Tag: Family

 

The Ultimate Back-to-School Budgeting Guide

Back to school season is right around the corner. That happened fast! 

While kids are probably not ready to give up on summer fun, it’s important that parents start planning for back-to-school expenses and consider creating a budget. Indeed, as it gets closer to crunch time, every paycheck counts. 

According to a recent survey, families plan to spend around $685 per child during the back-to-school season. In order to help you figure out how to manage these costs, we came up with the ultimate back-to-school budgeting guide.

Get started by prioritizing your expenses and planning out your spending. Take a look:

Narrow Down Your Back-to-School List

If back-to-school shopping is overwhelming, you’re not alone. You probably have tons of school supplies and more on your list and if you’re not organized, you can easily overspend or forget something. 

So, before you head to the store or start shopping online, narrow down which expenses are your priorities. Some of the most popular categories are:

  • School supplies
  • Clothes
  • Shoes
  • Backpacks and lunch boxes
  • Books
  • Technology

For starters, set a recommended spending amount for each category and notate this in your budget. This way you have something to shoot for. For example, if you only want to spend $120 on clothes, include this in your budget to help you plan your spending strategy more effectively.

Factor in Any Hidden Costs

Don’t forget about hidden back-to-school costs, like after-school activity fees, band equipment fees, setting up a school lunch account and the likes. Identify these costs early so they don’t bust your budget. 

Take Inventory Around the House

Before you start doing any shopping whatsoever, take a look around your house to see what you already have. I do this each year and it saves me a ton of money

When my son comes home on his last day of school, I unload his backpack, remove all of his leftover school supplies, and store them away. I often find unused pencils, packaged notebook paper, markers, crayons, and folders that are in pretty good shape. 

When August rolls around, I take the stash of school supplies I saved and use that to determine what items I actually need to buy. 

You can do this with clothes as well. Go through your child’s closet before shopping and start to piece together existing outfits that still fit and are in good condition. 

Determine Your Savings Timeline

Once you know how much you have to spend and what you need to buy, start developing a timeline for your shopping so you can save up in advance.

For example, if you find that you’ll need to spend $400 on back-to school items this year, break out that amount over your next few paychecks and start saving. You can make it even easier by setting up automatic transfers every time you get paid. 

Also, see if you can spread out any purchases. For example, school starts a week later for us this year so I plan to use the extra time to spread out my spending. I’ll buy school supplies first, and then take my time purchasing clothes and anything else.  

Follow the Deals

When shopping, make sure you take advantage of deals and coupons to save money. Stores like Target and Walmart, and office supply outlets tend to have competitive back-to-school offers. 

One year, we took advantage of Office Depot’s penny sale and scored several items for a single penny. 

You can also shop in spurts as some stores may give you a coupon to use when you come back. In this case, it makes sense to do one round of back-to-school shopping and then return a few days later with the coupon. 

Thanks to the Internet, you can also save money shopping from your living room. Sites like Rakuten are great for earning cash back on your purchases without having to use a credit card. You can also use sites like Flipp and Hollar to scan for deals from your phone. 

Shop Used or Find Free Items

Another great way to help you stick to your back- to-school budget is to shop for used items. Clothes can be expensive and sometimes I wait around for the Labor Day sales, but I also like to mix in some used clothing.

Thrift stores like Goodwill and local resale shops allow you to get more bang for your buck and you can often find great name brand items. 

If you need specific supplies, you can also ask around to see if family or friends can help. For example, an older child may need a special calculator for math. Before you run out and buy one, see if anyone you know has that calculator and will let you borrow it for the year. Perhaps they’ll even give it to you if they no longer need it! 

Avoid Overspending 

Try to use some of these savings strategies to help you stick to your budget and avoid overspending. Odds are, you have other expenses to consider during the fall and winter months so remember not to drain your finances with back-to-school shopping.  

A good tip is to set realistic expectations with your kids and plan to mix in used items. With the proper planning and budgeting strategy, you can still get everything you need for the school year! 

 

6 Tips for Saving Money on Gas for Your Last-Minute Road Trip

What’s better than a last-minute road trip? 

Regardless of whether you plan to drive to the beach or the mountains, a road trip is the perfect way to see some of the country’s finest scenery.

At the same time, the cost of gas can make budget-conscious travelers worry about whether they can afford the trip. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the average price per gallon of gas sits at $2.77. So, if you’re taking a long trip, that can easily set you back big bucks. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to write off the idea of a road trip. There are plenty of ways you can still afford that vacation, fuel and all. Take a look at our top 6 tips to save money on gas. 

1. Lighten Your Load

Do you really need an entire tool set, sack of mulch, or hockey equipment for your trip? If there’s anything you can take out of your car before you depart, do it. According to the EPA, an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle can reduce your miles per gallon by about one percent. 

