Tag: Budgeting

 

Halloween Costumes From Your Favorite Books

Do store-bought Halloween costume prices send you screaming in fear? If so, the DIY route might be for you.

By now you may be thinking: How can you scare up a unique and affordable costume? Luckily, we’ve got a bright idea for you: Dress up as your favorite literary figure. This will make you look smart and boost your savings – double win!

Here are 14 affordable, literary-inspired costume ideas, broken down by categories. Book lovers everywhere can now rejoice!

Well-Loved Children’s Books

An excellent children’s book never goes out of style. These kid-lit faves make perfect costume choices:

1. The mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff.

This one is easy as the main thing you need to imitate the lovable mouse from Numeroff’s series is a pair of overalls. You can then make mouse ears by gluing grey paper or felt semi-circles to a headband. If you have long hair you can also put your hair into two top buns for ears. Then, make a giant cookie with construction paper or carry around a bag of cookies.

You can also make it a family affair by dressing up as characters from the author’s other books. For example, you can dress as a pig and take along a box of pancake mix, or dress up as a dog carrying donuts.

2. Camilla Cream from A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon.

Camilla Cream is plagued with rainbow stripes after trying too hard to fit in with her peers. To create your own Camilla Cream, you’ll need to cover your face, neck, and arms with different colored paint stripes (make sure you get body paint!) From there, wear a black dress or shirt to make your rainbow skin pop.

3. Amelia Bedelia from Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish.

If you don’t have a maid’s costume hanging around, a black dress and rectangle-shaped piece of white lace will do. Adorn a black hat with faux daisies and then seal the deal by carrying around a fake chicken or a string of green beans.

4. Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.

For this easy costume, all you need to do is draw a creative scene with purple marker on a white shirt. Then, walk around holding the purple crayon. Nailed it!

5. Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole.

Ah, Ms. Frizzle: The science teacher we all wish we had! To transform into Ms. Frizzle, all you need to do is tease your hair or wear a big, bright orange wig. Then, pick a science theme and tape pictures relating to that theme to a dress and leggings.

YA Favorites

Young adult books may be promoted as a teenage category, but let’s be honest. You probably geek out on the following characters more than your younger cousins. Take a look:

6. Harry Potter from the namesake Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

Did you really think we could put this list together and leave off Harry Potter? The classic circle glasses, lightning scar, and stick wand can all be yours for an affordable price. You can even use a black graduation robe (check the thrift store or borrow one from a recent grad). Voila! You’re Harry Potter!

7. Count Olaf and others from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.

You can expect more love for your Lemony Snicket-inspired costumes this year thanks to the Netflix mini-series. There are so many interesting characters to choose from. For example, slap on a mustache and wrap a stuffed snake around your shoulders to become Uncle Monty.

Of course, Count Olaf provides enough costume ideas himself. For bonus points, don’t forget to sing out: “I’m handsome and I’m talented and love your bank account.”

8. Characters from The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.

Yes, you can become Katniss by rocking a bow and arrow as well as a dress that looks like fire. However, dressing up as Effie Trinket is where the real fun is at. From her ever-changing wigs and outlandish outfits, there are many looks to choose from. May the odds be ever in your favor.

9. Become an Ugly from The Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.

For this costume idea, focus your efforts on your makeup with a flash tattoo from the Uglies trilogy. Tally Youngblood’s tattoo may be the most fun to replicate. She has Celtic swirls above her eye.

Adult Books

Love to read? Take a look at a few of our favorite literary costume ideas – inspired by popular adult books.

10. Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

Can you be any cooler than Lisbeth Salander? Luckily you can become her by coloring your hair black (if it’s not already black naturally) and slicking it back. Then, dress in black skinnies and a black jacket, and don’t go light on the fake tattoos, piercings, and metal jewelry.

11. Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Can’t choose between awesome period clothing and zombie makeup? You can have both if you dress as the undead Jane Bennet. Splatter red paint over a white regent-style dress, pin up your hair, and paint on your zombie face. You’re good to go!

12. Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is another classic series with so much costume inspiration to draw from. Frodo Baggins may be the easiest and cheapest to pull off. You’ll need a brown cape, a ring on a chain, and furry feet. For the cape, you can tie brown cloth or a brown towel over your shoulders. For furry feet, glue sections of a wig to flip-flops.

13. Fifty Shades of Grey from the namesake book Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.

This costume is always good for a laugh. All you have to do is dress in grey tones and attach grey paint swatches to your outfit. Handcuffs are optional.

14. The old man from The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

For this literary-inspired costume, you can take a trip into your dad or grandfather’s closet for some fashion choices. Add a white wig, facial hair and cane. You are now a literary genius. You’re welcome.

Be Inspired by Your Favorite Books

If none of these ideas suit your fancy, then be inspired by your favorite book. Look for ways to dress up as the title character. Or, if the book’s main characters have been overdone, try going for another character. Whatever you do, have fun with it. And, remember: By being a little creative, you’ll save a lot of money. What’s not to like about that? Happy Halloween!

