How to Budget for Spontaneity

Budgeting is one of the best ways to save money, and it’s so simple — create categories, set aside a certain amount of money for each category, and then only spend what has been designated for that account.

But what do you do when your best friend asks if you’re free for dinner, and you open your budgeting app and realize that your “dining” budget only has a few dollars left in it? You don’t want to cancel plans with your best friend, so you make the decision to transfer money for dinner from your savings account. Just like that, you’ve blown your budget.

There will always be last minute dinners with friends, drinks with colleagues, or unexpected celebrations. Unfortunately, spontaneity can often derail your budget. Luckily, there’s a simple fix: preparing for spontaneity.

It might sound counterintuitive, but here’s how it works.

Cash-back websites

Did you know you can earn money from shopping online? It’s true. Websites like Ebates and Topcashback will give you cash back on your online purchases when you shop from their website.

Here’s how it works. The websites earn money through affiliate links from the stores that customers use to shop. To encourage customers to use the link, the cash-back websites share a percentage of their profits with the customer (that’s you!).

The best way to earn cash back is to pick one cash-back website, install the cash-back button (a reminder to use the website that appears at check-out), and always use it when you shop.

Cash-back credit card rewards

If you’ve never used cash-back credit cards, you’re missing out. The premise is simple: use your credit card to earn points that you can redeem for cash or other perks.

Most credit card rewards range from 1% to 2% of your purchase, and some cards offer rotating categories. But there is a catch. In order to take advantage of the rewards, it’s important to pay your card on time and in full every month. If you don’t, you’ll end up paying more in fees and interest than you could earn in cash-back rewards.

Cold, hard cash

Budgeting for spontaneity doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it could be as simple as going to the ATM and getting out cash at the beginning of the month.

This money is designated as your “fun” money: It can only be used for an unexpected movie date with friends, celebratory beers, or Sunday brunch. It’s spontaneity with a limit, because when the cash is gone, so is that month’s fun budget.

Give yourself a tip

You tip for a good haircut and a cocktail from the bar, so why not tip yourself? That’s the premise of the app TipYourself. Every time you accomplish a task or goal, you can use the app to send yourself a tip. The goal can be as simple as drinking eight glasses of water per day or as complex as repainting your bedroom wall, and tips can be as small as $1.

The secret to using an app like TipYourself? Setting aside your “tips” for fun. Here’s how it works: set your goals, accomplish them and enjoy a spontaneous adventure with someone you love (and yes, that includes yourself).


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.
Image: Youngoldman

 

Here’s Why You Should Switch to Online Banking

When it comes to banking, individuals often default to what they know best. And that’s traditional banking. Unfortunately for them, they’re likely going to face a lifetime of long lines and hidden fees. Well…it’s not that bad but there are surely better solutions. Thanks to online banking you can now do all your banking without ever leaving the comfort of your own home.

If that’s not convincing enough, here are a few other reasons why you should make the switch to online banking.

Convenience

The bottom line is that it’s much easier to access your online bank than a traditional one. When you use a traditional bank you need to adhere to their business hours in order to access your funds and accounts.

If you work full-time then it’s often difficult to carve time out of your day to make a trip. Not only that, once you’re at the bank you often need to wait in a long line before you’re even able to speak to the clerk. I don’t know about you but waiting in lines at the bank can be grueling.

With online banking you can easily access all your accounts online. No lines no hassle.

Lower Fees

Compared to online banking, traditional banks have much higher operating expenses. Those extra expenses mean more fees pushed onto the consumer. In this case that’s you.

With online banking you can avoid many of those fees since there’s much less overhead.

Quick and Easy Deposits

The majority of traditional banks will let you deposit checks through an ATM. With online banks you can easily deposit checks through their mobile application. Simply snap a picture, sign the back, and voila your money is in your account!

In addition, the majority of online banks offer access to a huge network of ATMs so if you’re ever in need of some cash you’re still in luck!