Have a heavy car? Not to worry. The EPA says the reduction is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to your vehicle’s weight. So, extra weight actually affects light-weight vehicles more than heavier ones. 

2. Check Your Tire Pressure

When was the last time you checked the tire pressure on your vehicle? 

Ensuring your tires are properly inflated is easy, and it goes a long way to saving on fuel costs. In fact, you can improve your gas mileage by 0.6 percent on average, or about two cents per gallon, by making sure your tires are inflated properly. In some cases, you can improve your gas mileage by as much as three percent! Plus, under-inflated tires are dangerous, so you’ll want to double-check them anyway before you take off.

To inflate your tires, you will need to know what PSI your tires require. To find the proper PSI, you can check the vehicle owner’s manual, or check to see if you have a sticker inside the driver’s door. 

3. Download a Gas Savings App

Inevitably, you will need to fill up on gas while you’re on the road. While you probably have a good idea of which gas stations have the best fuel rates near your house, you may not know where to find cheap gas while you’re traveling. 

Luckily, you can take advantage of mobile apps which will tell you the best gas prices anywhere. GasBuddy, for example, is a free app, which will pull up the prices of gas at gas stations near you. This way, you can choose the most affordable option. 

GasBuddy even offers five cents off per gallon if you pay through their GasBack program on the app. That’s a pretty slick way to save money

4. Set the Cruise Control

Feel lazy using cruise control? Get over it! Setting the cruise control can improve your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

To that end, Edmunds conducted a study to test how using cruise control improved fuel efficiency. In the test, they drove four different cars around a 55-mile loop. The first time, they set the cruise control to 70 miles per hour. The second time, they turned the cruise control off, and the speed varied between 65 and 75 miles per hour. By setting the cruise control at a moderate speed and avoiding aggressive driving, they saw a savings of up to 14 percent, with the average savings sitting at seven percent. 

There is one instance, however, when Edmunds recommends turning off the cruise control: When you’re driving over a hilly terrain. Why? Cruise control doesn’t allow you to “coast” downhill, and instead, your car will use extra gas as you continue to downshift to lower gears. 

5. Take Your Car for a Tune Up

Generally, it’s a good idea to have your car looked over by a mechanic before you hit the road. This keeps you safe and secure. But a tune-up can also help you save on gas. 

According to Popular Mechanics, it’s a good idea for a mechanic to check the car’s hoses, brakes, fluid levels, filters, coolant, radiator, and tires. Ensuring your vehicle is road ready and safe also means the car will likely be more fuel efficient. 

6. Choose the Car with the Best Gas Mileage

Are you taking your trip with multiple people who own cars? If so, perhaps you and your friends can agree to use the car with the best gas mileage.

While people are often tempted to take the biggest car on a road trip, if you can get by with a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle, this may be a better choice.

For example, an SUV gets about 30 miles per gallon on the highway, compared to a hybrid, which gets more like 50 miles per gallon. Yes, the hybrid may be smaller and less comfortable, but you can save a lot of money. For example, if you drove that SUV 500 miles and paid $2.77 per gallon for gas, that trip would cost you about $46.16 in fuel. Guess how much it would cost to drive the hybrid the same distance? About $27.70. You’d pocket more than $20!

Hit the Road!

Now that you and your vehicle are ready to go, it’s time to enjoy your road trip without breaking the bank. 

Another pro tip: Start saving money now and this way you may have some extra spending money to take along with you. Get ready to hit the open road!

 

How to Start Talking to Your Parents About Money

As you start your journey into personal finance, you’ll be looking at your numbers and trying to figure out your life ahead. One thing you may realize soon is that you’ll have to consider your parents as well as yourself.  

Your parents are aging too. How are they doing with their money? Is there an expectation that you’ll take care of them? 

Talking to your parents about money can be awkward but it’s necessary. Read on to learn how to discuss finances with your parents. 

My Story 

Over the years, I’ve had my own personal finance journey that included paying off $81,000 in debt, as well as starting to save and invest for the future. As I started to get my finances together, I wondered about my parents. 

I’m an only child, so if something were to happen to them, it would be up to me to take care of things. Obviously, this realization was tough and I wanted to be prepared. But how could I start a conversation with my parents without being rude or intrusive? So, I decided to open up the discussion with my own journey and then lead into questions about their financial situation. Here was my opening line:

Me to my parents: “Yeah, I just opened a SEP-IRA and am investing with index funds to help fund my retirement. I’m a bit behind because of my debt but plan on catching up. Do you have plans to retire soon?”

Asking that question opened up the conversation. They told me their timeline for retiring and gave me a clue about where they’re at financially. Once the conversation was open, I asked if they had any life insurance. I expressed that as an only child I wanted to be prepared if something happened to either of them. I also explained that life insurance would help cover burial costs and loss of income.

