Tag: Budgeting


7 Financial Moves to Make Before Your First Child

Starting a family can be an exciting milestone. Yet, once you have your first child, your life as you know it will certainly change.

Your finances are bound to change as well since you’ll now be spending more money. Research shows that American parents will spend $233,610 on average to raise a child from birth to 17 years old. This figure includes costs ranging from housing and food, to medical expenses and child care.

The key is to focus on preparing financially for your new bundle of joy so that you don’t get in over your head – financially speaking, of course.

Here are 6 key financial moves to make before your first child arrives.

1. Create a New Budget

You may already have a budget in place, but it’s time to update it to accommodate your growing family. Consider how some of your goals and expenses will change once you have your first child. Will you have to consider childcare costs or increase expenses in other areas?

You may even want to cut or reduce some expenses that no longer seem necessary, like eating out several times a week. Be honest about the changes you’ll need to make financially and develop a realistic budget so you can plan your spending once the baby arrives.

2. Have an Income Plan for Maternity Leave

It’s likely that having a baby will affect your household income and either you or your partner may want to take some time off work once the baby is born.

For starters, decide what your circumstances will look like when the baby arrives and how that may affect your income. If you’re expecting an income decrease, you can prepare for it by working extra hours or side hustling to bring in more money before your little one arrives.

Remember: Your new budget will help you determine how much you’ll need, and you can always cut expenses and save up in advance to accommodate the changes.

3. Build Your Emergency Fund

It’s no secret that kids cost quite a bit of money – nearly a quarter of a million dollars to be exact, according to the USDA. That’s why it’s always best to beef up your emergency fund.

For example, you’ll likely be spending more money on planned expenses like food, clothing, diapers, baby gear, and possibly childcare. However, there are a ton of additional expenses that could pop up like unplanned doctor’s visits, travel costs, and extracurricular activities.

If you plan to take maternity leave, factor in extra costs you’ll incur during this time as well, such as medical bills, household expenses, and purchasing baby gear and supplies.

To help you get a jump on this, start saving up money ahead of time. If you are currently saving 10% of your income, for example, perhaps you can double or triple that amount so your emergency fund can grow exponentially. Having at least three to six months of expenses saved is a great starting point.

Final tip: Make it automatic so some money is transferred to savings as soon as you get paid.

4. Start Buying Supplies and Gear Early

Once the baby’s arrival is just a few months away, start buying supplies and gear so you can stock up. You may even want to plan your baby shower a little earlier so you can know what you’ll need to buy before delivery time.

For example, you can budget for larger expenses like a crib and car seat and pick up less costly items like diapers, wipes, and clothes each time you get paid. This way, you’ll spread out your purchases so you don’t have to buy everything at once.

5. Anticipate Medical Costs

Having a baby is costly whether you have health insurance or not. U.S. hospital deliveries cost around $3,500 per stay. When you add in pre-natal and post-delivery care, you could be looking at an overall cost of $8,802, according to Parents.com.

To better prepare, factor in the strong chance that you may have medical bills and will need to add your baby to your insurance coverage (typically within 30 days of birth).

Make sure you know what your health insurance deductibles and copays are for labor and delivery. As the due date nears, you can also start looking for a pediatrician in your insurance network.

6. Increase Your Life Insurance Coverage

When you have a child, you become completely responsible for his or her care.

So, it’s a wise idea to help cover those expenses in the unfortunate event that you are no longer around. To do this, it’s a good idea to consider life insurance, or upgrading your current policy.

There are two types of life insurance: term which is temporarily and whole life which is permanent. Term life insurance is more affordable and you can get quotes online from sites like PolicyGenius and NerdWallet.

“It’s important to start thinking about upgrading your life insurance policy when you’re pregnant and some insurance companies will even let you increase coverage at this stage,” says Sa El, founder of Simply Insurance.

“Aside from increasing your coverage, you can also purchase a life insurance policy for your child. The best thing about purchasing life insurance early is that the rates will be the lowest since age is a huge risk factor.”

El also recommends calculating your insurance needs beforehand.

“Life Happens has a good calculator that you can use to figure out your insurance needs. You will have to consider current expenses like housing and debt, along with future expenses like college costs, in order to determine your insurable need so don’t skip this step,” he says.

7. Minimize Debt

Let’s face it. Being in debt can hold you back. Debt payments eat up your disposable income and can likely cause a new parent to stress out over money.

So, before you have your first child, try to minimize your debt and pay off most (if not all) of your accounts. By getting rid of these liabilities, you’ll free up more money to spend on other areas of your budget. Having less debt will also enable you to save more.

Enjoy Parenting Without All the Financial Stress

Worrying about money is never fun, especially when you’re adding a new baby to your family. This is why it’s important to make these seven key financial moves. This way, you can focus on raising your new baby while you thrive financially.


How to Manage Your Money in your 20s and 30s Like a Boss

When I moved out of my mom’s house when I was 23, my greatest fear was having to move back home – again.

In turn, I did everything I could to stretch my $1,800 a month take-home pay. By being frugal, taking on side hustles, and saving as much as possible, I was able to both squeak by and sock away a bit of cash each month. It was no easy feat, but it was doable. Remember: You don’t have to live in a van to save. Even small steps can help, like switching to a bank that doesn’t charge fees and negotiating for a lower Internet bill.

Fast forward to the present. Now that I’m in my 30s, I know that my frugality and hard-core money-saving ways paid off. Yet, there are quite a few things I wish I told my 20-something self about money.

To up your money game, here are a few pointers on how to manage your finances during your 20s versus your 30s.

In your 20s: Focus on career potential

You might not be raking in as much as you would like right out of college. But salary isn’t the only thing you should consider when evaluating job offers.