Higher Yields

This goes back to the fact that online banks have much fewer expenses than traditional ones. Because of this online banks can offer higher rates on savings accounts.

When looking for a new bank make sure you always calculate your potential earnings on CDs and savings accounts. Many individuals make the mistake of jumping ship before doing the math. Is it really worth switching your accounts for an extra $50 a year? When making the switch always comparison shop to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Simple Money Management

One of the best perks of online banking is the ability to easily access and manage your money. Paying bills and other related tasks have never been more simple.

Most online banks offer the ability to check accounts, pay bills, transfer funds, and send money all from a single dashboard.

Pro tip: Look for an online bank that gives you automated savings options. For example, you can set up automatic transfers from your checking to savings account each month. Some platforms allow you to automatically round up your debit card purchases and deposit that amount to your savings. This way you’ll always be putting money away. Remember, every bit counts.

Final Thoughts

It’s no secret that we’re moving towards a completely digital economy. One solution at the forefront of this is online banking. If you’re still relying on a traditional bank then you should definitely look to make the switch today. You won’t regret it.

 

A Crib Sheet for Getting Your Money On Point in 2018

Welcome to January, the time of year where we promise to do better. Common, and yet nebulous goals, include diet, exercise, time with family and friends or living life to the fullest. Also on the docket: money. If financial health is your New Year’s resolution, it helps to set specific goals. Here’s a crib sheet for getting your money on point in 2018.

1. Kill high-interest debt 

Most credit cards carry over 15% annual percentage rates (APRs), so keep balances non-existent to avoid paying unnecessary interest. Already owe? Look into transferring those debts to a 0% APR balance transfer credit card.

2. Boost retirement savings 

Inquire with human resources to bump up the money going into your 401(k) by a few percentage points. If you got a raise, you can save more for retirement without noticing a difference in your take-home pay.

3. Get an emergency fund 

Start by saving $1,000 and keep saving until you have at least three to six months of expenses stashed away.

4. Save for a splurge 

If you want money to travel, upgrade your home or just do something fun, budget for it by setting up and rolling any extra dollars into a separate savings account. That way you avoid tapping your emergency fund.

5. Get life insurance

To ensure your family is protected financially in the event of your death. (Bonus: Term life insurance rates are currently at a 20-year low.Here’s why.) If your income, responsibilities or family size has increased, consider whether you need to up coverage.

6. Shop around for a better deal

 On well, everything. That includes your credit card APR (see above), auto insurance, homeowners insurance, cable television and internet service.

7. Question your money choices

Look at your spending, fixed expenses and investment strategy to see if you’re set up to live your best life. If not, be open to change. (Listen to Confucius, perhaps?)

8. Calculate your net worth 

That’s the sum of your investments and assets minus your liabilities — and probably the best gauge of your financial health at any given time.

9. Check your credit report 

Your credit is also incredibly important to your financial health since a good score qualifies for better rates on loans, insurance and more. See where you stand by getting your free annual credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – at AnnualCreditReport.com.

10. Brush up a bad credit score

By fixing any errors you find on your credit report, paying down big debts and limiting new credit applications.

11. Look into refinancing 

With interest rates hovering near record lows, now’s a good time to refinance a house, car or even student loans.

12. Track your spending for a month 

If you spent more than you should in 2017. Write down every purchase you make and keep a close eye on your credit card bills. You might be spending more than you want on food, entertainment or miscellaneous expenses without even knowing.

13. Create a monthly budget

Nobody likes the dirty “b” word, but that doesn’t mean budgets aren’t helpful. In reality, budgeting is one of the best ways to afford everything you want in life. The new year is a great time to create a one. Plus, we’ve got a simple spreadsheet that’ll help you set up a budget in five minutes or less.