My parents confirmed they did have a life insurance policy. Phew! I breathed a sigh of relief. 

Starting this discussion with my parents opened up the opportunity to talk about how I can prepare now if something happens to them. 

It was a win as my parents created a folder for me that contained their financial documents like wills, insurance information and more. I now also have their passwords, a key to their house, and other relevant financial information.

The takeaway: When someone dies, your whole world turns upside down. You’re grieving and have to deal with so many other logistics. But on top of that, there are financial matters that need to be taken care of. If you never have a discussion with your parents about money, this can get messy. But taking steps now can ensure that you and your parents are financially prepared. 

How to Start the Discussion 

To get the conversation started with your parents, first talk about your life goals and finances when it comes to retirement. Then gauge the room and see if it seems appropriate to ask them about where they’re at with retirement funds. 

You can also broach the subject of life insurance and wills by saying something like “I’m looking into life insurance options and preparing a will. Just curious if you have life insurance and a will? I’m looking for recommendations.” 

If they say “yes”, you can ask if they have a sufficient life insurance policy to cover everything. You can also ask whether their will is updated and if you can access it in the event that something happens to them. 

If they say that they do not have a will or life insurance, the door is now open for you to say something like, “A will and life insurance could be helpful for you, too. I want to make sure you’re prepared if anything happens.” 

Ultimately, it would be great to review the following in detail with your parents:

  • Retirement savings
  • Wills. A will can help clearly state someone’s wishes so there is no confusion when they pass. It’ll help make the process less of a hassle. You can use a tool like Fabric to get life insurance online as well as create a free will. Tomorrow also offers wills at no cost. 
  • Health care proxy. A health care proxy is a document that appoints someone to make health-related decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so. 
  • Life insurance. Life insurance will provide a lump sum of money to the beneficiary upon the death of the account holder. That money can help pay for burial costs and cover any loss of income. On top of that, naming beneficiaries for retirement accounts and any other financial accounts is important as well. 
  • Disability insurance. This type of insurance helps provide income to a worker who is unable to work due to a disability or illness. 
  • Debt. In many cases, debt may be discharged in death or paid off by the estate. If there is a joint account holder or co-signer, it’s likely the debt will be the responsibility of the other party. 

This is a Discussion You Should Have

Talking about finances with your parents is tough but will put your mind at ease. 

Remember: Life happens fast and anything can happen – sometimes unexpectedly. It’s important to be prepared. 

 

Wealthy Habits I Learned From Being Low-Income

I grew up relatively poor. While I never felt deprived — there was always food on the table and we took the occasional summer trip to a local water park — the fact remains: For several years, we lived in subsidized housing in a Los Angeles suburb.

I received free lunches at school, my family collected cans for change, and we shopped at day-old bakeries. I wore hand-me-downs from older, well-to-do cousins and spent summers in the stacks at the local library. We eventually moved to a middle-class neighborhood when I was 12, but much of the “poor person” mentality stayed with me well into adulthood.

While it’s still a work in progress, I had to make some mindset changes to work toward a wealth-building mentality. Here are some “poor” habits and beliefs I learned to break:

Wealth is a look

When we learn that someone makes six-figures or that he drives a fancy car, we automatically think he’s rich.

But being wealthy isn’t about dining in the finest restaurants or appearing like you have money. For example, when a relative of mine started wearing luxury brands and bought a new set of wheels, it was easy to assume that this person had fallen into money. Yet, when you pull back the hood, you might discover that appearances can be deceiving. In fact, that person may be living well above his means, and have mounting credit card and student loan debt. I’ve even heard stories about folks who buy new cars but can’t afford to keep the lights on at home.

It’s important to understand that wealth is much more than appearances. It boils down to your net worth. It’s how much money you have sitting in the bank and invested. So even if you’re shopping at thrift stores, you might be discreetly wealthy.

To get started building wealth: See where you’re at money-wise. Track your spending, and determine how much cash is coming in. From there, figure out how much is going out each month. You’ll also want to see how much debt you owe, and how much you have sitting in the bank and invested in your retirement accounts. You can use a money-saving app or money management platform to see your entire financial picture.

Having money means you’re a bad person

I grew up believing that only greedy people had money. And if you had wealth, you were inherently shrewd, extremely calculating, or a downright cheat.

It took me a long time to understand that having money didn’t automatically make you a member of the “Bad Persons Club.” At the end of the day, moola is a tool, a resource. Nothing more, nothing less. It can help you live a comfortable life and do positive things.

To start building wealth: Understand that money doesn’t change who you are. It merely amplifies your current self. If you grew up with a “poor is the noble, honest” way mentality, it may take some time for you to become a more money-minded person.

You win at the money game by cutting coupons

My mom was the type to drive to three different supermarkets to save a buck on produce. She would also carefully scour her receipts and if she found even a 10 cent discrepancy, we would drive across town so she could contest the transaction.

