Tag: Guides

 

Amazing Resources for Successfully Managing Your Personal Finances

The new year is the perfect time to do some revamping of your finances, starting with the tools you use to manage your money.

Two-thirds of Americans have at least one personal finance app on their mobile devices. These apps are used for banking, budgeting, investing or sending and receiving money. But, perhaps you’re looking for new personal finance tools to add to your arsenal.

In addition to the Chime’s money transfer feature, here are 8 personal finance apps and go-to resources that you might fall in love with.

1. Personal Capital

If you need to get clarity on where you stand financially in the new year, Personal Capital is designed with you in mind. The software, which links all your bank and investment accounts, can help you become more financially aware of how you spend, save and invest. It’s great if you want to get a handle on your net worth, check in on how your investments are doing or see where each and every dollar you spend goes.

2. The Penny Hoarder

You love personal finance blogs, right? That’s probably because you’re looking for tips on how to make smarter decisions with your money. The Penny Hoarder delivers that and then some. This personal finance site offers a wealth of information on everything from paying down debt and saving for retirement, to earning more money with a side hustle and snagging deals on groceries. If you want to dig deeper, The Penny Hoarder Academy features in-depth tutorials on budgeting, improving your credit score and job hunting.

3. “You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth”

Author Jen Sincero took a series of professional twists and turns before finding her calling as a success coach. Her newest book, “You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth,” is all about how to chase after the income you want instead of settling for the paycheck you’re earning. You might be working your way up the corporate ladder, trying to get a fledgling freelancing business off the ground or somewhere in-between. If you need a road map (and a mental kick in the pants) to focus on leveling up your income, this book is a solid read.

4. You Need a Budget

There are lots of budgeting apps and programs out there and if you’re looking for something free that’s easy to use, the Mint app absolutely fits the bill. You Need a Budget (YNAB), however, offers a bit more. While it’s not free (you’ll need to cough up $6.99 a month to use it) it can be a financial game changer. If you’ve struggled with budgeting before, YNAB can help you stay accountable while getting down to the nitty-gritty of how you spend. Aside from budgeting, YNAB can also help you map out a debt payoff plan and track your big (and small) money goals.

5. So Money Podcast

Farnoosh Torabi knows money and she dishes out her best personal finance advice and tips on her weekly So Money Podcast. The podcast regularly features money, business and success experts, such as Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin and Jim Cramer. Previous episodes have included discussions about money and marriage, managing finances in yours 20s, figuring out retirement and making the leap into entrepreneurship after a stint with a side hustle. The financial questions addressed are relatable and the advice tends to be practical and on-point.

6. Robinhood

Fees can eat into your returns when you’re trading stocks and trying to build a portfolio of investments. Yet, Robinhood is a mobile app that lets you buy and sell stocks for free from your mobile device or desktop. It may be a good pick for investing newbies who want to play the market but don’t want to shell out hefty fees to a financial advisor. And if you’re a savvy investor, you can also use the Robinhood app to trade options and cryptocurrencies.

7. Credit Karma

Getting your credit score in shape might be one of your top financial resolutions for the new year. The first step is knowing where you stand score-wise and what’s influencing your credit score calculations. This is where Credit Karma can help. This site offers free credit score monitoring and credit education. You can track your score progress each month and use that to improve your finances. For example, boosting your score may help you get approved for better credit card or loan offers. And, consolidating high-interest credit card debt to a single card or loan with a lower rate can save you money over the long-term, help you pay the balance off faster, and improve your finances.

8. Venmo

Splitting expenses can be a headache, especially if you’re constantly nagging your roommate to hand over her share of the rent or dealing with that one friend who never seems to carry enough cash to share the dinner tab. Venmo helps eliminate those kinds of hassles by allowing you to send and receive money with just an email or phone number. You can easily share payments for virtually any expense and get paid back through your smartphone. The app makes keeping track of money a breeze and it’s also a speedy way to receive payments. Just watch out for the fees. Venmo charges a three percent fee when you send money using a credit card. Pro tip: Chime also offers a Pay Friends feature that allows you to send fee-free mobile payments to other Chime members.

What’s your preferred money management tool?

These fintech apps and resources can help you get a better grip on saving, spending, debt repayment, investing, and your short-term and long-range money goals. We encourage you to check out all of these 8 resources to see which of them can help you improve your finances in the new year.

 

Good Credit Scores vs. Bad Credit Scores

Your credit score is a huge indication of your financial health. In fact, your credit is so important that lenders refer to it when you apply for a line of credit, a home mortgage, a car loan or even a new credit card.

But, in order to be approved for loans and credit cards you often need a “good” credit score. That begs the next question: What makes a good score vs. a bad score? Before we jump in, let’s go over the basics.

What is Credit and How is Your Score Calculated

Your credit score is a three digit number that helps lenders determine how credit worthy you really are. In other words, it’s a tool lenders use to determine if you are a good borrower and thus most likely to pay off your loans.

The three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – collect information on you to help determine your credit score. For instance, whenever you open a new account via a loan or line of credit, this information gets reported to the three bureaus.

The bureaus then use a credit scoring model to determine what your score is. The two most popular credit scoring models are FICO and Vantage. FICO is used widely by lenders, but you’ll want to aim for a high credit score no matter which scoring model is being used.

What Makes a Good Credit Score?

There are a few important factors that help contribute to your credit score. These factors include your payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, credit mix (how many different types of account you have,) and new credit.