14. Automate your savings 

Not saving enough? Set up automatic bank drafts to a savings account so you have no choice but to hit your savings goals in the new year.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.
Image: wundervisuals

 

Spend Smarter With These Simple Tricks

As with most lifestyle changes, making healthy financial choices can take discipline. However, once you put your mind to it and create a plan, you’ll be on your way to achieving your financial goals.

As you embark on this path, keep in mind that you’re bound to fall off the wagon and go back to your old ways, like overspending. We’re here to help you stick to your goals. So, the next time you find yourself in a tricky situation and need help making healthy financial choices, take a look at the following common scenarios.

Scenario 1: You want to buy all the things at Target

Ever have one of these days? You know, those moments when you have the impulse to spend because you think it’ll make you feel better.

This experience is totally normal. However, overspending comes with long-term implications. You’ll likely experience guilt and may even find yourself in credit card debt if you’re not careful. If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are your emotions in check? Identifying your “triggers” will help you find ways to address your stressors  – before you go on that spending binge. For example, are you hungry, angry, lonely or even tired?
  • Can you do something more productive instead of spending? Perhaps you can run a bath or go workout to relieve stress. Once you’re finished, you may forget about the temptation to blow your budget.
  • When was the last time you treated myself? Confession time: during the first six months of my journey to debt freedom, I became so restrictive that I didn’t allow myself to spend money on anything outside of the necessities. This meant no eating out, no clothes shopping and no Starbucks. After a while, though, I reached a breaking point and ended up going on a major shopping spree. I almost went back into debt.So, make sure you don’t deprive yourself and treat yourself every once in a while. Just remember, you don’t need to spend a huge amount and it’s a good idea to add a line item to your budget that’s earmarked as “fun money”.

Scenario 2: You want to make a big-ticket purchase

For me, the definition of “big ticket” is an item that costs between one to three months of my income. Although what you consider “big ticket” may be different, think of it this way: making a big purchase impacts your finances significantly, so instead of jumping in head first, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you really need it? A year ago, my husband and I bought a second car that we don’t use as much as we expected. Had we asked this question before making the purchase, perhaps we would have continued to share one car and put that money toward another goal.
  • Can you hold off on the purchase? If you are fine without the item now, you can probably refrain from buying it – at least for a while longer. By delaying your purchase, you may find a cheaper alternative or perhaps you can take advantage of seasonal discounts.
  • Can you sink before you swim? Using a sinking fund has become a huge game-changer for me. In a nutshell, a sinking fund allows you to anticipate expenses ahead of time and allocate money to these expenses in each paycheck. I’ve got a sinking fund for holiday shopping, vacation and even one for my future kids! For me, these funds remove some of the guesswork from my financial decisions as the money is allocated and available.

Scenario 3: You’re ready to save for future goals but don’t know where to start

You may have already accomplished a major step in financial adulting: moving out of your parents’ house. Now that you’re living on your own, it’s time to consider other goals to create the lifestyle of your dreams. My goal is to become financially independent by age 40 and this includes being able to retire early if I want to.

Whatever your end goal is, the following healthy financial choices will help you get there:

  • Create an emergency fund ASAP. A good rule of thumb is to save three to six months of living expenses in your emergency fund. Your fund should be kept separate from your regular checking and savings accounts.
  • Pay down debt quickly. If you’ve got student loans and/or credit cards, create a plan to free up your income sooner rather than later. With the debt snowball method, as soon as your smallest debt is paid off, you can use the freed up money to tackle your next debt faster. Alternatively, you could choose the debt avalanche approach where you focus on paying off the highest interest bearing debt first. While you pay down your debt, stay focused by envisioning a life with zero payments whatsoever.
  • Bank with an institution that has your back. If you’re fed up with big banks that charge hidden fees, why not consider an online bank account like Chime. Chime offers an innovative approach to banking that actually encourages saving and makes it easier for you to sock money away seamlessly, without fees. If you open a Chime bank account and select Automatic Savings, Chime will automatically transfer 10% of every paycheck directly into your savings account. Another awesome Chime benefit is that you can save every time you spend. Chime actually rounds up each transaction made with your Chime card to the nearest dollar and transfers the round up from your Spending account into your Chime Savings account.