Take a look at the entire compensation package. This includes insurance benefits, employee perks, and whether your employer offers a match on a 401(k). Plus, consider this: Will there be opportunities to learn skills, work with a mentor, or move up the ladder?

I considered learning on the job as an added benefit. For instance, when I worked in the communications department for an entertainment labor union, my boss subsidized courses I took in graphic design and copyediting. That’s because those were useful skills for my current role.

And, while I was fortunate to have steady jobs that offered robust benefits, I worked in niche industries without much room for growth. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time focused on a host of job opportunities, both monetary and non-monetary.

In your 20s: Automate, automate, automate

In your 20s, it’s not surprising that you may be stressed out about your money situation. That’s why one of my favorite money-saving hacks is to automate your finances.

You can automate your savings for an emergency fund, for a car, or invest in your retirement fund. If you’re a Chime Member, consider opting into the Save When I Get Paid feature.

And yes, while you have decades before you retire, the earlier you begin to save for this goal, the better. Why is that? Two things: time in the market and the magic of compound interest. Let’s say you begin socking away $250 a month starting at the age of 25. You keep it up for 40 years until you’re 65. According to Investor.gov, if you earn an average of seven percent interest, you’ll have earned just shy of $600,000.

While I opened an IRA in my early 20s, I put in $100 and then stopped. Imagine how much I would have if I had continued putting money into it! And during one of my jobs, I failed to opt into the matching 401(k) plan until a year after I started. That’s money I left on the table.

In your 20s: Develop the discipline to cut back on spending

My friend Dave Fried, who is 39 and lives in Chicago, would tell me he treats his money as a business: You should always have more coming in than out. Fried kept this general rule of thumb in mind when he was earning minimum wage working at a screen printing shop, and when he was raking in cash selling pay-per-demand videos online.

The takeaway: It doesn’t matter how much you earn, you can always get into the habit of saving. To start, try cutting back. Try a no-spend Sunday. Or use a money management app to track your spending to see what your vices are. After having a few spend-happy months this year, I’m focusing on two major problem areas for a month: food and clothes.

When it comes to food, instead of overstocking my fridge, I’m checking my pantry before I head to the market. This helps me plan out my meals, stick to a weekly food budget, and cook in batches. As for clothes, I’ll wait 30 days before purchasing something I have my eye on.

In your 20s: Manage your debt

Sure, you wish your debt could just disappear yesterday. And while it’s tempting to conveniently forget you’re carrying a debt load, you’re going to have to pay it off eventually. Whether it’s credit card debt, student loans, or a car loan, know exactly how much you owe, and what the interest rates are.

Next, come up with a repayment plan. Figure out how much you can reasonably afford to pay off each month. It’s important to stay on top of your debt payments. Otherwise, your credit can get dinged.

In your 30s: Focus on earning potential

While your 20s is all about focusing on stepping-stones that lead to career opportunities, your 30s is prime time to make more money.

Although you can only cut so much of your living expenses, you can increase your earning potential. For example, it wasn’t until I job-hopped that I boosted my savings significantly. Another major wealth-building move for me was when I turned my side hustle of freelance writing and copyediting into a full-time gig.

In your 30s: Pay off your student loans and credit card debt

“Good debt” is loosely defined as debt for valuable assets that can grow over time. Traditional examples of good debt include a mortgage on a home or a business loan. “Bad debt” is anything that loses value over time, or has a high-interest rate, which can eat into your savings. “Bad debt” is normally thought of as credit card debt, student loans, and personal loans.

However, there are a lot of gray areas. Credit card debt can be a good thing. If you have a balance, but pay it off in full each pay cycle, this can boost your credit.

In your 30s: Continue to build your wealth

While in your 20s, you were laying the groundwork to save and invest. In your 30s, however, you’ll want to start thinking about growing your money.

There’s no single way to approach this. It depends on your personal situation, existing resources, and lifestyle preferences. For example, perhaps you want to buy your first home, or get serious about investing in the stock market. This is your time to make decisions to grow your money.

Live the life you want

As my friend Kristin Wong, author of “Get Money” likes to say, there’s a difference between living the life you can afford, and living the life you want.

And the perks of financial wellness are many — freedom from money stress, the resources and knowledge to grow your money, and the ability to live your best life.


How to Ball on a Budget When You Go Out

Links to external websites are not managed by Chime or The Bancorp Bank.

Let’s say you get a call from a close friend. She just got a promotion at work, and she’s inviting you to a trendy Thai restaurant to celebrate. You love Thai food and want to go, but there’s one problem: Your budget’s looking pretty tight this month.

Thankfully, you can still go out without compromising your savings. For example, you can decide how much you can spend and then adjust your budget accordingly.

“If you know that in the summer, you tend to go out more and spend more money, then make room for that in your budget and cut back in other areas to accommodate that,” says Jamila Souffrant, certified financial education instructor and founder of the blog and podcast Journey to Launch.

For instance, you can cut the cable cord and ditch your meal box subscription, leaving more wiggle room for nights out, concerts and movies. To help you get started, we’ve rounded up some tips for saving money on just about any outing. Take a look.

At a Sporting Event

If you’re dying to see the Chicago Bulls (or your own favorite team), you can make it happen without breaking the bank. Souffrant recommends buying your tickets in-person from the box office to avoid service fees from online ticketers.

You can also pick games that aren’t super expensive. For example, maybe go on a work night when it’s less crowded and you can more easily score cheaper tickets. Typically, games during the week are less costly than Friday, Saturday, or Sunday games.

On the day of the big game, be sure to eat before you leave home to avoid paying the markup at the snack counter. Your belly and your bank account will feel fuller.

At a Movie

Sometimes, it’s good to catch a summer blockbuster on the big screen and swoon over your favorite actors. Just be sure to steer clear of the overpriced movie theater concession stand.

“Definitely do not buy any of the snacks or drinks in the movie theater. I know it’s tempting, but eat before you go and/or bring your own snacks,” says Souffrant.