 

9 Ways to Make the Most out of Payday

There’s no day like payday … to start overhauling your financial life! Said very few people. Ever. But a paycheck is actually a great reminder of all the little money things you should do — or stay on top of — in order to maintain solid financial health.

Here are nine ways to maximize your next payday.

1. Scrutinize your tax withholding

Big changes to the tax code went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018 — and, per a recent report from the U.S. Treasury, there’s a chance your employer isn’t taking enough money (known as “withholding” in tax jargon) out of your checks to pay Uncle Sam. If that’s the case, you could face a big tax bill at the end of the year.

Fortunately, there’s still time to avoid owing way more than you can pay in April. The Internal Revenue Service has a calculator that tells you how much you should withhold from each check, based on the current tax code and information on your paycheck. Head over to its website to see if you need to fill out a new W-4, the form instructing your employer how to much to withhold each pay period. Here are a few other ways to avoid an year-end tax crisis.

2. Tackle high-interest debt

High interest credit card debt, in particular, does big damage to your financial health, so if you’re carrying tons of it, put as much money as you can toward your balance with the highest annual percentate rate ASAP. Be sure to make the minimums on all your other accounts, though. Once you’ve paid that balance, move to the one with the next highest APR. If you’re really floundering, check out our full explainer on getting out of credit card debt faster.

3. Pay yourself first(ish)

That’s code for saving a chunk of the check that just hit your bank account before arranging, say, a big night out. As a general goal, aim to save at least 20% of your paycheck. Keep yourself on task by sending some money straight into savings via auto-deposit.

4. Redraft your budget

If you’re having trouble with tasks two and three, review your budget. You can often “find” some extra dollars by auditing your financial statements for clear money-wasters, like old subscriptions you’re no longer using, or big spending hikes that’ll indicate where you can pare back (All. Those. Rideshares.). Also, consider renegotiating a long-term service contract. Certain providers, like cable, cell phone and utility companies and auto insurers, change prices all the time and you may be paying more now than you were as a new customer. See if you can score a better price by asking for one … or shopping around.

Once you’ve made adjustments, redraft your budget. We’ve got a simple spreadsheet that can help.

5. Up your 401(k) contributions

Payday is a great reminder to save more for retirement. If your employer offers a 401(k), aim to max it out. In 2018, the IRS allows you put up to $18,500 (or $24,500 if you’re 50 years or older) into that account. If that’s a stretch, aim to at least meet your employer’s match. And if that’s a stretch, try increasing your contributions by 1%. It’ll make a difference, thanks to compound interest.

6. Protect your income

As we’ve said before, you can’t bank money if you don’t make money. Disability insurance is designed to protect payday specifically. It covers your income in the event you become too ill or injured to work. Consider applying for a policy, even if you get some disability insurance through work. Those long-term policies are generally pretty slim. We can help you compare and buy disability insurance to get adequate protection.

7. Update your beneficiaries

If you have some life insurance, disability insurance, a 401(k) and other benefits through work, check who will get any money associated with those accounts, should something unfortunate happen. Many people set and forget their employer-sponsored benefits, but your financial situation or lifestyle may have changed since you started your job. Make sure your accounts reflect any of these changes. For instance, if you got married, you might want to make your spouse your beneficiary in lieu of a sibling.

8. Set up an separate emergency savings account

Everyone should aim to have three-to-six months of expenses socked away for a rainy day. One secret for actually getting there? Open an online savings account. These accounts generally tout higher annual percentage yields (APYs) and are more difficult to draw from — meaning you’ll be less inclined to tap that money for non-emergencies.

9. Check your credit

Your credit plays a big role in every aspect of your life — from getting a mortgage to renting an apartment or securing lower insurance premiums. You want to know where you stand and check for signs of fraud throughout the year. You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free every 12 months via AnnualCreditReport.com and checking your credit scores for free more frequently via certain credit card issuers or credit education sites.

Don’t like what you see? There are ways to improve your credit in 30 days or less.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.

 

Budget for Vices: What Percent of Your Income Do You Spend on Vices?

Do you budget for vices? A recent study found that households earning less than $30,000 per year spend 13% of their income on things like lottery tickets, prepared drinks, and restaurants. The same low-income families spend an average of 4x as much on lottery tickets as households bringing in $75,000 or more in annual income. Spending on vices can be fine from time to time, but only if your budget for vices and can make them work with your more important personal finance goals.

How much people spend in financial vices

My first job after college was as a bank branch manager. I remember a few specific cases of people coming in after winding up with hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees, asking for relief. One woman came in, statements in hand, very upset about her overdrafts that happened at the grocery store and gas station. Groceries and gas are two areas that most reasonable budgets include, and I waived a large portion of her fees.

Another customer came in, a middle-aged man, angry about his fees. In addition to rudeness and blaming the bank for his money woes, this particular person spent a lot of money at casinos, liquor stores, and tobacco shops. His overdrafts all took place at casino ATMs and on alcohol purchases. Let’s just say I was a bit less forgiving in this situation.

