Tag: Money Saving Tips

 

7 Financial Moves to Make Before Your First Child

Starting a family can be an exciting milestone. Yet, once you have your first child, your life as you know it will certainly change.

Your finances are bound to change as well since you’ll now be spending more money. Research shows that American parents will spend $233,610 on average to raise a child from birth to 17 years old. This figure includes costs ranging from housing and food, to medical expenses and child care.

The key is to focus on preparing financially for your new bundle of joy so that you don’t get in over your head – financially speaking, of course.

Here are 6 key financial moves to make before your first child arrives.

1. Create a New Budget

You may already have a budget in place, but it’s time to update it to accommodate your growing family. Consider how some of your goals and expenses will change once you have your first child. Will you have to consider childcare costs or increase expenses in other areas?

You may even want to cut or reduce some expenses that no longer seem necessary, like eating out several times a week. Be honest about the changes you’ll need to make financially and develop a realistic budget so you can plan your spending once the baby arrives.

2. Have an Income Plan for Maternity Leave

It’s likely that having a baby will affect your household income and either you or your partner may want to take some time off work once the baby is born.

For starters, decide what your circumstances will look like when the baby arrives and how that may affect your income. If you’re expecting an income decrease, you can prepare for it by working extra hours or side hustling to bring in more money before your little one arrives.

Remember: Your new budget will help you determine how much you’ll need, and you can always cut expenses and save up in advance to accommodate the changes.

3. Build Your Emergency Fund

It’s no secret that kids cost quite a bit of money – nearly a quarter of a million dollars to be exact, according to the USDA. That’s why it’s always best to beef up your emergency fund.

For example, you’ll likely be spending more money on planned expenses like food, clothing, diapers, baby gear, and possibly childcare. However, there are a ton of additional expenses that could pop up like unplanned doctor’s visits, travel costs, and extracurricular activities.

If you plan to take maternity leave, factor in extra costs you’ll incur during this time as well, such as medical bills, household expenses, and purchasing baby gear and supplies.

To help you get a jump on this, start saving up money ahead of time. If you are currently saving 10% of your income, for example, perhaps you can double or triple that amount so your emergency fund can grow exponentially. Having at least three to six months of expenses saved is a great starting point.

Final tip: Make it automatic so some money is transferred to savings as soon as you get paid.

4. Start Buying Supplies and Gear Early

Once the baby’s arrival is just a few months away, start buying supplies and gear so you can stock up. You may even want to plan your baby shower a little earlier so you can know what you’ll need to buy before delivery time.

For example, you can budget for larger expenses like a crib and car seat and pick up less costly items like diapers, wipes, and clothes each time you get paid. This way, you’ll spread out your purchases so you don’t have to buy everything at once.

5. Anticipate Medical Costs

Having a baby is costly whether you have health insurance or not. U.S. hospital deliveries cost around $3,500 per stay. When you add in pre-natal and post-delivery care, you could be looking at an overall cost of $8,802, according to Parents.com.

To better prepare, factor in the strong chance that you may have medical bills and will need to add your baby to your insurance coverage (typically within 30 days of birth).

Make sure you know what your health insurance deductibles and copays are for labor and delivery. As the due date nears, you can also start looking for a pediatrician in your insurance network.

6. Increase Your Life Insurance Coverage

When you have a child, you become completely responsible for his or her care.

So, it’s a wise idea to help cover those expenses in the unfortunate event that you are no longer around. To do this, it’s a good idea to consider life insurance, or upgrading your current policy.

There are two types of life insurance: term which is temporarily and whole life which is permanent. Term life insurance is more affordable and you can get quotes online from sites like PolicyGenius and NerdWallet.

“It’s important to start thinking about upgrading your life insurance policy when you’re pregnant and some insurance companies will even let you increase coverage at this stage,” says Sa El, founder of Simply Insurance.

“Aside from increasing your coverage, you can also purchase a life insurance policy for your child. The best thing about purchasing life insurance early is that the rates will be the lowest since age is a huge risk factor.”

