Tag: Mindful Money

 

10 Minutes For 10 Days: Easy Ways to Prep for the New Year Financially

The new year is a great time to get a fresh start. And while you’re making a pact to get back into a morning yoga routine or to cut down on the carbs, don’t forget to also prep your finances for the new year.

It’s not as hard as you think to turn your money situation from a frowny face emoji to a muscle arm emoji. Here are 10 ways you can shape up your finances for the new year in just 10 minutes a day:

Auto Save

I’m a huge fan of the “set it and forget it” approach, and autosaving is my Number 1 favorite money tactic. With minimal effort, you can set it once and you’re golden.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t save as much as you’d like. Even automatically saving five dollars a week into your emergency fund adds up to $260 in a year. Double that to $10 a week, and you’ll have $570 buckaroos. Not too shabby!

Make a Date With Your Spending Plan

Check yourself before you wreck yourself—with your budget, that is. It’s important to remember that your budget is a living, breathing thing. It changes as your money situation evolves, and what worked last year may not work next year.

Did your income change from switching jobs? Did you have to move? Are you spending more money on quality groceries? You get the picture.

Case in point: This was my year of “forced upgrades.” I moved and bought a new car. In turn, my monthly expenses went up, and I had to make changes to my spending plan.

Time Your Bill Payments With Paydays

If you are member of the gig economy, and get several paychecks at different times of the month from different gigs, staying on top of your bills can be challenging.

To ease the cray, time your payments so they sync up with when you get paid. For instance, if you get paid from a particular gig on the 10th of each month and your cell phone bill is due on the 15th, sync up that payment with your cell phone bill. If you’re a Chime Member, you can get paid early – making it easier to pay bills earlier as well. All you need to do is set up direct deposit with at least one employer.

Turn On Alerts

By setting alerts on your credit cards, you’ll get notified if a transaction exceeds a set amount, or if a payment was made online instead of in-person. This can help you keep your spending in check, as well as keep you informed of any fishy activity on your cards.

Check Your Net Worth

It’s easy to get caught up in the illusion of wealth—flashy cars, designer clothes and McMansions. But true wealth can be boiled down to one thing: your net worth. You can determine your net worth by adding up the amount of money you have in the bank, as well as the value of your car, house and any investments. Subtract your debt from this amount and you now know your net worth.

An easy way to track your net worth is to use a money management app. Just poke around the Apple Store or Google Play and you’ll find no shortage of free apps to help you track how many Benjamins you’re stacking.

Prioritize Your Money Goals

You likely have some of these financial goals—paying off your debt, saving for an emergency fund and saving up to buy a house.

If you’re like me and have a gazillion goals, it’s best to prioritize them. This way you can focus your efforts and yield greater results. For 2019, for example, I’ll prioritize bolstering my retirement, saving for my first home, and socking cash away for my personal projects.

Link Up with a Money Accounta-Buddy

Teaming up with a buddy to help keep you accountable with your money goals is super helpful. This may mean hopping on a Google Hangout with a friend once a month to keep each other in check, or having casual conversations in person.

What works for me is to just chat about money. I am lucky to have a handful of money accounta-buddies, and we talk about everything from paying off debt, to saving for retirement, to any issues that arise. Talking about money with trusted pals is cathartic. And it feels good to know you’re not suffering alone.

Link Up a New Habit to an Old One

The majority of our actions are rooted in habits, so try forming a new habit by linking it to an existing one. For instance, if you meditate for a few minutes every day, commit to checking your recent transactions or net worth right after that.

Figure Out an Easy Win or Big Win

To make progress on your money situation, you can either focus on an easy win or a big win. An easy win is something that will give you a boost in the beginning, while a big win will help you make greater strides.

For instance, if a money goal for 2019 is to cut back on your expenses, an easy win would be to lower your cell phone bill. You only have to negotiate once and then enjoy a lower bill. A big win would be to cut back on your food expenses. While it requires more work to lower your grocery bills, this can help you net greater savings.

Look for Forgotten Money

This is one of my favorite feel-good money tactics. In-between wading through your debt load and coming up with a plan to bolster your emergency fund, finding forgotten money gives you  a psychological lift.

To start, look in places where you may have forgotten money stashed away, like funds in a savings account you once opened but haven’t used, contributions to a retirement account through a former employer, coins in your “spare change” jar, or even cashback credit card rewards.