Souffrant also recommends looking for discounted tickets or deals on sites like Groupon or the theaters’ own website. You can also go to a weekend matinee and head out to dinner afterwards – instead of the other way around.

By planning in advance, you can enjoy buzzworthy movies and save money at the same time.

At a Concert

Hanging out with friends at concerts is part of summer fun. But to save money, it’s important that you try to buy tickets at the box office in advance, says Souffrant.

Why? You’ll typically get the lowest price, she says.

Even if you can’t manage to score inexpensive tickets (some of us are Beyoncé fans), you can find other ways to save when you consider the costs of the whole night. Souffrant suggests carpooling or even taking public transportation to the event.

If your concert-going night involves multiple destinations, you may want to turn on push notifications from your bank. You’ll get an alert each time you use your debit card, which may be the reality check you need to curb your spending.

Lastly, look for free concerts in your city. While you might not be able to attend a Beyonce concert for free, there are plenty of other bands and music festivals that offer free concerts.

At a Restaurant

Back to the friends-at-a-Thai-restaurant example: When you’re going out to eat, it can help to speak up about your financial goals.

“If you’re on a budget or you’re trying to save money, don’t keep it to yourself,” says Souffrant.

When you explain your intentions at the start of a night out or before you arrive at the restaurant, your friends will be more likely to understand when you choose to pay only for what you ate and drank.

“I would avoid splitting (the check) equally. That can get expensive if you’re trying to be conscious but they’re not,” says Souffrant.

If you do decide to split the bill, try using Chime’s Pay Friends feature.

At a Bar or Nightclub

If you can avoid a cover charge by getting to your favorite spot before a certain time, then do it, Souffrant says.

You and your friends can also do research in advance to see which local watering holes have special offers or discount nights. Lastly, consider nursing one drink or sticking to water to save money on the bar tab. This way you can still enjoy a night out with friends without overspending.

At an Exercise Class

If your friends are veteran yogis or distance runners, they may have guest passes to a gym or fitness studio that they can share with you, Souffrant suggests.

“You can also just try out the good old park,” she says.

Besides being healthy, workouts at the park are totally free.

“Go together, take a run, take a walk. Use the environment for your own workouts and outside activities.”

Save Money and Have Fun

The tips above make one thing clear: You can meet your savings goals without becoming a hermit.

One final pro tip: Try automating your savings. If you use a Chime Visa Debit Card, for example, every time you use it to purchase concert or movie tickets, or pay your restaurant bill, your transaction will be rounded up to the nearest dollar. And, that round up amount will be automatically deposited into your Chime Savings Account. This way, you’ll save money while you’re out enjoying yourself!


How to Plan for Your Car Maintenance on a Budget

If you’ve ever owned a car, chances are you’re pretty familiar with the sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach when your car starts acting funny.

Since most of us aren’t auto mechanics, that weird sound or odd behavior could mean a fix that costs anywhere from just a few dollars to a few thousand dollars. Sometimes it even seems like you’re taking one step forward with your bank account only to take two steps back when a car repair derails your budget.

Thus, it’s no wonder car maintenance is especially stressful. But, there’s also good news: You can save up for these events. You don’t need to let them catch you by surprise. Read on to learn more.

How much should you budget for car maintenance?

Here’s the thing. You know car maintenance and repair expenses are going to happen. So, why not save up for them in advance?

First, though, it’s a good idea to know how much to save. Aside from all of the other expenses of owning a car (insurance, registration, etc.), you’ll need to plan for two big things: regular car maintenance and car repairs.

Regular car maintenance includes getting things done like oil changes, new tires, batteries, brake pads, etc. Car repairs include replacing things as your car ages, such as CV joints and head gaskets. This also includes the unexpected repairs that can result from things like your transmission kicking the bucket.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average single person spent $794 on car maintenance and repairs in 2017. This means that it’s a good idea to save up at least $66 per month — ideally more, so that you’re prepared in case a big repair is needed, such as rebuilding your car’s engine or transmission.

Of course, it’s a good idea to consider other factors as well. If you have an older car, for example, you might want to consider saving more. If you live in a snowy area that requires you to put on snow tires in the winter and all-season tires in the spring, summer and fall, that can increase your costs as well.

Another good place to check out is Edmunds’ Cost of Car Ownership, which allows you to look up average estimated yearly costs for repairs and maintenance for your specific vehicle.

How to Save for Car Maintenance

Now that you understand how much you need to save, how do you actually do it? Here are two top tips.

  • Set Up Chime’s Automatic Savings

Did you know that you can set up your savings automatically with Chime? You can round up each of your purchases to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference into your Savings Account.

But for our purposes here, Chime’s automatic savings payday feature is probably the best. Each time you get paid, you can set up an automatic deposit for a specific amount. You can even set up a separate savings account just for car maintenance and repair costs, and withdraw money as you need it.

So, for example, if you want to save $100 per month for car maintenance and repairs and you get paid bi-weekly, you can set it up so that you deposit $50 into your savings account each time you get paid. This way, you don’t even need to think about it — it just happens automatically.

  • Set Up a Sinking Fund Line Item in Your Budget

Another option is to keep a separate line item in your budget as a sinking fund. In this case you set aside however much you want to save per month ($100 for example) on paper, in your budget.

The actual money can stay in your checking account if you wish, or you can move it over to your savings account. Either way, the idea is to have a certain dollar amount in your bank account reserved just for car maintenance and repairs.

Don’t Let Car Maintenance Catch You By Surprise

You’re already familiar with the scary feeling when your car breaks down.

Now, picture this: You can set aside money each month so that the next time your car needs maintenance or repairs, you have plenty of money just ready and waiting to be spent for that exact purpose. It’s like an extra layer of security. It’s an amazing feeling to feel ready and prepared to spend money, rather than be stressed out about it.

