Tag: Guides

 

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?

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


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

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


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.

 

15 Quotes from Our Favorite Money Saving Experts

Like it or not, money makes the world go round. It provides you with basic necessities and helps you achieve your savings goals. Unfortunately, money doesn’t grow on trees.

But here’s the good news: You can save and earn more money by turning to experts for tips, tricks and inspiration. To help motivate you, check out these 15 quotes from our favorite money experts:

1) “Opportunities come infrequently. When it rains gold, put out the bucket, not the thimble.” – Warren Buffett

No one knows the importance of seizing upon an opportunity better than billionaire Warren Buffett. Buffett made his fortune by purchasing millions in stocks during lulls in the market.

The takeaway: While you may not have millions of dollars sitting around, you can still invest and earn more money. Whether this means accepting a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity, moving your money into a high-yield savings account, or taking advantage of swings in the market, be sure to put out your “bucket”…not your “thimble.”

2) “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” – Benjamin Franklin

Those little expenses add up – and no one says it better than inventor Benjamin Franklin. While it’s easy to keep your larger expenses in check, it’s not so easy to count all the small, every day expenses.

The takeaway: Those little expenses add up, and can rapidly ruin your budget. To keep yourself in check, evaluate your expenditures every month, and cut back on any miscellaneous, unbudgeted expenses.

3) “A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.” – William Feather

Perhaps no one explains the importance of budgeting better than publisher William Feather. A budget is a great tool to tell you where your money should go. But it’s up to you to hold yourself accountable.

The takeaway: Pay attention to your budget and don’t spend more than you have available.

 4) “Make sure you have financial intelligence… I don’t care if you have money or you don’t have money… you need to go and study finance no matter what.” – Daymond John

You don’t have to be a financial analyst in order to understand the basics of finance. And this quote from entrepreneur Daymond John proves just that. No matter who you are, it’s vital that you educate yourself on the basics of personal finance.

The takeaway: Educate yourself by making free simple moves like reading books from the library or personal finance blogs.

5) “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” – Robert H. Schuller

Everyone faces a difficult financial period at some point. But instead of panicking or becoming overwhelmed, it’s important to note that these times are only temporarily.

The takeaway: With a lot of hard work, smart planning and determination, any financial situation can be turned around over time, no matter how bad it is.

6)  “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

So, you want to take control of your finances? You want to switch jobs? Start your own business? Any financial decision is just a thought until you take action.

The takeaway: Turn your thoughts into actions. Take a leap and make your financial goals a reality.

7) “Personal finance is only 20% head knowledge. It’s 80% behavior!” –Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey, financial expert and author of Total Money Makeover, has a unique approach to finances. According to him, your finances are more a reflection of your behaviors than your financial knowledge.

The takeaway: Establish positive money habits like creating a budget or automating your savings. Celebrate your new behaviors, which can easily become money wins.

8) “A big part of financial freedom is having your heart and mind free from worry about the what-ifs of life.” – Suze Orman

Financial guru Suze Orman is a huge proponent of saving money. And, saving for an emergency can save you oodles of stress.

The takeaway: Instead of worrying about how you’ll pay for unexpected expenses, consider starting an emergency fund.

9) Money, like emotions, is something you must control to keep your life on the right track.” -Natasha Munson

Money isn’t the end-all, be-all, but it certainly is important. Just like you must keep your emotions in check, it’s important to keep your finances in check, according to Natasha Munson.

The takeaway: Take steps to improve your finances as this will give your some control over your life and decisions.

10) “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.” – Confucius

Even according to Confucius in ancient times, planning ahead was extremely important!

You never know when something unfortunate could happen.

The takeaway: Prepare for the unknown by saving money for a rainy day.

11) “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” – Joe Biden

Unfortunately, simply creating a budget doesn’t mean you are on track financially. In order to keep yourself on track with your budget, check out these tips from EveryDollar.

The takeaway: Adhere to a reasonable budget so that you’ll be more apt to make strides with your financial situation.

12) “It’s simple arithmetic: Your income can grow only to the extent that you do.” — T. Harv Eker

T. Harv Elker, the author of “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind,” is an enormous proponent of personal development. In fact, he claims that your income is a direct reflection of your personal growth.