The Best Time to Start Is Now

There’s no time like the present to begin improving your money sitch. Using the 10 suggestions here, you can spend just 10 minutes a day taking positive actions. Just remember: No matter how many financial mistakes you made in the past, you can make changes for the better starting right now. What are you waiting for?

 

5 Coupon Websites That Will Save You Money

Who doesn’t want to save a few bucks? Ever consider couponing?

Luckily, the days of clipping and sorting through coupons is over. Nowadays, you can simply search online for insane coupon deals. Plus, coupon sites are easy to use and allow you to keep more of your hard-earned cash so you can meet your savings goals.

Ready to give it a try? To get started, here are 5 of the best coupon sites to help you save money.

1. Ibotta

What is it?

Ibotta is both an app and a website. While it doesn’t provide traditional coupons, it does give you cash back on groceries and other goods.

Ibotta works closely with retail chains to offer cash back on everyday items, like milk, produce, meat, frozen foods and more. Most regional supermarkets accept Ibotta offers, as do many big box-stores, like Best Buy, Target and Walmart.

Here’s how it works: Once you login, you will see a variety of digital coupons and offers. You then click the offers you want. After you go shopping, you simply scan your receipt with your phone so that Ibotta can verify that you bought the products eligible for cash back. Once verified, you will see the cash back hit your account. Once you have earned $20 in cash back, you can then deposit this cash into your bank account.

What kind of online coupons does it have?

When Ibotta first came out, it primarily offered cash back on grocery items and some other goods. Nowadays, Ibotta has expanded to offer cashback on Amazon purchases, electronics, pharmacy items, restaurants, and even travel.

Coupon examples

2. Ebates

What is it?

Ebates is also a cash back site. You simply log into the Ebates website and find offers there. Ebates partners with most major retailers, including Amazon, Nordstrom, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, Ann Taylor, Loft, Gap, and Petco.

Here’s how it works: While you do have to login to the Ebates website at least once, you can install a simple toolbar app that will automatically find cash back offers whenever you visit a participating retail site. If you make a purchase, you will then receive cash back through Ebates. Depending on the purchase, you will receive between one and 40% cash back (based on your total purchase price). Ebates is free to use.

What kind of online coupons does it have?

Once you download the Ebates toolbar, you don’t have to do anything else – the toolbar will automatically notify you of any cashback offers available to you.

Coupon examples

3. RetailMeNot

What is it?

RetailMeNot is one of the original coupon websites and has been around since 2006.

Here’s how it works: You can either use the website or download the app to find coupons prior to making purchases at leading retailers. Whether you shop online or in-person, RetailMeNot has coupons available for download. Once you find a coupon that applies to you, you can either take it to a store or go to the retailer’s website to shop. If you’re a first-time user, you will need to supply your email address in order to use the coupons.

What kind of online coupons does it have?

RetailMeNot offers a wide array of coupons at businesses ranging from Ulta to Hotels.com. No matter what you’re buying online, RetailMeNot makes it easy to do a last-minute search for coupons to see if you can save a little bit of cash.

Coupon examples

4. Honey

What is it?

Honey is one of the newer online coupon sites available. Once you sign up on the site, you can install Honey’s toolbar on your web browser of choice. Then, every time you shop online, the Honey extension will work to find you discounts and cash back offers automatically.

Here’s how it works: Simply download the browser extension. When you go to purchase an item online, you don’t even have to think twice – you can automatically receive a discount, even if you forget to search for coupons.

What kind of online coupons do they have?

Honey boasts a wide variety of coupons, including deals to eBay, Macy’s, Coach, Microsoft, AT&T, and more. Honey is the perfect extension to use when shopping online as it can scan for any coupons before you buy a product.

Coupon examples

5. Coupons.com

What is it?

If you like the idea of traditional coupons, then check out Coupons.com. With this website, you can search and “clip” for coupons for free. Coupons can be used at most major retailers.

Here’s how it works: You can print out coupons from the Coupons.com website or you can apply the coupons to your online orders. You can sort coupons by category, making it easy to find a discount for the specific product you’re looking for.

What kind of online coupons does it have?

Coupons.com is a great resource. Before you pack up to run to the grocery store, be sure to check out the site to see if you can save a few bucks on products you need. Coupons.com can help you save money on pet food, kitchen paper products, canned goods, toiletries, and more.

Since it’s free and easy to use, it never hurts to check for money saving opportunities before you go shopping.

