: With Chime’s Save When You Get Paid, you can opt to automatically save 10 percent of each paycheck, with a minimum amount of $500. So, if you earn $500 one week from an employer, $50 of that will go into your savings.

If you get a steady paycheck, and your take-home amount for each paycheck is $1,500, then you’ll be stashing away $150 each pay period.


How to make the most of it:
If you are a freelancer like me and aren’t sure how much you can reasonably save each month, start by linking your direct deposit with the employer that makes up the least amount of your income.

On the flip side, if you’d like to get aggressive with your saving, set up direct deposit with your employer that makes up the lion’s share of your monthly earnings. And, like with the Save When You Spend feature, you’ll want to decide how to use your saved up cash.

If you need to pay taxes every quarter, perhaps you can use that money for this purpose. Or, maybe those funds can be set away for another reason. By saving with intention, you can make the most of that 10 percent of each paycheck.

Science to Back It Up 

You don’t have to take my word for it. There are actually studies that prove how auto-saving can make things easier. For example, The Center for Advanced Hindsight, a behavioral science lab, conducted an experiment on getting people to spend less – and budget wisely – right after they get a paycheck. The study found two major barriers to get people to spend less:

1. Cognitive load. Having to check your balance regularly to figure out if you can afford daily purchases is a royal brain drain. This led to a never-ending process of weighing different opportunity costs, and then being blindsided by changing or unexpected expenses.

2. Friction to saving. Those surveyed revealed that committing to an automated direct deposit is tough if the amount they can save changes from month to month. What’s more, there was too much friction to make manually saving small, incremental amounts worth the trouble.

With Save When You Spend, however, you’ll be spared the mental exhaustion. You won’t be quibbling about whether you can afford a given purchase. And, committing to saving a percentage of your paycheck each payday with Save When You Get Paid serves a similar function. If you’re a gig economy worker and are juggling a handful of different jobs with fluctuating income, it’s a lot easier to save a small percentage of each paycheck.

Start With the Easy Stuff

Financial wellness is a muscle, and forming the habits and behaviors so you can grow wealth is a long and hard journey. Starting with something as simple as automatic savings can give you a push in the right direction, as well as help you build momentum. Onward!

 

How to Stop Taking Money out of Your Savings

Dipping into your savings account constantly can be a sign that you’re letting FOMO control your spending habits.

We’ve all been there. One week you’re patting yourself on the back for growing your savings. And the next week you’re trying to transfer money back to your checking before you get socked with an overdraft fee.

No need to beat yourself up over the past. But, if you want to change your money habits for the better, here are some tips to grow your savings.

Have a Separate Emergency Fund

Create a separate account devoted only to real emergencies. By real emergencies, I mean paying for a new engine for your car so you can get to work.

If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, make this your main money goal and build it up to at least $1,000. The longer you go without an emergency fund, the longer you’ll keep dipping into your primary savings account to pay for these expenses. Worse yet, you can go into credit card debt.

Identify the Trigger

Why do you keep dipping into your savings? Are you overspending when it comes to eating out? Or, maybe you forgot to save up for larger expenses like your car registration.

Identify what is causing you to spend and this way you can learn how to fix it.

For flexible spending categories, it can be easier to stick to a tight number if you limit yourself to cash. For example, say you are going out to lunch and Target with a friend. If you know you may overspend, take the exact amount of cash budgeted and leave your bank card at home. You’ll think twice before ordering an extra drink or buying that cute shirt.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When I wanted to stop taking cash out of my savings account, I opened up a new account at a different bank and set up automatic bi-monthly deposits. Since it was not my main bank, I grew my savings account as I was less tempted to withdraw money from another bank.

Get a New Mindset

When you buy a seven dollar burrito, you don’t ask for your money back a week later because your account is a tad short. When you made that purchase, you counted that money as gone forever.

You need to adopt a similar mindset with your savings.

So, deposit money into your savings account and consider it gone forever. This means that when you are $50 short before payday, you may have to curb your spending.

