Tag: Budgeting

 

How to Invest Small Amounts of Money

When you think of investing, you might think of wealthy finance types or people straight out of The Wolf of Wall Street.

But, in reality, everyone can invest for the future, and you don’t have to have a ton of money to do so. We’ve scoured the web for some great resources and found these 10 best ways to invest small amounts of money. Read on to learn more.

1. Invest with a robo-advisor: $10

If you’re not sure how to start investing, try a robo-advisor. A robo-advisor is an online investing platform that can help manage your money.

For example, you can try investing with Betterment, one of the bigger robo-advisors out there. There is a minimum deposit of $10 and the annual fee is 0.25 percent. Other fees are based on your account balance.

When you get started, Betterment will ask you what you’re investing for — such as retirement or a down payment on a house. After that, based on your goals and risk tolerance, Betterment will create a custom portfolio for you. You can get started at Betterment.com.

2. Invest your spare change: $0.01+

When you make a purchase, it can feel like your spare change isn’t that important. But we know that small amounts of money can add up fast. That’s why Chime offers a round up savings program.

Applying this same philosophy to investing, you can invest your spare change with Acorns, a micro-investing platform that takes your change and builds a portfolio for you. And, investing your spare change with Acorns will only cost you one dollar per month.

Through Acorns, you invest with exchange-traded funds and the company will build a portfolio based on your financial goals.

3. Invest in certificate of deposits (CDs): $0-1,000

One way to invest small amounts of money with not-so-much risk is through certificates of deposit (CDs). According to Investor.gov, “A certificate of deposit (CD) is a savings account that holds a fixed amount of money for a fixed period of time, such as six months, one year, or five years, and in exchange, the issuing bank pays interest. When you cash in or redeem your CD, you receive the money you originally invested plus any interest. Certificates of deposit are considered to be one of the safest savings options.”

You can typically get certificates of deposit from a bank or financial institution. The minimum investment may vary but could be between $0-$1,000. Though CDs are considered safer and less risky, it also means they don’t have as high returns as other investment vehicles.

4. Invest with Prosper: $25+

Online loan marketplaces bring borrowers and lenders together. One such marketplace is Prosper. Through Prosper, you can invest $25 as a minimum per loan. These personal loans are offered to creditworthy borrowers and you can earn around 5.4 percent, according to the historical average. The best part is that you can get your earnings deposited into your account each month. While this comes with a moderate level of risk, it may not be as volatile as the stock market. Get started on Prosper.com.

5. Invest in social good: $50

What if you could invest money to support causes you care about? Well, you can do this through impact investing. Impact investing, aka socially responsible investing, allows investors to support causes like green energy, clean water, gender equality and more.

Using Swell Investing, you can begin growing your money and supporting causes you love with an initial deposit of $50. There’s a 0.75 percent annual fee and there are no trading fees or expense ratios. While there is risk with any type of investing, at least this way you know your money is supporting something you care about.

6. Invest based on themes: $250

Investing can be confusing, but it becomes simpler when you focus on a specific theme that you care about. Motif Investing offers you a way to invest in specific thematic portfolios such as technology or sports. You do need a bit more money than some of the other options here, with an initial investment of $250.

Once you select a theme, Motif builds a custom thematic portfolio. Find out more information on Motif.com.

7. Invest in fractional shares: $5

Investing doesn’t have to cost a lot of money! That’s certainly true with Stockpile, where you can start investing with just five dollars. You can buy fractional shares of stocks and exchange-traded funds. There are no fees or minimums and it’s 99 cents per trade. There are also mini-lessons, so you can learn as you go instead of waiting to invest when you have everything figured out. Get started at Stockpile.com.

8. Invest in low-cost index funds: no minimum

Low-cost index funds are Warren Buffett’s secret weapon. Index funds track different securities on an index, like the S&P 500.

Index funds can have lower costs and can offer more diversification. While investing in the stock market can be risky, diversification of index funds can help manage risk. Fidelity, for example, offers the ability to invest in index funds with no minimums and no account fees.

You can get started with Fidelity or Vanguard.

9. Invest in your retirement with a IRA: no minimum

You may or may not have a 401(k) with your employer. But anyone can invest for their retirement with a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account).

Using a brokerage firm, you can set up a retirement account and begin investing in your retirement immediately.

As of 2019, the contribution limit for IRAs is $6,000 per year. While the main tax difference is paying taxes now (Roth) or paying later (Traditional), there are income limits with a Roth IRA. To invest the full amount in a Roth IRA, your income must be less than $122,000 for single filers.

10. Invest in a 529 College Savings Plan: $25

If you have children, you can invest in a 529 College Savings Plan to help save for their education. Using an app like U-Nest, you can open an account with just $25. U-Nest costs three dollars a month and takes five minutes to set up on your phone. You can get started at U-nest.com.

Additional resources: How to invest small amounts of money

Using these 10 ways to invest small amounts of money, you can start growing your money today. Here are some additional resources you may want to check out:

  • Fidelity:  Fidelity is a brokerage offering various investment products and education resources.
  • Vanguard: Vanguard is another brokerage offering varying products and education material.
 

15 Quotes from Our Favorite Money Saving Experts

Like it or not, money makes the world go round. It provides you with basic necessities and helps you achieve your savings goals. Unfortunately, money doesn’t grow on trees.

But here’s the good news: You can save and earn more money by turning to experts for tips, tricks and inspiration. To help motivate you, check out these 15 quotes from our favorite money experts:

1) “Opportunities come infrequently. When it rains gold, put out the bucket, not the thimble.” – Warren Buffett

No one knows the importance of seizing upon an opportunity better than billionaire Warren Buffett. Buffett made his fortune by purchasing millions in stocks during lulls in the market.

The takeaway: While you may not have millions of dollars sitting around, you can still invest and earn more money. Whether this means accepting a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity, moving your money into a high-yield savings account, or taking advantage of swings in the market, be sure to put out your “bucket”…not your “thimble.”

2) “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” – Benjamin Franklin

Those little expenses add up – and no one says it better than inventor Benjamin Franklin. While it’s easy to keep your larger expenses in check, it’s not so easy to count all the small, every day expenses.