Coupon examples

Couponing made easy

With the rise of online coupons, it has never been easier to save money on your everyday purchases. All you have to do is sign up for a couple of sites, and you’ll be on your way to putting more money back into your pocket.

Who knew saving money could be this easy?

 

6 Steps to Enjoying a Debt-Free Holiday Season

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

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

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

1. Develop a Realistic Spending Plan

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

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

2. Shop Around for Deals

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

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

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

3. Pay for Everything with Cash

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

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

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

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

4. DIY Hidden Costs

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

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

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

5. Earn Extra Money

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

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

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

6. Focus on Experiences

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

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

The Holidays Don’t Have to Be a Debt Sentence

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

 

Make These 3 Money Moves to Protect Your Family in 2019

With a new year comes new goals. A new year is also an ideal time to reevaluate your financial situation. Whether you are looking to pay off debt, increase your savings, or create a new budget, there are plenty of ways to improve your financial situation in 2019.

But here’s an often overlooked financial consideration that you should take into account: insurance. Security is absolutely priceless, and you never know when tragedy can strike. Are you and your family prepared?

As we move toward 2019, take the time to research insurance options to protect you and your family, To get started, here are three essential money moves to position yourself for potential emergencies and life challenges.

1. Get term life insurance

No matter who you are or what your financial situation is, life insurance is important.

According to the Life Happens 2018 Barometer survey, over 35 percent of households would feel financial impact within one month if the primary wage earner passed away. But, according to the same survey, only three in five people have their own life insurance policy or a policy through their job.

And that’s not all. According to the Life Insurance and Market Research Association, it appears that even those who do have life insurance feel insecure with their overall coverage level. Nearly 40 percent of Americans state that they wish their spouse or significant other had more life insurance coverage. In addition, more than half of married millennials would like more life insurance coverage for their spouses or partners, according to the same survey.

Where to start? Think about purchasing term life insurance. This type of insurance is relatively inexpensive for most families. It’s also easy to understand. In a nutshell, term life insurance provides coverage for an agreed-upon period – or term – of time. For example, if you should pass away during your policy period, your insurance company pays out the benefit to your designated beneficiaries. With term life insurance, you choose how long you want your policy to last. Common term lengths are 10, 20, or 30 years. Also important to note: Once the term is over, the policy expires. Yet, for an affordable price, term life insurance provides peace of mind and a financial security blanket for your family.

TIP: Check out Ladder

If you don’t currently have term life insurance, there many ways to purchase it, including through life insurance companies and insurance comparison sites. One option is the term life insurance company Ladder. Ladder makes life insurance easy because you can apply for it directly online without having to deal with insurance brokers. Ladder offers life insurance at affordable rates with a price lock guarantee. And, best of all, it only takes five minutes to apply to get insured!

2. Purchase renters or homeowners insurance

Tragedy can strike home at any time. Are you prepared?

You never know when a pipe could unexpectedly break, or your neighbor sets off the sprinkler system in your apartment building, ruining everything. Be prepared and protect yourself and your loved ones by getting homeowners or renters insurance today.

TIP: Check out Lemonade

For starters, check out Lemonade, a new type of renters and homeowners insurance that prides itself on transparent payment options and quick payment of claims. Renters insurance rates start at just $5 per month, and $25 a month for homeowners insurance. Plus, any money that you pay that doesn’t get funneled into claims will be donated to a charity of your choice. Pretty sweet (no lemonade pun intended!)

Lemonade currently offers renters, condo, and homeowners insurance in New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Arizona, Michigan, Connecticut, and Washington D.C. They offer renters and condo insurance in Texas and Rhode Island, and renters insurance only  in Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Arkansas. Additional states and coverages are rolling out every year.

3. Don’t forget auto insurance

Bad things happen to car owners all of the time – and it can cost you an arm and a leg, even if you are not at fault. Even one small accident, like getting rear-ended, can cost you thousands of dollars if you don’t have the appropriate insurance.

Fortunately, car insurance can put your mind at ease during or after an accident. It can also be expensive. In fact, the average annual cost of car insurance paid in the United States was more than $941 in 2018, according to a study by ValuePenguin. And, depending on where you live, your state could be one of the more costly ones. Louisiana takes the medal for the state with the highest car insurance rate, costing insured residents an average of $152 a month. That’s $1,824 a year – ouch!