Are you ready to make a healthy financial move?

Remember: with a little discipline, you can stick to your goals and make smart money moves starting right now. And, if you need some help, refer to this resource for inspiration and guidance. Here’s to a financially healthy new year!

 

5 Ways to Make Money Online in 2018

It’s a new year which means it’s time to set new goals for ourselves. If you’re like most people your new years goals are either to get healthy or make more money. If you said make more money, then you’ve come to the right article. Want somewhere to start? I suggest trying to make money online. If you can run a business from your couch what’s the excuse right?

Here are five ways to make money online in 2018.

Launch an Online Store

If you’re willing to really put in the time and effort launching an online store can be immensely profitable. Now before you say no because you don’t know how to code listen to this. Thanks to ecommerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce you can easily build beautiful online stores with little to no technical experience.

You can create and run an entire online business using one of these platforms. They offer plenty of integrations like marketing, payment processing, search engine optimization, and more!

Ghostwriting or Guest Posting

Every single blog on the internet could use more content. If you’re a good writer you can make serious money ghostwriting or guest posting for various companies. If you’re an expert in a specific field like FinTech or cryptocurrencies you can make well over six figures a year writing full-time.

You can research companies in your field and try to find the person in charge of content. Reach out to them either with a finished post or a few sample titles. Once you get approved by a few companies start typing away and watch the cash roll in!

Start Your Own Blog

If you want to take your writing to the next level you may want to consider starting your own blog. Again this works best if you’re an expert in a specific area or industry. For example if you’re a fitness expert you can start a health and fitness blog. Make sure your content is creative and try to offer as much guidance as possible.

Health and fitness blogs work best if your readers use your advice to achieve their fitness goals. If you get big enough you can turn your reader’s success stories into case studies and attract an even larger audience. Once your blog is popular enough you can offer sponsored postings or product placement by health and fitness related products. This example for health and fitness can be used for virtually any industry.

Trade Cryptocurrencies

This is a controversial yet highly lucrative one. Cryptocurrencies seem to be hot right now and it’s for a good reason. So called “unsophisticated” investors are making millions trading digital currencies. The most popular coins now are Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin however there are new coins coming out every day.

If you want to make money trading cryptocurrency you need to get educated and use the proper tools. I suggest starting off with a Coinbase account and do your best to understand cryptocurrency and blockchain technology as a whole.

Offer Services on Fiverr or Upwork

If you consider yourself a professional you can offer your services on Fiverr or Upwork. These platforms connect freelancers with contractors for virtually any type of job. Services range from software development all the way to accounting.

The only issue with these platforms is that contractors typically only work with freelancers who have a developed work history. That said, it can be difficult to get your first few jobs. However if you’re good at what you do then you’ll be a 5-star freelancer in no time.

Final Thoughts

If you want to make money online there are plenty of options for you to choose from. For starters, I suggest considering the five above as they can all become highly lucrative side (or full) time gigs.

 

How You Can Maintain Long-Term Focus

The majority of us lead very busy lives.  With so many things going on it’s often difficult to maintain long-term focus. We tend to focus so much on what’s directly ahead of us that our long-term goals get pushed back. Luckily for you, there are ways to stay on track.

Here are four strategies you can use to maintain long-term focus:

Create Your Plan

This one sounds real obvious. It’s so remedial that people often think they don’t need to perform this step – and that’s where they’re mistaken. Your goals need to be clearly stated. In addition, the steps and path you’re going to take to reach those goals also needs to be clear.

One strategy you can use is to create a vision board. If you’re like me and not an artist you can do away with all the fancy decorations and collages. On a very basic level you should map out your goals and what milestones you need to hit to achieve them. Once it’s finished make sure your vision board is somewhere you can see it every single day. The point is you want to create your plan and get it down on paper. Thoughts are not concrete enough to maintain long-term focus. When it’s above your bedrest it’s a much different story.