While it is easy to blame others for financial woes, it is important to first look in the mirror. No one made that man put his ATM card in the machine to withdraw cash at a casino. And his life would probably be better if he drank a little less. But those are life choices. You can spend your money however you want. What’s important is that you budget to spend how you want so you don’t end up in a worse situation for spending on vices.

A September 2018 study from Bankrate found that 38% of Americans dine out at least 3 times per week, 25% buy prepared drinks at least 3 times per week, and 10% buy lottery tickets at least 3 times per week.

Budget for vicesvia Bankrate

Building a budget for vices

The average American spends just under $3,000 per year on luxuries. That is $250 per month. Depending on your income, a $250 per month budget on fun purchases, luxuries, and vices could be just fine. But you certainly don’t want to spend money in these areas if you can’t afford it.

If you have high credit card balances or stress about money on a regular basis, it may be time for a budgeting reality check. You may even find that a budgeting process that includes a budget for vices is easier than you realized. A budget isn’t something that holds you back from spending, it gives you a financial blueprint to make the right spending choices for your needs and long-term goals.

If you have high-cost consumer debt or want to turn around a bad financial situation, the first place to go is your budget. You can absolutely include a budget for vices if it makes sense, but you need to start with the most important things: mortgage/rent, groceries, transportation, and savings. Once those priorities are covered, you can add in lines for additional categories.

When you finish your budget, every dollar that you earn should have a job. Put them to work first for thing things that make your life better and put your budget for vices at the very bottom of the priority list. Keep in mind that the average family needs to save at minimum 10% to 15% of their total income to maintain the same lifestyle in retirement.

The lottery is not a retirement plan

During college, a friend joked that his long-term financial plan was to win the PowerBall. But the odds of bringing home one of those massive jackpots is around 1 in 175 million. You are more likely to become an Academy Award winning movie star, die in a plane crash, get killed by a vending machine, get attacked by a shark, get elected President of the United States, have identical quadruplets, win an Olympic gold medal, get struck by lightning, or get hit by a part of a plane falling from the sky. In other words: probably not happening.

Don’t waste your time “investing” in an unlikely lottery win or other vice. Instead, put those dollars to use in a way that will give you a better long-run result. You’ll be glad you did.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

The Best Halloween Costumes That Cost $20 Or Less

Halloween isn’t just for kids. In fact, many adults love the spooky, candy-filled holiday.

Besides getting your fill of your favorite candy, you may have your sights set on hosting or attending a Halloween party this year. If this is the case, you’ll need to scare up a costume. But, of course, you probably want to come up with a costume that won’t break the bank and blow through your hard-earned savings.

Take a look at 10 costume ideas that will give you the best boo for your buck:

Pumpkin Pie

For this costume, you’ll start with a simple orange shirt. From there, you can draw a pie on felt, cut it out and glue it onto your orange shirt. To top it off, create a whipped cream topping by adding cotton balls or fluff to a regular black headband. Voila, pumpkin pie has arrived!

50 Shades of Grey

This idea is also easy peasy – and cheap to make. You’ll need a black or grey shirt, and a bunch of grey paint samples swatches from your local hardware store. To attach the paint samples to your shirt, use glue or double-sided tape. Aim to glue on 50 shades of grey. Get it?

A Target Employee

Here’s yet another costume that starts off with a simple shirt. You’ll need a red-collared shirt, a pair of khakis, a black belt and black boots. Create a name tag and write your name on it. Clip on either a fake or real walkie-talkie, and your outfit is good to go.

An Emoji

There are many variations of this costume. A few of the cheaper options would be the dancer emoji (just wear a red dress and a flower in your hair) or the person with bunny ears (you’ll need a blue or purple T-shirt and bunny ears). You can even create the dancing duo (black shorts and a T-shirt with black bunny ears) if you’re coordinating costumes with someone else.

A Nerd

You most likely have the makings for this costume in your home somewhere – meaning you may not have to spend any money at all. For a few ideas: Wear a plaid or collared shirt with pants and suspenders (or a bowtie), throw on a pair of glasses, and carry around a calculator.

If you don’t have a pair of glasses or if you don’t want to ruin your good pair, wear some cheapo glasses that you can purchase at your local dollar store. To take things up a notch, break the glasses in half and tape them together with white masking tape.

Aerobics Trainer

This is yet another outfit idea that you may have sitting around your house. To transform into an 80s aerobics trainer, you’ll need some crazy print leggings, a bodysuit to layer over them, and leg warmers. You’ll also need either a big ponytail holder or an extra wide pink headband. Finish the look off with some wild and crazy blue eyeshadow, bright pink or orange blush, and a bubblegum pink lip color.

If you don’t have these items, they can easily be found at a thrift store, keeping your cost under $20. And, if you don’t like makeup or don’t want to buy it, you don’t have to wear it. It just adds a little more pizzazz to the costume.

An Extreme Couponer

If you get the weekly newspaper, or if you can get your hands on some expired coupons, an extreme couponer is a great (and almost free) halloween costume. Some ideas include carrying around the coupons in your hand or taping them to your clothes. You can also carry grocery bags of empty food boxes for good measure. Why not show off the deals you scored?