TIP: Check out Root

Luckily, insurance companies like Root are on a mission to make car insurance more cost-effective. Instead of just basing your rate on your driving record, Root uses an app to track your driving. Your real-time driving habits then determine your rate. If you are a responsible driver, you’ll receive a better quote. Because of this, you can save as much as 52 percent on car insurance with Root.

Give yourself the gift of security

You certainly can’t put a price-tag on security. You also shouldn’t have to spend a ton of dough to feel financially stable. So, this year, save money and protect yourself and your loved ones by making sure you have insurance.

 

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

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

1. What is my credit score?

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

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

2. What is my net worth?

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

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

3. How much life insurance do I need?

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

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

4. Am I paying myself first?

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

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

5. Do I need to save more for retirement?

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

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

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


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.

 

How to ‘Fall’ into Better Finances This Year

While New Year’s is a popular time to implement big changes that could impact your financial health, it’s never too late — or early — to take steps to improve your life. Fall may be the perfect time to assess your finances, a few months before the holidays hit.

If you’re angling for more wealth in the new year, or fewer money struggles, there are several steps you can take now to ensure you’re in better financial shape for years to come.

Here are six steps to fall into better finances, sooner rather than later.

Hold the pumpkin spice everything — at least for a while

Fall is branded as the time to chug pumpkin spice lattes by the gallon, and the need for new hoodies and boots for the many, many campfires you’ll attend. But, perhaps we would all be better off if we skipped out on miscellaneous purchases and went on a spending freeze instead.

If you skipped buying a $5 coffee each weekday, that’s $25 in weekly savings and at least $100 per month. You don’t have to freeze your spending forever, but taking a fall hiatus from extra purchases can help if you’re falling behind on bills.

Track your spending

In addition to a freeze, you should consider tracking your spending for a while. Break out the last few months of bank statements and credit card bills to see where every dollar went. Then, tally up all your purchases in basic categories like food, entertainment and transportation. This is a great way to see how much you’re spending each month. Trust us, what you find out may surprise you!

Start using a monthly budget

Creating a monthly budget or spending plan is a solid next step. Keep in mind that your budget doesn’t have to be restrictive — you can including anything you want in your plan each month.

While there are budgeting strategies you can try, we love zero-sum budgeting before it forces you to give each dollar you earn “a job.” You can create a simple zero-sum budget with just a pen and paper, so there’s no excuse not to get started.

Build an emergency fund

A recent survey by the Federal Reserve revealed 40 percent of adults would be unable to cover a $400 emergency expense — going without an emergency fundcould get you into financial trouble.

If you want to protect yourself from life’s “what ifs,” you should start by saving up $1,000 as a starter fund — even if you can only save a little bit each payday. From there, strive to build an e-fund big enough to cover 3 to 6 months of expenses.

Boost your retirement contributions

While retirement may seem like forever away, the years may tick by faster than you think. If you want to be prepared, you should save as much as you can as often as you can.

The easiest way to increase retirement contributions is to raise the percentage you contribute to a work-sponsored 401(k). If you’re currently saving 5% of your salary and your employer offers a match up to 3% (for a total of 8%), try to boost your savings up a couple of percentage points.

If you don’t have employer-sponsored retirement, take steps to increase your retirement savings on your own. And, whether you have workplace retirement or not, you can look into opening a traditional or Roth IRA.

Pay down debt

It’s important to look at both sides when you’re trying to build wealth: You need to save and invest, but you also need to limit your liabilities.

Paying down debt is especially important if you have unsecured debt at high interest rates. Considering the average credit card APR is over 17%, you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year by paying down high interest debt.

If you need some immediate help with cumbersome high-interest debt, consider consolidating it with a personal loan with a lower interest rate and better terms. You can also explore the possibility of applying for a balance transfer card that offers 0% APR for up to 21 months. Balance transfer cards sometimes charge upfront balance transfer fees of 3% or 5%, but avoiding interest payments for nearly two years can make these offers deals a no-brainer.

The bottom line

There are dozens of ways to fall into better finances this year, but they all require some work on your part. Think long and hard about what you hope to accomplish this year along with how you might want your financial life to look next year, and the year after that. With a few simple changes and enough time, you could get yourself into better financial shape than you think.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.

 

Find Financial Peace of Mind with these 75 Money Saving Tips

Ready to take charge of your finances for 2019?