El also recommends calculating your insurance needs beforehand.

“Life Happens has a good calculator that you can use to figure out your insurance needs. You will have to consider current expenses like housing and debt, along with future expenses like college costs, in order to determine your insurable need so don’t skip this step,” he says.

7. Minimize Debt

Let’s face it. Being in debt can hold you back. Debt payments eat up your disposable income and can likely cause a new parent to stress out over money.

So, before you have your first child, try to minimize your debt and pay off most (if not all) of your accounts. By getting rid of these liabilities, you’ll free up more money to spend on other areas of your budget. Having less debt will also enable you to save more.

Enjoy Parenting Without All the Financial Stress

Worrying about money is never fun, especially when you’re adding a new baby to your family. This is why it’s important to make these seven key financial moves. This way, you can focus on raising your new baby while you thrive financially.

 

How to Buy Groceries for One Person

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Grocery shopping for one is a struggle.

I should know. Some weeks I’d buy too much food – only to throw away 70% of it at the end of the week. Other weeks I’d make one meal and begrudgingly eat it every single day. Not ideal. Yup, it took me years to master the art of buying food when I was a household of one.

Yet, wasting money on groceries isn’t just a problem that plagues the solo shopper. The average family of four wastes $1,600 per year on uneaten food. And, Americans waste nearly one pound of food per person, per day. That adds up to $165 billion of food that goes uneaten.

While food waste is a problem for a number of reasons, it can be a big problem for your bank account. Ever wonder how much money you could you be saving?

Luckily, we’ve got you covered with some easy ways to shop smarter and avoid food waste.

Get into the planning

You’ve heard this before, for good reason. Meal planning is the key to not buying more than you need.

But meal planning can also be more difficult when you’re planning meals for one. That’s because recipes rarely have a serving size of one. You’ll typically see recipes for family meals serving upwards of four people.

So, when you’re meal planning, opt for food items that you know will freeze well. And, if you you don’t want to be stuck eating the same thing all week, make sure it’s something that you can easily pop into the freezer and enjoy eating later. For ideas, take a look at this list of 33 meals that freeze well.

Another clever idea is to pick two or more recipes that use the same core ingredients. Brianne Bell, a registered dietician and food blogger, suggests doing this to avoid eating the same meal all week. For example, she buys a whole chicken and roasts it. For her first meal, she’ll eat roast chicken. Next, she’ll shred the remaining chicken to use in salads and sandwiches for the rest of the week. Planning meals around the main ingredient of chicken ensures nothing is wasted.

Utilize your freezer

Before you head to the fresh produce section of your grocery store, take a stroll down the frozen food aisle. The produce you’ll find there contains roughly the same level of vitamins and minerals as fresh fruits and veggies, making this a healthy and smart option for the solo shopper. Relying on frozen produce also means you’ll never have to throw away a sad carrot again.

If you do end up with fresh food that you’re not going to eat before it spoils, Bell suggests freezing it before it goes bad. And you know how frustrating it is when you just need a few basil leaves for a recipe but you have to buy a large bunch? Bell advises throwing those in the freezer as well. Just chop them up, put them into an ice cube tray, cover with oil and freeze.

While freezing is a great option for the times when you do end up with more than you need, not everything freezes well. The Kitchn breaks down the foods that don’t freeze well. So, if you’ve stocked up on cucumbers and lettuce, don’t plan on relying on your freezer to help you with the excess.

Shop differently

I used to steer clear of the salad bar in a grocery store, assuming that it’s always going to be the most expensive option. But more often than not I’d get to the end of the week and find a half-eaten bag of spinach that I needed to throw away.

Turns out, the salad bar and bulk food aisle may hold the keys to your shopping for one success, says Mary Weidner co-founder of meal planning app Strongr Fastr. Rather than picking up a bag of spinach when you only need a little, the salad bar and the bulk food aisle may be your best bet.