A Shopaholic

If you want to be the opposite of an extreme couponer, become a shopaholic. All you need for this costume is a lot of random shopping bags. You can either use old ones that you have lying around in the house, or start collecting them while out shopping.

Or, if you’re willing to get a little more creative, you can always go to a mall and ask the local store employees for extra bags. Some won’t care and will gladly help you out, but others may require you to buy something. If this is the case, move onto the next store.

Rosie the Riveter

An oldie but goodie, Rosie the Riveter is a DIY woman’s dream costume. All you need is a chambray top, a red bandana, red lipstick, and red heels or flats. If you can fit them in your budget, you can also throw in some temporary tattoos for your “flashin’ the guns” arm.

If you don’t own a chambray top, the best and cheapest option would be to grab one at the thrift store or borrow one. If you don’t have red shoes, it’s also fine to wear your regular shoes. People will be staring at the lipstick and bandana so they may not even notice your footwear.

A Jellyfish

This is a unique and inexpensive crowd-pleaser. To create a jellyfish costume, start with a white umbrella. Then, glue white ribbon or string to the bottom of the umbrella, making sure that it’s long enough to float all the way to the ground when you’re standing under the umbrella. From there, you can wear all white, gold or silver. Neon colors also work well if you’ll be partying throughout the night.

Go as Whatever You Want

At the end of the day, Halloween is supposed to be fun. If these costumes don’t interest you, there are hundreds of DIY and cheap costumes that you can make or buy. The most important thing to remember is that Halloween doesn’t have to break your bank.

 

Beware of These 6 Holiday Budget Breakers

Classic Christmas movies like to depict the holidays as a time of cheer, warmth, and blissed-out festivities with loved ones.

But the reality? Holiday blues can emerge full-throttle. Plus, awkward scenarios with the fam and the stress of travel and last-minute shopping can up the anxiety levels. And when it comes to your pocketbook, the holidays can be a season of utmost terror. In 2017, Americans racked up more than $1,000 in holiday debt, according to a survey.

What’s worse, only half of those surveyed said they planned to pay down their debt in less than three months. The rest? They expected that debt to linger for five months or more. Frightening? You betcha.

But there’s a silver lining: By being mindful of common culprits that devour your money, you can avoid the plunging depths of holiday debt hangover (HDH).

Here are 6 budget breakers to beware of – and how you can avoid them.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Oh, these autumn treats are so-very-delicious, yet dangerous to thee pocketbook. Whether it’s a Jack Skellington Latte, apple cider donuts, or pumpkin scones, these seasonal favorite drinks and goodies can really do you in financially. Even five bucks a day during the week for two months adds up to $200.

We get it. The colder climes may send you into cozy nesting mode, making it even more tempting to splurge on sugary, warm libations. Plus, since you’re donning heavier coats and oversized sweaters, who will even notice that bit of extra padding around your waistline?

How to Avoid HDH: While it’s unrealistic to deny yourself a pumpkin spice latte during the season, set limits. For instance, commit to just one drink a week. Or load up a gift card to your favorite coffee shop, and indulge in seasonal goodies until you’re out of funds.

If you’re afraid of overdoing it, turn on notifications for transactions you make on your Chime debit card. This will keep you in check.

Impromptu Holiday Gatherings

A company holiday party is one thing, but those last-minute happy hour hangs and spur-of-the-moment gatherings with out-of-town friends can really add up. And it’s not just your food and drinks that can be pricey. Because you’re in the giving spirit, you may treat folks to rounds of drinks you may not be able to afford. Plus, to look your festive best, you may want to buy new garb for those holiday soirees.

How to Avoid HDH: Be selective in the gatherings you attend. We all experience bouts of FOMO, but make sure you won’t be paying for that nice dinner six months later. And there’s nothing wrong with suggesting a cheaper alternative, such as lunch instead of dinner, or a happy hour.

And when it comes to your attire? Sure, you want to look awesome for the gram. But take it from someone who wore the same four dollar sale dress as a maid of honor and officiant for two weddings. Most people won’t notice if you dust off an outfit.

Another option: Try mixing and matching an outfit that’s already in your closet with inexpensive accessories like a fun tie, cuff links, or perhaps a glittery wrap or stand-out neckpiece. There’s no shortage of discount retailers, from Poshmark to eBay to Nordstrom Rack. And you can also find stylish finds at a thrift store or consignment shop.

Last-Minute Gifts

Yes, I am one of those nerdy people who creates a spreadsheet for holiday gifts. But guess what? It comes in super handy when you’re trying to stick to a holiday spending plan. My spreadsheet includes gift ideas, added costs like shipping, and the amount I can spend for each giftee. So, for a last-minute gift, I first check to make sure I can afford it. If not, I can make adjustments in my current list and free up the cash that way.

How to Avoid HDH: Check that list, and see where you can consolidate. For instance, instead of buying a gift for your Aunt Jenie, Uncle Fred, and three kids, would it be appropo to buy a single gift for the entire fam bam? And instead of getting something for each of your co-workers, what about baking goodies for the entire office to share?