So, are you ready to start saving money for car maintenance and working toward that happier feeling? We’ll help you get there!


How to Buy Groceries for One Person

Links to external websites are not managed by Chime or The Bancorp Bank.

Grocery shopping for one is a struggle.

I should know. Some weeks I’d buy too much food – only to throw away 70% of it at the end of the week. Other weeks I’d make one meal and begrudgingly eat it every single day. Not ideal. Yup, it took me years to master the art of buying food when I was a household of one.

Yet, wasting money on groceries isn’t just a problem that plagues the solo shopper. The average family of four wastes $1,600 per year on uneaten food. And, Americans waste nearly one pound of food per person, per day. That adds up to $165 billion of food that goes uneaten.

While food waste is a problem for a number of reasons, it can be a big problem for your bank account. Ever wonder how much money you could you be saving?

Luckily, we’ve got you covered with some easy ways to shop smarter and avoid food waste.

Get into the planning

You’ve heard this before, for good reason. Meal planning is the key to not buying more than you need.

But meal planning can also be more difficult when you’re planning meals for one. That’s because recipes rarely have a serving size of one. You’ll typically see recipes for family meals serving upwards of four people.

So, when you’re meal planning, opt for food items that you know will freeze well. And, if you you don’t want to be stuck eating the same thing all week, make sure it’s something that you can easily pop into the freezer and enjoy eating later. For ideas, take a look at this list of 33 meals that freeze well.

Another clever idea is to pick two or more recipes that use the same core ingredients. Brianne Bell, a registered dietician and food blogger, suggests doing this to avoid eating the same meal all week. For example, she buys a whole chicken and roasts it. For her first meal, she’ll eat roast chicken. Next, she’ll shred the remaining chicken to use in salads and sandwiches for the rest of the week. Planning meals around the main ingredient of chicken ensures nothing is wasted.

Utilize your freezer

Before you head to the fresh produce section of your grocery store, take a stroll down the frozen food aisle. The produce you’ll find there contains roughly the same level of vitamins and minerals as fresh fruits and veggies, making this a healthy and smart option for the solo shopper. Relying on frozen produce also means you’ll never have to throw away a sad carrot again.

If you do end up with fresh food that you’re not going to eat before it spoils, Bell suggests freezing it before it goes bad. And you know how frustrating it is when you just need a few basil leaves for a recipe but you have to buy a large bunch? Bell advises throwing those in the freezer as well. Just chop them up, put them into an ice cube tray, cover with oil and freeze.

While freezing is a great option for the times when you do end up with more than you need, not everything freezes well. The Kitchn breaks down the foods that don’t freeze well. So, if you’ve stocked up on cucumbers and lettuce, don’t plan on relying on your freezer to help you with the excess.

Shop differently

I used to steer clear of the salad bar in a grocery store, assuming that it’s always going to be the most expensive option. But more often than not I’d get to the end of the week and find a half-eaten bag of spinach that I needed to throw away.

Turns out, the salad bar and bulk food aisle may hold the keys to your shopping for one success, says Mary Weidner co-founder of meal planning app Strongr Fastr. Rather than picking up a bag of spinach when you only need a little, the salad bar and the bulk food aisle may be your best bet.

“Just last week, I bought some spinach, quinoa, spices, dried berries, olives, and sliced nuts- all in the exact quantities I needed for about $3.50. And had no food waste for the week,” says Weidner.

But don’t stop there. If you need some meat, food blogger and recipe writer Jim Mumford suggests that you head to the butcher counter to get the exact amount you need, rather than picking up the family-sized pre-packaged meat.

“Most pre-packaged meat is well over a pound, and not ideal for one or two meals. The butcher at the counter is willing and happy to cut something down, even a roast or a tenderloin,” says Mumford.

If you want to skip the hassle of the store altogether, Bell advises that fruit and vegetable deliveries can be a smart option. Oftentimes, you can get just get what you need delivered straight to your door.

Make it social

Need to buy something that you definitely won’t eat all on your own (like that loaf of bread)? Get a little help from a friend. Figure out the things you both need to buy and split it. As a bonus, you can use this strategy to take advantage of the buy one, get one offers you see in some grocery stores.

If you’re really feeling social — and have a friend with similar food preferences — why not split groceries and cook some main meals together? If you’re making a recipe that serves four, you won’t have to worry about whether it freezes well or whether you’ll be able to handle eating it all week. You’ll each end up with two servings and have some fun while cooking.

Are you ready to solo shop?

Shopping for one can be a little tricky. But, by following these tried-and-true tips, you’ll be on your way to saving money without wasting food. Are you ready to take a new approach to shopping for groceries?


How Much Money Can I Actually Save By Not Dining Out?

Between grabbing lunch on the go, dinner dates, and Sunday brunch with the crew, dining out can eat a sizable hole in your budget and make a big dent in your bank account. The typical adult eats out 2.4 times a week, spending $2,443 a year on meals away from home.

Just think: That $200 a month you spend on dining out can be used in many other ways. For example, you could stash it into a savings account to grow your emergency fund. Or, you could save for retirement or pay down your debt, both of which can help you become more financially healthy.

So, does that mean you have to go cold turkey on dining out or the occasional fast food indulgence? Not necessarily. Putting these money-saving strategies to work can help you balance your budgeting goals with your foodie cravings. Read on to learn more.

Check online for coupons and discounts

By far, this may be the easiest way to save money on dining out. Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are a simple way to browse promotions and deals at local restaurants. You can also check out your favorite restaurant’s website or social media pages for coupons and daily or weekly specials.

“Don’t be afraid to use these deals to save,” says Beverly Friedmann, content manager at MyFoodSubscriptions.

“They exist to attract your business and you can really cut down on your total bill,” she says.

