Tag: Family

 

How To Spend $100 On Back-To-School This Year

The average parent will spend around $500 per child of their hard-earned money on back-to-school supplies.

For many parents, this price-tag seems daunting. But here’s the good news: you can still get your kids the school supplies they need without spending anywhere near $500. In fact, with careful planning, you can spend $100 (or less) on back-to-school necessities this year. Take a look at our 5 tips below and start saving money right now.

1. Shop Your Home

Before you even set foot inside a store, take inventory of what you have at home. Do you have binders that are in good shape? Do you have boxes of crayons, markers, or pencils that your child can use instead of new ones? Shop your home first by seeing what supplies you already have available. Then, cross off the items, gather them together, and make a list of all the remaining school supplies that you still need to buy.

2. Buy Only What’s Needed

If you’ve received a list from your school district stating what you need to buy for your child this year, only buy the items on the list. And, unless the list states a specific brand or size, choose the cheapest option available. As long as the particular item will serve its purpose and get your child through the school year, there’s no need to pay extra for the brand name. For example, in the Midwest, Crayola Crayons cost about $4.98 for a pack of 24 crayons. Yet, store brands from Target or Walmart only cost $2.98 for the same 24-pack.

Remember, you only have a $100 budget. If you want to make sure you don’t go over that amount and you’re only buying what you absolutely need, go shopping with only $100 in your checking account (you can always move money to your savings account and then back to your checking account later.). While some banks may charge you for dipping below a certain amount, in your checking account, you can always switch to a no fee bank to avoid that.

If your child needs more crayons (or any other school supplies) throughout the year, purchase them when the time comes. And remember: if you purchase extra items that aren’t on the list provided by your school, they may sit around your house all year. Wasted money.

3. Buy Online

Along with only buying what you need, you can receive significant savings on back-to-school supplies by shopping online. Not only does this save you time, but different stores will typically offer online only deals on school supplies.

Popular stores like Staples, Walmart, Target, and even Amazon will send out emails about back-to-school deals. If you haven’t signed up for these email lists, now is a great time to do this. This way you can get deals delivered right to your email in-box.

Another great reason to shop online for back-to-school supplies is that you’ll often qualify for free shipping straight to your home, or even to your local store if you’d rather pick up there. The items you find and pay for online are still eligible for returns, so there is no risk to you if you choose to shop online for back-to-school supplies. Instead, it’s just another way to save money, time and energy.

4. Use Coupons

If you have to buy brand name items, or if you want to save even more money, coupons, price matching deals, and savings found on apps can shave even more dollars off your back-to-school shopping bill. Almost all major retailers offer price matching, so if you find a product cheaper somewhere else, you can alert the store you’re purchasing from and they will match the price. The major retailers want your business, so don’t be shy. Take advantage of price matching to get the best deal for you.

If you decide to use coupons, remember to read and understand the store’s policy on how you can use your coupons. Each store is different, and it’s better to know the policy up front so you aren’t wasting time later. For example, some stores will not accept a store coupon on top of a manufacturer’s coupon. So, if you have a store coupon and manufacturer coupon for the same item, you may only be able to use one. The bottom line: read the policy, get your coupons in order, and make sure you have everything squared away before using them.

Even if you don’t use price matching or coupons, you can still save money or earn money back through your purchases. Apps and websites such as Ebates, Ibotta, and Checkout 51 all give you cash back for purchasing certain items or shopping at particular retailers. All you have to do is submit your receipt and the cash back or savings is then added to your account.

Also, if you use your Chime Visa® Debit Card, your purchases will round up with each transaction, thus adding more money into your savings account without having to think about it..

5. Check Out Discount Stores

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to check out discount stores or thrift stores. These stores aren’t just for cheap clothing or household items. You can find a plethora of back-to-school supplies for $1 or less. Plus, if your local thrift store offers discount days or extra coupons, you can use those to save even more.

If you decide to shop at a discount store, it’s important to remember that you may not find name brand items. However, if that’s not important to you, a discount store like the Dollar Tree can help you spend just one dollar or less on each item you buy. In other words, if you buy 40 items you may get away with spending only $40, which is well under your new $100 budget for back-to-school supplies.

Don’t Bust Your Back-To-School Budget

While the average parent may spend $500 on back-to-school supplies, you don’t have to spend anywhere close to this much money. It is possible to stick to a $100 budget for your child’s school supplies. All it takes is a little planning and willingness to shop around for the best deals.

 

How to Determine the Budget for Your House

Saving up for a down payment on a house is one of the most important things you can do before starting your house hunt. But even a 20% down payment won’t help you much if your monthly payments on a new house stretch your budget too thin.

This is what is often referred to as house poor and it’s a wise idea to avoid this. So, how do you really know how much house you can comfortably afford to buy? You can start by estimating all of your eventual monthly housing costs, including your mortgage, insurance, taxes, repairs and more.

Read on to learn about the costs involved in buying a house. From there you can best determine what you’ll actually be spending every month.