Another powerful mindset tool is to give your savings account a purpose. There is no fun in saving for a vague someday. Take time to think about why you want to save money and how much money you need to save.

For example, if you want to save $20,000 for a down payment for a house, this gives you something to really save up for. Every time you deposit $200, you’ve hit one percent of your goal. You’ll be less tempted to take money away from this goal, too. Just think: transferring $50 from this savings account to your checking account means you’re slipping further away from your home ownership dream.

Set Up Rewards or Punishments

Are you motivated by the thought of getting a reward? Do you want to avoid punishment? Knowing which one of these is a greater motivator can help you break the habit of dipping into your savings.

If rewards motivate you, for example, set up two to three savings goals and rewards. For instance, if you save $4,000, perhaps your reward is to buy a new gaming system guilt-free.

If fear of punishment motivates you, recruit your friends or family members to help. What embarrassing thing will you have to do if you don’t keep your savings account balance in check? Perhaps the thought of wearing a loud, outdated suit from your dad’s closet to work will be just the thing to keep you saving faithfully.

Let Your Bank Account Do the Work for You

Use the power of automation to make saving painless. The point is: When you don’t have to think about saving money, it’s easier to save.

So, consider automatically depositing money from your paycheck into your savings account – on the day it hits your account. Chime members can opt for 10% of each paycheck to go into their savings.

Another way Chime helps streamline your savings is with the Chime Visa® debit card. Just use your debit card to spend as you usually do, and Chime will round up the transaction to the nearest dollar. The difference is then transferred to your Savings Account.

Max Out Your Transfer Allowance

The Federal Reserve Board sets a limit of six transactions per month on certain transfers and withdrawals from your savings account. The reason? To encourage you to use your savings to actually save money – and not spend it.

Some Chime members use this rule to their advantage to cut out the temptation to dip into their savings. How? They initiate six one-cent transfers at the beginning of the month from their Savings Account to their Spending Account. After the six transfers, they can only transfer money to their savings, but they cannot withdraw it.

Every savings account has this same rule, so you can use this hack at any bank. However, it’s important for you to understand your bank’s rules to ensure you don’t get dinged with unnecessary fees if you try to make a seventh withdrawal for the month. Along these lines, Chime will never charge you fees, so you may want to consider switching to a bank that will actually help you get ahead financially.

You Can Do It

Breaking bad money habits takes time and effort.

But, as you can see, there are many ways you can develop healthy money habits to save more money. Why not start right now by setting yourself up to get paid early?

 

The State of Savings in America

During the recent government shutdown, thousands of federal workers filed for unemployment. While the 35-day shutdown wasn’t the employees’ fault, it did reveal their precarious financial situations.

“It is concerning that government workers with stable employment can’t make ends meet when their next paycheck is late,” says Pauline Paquin, owner of Frugaling.

“Being financially resilient is important because charging your card or resorting to payday loans is very expensive.”

The thing is: These public servants are the rule, rather than the exception. Only 39% of Americans could cover a $1,000 emergency with money from their savings. And, 19% would have to finance an emergency on a credit card, while 17% would have to borrow the money and 13% would have to reduce spending on other things.

Here’s more on the dire state of savings in America — and how you can fight back with better financial habits and a bank that has your back.

The United States of Spending

Wondering how the U.S. is doing when it comes to saving? The numbers should tell you everything you need to know:

“We live in a society where immediate gratification is something most of us think we deserve,” explains Paquin.

“We work hard, we should treat ourselves. But we fail to see the long term effect of having everything we want right now.”

Those long-term effects can include a minor emergency causing you to lose your car, then your job, then your apartment. Or they can include never being able to retire, and forcing your children to support you in old age.

“Americans struggle to save because we aren’t taught to think about money as a tool to reach our goals,” says certified financial educational instructor Galit Tsadik.