The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself! Here are a few affordable ways you can invest in yourself while on a budget.

13) “Money isn’t everything, but it’s right up there with oxygen.” – Zig Ziglar

Money truly isn’t everything. But it does afford you the lifestyle you want, according to businessman Zig Ziglar.

The takeaway: You can’t ignore money. Instead, it’s important to prioritize your money goals so that you can afford the lifestyle you want.

14) “You can have excuses or you can have success; you can’t have both.” ― Jen Sincero

According to Jen Sincero, author of “You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth,” success takes a lot of work. So, instead of blaming your financial woes on your present situation, she proposes that you take control of your situation and turn it around.

The takeaway: Think of your financial situation as a reflection about your attitude about work. Hey, it’s worth a shot!

15) “In fact, what determines your wealth is not how much you make but how much you keep of what you make.” ― David Bach

According to David Bach, author of “Smart Women Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Achieving Financial Security and Funding Your Dreams,” you can make all the money you have ever imagined…but if you can’t save that money, you have nothing. This is particularly liberating if you don’t earn a ton of money.

The takeaway: Whether you earn $30,000 a year or $100,000, your savings is what matters most! On that note, we’ll leave you with this pro tip: Don’t forget to save even more money by opening a Chime savings account!

 

14 Budget-Friendly Valentine’s Day Date Ideas That Don’t Suck

For the first few years of our relationship, my husband and I never thought twice about going out for a five-star meal on Valentine’s Day. It was just the thing to do. After all, the average American spends more than $140 on this holiday.

Yet, here was the problem: We couldn’t afford those dinners, especially with piling up credit card charges, burdensome student loans payments and hefty car notes. So, we started celebrating Valentine’s Day on a budget and we actually enjoyed ourselves just as much (if not more) because we had to get creative.

Although we have now paid off our consumer debt, we decided to keep up our thrifty Valentine’s Day tradition. This way we can focus on our other money goals for this year and beyond.

If you’re also looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day on a budget, check out these 14 date ideas that won’t make you look like a cheapskate:

For the Romantics At Heart

Cook together.
This is a popular at-home date night recommendation but it can be stressful if you wait until the last minute to figure out your menu. Instead, consider testing out a meal delivery service or check out Instacart, which I find to be a huge time (and therefore money saver).

At-home spa night.
While you may not have the hands of a massage therapist, you can easily recreate a calming, spa-like atmosphere right in your own home. Budget-friendly tip: Shop your hall closet for candles, aromatherapy oils and other at-home spa essentials. In the end, you may only need to spend money on rose petals to turn this idea into the most romantic Valentine’s Day ever.

Create a scavenger hunt.
It’s time to put your Pinterest skills to good use with this Valentine’s Day activity. Showcase your thoughtfulness by including riddles that incorporate memories from milestone events like your first date. Your grand finale (final clue) doesn’t have to be expensive either. It can be home cooked dinner by the fireplace, picture of the two of you or a picnic lunch.

Bury a time capsule.
Fill a box with keepsakes that represent both you and your SO, write a sweet note to your future selves and bury it. Hint: You can repurpose almost anything such as a shoebox for your time capsule instead of going out and buying something new.

Scrapbook together.

Pour a glass of wine and get ready to enjoy a trip down memory lane with your person. I also love that this sweet date night idea can double as a great way to get rid of clutter and turn it into cash (not very romantic, I know, but it is a tip worth sharing).

Treat your SO to breakfast in bed.

When was the last time you made your partner breakfast in bed? Or maybe a better question is: Have you ever made your partner breakfast? Be sure to include a sweet handwritten note when you surprise your SO with this thoughtful gesture!

At-home movie night with a twist.
Borrow a projector or even use a large television screen to create a romantic outdoor or indoor movie theater experience without breaking the bank.

For the Outdoorsy Couple

Cozy bonfire date.

My husband recently spent five dollars on a fire pit at a garage sale and we can’t wait to test it out on Valentine’s Day. I already have the marshmallows and hot cocoa mix added to our grocery list!

Sledding.

If you want to have some real fun on Valentine’s Day then add this winter activity to your to-do list. Cuddle up with a warm beverage once you’re finished acting like a big kid with your favorite human.

Winter hike.

Yes, this is a thing! Just be sure to check out these safety tips before embarking on your adventure.