Another way to cut down on your holiday gift-giving is to come up with a no-gift pact. Over the years I’ve done this with my friends and some family members. It prevents any hard feelings, and we can all breathe a shared sigh of relief. My extended family also has a no-gift policy for adults. We just give gifts for the kids.

Obligatory Gifts

We all have people that we feel like we have to buy gifts for. It may be that aunt we see only once a year. Or that cousin we secretly dislike. But if we don’t get them gifts for the holidays? We might be met with awkward silence or “how could you” glares from family members on Christmas morning.

How to Avoid HDH: See if you can skirt around it by suggesting a Secret Santa or White Elephant exchange among the adults. Or give yourself permission to send that distant relative a card. If you’re still feeling a tinge of guilt, then consider spending a bit less than you planned to. Or if you’ve racked up a bunch of rewards points on a credit card, consider redeeming them for a gift card.

Impulse Buys for Yourself

We’ve all done it. During the manic of Black Friday or Cyber Monday, we may trick ourselves into believing we’re purely buying stuff for others. But in fact, we add a few items here and there for ourselves. How can you resist a killer deal, right?

How to Avoid HDH: Set limits. Remember: the best way to save money is not to spend any in the first place. And, once again, set alerts on your banking app for transactions you make with your debit or credit cards.

Overlooked Expenses

Those little overlooked expenses, such as Lyft rides to and from parties, buying gift wrap and bows at the last minute, and babysitting or pet sitting costs can sneak up on you.

How to Avoid HDH: When putting together your holiday budget, don’t forget to include these little expenses. Also, look for pockets of money you may have forgotten about. For instance, don’t forget about that jar of spare change in your closet. Or money you forgot you had in your Venmo or savings account. You can use that spare cash toward these expenses.

Tis the Season to Watch Your Spending

You know full well it’s far too easy to go overboard during the holidays. But, by minding these 6 budget breakers, you can avoid falling into debt. Your 2019 self will thank you.

 

Chime vs. Rize

In today’s technology driven world, apps are all about making your life easier. Need dinner but too tired to cook? You can Postmate your next meal. Need a gift ASAP? Amazon Prime it.

The personal finance world has also embraced technology to simplify your life. There are even automatic savings apps that can help turbocharge your savings and make it effortless.

To learn more about what’s out there, let’s take a look at Chime and Rize. These options can get you on the right path to saving without the hassle. Read on to decide which of these apps is best for you.

Chime

Chime is a fee-free bank that is mobile-only and offers great automatic savings features. If you sign up as a Chime member and open a Spending Account (like a checking account), you can also have a Savings Account with sweet automatic savings features.

Using Chime, users can round up all of their purchases to the next dollar and save that change. In other words, you get rewarded every time you spend and the additional savings helps balance out some of your spending.

Let’s say you go out to lunch and spend $12.35. In this case, you’d pay $13 yet 65 cents would be deposited into your Savings Account. It may not seem like a lot but you have to think about the compound effect. It’s not just saving this time but it’s saving every time you spend money. This kind of consistency is what successful saving is built upon.

Aside from rounding up, you can also automatically save when you get paid. You may have heard that you should “pay yourself first” and Chime takes this to the next level by ensuring that you are saving the basic recommendation of 10 percent of your earnings.

One last thing: Chime is not only an automatic savings app but a fee-free, full-service bank account that can help you better manage your money.

Rize

Another automatic savings app on the market is Rize. Rize is an app that can help you save for short and long-term goals.

Using Rize you can set an unlimited amount of goals and save automatically. Want to save for your next trip and your next car? How about your daughter’s college fund and your birthday? You can save for all of the above – at the same time – using Rize.

The good thing about Rize is that you set up your own savings schedule and earn interest on your deposits. Rize currently offers 1.43% in interest. Chime also offers a tiny bit of interest on Savings Account deposits with an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of .01%.

Yet, Rize is different from Chime in that it also helps you invest. For example, if you’re saving for long-term goals, Rize will actually invest your money into exchange-traded funds, which are a mix of stock and bonds, as well as cash. This enables you to “invest smarter” and put your money to work for you. It’s important to note that there is a 0.25 percent fee when investing for your long-term goals. Compared to many financial advisors that charge a one percent fee, this is pretty low-priced and competitive.

Aside from this, you can also supercharge your savings using Rize’s ‘Accelerator’ feature, which helps users increase their savings by one percent each month. Rize also has a ‘Boost’ option. This feature transfers spare change up to five dollars or five percent, whichever is less.

Lastly, Rize has a unique ‘pay what you want’ model. This means you can contribute a few bucks a month or nothing at all – if that’s what you wish. The app does recommend paying at least two dollars per month to access the investing part of Rize.

Chime vs. Rize: Which one is better?

Chime and Rize each have their own benefits as automatic savings apps. Chime is a great option if you’re looking to save for a rainy day while also accessing fee-free banking. Rize is a bit more robust in that you can save and invest.