The takeaway: Those little expenses add up, and can rapidly ruin your budget. To keep yourself in check, evaluate your expenditures every month, and cut back on any miscellaneous, unbudgeted expenses.

3) “A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.” – William Feather

Perhaps no one explains the importance of budgeting better than publisher William Feather. A budget is a great tool to tell you where your money should go. But it’s up to you to hold yourself accountable.

The takeaway: Pay attention to your budget and don’t spend more than you have available.

 4) “Make sure you have financial intelligence… I don’t care if you have money or you don’t have money… you need to go and study finance no matter what.” – Daymond John

You don’t have to be a financial analyst in order to understand the basics of finance. And this quote from entrepreneur Daymond John proves just that. No matter who you are, it’s vital that you educate yourself on the basics of personal finance.

The takeaway: Educate yourself by making free simple moves like reading books from the library or personal finance blogs.

5) “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” – Robert H. Schuller

Everyone faces a difficult financial period at some point. But instead of panicking or becoming overwhelmed, it’s important to note that these times are only temporarily.

The takeaway: With a lot of hard work, smart planning and determination, any financial situation can be turned around over time, no matter how bad it is.

6)  “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

So, you want to take control of your finances? You want to switch jobs? Start your own business? Any financial decision is just a thought until you take action.

The takeaway: Turn your thoughts into actions. Take a leap and make your financial goals a reality.

7) “Personal finance is only 20% head knowledge. It’s 80% behavior!” –Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey, financial expert and author of Total Money Makeover, has a unique approach to finances. According to him, your finances are more a reflection of your behaviors than your financial knowledge.

The takeaway: Establish positive money habits like creating a budget or automating your savings. Celebrate your new behaviors, which can easily become money wins.

8) “A big part of financial freedom is having your heart and mind free from worry about the what-ifs of life.” – Suze Orman

Financial guru Suze Orman is a huge proponent of saving money. And, saving for an emergency can save you oodles of stress.

The takeaway: Instead of worrying about how you’ll pay for unexpected expenses, consider starting an emergency fund.

9) Money, like emotions, is something you must control to keep your life on the right track.” -Natasha Munson

Money isn’t the end-all, be-all, but it certainly is important. Just like you must keep your emotions in check, it’s important to keep your finances in check, according to Natasha Munson.

The takeaway: Take steps to improve your finances as this will give your some control over your life and decisions.

10) “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.” – Confucius

Even according to Confucius in ancient times, planning ahead was extremely important!

You never know when something unfortunate could happen.

The takeaway: Prepare for the unknown by saving money for a rainy day.

11) “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” – Joe Biden

Unfortunately, simply creating a budget doesn’t mean you are on track financially. In order to keep yourself on track with your budget, check out these tips from EveryDollar.

The takeaway: Adhere to a reasonable budget so that you’ll be more apt to make strides with your financial situation.

12) “It’s simple arithmetic: Your income can grow only to the extent that you do.” — T. Harv Eker

T. Harv Elker, the author of “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind,” is an enormous proponent of personal development. In fact, he claims that your income is a direct reflection of your personal growth.

The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself! Here are a few affordable ways you can invest in yourself while on a budget.

13) “Money isn’t everything, but it’s right up there with oxygen.” – Zig Ziglar

Money truly isn’t everything. But it does afford you the lifestyle you want, according to businessman Zig Ziglar.

The takeaway: You can’t ignore money. Instead, it’s important to prioritize your money goals so that you can afford the lifestyle you want.

14) “You can have excuses or you can have success; you can’t have both.” ― Jen Sincero

According to Jen Sincero, author of “You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth,” success takes a lot of work. So, instead of blaming your financial woes on your present situation, she proposes that you take control of your situation and turn it around.

The takeaway: Think of your financial situation as a reflection about your attitude about work. Hey, it’s worth a shot!

15) “In fact, what determines your wealth is not how much you make but how much you keep of what you make.” ― David Bach

According to David Bach, author of “Smart Women Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Achieving Financial Security and Funding Your Dreams,” you can make all the money you have ever imagined…but if you can’t save that money, you have nothing. This is particularly liberating if you don’t earn a ton of money.

The takeaway: Whether you earn $30,000 a year or $100,000, your savings is what matters most! On that note, we’ll leave you with this pro tip: Don’t forget to save even more money by opening a Chime savings account!

 

20 Reddit Personal Finance Tips We Love

When it comes to personal finance advice, there’s so much information out there. It can be dizzying to sort through personal finance podcasts, books and blog posts. I mean, which personal finance experts should you trust? And where do you go for some easy-to-understand personal finance tips?

In comes Reddit.

Reddit’s user-generated content is free and can be a good source of information if you want to improve your financial situation.

The Best Financial Advice from Personal Finance Redditors

We’ve selected awesome financial advice from the Reddit subreddit r/personalfinance. We even scoured through posts and comments to find some gems to help you take action with your money. Are you ready? Take a look at these 20 financial tips from selected Redditors.

1. Save or pay off debt based on your situation – by Zambenis

Should you save or pay off debt? It’s an age-old question and the answer can vary. This Reddit user shares the nuance of the situation. If your job is secure and you have strong relationships, an emergency fund of up to three months can be a good start. This way you can  focus on repaying debt. If your employment situation is less stable, saving a larger emergency fund is a better option before going beast mode on your debt. So, build your emergency fund based on your situation and work toward getting out of debt.

2. Save and invest automatically – by flat_top

We love this post because we also believe in paying yourself first. Most people spend first and then feel like they have nothing to save. Here we are reminded that we should save and invest first, and then see how much we can spend on everything else. Automatically saving can help you do this. Using Chime, you can automatically save 10 percent every time you get paid. You can also round up your purchases so you’re saving every time you spend.

3. Budgeting can help you avoid credit card debt – by dajesus77

Have you ever checked your bank account and winced? Have you ever wondered just how much you charged on your credit card? Keeping yourself in the dark about spending can lead to debt. That’s why a budget is a perfect antidote to keep your spending in check and avoid credit card debt. To start, create a budget, track your expenses, and check your bank and credit card balances every day.