For the Couple Who Doesn’t Like At-Home Date Nights

Dessert-only date.

Fill up on dinner at home and save the spending for a delicious sweet treat. Scout out a nice ice cream parlor or a quaint bakery in a cute nearby town. End the night with a romantic walk.

Trivia night.

If you and your partner are competitive then this could be the perfect date night that costs less than $25. Plus, you may even win some money when all is said and done!

Choose lunch over dinner.
Eating lunch out is less expensive than dinner. Plain and simple. For instance, Money Crashers notes that at the Cheesecake Factory, “Dinner entrees range in price from $11 to $30 [while] lunch specials cost between $9 and $14.” If you skip dessert and take it easy on the beverages, you won’t have to spend more than $50.

For the Couple Who Thinks Outside of the Box

Don’t celebrate at all.

If your main reason for celebrating Valentine’s Day is that everyone else is, then it may be time to reconsider your approach. I spoke with one couple who doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day at all.

Ellie from EllieMondelli.com says, “It’s very simple for us — we view this holiday as yet another excuse to spend money. It doesn’t fit in with any of our goals, so we don’t celebrate it.”

This type of discipline has enabled the Mondelli’s to pay off their mortgage before she turned 30!

 

6 Best Dating Apps When You’re On a Budget

Sometimes love doesn’t cost a thing, but that’s hardly the case these days. Even before you get to the pricey part of wining and dining a potential suitor, you can expect to run up big tabs on dating apps.

Subscriptions to these apps can come with a hefty price tag, which means less money in your savings account to actually win over your new paramour.

So, what to do? Take a look at the solid money-saving dating app strategy that we’ve put together. In addition, we rounded up some of the top dating apps to give you the lowdown on the costs involved and whether they are worth the money.

Saving Money With Dating Apps

Monthly subscription fees can cost as much as a good meal. But most dating apps offer a free “lite” version of the app. You still get a sense of the full functionality, ease of use, and size of the potential dating pool, but you won’t get access to the premium features.

So, before you commit to that pricey subscription, try this: Download a range of different dating apps. Only commit to the free version as a way to suss out the app’s usefulness. Only then, when you’ve narrowed it down to a favorite few, is it a good idea to spring for a paid subscription.

It’s also important to know what you get with the paid versions, and to really consider whether this is worth it. Does a paid subscription provide more access to potential partners, for example? Or is it just a dud feature that you probably won’t really use? Keeping a discerning eye on the value you get for your hard-earned cash can help keep those subscriptions trimmed to the bare essentials.

Best Dating Apps

Here are some of the most popular dating apps you’re likely to run across.

Match.com

Everyone has heard of Match.com, even your 95-year-old Nana. This website offers one of the largest user bases of any dating app, meaning the odds are good that you’ll meet people. Although you can see profiles as a free member, if you want to send and receive messages, see who saved your profile, and even attend in-person events, you’ll need to upgrade.

Subscription cost: Starting from $20.99/month

Tinder

Tinder – which revolutionized the terms “swipe right” and “swipe left” – is still one of the most popular dating apps out there. While the basic concept is simple to use, you’ll need to upgrade if you want to take the game to a new level. Plus, subscriptions allow you to change locations if you travel and undo swipe mistakes, among other things. The highest tier level, Gold, allows you to do everything in the Plus subscription while allowing you to “boost” your profile to the top of the line. You’ll also be able to see who has swiped right on your profile.

Plus subscription cost: Starting from $2.99/month

Gold subscription cost: Starting from $4.99/month

The League

If you’re a distinguishing dater and tired of all the scrubs, consider this app. It bills itself as an app for elite people who have done things like attended Ivy League schools, or at least have the conversation skills to match. You don’t join The League — you apply and hope you’re accepted — and the basic version is free. With the paid versions, you can get more “friend requests,” VIP passes, and custom-picked daily prospects.

Member subscription cost: Starting from $29/month

Owner subscription cost: Starting from $83/month

Hinge

If you like Tinder’s ease of use but aren’t looking for a short-term hookup, Hinge might be a better dating app for you. It’s also especially helpful if you’re active on Facebook, since the app will use your personal connections to find friends-of-friends to match you with. Preferred members get access to additional filters to find people, unlimited profile likes, and even access to Hinge Experts, a concierge dating service.