Credit scores range from 300 to 850. Good credit scores fall in the 670 to 850 range. Anything below 670 is either considered a fair or bad credit score, according to FICO.

If you want to raise your credit score, it’s important to prove that you’re a responsible borrower and not a risk to the lender. Why? Lenders don’t want to give money to people who won’t pay them back. This is why the most crucial things you can to do improve your credit are:

 

  • Pay your bills on time
  • Keep credit card balances low

To help you do this, you can create a detailed budget and set up reminders or automatic withdrawals to ensure you pay bills on time. The longer you keep up with this habit, the better your score will get. For example, say you have a student loan with a 10-year term. You’ve made on time payments for about eight years so far. Good for you! This will improve your credit and show lenders that you can be trusted to pay back a sum of money over time.

Here’s another pro tip: When it comes to credit cards, never spend more than 30% of your credit limit. Remember, credit is a tool, and it will not help your score if you max out your credit cards. So, if your limit is $2,000, only spend 30% of that limit, or $600. Then, pay the bill on time. If you continue this habit, your credit score should improve.

What Makes a Bad Credit Score

There are a few things you can do that will result in a bad credit score. They include:

  • Not paying your bills and loan payments on time
  • Not paying your loans at all
  • Keeping a high balance on your credit card
  • Applying for multiple credit accounts regularly

For example, let’s take a look at your bills. If you don’t pay your bills on time, companies can report you to the major credit bureaus and this will result in a negative mark on your credit report. Keep in mind that this can happen for medical bills, utility bills, and even your phone bill. If you just stop paying altogether, this is even worse. Your account will become delinquent and it will reflect poorly on your credit reports.

Keeping a high balance on your credit cards is another common mistake that indicates you may not be able to pay back what you borrowed. The takeaway: Borrow only what you can afford to repay in a timely manner.

Ways to Improve Your Credit

If you want to improve your credit, focus on improving your standing with each of the five factors that impact your credit score. Here’s a breakdown of those factors and how much each one contributes to your score:

Payment history: 35%

Amounts owed: 30%

Length of credit history: 15%

New credit: 10%

Credit mix: 10%

Ideally, you’ll want to focus on improving your finances in the two areas that hold the most weight. This means you should pay bills on time and keep your balances around 30% (or lower) of your overall limit.

You should also avoid applying for new credit too often. Each time you apply for credit, it adds an inquiry to your report. Too many inquiries can hurt your score.

Over time, your credit history length will increase as long as you keep accounts open. If you close an account, your credit history will die with it. This is why it’s better to keep credit card accounts open even if you aren’t using them regularly.

Here are some other tips: If you have existing debt, you can boost your credit by paying it off. You can also establish positive borrowing history by getting a secured credit card and paying off the balance in full each month. With this type of credit card, you have to put money down first to establish your credit limit. Then, you borrow against it and repay it responsibly.

Lastly, consider establishing a no-fee bank account and emergency fund so you won’t be tempted to use credit to help you cover unexpected expenses that you can’t afford.

Know the Difference and Protect Your Score

In order to improve your credit history, you’ve got to start somewhere. A good place to begin is to know what makes a good credit score and a bad credit score. Ultimately, improving your credit score boils down to your spending and money management habits.

Are you ready to develop better money habits? Follow this guide and over time you will watch your credit score move into the “good” range.

 

What is A Good Credit Score To Buy A Car?

Ready to buy a car?

A car may be one of the most expensive purchases you’ll ever make – second only to a home. The average car price is $36,000, according to Kelley Blue Book. That’s a whole lotta dough.

While you can certainly save money by buying a used car, you will still need to come up with enough cash to drive away in your new wheels. If you don’t have the money on hand, your other option is to get a car loan.

Car loans can certainly help you buy a car, but in order to get approved for a loan, you’ll generally need a good credit score and money in the bank for a downpayment. Read on to learn more about car loans and how your credit score can help you buy a car.

How Do Car Loans Work?

Car loans are similar to other types of loans. You usually have to come up with a down payment and you can then apply to borrow the rest. You can get a car loan at an auto dealership, or at a bank or credit union. There are also some online lenders that specialize in car loans.

Some car dealerships will allow you to trade in your current car and use the value as a down payment for the new car. They will then run your credit and shop around for the best lender for your loan. This can take some time which is why it’s not uncommon to spend several hours at the car lot as you wait for a financing decision.

Once you have been approved for a car loan – either at a dealership or through another lender – you can review loan terms and sign paperwork. You’ll be given an interest rate based on your credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio (how much you already pay toward your debt each month compared to how much income you bring in.)

Generally, you’ll be asked what your budget is for a monthly car payment. Lenders can shorten or lengthen your loan repayment term based on this preference. For example, you can get a 36-month car loan or even a loan that will take you seven years to pay off. The longer the loan, the more interest you’ll typically pay over time.

What Type of Credit Do You Need?

Your credit score is the number one factor that will determine whether you get approved for a car loan or not.

Of course, if your credit score is excellent or above average, you can rest assured that you’ll likely get a loan with the best terms. If you have no credit whatsoever, you probably won’t be approved for a car loan and it’s time for you to build your credit.