I adopted a lot of these frugal habits until this hit me: You can only save so much, but your earning potential is unlimited. For instance: I didn’t really start to save until I job-hopped and was earning $10,000 more a year. Because I didn’t change my lifestyle or boost any expenses, I was able to ramp up my savings faster.

These days I still enjoy hunting around for a deal, but will only do so if it’s easy (like not spending on stupid bank fees) and worthwhile. Otherwise, I’m fine spending an extra buck if it saves me time or mental energy.

To start building wealth: Focus on your earning potential. Whether it’s continuing education, expanding your client base, or working toward getting a raise at work, learn how to grow your money.

You get rich overnight

We oftentimes hear stories of that athlete or singer who got discovered and amassed wealth in a short amount of time. It’s an alluring myth, and one that continues to pervade our culture.

That belief certainly extended to my family. I grew up thinking that to be rich, you had to earn a six-figure salary, get a huge promotion, or win the lottery. But growing your money requires know-how.

To start building wealth: Start small, and start today. The earlier you begin saving and investing, the more time you have for your money to grow. For starters, you can automate your savings. Challenge yourself to saving five dollars a week, or $25 a month. The important thing is to get into the habit.

Exchanging time for money

I was also taught that you need to exchange time for money. If you’re not working 40-plus hours a week, you’re lazy. Along the same lines, to be busy means you’re making money. What’s more, I grew up thinking you should stick to your day job, where you’ll get small, incremental raises each year.

I now know that you can grow your money by finding ways to pull in passive income. This can mean creating a digital product, or earning royalties from content you create.

To start building wealth: Put on your creativity cap and think of ways you can make money in your sleep. See how you can earn more for the same amount of work.

Income is a stat, wealth is a habit

When you change your beliefs, mindset and habits, your money situation will begin to change as well.

This may be corny but it’s true: A basic understanding of what true wealth is, combined with a shift in your money mindset, will help you tap into your true financial potential. Are you ready to shed some false money beliefs and adopt positive financial habits?

 

How to Throw an Epic Fourth of July Party for $100

There is nothing more ubiquitous in American culture than a big July 4th party.

In fact, 86% of Americans plan to celebrate Independence Day this year. They also plan to spend a total of $6.7 billion on food items, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The most popular July 4th activity for 61% of those surveyed? Cookouts, barbecues and picnics. And, according to the NRF, the average cost per person for a July 4th BBQ is expected to hit $73.33 in 2019.

What does this mean for you? It means that a typical July 4th celebration can quickly bust your budget if you’re not careful. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep your quintessential red, white and blue celebration affordable. In fact, you can actually save money and throw an awesome bash for $100. Take a look at 6 ways to do this.

1. Be Selective with Your Guest List

Keep your holiday cookout cozy by inviting a small number of people. This immediately lowers the overall expenses for your event.

Here’s a tip to help keep your party guest list from getting out of hand: Send out same day invitations to some extra folks. Many of your friends may have already said “yes” to another party invitation so if they say “no” to yours, they’ll never know that your goal is to keep your number of attendees low.

2. Host a Potluck

Hold a potluck and ask your party guests to pitch in and bring a dish. This keeps your food expenses low while allowing your friends to do their part.

A couple of tips to make your next holiday potluck fabulous:

·      Create a Google doc and have attendees share what they’re bringing. This way you won’t end up with duplicate dishes.

·      Run a contest to see who brings the most tasty dish. The winner gets bragging rights for the next year.

·      Be clear with your guests about what you’re providing as the host. If you’re providing all of the alcoholic drinks, for example, you can ask your guests to bring seltzer water or lemonade instead.

If you’re still a little nervous about hosting your first potluck party, check out Apartment Guide’s tips.

3. Use a Savings App

Couponing sometimes feels like a hassle. Instead, strategize your savings with your favorite savings apps such as Ibotta or Checkout 51. Then, double up with savings from your favorite grocer’s discounts.

Here’s how this works:

·      Create a list of items that you will provide for your July 4th holiday event.

·      Quickly check each app to see if you can save on that item.

If you’ve earned cash back from your savings app, use that cash towards your party expenses.

4. Borrow a Grill and Other Supplies

No grill? No blender? No worries. Fight the urge to buy new appliances in order to make your event happen.

Instead, ask your neighbors or friends if you can borrow a grill, a blender or BBQ supplies. If you think you’ll continue using these appliances or items, perhaps you can compare costs and purchase them on sale. This way you’ll also have them on hand for future parties.

5. Grocery Shop Your Pantry

Before heading to the grocery store, shop your pantry. Spend some time looking at the ingredients that are already in your home. Make simple dishes with those ingredients. If you’re short on inspiration head over to Pinterest to search for ideas.

6. Watch Fireworks as a Group

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, Americans spent $885 Billion on fireworks in 2017.

