Tag: Guides

 

The Cliffs Notes Guide to Money 101

Have you ever hung out with a group of friends and the conversation veers toward money?

You may feel anxious as your peers discuss their savings and investment portfolios. As for you? You keep quiet as you’re completely overwhelmed.

Yet, you’re not alone when it comes to anxiety over money. In fact, many Americans feel uncomfortable talking about wealth and other financial topics. According to a global study on financial literacy conducted by the S&P Ratings Service in 2015, 43% of Americans are financially illiterate. This means that they didn’t have the basic financial knowledge required to make informed and sound decisions about their money.

The U.S. Government is also aware of this problem and designated April as National Financial Literacy Month – all with the hopes of raising financial knowledge. Luckily, gaining insight into your finances doesn’t require years of extensive study. Even a cursory understanding of money matters can have a significant impact upon your financial situation.

To help you become more financially literate, we’ve created a guide that breaks down some of the most important aspects of money management, including savings, budgeting, borrowing, and long-term financial planning. We’ve also included some financial terminology that can help you make informed decisions to boost your savings. Read on to learn more.

Savings 

If getting in shape was your No. 1 resolution for this year, saving more money may have been No. 2.

The majority of Americans desperately want to save more money, but unless you have developed consistent and actionable goals, it can seem daunting.

One simple way to effectively save more money is to enroll in an automatic savings program, like the one offered at Chime. This way, you can start saving money without even thinking about it. With a Chime account, every time you make a purchase with your Chime Visa® Debit Card, transactions are automatically rounded up to the nearest dollar and transferred into your Chime Savings Account. The program also allows you to automatically set aside 10% of each paycheck into your savings as soon as you get paid.

There are several ways to save more money and your options often depend on your personal situation and lifestyle. Yet, regardless of how much money you earn, if you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, or a 401(k), it’s a wise idea to contribute as much money as you can – especially if you can save money directly from your paycheck. If a 401(k) plan isn’t an option for you, consider opening an individual retirement account (IRA) to start saving now for your future.

If you’re looking to pull money out of your savings before retirement and want a safe way to earn money, consider opening a money market account (MMA). According to Investopedia, money markets accounts pay interest rates that are typically higher than at savings accounts. Many banks, however, require higher minimum balances in money market accounts in order to avoid fees and earn higher interest.

Budgeting

Another crucial step to saving money is creating a budget. You can start by taking a close look at how much money is coming in and how much is going out. To further explain, your net income is essentially the money you take in each month from your job, minus taxes and deductions. Once you have that net income figure, you can make a list of all your fixed expenses, which are costs that do not change month to month. This may include your rent or mortgage, utility bills and loan payments.

With this information, you can build a budget and figure out how much you can effectively allocate to your savings account.

Bari Tessler, a financial coach and author of The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness, subscribes to the 50/30/20 budgeting plan, initially developed by Senator Elizabeth Warren. The plan allocates 50% of your net income to fixed expenses, 30% to discretionary spending, and the remaining 20% to savings.

Tessler says that it’s not always possible to save twenty percent, and unexpected expenses may make it impossible to save at all. She emphasizes that your relationship with money will last your entire life, and ultimately, the amount you can save is very personal and can change over time.

Borrowing and Debt

Want to borrow money to buy a car or for a personal loan?

Oya Altınkılıç, a finance professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, recommends understanding the borrowing process and what will be expected of you.

For instance, getting approved for a loan depends heavily upon your creditworthiness. And this can be determined in part by your credit score, a three-digit number that gives lenders a snapshot look at how likely you are to repay your debt. Lenders will also look at your current assets, which are essentially anything of value that you own that can be converted into cash, such as real estate or cars. You should have a general idea of the value of your assets, including cash.

If you have a credit card, you may think it’s a good idea to buy expensive items on your card, perhaps instead of taking out a personal loan. However, credit card debt can pile up fast, especially if your annual percentage rate (APR) is high and you are paying hefty interest charges every month.

Just remember: Borrowing money typically has a cost, and it’s best to determine that cost upfront and evaluate it against your long-term financial goals before deciding whether to proceed.

Seek Professional Advice

Professor Altınkılıç says that if you don’t feel comfortable investing or managing your finances on your own, it’s a good idea to seek advice from a financial expert.

“You cannot beat the market on your own so don’t try. It is best to hire a financial professional who understands your short- and long-term investment goals, as well as your risk tolerance.”

“The financial industry is one of the most highly-regulated industries, and you have a higher chance of being successful if you choose someone who is reputable.”

To that end, you can begin your search for a financial advisor at the National Association of Personal Finance Advisors (NAPFA).

Start Saving More Money Today

Tessler at The Art of Money explains that many financial decisions are based on beliefs about security, abundance and fear that were developed during the childhood years.

People get paralyzed by money because of shame and guilt about not having enough saved or not investing earlier. Instead of dwelling on the past, however, it’s important to create sustainable practices around money – starting today.

Are you ready to level up your financial literacy and start saving more money? We thought so.

 

10 Best Money Books to Improve Your Financial Literacy

Some people seem to be naturally good at managing their money – they’ve always had cash in the bank and they actually enjoy budgeting.

On the other hand, there are those people who struggle with money. Maybe it’s due to a lack of financial knowledge, a drastic amount of debt, or simply feeling overwhelmed.

If you identify with the latter, you are not alone. In fact, in a recent study conducted by Student Loan Hero, just 43 percent of respondents stated they feel like they are financially successful. This means that a whopping 57 percent said they’re not financially confident. Yikes.

But here’s the good news: There are plenty of educational resources available, including excellent books that can help you gain more insight on your finances. Whether you’re looking to pay off debt, save more money, or start investing, there is a book for you.

Not sure where to start? Check out these 10 books that can help you improve your financial literacy.

1. Best book for millennials: Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together by Erin Lowry

Everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you’re relatively new to the financial scene, there are tons of quality books to help teach you everything you need to know. Yet, Erin Lowry’s book, Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together, stands apart from the rest.

Lowry’s simple, conversational tone is certainly helpful, as she walks you through the basics of budgeting, picking the best bank for you, dealing with debt, preparing for retirement, and more.

2. Best book about student loans: Bye Student Loan Debt: Learn How to Empower Yourself by Eliminating Your Student Loans by Daniel J. Mendelson

Author Daniel J. Mendelson and his wife once had nearly $150,000 of student loan debt due to many years of graduate school and hefty interest rates. By creating and sticking to a simple repayment process, the couple became debt-free within five years.

In Bye Student Loan Debt, Mendelson walks you through his simple debt repayment system. And more importantly, the book will give you hope if you are feeling like you’ll never pay off your student loans.

3. Best book on frugality: 365 Ways to Live Cheap: Your Everyday Guide to Saving Money by Trent Hamm

Frugality is one way to fix your financial situation. By living on the cheap, you have more money for the things that are truly important to you.

Trent Hamm, founder of the blog The Simple Dollar, knows how to be frugal. Hamm credits frugality and mindfulness for overhauling his formerly dire financial situation. And, his book, 365 Ways to Live Cheap: Your Everyday Guide to Saving Money, offers some easy ways to save money in your day-to-day spending.

4. Best book for investing: The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns by John C. Bogle

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing is the classic guide to getting started with the stock market. And, while you may not recognize the author by name, you certainly know of him – John C. Bogle is the founder of the investment company Vanguard. Bogle believes investing is for everyone, regardless of your education, income or experience.

While the stock market has its ups and downs, Bogle’s book has withstood the test of time. It is now on its tenth anniversary edition.

5. Best book for increasing your income: Hustle Away Debt: Eliminate Your Debt by Making More Money by David Carlson

While most financial books focus on saving, Hustle Away Debt offers a fresh perspective by teaching you about the importance of increasing your income.

Author David Carlson is also the founder of the popular millenial financial blog Young Adult Money. In his book, he details his secrets to getting out of debt by increasing his income through side hustles. If you’ve ever wanted to increase your income while learning new skills, then this book is a must-read.