Each quarter, Experian publishes a report detailing the state of the automotive finance market. This is how Experian, as well as most lenders, rank borrowers’ credit scores:

Super Prime: 781 – 850

Prime: 661 – 780

Nonprime: 601 – 660

Subprime: 501 – 600

Deep Subprime: 300 – 500

If you have super prime credit, meaning your score is excellent, you can expect a low interest rate around 2.6% for a new car and 3.4% for a used car. With nonprime credit or an average score, you can expect a rate around 6.39% for a new car and 9.47% for a used car.

With deep subprime credit, which are the lowest scores, you may not get approved for a loan at all. If you do, your interest rate will be the highest, averaging around 13.3% for a new car and 18.9% for a used car, according to Bankrate.

Clearly, having a higher credit score will get you the best terms and the lowest interest rates. And this can save you a ton of money as you repay your loan. If your credit score is subprime or worse, it’s probably a better idea to work on building your credit before applying for a car loan.

Getting Your Credit Ready For a Car Loan

If you want to build your credit score or improve it, you first need to understand how credit works. Lenders look at your FICO score when considering whether to approve your car loan application. FICO is a specific credit scoring model, but it helps to understand how it works so you’ll know which areas of your credit report to focus on.

According to MyFico, credit scores are calculated by using these five main factors:

Payment History – 35%

Amounts Owed (overall utilization of your credit limits) – 30%

Length of Credit History – 15%

Credit Mix – 10%

New Credit – 10%

As you can see, your payment history and amounts owed hold significant weight in terms of determining your score. If your score is low, odds are your payment history is not good.

So, how long does it take to improve your credit? Depending on how much work you need to do, some experts state that you can improve your credit in as little as a few weeks on up to 18 months. To start making improvements, you can do the following:

  • Try monitoring your credit and tracking your improvement by using free sites like CreditKarma and CreditSesame.
  • Use your credit cards wisely, which includes paying off some debt to lower your balances.
  • If you see missed payments or defaults on your credit report, contact the lenders to find out if you can settle the balance.
  • If you have no payment history whatsoever, consider getting a secured credit card and putting a small monthly charge on it. Then, pay it off in full each month to build some positive payment history.
  • Keep your credit utilization under 30%. This means that if you have a credit card with a $2,000 limit, for example, you shouldn’t carry a balance of more than $600. Going above and beyond that amount tells lenders that you can’t control your spending and rely on credit too much. If you aren’t making consistent payments on your balance on top of that, this makes you look like a risky borrower.

Temporary Alternatives to Financing a Car

If you have bad credit or no credit at all, now is a good time to try transportation alternatives to buying a car. For example, while working on building your credit, you can give public transportation or carpooling a whirl.

Or, you can try buying an older used car with cash just to get you from one place to another. You can use windfalls like a tax refund or bonus payments from your job to help you round up the money to buy a cheap car. This might hold you over until you can beef up your credit score and apply for a car loan for a new car.

Working for a Better Credit Score is Worth It

Don’t lose hope or patience if your credit score needs to be improved before you finance a car. The benefits of working your way up to an excellent credit score will be well worth it when you get a car loan with the better terms and a lower interest rate.

Remember: A lower interest rate for your car loan will potentially save you thousands of dollars. Are you ready to start building your credit?

 

Chime Debit Card vs. Prepaid Debit Cards

By now you may have heard of Chime, a bank account with no hidden fees that helps you manage your money on the go and save automatically. Pretty awesome, right?

But did you know that Chime members also get a Chime Visa Debit Card, designed to help you save more money?

You may be wondering how a debit card can help you save money. Plus, you might be thinking you don’t need another debit card as you already have a prepaid card or two in your wallet. You may also be wondering if there are any reloadable prepaid debit cards with no fees. But, once you learn more about its benefit, we think you’ll be trading in those prepaid cards for a brand new Chime debit card.  

What’s the difference between a debit card and prepaid card?

Before we go any further, it’s important that you understand the main difference between a debit card and a prepaid card. It boils down to this: A Chime debit card is linked to your bank account and a prepaid card is not.

So, if you use your Chime debit card, your purchases are deducted from your Spending Account. A prepaid card, on the other hand, is not connected to any bank account and it’s up to you to load money onto it in advance. Typically, you can use your prepaid card until your loaded up funds run dry.

5 Key Differences Between the Chime Debit Card & Popular Prepaid Bank Cards

To make it easier for you to understand other differences between Chime debit cards and prepaid cards, we took a closer look at four of the most popular prepaid cards: Netspend, RushCard, Brink’s and Bluebird by American Express. We then compared the Chime debit card to these prepaid cards in terms of five key categories: fees, mobile apps, ATM access and fees, early direct deposit and security. Here’s what we found.

1. Fees

Chime: There are no hidden fees associated with Chime’s debit card. This is important as the average U.S. household pays more than $329 in bank fees every year. Chime, however, is on a mission to change this with no overdraft fees, no monthly maintenance fees, no monthly service fees, no minimum balance fees, and no foreign transaction fees when you use your debit card. In short, a Chime Spending Account is virtually free to use.  

Prepaid cards: All of the four prepaid cards that we analyzed charge fees for certain services, including, ATM withdrawals and transferring funds. 

2. Mobile App

Chime: The Chime app has 17,000+ 5-star reviews. Whoa. Offering the best mobile banking experience, Chime’s award-winning mobile app helps you track your spending and savings, pay friends and relatives, transfer money, send and deposit checks, and pay bills. You can accomplish all of this from any smartphone.