Preferred subscription cost: Starting from $7/month

Bumble

If you’re into flipping the script, Bumble is a great dating app to try. This app actually requires the woman to message the man first if they are a match. And not only that, there’s a time limit — she only gets 24 hours to make the first move, or it disappears. For same-sex matches, anyone can make the first move. Upgrading to Bumble Boost allows you to see who’s right-swiped your profile, find matches with expired connections, and extend your current matches longer than the 24-hour window.

Bumble Boost subscription cost: Starting from $24.99/month

OkCupid

If you consider yourself woke and are looking to meet up with other like-minded liberals, consider OkCupid. This app allows for dozens of combinations of gender identity and sexual orientations, and makes the profile-creation process a fun game of questions (If I were sent to jail, I’d be arrested for…) rather than your standard demographic listing. It offers two levels of premium subscriptions. A-List members get a wide range of features, such as seeing who has read your messages and changing your username periodically. A-List Premium members get access to a few more features, like having your profile boosted or your messages appearing in a prominent spot in your match’s mailbox.

A-List subscription cost: Starting from $9.95/month

A-List Premium subscription cost: Starting from $24.90/month

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

You’re a savvy user of money-saving apps and banking apps, so why not plan a smart dating app strategy as well? As we’ve shown you above, the world is full of options — and that applies to both dating apps and the people that use them. Planning a smart approach to your dating app strategy means you’ll have the best chances of finding love and keeping your wallet as full as possible. We call that a win-win.

 

How Chime Offers No Hidden Fee Checking Accounts

You’ve probably heard the adage Nothing in Life is Free. Well, we’re here to debunk this. Did you know that you can get a free Chime checking account with no hidden fees?

Chime is a mobile-only bank account that helps you save money automatically and manage your finances from anywhere. Now one of the fastest growing bank accounts in the U.S., Chime offers members a Spending Account, an optional Savings Account, and a Chime Visa® Debit Card. Rated the “Best Free Checking Account of 2018” by NerdWallet, Chime is on a mission to eliminate bank fees while empowering you to take control of your finances and save money.

Those pesky fees add up – fast. Did you know that the average U.S. household pays over $329 in bank fees annually, and that most Americans haven’t switched to a checking account with no fees? Pretty remarkable, right? If you’re ready to make the switch and kiss those fees goodbye forever, take a look at 5 reasons why Chime offers a no fee checking account, and how you can benefit.

1. Chime is committed to helping you get ahead financially

When you have to pay monthly fees just for having a checking account, this doesn’t help you pocket your hard-earned cash. Instead, banks profit off of you and Chime would rather profit with you. So, instead of charging you fees – like most traditional banks – Chime has turned the banking industry on its head. It makes no money off your no fee Spending Account, allowing you to keep all of your cash. How does Chime make money? Good question. Here’s the answer: Every time you use your debit card, Chime earns a small amount from Visa (paid by the merchant.)

2. Chime offers an awesome banking alternative to big banks

Did you know that the five largest banks in the U.S made more than $34 billion in overdraft fees alone in 2017? Chime, along with other challenger banks, want to change this with no fee checking accounts and debit cards that empower you to save money. Yet, regardless of where you bank, here’s a tip from Chime: Be sure to learn about any fees you may have to pay, including overdraft fees, savings account fees, account maintenance fees, foreign transaction fees, and more. And if you want a bank that will never rely on unfair bank fees for profit, Chime is here for you.

3. Chime offers a Spending Account that suits your lifestyle

With a Chime no fee checking account, you can do all of your banking right from the modern and intuitive mobile app. This includes depositing checks on the go, paying friends, transferring funds, paying bills and even mailing checks. Here’s how these main features work:

  • Mobile Check Deposit

To deposit a check, all you need to do is snap a quick photo with Chime’s mobile banking app, and then sit back and watch your account balance grow. No need to fill out a deposit slip, go to a brick-and-mortar bank or ATM, wait in a bank teller line, and write out a paper check and put it in the mail. You can deposit checks from anywhere in the world. Easy peasy.

  • Pay Friends

With a Chime Spending Account, you can send money instantly to friends and family, even to those that aren’t yet Chime members! Using the Pay Friends feature, you can divide up rent payments or split the bill when out to dinner with friends. And, you’ll never pay fees.