“Just last week, I bought some spinach, quinoa, spices, dried berries, olives, and sliced nuts- all in the exact quantities I needed for about $3.50. And had no food waste for the week,” says Weidner.

But don’t stop there. If you need some meat, food blogger and recipe writer Jim Mumford suggests that you head to the butcher counter to get the exact amount you need, rather than picking up the family-sized pre-packaged meat.

“Most pre-packaged meat is well over a pound, and not ideal for one or two meals. The butcher at the counter is willing and happy to cut something down, even a roast or a tenderloin,” says Mumford.

If you want to skip the hassle of the store altogether, Bell advises that fruit and vegetable deliveries can be a smart option. Oftentimes, you can get just get what you need delivered straight to your door.

Make it social

Need to buy something that you definitely won’t eat all on your own (like that loaf of bread)? Get a little help from a friend. Figure out the things you both need to buy and split it. As a bonus, you can use this strategy to take advantage of the buy one, get one offers you see in some grocery stores.

If you’re really feeling social — and have a friend with similar food preferences — why not split groceries and cook some main meals together? If you’re making a recipe that serves four, you won’t have to worry about whether it freezes well or whether you’ll be able to handle eating it all week. You’ll each end up with two servings and have some fun while cooking.

Are you ready to solo shop?

Shopping for one can be a little tricky. But, by following these tried-and-true tips, you’ll be on your way to saving money without wasting food. Are you ready to take a new approach to shopping for groceries?

 

How Much Money Can I Actually Save By Not Dining Out?

Between grabbing lunch on the go, dinner dates, and Sunday brunch with the crew, dining out can eat a sizable hole in your budget and make a big dent in your bank account. The typical adult eats out 2.4 times a week, spending $2,443 a year on meals away from home.

Just think: That $200 a month you spend on dining out can be used in many other ways. For example, you could stash it into a savings account to grow your emergency fund. Or, you could save for retirement or pay down your debt, both of which can help you become more financially healthy.

So, does that mean you have to go cold turkey on dining out or the occasional fast food indulgence? Not necessarily. Putting these money-saving strategies to work can help you balance your budgeting goals with your foodie cravings. Read on to learn more.

Check online for coupons and discounts

By far, this may be the easiest way to save money on dining out. Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are a simple way to browse promotions and deals at local restaurants. You can also check out your favorite restaurant’s website or social media pages for coupons and daily or weekly specials.

“Don’t be afraid to use these deals to save,” says Beverly Friedmann, content manager at MyFoodSubscriptions.

“They exist to attract your business and you can really cut down on your total bill,” she says.

Just be sure to read the fine print on a coupon or promotion so you understand how it works. For instance, you might be required to spend $75 to get $15 off your total bill. If you were only planning to spend $35 on dinner to begin with, you wouldn’t come out ahead by taking advantage of the deal.

Another way to save: watch for gift card promotions. Around major holidays, restaurants may offer a $10 gift card when you buy $50 in gift cards or a similar deal. That’s an easy way to pick up some savings.

Skip the add-ons

If you’ve never been a server in a restaurant, you may not be familiar with the concept of upselling.

This is when a server offers you something extra, like a side of shrimp to go with your steak dinner or a special dessert. But if you’re trying to dine out on a budget, think twice before upgrading your meal, says Patricia Russell, certified financial planner and founder of Finance Marvel.

Instead, “fill up on freebies or low-cost options to help stretch your meal,” says Russell.

For example, partake in complimentary bread, crackers or chips and salsa. If you do decide to add something on, stick with a low-cost option such as a side salad. And if you end up with more food than you need, make sure you take it to go to have as a second meal later.

Try mystery shopping

Mystery shopping is essentially a way to get paid to shop or dine out.

“Mystery shopping companies hire shoppers to go to a restaurant, have a meal, write a short report and get paid – plus the cost of the meal is reimbursed,” says Jennifer Hayes, a mystery shopping and money-saving expert at Smarty Pants Finance.

