Tag: How To

 

How to Invest Small Amounts of Money

When you think of investing, you might think of wealthy finance types or people straight out of The Wolf of Wall Street.

But, in reality, everyone can invest for the future, and you don’t have to have a ton of money to do so. We’ve scoured the web for some great resources and found these 10 best ways to invest small amounts of money. Read on to learn more.

1. Invest with a robo-advisor: $10

If you’re not sure how to start investing, try a robo-advisor. A robo-advisor is an online investing platform that can help manage your money.

For example, you can try investing with Betterment, one of the bigger robo-advisors out there. There is a minimum deposit of $10 and the annual fee is 0.25 percent. Other fees are based on your account balance.

When you get started, Betterment will ask you what you’re investing for — such as retirement or a down payment on a house. After that, based on your goals and risk tolerance, Betterment will create a custom portfolio for you. You can get started at Betterment.com.

2. Invest your spare change: $0.01+

When you make a purchase, it can feel like your spare change isn’t that important. But we know that small amounts of money can add up fast. That’s why Chime offers a round up savings program.

Applying this same philosophy to investing, you can invest your spare change with Acorns, a micro-investing platform that takes your change and builds a portfolio for you. And, investing your spare change with Acorns will only cost you one dollar per month.

Through Acorns, you invest with exchange-traded funds and the company will build a portfolio based on your financial goals.

3. Invest in certificate of deposits (CDs): $0-1,000

One way to invest small amounts of money with not-so-much risk is through certificates of deposit (CDs). According to Investor.gov, “A certificate of deposit (CD) is a savings account that holds a fixed amount of money for a fixed period of time, such as six months, one year, or five years, and in exchange, the issuing bank pays interest. When you cash in or redeem your CD, you receive the money you originally invested plus any interest. Certificates of deposit are considered to be one of the safest savings options.”

You can typically get certificates of deposit from a bank or financial institution. The minimum investment may vary but could be between $0-$1,000. Though CDs are considered safer and less risky, it also means they don’t have as high returns as other investment vehicles.

4. Invest with Prosper: $25+

Online loan marketplaces bring borrowers and lenders together. One such marketplace is Prosper. Through Prosper, you can invest $25 as a minimum per loan. These personal loans are offered to creditworthy borrowers and you can earn around 5.4 percent, according to the historical average. The best part is that you can get your earnings deposited into your account each month. While this comes with a moderate level of risk, it may not be as volatile as the stock market. Get started on Prosper.com.

5. Invest in social good: $50

What if you could invest money to support causes you care about? Well, you can do this through impact investing. Impact investing, aka socially responsible investing, allows investors to support causes like green energy, clean water, gender equality and more.

Using Swell Investing, you can begin growing your money and supporting causes you love with an initial deposit of $50. There’s a 0.75 percent annual fee and there are no trading fees or expense ratios. While there is risk with any type of investing, at least this way you know your money is supporting something you care about.

6. Invest based on themes: $250

Investing can be confusing, but it becomes simpler when you focus on a specific theme that you care about. Motif Investing offers you a way to invest in specific thematic portfolios such as technology or sports. You do need a bit more money than some of the other options here, with an initial investment of $250.

Once you select a theme, Motif builds a custom thematic portfolio. Find out more information on Motif.com.

7. Invest in fractional shares: $5

Investing doesn’t have to cost a lot of money! That’s certainly true with Stockpile, where you can start investing with just five dollars. You can buy fractional shares of stocks and exchange-traded funds. There are no fees or minimums and it’s 99 cents per trade. There are also mini-lessons, so you can learn as you go instead of waiting to invest when you have everything figured out. Get started at Stockpile.com.

8. Invest in low-cost index funds: no minimum

Low-cost index funds are Warren Buffett’s secret weapon. Index funds track different securities on an index, like the S&P 500.

Index funds can have lower costs and can offer more diversification. While investing in the stock market can be risky, diversification of index funds can help manage risk. Fidelity, for example, offers the ability to invest in index funds with no minimums and no account fees.

You can get started with Fidelity or Vanguard.

9. Invest in your retirement with a IRA: no minimum

You may or may not have a 401(k) with your employer. But anyone can invest for their retirement with a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account).

Using a brokerage firm, you can set up a retirement account and begin investing in your retirement immediately.

As of 2019, the contribution limit for IRAs is $6,000 per year. While the main tax difference is paying taxes now (Roth) or paying later (Traditional), there are income limits with a Roth IRA. To invest the full amount in a Roth IRA, your income must be less than $122,000 for single filers.

10. Invest in a 529 College Savings Plan: $25

If you have children, you can invest in a 529 College Savings Plan to help save for their education. Using an app like U-Nest, you can open an account with just $25. U-Nest costs three dollars a month and takes five minutes to set up on your phone. You can get started at U-nest.com.

Additional resources: How to invest small amounts of money

Using these 10 ways to invest small amounts of money, you can start growing your money today. Here are some additional resources you may want to check out:

  • Fidelity:  Fidelity is a brokerage offering various investment products and education resources.
  • Vanguard: Vanguard is another brokerage offering varying products and education material.
 

How to KonMari Your Money

For a 4’ 7” human, Marie Kondo is huge.

More than 11 million people have bought her books, and still others are binge-watching her Netflix series “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.” People are drawn to Kondo’s philosophy: You can change your life by getting rid of all the things that don’t “spark joy.”

Want to give it a try? You don’t need to limit yourself to clothing or books or Beanie Babies. In fact, nearly all of us could stand to tidy up our finances, too. Here’s how to “KonMari” your bank accounts, credit card purchases, and investments — and maybe even spark financial joy.