Reward Smaller Victories

Whether you’re starting your own venture or working in another it often takes years (or much longer) before you’re able to reap the big rewards. That said, we often become stagnant and lose motivation when things start to drag on.

If you find yourself losing interest or motivation then you should setup a reward system that can reward you for smaller victories. When you make an effort to outwardly acknowledge your achievements it’ll motivate you to work harder in the future. Bring your team out to a nice meal or buy yourself that new pair of shoes you’ve been looking at. These small victories will keep you going until you have your big win down the road.

Always Prioritize

Time management is something that even the most successful business people still struggle with today. The ability to prioritize tasks and schedule meetings is a full-time job for the majority of executives. Hence why they use assistants.

Until you’re able to get to the executive level you’ll need to prioritize things yourself. Take a look at your to-do list or calendar and always mark off the one task you need to finish that day. If you can’t find one then you have too much free time. Prioritize each item by level of importance and soon you’ll have created an outline for what needs to be accomplished and when.

Find Your True Passion

Why is it that all the wealthiest individuals constantly tell us not to “do it for the money”? Since they already have their riches it’s easy for them to say right? The truth is, they’re correct and they likely wouldn’t be standing where they are today if it was solely “for the money”.

When you set out on your journey make sure to find your true passion and motivation. Sure wealth can be a driver but it should never be your main focus. It may take 20 years before you get your first big check. Whether you want to help the environment or build awesome technology you need to find that inner passion. Once you have it you’ll remain focused on the task at hand and will enjoy the journey no matter how long it takes.

Final Thoughts

We are entrepreneurs, dreamers, and innovators. We all have different goals and different paths to achieve those goals. If you want to reach those goals you need to maintain long-term focus or else the time will slowly slip away. That said use these four strategies to stay focused and achieve your dreams!


This article was originally published on Calendar by Renzo Costarella.

 

Here’s How to Find the One Thing That Will Improve Your Health and Wealth

Forming new habits are no fun. But, what if there was a way to knock multiple good habits out with one small change to your lifestyle?

That’s the idea behind a keystone habit. Read on to learn exactly what a keystone habit is and how this singular habit can help you achieve optimal health and wealth in the new year.

What is a Keystone Habit?

A keystone habit is one single habit that has multiple positive cascading effects. Rather than shooting for multiple different habits, you can instead choose one keystone habit that will have a dozen positive effects. Here are a 4 examples to get you started:

1. Follow a To-Do List Every Day

We all have things we want to get done every day. But who the heck can remember them all when you can barely keep track of where your car keys are?

When I started following a to-do list, I noticed a ripple effect happening in my life. I became healthier because I remembered to take my dietary supplements every day. I had more money because I was prompted to check on my finances daily, and I earned more money because I remembered to follow up with clients. One small to-do list did all that, and more!

2. Exercise

Exercising has a ton of positive benefits. You can decrease your medical bills by staying healthier, and spend less on groceries since you’ll probably be more conscious of how much you eat (who wants to work off all those extra calories, anyway?) Exercise can  also make you happier because it releases feel-good, pain-relieving chemicals in your brain called endorphins. Plus, despite spending more energy on exercise, you’ll ultimately feel more well-rested because your sleep will improve.

3. Replace Soda With Water

Today Americans are drinking 25% less soda pop than 20 years ago. Still, most people are probably drinking more than they should.

Replacing soda with water not only saves you money in medical and dental bills, but you’ll also save money by not buying soda in the first place! For me, drinking water is easier anyway. I just fill my water bottle right from the tap whenever I get thirsty. No more lugging heavy two-liter soda bottles up the stairs to my second-floor apartment.

4. Cook at Home

This keystone habit might sound like a bit of a drag at first, especially if you’re the type of person who lives by the motto, “I don’t live to cook. I cook to live.” But stick with me.