Hayes routinely dines out several times a month as a mystery shopper, at the cost of $0. She says there’s no better way to dine out on a budget.

If you’re looking for mystery shopping opportunities to eat for free (and get paid), check out companies like Best Mark or Market Force.

Check the restaurant’s BYOB policy

“Bring your own beverage” isn’t just for backyard barbecues.

“Most people don’t realize this but many restaurants have corkage policies that allow you to bring your own bottle of wine,” says Scott Washburn, chief growth officer at Winestyr.

But there’s a catch: You may pay a fee for that convenience.

“The fee will generally be $15 to $30 per bottle, but you’ll end up spending significantly less money than if you were to purchase a bottle of wine from the restaurant,” he says.

Washburn’s best tip for going the BYOB route? Check the restaurant’s wine list before you go.

“You’ll want to do some research ahead of time and bring a wine that isn’t on the list, as this (bringing a wine on the menu) is considered to be a bit of a faux pas,” he says.

Stick with water and appetizers in lieu of a meal

Drinking water in place of alcohol or soda is another cost-saving measure Friedmann recommends.

“Even a single soda will usually run you more than three dollars, and if you opt for wine or alcohol, prices are considerably higher than what you’d pay by drinking at home,” she says.

Friedmann says you can save even more by ordering an appetizer in place of an entree. And if you’re dining out with friends, you can each order an appetizer to share.

Just make sure you check the costs and consider portion sizes to make sure it’s enough food. If you order something else after eating the appetizer because you’re still hungry, you may not be saving yourself anything. And if you’re splitting the check with friends, pick a set dollar amount you can all agree on to spend beforehand.

Bonus tip: Plan your dinner out around your favorite restaurant’s happy hour, when you may be able to score appetizers and drinks for half price.

Have a plan for the money you’re saving on dining out

It’s great to save money on dining out every month, but you also need to know what you’re going to do with that savings. Otherwise, those extra dollars you’re saving could leak out somewhere else.

If you’re looking for ideas, some of the best ways to put your savings to work include:

  • Opening a savings account for a specific goal, like planning a summer getaway with friends
  • Starting that side hustle you’ve been thinking about as a way to boost your income
  • Bumping up your monthly student loan payments
  • Opening an individual retirement account to get your nest egg started

The secret sauce to reaching any of these financial goals is consistency. So if you’re saving money on meals out, consider linking up your checking account to your savings account and automate monthly deposits. Or, schedule automatic payments to pay off a debt and watch your balance shrink.

What’s your best tip for saving on dining out?

Hopefully, you have a few tricks up your own sleeve for how to save money on dining out. But if you don’t, these tips can help you cut down on what you spend without totally sacrificing your love of pub food or gourmet desserts. After all, keeping an eye on the bottom line is just as important as keeping an eye on your waistline when dining out.

 

8 Creative Ways to Save Money When You Move

Let’s face it: Moving can be exciting but it can also be a hassle. Sometimes you’re on a strict timeline when you move and other times, you can spend months planning for the big day.

Either way, you’ll likely have to deal with a slew of out-of-pocket costs, including paying for movers, renting a truck, purchasing packing materials, and even paying for hidden expenses like food or tips for the moving crew.

We’re here to tell you that you don’t have to overspend. Here are eight creative ways to save money when you move.

1. Declutter Your Home First

Minimizing what you own can make the move much smoother.

If you’re overwhelmed with packing, it may be because you have a ton of stuff. So, take some time to declutter your home during the weeks leading up to your move.

Instead of just throwing everything in a box, actually go through each section of your home and sort through items to see what you need to keep and what you can get rid of. If you find an item you haven’t seen in a while as you’re cleaning up, you may not need to take it with you unless, of course, it’s valuable to you.

2. Get Boxes From Local Businesses

This is one of my favorite ways to save money on moving. Why pay for boxes when there are so many ways to get them for free?