6. Best book on budgeting: The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke by Suze Orman

Suze Orman is one of the original financial gurus. She has seven New York Times best sellers, but you may recognize her most from her television show, The Suze Orman Show.

Orman provides to-the-point, no frills financial advice. For those just learning to budget (or learning to stick to a budget), look no further than The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke. Orman walks you through everything you need to know.

7. Best book for couples: Money Talks: The Ultimate Couple’s Guide to Communicating About Money by Talaat and Tai McNeely

Relationships and money are often a neglected topic. In fact, in a study by CreditLoan.com, over 30 percent of men and women hid a financial secret from their partners.

To say there is room for improvement is an understatement. That’s where Money Talks: The Ultimate Couple’s Guide to Communicating About Money comes in. This book hits on a sometimes sensitive topic. Not only does it provide valuable communication tips, but it teaches you how to set and achieve financial goals as a couple.

8. Best book for general financial advice: Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is one of the top financial writers out there. His book, Total Money Makeover, shows you how to take control of your finances in a simple 10 “baby-step” process, which includes paying off debt, saving for an emergency fund, starting to invest, and other financial goals.

Total Money Makeover provides foolproof, no-nonsense advice for anyone looking to improve their financial situation.

9. Best book for saving: Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money – That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki

In the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, author Robert Kiyosaki outlines the lives of two men: his father, who was constantly broke, and his father’s friend, a wealthy entrepreneur. He believes “street smarts” can often be more valuable than a more traditional education.

Rich Dad Poor Dad challenges the conventional ideas of saving by providing information on how your current view of money can affect your future finances.

10. Best book for early retirement: How to Retire Early: Your Guide to Getting Rich Slowly and Retiring on Less by Robert and Robin Charlton

At the age of just 43, Robert and Robin Charlton were able to retire from their full-time jobs. They had worked a collective total of just 15 years. They now run a website, WhereWeBe.com while traveling the world.

Their book, How to Retire Early: Your Guide to Getting Rich Slowly and Retiring on Less, is designed to help others do the same thing they did. They outline repeatable steps that anyone with a full-time job can implement. Overall, they aim to communicate that retirement is not just a dream. It’s achievable.

 

Overdraft Protection: What to Know & How to Avoid Fees

Have you ever swiped your debit card and worried that you might not have enough money in your account? If this sounds like you, you might consider overdraft protection to save you from such a predicament.

But is it worth it? Read on to learn all about overdraft protection and overdraft fees.

What is overdraft protection and how does it work?

In general, if you make a purchase with your debit card and don’t have enough funds in your account, the purchase won’t go through. This is typically called an overdraft — which is when you go below your account balance and dip into the negative territory. This situation can be awkward for you and the person behind the cash register. It also can be highly inconvenient if you need whatever you’re purchasing like now.

This is where overdraft protection comes in. Overdraft protection essentially protects you from overdrafting. So, instead of getting your card declined and leading to an uncomfortable situation, your card will go through like normal – even if you don’t have enough money in your account to cover that purchase.

But overdraft protection comes at a price, in the form of overdraft fees which can add up (more on that later). So, while overdraft protection, on the surface, can seem like a great solution to a temporary problem, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

So, what does overdraft protection do?

Overdraft protection is a safety net that helps you avoid overdrawing your account. In short, it’s a type of financial protection that will help float you money if you have insufficient funds. So if you swipe your debit card or try to get cash out of an ATM, you may be able to do so even if you technically don’t have enough money in your account.

If interested in this protection, you’d want to talk to your bank and enroll in the program. Additionally, it’s important to know all the upfront costs such as overdraft fees, credit line limits, etc.

Pros of overdraft protection

The main pro of overdraft protection is convenience. Overdraft protection allows purchases to go through, even if you don’t have enough funds in your account. This can save you embarrassment, inconvenience and time. You don’t have to deal with your card getting declined in public or being unable to access cash when you really need it.

How do I use my overdraft protection?

If you want to use overdraft protection, first make sure it’s something you’re signed up for. As noted above, your bank must get consent from you first to enroll you in overdraft protection.

Once you are enrolled, see if you have to link another account or a credit card to complete the process. Each bank may have different policies and procedures.

When it’s set up, overdraft protection will be in place if you overdraw your account. But remember: The hope is that you never have to use it! If you do, this means you’ve run out of money in your account, which is no fun.

Cons of overdraft protection

Overdraft protection seems good in theory but it can cost you in the long run. The fees can vary from bank to bank and your financial institution can decide what to charge. And it’s not just one charge either. You can continue getting hit with overdraft fees if your account is overdrawn.

We found that consumers can get hit with four to six overdraft fees per day. In some cases, that number can be as high as 12. What’s more: Consumers who frequently overdraft end up paying more fees than those who do not opt into overdraft protection. In fact, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that frequent overdrafters who opt into this coverage pay nearly $450 more in fees.

On top of that, if you accrue enough overdraft fees and stay in the negative, you’re at risk of your account being closed. Having your account closed by your bank is more than just a pain, but a major inconvenience on your financial life. Just think about all the bills that are connected to that account, or not having access to your money for a period of time.

All of these are major cons of overdraft protection and should be considered carefully.

The reality of overdraft fees

Overdraft fees – by and large – are big business for many banks. In fact, the average overdraft fee is around $35. In 2017, consumers paid 34.3 billion dollars in overdraft fees in 2017, a number which has been on the rise since the Great Recession.

Even credit unions, which are often thought of as more community-minded and consumer friendly have jumped on the overdraft fee bandwagon. Overdraft fees at credit unions have nearly doubled from $15 in 2000 to $29 in 2017.

In short, overdraft fees are the bread and butter for many financial institutions. They give banks a way to make money off consumers by positioning overdraft protection as a useful service.

What does overdraft protection mean for your credit?

As noted above, in some cases your bank may offer you a line of credit or link your overdraft protection to a credit card. If linked to a credit card, you could end up paying more. Why? Because some card issuers might consider the overdraft a form of “cash advance,” which has its own set of fees, not to mention higher interest rates.

Can you overdraft if you have no money?

To get overdraft protection, your bank will typically connect a savings account and move over funds to cover the overdraft. If you don’t have any money in savings, the protection may not work.

However, other banks have overdraft lines of credit. If eligible, the bank will loan you a line of credit so that your purchases are covered, even if you don’t have enough money in your account. Of course, you will still have to pay it back, with interest, like any other line of credit.

Can you withdraw money from an ATM if you have a negative balance?

If you’re headed to the ATM to get cash, and end up taking out more than you have in your account, you will overdraft. The overdraft definition means that you “overdraw” on your account, which means taking more than you have available.

If you have overdraft protection, you will likely be able to withdraw money from your account and you’d have a negative balance.

But of course, there will be an overdraft fee attached. So while you may get the cash you need, if you don’t have the funds in your account, it will cost more in the long-run.

How can I avoid overdraft protection?

Before 2010, many consumers were unaware that they were being “opted in” to overdraft protection programs. However, starting in 2010, federal regulations shifted and required that banks get consumers’ consent to opt into overdraft protection.

To make things simple, however, you can avoid overdraft protection by not signing up for it with your bank. If you’re currently enrolled in this service, you can cancel it. This way, if you don’t have enough in your account, your purchase or transaction will get declined. While you won’t be able to make the purchase, you also won’t be hit you with an overdraft fee.

Another option is to open a bank account at Chime, which has no overdraft fees.

Lastly, to avoid this problem altogether, keep a buffer of money in your checking account. This can help you avoid dipping into the negative. Check your account balances daily and monitor your bill due dates and auto-drafts. This way you’ll know when money is coming out of your account.

Final word

There are certainly pros and cons with overdraft protection.

It can be convenient, yet costly. It can save you embarrassment and time, but also take a bite out of your hard-earned money. So, weigh these pros and cons carefully.

Final tip: If you never want to worry about an overdraft fee again, consider switching to a no-fee bank account.

 

6 Seasonal Side Hustle Jobs You Can Do in the Spring

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Today marks the first day of spring, a time to renew yourself personally and financially.