Instead of purchasing fireworks, you can instead spend nothing on pyrotechnics and instead head out as a group to see a local fireworks show. Check the following places for more information on fireworks displays in your area.

·      Your city’s website

·      Professional sports teams websites. An example of this is the Colorado Rockies in Denver, Colorado. The Colorado Rockies typically have a fireworks show if they’re playing in town July 3rd or July 4th. The great thing about this display is that you don’t have to attend the game in order to enjoy it.

Start Saving Now for Next July 4th!

Now that you’re set for this year, it’s time to start saving up for your next July 4th party.

By following the tips above, you now know that you can host a fabulous party on an affordable budget – year after year. Happy 4th of July!

 

 

The Financial Benefits of Same-Sex Marriage

Since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015, more than a million same-sex couples have tied the knot.

Yet, love and marriage comes with much more than a day filled with vows, dancing and cake. It comes with a lifetime of financial considerations for the future. For example, this may be only the beginning of saving toward your retirement as a couple, setting up a joint bank account, and working toward your other money goals.

If you have questions about how to best navigate your finances as part of a same-sex married couple, you’re not alone. For example, typical questions include: Can you save money by getting married? Will your tax rate plummet once you tie the knot?

To answer your money questions, we turned to Robert Castillo, an investment advisor and accredited domestic partnership advisor at Gerber Kawasaki, an investment management firm based in Santa Monica, Ca.

Castillo talked us through the money-related aspects of married life for same-sex couples. Read on to see how walking down the aisle could affect your financial future.

Taxes

“There’s been a study done, and about a third of same-sex couples who have married between 2015 and 2018 still have questions about their taxes—whether to file joint or single, or how to file,” says Castillo.

Castillo cautions against the assumption that marriage always means lower income taxes, which he says is one of the biggest misconceptions about matrimony.

“There’s something called a marriage penalty. If two people are high-income earners, they actually end up paying more taxes than if they were single,” Castillo says.

Thankfully, the so-called marriage penalty doesn’t apply to all spouses. If one partner earns considerably less than the other, this usually leads to overall tax savings for the married couple, Castillo says.

Indeed, you shouldn’t let a tax increase deter you from getting married. There are still other financial perks of your nuptials that can make up for the uptick in income taxes, he says.

“There are over 1,100 federal benefits allotted to married couples,” Castillo says.

Retirement Planning

First, here’s the bad news: If two high-income earners get married, they may not qualify for a Roth IRA with their combined income.

A Roth IRA is a type of retirement plan that allows you to contribute money after taxes and withdraw your earnings tax-free upon your retirement. With a traditional IRA, on the other hand, you contribute pre-tax earnings, yet you won’t be taxed on any of your investment gains until you withdraw funds. For both types of IRAs, the contribution limit per person in 2019 is $6,000 if you’re under 50. However, with Roth IRAs, there are limitations on what high-income individuals can contribute. For example, married couples filing jointly cannot make Roth IRA contributions if their combined income exceeds $203,000.

Here’s something else to know: If you have both a traditional IRA and an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan, you can’t deduct traditional IRA contributions from your taxes after a certain income limit. For married couples filing jointly, that limit is a combined income of $123,000.

Now, the good news: Marriage makes it easier for one spouse to pass retirement savings to the other if one passes away. If you’re the surviving spouse, you have the option to absorb your deceased spouse’s 401(k) into your own or claim your partner’s traditional IRA as your own. If your spouse had a Roth IRA, you can also claim it as your own if you’re the sole beneficiary.

All told, marriage makes it easier to deal with the unexpected and still have a comfortable retirement nest egg, Castillo says.

Pensions and Social Security

Marriage offers big-time benefits to the spouses of pension holders. A pension is a type of retirement plan where an employer does all the contributing and investing on behalf of an employee (although some plans allow for optional employee contributions). The employee then collects payments monthly or in a lump sum upon retirement.

Pensions are rarer now than they were a generation ago, but if you’re a teacher, government employee, work in law enforcement or work in other particular professions, you may still be able to reap the benefits of this type of retirement plan. And, if your spouse has a pension and were to pass away, that pension may go to you. What does this mean? It means that you, as the surviving spouse, may be eligible for a lifetime of payouts, depending on the plan. What’s more: This benefit is not available to non-married couples in a domestic partnership.

Here’s another financial perk of marriage: It can boost your social security payments. Social security is a topical subject as many have predicted the demise of this government program. However, American workers in all industries still receive credits for every $1,260 they earn, up to four credits per year. As it stands now, upon retirement, you can start receiving monthly social security payouts. Here’s an online calculator where you can see an estimate of your future monthly social security checks. If you’re married, you stand to receive 50 percent of your spouse’s social security payments or 100 percent of your own, whichever is higher.