Principal and interest

This is the basic monthly cost of your mortgage loan, which you pay directly to the lender. This includes your monthly principal as well as any interest that you pay on the life of your loan.

Keep in mind that if you’re making a down payment or have closing costs, the loan amount will be different than the sales price of the home. As an example, let’s say you have your eye on a home with a sales price of $250,000 and can afford a $25,000 down payment.

The closing costs, which are fees and expenses you pay to complete the sale of the home, will be three percent of the sales price or $7,500. You’ll be expected to pay this amount when you close on the sale of your house.

Getting back to the actual mortgage, in this scenario your total loan amount is $225,000. Let’s say you choose a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 4.5% interest rate. Using a simple loan calculator, your monthly principal and interest payment would be $1,140.04.

Mortgage insurance

Depending on the type of loan you apply for and the size of your down payment, you may be required to pay mortgage insurance. The beneficiary of the insurance policy is the mortgage lender and this coverage protects the lender if you default on your loan.

To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s how much mortgage insurance typically costs by loan type and your loan-to-value ratio, which is calculated by taking your total loan amount and dividing it by the value of the home.

 

Loan type Loan to value Mortgage insurance cost
Conventional loan 0% to 19.99% $30 to $70 per month for every $100,000 borrowed
FHA loan All loans Upfront cost at closing of 1.75%; annual cost of 0.45% to 1.05%
USDA loan All loans Upfront cost at closing of 1%; annual cost of 0.35%
VA loan All loans Upfront cost of 1.25% to 3.3%; no annual cost

So, let’s take our previous example to calculate your monthly mortgage insurance costs. You opt for a conventional mortgage, and your loan-to-value ratio is 90%, so you’ll need to pay what’s called private mortgage insurance (PMI). The lender’s insurance company charges $50 per $100,000 borrowed. So, with a $225,000 loan, your monthly PMI bill would be $112.50. This premium will be added to your monthly mortgage payment.

With conventional loans, your PMI requirement will “fall off” your loan automatically once your loan-to-value ratio reaches 78%. That said, you can request to have it removed once your loan to value is 80%.

Homeowners insurance

Once you buy a house, it will likely be the most valuable asset you’ve ever had. As such, you’ll want to insure it against damage, loss and other hazards.

In addition, if you have a mortgage, the lender will require an adequate homeowners insurance policy because it technically owns the property until you pay off the loan. Homeowners insurance costs can vary depending on where you live and other factors. But the average annual premium in the U.S. is $1,083 or $90.25 per month.

Depending on your mortgage lender and situation, you will either pay this directly to the insurance company or to the mortgage company into an escrow account. In an escrow account, your lender collects your monthly insurance premiums and then pays for the insurance on your behalf. By tacking your homeowners insurance premium onto your monthly mortgage payment, it ensures that you don’t accidentally miss a payment and lose your coverage.

Property taxes

State and local government agencies collect property taxes every year based on the value of your home and the property upon which it stands.

Property tax rates not only depend on the state where you live but also your county, township or school district. So, let’s say you live in Arizona, where the average property tax rate is 0.77%. With a home value of $250,000, your property tax bill would be $1,925 annually or $160.42 per month.

Maintenance and repairs

Whether your home is brand new or 100 years old, you can expect to pay for regular maintenance and unexpected repairs. The worst part about this is that there’s no way to know for sure how much these expenses will cost.

For this reason, it’s wise to have an emergency fund with enough money in reserves. Consider opening a separate bank account to keep the money away from your everyday spending. As for how much you should have saved up, experts recommend that you save between one to three percent of the home’s purchase price. If you split the difference and save two percent on a home worth $250,000, that’s $5,000 a year or $416.67 per month.

Calculating your monthly payment

Once you determine the budget for your new home, you’ll have an idea of whether or not you can afford the house you’ve got your eye on.

For that $250,000 home, here’s how the costs add up:

  • Principal and interest: $1,140.04
  • Mortgage insurance: $112.50
  • Homeowners insurance: $90.25
  • Property taxes: $160.42
  • Maintenance and repairs: $416.67

All told, the total monthly budget to afford that house is $1,919.88 — or $1,503.21 if you already have the $400 plus a month saved up in your emergency fund.

So, take a look at your budget before you decide whether you can comfortably afford to buy a particular house – without becoming house poor. If you discover that it’s just too expensive, no worries. You can either keep looking for another other house that fits your budget or continue to save more money for a bigger down payment.

 

5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Buying My First House

When my wife and I bought our first home in September 2017, we made our fair share of mistakes. In hindsight, we should have done some things differently.

The good news: I won’t make the same mistakes again and am grateful that we did make the right choices in some instances. To help you learn from my mistakes as well as my smart money moves, here are 5 things I wish I had known before I started house hunting.

1. A mortgage broker won’t necessarily get you the lowest rate

A mortgage broker acts as a middleman between you and lenders. These brokers compare loan deals with several lenders to find you the best package. They charge a small fee for their efforts.