Cooking at home saves a ton of money over buying take out food each night. It also saves time. Have you ever calculated how many minutes it actually takes you to go out, get food, and bring it home for everyone else to eat? Plus, you’ll eat healthier and save on medical bills over time (are you seeing a trend here?). It can even be fun to cook with family. Even I—a former hardcore “I hate cooking” devotee—can admit that cooking is sometimes enjoyable.

How to Find Your Keystone Habit

I’ve outlined some great keystone habits above, but the truth is that you need to find the best habit for you and your individual situation. To get started, make a list of all the good habits you’d like to start. Maybe it’s meditating, fasting, reading, quitting smoking, getting more sleep, or any number of other things.

Next, go through each good habit on your list and count out the potential secondary benefits of each habit. For example, getting more sleep can:

  • Make you less crabby
  • Improve relationships
  • Make you more productive during the day
  • Reduce medical bills from stress
  • Increase your happiness

Finally, choose the keystone habit that meets the following criteria: a) you think you can keep it up long-term (habit stacking can help you with this), and b) has the most beneficial secondary habits.

By following these two criteria in choosing your own keystone habit, you can make sure that it’s something you’ll stick to. After all, 2018 will come with plenty of challenges. It’s time to plan your game now so you can come out ahead in the new year!

 

5 Life Hacks That Can Easily Save You $10,000

Life’s expensive. And, while there’s no getting around that over-arching fact, there are a few ways to cut corners. Make a budget. Automate savings— and investments. Leverage credit card rewards.

There are also some savvy ways to save some serious dough. Here are five life hacks that can collectively save you $10,000 (for real).

1. Fix your credit score

Bad credit (generally considered a score of 600 or lower) is going to cost you a whole lot in interest. Case in point: A low credit score typically increases the cost of a $20,000, 60-month auto loan by more than $5,000, per the Consumer Federation of America.

But expensive financing is just one way a terrible score makes you pay more. Getting cable? Expect a fee due to those digits. Found a cheap (and nice!) apartment? You might lose that lease to someone with better credit. Need car insurance? Don’t be surprised by higher premiums if your score isn’t in decent shape.

Fortunately, bad credit isn’t forever and you can start improving your score by paying down debt, disputing credit report errors and limiting new credit inquiries. We’ve got more ways to raise your credit score here.

2. Shop around … for everything

Comparison-shopping can take a little legwork (emphasis on “little” here, because, you know, the internet), but it can save you a ton of money — especially if you do it everytime you buy something. Shopping, comparing and negotiating can save you thousands of dollars on a mortgage, for instance, and is just as instrumental when you’re in the market for a new ride. But it’s also important when you’re shopping for services, like utilities, cell phone or cable/internet plans.

And, as we’re well aware, comparison-shopping for any type of insurance can save you hundreds of dollars. It’s particularly important when you’re looking for life insurance. That’s because certain life insurance companies are just more favorable to different demos and/or conditions than others. Some offer better rates to boomers, for instance, while others are more lenient about high-cholesterol. You can go here to learn more about the best life insurance companies in general and Policygenius can help you specifically save up to 40% on a policy via our life insurance quote comparison tool here.

3. Use an HSA as a second IRA

We can’t say enough good things about Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). They’re tax-deferred, earn interest that’s tax-exempt and are a crucial part of managing medical expenses when you’ve got a high-deductible healthcare plan. They’re also a powerful savings tool, partially for the reasons mentioned above, but also because good ol’ Uncle Sam caps how much money you can sock away for retirement each year. When it comes to IRAs and Roth IRAs, those limits are $5,500 in 2017 and 2018 (or $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older and need to catch up).

But you’re also allowed to contribute up to $3,450 per individual or up to $6,900 per family into an HSA next year (limits are adjusted annually for inflation). And because those funds roll over year-to-year and can be used for non-medical expenses penalty-free once you turn 65, they can serve as a de facto supplemental retirement account.