For starters, spring is a good time to assess how well you’ve been doing with those financial resolutions. It’s also a perfect time to give your money a good spring cleaning.

While there are many ways to improve your finances, here’s a tried-and-true way to earn extra cash: Pick up a new side hustle.

To get you started, here are six ideas for jumping on a new springtime side gig.

Gardening/Landscaping

The spring season means flowers are in bloom and the grass starts to grow.

This is also when folks need to tend to their lawns and gardens. Many of these people have zero time. That’s where your landscape side hustle comes in.

“It’s a great side hustle that is vibrant during the spring, as everyone starts getting their yards and gardens back up and running to look great for the summertime,” says Dustyn Ferguson of Dime Will Tell.

“People are willing to pay to do a lot of this work, especially for laborious work like placing mulch, creating pathways, picking weeds, and even designing a garden,” he says.

Even if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs, don’t count yourself out; there are always other yard care jobs to be had, like lawn mowing or trimming trees.

Pet Sitting/Dog Walking

Spring begins the vacation season – the time of year when your neighbors and local pet owners will need someone to care for their pets while they’re away.

Pet-sitting can include feeding cats, caring for a pet in your home, and most of all, dog walking.

You can advertise your animal loving, pet whisperer skills by hanging flyers around the neighborhood, but your best bet is to join a dedicated pet-sitting app like Rover.com.

Tutoring and Teaching

The school year is almost halfway over, precisely the time students need tutoring help to boost their grades, and start preparing and studying for SATs and other exams.

“The second semester is often the busiest time as students who struggled in the first part of the year seek additional support to earn passing grades, or to boost skills and confidence,” says educational therapist Ruth Wilson.

“Tutors get the satisfaction of helping a young person achieve success, which makes tutoring as personally rewarding as it is financially beneficial,” she says.

To get started, you can market your own skills or sign up on a site like Chegg.com to find in-person or online tutoring opportunities in a variety of subjects.

Another side hustle in the teaching-related family is to teach something that you have a passion for. For example, you can perhaps teach group exercise classes at a local gym or even teach children’s yoga classes. Whereas you can promote yourself, you can also connect with companies that provide you with all the necessary tools and branding to launch your own side hustle. For example, Boston-based Pretzel Kids trains you to teach yoga and mindfulness to kids via an affordable weekend or online certification course. Once you’ve taken the course, you can then join the licensing program for only $19 a month. This gives you the rights to use all of the company’s branding to launch your own Pretzel Kids business. Pretzel Kids Founder Robyn Parets calls it a “kids yoga business-in-a-box.”

“Teaching Pretzel Kids classes using all of our tools and resources is a great way to do something meaningful, while earning money around your own schedule,” says Parets.

Here’s yet another way to earn money teaching something you love: If you’re musically inclined, how about offering guitar, piano or drum lessons? Or, are you a sports lover? Perhaps you can coach or referee in local youth sports leagues.

Become a Tour Guide

Do you know your hometown like the back of your hand? Do you live in an area with a rich cultural history? Consider becoming a tour guide or docent for a local historical society or museum.

“People want to travel, and as a tour guide, you can give them best views of your city. (It’s a) great gig if you are someone who loves exploring and sharing your love for your hometown,” says career blogger Sireesha Narumanchi.

Narumanchi recommends signing up with sites like Vayable to advertise your availability.

Sell Your Stuff

Decluttering your life has a host of mental and emotional benefits, and spring cleaning is the perfect way to get rid of all that extra stuff in your house, apartment, attic or garage.

So, think about selling appliances, electronics, books, toys, bikes, clothing or other unwanted items — either at a local flea market, garage sale or online.

But how do you make it a consistent side gig instead of a one-off sale? One way is to visit thrift shops or department stores, buy items on discount or sale, and “flip” them for sale online at a higher price on sites like eBay or Craigslist.

Of course, the one thing you shouldn’t discount is selling your own creations. If you’ve got artistic skills, you can sell your wares on sites like Etsy.

Ridesharing

Rideshare services like Uber or Lyft have transformed the way we take public transportation, allowing motorists to earn cash using their own cars as a taxi service.

One reason this makes such a good spring side hustle is that the snow, ice, sleet and otherwise treacherous, wintry driving conditions are gone. You can share a scenic, springtime drive with others and get paid to do it.

Driving for a rideshare service also means you can set your own hours, drive when you want to, and get compensated quickly and easily. In fact, enrolling in direct deposit through Chime can get you paid two days early. Score!

Springing for a Side Gig

If you’re looking to rake in some extra income as the warmer weather approaches, this list should give you lots of ideas.

One more tip: Whether your side gig leads to a modest windfall or becomes something more lucrative, downloading the Chime banking app is simply the best way to manage your newfound earnings. In fact, the Chime app includes an automatic savings feature that helps you save money every time you’re paid. Are you ready to get a jump on spring with your new seasonal side hustle?

 

7 Ways to Recommit to Your Financial Resolutions Today

Did you set a New Year’s resolution? How’s it going for you so far?

If you have already fallen off the bandwagon, you’re not alone. In fact, 80 percent of New Year’s resolution fail by February.

But, what if there was a way to revive your resolve and recommit to your financial goals in a way that increased your chances of success? What if we told you that we had a few ways to help you achieve your money goals?

You’re in luck. Keep reading to learn our top seven tips for creating a brand new financial blueprint for the rest of your year.

Make Sure Your Resolutions Are Personal To You

Sometimes we choose certain financial resolutions simply because they look good on paper. But it’s hard to have ownership over your goals if you aren’t personally motivated by them. So, before you recommit to your financial resolutions, first double check that they make sense for you and that they reflect the needs of your future self.

In other words, revisit your “why.” Do you want to have enough money for a downpayment on your first home in eight years? Do you want to save money to create a work optional lifestyle for yourself 10 years down the road?

If you find that you need to get rid of some of your original resolutions, that’s okay. The point is: Be true to yourself during this process of introspection.

Choose Monthly Resolutions Instead of Annual Ones

Trying to do too much all at once is a common reason why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. Instead, focusing on small wins month to month makes it easier to stick to your plan. This way you’ll also gain the motivation you need to keep going and create lasting financial habits.

In addition to setting monthly financial goals, I have also found that creating monthly “financial willpower challenges” has been an effective way to work my way up to accomplishing even bigger goals. Your monthly resolutions could look something like this for the next few months of the year:

  • March – cut out unchecked expenses
  • April – switch to a new bank
  • May – ask for a raise
  • June – find a new side hustle

Write Down Your Action Steps

Kumiko Love, an accredited financial counselor and founder of The Budget Mom, says that “a goal will not become a reality until you create action steps on how you’re going to get there.” In other words, you have to plan in order to make your dreams a reality.

Last year, Love’s biggest financial resolution was to get out of debt, and she achieved this in eight  short months. Her action steps were as follows:

  • Step 1: Pay off student loans 
  • Highest interest first
  • $500 a month using income from side hustle
  • Step 2: Tackle car loan next
  • $1,000 per month using income side hustle

As a rule of thumb, the more granular the action steps, the more likely you are to follow through on them.

Get Some Better Visual Aids

If tracking your progress with a boring old spreadsheet isn’t getting you fired up about creating better financial habits, then it may be time to try something new. Mint is one of several apps that uses graphs and charts. This helps you see how much money is coming in, how much is being spent and how much goes into savings each week. Once you set specific goals within the app, you can easily see how close you are to your goals – with the touch of a button.

Using a “Debt Free Chart” is another great way to keep your eye on the prize. My husband and I decided to try this approach with a printable chart created by Heidi Ifland Nash. This helped motivate us to save more money for our vacation fund this year. And so far, it’s working well. We pinned the chart to our refrigerator, and each day it serves as a constant reminder that we need to keep our eye on our savings goal. Plus, we actually enjoy coloring in the lines each time we hit a savings milestone. This helps us feel more in control of our financial future.

Build in Some Accountability

One of the best things you can do to stay on track for the remainder of the year is to develop a system of accountability for your goals. This can be done by finding an accountability buddy or creating a rewards system.