4. Not investing can cost you money due to inflation – by  GivemetheDetails

Let’s face it, investing is scary. There’s risk involved and so many factors outside of our control. But keeping all your money in cash and not investing anything is not the wisest choice. So, start by figuring out your risk tolerance and investing some of your money, while also keeping some of your money liquid in cash savings.

5. How to get a credit card with limited credit by BrunedockSaint

It’s a catch 22. To get approved for a credit card, you need to have credit history. But how can you build credit history if you’ve never had a credit card and no one will give you one with no credit? Here, the Reddit user shares his or her experience in banking and getting a credit card with limited credit. For starters, get a card from your bank, use a co-signer, get a store card, or even a secured card. The key is to repay your balance in full and on-time.

6. Advice on getting out of debt by PacificNorthLeft

Ready to get out of debt? It’s time to ditch those extra expenses (for now) and budget. Pick a debt repayment method, like the debt avalanche method where you focus on eliminating your high interest debt first. While paying off debt, you can still save for retirement, even if it’s a small amount. It all starts with saying goodbye to some expenses and having a plan.

7. Saving is only one part of the equation, focus on earning more too by – gregaustex

Personal finance advice tends to favor frugality. Save money! Ditch lattes! We dig frugality too, but it has a plateau. There’s a limit to how much you can cut back. This post reminds us of that and advises us to maximize our earnings too. So that means asking for that raise, earning more through side hustling, and starting that business. Saving is just one part of the equation — earning more is another part.

8. Best way to pay extra on a car loan by hrds21198

Do you have a car loan and want to pay it off fast? It’s best to call the company first. This Reddit post notes that sometimes extra payments are applied to interest and not the principal. To make sure your extra payments are going where you want them to, give the company a call and say you want to pay more toward your auto loan and you want it to go toward the principal balance.

9. Simple student loan advice by article4freeman

There’s so much student loan advice out there. Here we have simple advice. Save up a few months of expenses as a cushion, then pay off your student loans fast. After that, take the amount you put toward debt and save and invest it.

10. Start Investing in a 401(k) by KermitMadMan

You know you should be saving for retirement and one easy way to do that is through your 401(k). But how do you get started? First, make sure your emergency savings is covered. If your company has a 401(k) match, contribute enough to get the match. The key is to start somewhere and keep building.

11. Best financial tips to manage money and move out by mormengil

When you’re just getting started with adulting, managing your money can seem hard. How do you get started? How can you manage your money to move out of your parents house? This post gives a step-by-step guide on where to put extra savings and how you can manage your money and prepare to move out.

12. Fixed or variable interest rates by DaTower75

If you’re about to take out a loan, you probably will choose from a variable or fixed rate. Which one is better? Although variable rates may be lower, interest rates are likely to go up, so locking in a fixed rate can be a good option.

13. Create a “fun” savings account by Jrlutz31

Here’s some advice we can get behind. Create a “fun money” savings account! No more guilt about having fun. It’s in the budget. You have the cash. Start by saving automatically and setting some money aside specifically for F-U-N. Having fun with your money can help you enjoy life and may even help you stay on top of your other financial goals because you don’t feel deprived.

14. Getting out of overdraft fees by clearwaterrev

Overdraft fees suck. This post helps share how you can waive those pesky fees and get rid of them if you’re in this situation. You can also choose a bank like Chime which has absolutely no fees.

15. Know where your money goes and how to budget by tracking by xaradevir

Many of us have thought, “Where the heck did my money go?” It happens. This post reminds us to track, track, track. Track everything. Start by going through all your expenses over the past month. Write down ‘need’ or ‘want’ and evaluate where you can cut back. You can’t improve your financial situation unless you really know what’s going on with your money.

16.  Don’t try to time the stock market by KCPilot17

In this environment, people are starting to lose their minds over the stock market. Is another recession coming? What should you do? Keep it simple. Stay on course and don’t try to game the market. Think long-term, not short-term, and stick with the plan. Avoid emotional reactions to the market and know that the stock market can recover in time.

17. Building credit with credit cards the right way by owari69

Credit cards and building credit can be confusing. Yet, it’s fairly simple. Get a card and pay it back on time. Over time, your credit score will improve. It all starts with using credit responsibly. Pay off your balance in full by the due date. Keep your balances low. Only borrow what you need.

18.  Don’t take on debt just to build credit by JsLadder

So, you may need some type of credit to build credit. But you should never take on debt and pay interest just to build your credit. You don’t need to take out a car loan just to improve your credit. There are other ways to do this. For example, you can start with a secured credit card or only use your credit card for groceries and pay it in full.

19.  Max out retirement by the end of the year by acosmichippo

By the end of the year, there are ways to maximize your money. It’s the best time to max out your 401(k) contributions and HSA. This advice is simple and to the point.

20. Tips on how to get a raise by buyabighouse

As noted in another one of these Reddit tips, earning more is part of the financial equation. This can be done by asking for a raise. But, how do you that? Start by doing research on Glassdoor or Payscale to see what the market rate is for your position and your area. Keep tabs on your accomplishments and at the right time, talk to your supervisor about a raise. It can be uncomfortable but growth always is!

Get started

Read to improve your finances? You can start by checking out these 20 Reddit personal finance tips on everything from paying off your student loans, building your credit score and asking for a raise. What financial tips would you add?

 

 

Take Action: These 7 Budgeting Tips Will Change Your Life

“It’s complicated” might be the best way to describe the relationship many millennials have with money.

Here’s why: While young adults transition to financial responsibility, it can be a struggle to stay ahead, especially if you’re early in your career and aren’t earning enough to keep up with the rising cost of living. In fact, you may even be living paycheck to paycheck or be saddled with student loan debt. If this sounds like you, you probably aren’t in any place to save for a house or retirement.

If you can relate, here are seven budgeting tips to help you start saving money.

Ignore the Joneses

Before making any tangible budgeting moves, think about your financial state of mind. Are you spending too much or living beyond your means just to impress friends or strangers?