Envision Your Ideal Lifestyle

As Kondo wrote in “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”: “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

So, take a moment to reflect. Do your expenditures and money habits reflect your ideal lifestyle? Or, are you, say, spending your money on bar tabs when you actually want to travel the world? Or living in an expensive city, even though you dream of retiring early?

Think about how you can align your finances with your ideal lifestyle.

“Start with the vision of your best financial life to help you shift your mindset and shape your criteria for what sparks joy,” says Kristyn Ivey, a KonMari Consultant who co-hosts the Spark Joy podcast.

Make a Money Mountain

If you were organizing your wardrobe, Kondo would tell you to make a “clothing mountain” by removing everything from your closet and piling it on the bed. This way, you’d get a full picture of what you own — and can therefore make better decisions about what you do or don’t need.

The same goes for your finances. While the results won’t be as physically impressive, collecting a mountain of data about your money habits will hopefully have an even greater long-term impact.

The most accurate way to assemble this information would be to track your spending and income for a few months. (That’s especially true if you often use cash to make purchases.) If you’re in a hurry to KonMari, however, you can get a decent overview by compiling your credit card, bank, and investment account statements from the past year.

“The reason we ask you to gather everything in one category all together is so that you see all that you have at the same time,” says Jane Grodem, a KonMari Consultant in the Bay Area.

“This is an opportunity to consider the state of your finances with clarity, and ultimately the goal is to let go of those [expenses] that do not serve you in your current or future life.”

Decide What Sparks Joy

Once you’ve created your money mountain, analyze the information.

  • Are you spending more than you earn?
  • Where are you spending the most money? Did those purchases spark joy?
  • Do you have enough saved to cover at least three months of expenses?
  • What have you saved for your future goals?

Unlike physical objects, finances are tricky because saving money often doesn’t spark joy in the moment. So, to help you feel that joy in your bones, visualize your financially secure future — whether it’s holding the keys to your first home or treating your grandkids to all the ice cream they desire.

You can also note the financial data points that definitely don’t spark joy, like an ATM fee from your bank, a spartan retirement account, or an expensive takeout meal.

Now that you know which financial behaviors do and don’t spark joy, you can look for ways to augment or disrupt them. For instance, you can spend more money on plane tickets instead of shoes, or you switch to a fee-free bank.

According to Liv Cloud, who blogs at Funding Cloud Nine, viewing her life and finances through the KonMari lens has saved her “thousands” of dollars.

“I no longer mindlessly spend money on unnecessary things,” says Cloud.

“I have become more intentional with my spending and with the items that I bring into my home. If it isn’t something that I really love, then I simply leave it at the store,” she says.

View Your Budget as Plentiful

Kondo is all about what your woo-woo friend might call an “abundance mindset.”

“The biggest mistake people make is to focus on what to discard instead of what to keep,” Kondo told Mic. “If you focus on this, you look for flaws… and cannot appreciate the things you own. The correct mindset is to keep what you love instead of throwing out what you don’t like.”

Although she’s talking about physical items, that’s the perfect way to look at your budget, too.

When you’re deciding which expenditures spark joy, don’t agonize over what you’re cutting out. Instead, delight in what you get to keep: rent for your (hopefully tidy!) apartment, groceries for next week’s potluck with friends, a splurge-y fancy coffee every Friday.

Organize Your Financial Paperwork

Being overwhelmed by paperwork is totally normal. In fact, Kondo devotes an entire clutter category to it, with her baseline rule being “discard everything.” (What a relief!)

Of course, some paperwork, like the past three years of tax returns, must be kept. Which is why Kondo recommends three folders, each with a different purpose: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or kept indefinitely.

You should also make a “pending” folder for papers you haven’t had time to organize yet. And then get in the habit of recycling paper as soon as you get it, so it doesn’t ever have the chance to — horror of horrors — pile up.

Be Grateful for What You Have

Before Kondo embarks on any decluttering mission, she sits on the floor and thanks the house. Before discarding an item, she thanks it for its service. Although it might sound loony, numerous studies have suggested that gratitude can vastly improve your outlook.

So, while you’re in the midst of KonMari-ing your finances, take a step back — and be grateful for what you have. Maybe you don’t have the latest designer handbag, but you have enough to eat. Maybe you don’t have enough money to take a vacation this year, but you have a job.

“I now surround myself with things, people, and experiences that bring joy to my life. Instead of focusing on what other people have, I focus on what is going to make me happy and make me the best person I can be,” says Cloud.

 

Take Action: These 7 Budgeting Tips Will Change Your Life

“It’s complicated” might be the best way to describe the relationship many millennials have with money.

Here’s why: While young adults transition to financial responsibility, it can be a struggle to stay ahead, especially if you’re early in your career and aren’t earning enough to keep up with the rising cost of living. In fact, you may even be living paycheck to paycheck or be saddled with student loan debt. If this sounds like you, you probably aren’t in any place to save for a house or retirement.

If you can relate, here are seven budgeting tips to help you start saving money.

Ignore the Joneses

Before making any tangible budgeting moves, think about your financial state of mind. Are you spending too much or living beyond your means just to impress friends or strangers?

“Comparing yourself to what others have, constantly upgrading your lifestyle just to keep up with friends, family, or trends on social media can hurt your pockets and put you in unnecessary debt,” says Todd Kunsman, a millennial personal finance expert and founder of Invested Wallet.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is just another way of covering insecurities with wasteful spending. Adopting a new mindset will help you spend smartly and avoid succumbing to lifestyle inflation. This way you’ll have more cash on hand to invest and save.

Start that budget

Before you can start determining how much to save, how much to spend or anything in between, you’ll need to create a budget. How else will you know how much money you’re bringing in, and how much you’re letting go?