If a store tries to charge you for empty boxes, move on. There are plenty of grocery stores and restaurants that will give you boxes for free. They receive a ton of inventory each day and once everything is unpacked, the boxes are usually just thrown away or recycled.

Be sure to coordinate with the store to see what time of day you can come by to pick up boxes so they have them ready for you.

3. Sell Items Online First

Once you declutter your home, you may find that you have quite a few items that can be sold to help you pay for your move. While you may not have time to set up a garage sale before you move, you can list some things on Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp.

4. Use What You Have on Hand to Pack Delicate Items

Keep your spending on packing materials to a minimum. Once you have your free boxes, you probably won’t need special protective moving blankets and stretch wrapper.

Instead, wrap dishes in old newspaper. Disassemble large furniture and place the screws and bolts in plastic bags. Use clean trash bags to transport clothing. Wrap your mirrors and glass items in spare blankets. You get the point.

Also, be sure to mark fragile boxes or transport them yourself in your car to ensure everything remains in good shape.

5. Track Your Spending

Preparing for a move can make your life super busy. And, when you’re busy, it’s easy to overspend.

While tracking your spending isn’t the most creative idea, it’s necessary if you want to control your moving costs and stick to a budget.

For starters, track every moving-related purchase you make and figure out how much you’re spending. This can help you determine when you’re nearing your spending limit so you can plan your cash flow more efficiently.

If you use Chime, you can take advantage of daily bank account balance notifications and you’ll receive an alert each time your debit card is used to make a transaction.

6. Avoid Moving on Weekends

Believe it or not, the timing of your move can play a big role in how much you spend on truck rentals, moving companies, and other related purchases. So, try to avoid moving on peak days and during busy times when costs are inflated.

If you have the availability, it’s definitely worth it to schedule your move on a random weekday and just request time off from work. You’ll avoid traffic and unnecessary costs.

7. Incentivize Friends and Family to Help You Move

If you’re moving locally, you can expect to spend around $450 or more. If you’re hiring movers for a relocation, your costs could run you well over $1,000.

Why not save the money and ask friends and family to help you move? Offer to provide drinks and meals in exchange for their help. Or, consider paying them a small fee. You can send money easily and quickly with Chime Bank’s Pay Friends app feature.

8. Plan Meals and Snacks

It’s common to get overwhelmed with the whole moving process and either forget to eat or splurge on a ton of bad takeout food. So, plan out your meals and snacks in advance so you don’t overspend on food when moving.

Brainstorm some easy meals that you can prep and store in your fridge or freezer. Even if you’ve packed up most of your cooking supplies and utensils, you can keep a single pan out and prepare a few one-pan meals in bulk.

Or, consider buying snacks at your local warehouse club just in case you or your movers get hungry throughout the day. And, if you’re going to order food, make sure you compare different options and save up in advance.

Lastly, create a moving budget that includes food, and set up automatic transfers to your savings account to make sure you can comfortably cover all your expenses when moving day arrives.

Plan Your Move Without Overspending

While things may seem hectic when you plan a move, your budget doesn’t have to go out the window.

If you follow these guidelines, you can control your spending, track your transactions, and use some of our other suggestion to save money on your move.

 

6 Summer Staycation Ideas

With summer right around the corner, this can mean only one thing: Time to plan your next vacation!

Unfortunately, vacations cost money and Americans often spend more than they have. In fact, surveys show that nearly three-quarters of Americans have, at some point, gone into debt financing their annual vacation – by spending more than $1,100 on airfare, motels and admission fees.

Maybe it’s time to consider a ‘staycation’ in your own backyard. This way you can still take time off work, have fun and save money. Take a look at six of our top staycation ideas.

1. Go camping in the backyard

Turn that backyard barbecue you were planning into a camping trip under the stars!

Start the afternoon (or evening) by grilling up some grub either on your grill or in a firepit placed on the lawn. Then, borrow or buy a tent and set it up. As the sun sets, sit around the campfire, swap some scary stories, and roast some marshmallows. You can even turn this backyard adventure into an educational experience.