“Comparing yourself to what others have, constantly upgrading your lifestyle just to keep up with friends, family, or trends on social media can hurt your pockets and put you in unnecessary debt,” says Todd Kunsman, a millennial personal finance expert and founder of Invested Wallet.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is just another way of covering insecurities with wasteful spending. Adopting a new mindset will help you spend smartly and avoid succumbing to lifestyle inflation. This way you’ll have more cash on hand to invest and save.

Start that budget

Before you can start determining how much to save, how much to spend or anything in between, you’ll need to create a budget. How else will you know how much money you’re bringing in, and how much you’re letting go?

There are a host of budgeting apps to help you out, like MintYou Need a Budget, and Mvelopes — and of course, you can use the mobile banking option with the Chime app. Tap into technology with these budgeting tools and you can create custom categories (i.e. rent, eating out, groceries, utilities, entertainment, student loans and other expenses), and create a monthly budget based on your income and expenses.

Connect with your Credit

Don’t let student loan debt discourage you from opening a credit card. And if you have no credit history, not to worry; there are credit cards designed for people looking to create and build credit.

College students, new grads and those early in their careers can look for a secured credit card. Unlike an unsecured credit card – where your card provider gives you a credit limit to borrow against – a secured credit card is, like its name says, “secured” by a refundable cash deposit. You’ll need to deposit a designated amount in order to set your credit allowance. Once you start establishing a positive credit history, you’ll be able to qualify for an unsecured credit card at higher credit limits and lower interest rates.

Once you’ve got your card, it’s time to check your credit. Signing up for a site like CreditKarma.com allows you to view and monitor your credit score and credit history. You can also access a free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Cut back on unnecessary dining out expenses

It’s hard to resist the temptation to eat out every night or give up those daily Starbucks runs. But this can really eat into your budget.

Cutting back on some of these expenses and making your own meals, however, can make a huge difference.

Lori Cheek, who runs mobile app Cheekd, tried this approach living in a big city and saved more money than she expected.

“I’ve stopped getting a cup of coffee a day and instead I carry instant coffee singles and on the go creamer and I just find a cup of hot water. When I do the math, my singles and creamer cost about $80 a year and my Grande Blonde at Starbucks a day would cost me $876. That’s a savings of almost $800,” says Cheek.

One of the best ways to save money on eating out is to make your own meals.

“There are so many avenues to learn how to cook — through reading a cookbook, visiting food blogs, and watching YouTube videos — and it will save you a lot of money in the long run,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com.

Embrace frugality

If you must spend on necessities, do it smartly and frugally.

“Thrift shops and couponing can be your best friends,” says Kunsman of Invested Wallet.

Kunsman advises using coupons whenever possible. “Groceries can get expensive, but they don’t have to be with smart shopping. This should be a no-brainer, but so many people in my generation or younger don’t take the time.”

Steven Sinatra is a millennial who runs a pawn shop named World Pawn Exchange with his father, and advocates buying things second-hand when possible.

“If you simply must have something, look around for it used before buying new. You can find basically anything on eBay used,” says Sinatra.

Get a side gig

A balanced financial plan doesn’t just mean scaling back or scrounging for discounts. It should also include new ways to make money. That’s where side hustles come in.

If you have a 9 to 5 job already, find a side gig that you can fit into your schedule, or one that complements your talents. You might try tutoring or driving for a rideshare company. You can even get paid for signing up for clinical studies or being a mystery shopper. And if you’re creative or crafty, sell baked goods. The opportunities for earning cash are limitless.

Set savings goals

It can be hard to stick with a budget, but if you identify financial goals, you’ll have an idea of where you’d like to be in a few months, next year, or even in a decade.

“Life and your budget is all about priorities,” says Ashley Patrick, a financial coach and founder of the site Budgets Made Easy.

“You can still have fun on a budget, you just have to set money aside for it. It doesn’t have to be super restrictive where you work all the time and don’t do anything. It’s just about prioritizing. If being debt-free is important, then make it a priority in your budget,” says Patrick.

How Chime can help

Another tip to keep in mind: Automate your savings. An online bank account with Chime automatically deposits money into a savings account. This way you can save money without thinking about it. The Chime app is intuitive, and tracks your spending and savings as you go.

Remember that once you start budgeting, you’ll see what works for you and your money. And, by following these seven tips — plus using the Chime app — you’ll be on your way to successful budgeting. You may even find yourself giving helpful advice to your friends and family.

 

How Much Do Millennials Spend on Sports?

When it comes to saving money — and spending it — it’s all about priorities. For many millennials, having stuff takes a backseat to having fun. In fact, half of millennials say they’d rather drop their cash on experiences, versus buying material things.

Riley Adams, founder of millennial finance site Young and the Invested, says experiences easily trump “things” in terms of emotional value.

“For me, the sense of fulfillment which comes from experiencing new things far outweighs the fleeting happiness which comes from buying physical possessions. In the end, I value the lasting memory as my reward more so than a physical possession,” says Adams.

And just what are millennials spending on? Travel and concerts are on the list but they’re also spending big on something else: sports. With Americans collectively spending $14.8 billion to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday, we thought we’d take a closer look at the millennial mindset when it comes to sports and other experiences.

How millennial sports spending adds up

Over the last few years, spending patterns in the U.S. have fueled the growth of the experience economy, which includes spending on sports. Millennials easily outstrip other generations for monthly spending on entertainment in general, as well as sports.

Check out these numbers measuring how much Americans spent on sports in 2016:

  • $56 billion attending sporting events
  • $33 billion on athletic equipment
  • $19 billion on gym memberships

A more recent study found that Americans spend $155 per month on personal health and fitness, including:

  • $33 on gym memberships
  • $56 on health supplements
  • $35 on workout clothing and accessories
  • $17 for healthy meal plans
  • $14 on personal trainers

The 2016 survey found that 36 percent of millennials spend money on monthly gym memberships. In fact, they’re twice as likely as any other generation to hit the gym regularly.

Millennials are also spending money on professional sporting events. In 2018, 25 to 34-year-olds spent an average of $118.43 to watch the Super Bowl. Thirty-four percent of millennials paid for mobile apps to watch the NCAA tournament from their smartphones in 2017, and one in four paid to increase a data plan to make streaming games easier.