There are a host of budgeting apps to help you out, like MintYou Need a Budget, and Mvelopes — and of course, you can use the mobile banking option with the Chime app. Tap into technology with these budgeting tools and you can create custom categories (i.e. rent, eating out, groceries, utilities, entertainment, student loans and other expenses), and create a monthly budget based on your income and expenses.

Connect with your Credit

Don’t let student loan debt discourage you from opening a credit card. And if you have no credit history, not to worry; there are credit cards designed for people looking to create and build credit.

College students, new grads and those early in their careers can look for a secured credit card. Unlike an unsecured credit card – where your card provider gives you a credit limit to borrow against – a secured credit card is, like its name says, “secured” by a refundable cash deposit. You’ll need to deposit a designated amount in order to set your credit allowance. Once you start establishing a positive credit history, you’ll be able to qualify for an unsecured credit card at higher credit limits and lower interest rates.

Once you’ve got your card, it’s time to check your credit. Signing up for a site like CreditKarma.com allows you to view and monitor your credit score and credit history. You can also access a free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Cut back on unnecessary dining out expenses

It’s hard to resist the temptation to eat out every night or give up those daily Starbucks runs. But this can really eat into your budget.

Cutting back on some of these expenses and making your own meals, however, can make a huge difference.

Lori Cheek, who runs mobile app Cheekd, tried this approach living in a big city and saved more money than she expected.

“I’ve stopped getting a cup of coffee a day and instead I carry instant coffee singles and on the go creamer and I just find a cup of hot water. When I do the math, my singles and creamer cost about $80 a year and my Grande Blonde at Starbucks a day would cost me $876. That’s a savings of almost $800,” says Cheek.

One of the best ways to save money on eating out is to make your own meals.

“There are so many avenues to learn how to cook — through reading a cookbook, visiting food blogs, and watching YouTube videos — and it will save you a lot of money in the long run,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com.

Embrace frugality

If you must spend on necessities, do it smartly and frugally.

“Thrift shops and couponing can be your best friends,” says Kunsman of Invested Wallet.

Kunsman advises using coupons whenever possible. “Groceries can get expensive, but they don’t have to be with smart shopping. This should be a no-brainer, but so many people in my generation or younger don’t take the time.”

Steven Sinatra is a millennial who runs a pawn shop named World Pawn Exchange with his father, and advocates buying things second-hand when possible.

“If you simply must have something, look around for it used before buying new. You can find basically anything on eBay used,” says Sinatra.

Get a side gig

A balanced financial plan doesn’t just mean scaling back or scrounging for discounts. It should also include new ways to make money. That’s where side hustles come in.

If you have a 9 to 5 job already, find a side gig that you can fit into your schedule, or one that complements your talents. You might try tutoring or driving for a rideshare company. You can even get paid for signing up for clinical studies or being a mystery shopper. And if you’re creative or crafty, sell baked goods. The opportunities for earning cash are limitless.

Set savings goals

It can be hard to stick with a budget, but if you identify financial goals, you’ll have an idea of where you’d like to be in a few months, next year, or even in a decade.

“Life and your budget is all about priorities,” says Ashley Patrick, a financial coach and founder of the site Budgets Made Easy.

“You can still have fun on a budget, you just have to set money aside for it. It doesn’t have to be super restrictive where you work all the time and don’t do anything. It’s just about prioritizing. If being debt-free is important, then make it a priority in your budget,” says Patrick.

How Chime can help

Another tip to keep in mind: Automate your savings. An online bank account with Chime automatically deposits money into a savings account. This way you can save money without thinking about it. The Chime app is intuitive, and tracks your spending and savings as you go.

Remember that once you start budgeting, you’ll see what works for you and your money. And, by following these seven tips — plus using the Chime app — you’ll be on your way to successful budgeting. You may even find yourself giving helpful advice to your friends and family.

 

How to Be Financially Productive in the Winter

If you live in many parts of the country, the winter seems to drag on. Instead of weekends at the beach or picnics in the park, you may be stuck inside, huddled in front of a fire and binging on yet another Netflix series.

But why not use these cold days to be financially productive? To help you figure out ways to improve your finances during the winter, take a look at these four tried-and-true tips.

1. Organize your taxes

Before you let out a long groan, we’re right there with you: Preparing your taxes is no fun. But, wouldn’t you rather be doing this now – when it’s dark by 6 pm and freezing outside – than in April when you could be having fun in the sun?

So, take the time now to organize your necessary tax forms, fill out a tax organizer, itemize any tax deductions, and figure out how much you can contribute to a retirement plan. If you have a salaried job and received a W-2 form, your tax prep may be pretty straightforward. But if you have a side hustle or are self-employed, your tax organization may take a bit longer. The key here is: Don’t wait until April 14 to file your taxes by the April 15 deadline. Besides, if you get ahead of the game, you can get your refund sooner.

Pro tip: Open a Chime bank account and get your tax refund via direct deposit. All you have to do is select “direct deposit” on your online tax return software and fill in your Chime Spending Account and routing number. As soon as your refund is automatically deposited into your account, you’ll receive a text alert and email from Chime. Cha-ching!

2. Audit your bank account and find ways to save

I don’t know about you, but I am much more eager to be out of the house when the weather is warm. So, what to do on a day when you just don’t feel like braving the harsh weather? Audit your bank account and see where you can save money. This way you’ll have more cash for a summer road trip, your emergency fund or your other savings goals.

Start by spending an hour on a cold winter day and looking through your monthly spending for the past three months (or elect to audit just the past month or some other time frame.) Take a close look at what you’re spending money on and where you’re spending it. Even if you think you know exactly how you spend your cash, you’ll be surprised by what you discover.