“Take time to identify the insects and plants in the backyard. Late at night, use a telescope to look at the stars to learn more about constellations,” says travel blogger Jenny Smith.

The best part? You can have as many backyard cookout/camping trips as you like during the summer.

2. Rediscover your town

When was the last time you checked out some of the local attractions right in your own town?

Spend your summer staycation doing something different in your downtown, like visiting museums, art galleries or the zoo. You can also check out live concerts, plays in the park, cultural festivals and farmers markets. The possibilities are endless.

Chances are, by becoming a tourist in your own town, you’ll reconnect with an activity you’ve lost touch with, or even discover something new you love.

3. Take a day trip somewhere local

Taking a short drive out of town also counts as a staycation.

Do you live in a coastal state, near a beach? Or somewhere close to a national or state park, hiking trail, historic place or major city? If you live near wine country, what about a tasting tour of some wineries? Living within driving distance of one of these activities — and not having to break your budget on airfare and hotel costs — makes them all the more special.

With that, when taking a weekend getaway, remember that the point of a staycation is to keep costs to a minimum. Apart from budgeting for gas and food, try to save money on admission by looking for discounts and using Groupon deals.

4. Host a movie day/night

With Netflix binge-watching the new norm, more people prefer to stay in and watch movies at home instead of spending money on inflated ticket and concession prices at the movie theater.

So, why not take advantage of this trend and make it part of your staycation?

The first step is setting up your movie theater. Invite some friends over, or your children’s friends, set up bean bags, lawn chairs, and blankets for seating (even exercise balls or milk crates if there’s overflow), and reserve one or two blankets to cover the windows and block out the sun (if it’s a daytime matinee).

The only money you’ll need to spend is on snacks. Make some popcorn, put out some chips and salsa, veggie platters, and some sweets. You’re all set for your home-grown movie night (or afternoon)!

5. Have a spa day

 Your fantasy vacation might involve a glamorous getaway to a spa resort, but don’t worry, you can bring the spa experience right to your home – for an affordable price.

“If you want to enjoy exotic spa services without traveling away from home, then you can contact aestheticians who offer services at private residences,” says Smith.

“Contact your friends to have a spa party at home that includes facials, manicures and massages. Your spa party can last all day with your guests having fun pedicures or other beauty care services in your home rather than at a spa.”

6. Try something new

A staycation is the perfect opportunity to try something new.

Take a BYOB painting or pottery class. Try a cooking course. Join a conversational group to learn a new language. Or take lessons to learn a new entirely new skill, like guitar or archery.

You can also get together with friends for a softball game, or take on a do-it-yourself project. And don’t forget about volunteering. This can offer up a meaningful experience during your staycation.

Saving money with a staycation

A staycation might as well be called a savecation. While an exotic summer vacation may not be in your budget this year, a staycation allows you to have fun while saving money.

To help you get going, start by creating a vacation savings account. Or, use a banking app set up with an automatic savings account to build your balance as you go. This way, as you’re kicking back on your staycation, your money is on the move up.

 

How to Save on Child Care

Raising a child is becoming increasingly expensive, making it difficult for parents who need to work, run errands or enjoy a date night once in a while. Between nanny salaries, day care center fees and other forms of care, annual child care costs are putting severe financial strain on many families.

Two-parent households are paying an average 10.6% of their median income for just one child’s care, according to a 2018 report from Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit advocacy group. For single parents, it’s more dire: care costs consumed between 27% and 91% of their median income, according to the report. That’s way over the benchmark for affordability set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of 7%.

Costs average between $9,000 and $9,600 a year for all types of child care, but many families pay much more, according to the Child Care Aware of America report. If you are looking for ways to save, here are 10 ideas to help you lower the high cost of care for your little ones.

Want to learn more about financially preparing for a baby? Check out our guide.

1. Claim your child & dependent care tax credit

The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit allows you to deduct child care expenses for children under age 13 while you are working or looking for work. You can deduct up to $3,000 for one child or $6,000 for multiple children. You’ll get a percentage of the amount paid back as a tax credit, with the percentage based on your income.