“Rewarding yourself is an important part of any financial journey. But remember that it doesn’t have to be expensive in order to be meaningful,” says Love.

A reward can be as simple as treating yourself to lunch on Fridays – if you stuck to your goal of bringing a packed lunch Monday through Thursday.

Take the Guesswork Out of Sticking to Your Financial Resolutions

One of the best ways to build healthy financial habits is to take an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” approach. In other words, create a system that takes you out of day-to-day decisions about your finances – so that you don’t have to think about them. This method is also known as financial automation. You can’t spend money you never see, which makes automated savings one of the best ways to reach your savings goals year after year.

For instance, Chime has an excellent feature that automates 10% of your paycheck directly into your savings.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Remember: Even when you recommit to your financial resolutions, setbacks are still likely to happen. They are a part of life and we are only human.

“Once you recognize that habits don’t change overnight, it takes the pressure off of expecting perfect results right out of the gate,” says Alli Rosenblum, founder of FinancialliFocused.com

It took Rosenblum, for example, almost five months to fully break her habit of spending $60 per month on lattes.

So, cut yourself some slack and start changing your habits now. Just think: You too can reach your money goals by hitting the reset button on your financial resolutions!

 

101 Ways to Save Money

Looking for savings tips but don’t know where to start?

Well, you’re in luck. We’ve rounded up 101 savings tips all in one place. Whether you’re looking for ways to save money on housing, food, travel or even pets, we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide on ways to save money, broken down into nine categories.

Easy Ways to Save Money Today

1. Go on a cash diet

Put a pause on your credit card use and go on a cash diet. Using only cash will ensure you spend only what you have. This can help you save money and avoid debt.

2. Pay off high interest debt first

If you have multiple loans, pay off your high interest debt first. This is commonly referred to as the “avalanche method”. You put extra money toward your high interest loans while paying the minimum toward your other loans. This can help you save money on interest.

3. Avoid fees

Fees can pop up everywhere. Avoid overdraft fees and monthly maintenance fees by switching to a no-fee bank. Pro tip: Chime has no fees at all.

4. Know your spending triggers

We all have spending triggers. Spending triggers can be certain emotions or places that encourage you to spend. For example, if you can’t go by a Starbucks without spending money there, that’s a trigger. If you indulge in retail therapy after a crappy day, that’s a trigger. Knowing your spending triggers can help you avoid spending when you don’t need to.

5. Refinance student loans

If you feel like you’re paying too much in student loan interest, you might want to consider student loan refinancing. This can be a smart move but it’s important to note that not everyone will qualify. You need to have good credit and consistent income. Additionally, you will give up important and lucrative federal protections like income-driven repayment and student loan forgiveness. Here’s a good place to learn about refinancing options for student loans.

6. Use autopay on your student loans

Many student loan servicers offer a .25% interest rate reduction if you sign up for autopay. Autopay automatically withdraws your student loan payment each month. So, if you time it right and have money in your account, this can save you money on interest.

7. Make bi-weekly student loan payments

Your student loan interest accrues daily. In order to combat this, you can make bi-weekly student loan payments. Instead of making one monthly payment, cut that in half and pay it every two weeks. You’ll save money on interest this way.

8. Pay your credit card balance in full

Interest rates on credit cards can be high. Paying off your credit card balance in full each month can help you avoid paying interest charges.

9. Start investing

One way to build wealth in the long-term and beat the cost of inflation is to start investing. You can invest in the stock market with exchange-traded funds, index funds, or other investment vehicles. The point is to put money aside and let the magic of compounding help it grow.

10. Switch banks

Does your bank charge fees for everything? Say G-O-O-D-B-Y-E. You can switch to a bank like Chime that has no fees. Your financial institution should have your back and not tack on fees everywhere you look.

11. Dispute errors on your credit report

Your credit report has information on it that affects your credit score. Your credit score, in turn,  can determine what interest rates you get on auto loans, credit cards and more. You can check your credit score on Credit Sesame or Credit Karma and check your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you see any errors, dispute them right away to make sure you aren’t getting locked into higher rates due to mistakes or inaccuracies.

12. Use credit card rewards

Do you have a credit card that has rewards? If you have a cash-back credit card, use your cash-back to fund your savings or help offset your budget. If you get miles, use them to save money on travel. Just be sure to read about any restrictions or limitations.

13. Take advantage of balance transfer cards

If you’re in credit card debt and have decent credit, taking advantage of a balance transfer credit card can help you save money. A balance transfer card offers zero percent APR for a period of time on balances that you transfer. So, if you can pay off your debt within the promotional period and don’t accrue more debt, you can save money on interest. Just be aware of potential balance transfer fees.

14. Adjust your tax withholding

If you get a big tax refund every year, you might want to consider adjusting your tax withholding. Adjusting your tax withholding could score you more money now and boost your paycheck. You can also put extra money into your savings.

15. Pay bills on time

Sounds simple, but pay your bills on time. Late fees can add up and catch you off-guard if you’re not careful. Keep track of due dates in your calendar and sign up for alerts.

16. Borrow only what you need

If you take out a student loan or other type of loan, try to only borrow what you need. Sometimes you get approved for much more but don’t let that tempt you. This can help you save money on your debt repayment.

17. Track expenses

A key to mastering your finances is tracking your expenses. You can track your spending using Mint or some other budgeting app. You can also do it manually with pen and paper for at least 30 days. Tracking your expenses can help you save money by making you more aware of where your money is going.

18. Sign up for bank and credit alerts

Signing up for bank and credit alerts can help you stay on top of your finances. If there are any fraudulent charges, you’ll get notified right away. If someone opens a new credit account in your name, it can trigger an alert. You can also sign up for alerts with your bank.

19. Automatically save 10 percent with every paycheck

Pay yourself first is a common adage in personal finance. If you have a Chime bank account, this is super easy. You can start now by automatically saving 10 percent every payday.

20. Create a budget

A budget can help save you money because you know where every dollar is going. Look at your after-tax income and create a budget for all your needs and wants. You can use apps like Mint or Tiller to help you get started.

21. Check your insurance deductible

If you want to save money on your insurance, you might consider boosting your deductible. High deductible insurance plans can save you money in the long run, especially if you don’t use your insurance often.

22. Write off charitable donations

Do you make any charitable donations? Save your receipts as you may be able to take a tax deduction. And always check with a tax advisor if you’re unsure about how you can benefit financially from your donations.

23. Save with a Traditional IRA

Want to save for retirement and save money on taxes? You may qualify for a tax deduction by saving for retirement with a Traditional IRA. Contributions to a Traditional IRA are tax deductible, which can lead to some tax savings.

How to Save Money on Shopping

24. Have a no-spend day

Commit to having at least one no-spend day each week. A no-spend day is when you spend absolutely no money. Make sure you have food and toiletries on hand and plan ahead. Having one, or several no-spend days can help you lower your spending and thus save you money.

25. Use paper coupons

You can still get some savings by looking at the paper coupons you get in the mail. Give it a quick look to see if you can score some savings. And, here’s another tip: If you shop at CVS, make sure you use the reams of coupons you get with your receipts.

26. Use Ebates or Honey

Shopping online? Use Ebates which offers cash back on certain stores when you buy online. You can also use Honey, which is an extension that automatically applies discount codes to your online purchases.

27. Buy generic

You don’t have to buy name-brand products all the time. You can buy generic prescriptions, generic dish soap, etc. This can save you money and in many cases, these products are exactly the same as the brand name counterparts.

28. Use free shipping codes

Look for free shipping codes or free shipping altogether. You can check out RetailMeNot for free shipping codes. You can also sign up for a free Amazon Prime trial and get free shipping (just make sure you cancel after the trial if you are no longer interested in Prime).

29. Buy in bulk

There are certain staples like toilet paper or rice that just make sense to buy in bulk. If you know that you always use a certain product or item, consider buying it in bulk at Costco or another wholesale club.

30. Shop off-season

The best time to shop for a specific holiday is after the specific holiday. I just saw 70% off Valentine’s Day items. I remember seeing the same thing for Christmas and Halloween. If you have room to stock up on items ahead of time, shopping off-season can score you huge savings.