Here are a couple of examples of what I found on a recent bank account audit: My cable bill had crept up for the past three months, my spending on groceries seemed out of whack, and I still had my husband on my gym membership even though he never goes.

It was time to do something about this. So, I ended up switching from my cable provider to a fiber-optic network (long story short: we can’t cut the cable or fiber optic cord entirely because my husband won’t give up his local sports channels.) This will save us $50 a month right off the bat. Not only that but the new provider threw in a free year of Amazon Prime, Amazon Echo and two $50 Visa gift cards. Score!

As for the high grocery bills, I decided to try a meal delivery service with a discount code for $80 off the first month. I loved it so much much that I’m now paying the regular $55 a week for three meals a week. But, get this: I was spending $600 a month on groceries for my husband and I. That is now reduced to $250 a month. Add to that $220 per month for the meal service. This means our monthly grocery nut is now $470 a month, a $130 savings each month! Plus, cooking at home is now easier and more convenient, so we don’t order takeout or go out to dinner nearly as frequently. And you guessed it: This saves us even more money.

Lastly, I called my gym and removed my husband from my membership, saving me $30 a month. That’s what I call easy money in the bank.

The takeaway: You can find ways to save money on a cold winter day – simply by spending an hour auditing your bank account.

3. Budget better

Is your budget working for you? If not, don’t give up. There are lots of budgeting methods and the one you’re using now may not be a good fit for you.

What to do? Spend an afternoon researching different types of budgeting methods, including the 50/30/20 budget, the envelope method, and the zero-based budget. Figure out whether a different kind of budget would work better for your spending and savings habits. Factor in whether you need to save more money into an emergency fund or free up cash to pay down your debt. Think of this time of year as a great opportunity to dive in and make any necessary changes to your budgeting method.

4. Automate your savings

By now you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the benefits of automating. But are you taking advantage of this?

If not, sit down and implement simple financial changes that will allow you to automate your money, enabling you to save more cash without even thinking about it. For example, now may be a good time to switch to a bank that will help you level up your savings account. If you’re a Chime member, for instance, all of your purchases on your debit card can be rounded up to the nearest dollar. And this round up amount is then automatically deposited into your Savings account. On top of this, Chime will automatically deposit 10% of your paycheck into your Chime Savings account.

Chill out

We get it: Winter can be miserable. But instead of complaining about the weather, you can turn those cold, snowy days into financial opportunities. By following the four tips here, you’ll be able to get your tax refund sooner, create a budget that works, and find new ways to save money. And just think: Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the spring with less financial stress!

 

How To Budget for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Regardless of whether you spend it with your long-time love, a new acquaintance or close friends, Valentine’s Day is a holiday designed to celebrate love.

Unfortunately, this holiday comes at a high price. According to the National Retail Federation, the average American consumer spent $143.56 on Valentine’s Day celebrations last year alone. That’s a whole lot of dough.

Yet, you don’t have to spend a ton of cash to enjoy Valentine’s Day. With some wise planning, budgeting, and saving in advance, you can make this Valentine’s Day one for the books – without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Set your budget

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make Valentine’s Day fun and special, but then again, it is only one day out of the year. It’s not worth going broke over.

So, determine what your budget will be, and stick to it. To figure out your budget, it’s best to plan according to the stage of your relationship. For example, if you have a significant other, you may want to do something special that may require saving money ahead of time. And, if you’re in the early stages of a relationship, there is no need to go all out for the big holiday. A  simple, quiet get-together is probably fine.

Plan your activities

Now it’s time to plan your realistic celebrations. Whether you dream about going to a fancy, romantic restaurant, cooking at home, or something else, you may need to plan for your activities.

Check out these 10 fun Valentine’s Day activities for both kids and couples by Money Crashers. They are proof that you don’t have to spend a ton in order to express your love.

Don’t forget about additional costs

Now that you have your Valentine’s Day celebration planned, the bulk of the work is finished. But don’t forget – there are often quite a few last minute costs associated with Valentine’s Day. Don’t forget to budget for them!

Whether you want to pick up some chocolates, flowers, or even just a card, these all cost money. If you plan to purchase any additional gifts, be sure to add them into your initial budget.

Tips for an affordable Valentine’s Day

No matter what your budget is, you can make your Valentine’s Day special and memorable without breaking the bank. Take a look:

1. Don’t go overboard

Valentine’s Day can be special without going completely overboard. Who says you have to go out to a fancy, expensive dinner or buy lavish gifts?

You can have a memorable Valentine’s Day by thinking outside the box. Go hiking, enjoy a picnic, or go to a museum for a day date. Think about ways to save money, avoid crowds and create a day you and your significant other will remember for years to come.

2. Celebrate after the holiday

Valentine’s Day gets busy quickly. Restaurants get full, floral shops are overrun, and even the chocolate is overpriced. So why not make it a point to celebrate after the fact, when you can both get more bang for your buck?

Not only will you have more options available after the holiday, but you will fight fewer crowds. So, see if your significant other is on board for staying in on February 14, but willing to celebrate over the next weekend. This gives you more wiggle room in your budget, plus you can avoid the Valentine’s Day rush.

3. Get creative with gifts

Who says you have to gift a dozen roses and a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day? Walk into any store or flower shop and you can see how much these traditional Valentine’s Day gifts cost.

Instead of buying the typical Valentine’s Day gifts, try getting creative. For instance, instead of buying chocolate and flowers, buy tickets to a movie – maybe even a matinee.

To lower the cost even more, you can make your own DIY gifts.

4. Enjoy quality time together

Some of the best times are spent staying in with your loved ones.

Instead of going out for a pricey date night, cook a homemade meal together and stream a movie or play a game. You can’t get much cheaper than that!