You may be able to deduct the cost of some kids’ activities, like day camp, if they enabled you to go to work, according to the IRS.

2. Contribute to a dependent care FSA

“There’s no question that one of the best tools out there for parents to utilize is dependent care flexible spending plans,” says Robert Greenman, lead advisor at Vista Capital Partners.

Check to see if your job offers a dependent care flexible spending arrangement. You can stock up to $5,000 a year pretax to use for child care expenses. That’s like getting a discount equal to your marginal tax rate.

“[H]aving $5,000 a year to pay for child care pre-tax is better than nothing at all,” says Greenman.

3. Apply for state child care vouchers

Low-income families may be eligible for assistance from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. These funds are distributed through state programs. To qualify, you generally must be a parent or caregiver for a child under 13 and be using child care services to go to work, job training or school.

Look for programs in your state using ChildCare.gov’s online state resource locator.

4. Use military family subsidies

Military families often have particular child care needs, due to deployments and the need to accommodate parents’ service duties. Military bases typically have day care centers that charge according to the family’s total income.

There are also a variety of federal child care subsidies for each branch of military service and the Department of Defence. For example, the Army provides income-based subsidies to cover the difference in cost between civilian child care and on-base care, when on-base care isn’t available. Find information specific to your branch of service at Child Care Aware of America.

5. Consider a nanny share

Nannies are the most expensive form of child care, costing an average of $580 a week or more than $30,000 a year, according to Care.com.

But there are ways to get a better deal. One solution is a nanny-share, when two or more families pool their kids together and chip in for a single nanny to watch them all.

“It’s simple and extremely cost effective,” says Randy Bruns, senior financial planner at Model Wealth.

Bruns said he knows a family that cut their costs by 25% by teaming up with a neighboring family with a baby of about the same age. They share a nanny for around $18 an hour, while the usual rate was $12 for a single child, he said. This type of situation can be a win-win if you find a compatible family.

6. Host an au pair

If you want live-in child care, consider the advantages of hosting an au pair — particularly for families with several kids. An au pair is a young person from another country who comes to the U.S. through a government-regulated cultural exchange program, to live with a family and care for their children.

Average fees for au pairs run $390 a week, according to Care.com, about 30% less than for the average for nannies. In addition, an au pair can expand the horizons of the whole family in intangible ways, exposing children to foreign language and culture. You can be matched with an au pair through an agency that vets applicants and provides child care training.

Curious about which states are the best for raising a family? Check out our Family Friendly Index.

7. Get a jump-start on day care

Day care costs an average of $211 per week for one infant about $10,000 a year, according to Care.com, though prices range widely. Chances are the good, affordable day cares in your area will fill up quickly.

To get a spot in a desirable day care, particularly in big cities where demand is high, start researching and signing up for waitlists before your baby is even born.

In competitive markets, like Seattle and Washington, D.C., parents have reported paying “wait-list fees” of $50 to $100. With thousands of dollars at stake, it might be worth it to save your place in line for an affordable day care as early as possible.

8. Consider church-based day cares

A local church might run a top-notch day care that is considerably less expensive than commercial options. Some churches have reported surging demand for their well-established nursery schools and preschool programs, with even non-religious parents signing up.

Secular families may find a church-based day care to be a feasible option, especially in the case of a program that has been well-respected in the community for decades.

9. Research in-home day cares

Some children and parents really enjoy the cozy setting of home-based day cares, which are often smaller and less expensive than day care centers. Family care centers charge an average of $195 a week to look after your child in the professional care provider’s home. That’s about 8% less than for day care centers, but your savings could be even greater.

Before you visit a provider, you can look up the licensing requirements for home care in your state at ChildCare.gov, so you’ll have a better idea what questions to ask. Recommendations from other parents who have used the service can be valuable in helping you make your decision.