Prepaid cards: These cards all offer mobile apps that allow you to manage many financial tasks, like depositing checks, paying bills and viewing your transaction history. But, none of them offer extensive features like Automatic Savings or Pay Friends. Why? Prepaid cards are not tied to full service bank accounts, which ultimately limits your overall banking experience.

3. ATM Fees

Chime: How does easy access to money sound? With a Chime account, you can use your debit card to get cash at more than 38,000 ATMs – for no fees. Period.

Prepaid cards: With all four prepaid cards on our list, you can withdraw money from ATMs. However, there are fees involved.

  • Netspend – $2.50 per domestic withdrawal
  • RushCard – $2.50 per out of network withdrawal
  • Brink’s – $2.50 per domestic withdrawal
  • Bluebird – no fees for MoneyPass withdrawals and $2.50 per non MoneyPass withdrawal

4. Early Direct Deposit

Chime: Chime members can get paid up to two days early with direct deposit, as well as enable the option to automatically save 10% of every paycheck. That’s right. No more waiting for your money or worrying about lost paper checks. Chime gets you paid faster and helps you save money.

Prepaid cards:  All four of the prepaid cards also offer an early direct deposit option, allowing you to get your funds two days early. But unlike Chime, these cards are not tied into your savings account, leaving your personal savings up to you.

5. Security

Chime: Security is a priority at Chime, and this includes keeping your information and money safe. Deposits of up to $250,000 are insured through Chime’s partner, The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC. Chime also uses 128-bit AES encryption to make sure your cash is parked safely. Here are some of the other security features you’ll get with a Chime account:

  • You can instantly block your Chime debit card. This means that if your debit card is missing or stolen, you can block all transactions right from the app.
  • Chime sends you real-time, instant transaction alerts. This way you can stay informed about your money at all times.
  • You can shop worry-free at millions (yes, millions) of merchants. That’s because the Chime debit card is protected by the Visa Zero Liability Policy, which ensures that you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges.
  • Your privacy is important, which is why Chime requires two-factor authentication.

Prepaid cards: These cards do offer some security features. For example, Brink’s allows you to add your picture to your card. RushCard, in turn, offers One Touch Access, allowing you to use your fingerprint to access your account. And, because Bluebird is part of the Amex family, you’ll get purchase and fraud protection.

But at the end of the day, none of these four prepaid cards are bank accounts and therefore do not offer the full scope of security features found at Chime.

Switch to Chime For No Hidden Fees

There are many differences between prepaid cards, and Chime’s debit card. As you can see, Chime is not a prepaid card – far from it. Plus, the Chime debit card offers a lot more perks and benefits than prepaid cards.

If you’re looking for a singular card that wins across all categories, Chime takes home the trophy. What are you waiting for? Sign up for a Chime account today and start saving money now. 

 

Should You Donate to Charity If You Are in Credit Card Debt?

Donating to charities and nonprofits is one of the most fulfilling uses of your money, but should you hand over your hard earned dollars to a nonprofit if you have big debt? Probably not. Let’s take a look at why, how you can have a greater long-term impact, and other ways to contribute outside of your checkbook so you can put your finances first.

Why credit card debt should keep you from donating

Finance experts often argue about whether or not any type of debt could be considered “good debt,” but there is a nearly universal agreement that credit card debt is bad for consumers. If you have credit card debt, you’re likely paying upwards of 20% APR on your balance.

If you have an $8,000 credit card balance with a 20% interest rate, that means you will pay around $1,600 per year in credit card interest. When you have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars per year in high-interest payments, you should not be giving generously to a religious organization or anywhere else.

If someone from your church pressures you to give up to 10% of your income when you can’t afford it, they don’t really have your best interest in mind. They have their own interests at heart. While writing a check to your church may give you a warm fuzzy feeling, it just puts you in more debt!

Turning around debt so you can make regular donations

If you don’t have any debt and want to donate to a favorite cause, that’s wonderful! If you do have debt, you should focus on getting out of debt so you can confidently contribute to a meaningful cause.

When you have credit card debt, you generally have to make big interest payments in addition to your efforts to pay off your balance. If you give $100 per month to charity, that is $100 per month you could use for your debt freedom efforts. Each month, that $100 could get you closer and closer to a debt-free lifestyle.

Once you have your debt paid off, you may find you have enough to easily donate to your comfort level without the struggles you had before. After all, you no longer have any interest or principal payments due. That credit card payment of hundreds of dollars per month can turn into a combination of savings and charitable contributions that better align with your long-term financial goals.

Giving is good, but be careful

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett started a movement of more than a dozen billionaires who have pledged to give away at least half of their wealth. These philanthropists are great inspiration for all of us non-billionaires, but we need to take a more pragmatic approach to giving.

I personally give to a few causes, including religious ones, but I have never had any credit card debt. In the days I had student loans and car loans, I was not in the habit of donating to any nonprofits or charities. These days, however, I only have a mortgage. That allows me to give to my favorite organizations without adding extra financial strain to my family.

Tithing is a common practice at churches around the world. The worth tithing comes from the same root as a tenth, or 10%, of your income. If you have credit card debt, donating 10% of your income is very irresponsible.

When you board a commercial flight, the flight attendants remind you that “you should always put your oxygen mask on yourself before helping others.” If you are unconscious, you can’t help anyone else let alone yourself. With your money, it works the exact same way. Credit card debt is the same thing as a depressurized cabin. If you can’t afford to pay off your debt, you can’t afford to take care of anyone else.