5. Go outdoors

We get it: February isn’t the nicest month weather-wise. But if it is semi-decent outside, you can take your holiday celebrations outdoors.

Check out some of these romantic and adventurous date ideas from Two Drifters. Not only are they memorable date ideas, but most of them can be done for dirt cheap.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day by saving in advance

No matter how you decide to spend your Valentine’s Day, you can always be prepared by saving in advance. The easiest way to start saving for Valentine’s Day is to set a little bit aside at a time into a separate savings account. So go on and enjoy your holiday guilt-free!

 

How to Host a Super Bowl Party on a Budget

The Super Bowl is right around the corner. It’s the one time of year where friends and family can gather together and watch the most exciting football game of the year.

While you may be heading to a bar or restaurant to watch the game, you may also decide to attend or host a super bowl party. If you’re going to a Super Bowl party, this can be cheaper than going to a bar, yet hosting your own party can cost a pretty penny – even if you’ve been saving up for the big event.

Luckily, we’ve come up with some tried-and-true ways to save money. So, if you’re having a Super Bowl party, check out these six tips to entertain your friends on a budget.

Buy Drinks in Bulk

Drinks can be just as expensive as food if you’re not careful. So, to save money, you’ll want to keep your drink selection limited. For example, perhaps you only offer one or two types of soda or serve lemonade, punch or iced tea.

From there, consider generic brands and buy drinks in bulk at warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club or Costco.

Getting a Costco membership is one of the best decisions I made last year. The wholesale warehouse offers two membership cards, so I split the membership fee with my mom. Now, we are both able to buy all kinds of foods and other items in bulk. When we have events at our house, I love to go there and pick up drinks and water bottles. We can easily find a 40-pack case of water for just three or four bucks.

Do BYOB For Alcohol

Offering non-alcoholic drinks at your Super Bowl party is a given, and you don’t have to provide the beer and other alcoholic drinks.

Instead, you can have everyone BYOB to save money. Alcohol is expensive and you’ll cut your costs significantly just by making this one simple decision.

Prepare Foods that Stretch

Pinterest-worthy football-shaped party foods look great and all, but if you’re trying to host a Super Bowl on a budget you’ll need to think about preparing more practical foods.

Consider serving food that you can make in large batches to stretch your servings. These meal and snack ideas are all easy to prepare in bulk and won’t cost you much at all.

  • Crockpot pulled pork or chicken
  • Loaded baked potato station
  • Meatball sliders
  • Nachos
  • Grilled hot dogs
  • Lemon pepper roasted chicken wings

For finger foods, you can serve popcorn, generic chips and pretzels. You can also bake your own sweets instead of buying them at the store. Keep in mind that supermarkets sell overpriced cookie platters and cupcake trays for the Super Bowl.

Instead of spending extra money on these desserts, make your own cupcakes or cookies with boxed mixes and decorate them however you wish. Get the whole family involved with this if you’re not a big fan of baking.

Have a Potluck

Another way to save money on your Super Bowl party is to have a potluck. You can prepare the main dish but ask guests to bring other foods and snacks to the party.

For instance, one person can bring drinks while another brings chips or dessert. This is a much better option than buying prepared fruit and vegetable trays, which will easily run you anywhere from $10 to $20 a platter. This isn’t so bad when you’re buying just one, but if you’re also paying for other party food, your out-of-pocket costs can quickly triple.

So, start divvying up items and ask guests to bring a few things so you can save money and still have great food on game day.

Buy Used Apparel or Borrow

You don’t have to buy new sports apparel for your Super Bowl party. Even if your team isn’t playing in the game, you can still wear football clothing you already have.

Or, check thrift stores for second-hand jerseys and shirts. You can also check with friends and see if they have anything extra that you can borrow.

Avoid Splurging on Decor

Decor can often be a hidden cost for Super Bowl parties because the main focus is the food and the game, of course. If you want to decorate your home for the big game, do it wisely and don’t splurge.

You don’t have to decorate with official NFL branded items for the team you’re rooting for. You can find general sports-themed decorations at your local dollar store and you can even decorate in your team’s colors as an alternative.

Feel free to also DIY some decor yourself. Want to create a photo booth with a nice backdrop? What to display a huge sign that guest will see right as they walk in?

Head to the craft store for materials or use what you have at home to do some DIY decorating. If you have kids, get them involved as well so they can take on some of the work.

Enjoy the Game and Don’t Overthink It

At the end of the day, the highlight of any Super Bowl party is the game itself. So long as you’ve got space for everyone to watch the game and you’re offering some decent food, your party will be a success.

Just remember to set a budget for the party to determine how much you’ll spend on expenses and stick to it. Don’t be afraid to ask other guests to pitch in as needed. And, of course, have a great time at your Super Bowl party!

 

How to File Your Taxes Online 2019

It’s a new year. Time to get in shape, eat healthy, start a new side hustle, and…..prepare your taxes. Really? Really.

While the deadline to file 2018 taxes isn’t until April 15, now is a great time to get organized. This way, you won’t be the one stressed out and scrambling to get your taxes filed online by 11:59 pm on April 15.

Are you ready to organize your taxes and get your finances in shape? Take a look at our handy-dandy guide to filing taxes online and start the new year with a sense of accomplishment.

Figure out what income forms you’ll need

Most people will be dealing with either W-2 forms, W-9 forms or both. And, yes, the Ws can be confusing. Here’s a bit more information about these forms so you can determine which ones pertain to you.