What motivates millennial sports spending

Todd Weitzman, founder of MoneyHax, says accessibility is one way to explain millennials’ sports spending preferences.

While being a sports spectator has always been a popular activity, it’s now more possible to actually become an athlete or participant, and this makes sports more relatable, says Weitzman.

The FOMO factor may also have something to do with it. Nearly 40 percent of millennials say they’ve spent money they didn’t have to keep up with their friends. Adams says the FOMO effect can be chalked up in part to social media, which makes it easy for millennials to share their experiences with their followers. Seeing a steady stream of sports-themed photos in your Facebook or Instagram feed, for example, can make you more inclined to spend on sports yourself.

Personal health and fitness spending, on the other hand, may have a link to millennials’ interest in self-care and wellness. In a 2015 survey, 94 percent of millennials said they were committed to self-improvement and they were willing to spend $300 a month on average to meet their fitness and wellness goals.

Finding balance with sports and experience spending

Spending on sports and experiences can feel good in the moment and lead to lasting memories. But, your budget can feel the pain later. Drawing boundaries on sports spending and finding ways to save money can keep those experiences from breaking the bank.

First, review your regular expenses and income to figure out how much you can reasonably spend on sports and experiences each month. You can also go over your sports and experience spending for the last year and total up how much you spent. Use that number as a guide to decide how much you want to earmark for sports spending each month. Remember to budget extra if you’re planning to attend a once-in-a-lifetime event like the Super Bowl or World Series.

Next, consider opening a bank account just for sports spending. This can be a savings account if you want to earn interest or a checking account if you want easy access to the money. The idea is to have a separate place to park money you plan to spend on experiences.

“Setting aside a fixed amount in a dedicated savings account might be a smart way to enforce discipline on your spending habits if you have trouble controlling your spending on entertainment events,” Adams says.

Ben Huber, co-founder of DollarSprout, agrees.

“Be it a gym membership, sporting event or some other form of entertainment, millennials should consider setting up direct deposit to a new account solely reserved for events and their associated travel expenses,” he says.

Finally, look for ways to cut corners on sports spending without sacrificing fun. Weitzman, for example, has used eBay and StubHub to find deals on tickets to games. He and his wife also bring bottled water and snacks along whenever possible to save money on concessions.

If you live near a sporting venue and you’re comfortable taking a gamble, Huber suggests waiting until the day before to try and score tickets.

“Ticket prices may drop 25-50 percent in the last 12 hours leading up to events on nearly all of the major ticket exchanges. If your travel plans are flexible and it’s not a highly sought after event, there’s a good chance you can save hundreds on premium seating at most major sporting events,” he says.

There are also plenty of apps and websites you can use to save on sports and fitness. TopCashback.com and Ebates, for example, allow you to earn cash back when you shop online at partner retailers. That could come in handy if you’re shopping online for new workout gear or sports equipment. You can also use sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com to find promo codes and printable coupons for even more savings on fitness.

How much will you spend on sports this year?

In-between checking out the Super Bowl halftime show, gearing up for March Madness or waiting for baseball season to kick off, think about how much you’ll spend on sports in the year ahead. From there, create a budget and open a bank account for sports spending. This way you can cheer on your favorite team or go to the gym without money headaches getting in the way.

 

How to Be Financially Productive in the Winter

If you live in many parts of the country, the winter seems to drag on. Instead of weekends at the beach or picnics in the park, you may be stuck inside, huddled in front of a fire and binging on yet another Netflix series.

But why not use these cold days to be financially productive? To help you figure out ways to improve your finances during the winter, take a look at these four tried-and-true tips.

1. Organize your taxes

Before you let out a long groan, we’re right there with you: Preparing your taxes is no fun. But, wouldn’t you rather be doing this now – when it’s dark by 6 pm and freezing outside – than in April when you could be having fun in the sun?

So, take the time now to organize your necessary tax forms, fill out a tax organizer, itemize any tax deductions, and figure out how much you can contribute to a retirement plan. If you have a salaried job and received a W-2 form, your tax prep may be pretty straightforward. But if you have a side hustle or are self-employed, your tax organization may take a bit longer. The key here is: Don’t wait until April 14 to file your taxes by the April 15 deadline. Besides, if you get ahead of the game, you can get your refund sooner.

Pro tip: Open a Chime bank account and get your tax refund via direct deposit. All you have to do is select “direct deposit” on your online tax return software and fill in your Chime Spending Account and routing number. As soon as your refund is automatically deposited into your account, you’ll receive a text alert and email from Chime. Cha-ching!

2. Audit your bank account and find ways to save

I don’t know about you, but I am much more eager to be out of the house when the weather is warm. So, what to do on a day when you just don’t feel like braving the harsh weather? Audit your bank account and see where you can save money. This way you’ll have more cash for a summer road trip, your emergency fund or your other savings goals.

Start by spending an hour on a cold winter day and looking through your monthly spending for the past three months (or elect to audit just the past month or some other time frame.) Take a close look at what you’re spending money on and where you’re spending it. Even if you think you know exactly how you spend your cash, you’ll be surprised by what you discover.

Here are a couple of examples of what I found on a recent bank account audit: My cable bill had crept up for the past three months, my spending on groceries seemed out of whack, and I still had my husband on my gym membership even though he never goes.

It was time to do something about this. So, I ended up switching from my cable provider to a fiber-optic network (long story short: we can’t cut the cable or fiber optic cord entirely because my husband won’t give up his local sports channels.) This will save us $50 a month right off the bat. Not only that but the new provider threw in a free year of Amazon Prime, Amazon Echo and two $50 Visa gift cards. Score!

As for the high grocery bills, I decided to try a meal delivery service with a discount code for $80 off the first month. I loved it so much much that I’m now paying the regular $55 a week for three meals a week. But, get this: I was spending $600 a month on groceries for my husband and I. That is now reduced to $250 a month. Add to that $220 per month for the meal service. This means our monthly grocery nut is now $470 a month, a $130 savings each month! Plus, cooking at home is now easier and more convenient, so we don’t order takeout or go out to dinner nearly as frequently. And you guessed it: This saves us even more money.