Diving into the waters of personal finance can be exciting, but also overwhelming. There are so many money blogs to read and personal finance tips to discover. It can be easy to get lost in the information and hard to find the nuggets of wisdom you really need. That’s why we’ve rounded up 75 money management tips for you to navigate your finances in all areas: from saving to spending, earning and investing, and of course budgeting (it’s not as scary as it sounds).

Read on to get the best personal finance tips:

Ways to Save Money

1. Open up a high-interest savings account.

2. Set up automatic withdrawals from your checking to your saving account after payday.

3. Save at least 10 percent of your income, more if possible. If that’s not possible, save a minimum of one percent.

4. Have a rainy day fund that has one to two month’s worth of expenses saved up.

5. Have a longer-term emergency fund of three to six month’s worth of expenses.

6. Negotiate your Internet, phone and cable bills to lower your costs.

7. Save money by paying premiums annually instead of month to month.

8. Use any windfalls of cash from a tax refund, birthday gift, or work raise to pad your savings account.

9. Batch cook your meals on the weekend so you’re prepared for the week ahead.

10. Always use leftovers after going out to eat.

11. Have food staples like beans, rice, soup and frozen pizza to avoid “food emergencies” after a long day of work.

12. Download Ibotta to save money on groceries and get cash back.

13. Create targeted savings goals for everything you want to save for, including travel, emergencies, pet expenses and home renovations.

14. Consider walking, biking, or taking the bus to save money on transportation.

15. When it’s time to fill up your gas tank, check out GasBuddy first for the best deals.

16. Focus on quality when it comes to new purchases, so you won’t end up replacing that item every few months.

17. Focus on lowering expenses on housing, transportation and food to create bigger wins.

How to Spend Less Money

18. Track every cent you spend for 30 days to get a wake-up call on where your money is actually going.

19. To avoid over-spending on food, don’t go to the grocery store hungry.

20. Always check your receipts for any errors or overcharges.

21. Use personal finance apps that save you money when shopping like EBates or Honey.

22. If you have good credit and are a responsible borrower, get a cash-back credit card.

23. Take out a specific amount of cash for your discretionary spending and stick to that amount each week.

24. Pay off your credit card on time and in full every month.

25. Spend on items and experiences that truly bring value to your life — things that make you happier, make your life easier, etc.

26. Splurge, within reason, on something that you really want.

27. Know your spending triggers, like exhaustion or stress, that encourage you to spend more on things you don’t necessarily need (like retail therapy, eating out, etc.)

28. When making a big purchase, check out several options and compare the prices and packages to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

29. Spend on life insurance now to protect you and your family down the line.

30. Do a spending audit and look for expenses that you can cut completely or somehow lower.

31. Check your insurance premiums and deductibles on home, rental, health and car insurance. Make any changes that can help you avoid overpaying.

32. Understand what all of your insurance really covers and see if there are any gaps that need to be covered.

33. Cut back or eliminate spending on vices like alcohol, cigarettes, or any other substances.

34. Avoid spending traps like the lottery, MLM schemes and more…because you don’t really need flat tummy tea or essential oils.

35. Get receipts for any tax-deductible donations to charities and write them off on your taxes.

36. Avoid impulse purchases by holding off for 48 hours to see if you really want it.

37. Calculate each purchase as hours worked for a different perspective — i.e. that one happy hour will cost me two hours of work.

38. Focus on paying off high-interest debt first to save money on interest (aka the Debt Avalanche method).

39. Review interest rates on all home loans, credit cards, personal loans etc. and know how much it will add to the cost of the loan.

40. Make biweekly student loan payments instead of one monthly payment to save money, as interest accrues daily.

41. When in doubt or distress, talk to your loan servicer or lender and never miss a payment because of hardship.

How to Budget

42. Make sure your income exceeds your expenses.

43. Understand the difference between “wants” and “needs” and budget accordingly.

44. Create a realistic budget based on your current income and expenses. Take into account debt repayment, saving and splurging.

45. Add a miscellaneous category with a $100 buffer for the random and unexpected things that may come up during the month. (Parking ticket anyone?)

46. Track your expenses to stay aligned with your budget, as this is the only way you’ll know if you go over budget or not.

47. Use personal finance apps like Mint or Tiller to help you budget.

48. Have a money date with yourself and/or spouse every week to check in on your finances, track progress on your goals and stay accountable.

49. Check your credit report each year at AnnualCreditReport, as any errors on your credit can affect your interest rates.