If you want to try one app first, you may want to go with Chime, especially if you’re looking to ditch a big bank while also automating your savings in a simple, effective way. But, if you’re looking to maximize your long-term savings goals and do more than save for a rainy day, Rize could be the better go-to option for you. Since Chime is a fee-free bank and not just a savings app, you could use both Rize and Chime together to save and invest for your short and long-term goals.

Whatever you decide to do, the key is to get started with an automatic savings app. This way you’ll save more money – effortlessly.

 

Is an iPhone Worth Going into Debt?

An iPhone is a common purchase for people all over the world. Around 223 million Americans have a smartphone, and 43% (around 96 million) have an iPhone, according to Statista. The fall 2018 iPhone lineup includes a flagship iPhone XS Max with a top $1,449 price tag. That is a ton of money for a phone! But a recent study found that a large percentage of Americans would happily go into debt for a new iPhone. Do you think an iPhone is worth going into debt for? Let’s take a look at the hard numbers to decide.

The cost of an annual new iPhone

Apple fanatics line up every time a new iPhone comes out to get the latest and greatest from their favorite phone manufacturer. Many consumers are excited about the new iPhone XR with a $749 price tag, giving it a better price point for the average consumer. If you were to buy one of these every fall for ten years, you would pay $7,490 for phones in a decade.

If you were to invest that $749 every year at a 5% rate of return, you would have about $10,000 at the end of ten years. The full opportunity cost of a new iPhone is a lot bigger than the price tag. That is why it is important to keep in mind that a phone can last more than 12 months. Your phone should last at least two years. I’m getting ready to upgrade my 35-month-old Android phone (which cost a lot less than an iPhone) when it turns 3 next month. (My phone is the same age as my oldest child!)

Who would go into debt for a phone?

Just to be clear for iPeople out there: both in the US and worldwide, Android phones are more popular and generally more affordable. You don’t have to buy a $1,000 phone. You certainly should not buy an expensive phone on a credit card. If buying a new phone would put you into debt (or greater debt), you have more important things to spend your money on.

In its 2018 Credit Score survey, WalletHub asked a lot of questions about phones. For someone who lives a relatively thrifty lifestyle, I was shocked to see how many people think it is worthwhile to go into a debt for an iPhone. Nearly 28 million people say an iPhone is worth going into debt. 5x more millennials felt this way than Baby Boomers.

Even more shocking, 19% would rather have an unlimited data phone plan than an excellent credit score and 44% of millennials think their phone has a bigger impact on their life than their credit score. It looks like millennials have a lot to learn about credit and money!

Good credit and well-managed finances make a smartphone more affordable. But in no way is one particular model of phone a need. Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses, friends, or Kardashians. Just focus on costs, features, and needs. That should lead you to make the right financial decision when it comes time to replace your mini pocket computer that also makes phone calls.

Make smart money choices with an iPhone and beyond

Whether you are in the market for a new smartphone or something else, let your budget be your guide. Your personal finances are too important to let any one purchase or want, particularly a luxury or a vice, dictate how you spend.

On the flip side, many people can afford an iPhone within their means without worry. If that sounds like you, and you would rather have an iPhone, you can certainly buy one. Just don’t put this type of purchase on a credit card unless you can pay it off in full before your next statement is due. If you put a $1,000 purchase on a credit card with 20% interest and pay $50 per month toward the debt, you’ll pay $226 in interest, about 25% of the cost of the phone, in interest expense.

The moral of the story: focus on your budget and long-term goals first. Phones are not as important as your financial well being.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

How to Build a Budget for Your Dream Job

If you hate your job or just aren’t fulfilled, starting your own business can sound really tempting. But, before you get ahead of yourself: launching a business comes with its own set of challenges.

For starters, you’ll need to factor in expenses, like paying for new software, buying insurance, outfitting an office, and even outsourcing certain tasks. Your income can also be spotty, especially when you’re just starting out. And, let’s not forget: unpredictable income can throw off your own personal finances.

So, what to do if you’re still nervous about branching out on your own? We’ll show you how to save money and build a budget so you can afford to work in your dream job. Read on to learn more.

How much money do you need each month?

In order to know exactly how much you need to save, you’ll first need to tally up your monthly living expenses.

If you already have a budget, this will be pretty easy. Just add up all of your line items to see how much you can spend and save each month. Voilà. If you don’t have a budget, this will be a little more challenging.

Take 20 minutes or so to tally up all of your monthly recurring expenses — bills, food, clothing, entertainment, etc. Then, add up any monthly savings you already have (such as for pets or education), as well as the monthly share of your infrequent bills (like semi-annual car insurance payments or annual life insurance premiums).

Gold Plan: Create a Runway

Far and away, the best way to budget for your dream job is to save up a cash cushion of at least six to 12 months’ worth of your living expenses. People in the startup world call this a runway. That’s because it’s essentially just a long period where you can focus on launching your new business without having to worry about being derailed by money troubles at home.