  • Automatic Savings

Now that you love your Spending Account, it’s time to automatically grow your savings with the Save When I Get Paid or Save When I Spend features. Automatically save 10% of your paycheck into your Chime Saving Account with Save When I Get Paid. You can also automatically round-up your purchases and save the different into your Savings Account with Save When I Spend.

  • Pay Bills Electronically

Using Chime’s bill pay feature, you can pay your bills, track your expenses, and keep tabs on your balance from the mobile app on any device. You can even leave your wallet at home when you go shopping as Chime supports mobile payment apps like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay.

  • Mail a Check

We know mailing checks is old school. But, sometimes you gotta do it and Chime makes this task simple. It even puts the check in the mail for you. That’s right. If you have to mail a check, you can do this through the mobile app. All you have to do is let Chime know who to send a check to and for how much. Chime will then make sure your check gets to where it needs to be. Now this is what we call the best kind of virtual personal assistant.

4. Chime offers easy access to your money

While Chime is a mobile-only bank with no brick-and-mortar locations, this doesn’t mean you’re limited when it comes to ATMs. In fact, just the opposite is true. You can use your debit card to withdraw money from your no fee checking account at over 38,000 fee-free ATMs. In addition, you can use 30,000 plus cash-back locations.

Chime is part of the MoneyPass® and Visa Plus Alliance ATM networks, with locations throughout the United States. You can use the mobile app to find an in-network free ATM and then use your debit card to withdraw cash without fees. Now that’s convenience to the max.

5. Chime helps you save automatically

Now that we’ve explained Chime’s mission to help you save money with no fee bank accounts, it’s time to break down some of the key ways in which you can keep more of your money, while boosting your savings. And, remember, these money-saving features from Chime cost you nothing in fees and will help you save money without even thinking about it. Take a look:

  • Save When I Spend

    With Chime, you can save money every time you make a purchase or pay a bill with your Chime debit card. The Save When I Spend feature automatically rounds up your transactions to the nearest dollar and transfers the round-up from your Spending Account into your Savings Account.

  •  Save When I Get Paid

     This automatic savings feature allows you to save money with every paycheck. This way you can reach your financial goals faster. If you’re a Chime member, you can automatically transfer 10% of every paycheck directly into your Savings Account.

  • Get paid up to two days early with early direct deposit 

    Getting your paycheck early means you’ll have two more days to do more with your money. When you open a no fee checking account with Chime, you can set up direct deposit two ways: you can request an email with a pre-filled direct deposit form that you can give to your employer, or set it up yourself using the Account and Routing numbers listed in your Chime app. No waiting for your money while it sits in some mysterious electronic limbo, and no more worrying about lost paper checks. You’ll get your cash two days before most other traditional banks make the funds available to you. The waiting game is over!

Are you ready to open a no fee checking account?

If you’re currently paying bank fees, this means you are paying your bank for the right to hold onto your money. Ridiculous, right?

Yet, you have a choice. You can switch to a no fee bank account. Signing up for a Chime account takes less than two minutes and there is no minimum balance required to open a no fee checking account. What are you waiting for?

 

What to Do If the Stock Market Crashes

If you’ve seen the recent headlines, it seems that the next stock market crash could be around the corner. The housing market has stalled and, in December 2018, the Dow had the worst December performance since the Great Depression. All of these signs can be disconcerting, especially when you’re considering the impact to your own finances.

While this doom and gloom may make you feel as uneasy as the recession of 2008, there are some ways you can prepare yourself for a worst case scenario. Check out this guide to help you out if the stock market crashes.

Don’t panic

First things first: Do not panic. While you may freak out and consider taking all of your money out of your bank and hiding it under your mattress, this likely isn’t the wisest idea. Likewise, neither is immediately selling off your investments to avoid the volatility of the market. Why? Because if the market can crash, it can go up again.