31. Buy used

There’s no need to buy everything new. You can buy used clothing, used electronics and more. You can go to Goodwill or check out OfferUp or Craigslist for used deals.

32. Comparison shop

Always comparison shop! It’s easy to be lazy if you find something you like, but check two other places to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

33. Make gifts

Do you have a knack for making things? Make gifts instead of buying them. This can help you save money and give the recipient something special and unique.

34. Repair items

In today’s disposable culture, if something is broken, it’s easy to throw it away and buy a new one. If possible, however, repair your items. Sew your clothing, repair your lamp, etc. You can check out YouTube tutorials and try to fix it yourself before throwing down some extra cash for something new.

35. Read the fine print

Always read the fine print. You don’t want to have a “gotcha” moment and be caught off guard. For example, if a travel rewards credit card has a spending minimum before a certain amount of time, you’ll want to reach that before the time is up. If you cancel your gym membership, you might be hit with a cancelation fee. So, read the fine print to avoid extra costs.

36. Buy discounted gift cards

You don’t have to pay full price for gift cards. You can check out sites like CardPool and Raise to score gift cards at a lower price.

37. Create a spending delay

Are you dying to buy some new amazing thing that you’re convinced will change your life? Put a 48 hour hold on any big purchases. Wait to see if you’re still as pumped about it in two days. Delayed gratification can help you save money and spend less.

38. Ask for hand-me-down clothes for kids

Save money with hand-me-down clothes for your kids. Instead of buying new items every couple of months, ask friends and family if their kids have outgrown clothes or even toys. If they can pass them down to you, you’ll save big bucks.

39. Get money from recycling

Save money on your purchases and recycle them to get some cash back.

40. Don’t save your credit card info on websites

Saving your credit card info on websites can seem like a great convenience. But it can be a trap and a slippery slope to spending more. Entering in your credit card number manually every time you want to buy something can create a delay and make you think twice about spending.

41. Block tempting websites

There may be some tempting websites that entice you to spend more. You can block those websites when you’re online so you can’t access them. How? Try the Block Site website blocker for Chrome to get started.

42. Sign up for rewards programs

Do you shop at a specific place all the time? Or use a particular product or service? See if there is a loyalty or rewards program. You may be able to score free items or earn points by signing up.

43. Limit your laundry

We’re not encouraging you to wear dirty clothes, but really ask yourself how often you need to wash your clothes. Limiting laundry can save you money and may help keep your clothes in better shape, too.

44. Read instructions on special garments

Before you do laundry, read the care instructions on any special garments. You don’t want to ruin a cashmere sweater or wash something that should be dry clean only. Keeping your clothes in good shape will save you money as you won’t have to shop as frequently for new threads.

45. Shop at the dollar store

Nearly everywhere has some sort of dollar store. Check out the dollar store in your area and see if you can find deals on items you buy anyway.

46. Cut down on vices

We all have our vices. Whether you drink or smoke, eat too much sugar or drink too much soda, cut down on your vices. Vices can be expensive and bad for your health! You don’t have to give things up completely, but make an effort to cut down so you can curb your costs.

47. Do a clothing swap

Organize a clothing swap in your neighborhood. Each person brings clothes they no longer want and you can swap with other people. It’s a great way to reuse clothes and get something fresh, without spending money buying clothes.

48. Do a toy exchange

If you’re friends with other families with kids, arrange a toy exchange. There may be a toy that your child no longer uses but would be a good fit for a family nearby. Or perhaps your kids can gain new toys without you having to go out and buy them.

49. Get alerts for price-drops

Want to know when the right time to buy is? Use Price Tracker and Price Drop extension by Chrome to notify you when there’s been a price drop on a product you have your eye on.

50. Unsubscribe from sales emails

If you’re like most people, you’re getting sales emails every day. Unsubscribe from sales emails to get rid of temptation. Sometimes sales can encourage you to spend, even though you had no plans on buying anything.

How to Save Money on Your Car

51. Use GasBuddy

To save money on gas, use GasBuddy.com to see which gas stations have the most affordable prices near you.

52. Walk

If possible, save money on gas altogether by walking! Walking instead of driving is also good for your health.

53. Take public transportation

Consider taking public transportation if your destination is not in walking distance. Public transportation in your area may be more cost-effective than driving. It can help you save money on gas, parking and tolls.

54. Get your oil changed

To avoid any major mishaps with your car, it’s important to keep it in good shape. Get your oil changed on a regular basis so you can save money by avoiding much more costly mechanical issues.

55. Put air in your tires

Having the right amount of air in your tires can help your car be more gas efficient. Be sure to check the air pressure and fill up your tires as needed.

56. Clean out your car

Does your car feel like a closet and trash can in one? If so, it’s time to clean it out. First off, extra weight in your car can make your gas usage inefficient. On top of that, having a lot of items in your car can be a signal for thieves to roam through your stuff. I once left a nice-looking bag in my car and the next morning my window was bashed in and the bag was gone. I had to pay to get the window repaired.

57. Look for free parking

Parking fees can really add up. Before you head to your destination, do some research and look for free parking spots. You may be able to find free parking spots using the parking app SpotAngels.

58. Carpool

Reduce your transportation costs by carpooling. You can do this with co-workers, friends or even take a Lyft Line or Uber Pool when using a ride-sharing service.

How to Save Money on Your House or Apartment

59. Negotiate your rent

Many people think that your rent can’t be negotiated. Not true. If there’s a rental increase and you’ve been a good tenant, consider negotiating your rent. Tell your landlord why you’ve been a good tenant and explain your case. It’s expensive for apartment managers to find new tenants so don’t be afraid to attempt to negotiate your rent.

60. Limit heat/AC use

In the dead of winter and heat of summer, heat and AC costs can be brutal. So, consider only using heaters and AC when you’re home or setting the heat down a few degrees and scheduling the AC to only go on when the room temp reaches a certain degree.

61. Pay yearly instead of monthly

Some types of insurance can be more cost-effective if you pay annually instead of monthly. For example, I save money paying for my rental insurance in one annual payment.

62. Switch cell carriers

If you’re not in a contractor can get out of your current agreement, consider switching cell carriers. Sometimes cell carriers offer new customer specials so you can save money by switching.

63. Downsize

Do you have much more apartment or home than you need? Is your car way too big for your needs? Downsize! You are paying for that extra space and if you don’t need it, you can save money by downsizing.

64. Get rental insurance

Rental insurance can save you money if your apartment is damaged due to some types of disasters or burglary. It can also help you recover costs if one of your items is stolen, even if it’s not at your apartment. For example, if a laptop was stolen at a coffee shop, your renters insurance may cover the replacement cost.

65. Keep the lights off

Be mindful of your electricity use and only use the lights when you really need them. Keeping lights off more often may help reduce your electricity expenses.

66. Get a roommate

Housing can be a major cost. If you have extra space but don’t want to downsize, consider getting a roommate. A roommate can help offset some of your rent or mortgage payments.

How to Save Money on Food

67. Meal plan

Map out your meals a week in advance so you know what you’re cooking and can avoid the “What are we having for dinner tonight?” discussion and the temptations of take-out.

68. Avoid packaged foods

Packaged food may be convenient but it comes at a price. Save money by buying whole foods and not processed or packaged foods.

69. Use Ibotta

Use coupon app Ibotta to help you save money on groceries. You can get cash-back on purchases on specific food items. Just be sure to only buy things you actually need.

70. Use Groupon for restaurant deals

Want to go out to eat but not spend a fortune? Look on deal site Groupon first. You can find meal deals for a fraction of the cost.

71. Eat less meat

Meat can be more expensive than other types of foods, so to save money, limit your meat consumption. You don’t need to go full on vegan but cutting down even a little can reduce your grocery expenses.

72. Make coffee at home

Instead of a daily Starbucks run, make coffee at home. Doing so can save you $2-$5 per day, depending on the type of drink you usually get. You can even invest in coffee beans and creamer and it will still be more cost-effective than going out for coffee.