It sounds like a lot of money, and indeed it is, and doubly so if you’re starting from scratch. But if you can shave off expenses from your budget and commit to setting aside a certain dollar amount each month (plus any extra income), you’ll get there even sooner.

Silver Plan: A Mini Runway

Alright, so we realize that saving up a years’ worth of expenses is out of the question for some folks. If you can do it, then all the more power to you.

But if you can’t, the second-best option is to at least save up a few months’ worth of expenses. Ideally you’d have at least this much money in your emergency fund all year, even if you’re earning a stable income.

A shortened runway or savings buffer of at least a few months’ worth of income may not allow you the full freedom of a years’ break from money stress, but it will at least provide you a little bit of time.

Bronze Plan: Earn at Least What You’re Making From Your Day Job

Pretty much any responsible financial adviser will tell you that you need to save something before you quit your day job.

But, even that’s not always possible. Sometimes you lose your job for whatever reason — maybe it was a temporary position, maybe you were laid off, or maybe even fired (womp womp).

If you’ve already been hustling on the side, one option is to take your side hustle full-time and turn it into your own business. In this case, it’s best to already be earning the cost of your monthly expenses, solely from your side hustle. So if you need $2,500 per month to get by, you’d want to make sure you’re at least earning that much from your day job before you take the leap.

Again, it still sounds like a lot of money and it is. But if you’re down to this last option with no savings to sustain you while you launch your business, you need to be sure that you can earn a full-time income first. And the best way to ensure that this happens is if you’re running an existing side hustle. If not, you don’t need to abandon your hopes of a dream job quite yet. Instead, a better option might be to find another job now just to pay the bills. You can still focus on growing your business on the side, but think of it as using your day job to support your business until you have enough savings to safely take your business full-time.

You Can Do This

Budgeting to launch your dream career as a business owner sounds like tough work. But it’s the best way to give your business a fighting chance.

By planning ahead and saving up for your leap, you can sustain losses and wonky paychecks until your business is established. You won’t need to shut down at the first bad month you have because you won’t be able to afford your rent, for example.

Owning your own business is challenging, but you can do it — especially if you get your personal finances in order first.

 

Why Debit Cards are the Best for Budgeting

Everyone has different methods of managing their finances. Some people swear by the cash envelope system, while others put everything on credit cards with the aim of paying them off in full each month.

Yet, perhaps the most underrated way to stay on budget is to use a debit card that links directly to your savings account. This way you can readily keep tabs on your daily spending as your purchases come right out of your bank account.

According to Nasdaq, banking institutions in the United States issue over 165 million debit cards each year. So, you likely already have a debit card and this may become your best friend when it comes to controlling your spending.

Here are 5 reasons why debit cards can help you stick to your budget.

1. You can easily track your spending

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of using plastic versus cash is that you can easily track your spending without having to carry around wads of dollar bills.

Every time you swipe your debit card, your transaction is tracked. When you go to view your bank account online or your monthly bank statement, you can see just how much money you spent, and where. While you may not be able to easily discern exactly what you bought (that’s when you can look at your receipt), keeping tabs on your bank account debit transactions provides a good starting point to figure out where you are potentially spending too much money.

2. You don’t have to worry about going into debt

Unlike credit cards, debit cards only allow you to spend the money you already have in your bank account. If you try to spend more money than what you have, you may be charged a steep overage fee, depending on how your account is setup. While overdraft fees can be costly, these fees are typically not as expensive as the amount that credit cards charge in interest (which in 2018 was nearly 17 percent!)

Credit cards impose a “credit limit” on consumers. This is the limit on how much you can borrow on your credit card. Your credit limit is determined based on a number of factors, including your credit score and credit history. And, oftentimes credit card users spend more money than they can afford to pay off each month. When this happens, you’ll get charged interest. Interest is the money credit card companies charge you for carrying over a balance from month to month. With the average credit card interest rate of 16.71 percent, it can be easy to get stuck in the cycle of debt.

With debit cards, your “debit limit” is the amount of money you have in your bank account. If you don’t have the money available, well, you won’t be able to spend it. This may not sound like much fun, but it will certainly help you avoid the same type of spending sprees that often occur with credit cards.

3. You don’t have to carry a wad of cash around

On the other end of the spectrum, cash budgets are preferred by many people who don’t feel like they can keep a handle on credit card spending.

Yet cash comes with its own set of problems. For example, the cash envelope system is a popular way of budgeting, but it requires you to have a significant amount of cash on you at all times. Here’s how this type of budget works: you stash cash in individual envelopes for each area of spending, such as groceries, gas, fun money and clothing. You only put as much cash into each envelope as you have budgeted for that particular category each month. Once you are out of money, you’re out.

Indeed walking around with envelopes of cash to pay for things is enough to make anyone sweat, as you may worry about losing your money or having your purse or wallet stolen. Once your cash is gone, it’s gone.

4. You can count on ease and convenience

Counting your actual dollars and cents takes a fair amount of time when you’re standing at the register in a store. Debit cards, on the other hand, are convenient and transactions are quick to process when you’re making a purchase.