Just be sure to read the fine print on a coupon or promotion so you understand how it works. For instance, you might be required to spend $75 to get $15 off your total bill. If you were only planning to spend $35 on dinner to begin with, you wouldn’t come out ahead by taking advantage of the deal.

Another way to save: watch for gift card promotions. Around major holidays, restaurants may offer a $10 gift card when you buy $50 in gift cards or a similar deal. That’s an easy way to pick up some savings.

Skip the add-ons

If you’ve never been a server in a restaurant, you may not be familiar with the concept of upselling.

This is when a server offers you something extra, like a side of shrimp to go with your steak dinner or a special dessert. But if you’re trying to dine out on a budget, think twice before upgrading your meal, says Patricia Russell, certified financial planner and founder of Finance Marvel.

Instead, “fill up on freebies or low-cost options to help stretch your meal,” says Russell.

For example, partake in complimentary bread, crackers or chips and salsa. If you do decide to add something on, stick with a low-cost option such as a side salad. And if you end up with more food than you need, make sure you take it to go to have as a second meal later.

Try mystery shopping

Mystery shopping is essentially a way to get paid to shop or dine out.

“Mystery shopping companies hire shoppers to go to a restaurant, have a meal, write a short report and get paid – plus the cost of the meal is reimbursed,” says Jennifer Hayes, a mystery shopping and money-saving expert at Smarty Pants Finance.

Hayes routinely dines out several times a month as a mystery shopper, at the cost of $0. She says there’s no better way to dine out on a budget.

If you’re looking for mystery shopping opportunities to eat for free (and get paid), check out companies like Best Mark or Market Force.

Check the restaurant’s BYOB policy

“Bring your own beverage” isn’t just for backyard barbecues.

“Most people don’t realize this but many restaurants have corkage policies that allow you to bring your own bottle of wine,” says Scott Washburn, chief growth officer at Winestyr.

But there’s a catch: You may pay a fee for that convenience.

“The fee will generally be $15 to $30 per bottle, but you’ll end up spending significantly less money than if you were to purchase a bottle of wine from the restaurant,” he says.

Washburn’s best tip for going the BYOB route? Check the restaurant’s wine list before you go.

“You’ll want to do some research ahead of time and bring a wine that isn’t on the list, as this (bringing a wine on the menu) is considered to be a bit of a faux pas,” he says.

Stick with water and appetizers in lieu of a meal

Drinking water in place of alcohol or soda is another cost-saving measure Friedmann recommends.

“Even a single soda will usually run you more than three dollars, and if you opt for wine or alcohol, prices are considerably higher than what you’d pay by drinking at home,” she says.

Friedmann says you can save even more by ordering an appetizer in place of an entree. And if you’re dining out with friends, you can each order an appetizer to share.

Just make sure you check the costs and consider portion sizes to make sure it’s enough food. If you order something else after eating the appetizer because you’re still hungry, you may not be saving yourself anything. And if you’re splitting the check with friends, pick a set dollar amount you can all agree on to spend beforehand.

Bonus tip: Plan your dinner out around your favorite restaurant’s happy hour, when you may be able to score appetizers and drinks for half price.

Have a plan for the money you’re saving on dining out

It’s great to save money on dining out every month, but you also need to know what you’re going to do with that savings. Otherwise, those extra dollars you’re saving could leak out somewhere else.

If you’re looking for ideas, some of the best ways to put your savings to work include:

  • Opening a savings account for a specific goal, like planning a summer getaway with friends
  • Starting that side hustle you’ve been thinking about as a way to boost your income
  • Bumping up your monthly student loan payments
  • Opening an individual retirement account to get your nest egg started

The secret sauce to reaching any of these financial goals is consistency. So if you’re saving money on meals out, consider linking up your checking account to your savings account and automate monthly deposits. Or, schedule automatic payments to pay off a debt and watch your balance shrink.

What’s your best tip for saving on dining out?

Hopefully, you have a few tricks up your own sleeve for how to save money on dining out. But if you don’t, these tips can help you cut down on what you spend without totally sacrificing your love of pub food or gourmet desserts. After all, keeping an eye on the bottom line is just as important as keeping an eye on your waistline when dining out.


How to Save on Child Care

Raising a child is becoming increasingly expensive, making it difficult for parents who need to work, run errands or enjoy a date night once in a while. Between nanny salaries, day care center fees and other forms of care, annual child care costs are putting severe financial strain on many families.

Two-parent households are paying an average 10.6% of their median income for just one child’s care, according to a 2018 report from Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit advocacy group. For single parents, it’s more dire: care costs consumed between 27% and 91% of their median income, according to the report. That’s way over the benchmark for affordability set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of 7%.

Costs average between $9,000 and $9,600 a year for all types of child care, but many families pay much more, according to the Child Care Aware of America report. If you are looking for ways to save, here are 10 ideas to help you lower the high cost of care for your little ones.

Want to learn more about financially preparing for a baby? Check out our guide.

1. Claim your child & dependent care tax credit

The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit allows you to deduct child care expenses for children under age 13 while you are working or looking for work. You can deduct up to $3,000 for one child or $6,000 for multiple children. You’ll get a percentage of the amount paid back as a tax credit, with the percentage based on your income.

You may be able to deduct the cost of some kids’ activities, like day camp, if they enabled you to go to work, according to the IRS.

2. Contribute to a dependent care FSA

“There’s no question that one of the best tools out there for parents to utilize is dependent care flexible spending plans,” says Robert Greenman, lead advisor at Vista Capital Partners.

Check to see if your job offers a dependent care flexible spending arrangement. You can stock up to $5,000 a year pretax to use for child care expenses. That’s like getting a discount equal to your marginal tax rate.

“[H]aving $5,000 a year to pay for child care pre-tax is better than nothing at all,” says Greenman.