Since we were new to the game and didn’t feel comfortable doing everything on our own, we found a mortgage broker. He came highly recommended, and we were excited to work with him. Yet, when we were under contract for a house, I wasn’t impressed by the interest rate the broker was offering from one lender. I figured that this was a result of our low down payment —  just three percent at the time.

But when that deal fell through, we decided to build a house and had time to build up a 10% down payment in our savings account. Even better: the home builder told us that if we got our mortgage through one of their partner lenders, the builder would pay our closing costs. When we told our broker about the offer, he told us that was a common tactic by home builders and that we’d end up with a higher interest rate.

Not the case. In fact, the builder’s partner lender offered us a better interest rate than the broker. We gave the broker an opportunity to match or beat the rate, but he was unable to do so.

The bottom line: a mortgage broker won’t always get you the best interest rate. Do your research and explore all options before settling upon a mortgage.

2. Your emotions can work against your best interests

Once we signed an initial contract on the first home we fell in love with, we hired a home inspector to see if there were any major problems with the house.

The results of the inspection were overwhelming:

  • We would need to replace half of the roof.
  • We needed a new water heater.
  • The water pipes were cracking and the entire system needed to be replaced.
  • There was water damage in one of the bedrooms from a window leak.

To fix all of the issues, we were looking at $20,000 out of pocket, and the seller offered just $500. Yet, I loved the house and I wanted to make the repairs. I had to step back and detach emotionally. From that point, I realized this house was looking like a money pit.

The bottom line: don’t let your emotions rule as you may end up regretting your choice. Luckily, we got out before it was too late.

3. Your monthly payment is a lot more than your mortgage

Your monthly housing payment is a lot higher than your mortgage payment alone. Here are the main elements of a monthly housing payment:

  • Principal and interest: This amount goes toward paying off the mortgage loan.
  • Private mortgage insurance: You will pay this if your down payment is less than 20% on a conventional loan. You can, however, request to have it removed once your loan amount is 80% of the value of the house.
  • Homeowners insurance: This coverage protects you against damage and theft. We pay monthly into an escrow account, and the lender makes our premium payment for us annually.
  • Property taxes: These are due annually, but your lender may require you to pay a monthly portion into an escrow account.
  • Maintenance and repairs: Our home is only nine months old, and we’ve already spent money out of pocket for maintenance and repairs. To avoid any nasty surprises, real estate experts recommend saving between one percent and three percent of the home’s value each year. This way, you’ll be able to pay for those unexpected home repairs. .

When we received the final disclosure that broke down our monthly payment, it was higher than I anticipated. Yet, if we knew what the house would cost us each month from the beginning, we may have lowered our house budget even more to make more room for other things in our budget.

The bottom line: make sure you factor in the total monthly cost of owning that house. This will give you a true sense of what you can afford.

4. Your first home is never going to be perfect

After months of checking out existing homes, my wife and I were disappointed that we couldn’t find one without problems. Ultimately, we decided to build a new home.

Brand new homes, however, are not perfect and you may still have to pay for repairs or deal with issues – even in your first year in the house. For example, the insulation subcontractor didn’t blow any insulation above my kids’ rooms in the attic, and the builder made some major blunders with the landscaping that took months to fix.

Because we thought we were avoiding all of these problems by building a home from scratch, it’s been a frustrating experience.

The bottom line: be realistic and save your pennies. No house is problem-free.

5. Get everything in writing

During the building process, the construction manager for our home promised us some things that he didn’t deliver on. When we tried to get the builder to make good on the promises, he refused.

The bottom line: get everything in writing, even minor things. This will help keep the builder, seller and others accountable. After all, buying your first home is likely the biggest financial decision you’ll ever make, so take as much control of the process as you can.

The final word

While we made some mistakes buying our first home, we also learned from our experience.

When it comes time for you to buy a house, make sure you take the time to set realistic expectations and budget wisely. This will help you enjoy your new home without second-guessing yourself at every turn.

 

How We Saved BIG Buying Our First Home

Buying a house is a symbol of the American Dream, but it can also easily become the American Nightmare if you’re not financially prepared.

My husband and I bought our first home in May and we took all the steps needed to make this an enjoyable experience. We also didn’t want to go broke in the process. It was our goal to buy a house with a  mortgage payment we can afford. More importantly, we still wanted to enjoy our lives, travel, and continue to save money.

Here are a few ways we saved big as first-time home buyers. Better yet, we’re not house poor.

We Got a Fixed-Rate Conventional Loan

There are many different types of mortgages. We went for a conventional loan with a fixed interest rate.

Why? As mortgage interest rates are now low, we wanted to lock in the best rate possible to ensure that we have fixed payments every month.

Another reason why we chose a conventional loan was because we wanted to make a sizeable down payment and knew we would not have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) if we could pony up 20% of the cost of the house. A general rule of thumb is to put at least 20% down to avoid paying PMI. But, if you can’t do this, a conventional loan allows you to get rid of your PMI payment once you have 20% equity in your home – even if you couldn’t initially afford a hefty down payment.