Lastly, I called my gym and removed my husband from my membership, saving me $30 a month. That’s what I call easy money in the bank.

The takeaway: You can find ways to save money on a cold winter day – simply by spending an hour auditing your bank account.

3. Budget better

Is your budget working for you? If not, don’t give up. There are lots of budgeting methods and the one you’re using now may not be a good fit for you.

What to do? Spend an afternoon researching different types of budgeting methods, including the 50/30/20 budget, the envelope method, and the zero-based budget. Figure out whether a different kind of budget would work better for your spending and savings habits. Factor in whether you need to save more money into an emergency fund or free up cash to pay down your debt. Think of this time of year as a great opportunity to dive in and make any necessary changes to your budgeting method.

4. Automate your savings

By now you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the benefits of automating. But are you taking advantage of this?

If not, sit down and implement simple financial changes that will allow you to automate your money, enabling you to save more cash without even thinking about it. For example, now may be a good time to switch to a bank that will help you level up your savings account. If you’re a Chime member, for instance, all of your purchases on your debit card can be rounded up to the nearest dollar. And this round up amount is then automatically deposited into your Savings account. On top of this, Chime will automatically deposit 10% of your paycheck into your Chime Savings account.

Chill out

We get it: Winter can be miserable. But instead of complaining about the weather, you can turn those cold, snowy days into financial opportunities. By following the four tips here, you’ll be able to get your tax refund sooner, create a budget that works, and find new ways to save money. And just think: Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the spring with less financial stress!

 

14 Budget-Friendly Valentine’s Day Date Ideas That Don’t Suck

For the first few years of our relationship, my husband and I never thought twice about going out for a five-star meal on Valentine’s Day. It was just the thing to do. After all, the average American spends more than $140 on this holiday.

Yet, here was the problem: We couldn’t afford those dinners, especially with piling up credit card charges, burdensome student loans payments and hefty car notes. So, we started celebrating Valentine’s Day on a budget and we actually enjoyed ourselves just as much (if not more) because we had to get creative.

Although we have now paid off our consumer debt, we decided to keep up our thrifty Valentine’s Day tradition. This way we can focus on our other money goals for this year and beyond.

If you’re also looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day on a budget, check out these 14 date ideas that won’t make you look like a cheapskate:

For the Romantics At Heart

Cook together.
This is a popular at-home date night recommendation but it can be stressful if you wait until the last minute to figure out your menu. Instead, consider testing out a meal delivery service or check out Instacart, which I find to be a huge time (and therefore money saver).

At-home spa night.
While you may not have the hands of a massage therapist, you can easily recreate a calming, spa-like atmosphere right in your own home. Budget-friendly tip: Shop your hall closet for candles, aromatherapy oils and other at-home spa essentials. In the end, you may only need to spend money on rose petals to turn this idea into the most romantic Valentine’s Day ever.

Create a scavenger hunt.
It’s time to put your Pinterest skills to good use with this Valentine’s Day activity. Showcase your thoughtfulness by including riddles that incorporate memories from milestone events like your first date. Your grand finale (final clue) doesn’t have to be expensive either. It can be home cooked dinner by the fireplace, picture of the two of you or a picnic lunch.

Bury a time capsule.
Fill a box with keepsakes that represent both you and your SO, write a sweet note to your future selves and bury it. Hint: You can repurpose almost anything such as a shoebox for your time capsule instead of going out and buying something new.

Scrapbook together.

Pour a glass of wine and get ready to enjoy a trip down memory lane with your person. I also love that this sweet date night idea can double as a great way to get rid of clutter and turn it into cash (not very romantic, I know, but it is a tip worth sharing).

Treat your SO to breakfast in bed.

When was the last time you made your partner breakfast in bed? Or maybe a better question is: Have you ever made your partner breakfast? Be sure to include a sweet handwritten note when you surprise your SO with this thoughtful gesture!

At-home movie night with a twist.
Borrow a projector or even use a large television screen to create a romantic outdoor or indoor movie theater experience without breaking the bank.

For the Outdoorsy Couple

Cozy bonfire date.

My husband recently spent five dollars on a fire pit at a garage sale and we can’t wait to test it out on Valentine’s Day. I already have the marshmallows and hot cocoa mix added to our grocery list!

Sledding.

If you want to have some real fun on Valentine’s Day then add this winter activity to your to-do list. Cuddle up with a warm beverage once you’re finished acting like a big kid with your favorite human.

Winter hike.

Yes, this is a thing! Just be sure to check out these safety tips before embarking on your adventure.

For the Couple Who Doesn’t Like At-Home Date Nights

Dessert-only date.

Fill up on dinner at home and save the spending for a delicious sweet treat. Scout out a nice ice cream parlor or a quaint bakery in a cute nearby town. End the night with a romantic walk.

Trivia night.

If you and your partner are competitive then this could be the perfect date night that costs less than $25. Plus, you may even win some money when all is said and done!

Choose lunch over dinner.
Eating lunch out is less expensive than dinner. Plain and simple. For instance, Money Crashers notes that at the Cheesecake Factory, “Dinner entrees range in price from $11 to $30 [while] lunch specials cost between $9 and $14.” If you skip dessert and take it easy on the beverages, you won’t have to spend more than $50.

For the Couple Who Thinks Outside of the Box

Don’t celebrate at all.

If your main reason for celebrating Valentine’s Day is that everyone else is, then it may be time to reconsider your approach. I spoke with one couple who doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day at all.

Ellie from EllieMondelli.com says, “It’s very simple for us — we view this holiday as yet another excuse to spend money. It doesn’t fit in with any of our goals, so we don’t celebrate it.”

This type of discipline has enabled the Mondelli’s to pay off their mortgage before she turned 30!

 

The Real Cost Behind Red Carpet Looks

I know I can’t be the only one who thinks celebrities look absolutely flawless and stunning at red carpet events. But, let’s be real: It takes a whole team to create those glam looks, from hair and makeup, to attire and accessories.

So what’s the real cost behind red carpet looks? And how can you achieve something similar without blowing all your savings?