  • If you are employed, you will get a W-2 form sometime in January. This form states the amount of money you earned in 2018, as well as how much you paid in federal and state taxes and other payroll deductions, including the amount you contributed to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. This is the main income form you’ll need when filing your tax return.
  • If you have a side hustle or started a business in 2018, you’ve likely provided your clients with W-9 forms. If you earn more than $600 with a particular client (who should have your W-9 on file), that client would then fill out a 1099-MISC form indicating how much you were paid for the year. A copy of this form will be sent to both you and the IRS. You will then report this income when you file your taxes online.

Figure out if what forms you’ll need to fill out

Form 1040

If you have a 9 to 5 job and will be receiving a W-2 this month, you may be able to take the standard deduction. For 2018, the standard deduction for individuals is $12,000 and $24,000 for married people filing jointly. If you use this standard deduction, you can’t also itemize deductions. Instead, you’ll take the standard deduction and fill out the new Form 1040 (prior to tax year 2018, there were two other options for shorter forms: Form 1040EZ and Form 1040A).

Form 1040 with schedules

If you’ve had a life change (got married, got divorced, had a child, started a business etc.), this may bump you into a different financial situation where you’ll need to take itemized deductions versus the standard deduction. If this is the case, you may need to fill out the new Form 1040, in addition to one or more of the new schedules. For example, if you have capital gains, unemployment compensation, gambling winnings, or any deductions to claim (including student loan interest deduction, self-employment tax, or educator expenses), you may want to fill out Schedule 1. To learn more about the new Form 1040 and the six schedules, check out this Q&A from the IRS.

If you will be filing schedules for 2018, then it’s important for you to prepare and organize your itemized deductions in advance. This will help you when it comes time to file your taxes online. If you’re a freelancer, you’ll definitely want to organize your deductible expenses. This can save you big bucks by lowering the amount you owe or perhaps even netting you a tax refund. Here are some of the more common itemized deductions:

  • Home mortgage interest
  • Charitable contributions
  • Medical expenses
  • Self-employment expenses
  • Home office and other associated deductions
  • Educator expenses

Figure out how you’ll file online

According to the IRS, nearly 90 percent of taxpayers now use tax software and the agency expects that the new Form 1040 and schedules will make online filing even easier. You can prepare and e-file for free using IRS Free File.

Alternatively, you can spend some money and use one of the more popular DIY tax software tools, like Intuit’s TurboTax.

If you want professional help, you can go with an authorized e-file provider in your area. To find a local tax preparer, you can do a search here with your zip code or state.

File early. Get your refund early.

If you think you may be getting a tax refund for 2018, this is more of an incentive to prepare your taxes and e-file early. The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund and you know what this means – more money in the bank. And, if you want your cash as fast as possible, make sure you use direct deposit. In fact, eight out of 10 taxpayers get their refund via direct deposit through the IRS.

Pro tip: Chime makes it simple for you to get your money early. Here’s how to get your tax refund faster with direct deposit:

  • Open a Chime bank account
  • Select “direct deposit” on your tax return software and include your Chime Spending Account and routing numbers. Make sure all information is accurate.
  • Sit back, relax and wait for your refund to appear in your bank account. According to the IRS, nine out of 10 direct deposit refunds are issued within 21 days (it typically takes eight weeks via snail mail). Better yet, you’ll get a text alert and email from Chime the second your refund hits your account.

Final word

We know that taxes are no fun. But, before the very thought of organizing your taxes causes you to break out in a sweat, take a look at the guide and resources here. (Pro tip: if you need more expert help, it’s advisable to seek out an accountant or tax professional).

Before you know it, you’ll be ready to file your taxes and set your sights on other financial goals this year.

 

How to Set Money Goals You Can Achieve

Are you planning on growing your savings account, paying down debt, or taking some other action to better your money situation in 2019? If so, you’re not alone.

Believe it or not, a whopping 94% of millennials are planning on making financial resolutions in 2019, according to one survey. But as we all know, most New Year’s resolutions are just passing whims.

So, how do you make yours stick — for good? Take a look at these four tried-and-true tips.

Set SMART money goals

You’ve heard of SMART goals, right? This is a great way to set any type of goal, and it’s especially good for money goals. In short, SMART is an acronym that means: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Here’s a more detailed break-down:

  • Specific

“Be better with money” is a vague, wishy-washy goal. How do you want to be better with money? Do you want to pay off your credit cards? How about save money in an emergency fund? Or, perhaps you want to switch to a better bank?

The options are endless, but you need to specify your specific money goal in order to actually achieve it.

  • Measurable

Similarly, your money goal needs to be measurable. Otherwise, how do you know if you’ve actually succeeded, or are making any progress at all?

To continue with the goals we just mentioned, you could say you want to pay off all of your credit cards. Or save $5,000 in an emergency fund. Or have a new bank account open by the end of January. You see?

  • Achievable

We all want to get out of debt and have a million dollars tucked away in the bank some day. But for most of us, that won’t be happen so quickly.

That’s why it’s important to pick a goal that you can achieve within the time frame of a year. Otherwise, you’ll probably get frustrated and give up.

  • Relevant

Maybe a million dollars in a retirement savings account isn’t quite relevant to you yet. Instead, why not pick something that will help your situation in 2019?

For example, if you don’t yet have an emergency fund, starting to save up for one is a relevant goal. Or, maybe if you’re still in debt, getting rid of your high-interest credit card debt will be most relevant to you. Pick whatever will help you move forward in the New Year.

  • Timely

You also want to set a goal that you can achieve within a set time period — i.e., before the end of 2019. This requires you to know your financial situation very well, so that you can pick a goal that you can realistically achieve before 2020.

Automate Your Finances

Ask computer programmers what the biggest source of error is in their line of work, and they’ll tell you it’s people.