50. Read one of the best personal finance books on budgeting, “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan” by Elizabeth Warren to understand the 50-30-20 rule.

51. Practice and start saying “no” to things that don’t align with your values or your budget.

52. Cultivate a sense of gratitude for what you already have to help you curb the desire to have more of the things you don’t have.

53. Check out NextDoor or Craigslist first before buying furniture or other items for your home to save money or get items for free.

54. Switch to a bank account with no hidden fees: no minimums, monthly maintenance fees or overdraft charges (Hint: Chime has all that and more)

How to Make Extra Money

55. Check GlassDoor and Payscale to make sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth for your job in your area.

56. Negotiate a raise at work and use that extra money to fund your financial goals, without any lifestyle inflation.

57. Use direct deposit so your funds come to you faster (Pro tip: Chime has a get paid early function!)

58. Review your tax withholding to see if you’re saving too much and giving Uncle Sam a loan from your hard-earned dough.

59. Create another stream of income with a side hustle that focuses on your expertise or passion, like pet sitting, graphic design, writing, tutoring, etc.

60. Rent out your car, parking spot, garage, spare room and more using AirBnB, PaveMint, GetAround and more.

61. Sell the items in your home that you no longer use; donate the rest.

How to Build Wealth

62. Play the long game and don’t focus on selling stocks with every little change in the market.

63. Understand your risk tolerance based on your current lifestyle and expenses.

64. Have a grasp on investing terms and understand how they work.

65. Know what you’re investing in and have a strategy to get the returns you want.

66. Find a low-cost brokerage with minimal fees.

67. Contribute to a 401(k) and get a match, if eligible.

68. Invest in either a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.

69. Set aside and put money in your retirement vehicles every month through automatic transfer.

70. Invest in yourself by taking a class, getting a certificate, etc.

71. Update your investments as your life changes and your risk tolerance changes, such as having kids, getting divorced, etc.

72. Read personal finance books on investing like “The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham.

73. Take notes from bonafide investor Warren Buffet and invest in low-cost index funds.

74. Protect your financial future and family by creating a will for free using Tomorrow or Fabric.

75. Find the right asset allocation for you to drive your investing strategy.

The Bottom Line on Money Management

Personal finance can be simple but not easy – at the same time. It’s all about implementing a plan and taking action.

If you want to change your financial life in 2019 (or at any time!), just start where you are with what you have. Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. Read personal finance blogs, personal finance books, listen to personal finance podcasts and connect with ideas that ignite your passion for finance. Though it can seem like it’s all about the money, it’s really about affording the life you want and buying your freedom and time.

 

9 Ways to Make the Most out of Payday

There’s no day like payday … to start overhauling your financial life! Said very few people. Ever. But a paycheck is actually a great reminder of all the little money things you should do — or stay on top of — in order to maintain solid financial health.

Here are nine ways to maximize your next payday.

1. Scrutinize your tax withholding

Big changes to the tax code went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018 — and, per a recent report from the U.S. Treasury, there’s a chance your employer isn’t taking enough money (known as “withholding” in tax jargon) out of your checks to pay Uncle Sam. If that’s the case, you could face a big tax bill at the end of the year.

Fortunately, there’s still time to avoid owing way more than you can pay in April. The Internal Revenue Service has a calculator that tells you how much you should withhold from each check, based on the current tax code and information on your paycheck. Head over to its website to see if you need to fill out a new W-4, the form instructing your employer how to much to withhold each pay period. Here are a few other ways to avoid an year-end tax crisis.

2. Tackle high-interest debt

High interest credit card debt, in particular, does big damage to your financial health, so if you’re carrying tons of it, put as much money as you can toward your balance with the highest annual percentate rate ASAP. Be sure to make the minimums on all your other accounts, though. Once you’ve paid that balance, move to the one with the next highest APR. If you’re really floundering, check out our full explainer on getting out of credit card debt faster.

3. Pay yourself first(ish)

That’s code for saving a chunk of the check that just hit your bank account before arranging, say, a big night out. As a general goal, aim to save at least 20% of your paycheck. Keep yourself on task by sending some money straight into savings via auto-deposit.

4. Redraft your budget

If you’re having trouble with tasks two and three, review your budget. You can often “find” some extra dollars by auditing your financial statements for clear money-wasters, like old subscriptions you’re no longer using, or big spending hikes that’ll indicate where you can pare back (All. Those. Rideshares.). Also, consider renegotiating a long-term service contract. Certain providers, like cable, cell phone and utility companies and auto insurers, change prices all the time and you may be paying more now than you were as a new customer. See if you can score a better price by asking for one … or shopping around.