We Improved Our Credit

My husband and I started working on improving our credit two years before we applied for a mortgage. We paid off debt, used credit cards wisely, and corrected any errors on our credit reports.

We focused on developing better spending habits and paying bills on time. By the time we got pre-approved and started looking for houses, both of our credit scores were over 750.

Because lenders look at credit scores for co-borrowers, they will often take the lowest score into account. Yet, neither of us wanted to be the weakest link. Plus, since both of us had such strong credit scores, we secured the best interest rate for our mortgage. This will save us thousands of dollars over time.

Our House Was Move-in Ready

Buying a move-in ready house was super important to me. My husband and I are not handy and we wanted something we would not have to completely renovate.

Our home was the perfect compromise. It was listed at a price that was at least $15,000 less than other homes in the area, was moderately maintained and had some good bones. The kitchen was updated along with one of the bathrooms. The roof was new, the HVAC system was in good shape and there was even a new deck in the backyard. Another bonus: a sprinkler system was recently installed. We definitely didn’t need to invest anywhere near $15,000 into the house. The only thing I really wanted to do immediately was hire a cleaning service and replace all the carpeting with laminate flooring. No big deal.

The best part: we didn’t have to spend extra money on hotels or stay with family while having major work done to the house.

We Bought Almost Everything Used

To save a ton of money when buying our house, we purchased used furniture. We also budgeted to buy stuff for the new house – using only the cash we had available in our bank account.

I found most of what I needed on the Facebook Marketplace. Among my bargain buys: a glass table with six chairs, a sectional sofa, an indoor storage bench, a patio table, and a wicker loveseat for the patio. Total cost: under $1,000. Can’t beat that price.

Our Sellers Purchased a Warranty

The sellers of our new house were kind enough to purchase a 13-month warranty that we can use if certain things in the home need repair. Because our house was built in the 60s, something is bound to need fixing.

Among other things, the warranty covers electrical work, plumbing and HVAC repairs. All we need to do is pay a service fee for a contractor to come out to either fix the issue or replace the item.

We’re DIYing like Crazy

Finally, we DIYed a lot to save money. As first time home buyers, we enjoy working on projects together and learning new skills. For example, I installed a backsplash and my husband sanded drywall in our second bathroom.

We’re even getting the family involved. My dad installed our flooring and window treatments, saving us the cost of hiring contractors to do this.

Final Word

Buying a home is a huge financial commitment. But, if you plan ahead you don’t have to go completely broke in order to achieve the American Dream. By taking a page from my book, you too can take steps to save money, pay down debt and become a homeowner.

 

The Best Financial Habits for Single Moms

A single mother trying to run a household is five times more likely to live in poverty than a family helmed by a married couple.

While budgeting is a topic that many struggle with, single moms have the added challenge of managing finances on their own – with kids to raise. If you’re in this boat, take a look at 6 habits you can adopt to get ahead financially.

Learn How to Budget

Learning how to budget is the number one factor if you’re a single mom looking to manage your finances. When juggling a job and kids, plus paying for everything solo, a budget helps keep you on track. It also provides a window to see where you’re spending your money. With a budget in place, you’ll be able to make better decisions and figure out where to cut out unnecessary expenses.

So where should you start when it comes to creating a budget? There are plenty of options, including writing everything down with a pencil and paper, or using an online solution like Every Dollar, YNAB (also known as You Need A Budget) and Mvelopes. All of these online software options make creating a budget (and following it) easy.

Before you do anything, however, you first need to determine your budgeting style, and then use the proper tools and software that will work best for you. There isn’t a one size fits all budgeting answer, so you can tweak and change your budget whenever you want to.

Automate Your Savings

It may be hard to save money as a single mom, but even as little as five dollars per paycheck is better than not saving at all. Also, by automating savings, you won’t even notice the money being saved and it will seem effortless.

To start automating your savings, check out Chime. With a Chime bank account, you can save without even thinking about it. Not only can you save 10% of your paycheck every time you get paid, but Chime also offers a round up feature whereby every purchase you make with your Chime debit card is rounded up to the nearest dollar. This round up spare change is then deposited into your Chime Savings account. While saving your change may not sound like much, it is helpful when saving for a rainy day. This brings me to the next point.

Have an Emergency Fund

There will come a time when an emergency fund is needed, and a single mom doesn’t have the opportunity to turn to a spouse or significant other for financial help. This is why it’s important to save up for emergencies for socking money aside into a separate account.

Having an emergency fund can keep a single mom from getting into debt, or worse, not being able to afford essential necessities, such as car repairs or home repairs. While there isn’t a hard or fast rule as to how much you should save in your emergency fund, you should tailor it to your current income, expenses, and what you deem acceptable.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

The U.S. Bureau of Census conducted a survey in 2016 which concluded that child support represents 47% of a custodial parent’s income who receive child support and lives below the poverty level. Whereas child support is beneficial, there are also other programs and resources that offer financial, educational, and housing assistance.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, also known as TANF, for example, can help you find employment, on-the-job and vocational training, and child care assistance. Other beneficial programs include Supplemental Assistance for Needy Persons (SNAP) and the Women, Infants, and Children program, also known as WIC. These are both resources for supplemental food and nutrition. In some cases, they provide single moms with debit type cards to help purchase food.