5. You can sync your debit card with budgeting apps

Finally, if you prefer to use budgeting apps to keep track of your finances, your debit card may be the perfect solution for you.

It’s impossible to sync a cash-only budget to an app. You need to have a budgeting app linked to a credit or a debit card in order for it to automatically update. While debit cards can’t list out every single individual purchase you make, they can connect to budgeting apps that can help you distinguish where your money is going.

Digital apps take the grunt work out of budgeting. Instead of having to track every individual expense, you can let an app do the work for you, saving you a ton of time and effort.

Should you use a debit card for budgeting?

Depending on your spending habits and preferences, a debit card may be a great way to help you stick to your budget.

You may be surprised at how much money you can save by simply tracking your spending using the debit card you most likely already have in your wallet. It certainly doesn’t hurt to give it a try, right?

 

How to Prepare for Holiday Travels

If you’re like me, any mention of the holidays in September is likely to make you cringe. “Too soon!” your mind screams.

But tell that to your wallet. And your bank account. The holidays may seem far away but you know how time works in adult years…basically the season of visiting your relatives will be here tomorrow.

Luckily for you: we’re here with a friendly nudge to get your financial butt in gear and prepare for holiday travels.

What should you consider before booking a flight?

Booking flights for holiday travel should never be a haphazard affair. It requires some thought and research to make sure you’re getting the best rate. Holiday flight prices can be truly scary, so to find the best prices, here’s what you need to consider:

  • What airports are nearby?
  • Are your dates flexible?
  • Will you need extra luggage space for gifts?
  • What is the baggage policy?
  • Do you have credit card points that you can use to cover or offset this trip?

By searching different airports and dates, you may be able to save some serious money. For example, I booked a flight recently and the difference between flying out of Los Angeles compared to Burbank was more than $100. Another pro tip: consider flying out on a red eye or flying on the day of the holiday for better deals. I’ve done both, and while not super fun, I did save money and still arrived in time to celebrate with family.

And, here’s another thing to think about: if you know you’ll need to check your bag(s), research baggage fees ahead of time. This way you’ll know what to expect and can plan for the possible added expense. Lastly, check your credit card to see if you have miles or cash back that can offset this trip. Depending on the card, you may also have other travel perks like access to an airport lounge or waived baggage fees.

How far in advance should you book your flight?

Finding the best flight price can be a little tricky but buying at the last minute during the holiday season is definitely a no-no. So, when exactly should you book your flight for your holiday travels?

According to travel site SkyScanner.com, booking flights for the holidays is cheapest in September. In September, prices are on average, 5 percent cheaper. And, booking 14 weeks before Christmas – the week of September 17 – is the best week to book flights. If booked during this time, you’ll score an average of 7 percent in savings.

To get the best deal, you can also set up a price alert using SkyScanner or Google Flights. CheapAir also has a calendar of some of the best days to fly if you’re traveling for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What time should you book your flight?

According to the Holiday Flight Report created by CheapAir, the best time to buy for Thanksgiving is in August or September. For Christmas – as shown above – the best time is in September.

If you want to go a step further, the best day and time to book your flight may be a Tuesday around 3 p.m., according to FareCompare.com.

How much should you budget for holiday travel?

Holiday flights are always more expensive because the demand is so high. Airlines know people will be traveling during this time and they can charge a premium.

Even buying at the best time can still be fairly expensive. According to The 2018 CheapAir Holiday Flights Report, you can expect to pay around $400-$500 per flight on average.

On top of that, you’ll want to consider your accommodations. Will you have a place to stay or will you need to book a hotel or an AirBnB? You will also want to budget for any activities and entertainment during your time away. And, of course, make sure to budget in the amount you may need to spend on gifts once you arrive at your destination. Indeed, the amount you need to save for your trip will depend on your particular situation.

Regardless, holiday travel is pricey, so start saving up now! Using Chime, you can save easily with our Automatic Savings program. You can also save effortlessly when you spend money with our round up option.

Another tip: set aside a portion of your paycheck for your holiday travels. I have a savings account that I named “Travel Fund” and I set aside money each time I get paid. Having that money in a special account helps minimize stress during the holidays — which let’s face it, on its own is fairly stressful, even without all the extra costs.

Remember: the holidays are all about spending time with family and getting some much-needed down time. You don’t want to add debt to the mix so saving now can help you avoid using credit to pay for something you can’t afford.

Final word

You may think it’s too soon to start thinking about holiday travel plans, but in reality it’s never too early to start saving for the holidays. Being prepared and booking flights early can help you score the best deals and avoid the stress of scrambling at the last minute.

To boot, a little preparation, budgeting, and booking ahead can save you future headaches and allow you to enjoy the holidays — without worrying about money.

Banking Services provided by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC. The Chime Visa® Debit Card is issued by The Bancorp Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. Chime and The Bancorp Bank, neither endorse nor guarantee any of the information, recommendations, optional programs, products, or services advertised, offered by, or made available through the external website ("Products and Services") and disclaim any liability for any failure of the Products and Services.