Once you’ve made adjustments, redraft your budget. We’ve got a simple spreadsheet that can help.

5. Up your 401(k) contributions

Payday is a great reminder to save more for retirement. If your employer offers a 401(k), aim to max it out. In 2018, the IRS allows you put up to $18,500 (or $24,500 if you’re 50 years or older) into that account. If that’s a stretch, aim to at least meet your employer’s match. And if that’s a stretch, try increasing your contributions by 1%. It’ll make a difference, thanks to compound interest.

6. Protect your income

As we’ve said before, you can’t bank money if you don’t make money. Disability insurance is designed to protect payday specifically. It covers your income in the event you become too ill or injured to work. Consider applying for a policy, even if you get some disability insurance through work. Those long-term policies are generally pretty slim. We can help you compare and buy disability insurance to get adequate protection.

7. Update your beneficiaries

If you have some life insurance, disability insurance, a 401(k) and other benefits through work, check who will get any money associated with those accounts, should something unfortunate happen. Many people set and forget their employer-sponsored benefits, but your financial situation or lifestyle may have changed since you started your job. Make sure your accounts reflect any of these changes. For instance, if you got married, you might want to make your spouse your beneficiary in lieu of a sibling.

8. Set up an separate emergency savings account

Everyone should aim to have three-to-six months of expenses socked away for a rainy day. One secret for actually getting there? Open an online savings account. These accounts generally tout higher annual percentage yields (APYs) and are more difficult to draw from — meaning you’ll be less inclined to tap that money for non-emergencies.

9. Check your credit

Your credit plays a big role in every aspect of your life — from getting a mortgage to renting an apartment or securing lower insurance premiums. You want to know where you stand and check for signs of fraud throughout the year. You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free every 12 months via AnnualCreditReport.com and checking your credit scores for free more frequently via certain credit card issuers or credit education sites.

Don’t like what you see? There are ways to improve your credit in 30 days or less.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.

 

Budget for Vices: What Percent of Your Income Do You Spend on Vices?

Do you budget for vices? A recent study found that households earning less than $30,000 per year spend 13% of their income on things like lottery tickets, prepared drinks, and restaurants. The same low-income families spend an average of 4x as much on lottery tickets as households bringing in $75,000 or more in annual income. Spending on vices can be fine from time to time, but only if your budget for vices and can make them work with your more important personal finance goals.

How much people spend in financial vices

My first job after college was as a bank branch manager. I remember a few specific cases of people coming in after winding up with hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees, asking for relief. One woman came in, statements in hand, very upset about her overdrafts that happened at the grocery store and gas station. Groceries and gas are two areas that most reasonable budgets include, and I waived a large portion of her fees.

Another customer came in, a middle-aged man, angry about his fees. In addition to rudeness and blaming the bank for his money woes, this particular person spent a lot of money at casinos, liquor stores, and tobacco shops. His overdrafts all took place at casino ATMs and on alcohol purchases. Let’s just say I was a bit less forgiving in this situation.

While it is easy to blame others for financial woes, it is important to first look in the mirror. No one made that man put his ATM card in the machine to withdraw cash at a casino. And his life would probably be better if he drank a little less. But those are life choices. You can spend your money however you want. What’s important is that you budget to spend how you want so you don’t end up in a worse situation for spending on vices.

A September 2018 study from Bankrate found that 38% of Americans dine out at least 3 times per week, 25% buy prepared drinks at least 3 times per week, and 10% buy lottery tickets at least 3 times per week.

Budget for vicesvia Bankrate

Building a budget for vices

The average American spends just under $3,000 per year on luxuries. That is $250 per month. Depending on your income, a $250 per month budget on fun purchases, luxuries, and vices could be just fine. But you certainly don’t want to spend money in these areas if you can’t afford it.

If you have high credit card balances or stress about money on a regular basis, it may be time for a budgeting reality check. You may even find that a budgeting process that includes a budget for vices is easier than you realized. A budget isn’t something that holds you back from spending, it gives you a financial blueprint to make the right spending choices for your needs and long-term goals.

If you have high-cost consumer debt or want to turn around a bad financial situation, the first place to go is your budget. You can absolutely include a budget for vices if it makes sense, but you need to start with the most important things: mortgage/rent, groceries, transportation, and savings. Once those priorities are covered, you can add in lines for additional categories.