4. Get legal insurance

Legal insurance covers attorney fees for almost any legal problem. And, while you’re probably saying, ‘how worried should I really be about getting sued?’ there are lots of reasons someone needs a lawyer. In fact, legal insurance is most commonly used for divorce, estate planning, and real estate transactions. That last part is where the hack comes in: Some states mandate an attorney oversee closing on a home and, even in those that don’t, it’s generally a good idea to have a legal expert review your contract and do a title search. Hourly rates for attorneys can range from $240 to $495, but if you have legal insurance, your policy will generally foot that bill. Plans typically cost between $15 to $22 a month and are often available through an employer.

5. Two words: Debt avalanche

No, that doesn’t mean bury yourself in an avalanche of debt. Quite the opposite, in fact. The debt avalanche, sometimes called debt-stacking, is a money-saving method for getting out of the red. You make all your minimum loan payments, but put as much money as can toward the balance with the highest interest rate. Once that balance is gone, you move onto the one with the next highest APR and so on and so forth until all your debt is gone. This method helps you get out of debt faster and saves you a ton of interest.

Looking for more money hacks? Here are five ways to save 30% of your paycheck (mostly) without trying.


This article originally appeared on PolicyGenius.
Image: Aleksander Nakic

 

The Best Days (& Ways) to Save Money on Holiday Travel in 2017

OK, OK, we know you’re just trying to get through Halloween, but if you’re planning a big holiday trip, we need to talk about Thanksgiving and Christmas. Travel’s a supply and demand game, and auto club AAA put about 103 million people hitting the roads and/or sky between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2 in 2016. In other words: time to start planning.

Here are eight ways to save on your holiday travel in 2017.

1. Book now

Seriously. Like right this second. Plenty of studies from trusted travel search engines have found October’s the time to get a cheap(er) flight home for Christmas and New Year’s. And, TBH, the best days might already be behind us. A study from Skyscanner actually found booking a Thanksgiving flight eleven weeks out (the week of Sept. 4th) would save you the most. But don’t get too down: Today will almost always be better than tomorrow. Prices tend to climb steadily as a holiday approaches. And, if you’ve got to hold off on booking your airfare, you still can save by flying on the “best” days.

2. Travel on Thanksgiving

Not ideal, we know, but that’s exactly why it’ll save you money. Everyone wants to take-off the day before Thanksgiving and come home the Sunday after, so, naturally, those days are the most expensive to fly on. But flight comparison site Hopper found you can save $54 by departing on Thanksgiving morning (Nov. 23) and $161 by returning on Wednesday, Nov. 29 instead.

3. Go home early for Christmas …

Hopper’s data put Saturday, Dec. 16 or Tuesday, Dec. 19 as the cheapest days to head home for the Christmas in 2017, while Friday, Dec. 22 was the most expensive. Traveling on Christmas itself was in the middle of the $324 to $434 average price range.

4. … & stay later into the new year

Lots of people head home on New Year’s Day (it’s on a Monday this year, so they probably need to get back to work the next day). Needless to say, a flight on that day will cost you. Hopper puts it at $428 on average. But traveling after the first day of 2018 will save you some money, with Jan. 4 hitting maximum cheapness ($331).

5. Stay with the fam

That way you can skip paying for a hotel room. If there’s no room at the family inn, consider alt-accommodations, like Airbnb, VRBO, FlipKey or HomeAway.

6. Ship your luggage

Most of the time, it’s cheaper to pay a baggage fee, but if you need to bring a ton of gifts with you and/or are staying for a long stretch of time, shipping becomes a budget-friendly option. Sometimes, sending your stuff four or five days ahead of your trip will cost less than the fee for an overweight bag or multiple checked bags. Plus, shipping companies like FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Post Office or specialty services like Luggage Forward have a leg up when it comes to protection and tracking for your things. Speaking of protection…

7. Get good travel insurance

Travel insurance covers financial losses related to a delayed or canceled trip. It usually costs around 4% to 8% of the total trip, but comparison-shopping can help you score the best deal. You can compare travel insurance quotes here.