73. Host a potluck

Want to get together with friends but also save money? Host a potluck. Ask everyone to bring a different dish and enjoy many different foods, while saving money by avoiding eating out.

74. Grow herbs

You can grow some of your own herbs, spice up your cooking and save money. To start, you can buy inexpensive seeds or herb plants at Trader Joe’s or Home Depot.

75. Don’t shop hungry

The cardinal rule for grocery shopping is don’t shop hungry! You are likely to spend more because your eyes and stomach will be doing the shopping, not your brain.

76. Buy wine at Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s has a great affordable wine selection. You don’t have to go without good wine while trying to save money and going to TJ’s is a good savings hack. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your area, try Costco. Yes, you’ll buy in bulk but the amount you’ll spend per bottle works out to be lower than a singular bottle of the same brand at a liquor store.

77. Ditch sugary drinks

Swap out your soda or frappuccino for some ice water. Ditching sugary drinks can cut down on unnecessary expenses, plus drinking more water keeps you hydrated.

78. Always have snacks

Keep a granola bar in your purse or car at all times. Having snacks on hand can help you avoid spending extra money when you’re super hungry.

Save Money on Your Pets

79. Do a pet sitting swap

Hiring pet sitters can add up fast. See if there’s a neighbor that you can do a pet sitting swap with. They will watch your pets when you’re gone and you’ll do the same when they’re gone.

80. Buy pet items in bulk

If you know you need items like cat litter or cat food, why not buy in bulk? You can score some additional savings by buying your must-have items in bulk at wholesale clubs like Costco.

81. Get regular check ups for your pets

Vet visits don’t come cheap but prevention is a great way to save money and lower costs. Getting regular check ups for your pets can keep them healthy and hopefully help you avoid major issues and expenses down the line.

Save Money on Beauty and Health

82. Get a haircut at a beauty school

You can save money on a haircut by going to a beauty school. It may take a bit longer but the savings can be significant.

83. Trim your own hair

Need just a quick trim? If you have a steady hand and good eye, consider doing it yourself. I’ve been trimming my own hair for the past two years. I just cut off the ends and it’s worked out pretty well for me.

84. Get your exercise in

Exercising can help you stay healthy and avoid additional medical costs down the line. Bonus: when you’re exercising, there’s less time to spend money.

85. Manage your stress

Stress can lead to a lot of additional expenses related to medical costs, stress-spending, stress-eating and more. So, manage your stress and this way you can keep your expenses in check.

Save Money on Entertainment

86. Cancel unused subscriptions

If there are subscriptions you don’t use anymore or ones that you don’t use often, cancel them. No need to spend money each month unnecessarily.

87. Use Goldstar for entertainment deals

You can score entertainment for a fraction of the cost using a site like Goldstar. You can buy tickets to concerts, sports games, theater shows and more at a discount. You can also find similar deals on Groupon.

88. Go to museums on free days

Many museums have free days certain times of year. Some have “by donation” days as well. So, get your museum fix by going on the free or pay-what-you-can days.

89. Borrow books from the library

Yes, buying new books on Amazon Prime can be addicting. But you can save money by borrowing books from the library for free!

90. Go to free cultural events

Many cities offer cultural activities that are free and open to the public. These can range from parades to concerts, speaker series to celebrations. Check your local community calendar to see what might be coming up.

91. Streamline entertainment

Do you have cable, Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video? It may be time to cut back and stick with one. Having multiple streaming services and packages can add up, so cut down and streamline your entertainment.

92. Take free classes online

You don’t have to take on student loan debt or pay an arm or a leg to take some classes. You can take free classes online. You can also watch how-tos on YouTube or practice your language skills on DuoLingo.

93. Volunteer as an usher

One way to cut entertainment costs is to become an usher at a theater. Volunteer and see the show for free!

94. Volunteer to work at events

If there’s a retreat, conference, talk or festival coming to your city, inquire about volunteering. This is a great way to meet new people and save money on admission.

Save Money on Travel

95. Buy flights on Tuesday

Ready to book a flight for your next trip? Book on a Tuesday, the most affordable day to purchase a flight from the United States.

96. Stay in affordable accommodations

When traveling, accommodations can add up. Consider couchsurfing, staying in a hostel, a cheap AirBnB, or staying with a friend. Hotels can cost hundreds per night so opting for one of these options can score you some savings.

97. Avoid foreign transaction fees

Traveling abroad? You could get hit with foreign transaction fees when you spend money. Get a credit card that offers no foreign transaction fees so you can save your hard-earned dough.

98. Use Skype and WhatsApp

Traveling internationally can result in hefty call charges and international roaming. When communicating from a palazzo in Florence or the beaches of Bali, use Skype and WhatsApp to communicate for free.

99. Go camping

Looking for some peace and quiet? Go camping! It’s an affordable way to travel and can get you back to being one with nature.

100. Book holiday flights in advance

Many people make the mistake of booking holiday travel at the last-minute. That’s a big no-no if you’re trying to save money! Book far in advance, preferably no later than September for holiday travel in November and December.

101. Fly on a holiday

You can score additional savings by actually flying on a holiday. If you don’t mind this, you can save money by flying on Thanksgiving or Christmas. I’ve used this tactic to save over $100 on my flight.

Start saving now

Using these 101 savings tips, you can start to reduce your expenses in nearly all aspects of your life.

Focusing on your top expenses like housing, food and transportation can give you the biggest wins. The biggest perk: These tips can pad your savings account so you can save for your future and have money set aside for a rainy day.

 

Save Money vs. Pay Down Debt: Which One Should You Choose?

Save or pay down debt? It’s a tough call and one that many Americans seem to struggle with.

According to a 2019 Bankrate survey, three in 10 Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings. In a previous survey, just 40 percent of those polled said they could cover a $1,000 emergency in cash.

If you want to build up a cushion in your bank account — but you’ve also got debt — here’s how to decide which to tackle first.

Figure Out Why You’re Stuck

A good place to start when trying to settle the ‘save or pay down debt’ debate is to answer this question: What’s keeping you from pulling the trigger on either one?

“People may struggle with the decision to save or pay down debt for a few reasons,” says Sean Fox, co-president of Freedom Debt Relief.

So, consider whether any of the following applies to you:

  • You don’t feel like you have enough disposable income to go after either goal the way you want.
  • You’re not sure whether saving or paying down debt is more important for your financial health.
  • You feel pressure to do both but instead of taking action, you freeze.

Bobbi Olson, host of the CentsAble Chat personal finance podcast, says that last one is pretty common.

“In my experience, once a person decides to take an active role in managing their money, they often go from not paying any attention to being almost obsessed,” Olson says.

“They spent so long doing nothing, now all they can think about is making sure they do the “right” thing, and sometimes it can paralyze them for a while.”

Weigh the Benefits Against What Matters More

Is saving or paying off debt better when it comes to your money goals? It’s the ‘chicken or the egg’ debate in financial form, says personal finance consultant and educator Kassandra Dasent.

“Saving and eliminating high interest debt both provide important financial benefits. Both goals are essential in creating and maintaining financial stability,” Dasent says.

Your monthly debt repayment “not only affects how much of your paycheck you get to keep,” Dasent says, “but your credit score and ability to take on an important loan, such as a mortgage, may be impacted by the amount of debt you’re carrying.”

On the savings side of the coin, Dasent says having money in the bank is a measure of protection against unexpected situations. If you lose your job, your car breaks down or your cat gets sick, your savings can keep you from having to add to your debt to cover those expenses.

The real question to ask yourself is not whether saving or paying down debt is better, but which one matches up with your financial priorities. Olson is firmly in favor of paying down debt first, especially if you’re stuck with a high interest rate on loans or credit cards.

“The interest is costing you money each day and the faster you get rid of it, the less you pay,” she says.

As of February 2019, the average credit card APR was 17.55 percent, according to a CreditCards.com report. For example, say you have $5,000 in credit card debt at 17.55 percent. Your monthly minimum payment is $124. If you pay just that amount, it would take you five years and two months to pay it off, costing you $2,693 in interest.