When you finish your budget, every dollar that you earn should have a job. Put them to work first for thing things that make your life better and put your budget for vices at the very bottom of the priority list. Keep in mind that the average family needs to save at minimum 10% to 15% of their total income to maintain the same lifestyle in retirement.

The lottery is not a retirement plan

During college, a friend joked that his long-term financial plan was to win the PowerBall. But the odds of bringing home one of those massive jackpots is around 1 in 175 million. You are more likely to become an Academy Award winning movie star, die in a plane crash, get killed by a vending machine, get attacked by a shark, get elected President of the United States, have identical quadruplets, win an Olympic gold medal, get struck by lightning, or get hit by a part of a plane falling from the sky. In other words: probably not happening.

Don’t waste your time “investing” in an unlikely lottery win or other vice. Instead, put those dollars to use in a way that will give you a better long-run result. You’ll be glad you did.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

The Rise of the Holiday Side Hustle

It’s autumn and you know what that means? Time to increase your budget as the holidays get closer. Before you know it Thanksgiving will be here and then, of course, there’s Christmas.

Holidays are not cheap and you may have to start stashing more money into your savings account – starting right now.

While creating a budget for holiday spending will help you build up a cash reserve, there’s yet another key way to generate extra money: Get a side hustle. Indeed, holiday season side hustling is the new “in” thing.

Want to learn more about how a side hustle can help you pay for your holiday expenses and achieve your money goals? Read on to learn more.

How Popular is the Holiday Side Hustle?

Holiday temporary jobs are nothing new. Many families need to increase their income as this time of year approaches. Taking on a part-time weekend or evening job to help out is a common solution. During the fall season, side hustles tend to pick up, especially when it comes to flexible gigs like driving for a ride service, walking dogs or mystery shopping.

In 2017, about 44 million Americans reported that they had a side hustle or second job during the holidays, and that number is increasing every year. In fact, by 2020, about 43% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers.

So, how can a side hustle during the holidays help you? Take a look:

  • You’ll Have More Cash Flow

Eighty-one percent of people who side hustle do so to earn more money and the average monthly income from a side hustle is about $686. While there are many side hustles that can be done around the holidays, including working retail or selling items online, the best side hustle for you is a gig you enjoy that helps you earn extra cash.

  • You’ll Have Financial Security

With nearly four in 10 Americans side hustling, it’s safe to say that secondary sources of income are going to continue growing. In fact, Gen Xers and Millennials are leading the pack with more than seven out of 10 of them side hustling. The reason? A side gig offers financial security, especially around the holidays when expenses start rising.

In recent years, some companies have even resorted to layoffs during the holiday season, sometimes just a few weeks before or after Thanksgiving and Christmas. With the fear and anticipation of not being fully secure in 9-to-5 jobs, Americans are now ramping up their side hustles.

Indeed, by taking on a second gig over the holiday season, this gives you an opportunity to save more money, readily pay for holiday gifts, and not worry about whether you’ll have enough cash to pay your bills on time.

  • You Can Avoid Accumulating Debt

Did you know that the average American will rack up about $1,000 or more during the holidays? In the age of instant gratification and expensive technology, more people are turning to credit cards and personal loans  just to have enough money to buy Christmas presents.

However, if you have a side hustle, you can avoid this debt trap. Budgeting and saving can only do so much, especially when the average household has over $5,000 in credit card debt. So, maybe this is the year you should try out that side hustle you’ve been considering. It sure beats staring at an exorbitant credit card bill come January.

  • You Can Put Your Skills to Use

Regardless of what type of side hustle you choose, try to find something you’re good at.

For example, are you a skilled handyman? Maybe you can pick up some side gigs fixing things for your neighbors or assembling furniture. Or, are you a talented graphic artist? Maybe you can take on some clients on the side and help them redesign their logos or brochures.

By doing something you love, your side hustle will help you in more ways than one: You’ll have renewed job satisfaction and you’ll earn enough dough to buy your holiday gifts without stressing about how you’ll pay for them.

Should you join the hype?

With side hustles offering the freedom and the ability to earn extra cash, it comes as no surprise that they are becoming increasingly common.

Starting a side hustle to earn extra dough is a great idea any time of the year, but especially leading up to the holiday season. Are you ready to do the holiday side hustle and start saving more money today?

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