3. Apply for state child care vouchers

Low-income families may be eligible for assistance from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. These funds are distributed through state programs. To qualify, you generally must be a parent or caregiver for a child under 13 and be using child care services to go to work, job training or school.

Look for programs in your state using ChildCare.gov’s online state resource locator.

4. Use military family subsidies

Military families often have particular child care needs, due to deployments and the need to accommodate parents’ service duties. Military bases typically have day care centers that charge according to the family’s total income.

There are also a variety of federal child care subsidies for each branch of military service and the Department of Defence. For example, the Army provides income-based subsidies to cover the difference in cost between civilian child care and on-base care, when on-base care isn’t available. Find information specific to your branch of service at Child Care Aware of America.

5. Consider a nanny share

Nannies are the most expensive form of child care, costing an average of $580 a week or more than $30,000 a year, according to Care.com.

But there are ways to get a better deal. One solution is a nanny-share, when two or more families pool their kids together and chip in for a single nanny to watch them all.

“It’s simple and extremely cost effective,” says Randy Bruns, senior financial planner at Model Wealth.

Bruns said he knows a family that cut their costs by 25% by teaming up with a neighboring family with a baby of about the same age. They share a nanny for around $18 an hour, while the usual rate was $12 for a single child, he said. This type of situation can be a win-win if you find a compatible family.

6. Host an au pair

If you want live-in child care, consider the advantages of hosting an au pair — particularly for families with several kids. An au pair is a young person from another country who comes to the U.S. through a government-regulated cultural exchange program, to live with a family and care for their children.

Average fees for au pairs run $390 a week, according to Care.com, about 30% less than for the average for nannies. In addition, an au pair can expand the horizons of the whole family in intangible ways, exposing children to foreign language and culture. You can be matched with an au pair through an agency that vets applicants and provides child care training.

Curious about which states are the best for raising a family? Check out our Family Friendly Index.

7. Get a jump-start on day care

Day care costs an average of $211 per week for one infant about $10,000 a year, according to Care.com, though prices range widely. Chances are the good, affordable day cares in your area will fill up quickly.

To get a spot in a desirable day care, particularly in big cities where demand is high, start researching and signing up for waitlists before your baby is even born.

In competitive markets, like Seattle and Washington, D.C., parents have reported paying “wait-list fees” of $50 to $100. With thousands of dollars at stake, it might be worth it to save your place in line for an affordable day care as early as possible.

8. Consider church-based day cares

A local church might run a top-notch day care that is considerably less expensive than commercial options. Some churches have reported surging demand for their well-established nursery schools and preschool programs, with even non-religious parents signing up.

Secular families may find a church-based day care to be a feasible option, especially in the case of a program that has been well-respected in the community for decades.

9. Research in-home day cares

Some children and parents really enjoy the cozy setting of home-based day cares, which are often smaller and less expensive than day care centers. Family care centers charge an average of $195 a week to look after your child in the professional care provider’s home. That’s about 8% less than for day care centers, but your savings could be even greater.

Before you visit a provider, you can look up the licensing requirements for home care in your state at ChildCare.gov, so you’ll have a better idea what questions to ask. Recommendations from other parents who have used the service can be valuable in helping you make your decision.

10. Start or join a babysitting co-op

Babysitters charge a national average of $16 an hour, according to Care.com. Going out for dinner and a show could easily mean $80 spent on child care. If your friends are experiencing similar pains, consider organizing an informal babysitting co-op. Get a group of willing parents together, large or small, and set up some ground rules.

It could be that all the kids gather in one family’s house each Friday night on a rotating schedule, while the other parents get a night off. Or each time you babysit for four hours you receive a credit for four hours of babysitting at a later date. Choose your co-op partners wisely and communicate with them clearly, so each member gets to enjoy some free babysitting.

No matter how you manage child care, you need to stay on top of your finances. The easiest way is with a budget — we’ve got an downloadable one for parents here.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.


How to Save Money on a Nurse’s Salary

Nurses perform a valuable service in hospitals, doctor’s offices, schools and other places where on-site medical care is needed.

Being a nurse often means long hours in a high stress job. In return, registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $71,730, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That sounds good, right? After all, it’s more than the median household income of $61,372.

But, there’s more to the story. Namely, 76% of nurses owe undergraduate student loans, while 69% owe graduate school loans. Among nurses who attended graduate school and used loans to finance their education, the majority owe between $40,000 and $54,999.

When you couple this student debt with other bills that go along with a nurse’s daily life, saving money can be a struggle.

So, in honor of National Nurses Day, we’ve put together a how-to guide to saving more money on a nurse’s salary. Take a look.

Set up direct deposit into a savings account

Your employer might offer direct deposit for your paycheck, which is great for convenience. But if you’re dumping all your money into your checking account, consider funneling some of that into a separate savings account each payday.

“Savings accounts are good for nurses because unexpected expenses can really obstruct financial plans,” says Sandy Griffin, a licensed practical nurse and quality assurance coordinator at Hospice of South Louisiana.

“Money set aside in a savings account can cover these expenses, plus provide for your future,” she says.

Griffin says saving money in a retirement account through your job is also a no-brainer. At the very least, you should be contributing enough to get the company match. Otherwise, you could miss out on free money. That’s a mistake 25% of workers make.

Pro tip: Setting up direct deposit into your savings account can keep you on track so you don’t spend the money right away. To determine how much to save, go over your monthly expenses to see if there’s anything you can trim down. Also, pick a set percentage or dollar amount you’d like to save regularly. It doesn’t have to be much to start. The key is to commit to saving consistently.

Be savvy about shopping for nursing supplies

As a nurse, there are certain things you need. Scrubs and quality footwear, for instance, can be big out of pocket costs if your employer doesn’t offer any reimbursement.