With the right financial discipline, you can turn around financial struggles and get your donations underway. But always be sure to pay off your high-interest debt before giving away money to others.


This article originally appeared on Due.com

 

6 Cable Alternatives: The Best Streaming Services to Cut Your Cable Bill

Saving more money is one of the best ways to ensure a lucrative financial future. And, with a new year looming, now is a great time to take actionable steps to reach your money goals.

A good first step is to set up an automatic savings plan and lower some of your monthly expenses to free up money. Where to start? Try cutting out cable. Cutting the cable cord doesn’t mean you have to give up the TV shows and movies you love to watch. In fact, you can still watch your favorite shows – thanks to streaming services.

Here are 6 of the best streaming services to replace your cable service, and help you save money.

1. Netflix

You’ve probably heard of Netflix by now. It’s one of the most popular streaming services for movies, television shows, documentaries and more. Netflix is a monthly subscription service that gives you access to their entire library of content.

The basic plan is $7.99 per month: Watch on one screen at a time in standard definition. Download videos on one phone or tablet.

The standard plan is $10.99: Watch on two screens at a time. HD available. Download videos on two phones or tablets.

The premium plan is $13.99 per month: Watch on four screens at a time. HD and Ultra HD available. Download videos on four phones or tablets.

Netflix doesn’t always feature the most up-to-date episodes for TV shows, but they have an awesome line-up of original shows including Stranger Things, Black Mirror, and House of Cards. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial here.

2. Hulu

Hulu is a streaming service that has an affordable monthly subscription rate. You can watch movies, TV shows and now even live television.

Hulu has a great TV show collection including their own original series. New users can get a free 30-day trial. After that, the cost is just $5.99 per month for the first year. For the second year, the monthly fee goes up to $7.99. Hulu does show ads on streaming shows, but if you want an ad-free experience, you can update your plan to $11.99 per month.

Hulu also allows you to stream 50+ of the top TV channels, and you can add on content from networks like HBO®, SHOWTIME®, CINEMAX® and STARZ®. This membership is $39.99 per month.

3. DIRECTV NOW

DIRECTV NOW is a no-contract streaming service with four service plans, ranging in price from $40/month to $75/month.

This option is great for someone who likes to watch live TV as DIRECTV NOW provides access to over 65 channels for the basic $40 monthly plan and more than 125 channels for the top tier $75 monthly plan.

The best part is that you don’t have to commit to a contract or hidden fees, and you can cancel any time. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial of DIRECTV NOW here.

4. Sling TV

Sling TV is a streaming service that’s similar to DIRECTV in that you can stream live TV channels to your devices instead of paying for cable.

Sling TV is great for sports lovers and there are three main packages: Orange ($25/month), Blue ($25/month) and both ($40/month). Sling TV even offers a $5 kids add-on package with family-friendly networks.

The one downside is that while Sling TV allows you to stream movies from the site, not all of them are free. Yet, you can try out the service for seven days before committing to a paid subscription. Get more details here.

5. Amazon Instant Video

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll have unlimited access to Prime Video. This allows you to stream TV shows and movies from various devices.

This service makes sense to have if you like to watch movies and Prime originals, like the award-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Since Prime Video comes with a paid Amazon Prime membership, this is a great perk for those already taking advantage of other membership benefits, including fast and free shipping on more than 100 million items. Get a 30-day free trial here.

6. YouTube TV

YouTube is one of the most-used websites to date. Some of the video content can be addicting and it’s great to support up and coming content creators. While I can watch free YouTube content all day, a paid streaming service is also available.

YouTube TV – touting itself as cable-free live TV with no cable box required – is just $40 per month. For that price, you get access to more than 70 different channels covering everything from news and sports to entertainment and scripted shows. You can have up to six different accounts per household and use the personalized DVR service.

This streaming service is only available in select areas right now but you can check to see if your city has it and sign up for a free trial here.

Cut the Cord and Save

Imagine how much money you can save by cutting the cord and getting rid of cable. Better yet, take action and actually cancel your cable subscription. Then start adding up the savings when you switch to one of these more affordable television streaming services.

 

6 Year-End Money Moves: Salary vs. Hourly

It’s that time of year again – the time when everyone focuses on the holidays. This includes buying gifts, planning holiday travel and preparing for all those holiday parties.

Yet, this is also the time of year when you can easily let things fall to the wayside, including your own finances and career. So, before you let yourself get carried away with holiday spending, it’s time to take an inward look at your own money matters.

A good place to start is to answer this question: Are you paid by the hour or are you salaried? The answer to this question is important because how — and when — you earn your money can make a big difference in the year-end financial actions you take. For example, if you are a salaried employee, you may already have company-sponsored insurance and a retirement plan in place. If you are hourly, however, you may have to set up your own retirement account and purchase insurance. On the other hand, if you work an hourly job, you may have the opportunity to earn extra money by working overtime hours.

So, with one month left to go in 2018, take a look at these 6 financial housekeeping moves for salaried versus hourly employees.

Contribute to a Retirement Plan

Regularly saving money in a retirement plan is one of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself for retirement. And one of the best ways to do that is by contributing to a 401(k), a tax-deferred retirement plan offered by many employers.