While these resources were put into place to help mothers in financial need, they are also considered temporary resources so that mothers can get back on their feet.

Teach The Kids

When you’re trying to take care of your family’s financial needs, it can be hard to teach the kids about smart financial habits. Yet, this is important – especially if you want your kids to grow up to be financially self-sufficient.

Former single mom Chonce Maddox from My Debt Epiphany, for example, teaches her son about living simply, saving for a rainy day and avoiding debt. She also gives him a small allowance and is teaching him how to handle the money he receives responsibly, including how to save for the future.

Books, podcasts, and even television programs can also help you pass along important financial lessons to your kids. Not only is financial education the best way to break the debt cycle, but it’s also a way for your to bond with your kids while learning about healthy money habits.

In Conclusion…

A single mom does not have to struggle financially while raising her children. It is possible for the average single mom to be smart financially and have healthy money habits. These habits aren’t hard to accomplish or follow through with. All they take is willpower, a willingness to get help when needed, and the ability to learn and grow through saving, budgeting, and hard work.

 

Budgeting for Summer Vacation

School bells are ringing for the last time this school year. Kids and their families are looking forward to a great summer season filled with warm weather, fun activities, and maybe even a vacation. But that summer vacation may be more expensive than many can afford.

Recent data from Bankrate shows that nearly one-quarter of Americans will skip a vacation this summer due to financial reasons, while roughly another quarter are skipping out due to a demanding work schedule and other family obligations. If you do want to make a summer vacation a reality, it is important to focus on your budget to make it happen.

The cost of a summer vacation

Vacations are not cheap, but they don’t have to cost so much they are not attainable. If you want to take your family of four on a vacation, you’ll spend around $1,000 to $5,000 depending on your accommodations, travel, meals, and activities. But keep in mind you have a lot of control here.

A summer road trip is one of the cheaper ways to get out of town. If you bring a cooler and plan out meals, camp some of the time, only pick hotels with free breakfast, and stick with lower cost attractions, you can enjoy a trip filled with wonderful memories on a tight budget. Depending on your destination and planning, this could easily come in below a $1,000 total cost.

Taking the family to Hawaii or Europe, on the other hand, is rarely an inexpensive proposition. You can expect expensive airfare, hotels, and food to easily surpass $1,000 per traveler depending on how long you travel and the quality of accommodations.

If you live paycheck to paycheck, coming up with even $100 for a home repair is a struggle, let alone $4,000 to take the family to Europe. But money isn’t the only thing holding people back from vacations.

Competing priorities

The Bankrate data said that among those skipping the summer vacation, half said money is the main factor. But for 25%, family responsibilities were the contributing factor. Another 22% can’t take time off from work.

While many employers offer paid time off, a huge number of employees skip taking those days or leave a large number unused. A study from Glassdoor found that half of vacation days go unused and two-thirds of Americans work while on vacation anyway.

For entrepreneurs like us, getting away may be a pipedream. Do as much as possible ahead of time so you can avoid plugging in while away. And putting a vacation auto-away message on can help you avoid the guilt of not responding to emails quickly while away.

Create an automatic vacation savings fund

If you do want to take a vacation but find money is holding you back, consider creating a dedicated vacation savings account. You can put cash in from your direct deposit or a recurring transfer from checking without even thinking about it!

To take it a step further, consider apps like Qapital that can help you put money away on a schedule or based on some fun, automated actions. A few months ago I put $1 into my savings fund every time Donald Trump put out a new message on Twitter, as an example of what is possible for automatic savings.

This can be a simple setup or something more complex. It’s up to you to decide the best path to success.

Don’t forget travel hacking

If you want to supercharge your travel opportunities without going crazy on costs, remember that you can earn valuable miles and points for travel rewards from your credit cards and other sources.

I started travel hacking nearly a decade ago, and it has brought me huge rewards. I’ve been able to visit England, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Canada, Israel, and destinations all over the United States for pennies on the dollar. For example, a few years ago I took my then girlfriend (now wife) to my cousin’s wedding near Tel Aviv. We paid about $150 each round-trip for our flights.

I just booked a July 4th trip to visit my family in Denver, also with miles and points. Flights for three of us plus a lap child cost about $33 out-of-pocket. About two weeks later I’m off on a solo trip to Chicago and Philadelphia for an all-in cash cost of less than $20.

Make your dream vacation a reality

Vacations are an amazing way to see the world and spend time with the people you love most, but don’t let the cost keep you from going or send you into debt. By using smart budgeting and travel hacking techniques, your affordable vacation may be just around the corner.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

How to Work Together as a Couple to Get Out Of Debt

They say two heads are better than one. Well, not if those heads are butting over financial decisions like when and how to pay off debt.