The same thing is true for your finances. Humans are the biggest source of error in money management. But, there’s also good news: You can remove a lot of human error by automating your finances.

Here are a few ways you can do it:

  • Set up automatic savings
  • Set up your bills on auto-pay
  • Set reminders on your phone or email to pay other bills (like utility bills that may vary each month)
  • Sign up for automatic budget updates through a service like Mint or Tiller
  • Set low-balance notifications on your bank accounts so you don’t overdraw your account (or use a bank like Chime that doesn’t charge overdraft fees)

Find Accountability Buddies

It can be challenging to follow through with your money goals if you’re the only one holding you accountable. After all, it can be a little embarrassing to admit your money failures to close friends and family.

But that’s exactly why you need an accountability partner. If failure is embarrassing for you to admit, then you’re more likely to succeed. And if you do succeed, you’ll have someone there to help celebrate with you. This makes it even more likely you’ll stay the course.

It’s best to find an accountability partner who’s working on the same goal as you – this way you have someone who’s speaks your language. You can also consider hiring a money coach who can help guide you.

Picture What Success Looks Like

Our last tip is to picture what success looks like for you. This will help guide you through all the smaller decisions you’ll need to make throughout the upcoming year.

For example, let’s say you want a fully-funded emergency fund. But to do that, you need to stop impulse spending. So, every time you head to a store and put a tempting item in your cart, stop and take a second to think. Are you willing to take money away that can instead go into your emergency fund?

If you picture what success looks like — not having to worry about money all the time and less stress — you might be more likely to put that item back and stick to your savings goal.

You Can Achieve Your Money Goals…If You Set Them Right

Let’s be honest — no matter which money goal you set, this is going to be difficult. If it were easy, you’d have done it already.

But, we also know that you can reach your money goals in the upcoming year. It just takes a little bit of SMART goal setting, automating your finances, finding accountability partners, and visualizing success.

If you follow these four tips, you’ll be more likely to achieve your goals. You can do it.

 

How to Set Intentions for the Year That Will Make You Wealthy

With the new year quickly approaching, this is a great time to consider your goals for 2019.

With this in mind, have you ever considered setting intentions instead of resolutions for the new year? Intentions are anticipated outcomes. They help to guide your actions, both big and small throughout the year. Intentions also allow you to push yourself beyond simply thinking about desirable outcomes.

Want to learn more about intentions and how they can lead to personal growth and financial wealth? Read on to see how you can implement intentions into your life.

Resolutions versus intentions

Still confused about the difference between resolutions and intentions? To further explain, here are the definitions from Vocabulary.com:

Resolution: A decision to do something better or to behave in a certain manner.

Intention: An anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions.

Based on these definitions, resolutions are based solely on desirable outcomes, while intentions use desirable outcomes to guide your actions. For instance, instead of setting a resolution, such as losing 10 pounds this year, you can set an intention to focus on your health. This intention, in turn, may result in you losing weight – maybe even 10 pounds. In a nutshell, intentions guide your actions, which may include committing to exercising, eating more wholesome foods, and focusing on self-care. See the difference?

Tips for setting intentions for the new year

Now that you know how intentions differ from resolutions, you can start to set them. Here are 6 tips to get started.

1. Split your life into categories

Not sure where to start? Consider focusing on an area of your life that you’d like to improve upon this year. Life categories are different for everyone, but some may include:

  • Relationships
  • Finances
  • Career
  • Personal Development
  • Religion/Spirituality
  • Health
  • Personal Interest/Hobbies

2. Find your why

Next, pick one of the life categories above. It’s not enough to just say you want to improve something – you’ll have to discover what you’d like to improve and why.

So, say you want to improve your finances this year. Then ask yourself “why”? Take some time to really think about this. If you journal, you can even try writing out your answers.

Once you find your why, write it down and make it visible. This is the fuel that will drive you throughout the year, so refer back to it often to stay motivated.

3. Set goals

Let’s continue to use the example of improving your finances. Now it’s to time to break this down even further to consider what specific areas you want to improve upon. For instance, you may include outcomes such as:

  • I want to pay off my debt
  • I want to build my emergency fund
  • I want to pay all of my bills on time

Now that you know what you want to do, you need to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that suggests goals that meet the following criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

An example of a SMART goal would be to pay off $10,000 of student loans in 12 months. That goal is specific (it indicates what kind of debt you will pay off), measurable (it specifies how much debt), achievable (assuming you have some income this year), relevant (it provides results), and time bound (to be achieved within 12 months). Got it?

4. Break down your goals

Now that you have a SMART goal or two, break it down to determine what specific actions you must take every month, week, and even day in order to achieve your new year’s intention.

For instance, if you want to save $6,000 in an emergency fund this year, you will need to commit to saving at least $500 a month. That equals $125 a week, or about $17 a day. By doing this, you’re more likely to stay on track throughout the entire year.

5. Commit to rejuvenating yourself

You’ve been down this road before: You commit to a goal 100 percent, and then a few weeks later, you find yourself tired, bored and burned out.

If you can relate, you likely didn’t give yourself enough breaks. It’s hard work to achieve all your goals, so give yourself some rest!  Need some self-care tips? Check out this article from Psychology Today for a few ways to get started.

6. Create space

Having a hard time concentrating on your goals? Try creating space.

Creating space helps eliminate clutter. Whether it’s physical or emotional clutter, ridding yourself of it can only help clear your mind and surroundings to focus on what really matters.

With fewer distractions, you can focus on your intentions. You’ll be less likely to become run-down, give up or get distracted. To create space, Prevention Health suggests starting small. Even decluttering a single drawer can go a long way in reducing stress.