Writing a Will

If writing vows seems more appealing than writing a will, you’re in luck: Marriage lessens your need for a will.

In community property states like California, all assets accumulated during the marriage belong equally to both spouses. If one spouse passes, then the assets automatically go to the surviving spouse.

“If a couple isn’t married, they absolutely need not just a will, but also a living trust. It’s not cheap, but it definitely saves a lot in probate taxes later on,” Castillo says.

An Individual Choice

The financial benefits of marriage are clear, but even so, not every couple needs to rush to the altar.

“I don’t try to convince my clients to get married or not. I just give them the numbers,” Castillo says.

With the information above, you’ll have an easier time deciding whether marriage is a smart financial choice for you and your partner. But, no matter what you decide to do now or in the future, we can all celebrate marriage equality. Happy pride!

 

10 Summer BBQ Hacks

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With summer just around the corner, grilling outdoors is about to become a weekly staple. And, if you plan to invite folks over for a BBQ on the regular, you may be worried about blowing your budget and dipping into your savings account.

The good news is: With a little advanced planning, you can enjoy the wonderful weather, good company and delicious food without sweating bullets. Just heed these 10 summer BBQ hacks and you’ll be on your way to saving money.

  1. Choose Cheaper Cuts of Meat

    Merilee Speigner, Founder of the Debt Snowball Calculator says that, “chicken drumsticks are one of the best options for BBQing because they are not only inexpensive but they also stay moist because it’s dark meat.” Plus, according to Speigner, “drumsticks are also perfectly casual…people are already expecting ‘messy’ for BBQs!”

  2. Grill More Veggies

    Adding more veggies to the mix can help keep costs low. Vegetables are generally much cheaper during the summer and there’s no shortage of delicious veggie recipes these days. You can add more veggies (or fruit if you prefer) to seafood or meat kebabs and other recipes to make meals stretch further.

  3. Keep the Decor Simple

    Look no further than your local dollar store for affordable party decorations. Of course, if you happen to be good at crafting, Pinterest has no shortage of ideas for creating a festive theme without breaking the bank. If you plan to host a few BBQs this summer, then be sure to recycle or repurpose your decorations for each one.

  4. Stock up on meat during summer sales

    If you already have a membership at a warehouse store such as BJ’s or Costco, then this is a great place to buy meat in bulk at any time of the year. Outside of this, most grocery stores often run promos on BBQ food items throughout the summer, and especially around major holidays. For example, hotdogs, hamburgers and pork ribs are often cheapest during the Fourth of July weekend. You may also consider investing in a chest freezer in order to stock up on meat when prices are more affordable.

  5. Make it BYOB…

    This is not to say that you should have zero alcohol on hand but rather, it indicates that you don’t plan to spend hundreds of dollars on drinks. Plus, your guests can bring their beverage of choice. Creating a signature cocktail, serving homemade iced tea and fruit-infused water are also excellent thirst-quenchers that you can provide that won’t break the budget.

  6. …And/or Potluck Style

    Diana Farmen, a middle school teacher and founder of Diana on a Dime, says that when it comes to budget hacks for summer BBQs, “I always recommend a potluck.” After all, as the saying goes, food always tastes better with company. And, as Farmen says, (a potluck) “cuts down the cost for everyone and allows for a wide variety of dishes.” Another good rule of thumb: Create a group chat so that everyone doesn’t bring the same side dishes.

  7. Ditch the Pre-Made Extras

    “It can be very easy to get sucked into the grocery stores’ BBQ prepped food, but by making it yourself, (you can save a considerable amount of money). For example, “a fruit salad can be made from fruit in season or on sale.” says Farmen. “Take a few minutes to cut them up yourself instead of paying for the convenience of a store prepping it.” The same principle can be applied to pretty much any side such as guacamole!

  8. Take Care of Your Grill

    By properly maintaining your grill, it can last you for many years to come. The good news is that you don’t need to invest a lot to keep your grill in tip top shape, according to Cecilia Paola, a young wife and mother in New Jersey. She says that when it comes to cleaning your grill, “a grill brush with soap and water works perfectly.”

  9. Don’t Go Crazy on Grilling Accessories

    Many of us are guilty of purchasing kitchen gadgets that we never end up using. Avoid going down this same route by investing in three key items to start: a sturdy set of tongs, a good meat thermometer and a grill brush. There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to find the other accessories you need by taking a quick look through your cupboards.

  10. Make Enough For Weekly Meal Prep

    One great way to reduce your per-meal fuel cost is to cook enough leftovers that will last a couple of days. This will also save you time during the week and help you avoid the need to order takeout.

Summer-Proof Your Budget

It’s important to budget for every season since our spending habits change just like the weather. Summer happens to be the second most expensive season – a time when people tend to overspend during longer, warmer days. Creating a separate “summer fun money stash” is a great move if you want to avoid slipping into credit card debt.