You’ll often hear about 401(k) plans coming with a “company match.” Matching contributions are when your employer will deposit a dollar amount or certain percentage into your retirement plan. It’s basically free money from your job – which you can get just for contributing to your retirement account.

“Perhaps the worst financial mistake someone can make is turning down free money,” says Robert Johnson, a professor of finance at Creighton University.

“If one doesn’t contribute enough in a 401(k) plan that has a company match, one is basically turning down free money.”

Here’s how you can maximize your investments if you have an hourly or salaried job.

Salary:

  • Max out your allowable retirement account contributions by adjusting your limits through your employer or investment portal.
  • If you’re already spreading yourself too thin financially, aim to contribute as much as you can to your 401(k) to get the maximum company match.

Hourly and self-employed:

Review Your Insurance Policies

“As the year comes to a close, it’s important to review insurance policies to make sure your coverage still fits your life,” says Lingwe Wang, co-founder of life insurance provider Ethos.

Take a look at the suggestions below.

Salary (and hourly, where applicable):

  • Thoroughly review your insurance policies, to include health, auto, homeowners and life – particularly if you anticipate a major life change in the upcoming year, like a marriage, birth or relocation.
  • Open new policies and close old ones. Make this move by determining if you may need more or less coverage, depending on your individual situation.
  • Monitor insurance rates. Keep an eye on insurance rates all year, but make sure you conduct a full scale review at the end of each year.
  • Pay attention to your deductibles. Here’s a good example: “If you have an expensive (medical) procedure coming up, and have reached or nearly reached your deductible, you could consider scheduling the procedure this year, rather than next, to maximize your benefits,” says Kevin Gallegos, senior vice president of client enrollment for Freedom Debt Relief.

Hourly/contract/self-employed:

  • Pick a plan. Now is the time to select the health insurance coverage right for you. Open enrollment for healthcare coverage on the health insurance marketplace lasts from November 1 to December 15. Make sure you don’t miss this window!

Utilize an FSA (if applicable)

A Flexible Spending Account, or FSA for short, is a tax-exempt way to save money to pay for certain qualifying medical expenses that may not be covered by your health insurance. This may include prescription medications, co-payments, or even portions of your deductible.

Salary:

If you’ve been making deposits into an employer-sponsored FSA plan, start using those dollars. According to HealthCare.gov, you’ll generally need to spend your FSA funds within your plan year. So, if you started coverage at the time of open enrollment, this leaves just two short months before the money you’ve socked away goes to waste.

“There is still time to make relevant purchases to use the money,” says Gallegos.

“Many kinds of products and services apply, so if it’s too late for a doctor’s appointment, determine if you need other qualifying items.”

Hourly/contract:

If you don’t have an FSA in place, now is the time to open one for more flexibility within your health insurance coverage. You’re allowed to deposit up to $2,650 per year, per employer, into an account.

Check Your Credit Report

Ensuring your credit is in good standing is important no matter whether you’re salaried or hourly.

With that, make a habit of checking your credit report at least once a year, and now is a great time to start. Your credit report is available for free at annualcreditreport.com and by reviewing your report, you’ll be able to spot signs of identity theft, which can adversely affect your report and credit score.

If you find anything that looks suspicious or errant — such as a loan listed as delinquent that you paid off, an unfamiliar looking credit account, incorrect spellings or dollar amounts, or other information that’s amiss  — you can dispute your findings with the three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.

Checking your credit report gives you the security and control you need over your financial situation, regardless of your employment status: full-time, part-time, salaried, hourly or contract.

Prep Your Taxes

Before you know it, the holidays will be over, a new year will have begun, and tax time will be here. April 15, 2019 is the next deadline for filing taxes, so make sure you prepare ahead of time.

Salary and hourly:

  • Check your tax withholdings. “Depending on your preference and your salary, some tax withholdings are better than others,” notes McCall Robison, chief editor of Best Company.

“Look at this year’s finances and tax withholdings, and determine if your current tax withholding is working with your budget. If not, you may want to change your tax withholding choice to better work with your financial situation.”

Hourly only:

  • Calculate any extra pay you earned throughout the year. For example, if you worked overtime or earned tips, include that in your total annual income. To learn more about how to report tips on your tax return, you may want to access IRS Form 4070.

Build Your Budget

Salaried and hourly employees may be paid differently, but making an effort to start a budget or make changes to improve your current budget is a great way for everyone to save money.

“Take into account your budget for the current year and think of where you could improve,” advises Robison.

“Did you eat out too much this year? Are there some bills you could cut down on? Do an expense audit, making a list of all of your bills and other expenses, and see where you can improve next year. This will give you a great start in the new year.”

A Fresh Financial Beginning at the End of the Year

The end of the year is an opportunity to make positive financial changes in the upcoming year. No matter what kind of work you do, how much you’re paid, how you’re paid, or what your unique work situation is, this is the time to make some smart money moves.

 

6 Steps to Enjoying a Debt-Free Holiday Season

The holidays can be an exciting time. ‘Tis the season to enjoy family get-togethers, time off from work, meaningful gift exchanges and more.

Yet, the holiday season can cost money – a lot of money. Indeed, you’re not alone if you worry about overspending. The average American racks up more than $1,000 in holiday debt each year.

Luckily, there are 6 steps you can take to enjoy a debt-free holiday season. Take a look:

1. Develop a Realistic Spending Plan

Your first step should be to develop a spending plan for the holidays, also known as a budget. By knowing how much you can spend, you can then set realistic expectations.