Take advantage of helpful tools

Whether your new year intention is to grow your finances or improve yourself in another way, Chime’s mobile wallet and money transfer features are here to help. By socking away your hard-earned dollars into a fee-free online savings account, you can watch your cash grow.

And just think: Saving more money allows you to more readily reach your financial intentions this year. Are you ready to make this year your best year?

 

How to Throw Your First New Year’s Eve Party on a Budget

As the year winds down, you may be ready to ring in the new one with a bangin’ celebration. What better way to do that than by hosting a party at your place? Except there’s one little wrinkle in your plans: You don’t have a lot of cash to spend.

Not to worry. You can still throw an amazing New Year’s Eve party, even with a tiny budget. Take a look at these 6 tips to help you pull off a successful soireé.

Create a Dedicated Party Account

Keeping track of your spending over the holidays can get crazy and having a separate bank account just for party purchases can make it easier.

“If you know you’re going to be hosting a party for the new year, start a party fund as soon as possible,” says Jacob Lunduski, financial industry analyst for Credit Card Insider.

You can easily do that with a Chime Spending or Savings Account. It takes less than 5 minutes to open a free bank account with Chime. You can fund your account by setting up a direct deposit through your employer or transferring money from an existing bank account. From there, you can manage your account through the Chime mobile app.

Once your account is open, you’ll need to add something to it.

“Consider putting aside a small amount from each paycheck towards your party,” Lunduski says.

He says budgeting $20 to $50 per payday is a good rule of thumb to follow, depending on how big of an event you’re planning.

Nail Down the Guest List Early

A party isn’t a party without guests and as you plan your New Year’s Eve blowout, think about who you’d like to invite. You might want to call up everyone you know but that can add to the cost. On the other hand, capping the guest list at a certain number can help you manage your costs.

Another tip: Clue in your invitees and tell them you’re planning a party. “Ask them to tentatively RSVP whether they can make it or not,” Lunduski says.

“This will give you a general idea of how much food, seating and alcohol people will need, and the cost associated.”

This step is important for planning your budget. For example, if you have $300 to spend and you want to invite 30 people, that breaks down to $10 you can spend per person. Paring the guest list back to 20 people bumps your per-person spend up to $15. You can then decide how that $15 should be divvied up between food, alcohol and other party supplies.

Buy in Bulk (and Ask for a Deal)

If you’re planning to hit a party supply store or shop online for cups, plates, napkins or even wine, buying in bulk can be a money saver. Finance expert and founder of Fiscal Nerd Stacy Caprio says getting to know your local party suppliers can work in your favor if you’re able to negotiate a bulk discount.

“Often, the owner of a small shop or business will be happy to accommodate a loyal customer as well as encourage bulk purchases, since that can be the bread and butter of their business,” she says.

“This makes them more willing to give you a discount when you ask.”

Consider BYOB or Potluck to Save on Food and Drinks

Food and alcohol can eat up a big chunk of your party budget. Greg Jenkins, partner and co-founder of event planning company Bravo Productions, says you can make party planning less stressful — and less expensive — by asking guests to contribute something for dinner and drinks.

For example, you might supply beer and cocktail mixers but ask attendees to bring a dish or a bottle of wine for everyone to share. If you’re planning to prepare food, Jenkins says it’s always better to keep it simple.

“Sit down dinners cost more to host,” he says. Even with just appetizers, you could overspend if you let the menu get away from you. So, stick with basic, inexpensive choices like ham sliders and mini desserts. Most importantly, “don’t waste money on things guests won’t eat,” Jenkins says.

Repurpose and Reuse Party Items Whenever Possible

Your first New Year’s Eve party is a big deal and while you may be tempted to go all out, your wallet will thank you if you think practically instead. Repurposing things you have around the house for your party or thinking about how the items you’re purchasing can be useful beyond New Year’s Eve can help you make smarter buying decisions.

For instance, say your favorite grocery store is running a sale on wine. If you drink wine year-round or if wine is something you can gift to friends and family, stocking up on it while it’s on sale might be a good move.

Also, consider what you plan to do for decorations to make the party complete. Jenkins says you can save money by using things you already have around the house. Fitted sheets, for example, can double as tablecloths. Or, you can leave up holiday decorations and lights and think about adding in some inexpensive paper streamers or confetti to capture the party mood. If you don’t have any twinkle lights handy, candles can create a similar effect.

If you’re planning to buy plastic or paper plates, cups, party hats, whistles or similar items, you can scoop those up at a dollar store. Stick with solid colors instead of ones that have “New Year’s Eve” printed on them and stash away any extras to reuse for your next party. If you need an extra table or chairs for seating, check your local thrift stores for low-cost finds.

Serve Up Affordable Entertainment

While you’re waiting for the clock to countdown to midnight, you’ll need to keep your guests entertained. Since it’s your first New Year’s Eve party, hiring a band may not be feasible, but there are still plenty of ways to enjoy yourself as the hours tick by.

For example, you could set up a DIY photo booth for your guests. You just need a plain sheet or a curtain for the backdrop, some party props and a camera. The props may be things you’ve already purchased — think silly glasses, paper top hats, bead necklaces and noisemakers. Toss everything in a shoebox or a plastic bin and let your guests snap away.

Other low-key, low-cost options include board games, cards, charades or taking turns sharing your New Year’s resolutions. If you’re stumped for suggestions, poll your guests to see what inexpensive ideas they have for the big night.

All the New Year’s Eve Fun, Without the Financial Hangover

While you still may need to spend something on your first New Year’s Eve party, you don’t need to spend everything.

The more you plan your spending ahead of time and follow these 6 tips, the easier it is to keep your budget locked down. And when the ball drops, you can enjoy the moment knowing that you won’t be starting the new year off with money regrets.

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