To help you go glam without breaking the bank, we’ve broken the costs. Take a look at how you can recreate your own red carpet look for your special event – on a budget.

Pre-Event Skincare Routine

You better believe that celebs have their own proven pre-event skincare routines to keep their skin glowing and blemish-free. Jennifer Aniston’s skin care routine, for example, reportedly runs around $1,187. This includes facials, chemical peels, skins creams, etc.

Other celebrities have been known to pay anywhere from $180 to $800 per facial, according to Vogue.

Budget-Friendly Hack: Don’t have $1,000 to shell out on skin products and services? No worries. Celebs recommend Neutrogena’s Facial Cleansing bar which only costs around three to four dollars. You can also get the Kinara Red Carpet Facial Kit on Amazon for $114. Or you can get free skin care product samples from direct sales associates for companies like Avon and Mary Kay.

Hair Styling

Your hairstyle can make or break your red carpet look. Some celebs take huge risks with their hair for events while others keep it classic. Hair styling can cost anywhere from $300 to upwards of $1,200 for red carpet events. According to Business Insider, Jennifer Aniston’s hair styles by celebrity hair stylist Chris McMillan have been known to cost $920. This includes both the haircut and color.

Budget-Friendly Hack: If you want a glamorous hairdo fit for the red carpet, all you need to do is find an exceptional stylist who’s willing to work with your budget. Show her the celebrity hairstyle you’re looking to emulate, and see if she can do something similar for you.

You can also check out celebrity salon chains like Mario Tricocci and take advantage of the expert services. Also, be sure to look for periodic offers at salons and deals on sites like Groupon.

Nails

Famous artists and entertainers like Beyonce can spend up to $900 on nails alone. Well, in Beyonce’s case they were gold nails, but this is still a steep price to pay.

Budget-friendly hack: Do your own nails. Purchase a quality polish from the drugstore and give yourself a manicure. You can also buy press-on nail polish strips for less than $10. Local nail shops can also give you a celebrity-worthy look for much less – whether you’re looking for acrylic nails, gel, or even 3-D elements like this.

Red Carpet Outfit

The outfit is often the most expensive part of a winning red carpet look. Women can spend six figures on dresses, while men can spend thousands of dollars on a nice tux.

In 2014, actress Lupita Nyong’o wore a $140,000 Calvin Klein dress to the Oscars. In 2015, actor Eddie Redmayne wore a $3,500 Alexander McQueen blue sapphire tux to the Academy Awards. Cate Blanchett, however, takes the cake by wearing an $18.1 million Armani Prive gown to the Academy Awards.

But are celebrities really paying big bucks to wear these outfits? Perhaps. Many of them, however, borrow attire or are gifted ensembles by designers who are hoping for a shout-out on the red carpet.

Budget-friendly hack: If you have a special event coming up, you can get a similar look without going into debt. For example, try checking out sites like Rent the Runway and Fashion Nova. At Rent the Runway, you actually rent the clothing via monthly subscriptions, while Fashion Nova sells fashionable attire for deeply discounted prices.

Shoes and Accessories

Shoes and accessories for a red carpet look can cost just as much as the outfit. It’s not unheard of for celebrities to wear $20,000 earrings and $600 designer shoes, while carrying a  $1,500 designer bag.

Again, these items may be rented or gifted from the designers themselves, but it’s still probably out of the question for people like you and me.

Budget-friendly hack: Charming Charlie is an accessories store when you can buy beautiful jewelry and bags for a fraction of the cost at other retailers. In addition, Stella and Dot is a great website to shop for statement jewelry. You can also find gently-used designer and brand name shoes and bags at Poshmark, ThredUp, and Plato’s Closet for affordable prices.

Is the Cost Worth It?

Red carpet looks for exclusive events like the Academy Awards can cost thousands of dollars. So, is the cost worth it? For celebrities, the answer is probably yes, as they will be photographed and interviewed for the world to see.

Luckily, you can still achieve a fantastic look without spending thousands of dollars. All you have to do is ditch the designer labels and use the resources above above to get the red carpet look you deserve. Better yet, you can go glam on a budget.

 

How To Budget for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Regardless of whether you spend it with your long-time love, a new acquaintance or close friends, Valentine’s Day is a holiday designed to celebrate love.

Unfortunately, this holiday comes at a high price. According to the National Retail Federation, the average American consumer spent $143.56 on Valentine’s Day celebrations last year alone. That’s a whole lot of dough.

Yet, you don’t have to spend a ton of cash to enjoy Valentine’s Day. With some wise planning, budgeting, and saving in advance, you can make this Valentine’s Day one for the books – without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Set your budget

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make Valentine’s Day fun and special, but then again, it is only one day out of the year. It’s not worth going broke over.

So, determine what your budget will be, and stick to it. To figure out your budget, it’s best to plan according to the stage of your relationship. For example, if you have a significant other, you may want to do something special that may require saving money ahead of time. And, if you’re in the early stages of a relationship, there is no need to go all out for the big holiday. A  simple, quiet get-together is probably fine.

Plan your activities

Now it’s time to plan your realistic celebrations. Whether you dream about going to a fancy, romantic restaurant, cooking at home, or something else, you may need to plan for your activities.

Check out these 10 fun Valentine’s Day activities for both kids and couples by Money Crashers. They are proof that you don’t have to spend a ton in order to express your love.

Don’t forget about additional costs

Now that you have your Valentine’s Day celebration planned, the bulk of the work is finished. But don’t forget – there are often quite a few last minute costs associated with Valentine’s Day. Don’t forget to budget for them!

Whether you want to pick up some chocolates, flowers, or even just a card, these all cost money. If you plan to purchase any additional gifts, be sure to add them into your initial budget.

Tips for an affordable Valentine’s Day

No matter what your budget is, you can make your Valentine’s Day special and memorable without breaking the bank. Take a look:

1. Don’t go overboard

Valentine’s Day can be special without going completely overboard. Who says you have to go out to a fancy, expensive dinner or buy lavish gifts?

You can have a memorable Valentine’s Day by thinking outside the box. Go hiking, enjoy a picnic, or go to a museum for a day date. Think about ways to save money, avoid crowds and create a day you and your significant other will remember for years to come.