And one of the easiest ways to save money for BBQ season is by automating your savings. Chime makes it easy for you to do this by helping you to save as soon as you get paid. If you open a Chime bank account and select Automatic Savings, Chime will automatically transfer a percentage of every paycheck directly into your savings account.

It’s also important to create a budget for non-fun items that can easily derail your budget during this time of year. Last summer, for example, the AC in my car suddenly stopped working. However, because I had been funding my miscellaneous spending account during the prior few months, handling an unexpected $600 expense was no sweat off my back.

Now that you’ve learned how to take the heat off your summer budget, it’s time to fire up the grill and make the most out of the next few months!

 

Best Money Advice from Dads

For better or worse, your parents were likely your first money role models.

While I don’t recall my dad distilling any particular nuggets of wisdom on the topic, his actions preceded his words. For one thing, he was the ultimate cheapskate. We would only dine out on “Kids Eat Free Tuesdays”, and our go-to spots for quality time were the neighborhood park and local library.

One year, after spending $100 on an “Adventure Girl” bike for my birthday – complete with a safari-pattern frame, and pink and baby blue streamers dripping from the handlebars – my dad muttered after we left Toys R’ Us, “Nothing is free.”

The apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

As a self-described “frugalista,” I still enjoy a good bargain and have trouble parting with my money. In honor of Father’s Day, here’s a round-up of the best money advice from dads:

Know your numbers

It’s easy to let your money management slide when you’ve long neglected your finances, or when your money situation isn’t exactly where you would like it. Michael H.’s (that’s his blog pseudonym) dad helped him understand the basics of cash flow management by teaching him about income and expenses.

His dad helped him create spreadsheets, and always made sure that his numbers were balanced. “It was a tedious task at the time, but the lesson was invaluable,” says Michael, the founder of Financially Alert.

Michael wants to teach his children that money is merely a tool – nothing more, nothing less.

“I don’t want them to be afraid of it, and I also don’t want them to feel entitled to it,” he says.

“It’s a fine balance of teaching them the value of a dollar through hard work, saving and investing, and giving to those less fortunate.”

How to apply this to your own money situation: Check your bank balance. You can easily do this by logging into your bank account, or by way of a money management app. Know how much is coming in and how much you’re spending each month. There’s nothing like being blindsided by a low bank account balance.

The best way to double your money

When Logan Allec was around eight years old, his dad asked him, “Would you rather have $1,000,000 or a penny doubled for 30 days?”

Even though he was just a youngster, he instinctively went with the cool million. But his dad then demonstrated how a penny doubled for 30 days would actually yield more money.

“The morale was that you want to multiply your money and not just go for the quick wins,” says Allec, CPA and founder of Money Done Right.

“Since I’ve been making money, I’m also looking for ways to multiply my pennies,” he says.

“A lot of the frugal decisions I’ve made in my life trace back to this mentality: Would I rather spend my pennies on some item or experience, or would I rather invest them so that they can multiply and make me rich?”

How to apply this to your own money situation: Find ways to save so you can grow your money. For instance, drum up tactics to help you save on your living expenses. Or, learn how to negotiate to earn more money on the job. For easy, no-brainer savings, open a bank account with no fees.

Pay yourself first

The best money lesson Mike Pearson’s dad ever taught him was to pay himself first. For instance, every time you receive a paycheck at work, the first 15 to 20 percent should go into either a savings account, retirement account – or both. That’s right: You should pay yourself before paying your rent, car loan, cell phone bill, or what have you.

Now that Pearson’s a dad himself to two young kids, he wants to teach them to automatically invest in the stock market once they get their first “real” job out of college.

“The magic of compound interest is real,” says Pearson, the founder of Credit Takeoff.

“If you start investing 15 percent of your paycheck into a 401(k) for your entire working life, paycheck after paycheck, you will retire a multi-millionaire – simply because of automatic savings and compound interest.”

How to apply this to your own money situation: Before you pay your bills and debt, stash some money aside for your savings and retirement. To set aside money toward your future goals,  create an account and set up automatic savings. Even saving a dollar a day adds up to $365 a year. Save two bucks a day and you’ll have $730 in a year.

Don’t treat your paycheck like a cash advance

When Kristin Larsen was in college, she had a job working at a clothing store. Truth be told, she took the job mainly to snag an employee discount. Instead of receiving a paycheck and then making a purchase as a separate transaction, Larsen had the option to have her purchases come directly out of her paycheck.

“That wasn’t very smart as I barely broke even with each paycheck,” says Larsen, who is the founder of Believe in a Budget.

“Once my dad caught wind and took a look at my earnings and spending, he told me it was time to find another job.”

Bottom line: Don’t treat your paycheck like cash advance. It’ll be gone by the time you receive it.