“We think of it as only something to satisfy our immediate needs. There is also this misguided notion that you need to have a lot of money to start saving or that you need to put big chunks away in order for it to be worth it,” says Tsadik.

Three Ways to Save More Money

The truth is: You can start saving money any time, with any amount. Although it may be difficult at first, making saving a habit will pay off in the end.

Here are three expert tips to get you on the right track.

1. Change your mindset

“Keep your internal money dialogue positive, otherwise you’ve already lost,” says Tsadik.

She suggests replacing negative money thoughts like “I can’t save because I don’t make enough” with positive ones like “I’m putting this extra $5 toward my future.”

“As with anything in life, your attitude matters,” she adds.

Paquin says gamifying money can lead to mindset shifts, too.

“I like saving challenges, such as saving 1% of your income this month, then 2%, etc. — or saving all the $5 bills you come across,” she explains. “Money can be fun when you make it work for you.”

2. Track your spending

“You can’t change what you can’t see,” money saving expert Andrea Woroch points out.

“By writing down all your purchases and expenses, or inputting them into an app, you can visualize your spending habits and start the process of changing those that keep you from saving… i.e. impulse buys at Target or excessive entertainment spending.”

To do this, she suggests using an app like Mint, which tracks your purchases and alerts you when you’re overspending in a certain category. She also recommends tracking your debt repayment goals through Debt Free.

Speaking of goals, write them down.

“This gives you a sense of purpose. It allows you to set parameters, such as how much you want to save and by when, instead of trying to save with nothing to guide you. That’s when a lot of people get lost and give up,” says Woroch.

3. Start small — and automate

For Tsadik, the financial educator, successful saving is “all about paying yourself first.” She advises setting up a small weekly transfer — maybe just $10 — from your checking account to your savings account.

Wait a few weeks to see if you feel the pain. If you don’t (which I’m betting you won’t!), increase the amount. Wait a few weeks, then rinse and repeat.

“Before you know it, you will have a nice little savings cushion. And you will have gradually trained yourself to live on less and save more without feeling like you are depriving yourself of anything,” says Tsadik.

How Chime Can Help You Save

Ready to kick your savings journey into high gear? You need a bank you can trust — a bank like Chime.

Chime saves you money by, first and foremost, charging zero fees. Given that the average American pays $329 in bank fees each year, that’s a huge perk.

Beyond that, Chime also helps you save money automatically. As a Chime customer, you’ll have two accounts: one for spending and one for saving. Every time you make a purchase with your debit card, we round up the transaction to the nearest dollar — and transfer that amount from your spending to your savings account.

You can also set up automatic savings from your direct deposits, funneling up to 10% of every paycheck into your savings account. If your biweekly paycheck is $2,000, that means you’d save $5,200 in a single year. Imagine what you could use that for: an emergency cushion, a Roth IRA, or a seed fund for a house.

As Tsadik says: “Money should never be the end goal — it is what we use to get us to our end goal. When you save, you are building a financial foundation so that you can accomplish your dreams and live the life you desire!”

 

How This Millennial Side Hustled to Millionaire Status

You can call him king of the side hustle, but he will answer to Grant.

Grant Sabatier, 34 and a self-made millionaire, attributes his five-year rise to success to side hustling. Yes, he really side-hustled his way out of $30,000 debt and racked up one million plus in savings while working a 9-to-5 job.

But Sabatier, who runs Millennial Money, wasn’t always so money savvy. Not too long ago, his life looked like that of many millennials. In 2010, he lost his office job and moved back in with his parents with only $2.26 in his bank account. During this time, he applied to more than 200 jobs with no bites – not that he wanted to return to cubicle life.

The Google Searches That Changed Everything

Sabatier turned to Google for answers. And, his search for the best money books led him to Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez.

“I read the book and it completely changed my life,” he says.

“One of the co-authors, Joe Dominguez, actually retired at the age of 30, and it was so mind-blowing. I’d never heard of anything like that.”