Griffin offers some tips for saving money on these items:

  • Comparison shop to find the best prices
  • Wait for sales to buy
  • Buy in bulk as much as possible

You can also look for coupons and promo codes online through sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com. Using a cash rewards credit card to pay for uniforms can also save you money. The trick is to pay your balance in full to avoid interest charges.

Ben Huber, BSN, RN and co-founder of finance blog DollarSprout, says you should plan for these costs and save throughout the year.

“Employers generally won’t provide a subsidy or stipend for uniforms or other healthcare-related clothing,” Huber says.

Pro tip: If you’re going through a pair of scrubs and/or shoes every few months, “it may be wise to consider stashing away a few hundred dollars each year in a fund specifically for uniform replacement.”

Meal plan on the job (and off)

When you’re working crazy hours as a nurse, fitting in regular meal breaks isn’t always easy. Huber says it’s tempting to hit the vending machines when you get a craving, especially if you work in a high-stress environment. He has a simple solution for curbing impulse eating while you’re at work.

“Sit down for meals prior to coming on shift and pre-pack the meals you plan to eat,” Huber says.

Pro tip: You can save more money by planning out meals and snacks for the week or the month. Base your meals around what’s on sale each week at the grocery store. Shop with a list and stick to it. And consider using money-saving apps like Ibotta to earn cash back on your supermarket trips.

Consider whether grad school is worth the investment

Getting an advanced degree can mean landing a job with a higher salary, which can help you save more money. The downside is that it can mean more student loans, so you need to weigh the financial pros and cons first.

“If you’re a nurse considering an advanced degree, think about the specific ways higher education will actually pad your pockets,” Huber says.

“Aimlessly pursuing a BSN, MSN or other advanced nursing degree is the recipe for a lot of debt without the potential payday down the road to justify the expense.”

Before you make a decision on grad school, spend time researching median nursing salaries in your state. Then, consider how you’ll pay for a degree.

Pro tip: Ask if your employer offers tuition reimbursement or student loan forgiveness as this can really help.

Start a side hustle to save more money

A side hustle can boost your income, giving you more money to save. And it’s an alternative to piling up more student loan debt if you’re considering going back to school to earn an advanced nursing degree.

“Starting a business takes less discipline than nursing school,” says David Sanchez, a registered nurse who runs two side businesses. But, he says, running a side gig requires more passion, personal sacrifice and willingness to take risks.

If you’re thinking about launching a side hustle to supplement your nursing salary, first ask yourself how much time you can put into it. You may only be able to dedicate a few hours a week if you’re working long rotations.

Then, brainstorm ideas for things you can do in your spare time to make extra money. For example, if you’re a good writer you can try freelancing for medical blogs or websites. Or you might want to do something that’s not nursing-related, like dog-sitting or selling on Etsy.

Pro tip: Pick something you can make time for, something you’ll enjoy and something that will help you earn more money.

You can indeed save money on a nurse’s salary

If you’re a nurse, finding ways to save money can be challenging but it’s not impossible.

These tips can give you a good starting place to help you increase your savings. Are you ready to give saving more money a try?


How much should you save for your vacation?

What’s your dream vacation?

Maybe it’s sitting on the beach sipping mai tais and watching the sun go down. Or maybe you’re a bit more adventurous and would prefer renting a van and driving around Iceland’s Ring Road.

No matter what your vacation preferences, one thing is likely the same: Your trip will cost you a pretty penny. Luckily, that’s what savings accounts are for. But how much should you save up for a vacation? And what’s the best way to save?

To answer these questions, we’ll show you how to create your own DIY savings plan so that no matter where your wanderlust takes you, you’ll have enough money in your bank account to get you there and back.

Step 1: Create a Target Savings Goal

Guessing and pulling a random number out of thin air is an easy way you can come up with a target savings goal. But it’s also one that’s likely to leave you disappointed, since you might run out of cash before your vacation ends. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a gorgeous exotic location but having no money to do anything.

Instead, try this approach:

Tally Up Your Vacation Costs

This will require a bit of research on your part (but honestly, isn’t scoping out all of the opportunities part of the fun?)

In particular, take some time to tally up the total cost of the following things for the duration of your vacation:

  • Round-trip airfare
  • Hotel
  • Food
  • Souvenirs
  • Trips, tours, and admission prices

Step 2: Create a Working Savings Plan

Now that you’ve got a target in mind, great. Now, what do you do? Create a savings plan, of course.

Here’s how to do it:

Tally up the number of months between now and when you’ll be leaving for your vacation. Then, divide your target savings goal by that number of months.

This leaves you with the exact amount of money you need to save each month between now and when you leave.

Curious to see how this works? Let’s look at an example.

Example: Next Year’s Trip to New Zealand

Let’s say you want to go on a two-week tour of New Zealand next year. You do some research and come up with the following numbers:

  • Airfare: $1,100
  • Hotel: $150 (per day)
  • Food: $50 (per day)
  • Souvenirs: $200
  • Trips, tours, and admissions: $100 (per day)

The total cost of this trip is $5,500. If you want to go on this trip in 12 months, you’ll need to save up $458.33 per month to have enough cash for the trip.

Step 3: Re-evaluate Your Plan

So far, we’ve just created a working plan. Chances are, you’re probably shocked by how much you need to save — that’s normal, don’t worry!

There are a few things you can do to revise the plan so it fits your finances:

  • Adjust your monthly budget: Look for expenses you can easily cut out, such as dining out, subscription boxes, etc. This will free up more money each month so that you can divert it to your vacation fund instead.
  • Start side hustling: Side hustling is the easiest way to boost your income. Each extra dollar that comes in is a dollar closer to your travel goals.
  • Change your travel plans: Look over your travel plans. Is there any way you can lower your expenses by perhaps staying at cheaper hotels or eating out less? This will reduce the cost of your vacation as a whole. Alternatively, you could push your vacation further out into the future, so that you have to save less each month.