To start, list out all of the expenses you’ll incur over the next few weeks, and figure out how much you’re likely to spend on your holiday gifts. Once you know your limit, it’s time to start saving automatically. I’ll share some of the most creative budgeting methods below.

2. Shop Around for Deals

When doing your holiday shopping, be sure to compare stores and prices to find the best deals. Shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday can help you save so long as you don’t go overboard.

You can also use coupons and look for BOGO deals. And, don’t forget to take advantage of stores that offer price matching. Give yourself enough time to comparison shop by starting early. This way, you won’t feel rushed to buy the first thing you see.

If you see items you want to buy but don’t have enough cash, find out if the store offers a layaway service, This way you can pay as you get paid instead of charging your purchases immediately. Pro tip: If you set up direct deposit with Chime, you can get paid earlier, freeing up more immediate cash for you.

3. Pay for Everything with Cash

Forget about credit card reward points or cash back, particularly if you’re afraid you’ll get into holiday debt. In some cases, it’s just not worth it.

Instead of using a credit card for your holiday purchases, use the cash you set aside according to your budget. When you pay for all your holiday expenses in cash, it’s basically impossible to overspend and get into debt.

You can even try using the cash envelope budgeting method by assigning each category in your budget an envelope that you’ll fill with a designated amount of cash. Once an envelope is empty, that’s it. You’ll need to stop spending in that area. This budget does come with some drawbacks as you won’t be able to shop online and you’ll need to be organized so that you don’t misplace your envelopes filled with cash.

In the long-run, however, the envelope budget forces you to slow down when shopping and spend more mindfully.

4. DIY Hidden Costs

It’s easy to overspend on seemingly hidden things like decorations, greeting cards, white elephant gifts and party food. Instead of spending cashola, go the DIY route.

For starters, you can make your own holiday decor with craft supplies or dollar store items. I went to my local dollar store the other day and found everything from wreaths, ornaments, table decor, holiday lights, and more  – all for a buck each.

When it comes to making your own greeting cards, you can design them online using a free program called Canva. Rather than buying baked goods, you can also bake some of your favorite treats for cheap. Lastly, if you’re doing a gift exchange, you can always DIY gifts – whether it involves making homemade candles and bath bombs, or creating custom artwork.

5. Earn Extra Money

Once you’ve created a budget and have limited your holiday spending as much as possible, it may be time to start earning some extra money.

If finances are tight around this time of year, you can find more wiggle room by starting a side hustle or seeing if your can work overtime at your job. If you’re looking for something easy that pays quickly, you can drive for Uber or Lyft, deliver groceries with Instacart, babysit or pet sit, shovel snow, rent a room out in your home, design logos on Fiverr, or clean homes. These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

The key is to look for opportunities that you can start ASAP. This way you’ll be more apt to earn enough money to meet your holiday spending needs.

6. Focus on Experiences

The holiday season is not just about having and spending money. It’s also about showing gratitude, spending time with loved ones, and having positive experiences.

When you focus on experiences over money, you’ll be more likely to avoid overspending and going into debt during this time of year. And here’s the best part: Experiences can be free. For example, you can trade in a day of shopping for a day of binge-watching holiday movies while eating Christmas cookies and sipping hot cocoa. Or, you can drive around your neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, go sledding in the snow, or find a free local event to attend.

The Holidays Don’t Have to Be a Debt Sentence

Don’t sentence yourself to debt over the holidays. It’s not worth it and you have plenty of inexpensive ways to have fun, give gifts and enjoy the season. If you need inspiration, just turn to these 6 steps to a debt-free holiday season.

 

5 Money Questions Every 35-Year-Old Should Ask Themselves

Everyone has that magic moment where they decide to double down on their financial health — or risk meeting long-term life and money goals. After all, wealth rarely builds itself. If you’re unsure of how to get or stay financially fit, here are five money questions every 35-year-old should ask themselves.

1. What is my credit score?

Your credit is uber-important to your financial health, as a solid score qualifies you for better rates on home loans, insurance policies, cell phone plans and more. That’s why credit monitoring isn’t one-and-done. In fact, you should check your digits regularly, ideally once a month, not just right before you apply for a loan. Added incentive to stay on stop of your credit standing: Errors on credit reports, along with instances of identity theft, are more common than you may think.

Fortunately, you can check your credit reports from the major bureaus for free every 12 months via AnnualCreditReport.com and you can monitor your credit score sans charge via certain credit card issuers or certain personal finance websites, like Credit Sesame.

2. What is my net worth?

Your net worth is the sum of your assets (investments, savings, home equity), minus your liabilities (mortgage, credit card debt, student loans). It’s also probably the best gauge of your financial health at any given time. If your liabilities outpace your assets, you’ve got some work to do — and you can prioritize what debt or issue to tackle first. If your assets outpace your liabilities, you can explore the best ways to put your money to work.

Your net worth is also a great benchmark when you’re ready to put a financial protection plan in place. Case in point …

3. How much life insurance do I need?

If you have dependents — or plan to have dependents — life insurance is a key component to your family planning … well, plan. A policy allows your loved ones to cover their expenses and liabilities were you to pass away while they are still reliant on you. It can also cover big-ticket items in your family’s future, like college tuition. Life insurance rates increase as you age or develop health conditions so it’s important to get coverage when you are young and healthy.