Google also led him to the discovery of Google ads. He discovered that running Google campaigns for others was profitable. With the power of YouTube, he learned everything he could.

“The fastest path, I think, to six figures is just to get Google AdWord certified. Google offers a free certification exam, and it’s amazing. I mean, that’s how basically I made all of my money,” says Sabatier.

Not only did his new skillset earn him a digital marketing job in Chicago, but it was the foundation of his side hustle success.

The Many Side Hustles of Sabatier

Running one side hustle is a huge time commitment. Balancing 11 to 14 of them might be downright crazy, but that was Sabatier’s life at one point.

“I was working literally all the time,” he says.

He basically worked late at his digital marketing job to learn more from co-workers. He would then start his side business work after that and work as late as he could. He committed his weekends to the hustle, too.

“About three months in, I got my first side hustle gig, which was building a $500 website for a lawyer,” Sabatier says.

During this time, he started his own digital marketing agency. He also launched a second agency with two others. His businesses grew fast. Three months after his first $500 website, he sold his first $50,000 website.

“By the end of that first year, even though my full-time salary was $50,000, I’d made over $300,000.”

A Closer Look at Successful Side Hustles

You don’t need a dozen side hustles to see financial results. The majority of Sabatier’s side business income came from one area – SEO and digital marketing consulting. Here is a deeper look at his most successful gigs.

SEO and Digital Marketing

Since the beginning, Sabatier booked jobs in this niche. Yet, while his early start in the field proved lucrative, there are now scores of SEO experts for hire and competition is stiff. Does Sabatier still think this is a side hustle to pursue?

 

“Oh absolutely, I mean the Internet’s not slowing down. Certainly, areas are more

competitive than they were before, but demand just continues to grow for these skillsets.”

 

“That’s an important thing to note. Because just working to get a job is different than building a skillset that’s going to help you for the rest of your life. Having a diversity of skillsets in the digital space is setting you up for jobs that don’t even exist yet,” he says.

Domain Reselling

One of Sabatier’s favorite side hustles is buying and flipping domain names. He purchases domains from GoDaddy’s website and through auctions, and then sells them for a higher price. No website building required here.

“The simple rule of thumb is buying the highest value keyword domains,” he says.

“It’s very hard to buy a one-word domain now, but you can still buy two-word domains.”

He suggests combining two popular words and to stick with dot com names. How does he know which domains to buy? “It helps to really specialize in a niche that you know,” he says.

While Sabatier specializes in money and higher-ed domains, he is savvy when it comes domains in any industry. While watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians with his wife, for example, he noticed the way Kanye West was looking at Kim in her Miami store.

“You could just tell how smitten he was with her,” he says. “I was like, oh they’re totally going to date. So, I got on my phone and bought kimandkanye.com and kanyeandkim.com.”

While he can’t disclose how much he made on those sales, you can bet there were a few zeros attached to the price.

Other Side Hustles

You would need a book to detail all of Sabatier’s side hustle adventures. Speaking of books, Sabatier’s book Financial Freedom has a step-by-step framework to pitch, launch and grow a profitable side hustle.

 

For brevity’s sake, here is a list of some of his other hustles, besides Google campaigns, domain buying and selling, and building websites:

  • Concert and event ticket flipping
  • Dog walking
  • Launching a blog
  • Campers and moped flipping
  • Freelance white paper writing
  • Selling prospect leads to law firms

Words of Wisdom

“A side hustle’s a great thing to do if you have debt. People focus way too much on the debt that they have, and it stops them from going out and making more money,” says Sabatier.

“There’s a limit of how much you can cut back, but there’s not a limit to how much

money you can make. And so, you should spend your time trying to make more money.

The net ROI of that is going to be significantly higher than just cutting back over the long

term.”

 

On that note, go forth and side hustle.

 

How to Get Ahead If You’re Behind on Your Car Payments

Buying your first car is almost like a rite of passage. You’re officially an adult!