2. Celebrate after the holiday

Valentine’s Day gets busy quickly. Restaurants get full, floral shops are overrun, and even the chocolate is overpriced. So why not make it a point to celebrate after the fact, when you can both get more bang for your buck?

Not only will you have more options available after the holiday, but you will fight fewer crowds. So, see if your significant other is on board for staying in on February 14, but willing to celebrate over the next weekend. This gives you more wiggle room in your budget, plus you can avoid the Valentine’s Day rush.

3. Get creative with gifts

Who says you have to gift a dozen roses and a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day? Walk into any store or flower shop and you can see how much these traditional Valentine’s Day gifts cost.

Instead of buying the typical Valentine’s Day gifts, try getting creative. For instance, instead of buying chocolate and flowers, buy tickets to a movie – maybe even a matinee.

To lower the cost even more, you can make your own DIY gifts.

4. Enjoy quality time together

Some of the best times are spent staying in with your loved ones.

Instead of going out for a pricey date night, cook a homemade meal together and stream a movie or play a game. You can’t get much cheaper than that!

5. Go outdoors

We get it: February isn’t the nicest month weather-wise. But if it is semi-decent outside, you can take your holiday celebrations outdoors.

Check out some of these romantic and adventurous date ideas from Two Drifters. Not only are they memorable date ideas, but most of them can be done for dirt cheap.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day by saving in advance

No matter how you decide to spend your Valentine’s Day, you can always be prepared by saving in advance. The easiest way to start saving for Valentine’s Day is to set a little bit aside at a time into a separate savings account. So go on and enjoy your holiday guilt-free!

 

6 Best Dating Apps When You’re On a Budget

Sometimes love doesn’t cost a thing, but that’s hardly the case these days. Even before you get to the pricey part of wining and dining a potential suitor, you can expect to run up big tabs on dating apps.

Subscriptions to these apps can come with a hefty price tag, which means less money in your savings account to actually win over your new paramour.

So, what to do? Take a look at the solid money-saving dating app strategy that we’ve put together. In addition, we rounded up some of the top dating apps to give you the lowdown on the costs involved and whether they are worth the money.

Saving Money With Dating Apps

Monthly subscription fees can cost as much as a good meal. But most dating apps offer a free “lite” version of the app. You still get a sense of the full functionality, ease of use, and size of the potential dating pool, but you won’t get access to the premium features.

So, before you commit to that pricey subscription, try this: Download a range of different dating apps. Only commit to the free version as a way to suss out the app’s usefulness. Only then, when you’ve narrowed it down to a favorite few, is it a good idea to spring for a paid subscription.

It’s also important to know what you get with the paid versions, and to really consider whether this is worth it. Does a paid subscription provide more access to potential partners, for example? Or is it just a dud feature that you probably won’t really use? Keeping a discerning eye on the value you get for your hard-earned cash can help keep those subscriptions trimmed to the bare essentials.

Best Dating Apps

Here are some of the most popular dating apps you’re likely to run across.

Match.com

Everyone has heard of Match.com, even your 95-year-old Nana. This website offers one of the largest user bases of any dating app, meaning the odds are good that you’ll meet people. Although you can see profiles as a free member, if you want to send and receive messages, see who saved your profile, and even attend in-person events, you’ll need to upgrade.

Subscription cost: Starting from $20.99/month

Tinder

Tinder – which revolutionized the terms “swipe right” and “swipe left” – is still one of the most popular dating apps out there. While the basic concept is simple to use, you’ll need to upgrade if you want to take the game to a new level. Plus, subscriptions allow you to change locations if you travel and undo swipe mistakes, among other things. The highest tier level, Gold, allows you to do everything in the Plus subscription while allowing you to “boost” your profile to the top of the line. You’ll also be able to see who has swiped right on your profile.

Plus subscription cost: Starting from $2.99/month

Gold subscription cost: Starting from $4.99/month

The League

If you’re a distinguishing dater and tired of all the scrubs, consider this app. It bills itself as an app for elite people who have done things like attended Ivy League schools, or at least have the conversation skills to match. You don’t join The League — you apply and hope you’re accepted — and the basic version is free. With the paid versions, you can get more “friend requests,” VIP passes, and custom-picked daily prospects.

Member subscription cost: Starting from $29/month

Owner subscription cost: Starting from $83/month

Hinge

If you like Tinder’s ease of use but aren’t looking for a short-term hookup, Hinge might be a better dating app for you. It’s also especially helpful if you’re active on Facebook, since the app will use your personal connections to find friends-of-friends to match you with. Preferred members get access to additional filters to find people, unlimited profile likes, and even access to Hinge Experts, a concierge dating service.

Preferred subscription cost: Starting from $7/month

Bumble

If you’re into flipping the script, Bumble is a great dating app to try. This app actually requires the woman to message the man first if they are a match. And not only that, there’s a time limit — she only gets 24 hours to make the first move, or it disappears. For same-sex matches, anyone can make the first move. Upgrading to Bumble Boost allows you to see who’s right-swiped your profile, find matches with expired connections, and extend your current matches longer than the 24-hour window.

Bumble Boost subscription cost: Starting from $24.99/month

OkCupid

If you consider yourself woke and are looking to meet up with other like-minded liberals, consider OkCupid. This app allows for dozens of combinations of gender identity and sexual orientations, and makes the profile-creation process a fun game of questions (If I were sent to jail, I’d be arrested for…) rather than your standard demographic listing. It offers two levels of premium subscriptions. A-List members get a wide range of features, such as seeing who has read your messages and changing your username periodically. A-List Premium members get access to a few more features, like having your profile boosted or your messages appearing in a prominent spot in your match’s mailbox.

A-List subscription cost: Starting from $9.95/month

A-List Premium subscription cost: Starting from $24.90/month

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

You’re a savvy user of money-saving apps and banking apps, so why not plan a smart dating app strategy as well? As we’ve shown you above, the world is full of options — and that applies to both dating apps and the people that use them. Planning a smart approach to your dating app strategy means you’ll have the best chances of finding love and keeping your wallet as full as possible. We call that a win-win.

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