If you were to bump your payments up to $500 a month, you could wipe out the debt in 11 months and pay just $458 in interest instead. That’s a huge savings but what if you have no cash tucked away at all?

“Without question, if someone has nothing saved then that should be an immediate priority,” Dasent says.

If you don’t have enough in savings to cover at least one month of expenses, she recommends addressing that as quickly as possible. From there, you can decide whether to keep your immediate focus on growing your savings or attacking your debt.

Is It Possible to Do Both?

It is possible to pay down debt and save money – if you have a clear plan and you’re fully committed.

“It doesn’t have to be an either or choice, but it’s imperative to assess your financial situation and how you feel in order to rank your goals,” Dasent says.

The first step is to create a budget, Olson says. This way you know how much money you have to work with once your living expenses and bills are paid. From there, you can decide how to divvy it up between savings and debt repayment.

“You could split the money right down the middle, half for savings and half for debt,” she says, or choose a different percentage, like 80/20 or 60/40.

Next, prioritize your savings and debt repayment goals. For example, your savings goals might include:

  • Building your emergency fund
  • Saving a down payment to buy a home
  • Putting money away for retirement
  • Saving money for college if you have kids

It would be nice to do all of them at once but that’s probably not realistic if you’re also trying to get rid of your debt. So, consider starting with an emergency fund.

“Start small and work toward a fund that covers six to nine months of expenses gradually as you pay off debt,” says Fox.

Once that savings goal is crossed off the list, move to the next most important one. And, apply this same strategy to your debt payoff.

Fox says that after your necessities — meaning food, shelter and clothing — are covered, you should then pay the minimums on your mortgage or car loan first. Then, he says to make the required monthly payments on your student loans while putting extra money towards credit cards or other high-interest debts.

With those debts, Fox recommends the snowball method. In this approach, you list your debts according to the order you want to pay them off. Then you pay as much as you can towards the first debt, while paying the minimums on all the others. Once the first debt is paid off, you roll that payment over to the next debt, repeating the process until the debts are gone.

Ready to Save and Pay Down Debt?

These tips can give you a solid starting point for a dual savings-debt payoff strategy. And here’s one final pro tip: Start auto-saving with a Chime account.

With a Chime account, you can automatically deposit money into a savings account. You just set your savings goal, schedule a recurring transfer and your account does the rest. That’s all it takes. It’s a simple, hassle-free way to add to your savings and best of all, it won’t keep you from making a dent in your debt.

 

What is the 30 Day Savings Rule?

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Do you find it hard to save money?

If so, you’re not alone. Saving money requires a commitment in order to make it a habit. Even then, you run the risk of falling off track when life happens and unexpected expenses hit.

So, what can you do to make saving money easier? For starters, you may want to consider the 30 day savings rule, a popular method to help you set aside more money. Here’s how it works: Instead of making an unplanned impulse purchase, you instead shelf that potential purchase for 30 days and deposit the money into your savings account instead. If you still want to buy that item after the 30 day period is up, go for it. Otherwise, the money stays in your savings account. This, in turn, will help you boost your savings over time.

But even before implementing the 30 day savings rule, it’s important to understand the 30 day impulse spending rule. Read on to learn more.

What is the 30 Day Impulse Spending Rule?

We all get tempted by impulse purchases. Perhaps you walk into a store and see something you’d like to buy. Or, maybe you come across an intriguing ad for a new product or service you want to try out.

If you find yourself thinking about spending money based on your emotions rather than what’s in your budget, this can easily turn into an impulse purchase.

Impulse purchases can easily throw off your budget or even cause you to accumulate more debt if you spend too much. Here’s where the 30 day impulse spending rule comes in handy.

To avoid an impulse purchase, tell yourself you’re going to think about it for 30 days. Take a piece of paper and write down the name of the item, service, etc., where you found it, and how much it costs. Put this note on your fridge or somewhere prominent in your home. Commit to thinking about the purchase for the next 30 days. Consider if it’s a true need or want.

If you still feel like you want to buy it at the end of 30 days, move forward with the purchase. If you’ve forgotten about the item or realized it really wasn’t that important, you’ll have saved that money.

How the 30 Day Savings Rule Ties In

While you’re thinking about your impulse purchase for the 30 day period, start placing money into a savings account. This is money that you would have spent on the purchase.

If you decide to make the purchase, you can take the money out to do so. But, that money will come out of your savings account – meaning it will no longer be there to use toward another savings goal. This rule provides an easy opportunity for you to save consistently and enjoy the benefits of saving money. It also helps motivate you to increase your savings. Why? Because when you work hard to set aside some money, it can be difficult to touch it for a purchase that isn’t a true necessity.

When you consider all your other savings and financial goals, the money you set aside over 30 days can provide you with a sense of security to cover future emergencies or help you pay for that summer vacation.

Make it a Challenge

Saving money is not easy for everyone. This is why this is the perfect challenge. Thirty days is an ideal time frame to challenge yourself to save as much money as you can.

Here are a few 30 day savings challenges you may want to consider in addition to the 30 day savings rule.

  • Save Spare Change

If you want to increase your savings, consider saving as often as you spend money. Every time you make a purchase, set aside a small amount of money to save. Saving your spare change may not sound like much, but it can certainly add up over time. The best part is that you can make this savings challenge automatic with Chime’s round up feature.

Chime members, for example, are able to round up transactions to the nearest dollar and transfer that money to savings – without even thinking about it.

  • No Dining Out Challenge

How much do you spend on dining out each day? Do you take your lunch to work, go to happy hour a few times per week, or dine out with family every Friday?

All these purchases add up and you’d be surprised to see how much you spend on restaurants in just 30 days. If you spend seven dollar per day on average on work lunches and coffee in the morning, that’s easily $140 per month. This doesn’t include weekend meals, takeout runs, and dinners with friends or family.

So, commit to eating at home for 30 days straight and see how much you can save. Plan your meals carefully, get creative with snacks, and prep everything weekly.

Project how much you’ll save and set up an automatic savings transfer for that money. Chime members can even save 10% of their paycheck each time they get paid.

  • Save $500 in 30 Days

Saving $500 in 30 days can be the perfect jumpstart to a cash cushion that will protect you financially and enable you to do more with your money in the future. The key to success is breaking down that $500 goal and setting a weekly or daily savings amount.

For instance, you can save just $17 or $18 per day or $125 per week to meet your $500 savings goal.

You can also look at your budget and see if there are any expenses you can temporarily cut to free up more money to save. Another idea: Check out short-term gigs or side hustles to help you come up with the money. Maybe you can walk dogs, sell some items from your home, drive for Uber, or work a part-time job.

30 Days is a Great Starting Point

If you can commit to saving more money for 30 days, this is a great first step. It will allow you to gain the discipline you need to save money consistently for months or even years.

Are you ready to give the 30 day savings rule a try?

 

The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Emergency Fund

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What’s worse than an unexpected car repair, some urgent dental work, or losing your job? Not having enough of a financial cushion to get through this rough patch.

This is why you need an emergency fund. And we get it: It’s super hard to save up for unknown future expenses. Why is that? It may be that you’re staving off the uncontrollable impulse to spend until your bank account balance hits zero. Or maybe you’re inclined to cave in to FOMO. Or perhaps you simply don’t earn enough to save a ton. Whatever your reason, starting and maintaining an e-fund is a tall order.

However, it’s entirely possible to start an emergency fund. In this ultimate guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about creating an emergency fund, including how to start, when to contribute, and how to keep it going.

Create a Designated Account

First things first: Set up a different savings account for your emergency fund. This can be linked to your main bank account, or an entirely separate account designated for long-term savings only. It will most likely take you a mere 10 minutes to set this up, but will help you big-time in the long run.

FYI: I’ve found it most useful to create an emergency fund and then pretend it doesn’t exist. Conveniently forgetting the money is sitting in an account ups your odds of not touching it.

Drum Up “Use Rules” for Your Spends

It may be useful to think of your emergency fund as guarded by a prudent, stringent warden, who only permits you to access this special account for dire emergencies.