Most people are best-served by a term life insurance policy, which covers you for a set number of years, then expires, though there are a few instances that call for whole life insurance, which lasts until you die and comes with a forced-savings component. Policygenius can help you compare and buy life insurance, starting with a tailored online recommendation.

4. Am I paying myself first?

That’s a fancy way of asking if you are saving enough for a rainy day? Basic rule of thumb says everyone should bank at least three-to-four months of expenses away in emergency savings.

If your cash-on-hand falls short of that stat, try auto-depositing a small amount of your paycheck into a high-yield online savings account. Those dollars will eventually add up. You can also tap a budgeting app or tool to find places to pare back. This simple budgeting spreadsheet, for instance, has line for “savings contribution” all ready for you.

5. Do I need to save more for retirement?

Most people do. In fact, a recent survey from Northwestern Mutual found one in five Americans (21%) have no retirement savings at all and nearly half (46%) haven’t taken any steps to prepare for the likelihood that they could outlive their savings. That’s unfortunate, because there are a few easy ways to boost your nest egg.

Start by upping your 401(k) contributions, even by as a little as 1%. (A small increase can make a difference, thanks to compound interest.) Where possible, take advantage of other employer-sponsored benefits to lower your taxable income, like flexible spending accounts, commuter benefits and health savings accounts. Bonus: HSAs often double as de facto supplemental retirement account because you can make penalty-free withdrawals for any reason once you turn 65.

Finally, consider opening a Roth individual retirement account. Here’s why.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.

 

If You Love Chime, Check Out These Three Other Fintech Apps

Back in the day, our parents relied on checkbooks and investment advisors to manage their money. Thankfully, these days we’ve got something a lot more convenient: our smartphones. These handy devices are smart enough to put a man on the moon, and that means they’re smart enough to help you reach your financial goals, too.

If you use Chime Bank’s payment app, you’re already one step ahead of the game. Yet, there are also other apps out there that can help you manage your money and save up for future financial goals. Whether your goals are to save for retirement or take a great vacation, these apps will help you stay on track and sock more money away into your bank account. Check them out:

Metromile

Is your car mainly a grocery-getter? Do you take public transportation to work? If so, you may be overpaying for your car insurance.

That’s because traditional car insurance is typically paid for via monthly premiums that don’t factor in how much you actually drive. And if you don’t drive much, the per-mile cost of your insurance might be quite high.

Metromile gets around this conundrum by only charging you a low base rate (so your car is still covered even if it’s parked for a while), followed by a per-mile charge for each mile you drive per day. It gets sent this amount wirelessly from a small device you plug into your car’s OBD-II port.

The Metromile app is the hub to find out all sorts of other car information as well. For example, it provides useful features like a gas mileage tracker. It also alerts you with street sweeping notifications and when your car’s warning lights come on. Oh, and if you go on a road trip? No worries — Metromile only charges you for the first 250 miles you drive in a day.

Lemonade

Normally, getting any kind of insurance is a painful, expensive process. That’s because a lot of insurance companies are set in their antiquated, bureaucratic ways.

But what if you could purchase your insurance — and file claims — cheaply and easily with a well-designed app? You’re in luck. You can do this with Lemonade. With the Lemonade app, you can get a custom quote for renters and homeowners insurance by answering a few simple questions. If you like the quote, you can purchase the insurance through the app. And if you ever need to place a claim or ask questions, you can also do so right through the app.

Aside from its app-based insurance model, Lemonade is different from traditional insurance companies in that it’s a public benefit corporation. Its business model works like this: It takes out a flat fee from your payments, and pools the rest into a pot for paying out claims. At the end of the year, any of your leftover premiums go towards a charity that you select, rather than back toward Lemonade’s profits.

In this manner, the company hopes that fraudulent claims will be limited, as customers know that any unpaid amounts go towards charity versus the company’s coffers. This limitation of claims fraud — and a drive to help charities rather than focusing solely on profits — means that Lemonade can offer renters and homeowners insurance at a lower price than many old-school insurance companies.

Worthy

You’ve probably heard of Acorns, the app that rounds up your spare change and invests it into the stock market for you. But have you heard of Worthy?

Worthy operates on a similar principal. Each time you spend some money, the app rounds it up to the next dollar amount and calculates the difference. Except instead of investing that difference in the stock market, Worthy instead invests the money in bonds, earning a smokin’ hot 5% interest rate.

So, for example, if you buy a pint of beer at your local brewery for $5.50, that purchase will be rounded up to $6 and the extra $0.50 will be deposited into your Worthy account. When your balance reaches $10, it triggers an automatic purchase of a $10 bond. Then, when you’re ready, you can cash out your balance at any time. The entire process is run through Worthy’s spiffy app.

If investing in the stock market makes you a bit leery, this may be a more ease-inducing option for you since the bonds earn a flat 5% interest rate. Remember, though, bonds aren’t FDIC-insured like a savings account at a bank. At the same time, they are generally considered less risky investments than stocks.

What’s your favorite fintech app?

We’ve been seeing an explosion in fintech apps in the past few years, and frankly, we’re really excited about it. Having an app that can speak your language on your own terms is more likely to keep you engaged and interested in managing your money.

These three fintech apps are some of our favorites, but there are tons more out there. We challenge you: Go forth and find which fintech apps you prefer for your individual situation. Your wallet will thank you down the road!

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