According CNBC, if you invested in 2008 — instead of panicking — you’d be doing fairly well right now. The CNBC article states:

“In the 10 years since the crisis got rolling, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has returned 7.8 percent, annualized, including dividends. That’s not far below the very long-term average yearly return of just under 10 percent. So a very unlucky investor who climbed into equities as they were about to careen off a cliff hasn’t been hurt too badly. A standard portfolio mix of stocks and bonds, as reflected in the Vanguard Balanced Index Fund, has returned a decent 6.8 percent over the same span, with roughly half the downside volatility experienced by the S&P 500. Clearly, the passage of time in the markets can help make up for bad timing.”

Cut back on spending

How much do you really need to live off of?

Look at your budget and evaluate areas where you can cut back. You can figure out where you can do this by looking at your bare-bones budget.

Why do this? Because if the stock market crashes, you may need to be a bit more frugal while you wait for a rebound. So, try not going out for coffee every day, but maybe only splurge for those lattes once a week. And, here’s a pro tip: Figure out how much money you need in order to pay all your bills. Once you have your budget set (rent/mortgage, food, transportation, etc.), you can look at the areas that aren’t essential and start to cut back. From there, you can figure out how much you’ve got to spend and how much you can save.

Boost your savings rate

A stock market crash can have a ripple effect on other areas of your life. For example, you may get laid off from your job, have limited access to credit or have a tough time getting clients for your side hustle. For these reasons and more, it’s important to be prepared and have cash saved up.

Experts recommend saving three to six months of expenses in an emergency fund, but you might want to boost that up to 12 months. While this may take some time, there’s no harm in starting to save more as soon as you can.

With beefed up savings, this will help you weather a storm if the stock market should crash.

Assess your risk tolerance

Investing is never a risk-free endeavor. When you’re just starting out, it’s important to determine your risk tolerance, as well as a strategy to grow your money over time.

What’s risk tolerance? Risk tolerance is how much risk you’re willing to deal with when investing. So, ask yourself this question: Are you an aggressive or conservative investor?

You may also want to consider any lifestyle changes that may affect the amount of risk you can take on. For example, are you preparing to have a baby, get married, go back to school or  going through a divorce? Perhaps you’re dealing with a layoff or you switched jobs and took a pay cut?

Your risk tolerance, as well as these lifestyle factors, should be considered and you can adjust your investing strategy accordingly. For example, perhaps you can move away from a stock-heavy portfolio if having too many stocks makes you skittish. Or, perhaps you can put more of your money into savings. The key is to be diversified in a way that makes sense for you – given your risk tolerance, lifestyles and goals.

Buy and hold

A good strategy in an uncertain market is to buy and hold.

So what exactly is that? Buy and hold is when you buy stocks and just hold onto them. You don’t try to play games or get into a situation you’re not well-equipped to deal with – such as trying to time the stock market.

The ultimate goal with investing is to build wealth, and this takes time. Think of your investments as a long-term play and this way you won’t be so stressed about the possible day-to-day volatility.

Think of it as a sale

Scarcity mindset, or a survival mindset — where you think resources are scarce — can be set off with a stock market crash. You might feel scared about your money, like there will never be enough.

Instead of living in fear and holding onto your money so tightly, you may benefit from a perspective shift. Consider a market crash as a ‘sale’ and invest more. If you feel comfortable, you can use this time to invest on the cheap and reap the benefits in the long term.

Keep your options open if the worst should happen

You’ll want to have a contingency plan if the sh*&^ hits the fan.

So, think about the skills you have in case you have to take a different type of job or start a new side hustle to earn extra income.

Here are some other tips: Check into whether your loans have better payment options available. For example, federal student loan borrowers can pay zero dollars on an income-driven repayment plan if your income is at a very low level.

Final word

The financial headlines can be scary. Yet, you can take steps now to be proactive if the stock market crashes. If it does take a tumble, remember not to panic and think long-term. This way your can stay the course and keep your finances in order during the short-term.

 

Money-Making Apps: What You Need to Know

Is boosting your income on your to-do list? If so, you can start a side hustle or angle for a better a job. But, there may be an easier way to make a few extra bucks: money-making apps.

“While money-making and cash back apps can’t replace your 9 to 5, they’re a great way to earn some change to tuck away for a rainy day,” says Joy Hearn, founder of deal site Cards and Clips.

Indeed, money-making apps can put cash in your wallet. That’s money you can use to pad your savings account or pay off debt. Yet, you may be confused about what these apps do or which ones you might want to try, right? Well, we’ve got the details here, along with tips on how to leverage money-making apps. To learn more, read on.