Indeed, being on the same financial page as your partner is crucial. But when it comes to paying off your debt, this isn’t so easy. Take it from me. When my husband and I first started our financial journey, we had different ideas about how to approach debt. This created frustration on both ends and slowed down our progress. Eventually, we started working together and paying down debt aggressively.

To help you get on the same page as your partner right away, take a look at these 5 tried-and-true tips. Hopefully, this will save you time, money and frustration.

Be Open About Money

If you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s important to talk openly and honestly about money. Plain and simple.

If you have skeletons in the closet when it comes to your finances or debt, it’s time to come clean. Financial infidelity and miscommunication can lead to money fights and often make the situation worse. Instead, plan money dates and lay it all out on the table. What accounts do you have? How much do you owe independently and as a couple? Although you don’t have to combine debt totals, this is recommended if you’re married or already living together.

It’s also important to discuss how your debt makes each of you feel. From there, you can work on steps to get out of debt and develop better money habits.

Work Together to Make Lifestyle Changes

When you work together as a couple to pay off debt, you shouldn’t view it as his debt or her issue that is hindering you from making progress. Remember: you’re in this together.

If you feel like your partner is a spender, talk to him or her respectfully and suggest some changes you can make as a couple. Maybe you can encourage him or her to start packing lunches to take to work, and you can do the same. Or, instead of going out to dinner and a movie every Friday night, maybe you can get into the habit of cooking dinner at home and going for a bike ride or to a free concert in the park. Odds are, you both may need to improve your money management habits. Why not work on it as a team and support each other?

Jen Hayes, who runs the blog Frugal-Millennial, says it takes teamwork and dedication to pay off debt as a couple. Hayes and her husband started out with $117,000 of debt in 2013 and they’ve already paid off $88,000.

“We both reduced our expenses and increased our income. We cut back on expenses by renting a room from my parents, driving an 18-year-old car, and finding free things to do for fun,” she says.

Hold Each Other Accountable

Paying off debt often takes time and requires sacrifice.

To this end, knowing that you’re not alone can be motivating. For this reason, think of each other as an accountability partner. My husband and I, for example, commit to weekly finance dates. This is a time when we talk about money in our household and discuss our debt repayment progress report. Checking in often reminds us that we need to stay on top of our goals – together.

Find Flexible Ways to Make More Money

When you put your debt balances together, you may be in for sticker shock. But, here’s the good news: your double income can help you pay off this debt faster.

You can also boost your earnings and improve your financial habits. For starters, if you and your partner both work, you’ll already have two incomes to consider when budgeting for debt payments. Then, if one or both of you start bringing in extra money on the side, you’ll likely be able to pay off your accounts even faster. Case in point: both my husband and I have side hustles to generate more money. You can do this too! Whether it’s babysitting, walking dogs, freelancing, or driving for a rideshare company, you just need a few hours each week to earn extra money on the side. You can then throw all of this toward paying off your collective debt.

Do What Works Best for You as a Couple

When asked how she and her husband paid off so much debt in just a few years, Hayes answered with this: “Do what works best for you as a couple.”

For some couples, this may mean moving back in with parents to save money. For others, it may mean cutting out gym memberships or swapping out expensive hobbies for more frugal ones.

While some people insist that all couples have joint bank accounts or weekly budget meetings, every couple is different. At the end of the day, you and your partner have to come up with a money action plan that you can both stick to.

 

4 Side Hustles You Can Do with Your Family

When you’re faced with budget difficulties, other well-meaning people suggest cutting expenses. But sometimes that simply isn’t enough of a solution.

The next common piece of advice you’ll likely get is to start a side hustle and earn more money. Unfortunately making that choice can really cut into family time. It may also be tough to do when you already feel like there isn’t enough of it.

So what’s the best solution? A side hustle you can do with your family, of course.

Taking on a side hustle you can do with your family has advantages. You can earn more money and still spend time with them. It also gives you the opportunity to teach them the value of money and hard work. Here are a couple of side hustles you could choose to do with your family.

1. Grow a Lawn Care Service

Not all side hustles are family friendly, so finding one a spouse or kids can help with may be tricky. One side hustle you can do with your family is to grow a lawn care service.

There are positives to choosing this type of business. For one, you get to spend time outdoors. Another is advertising through happy customers with great looking lawns who will refer you to others.

By building up a client base you’ll have repeat customers every week or so. You can use your calendar to keep a schedule so all family members can follow along. Use it to schedule as many jobs as you’d like according to everyone’s availability.

Obviously you’ll need an invoicing system as well as a little equipment. But family members can help pull weeds, sweep, use a leaf blower, and perform other small tasks. Older kids may be able to mow and use a trimmer too. Having help allows you to complete lawn care quickly and make more money.

2. Pet Sitting and Dog Walking

Having a side hustle you can do with your family may be easy if you like pets. Try pet sitting, dog walking, or both to get your family involved and making money along with you.

Not a lot of skills are required most of the time. Still, liking and being good with animals makes it much easier and more fun.