8. Use an app

These days, technology furnishes you with everything from airfare alerts to digital coupons to currency conversion. Apps can also help you track cell phone data usage or find a cheap place to gas up your tank. You can find some of our favorite travel apps here.


This article originally appeared on PolicyGenius.
Image: Tom Merton

 

These 6 Challenges Will Help You Save More Money

When you remove home equity from the equation, the average American’s net worth is right around $26,000. This figure tends to increase as you reach retirement.

If you feel like you’ve got a long way to go before achieving your ideal net worth, it may be time to commit to saving more money. This can not only spark good financial habits, but you’ll worry less as you approach your golden years.

To help you reach your goals, it may be time to challenge yourself with one of these six money challenges. Take a look.

The Weekly Money Challenge

If you’re paid weekly, the best way to set up a money challenge is to also save weekly. With this challenge, you can save nearly $1,400 over the course of a year. Just think: by the end of the year, you’ll have built up a decent savings fund and you likely won’t even miss the money that you’re setting aside.

To get started, deposit a small amount into your savings account every week and build up from there. For example, you can deposit $1 week #1, $2 week #2, and so on until week 52 – when you deposit $52. By the end of the year, you will have contributed $1,378. The following year simply keep depositing $52 a week and you’ll add another $2,704 to your savings account.

The Monthly Money Challenge

For those who are paid every month, you might prefer to save monthly instead of weekly. It’s easy to set this up and, in order to save roughly the same amount as you would on a weekly basis, we changed up the numbers a little bit.

In the first month, for example, you can deposit $18. The next month that amount grows to $36. After that, you’ll continue increasing your monthly deposits by $18, arriving at the amount of  $216 for the 12th month. All told, you will have saved $1,404 over the course of a year. For the following year, contribute $216 each month and you will have saved up another $2,592.

The Yearly Money Challenge

If you are already budgeting your weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly checks and can’t manage to come up with an extra hundred dollars or more of savings each month, you might want to instead try to dump lump sums into your account every spring when you get your tax refund. The average refund is a little over $2,700, so putting your refund into your savings account – instead of spending it – would be a smart way to earmark your extra funds.

The No Spend Money Challenge

You have likely seen these types of challenges before. They encourage you to go a day, a week, or longer without spending any money. This indeed can work but sometimes you overspend before or after your spending fast. Here’s a different take on it.

During the no spend challenge, every time you’re craving a latte, or want to spend on something that isn’t entirely necessary for survival, transfer that same amount into your savings account. Try doing this for one week each month. You may notice that your savings account is slowly beginning to increase.

The Spare Change Challenge

Collecting your change in a jar on the dresser used to be easier. But, now that most transactions are done electronically, you’re probably not carrying home a pocket of coins anymore. Fortunately, there’s a great way to dump your spare change into an actual savings account.

With a Chime account, for example, your purchases can be rounded up to the next dollar, and that spare change will automatically go into your savings account. This can ultimately help you grow your net worth and you won’t even have to think about it.

The Tip Yourself Challenge

There are two types of people: those who hire people for jobs and those who consider themselves DIYers. The do-it-yourself crowd is often trying to save money. But, what if you paid yourself for these tasks?

For this challenge, give yourself a tip each time you do a job yourself. It may not seem like much, but you’re saving money by not paying anybody else, plus a $20 “tip” here and there can add up to hundreds or more over the course of a year.

Combine Challenges to Save Even More

It doesn’t make much sense to do both the weekly and monthly challenge. But, you can always combine one of these with the tax refund challenge. Or, use the automatic savings features from Chime to help boost your savings accounts even more.

After a year of using any of these challenges to help you save, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your savings goals. You can bank on it.