Example: Final Plan for Next Year’s Trip to New Zealand

Maybe you decide there’s no way in heck you can afford to save $458.33 per month. No worries — you can still go!

After looking at the three options listed above, you can make the following changes:

  • Cut your $25/month box subscription and cut $150/month from your dining out budget. This frees up $175 per month to go towards your New Zealand trip.
  • Start a side hustle and earn an extra $200 per month.
  • Opt for staying in backpackers’ hostels instead, for $50 per night. This frees up $1,400 from your target savings goal.

With these changes, you now only need to save $4,100, or $341.67 per month. You’ve also freed up $175 per month from your budget, and are earning an extra $200 per month for a net amount of $375 extra per month. Now, you’re able to save up enough for your trip!

Step 4: Put Your Savings on Autopilot

Now that you know how much your vacation will cost and how much to save each month, it’s time to put that plan into action.

Sure, you can try to remember to set aside money each month into your savings account. But, we promise you that something will get in the way and you’ll likely forget (just like that time you put your car keys in the fridge and couldn’t find them later).

Instead, put your savings on autopilot. You can use Chime Bank’s automatic savings feature to do this for you. In this case, you can set up your bank account to withdraw the money after each paycheck.

All you have to do is count up the number of paychecks between now and when you leave on your trip, divide your target savings goal by that number, and voila! You can set up your account to withdraw that amount from each paycheck so that it’s entirely on autopilot.

Are you ready to travel?

If you follow this four-step guide, all you’ll have to worry about is remembering your camera and deciding which fun activities you’ll do once you’re on your vacation.

Bon voyage!


9 Money Goals You Should Have

Regardless of whether you live paycheck-to-paycheck or have plenty of wiggle room in your budget, it’s important to have money goals in order to pay off debt, increase your income, and save more money.

When it comes to finances, however, it’s confusing to figure out where to start. So, to help you get a jump-start on setting financial benchmarks, take a look at nine money goals to practice for the rest of your life.

1. Get Out of Debt

Getting out of debt seems like an incredibly daunting task, yet this is one of the best things you can do to maximize your money.

To start clawing your way out of debt, it’s best to set specific goals. For example, you can perhaps make double car payments until your car loan is paid off, or put an extra 25% towards your mortgage each month.

2. Save for an Emergency

Of course, you never want to deal with an emergency, such as losing a source of income or paying for an unexpected medical expense. But, unfortunately, emergencies happen, and you should make sure you’re prepared.

To do this, set up a specific bank account for your emergency fund. How much you save for emergencies is dependent on your current income and expenses. In general, it’s a good idea to have at least three to six months worth of normal expenses saved up for unexpected expenses. If you can stash away even more, then do it!

3. Invest for Retirement

This may sound like a broken record, but seriously, it is never too early to start saving for retirement. It’s estimated that millennials will need to save more than one million dollars to have a comfortable retirement.

If you haven’t started saving for retirement yet, start now. If you work for a company that offers an employer-sponsored retirement plan, get on board. Some companies even match your contribution, up to a certain percent.

If a company retirement plan isn’t an option for you, start an individual retirement account (IRA) and make regular contributions.

4. Spend Less

Everyone can use more money. And the easiest way to stash away more cash is to spend less. To do this, it’s important to be conscious of what you spend your money on. This way you can cut out unnecessary expenditures.

For example, you can pack a lunch the night before work so that you aren’t tempted to eat out the next day. Or, you can quit buying your morning coffee at expensive coffee houses and make coffee at home. You can also take advantage of sales, coupons, rewards, and promo codes so that you can avoid paying full price for your everyday items.

5. Increase Your Income

This one can be a bit scary for many people. Increasing your income generally means you’ve got to be bold and go for something bigger. Even the slightest pay raise or a new side hustle can give you some flexibility financially.

If you can do this, you’ll have more money to use on your goals like paying off debt, giving to charities, and breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

So, consider looking for a new higher-paying job, asking for a raise, or launching that side hustle you’ve been dreaming about! If you’re still not sure how to earn extra money, there are endless, easy ways. The most common way is to get a part-time gig like driving for Uber or Lyft. This way you can set your own hours. To earn some side cash for smaller goals, try cashback credit cards or apps like Ibotta to earn extra money on everyday purchases.

6. Increase Your Insurance

Increasing coverage on your insurance can save you loads of money later on. The key is to make sure you have enough insurance in the event that you have to use it.

Bottom line, you don’t want to be left with a huge financial burden because you don’t have enough insurance, so work with an insurance agent to make sure you have the proper coverage.

7. Save for your Dreams

I don’t know about you, but I have lots of dreams that just so happen to be expensive. Specifically: I want to travel the world and own my dream home.

Although saving for your dreams may not seem like a top priority compared to other money goals, it is still important. So, even if you have to start small, start saving for your dreams right now. You owe it to yourself.

8. Break the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle

Living paycheck-to-paycheck makes it harder to dig yourself out of financial emergencies.

To break this cycle, try living below your means and essentially pretending you make less money than you do. Save what is leftover each month and stash it away. It’s a good idea to be strict about your budget and even use a financial planning app to help you track what you spend. This way you’ll be more apt to stay on track and not overspend.

9. Plan to Give Back

Giving back is a wise idea as you can help other people achieve their dreams. Plus, giving to charities can provide a financial benefit to you – come tax season.

If you don’t have extra cash to donate, no worries. Donate your time and resources. For example, you can volunteer at an animal shelter, donate unwanted items to homeless shelters, or tutor underserved children.

Start Today!

Committing to these nine money goals can be an important part of your financial life, helping you form healthy habits, earn and save more money, and even give back to your community. So, what do you say? Are you ready to stop making excuses and start smashing those money goals?

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