Young children will love helping with this job. It will give them an idea of what it’s like to start their own business while they’re still young.

3. Baking and Catering

An additional side hustle you can do with your family is baking and catering for others. To get started, try some recipes out on family and friends. Ask for referrals and advertise on social media to build repeat business.

To include your family, have them help do the tasks they can for their age. For instance, small children can carry non-food items that are not overly heavy or help with clean-up. Older children can probably do more of the actual cooking and baking.

4. Rent Rooms in Your Home

Need another idea for a side hustle you can do with your family? Try renting rooms in your home to travelers through Airbnb. Signing up is easy and your family can help out.

Have youngsters assist by stocking small toiletry items and towels. Older kids can clean and do other needed tasks.

Taking on a side hustle doesn’t have to mean sacrificing all of your family time. Choose a side hustle you can do with your family and you can have both while boosting your budget.


This article originally appeared on Due.com

 

Financial Infidelity: Do You Keep Money Secrets from Your Spouse?

Financial infidelity means keeping a money secret from your spouse. With a divorce rate today of about 50 percent, any form of infidelity could easily lead to a relationship breakdown. And while a little white lie about money may seem like no big deal, but financial infidelity is as serious as any relationship secret. Let’s take a look at how money and relationships intersect and what you can do to make your relationship as open, honest, and fair as possible with a focus on long-term relationship success.

Is financial infidelity a big problem?

Before we dive into how to solve money troubles with a significant other, it is important to understand the problem. If you fight with your significant other about money, you are not alone. A study last year found that 48 percent of American couples argue about finances. That is huge! Nearly half of all couples argue about money.

study from SunTrust found that money is the leading cause of relationship stress. The survey found that 1 in 5 Americans has made a purchase of $500 or more secretly without telling their spouse. Six percent of respondents go as far as to keep a secret bank account! If you don’t trust your spouse so much that you need to secretly keep money without their knowledge, you probably have bigger relationship and trust issues than just money, but money is clearly the big symptom of the discord.

How to avoid money fights in a relationship

There are a few specific personality traits and money disagreements that tend to percolate to the top. According to Elite Daily, here are the four biggest causes of money friction in a relationship:

  1. Spending versus saving – If you have a saver mentality and are dating or married to a spender, you know how frustrating it can be when your SO (significant other) splurges on even the smallest purchases. From a daily lunch at the local burrito or sandwich shop to a big dollar purchase online or at the store, watching money fly out the window can push you to the edge! If this is an issue in your relationship, consider the other’s perspective and try to calmly explain yours. Finding middle ground and creating fun money budgets for each half of the couple can help smooth things out.
  2. Expectations that one partner pays more – The battle over who pays goes far beyond the first date. Even long-time couples often have different views on who should be bringing what to the table. In many cases, the male is expected to pay for the majority of costs, even if both partners have similar earnings. There is no right or wrong way to approach this. Open communication and setting clear expectations can help avoid this little argument turning into a blowout.
  3. One partner earns a lot more – If you earn a lot more than your partner, or they earn a lot more than you, stress and double standards are probably not far behind. It is easy for the lower earner to expect the higher earner to pay more. But when income in a relationship is not distributed equally or distributed as earned, it can lead to resentment.
  4. Wants versus needs – One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. One partner’s need is another partner’s frivolous purchase. What one of you thinks is a need versus a want may differ. It is okay to have different values, as long as they don’t bust the budget. This is where a fun money budget comes into play. If you have a certain amount to spend guilt-free, you don’t have to fight over it.

Set shared goals but allow for individual freedom

In real life, things don’t always look like a movie. After the honeymoon period wears off, real-life goals, stresses, and obligations remain. Never go into a relationship expecting your partner to change. If you don’t like their money habits, it may be better to cut things off from the start. (Credit score dating anyone?)

When you do get into a serious relationship, you have many money questions ahead. As you tackle them one by one, remember that it isn’t reasonable to expect your SO to never spend money. Even if you are the primary income earner with a stay-at-home spouse, you have to expect that they will want to treat themselves every once in a while. And that’s just fine!

To find the right balance between family savings, shared fun money, and individual fun money, work together to create a good budget you can stick with over time. Tweak as necessary until you have it right and both of you are on board with the plan.

Work together for a financial infidelity free lifestyle

Just as you wouldn’t want to find out your significant other had a secret relationship on the side, it can be devastating to land on the wrong end of financial infidelity. If you are keeping financial secrets, it’s time to change that and move to an open and honest relationship with clear, trusted communication about money. If you suspect your spouse is cheating with money, consider confronting them for an honest discussion. Long-term financial success requires an effort on both sides, and with honesty and a team driven focus on your money goals, you can get on track for a long and happy financial future together.


This article originally appeared on Due.com

 

10 Low Cost Ways to Entertain the Kids This Summer

Ahh, summertime. For you, this may mean warm weather, beach days and lazy nights on the porch. It also may mean you’ve got kids at home to entertain. And this can get expensive.

Between activities, sports, lessons and camps, summertime costs can add up quickly if you aren’t careful.