So what makes up this elitist squad of “VIP emergency scenarios?” Start by thinking about what truly constitutes an emergency. Is it governed by amount or cluster of circumstances? For instance, does an emergency has to be over $200 for it to be a true 911 situation? What kind of situations have cropped up in the past where cash could have saved the day?

In the past year I’ve had to tap into my e-fund to replace a laptop that died, purchase a new cell phone that suffered water damage, pay for moving expenses after being forced to relocate, and cover $1,500 in car repairs. Without a healthy rainy day fund, I’d be drowning.

Pay Yourself Forward

The best way to save is to pay yourself. Commit to setting aside a given amount for each paycheck. It doesn’t have to be a large amount. If you’re a Chime member, you can set up an automatic transfer each time you get paid. (FYI: You first need to establish direct deposit.) Even 10 percent adds up quickly over time. If your take-home pay is $1,000 for each bi-weekly paycheck, that’s $200 a month, or $2,400 a year. Not too shabby, right?

It’s All About Auto-Saving, Baby

This is a classic money tip, but I can’t stress enough how automating your goals can save your behind. You can read countless money blogs until the cows come to pasture. But IMHO, no matter how much knowledge you gather about financial wellness, auto-saving is the easiest thing you can do to help your emergency fund grow. The beauty of it? You only have to set it up once. Then you can blissfully forget about it. If you want to save $500 in three months’ time, auto-transfer $42 a week. Easy-peasy.

If you’re a Chime member, you can also round up transactions. Each round up amount can then be deposited right into your Savings Account.

Create Milestones

So, how much should you aim to save for your emergency fund? The more you can sock away, the better. But when you’ve got bills to pay and other money goals to juggle, it’s generally recommended to save three to six months worth of your living expenses.

No need to get overwhelmed. I say start small and create milestones along the way. A recent survey by EARN reveals that the average shortfall of cash in a given month is typically anywhere from $250 to $500. So start by committing to saving $250, then $500, $1,000, and so forth. Each time you hit one of these milestones, treat yourself. I’m all about feeling good about my money decisions, and rewarding myself with small, reasonable splurges (and I do mean small), when I hit every little goal.

Top It Off As Necessary

Once you saved enough for your emergency fund, give yourself a big pat on the back and do a happy dance. But you’ll also want to monitor it and make sure it stays in the flush. So let’s say you needed to take out $500 for some 911 dental work. Turn your auto-transfers back on, round up transactions, and set aside a portion from cash that may “fall into your lap,” such as work bonuses, tax refunds, and cash gifts.

Systems Override Habits

No doubt that being disciplined about your money is the key to financial health. But developing solid habits takes time — and a ton of effort. In fact, it typically takes 66 days to form a new habit. And just like I can easily cave in to a carb-loading binge, you may also lapse into old, unhealthy habits.

In my case, I rely on systems that I’ve set in place for my savings. For example, auto-saving and creating rules to bolster my emergency fund have come in handy. This way I don’t beat myself up if I choose to spend on other things. Instead, I set up auto-pay and pay myself first when I receive income . This helps me feel good about where my money is primarily going.

Ready to kick-start your emergency fund? You got this!

 

How to Be Prepared for a Market Downturn in 2019

If you had money invested in the stock market in 2018, you may be feeling a tad bit of anxiety. Well, maybe a whole lot of anxiety. That’s because last year was the worst year for stocks in a decade, with the S&P 500 down 6.2%, the Dow falling 5.6%, and the Nasdaq dropping four percent. Yikes.

As we move into 2019, you may be wondering if the stock market will continue to decline or whether it will rise. While no one has a crystal ball to see into the future, some financial experts believe a period of slowed economic growth is headed our way, according to Investor’s Business Daily. So, what can you do to prepare for a potential market downturn in 2019?

There are many steps you can take to protect your finances and stay ahead in the event that we head into a period of financial decline. Take a look at these four tips from financial experts:

1. Set expectations for your money

First things first: Figure out your money goals. For example, if you need cash for short-term goals, like living expenses and paying off debts, this money should ideally be held in an emergency fund or another savings account that isn’t subject to stock market fluctuations, says Ellen Duffy, CFP and owner of Parkway Wealth Management in Boston. Parkway’s services are provided through Aevitas Wealth Management, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

According to Duffy, you should keep three to six months worth of expenses in an emergency fund. This way the cash is available if you should need it for any unforeseen reason, like a job layoff or major car repairs.

Also, consider life cycle changes happening in your life now or in the near future. For example, are you expecting a baby, planning to buy a home or considering leaving your job to start a business? If these or other life changes are on your horizon, you’ll want to beef up your cash reserves – regardless of which direction the stock market goes.

“Understanding that you have ample cash on hand can a great tool for being patient during periods of market fluctuation,” says Duffy.

2. Understand that market fluctuation is part of investing

Here’s a fact: Market declines are part of investing.

“They occur regularly and are difficult to predict,” says Duffy.

So, why do we feel nervous and emotional when the stock market declines?

“Because we are human! It is natural to feel uneasy during periods of market volatility,” she says.

But, here’s the good news: Declines don’t last forever and generally speaking – while past performance does not predict the future – markets do go up over long periods of time  – “they just don’t go up in a straight line,” says Duffy.

The best thing you can do if you’re worried about the volatility of the stock market is to educate yourself on the fluctuations over time, prepare for this and ride it out. Remember: What goes down, will come back up.

According to Fidelity, it’s impossible to predict when the good and bad days will happen. If you miss even a few of the best days, it can have a lingering effect on your portfolio. For this reason, it’s best to stay the course. 

Adds Duffy, “try to avoid making emotional decisions or trying to time the market – both actions can be harmful to investment performance.”

Here’s another tip: A market decline can be a good time to add to your investments – that is, if you have ample cash on hand, are prepared to invest long-term, and can handle potential volatility. Think of this like getting a great deal on a vacation or new car.

“People love to buy clothes, cars, airline tickets etc. when they are available at a reduced price… yet this premise often doesn’t translate to some investors,” says Duffy.

When stock prices fall, this may benefit you as you may be able to buy more shares or spend less money per share. Case in point: The worst times to jump into the market may actually turn out to be the best. For example, the best 5-year return in the U.S. stock market began in May 1932—in the midst of the Great Depression, according to Fidelity.

3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Ok, this may seem cliche but this major premise in investing is also called “diversification.”

“Downside risk and performance can be amplified if you are invested in a single asset class or single stock – also referred to as ‘concentrated position risk’,” says Duffy.

Instead, you should consider investing in multiple asset classes, including: large cap stocks,  growth or value stocks, and small cap stocks. You may also want to consider investing in international stocks, emerging markets, commodities, real estate, and multiple categories of fixed income securities.

“Each asset class has its own attributes and over time may outperform or underperform for any given period ..and no one particular asset class has been the top performer year over year.”

If this information seems too high-brow, let’s boil it down this way: Diversifying, or spreading your investments across various asset classes, may help lower the fluctuation in your portfolio. To create a diversified portfolio, it’s important that you also understand your risk tolerance, as well as your timeline and goals for investing.

4. Save money automatically

Regardless of whether you have a lot, a little or no money in the stock market, it’s important that you save money. This can help you during a time of financial uncertainty (see #1). It can also help you reach your financial goals regardless of whether the market goes up or down.

A good way to stash away more money is to automate your savings. If you open a no-fee Chime Bank account, you can start saving more money right away. How? You’ll get a Chime Visa Debit card and every time you use your card, Chime will round up your transaction to the nearest dollar and deposit that change into your Chime Savings Account. Those pennies add up – fast. For example, if you use your Chime card twice a day on average, you’ll save more than $300 a year – without even thinking about it.

Stay the course

We get it: A potential stock market downturn may cause you to feel stressed out. But, if you use the four tips above, you’ll be more apt to weather a financial storm.

With that in mind, here’s a final pro tip: If you want or need more expertise on how to best manage your money, it’s a wise idea to seek help from an investment professional or financial advisor. This way you’ll have an expert who can help guide you through market ups and downs, as well as help hold you accountable to your money goals.

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