How to apply this to your own money situation: If you’re a Chime Bank member, the “Save When I Get Paid” feature can help you sock away some money before all that money goes toward your living expenses. If you have direct deposit set up with Chime, you can even get a bit of an actual advance up to two days before your payday.

Parting Advice

Whether your dad gave you sound financial advice or not, pay attention to your money matters. This way you can take steps to improve your situation and reach your financial goals.

 

7 Financial Moves to Make Before Your First Child

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

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

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

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

1. Create a New Budget

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

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

2. Have an Income Plan for Maternity Leave

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

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

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

3. Build Your Emergency Fund

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

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

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

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

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

4. Start Buying Supplies and Gear Early

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

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

5. Anticipate Medical Costs

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

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

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

6. Increase Your Life Insurance Coverage

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

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

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

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

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

El also recommends calculating your insurance needs beforehand.

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

7. Minimize Debt

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

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

Enjoy Parenting Without All the Financial Stress

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

 

Should You Move Back in With Your Parents?

When you’re a young adult, there’s nothing quite like living on your own to give you a taste of freedom. No more living under mom and dad’s roof or obeying their rules.

It can be exhilarating, but let’s face it — it’s also expensive. Rent is likely your biggest expense and you may realize it’s taking too big of a bite out of your paycheck and affecting your financial life. At this point, you may be thinking: “Should I move back home with my parents?”

Your decision is personal and something that you should carefully consider. Yet, know this: You are not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2015, one in three young adults ages 18 to 34 lived at home with their parents.

Here are some things to consider before flying back to the nest.

Review your situation

Sometimes life throws you a curveball that can affect your finances. You might lose your job and feel unprepared to pay for rent. In this case, moving home makes sense. Or, maybe you have a job but you want to make more headway on paying off your six-figure student loan and save up for a down payment on a house. This is another instance where moving back into your parents’ house can help you save money.

The bottom line: Review your financial situation and the reasons behind wanting to move back home.

Know the numbers

Moving back home with your parents when you’re an adult can mean going back to the typical parent-child roles. Even if you’re technically a grown-up, you’re under their roof. That lack of freedom comes at a cost, so make sure the move is financially lucrative for you.

Look at the numbers. How much will you be saving each month? Will you be able to live at your parents’ house rent-free or will they charge a discounted rate?

Have a financial goal in mind and this way you’ll have an exit plan. So for example, maybe you have $40,000 in student loan debt that you want to pay off quickly. If you free up your $1,500 rent payment and live with your parents, you could pay off your debt in a little over two years.

Review the pros and cons

There’s no doubt that moving back home can have an immediate benefit on your financial life. But there are other things you’ll want to consider. Take a look at the pros and cons of moving back home.

Pros:

  • You can live rent-free or pay much lower rent
  • You can save money on utilities
  • You may be able to save money on food if you share meals with your parents
  • You can reach goals like paying off debt or saving for a down payment faster
  • You can spend more quality time with your family

Cons:

  • You will have less personal space
  • Living under someone else’s roof means you typically live by their rules
  • This may have an impact on your personal life, such as romantic relationships or having friends over
  • There may be more conflict between you and your parents
  • You’ll have a lack of privacy
  • You may lose motivation

Before making the move, carefully consider all sides. When I was paying off $81,000 in student loan debt, my parents said I could move back home and save money on rent. On the surface, it seemed like a good idea. But for me, it would have affected my job opportunities. I would have also needed to buy a car or borrow a vehicle from my parents. Lastly, I would have had to pay to move out-of-state.

Also, I knew that moving back home ultimately wouldn’t be good for my motivation, career, or relationship with my family. At the time, I was splitting a studio and paying around $450 in rent, so for me the gain was not worth it.

Beyond the financials, make sure you consider how moving back home will affect your personal relationship with your family, as well as your mental health. If you and your parents have good boundaries and agree on rules, it could work out in your favor. Here are some questions to ask your parents:

  • Will I pay rent? If so, how much?
  • What is my responsibility when it comes to utilities?
  • What chores are expected of me?
  • Will there be a curfew?
  • What is the policy for having people over?
  • Is there a timeline or cut off to this new living arrangement? For example, after one or two years, do you have to move out?
  • Are there any expectations? (such as having dinner with the family once a week)
  • What are the communication expectations? For example, if you’re out late, do your parents expect a text or call?
  • How much notice do you need if I plan to move out? For example, two weeks? One month?

Asking these questions can help get you all on the same page.

Other options to consider

Before moving back home to save money on rent, you may be able to consider other options to cut down on your costs before giving up your freedom.

Can you find cheaper rent somewhere else? Can you rent out your apartment on AirBnB? Can you rent out a parking space? Can you negotiate a raise so that your rent takes up less of your take-home pay?

If you do ultimately decide to move back in with your parents to save money, communication is key and having a financial plan in place is required.

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