How Money-Making Apps Work

The basic premise of money-making apps is that they allow you to earn a percentage of what you spend as cash back. You link your debit or credit card to the app, spend at partner merchants and cash back rewards are credited to your app account.

You’re free to use the cash back you’ve earned however you want. And you can double up on rewards if you’re also earning cash back from your linked debit or credit card.

What makes each money-making app and website different is the amount of cash back you can earn, where you can earn it and how that cash is paid out. Some of the most popular money-making apps include:

With Dosh, you can earn up to 10% cash back automatically when you pay with a linked debit or credit card at more than 1,000 stores and restaurants. You can also snag an extra five dollars each time you refer a friend to Dosh and they sign up for an account using your referral link. You can transfer the money you’ve made to your bank account, PayPal account or donate it to charity.

Lushdollar founder Tom Nathaniel likes Dosh because it’s a set-it-and-forget-it way to earn cash back.

“While I could check out which merchants give me cash back, I just look at it as a bonus if my purchase triggers a reward. Since you just add your credit card, the app always knows what you’re buying,” says Nathaniel.

Marc Andre, personal finance blogger at VitalDollar.com says Ebates is his money-making app of choice. Ebates offers up to 40% cash back at more than 2,500 partner retailers. Besides the app, you can also use the Ebates browser extension to make money from your desktop.

“When you’re visiting a website that participates with Ebates you’ll be notified and all you need to do is click on a button in the notification so Ebates can track your purchases. There have been many times when I wasn’t even thinking about getting cash back but the alert from the browser extension reminded me of it,” says Andre.

Another great feature: Ebates automatically searches for coupon codes to help you find even more savings when you shop.

Like Ebates, TopCashback.com is a money-making app that also has a downloadable browser extension. It also features one of the largest merchant networks, with over 4,400 partner businesses.

Hearn at Cards and Clips is partial to Shopkick and Checkpoints, both of which reward you with cash instantly just for walking into stores or browsing retailers online. The difference is that with these apps, you’re earning gift cards instead of cold hard cash. But, the gift card selection includes retailers like Target, Amazon and Starbucks – which can come in handy if you regularly spend with these brands.

Using Money-Making Apps Wisely

Cash back apps and websites can put money in your pocket fairly easily, but there are a few rules to keep in mind as you use them.

1. Set realistic expectations for what you can earn.

Don’t think of money-making apps as a way to get rich quick.

“I think some people download these apps expecting hundreds of dollars. As long as you go in knowing you’ll make a few bucks, they’re fun to use,” Nathaniel says.

2. Don’t try to game the system.

It sounds simple but pay attention to the rules set down by an app for making money. For example, Hearn says that in her experience, survey apps tend to have explicit rules about misuse.

“If they find you’ve created multiple accounts and can track it back to your specific IP address, you can be banned from using the app. Or, if they feel you deliberately raced through a survey to earn money, your account can be terminated,” says Hearn.

Bottom line? “It’s always best to follow instructions and do exactly what an app requires so you can earn your payout,” she says.

3. Be selective.

Deciding which money-making apps to use partly depends on your spending habits, says VitalDollar’s Andre.

Checkout51 and Ibotta, for instance, are designed for earning money on groceries while other money-making apps cover restaurants or major retail brands.

“There are so many different cash back apps that you really can’t use them all effectively. My best advice is to pick a few and stick with those,” says Andre.

4. Don’t let apps dictate buying decisions.

When using money-making apps, it’s easy to get caught up in earning cash. So easy, in fact, that you might end up overspending just to chase down a few extra dollars.

“You have to keep it in perspective,” says Andre.

“Getting 10% cash back on a purchase that you need to make anyway is great. But making a purchase that you don’t need just to get 10% cash back is not wise,” he says.

In other words, keep your spending habits firmly in sight. Getting cash back is great but not if it means blowing your budget.

A Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned

When you’re earning extra cash with these apps, think about what you plan to do with it. Money-making apps can turn into money-saving apps if you’re using those dollars and cents to grow your emergency fund or save up for other goals. Plus, it’s motivating to watch the cash from mobile payment apps pile into a savings account. Are you ready to give money-making apps a try?

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