But then reality sets in. Having a car payment is a big responsibility and, with your other financial burdens (AKA student loans), things can get stressful  – fast. In fact, you may find that you are falling behind on your car payments.

This can be especially frightening because if you can’t make your payments, you run the risk of your car being repossessed by the lender. And, this can seriously hurt your credit.

So, what should you do if you find yourself struggling to make your car payments? We spoke to two experts who shared their tips for getting back on track financially. Read on to learn more.

What to Do If You’re Temporarily Behind on Car Payments

If you’ve recently faced tough times financially but expect to be back on your feet within a month or two, then your best bet is to negotiate with your lender. Kristy Runzer, CFP® and Founder of OnRoute Financial says it’s important to explain your situation in a clear and succinct way.

“Let them know you want to pay this loan back and that you would like to work together to find a solution. This will show lenders you’re serious and not trying to just skip out on the loan,” says Runzer.

After all, the last thing any lender wants is to spend time and resources to repossess your car. This is a lose-lose situation for both you and the lender. Runzer explains that by being proactive, you may be able to negotiate with your lender to extend your payment due date or extend the life of the loan to lower your monthly payment amount.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The worst case scenario is that they say no to your request, but they will usually be able to offer some alternative solutions,” says Runzer.

What to Do If You Can’t Afford Your Payment for the Foreseeable Future?

If you’ve found yourself in a situation where it’s going to be tough to make your monthly payment, Bola Sokunbi, CEO and founder of Clever Girl Finance, says to consider one of these options:

  • Trade in your car for a cheaper model.

If you have too much car for your budget, you may be able to downsize for a more affordable model. However, be sure to check if the trade-in value of your car will be enough to cover the full amount of the original loan. If the value isn’t enough, you may be on the hook for extra payments on the original amount. This is why it’s so important to read the fine print and crunch the numbers before you agree to any new terms.

  • Consider going without a car…at least temporarily. “Take a full assessment of where you live. You may be able to get rid of your car altogether [if you are not upside down on your loan] and leverage public transportation,” says Sokunbi, also a certified financial education instructor. Other options include biking to work or carpooling with your co-workers. In fact, some companies may offer incentives for employees who walk, bike or take public transportation to work.
  • Buy a cheaper car for cash. Sokunbi says that you can “absolutely find a reliable enough vehicle for between $3,000 and $5,000 that will get you from point A to point B.”

It may take you a few months to save up to make this purchase, but then you will only have to worry about your auto insurance payment instead of a hefty car payment as well. Plus you’ll benefit from having peace of mind — and you can’t put a price-tag on that.

Genius tip: Find a side hustle to accelerate your savings goal. There are so many options out there from selling plasma to teaching English online to turning your spare bedroom into an Airbnb. Just a few hours a week could totally transform your finances within a few short months!

Improve Your Credit

Sokunbi explains that a lack of credit history is a contributing factor of high car payments for some millennials. However, by taking steps to build up your credit score, you’ll have a lot more options to choose from that will be easier on your pockets.

“With an improved credit score, you can expect to benefit from a better interest rate which will save hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the life of your car loan,” says Sokunbi.

This option worked well for me a few years ago. When I bought my first car in 2013, my car payment was $405 per month. Although I earned a relatively good salary at the time, when coupled with my student loan payment and rent, I didn’t have much of a disposable income at the end of each month. It took me about six months to build up my credit score by strategically opening a few credit cards and keeping my credit card utilization ratio below 10 percent. After that, I was able to work with my lender to reduce my payments to $300 based on my improved credit score. This, in turn, gave me much more wiggle room in my budget.

Next Steps: Steer Your Finances in the Right Direction

Once you get a handle on your car situation, then it’s time to take control over the rest of your finances. An excellent starting point is to pay yourself first. This means you pay yourself each time you get a paycheck  – even before you pay your bills. It might sound like a strange concept but it’s a huge game changer for anyone who wants to get ahead with their money. Paying yourself first helps you prioritize your financial goals so that you can get on a path to financial security!

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