To keep from overspending, it’s a good idea to create a budget as well as a summer savings fund. Plus, start looking around now for low-cost ways to entertain your kids without breaking the bank. To help you get going, take a look at our top 10 ideas.

1. Go to the public pool

Nothing says summer like long days at the pool. Fortunately, you don’t have to have your own pool to take the kids for a swim. Public pools are a great place to cool off and burn off some energy. Plus, public pools are usually inexpensive. For instance, the city of Los Angeles only charges $1 for a day pass for children under the age of 17. For adults, it costs $3.50.

Depending on where you live, you can often buy a single day pass or purchase a summer pool membership. So, do your research. You’ll be surprised at the array of public pools available.

2. Enroll in local classes and camps

Many clubs, recreation centers, and even schools offer affordable summer activities for kids.

To find activities near you, start by looking on your city’s website. You can also see if your local YMCA, school district, and place of worship offer summertime programs for kids. For instance, the city of Seattle offers a four-day camp for $250. And, the YMCA of Denver offers day camps for children between the ages of five and 12. These camps are four days long and cost $195.

Don’t forget to look around for cost-effective activities run by other local and national organizations. For example, 4-H, a nationwide organization that offers programs for kids ages eight to 18, holds meetings year-round.

3. Assign the kids projects around the house

Got older kids? Assign them projects around the house.

Whether you could use help with regular chores, some basic landscaping, or painting a room, kids are often eager to pitch in. Not only will household projects keep kids busy, but it will help you cross items off your to-do list. Plus, it can help teach children new skills.

Dr. Brittney Schrick, assistant professor-family life specialist at University of Arkansas, created a list of age appropriate chores for children. She stated that when children complete household chores, they gain confidence, life skills, and a sense of accomplishment.

Another perk: having your children help out around the house won’t cost you a dime, unless you choose to pay them an allowance.

4. Schedule playdates

What better way to entertain the kids than to invite other kids over?

Children are usually pretty good at entertaining themselves. So, consider hosting playdates at your house in exchange for sending your kids to your neighbor’s house on another day. You get some time to yourself while your kids are entertained. A win-win!

You may also want to invite other families over to your house for dinner or a BBQ. This way you can enjoy some adult time while the kids play.

5. Visit a local museum

Whether the focus is on science, art, or history, museums are a great way to encourage kids to keep learning even when school is out.

To make a trip to a museum more cost-effective, look for discounts. For example, deal site Groupon offers a 25 percent discount off admission to the Old State Museum in Boston. Speaking of Boston, families there can take advantage of Highland Street Foundation’s Free Fun Friday program. Every Friday throughout the summer, multiple cultural sites in Boston and Massachusetts open their doors to the community for free!

6. Take advantage of library programs

Libraries often offer summer programs for kids for free. The District of Columbia Public Library, for example, touts a full calendar of kid-friendly events, ranging from art classes to reading programs. Between activities, reading time, and watching videos, the library is a one-stop shop.

7. Go to the beach

The beach promises endless fun. Youngsters can swim, build sand castles, or play recreational sports on the beach. Even for parents, the beach is the perfect place to find solace and relax with a good book while the kids stay entertained.

Depending on where you live, your local beach may be at the ocean, a lake, a pond, or even a reservoir. If you’re lucky enough to live near a coastline, check out TripAdvisor’s 25 best beaches in the country.

While a trip to the beach may only cost you a few bucks in parking or entrance fees, watch out for the snack stand as multiple trips for food and drinks can add up. Instead, bring your own lunch and snacks and enjoy a picnic spread on the beach.

8. Go camping

Need a quick getaway without spending much money? Maybe you should give camping a try.

Camping can be as simple or glamorous as you want. According to the National Park Service, plots usually cost between $20-30 a night, making it an affordable option.

To find a campsite near you, the National Park Service offers a full list of campsites available across the nation. Or, you can make it easy and camp out in your own backyard! Kids love backyard camping and it requires less planning on your part. Simply, pitch a tent out back and let the kids enjoy their outdoor adventure.

9. Keep plenty of indoor games handy

Unfortunately, not every summer day is sunny. Prepare for the rainy days by making sure you have plenty of fun indoor games available.

Board games and toys are always a hit with kids on rainy days. You can also encourage children to learn new skills, such as baking, painting or drawing.

10. Turn your backyard into a recreation center

Your backyard can provide hours upon hours of entertainment for kids if you provide the right set-up. For example, you can set up swing-sets, kiddie pools, sprinklers, a tetherball game, sandboxes, and more.

To lower the cost even more, you can often find backyard toys for cheap on sites like Craigslist or at garage sales. Or, ask around. Many families have children who have outgrown their backyard toys. They may be happy to have you take stuff off their hands.

No backyard? No problem. Find a local playground and let the kids have the run of the place!

Fun in the Sun

With a little creativity, you can give your kids their best summer yet. By following the tips above, saving money in advance and sticking to a budget, you and your kids can have a blast this summer without going broke.

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