10. Start or join a babysitting co-op

Babysitters charge a national average of $16 an hour, according to Care.com. Going out for dinner and a show could easily mean $80 spent on child care. If your friends are experiencing similar pains, consider organizing an informal babysitting co-op. Get a group of willing parents together, large or small, and set up some ground rules.

It could be that all the kids gather in one family’s house each Friday night on a rotating schedule, while the other parents get a night off. Or each time you babysit for four hours you receive a credit for four hours of babysitting at a later date. Choose your co-op partners wisely and communicate with them clearly, so each member gets to enjoy some free babysitting.

No matter how you manage child care, you need to stay on top of your finances. The easiest way is with a budget — we’ve got an downloadable one for parents here.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.

 

How to Save Money on a Nurse’s Salary

Nurses perform a valuable service in hospitals, doctor’s offices, schools and other places where on-site medical care is needed.

Being a nurse often means long hours in a high stress job. In return, registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $71,730, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That sounds good, right? After all, it’s more than the median household income of $61,372.

But, there’s more to the story. Namely, 76% of nurses owe undergraduate student loans, while 69% owe graduate school loans. Among nurses who attended graduate school and used loans to finance their education, the majority owe between $40,000 and $54,999.

When you couple this student debt with other bills that go along with a nurse’s daily life, saving money can be a struggle.

So, in honor of National Nurses Day, we’ve put together a how-to guide to saving more money on a nurse’s salary. Take a look.

Set up direct deposit into a savings account

Your employer might offer direct deposit for your paycheck, which is great for convenience. But if you’re dumping all your money into your checking account, consider funneling some of that into a separate savings account each payday.

“Savings accounts are good for nurses because unexpected expenses can really obstruct financial plans,” says Sandy Griffin, a licensed practical nurse and quality assurance coordinator at Hospice of South Louisiana.

“Money set aside in a savings account can cover these expenses, plus provide for your future,” she says.

Griffin says saving money in a retirement account through your job is also a no-brainer. At the very least, you should be contributing enough to get the company match. Otherwise, you could miss out on free money. That’s a mistake 25% of workers make.

Pro tip: Setting up direct deposit into your savings account can keep you on track so you don’t spend the money right away. To determine how much to save, go over your monthly expenses to see if there’s anything you can trim down. Also, pick a set percentage or dollar amount you’d like to save regularly. It doesn’t have to be much to start. The key is to commit to saving consistently.

Be savvy about shopping for nursing supplies

As a nurse, there are certain things you need. Scrubs and quality footwear, for instance, can be big out of pocket costs if your employer doesn’t offer any reimbursement.

Griffin offers some tips for saving money on these items:

  • Comparison shop to find the best prices
  • Wait for sales to buy
  • Buy in bulk as much as possible

You can also look for coupons and promo codes online through sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com. Using a cash rewards credit card to pay for uniforms can also save you money. The trick is to pay your balance in full to avoid interest charges.

Ben Huber, BSN, RN and co-founder of finance blog DollarSprout, says you should plan for these costs and save throughout the year.

“Employers generally won’t provide a subsidy or stipend for uniforms or other healthcare-related clothing,” Huber says.

Pro tip: If you’re going through a pair of scrubs and/or shoes every few months, “it may be wise to consider stashing away a few hundred dollars each year in a fund specifically for uniform replacement.”

Meal plan on the job (and off)

When you’re working crazy hours as a nurse, fitting in regular meal breaks isn’t always easy. Huber says it’s tempting to hit the vending machines when you get a craving, especially if you work in a high-stress environment. He has a simple solution for curbing impulse eating while you’re at work.

“Sit down for meals prior to coming on shift and pre-pack the meals you plan to eat,” Huber says.

Pro tip: You can save more money by planning out meals and snacks for the week or the month. Base your meals around what’s on sale each week at the grocery store. Shop with a list and stick to it. And consider using money-saving apps like Ibotta to earn cash back on your supermarket trips.

Consider whether grad school is worth the investment

Getting an advanced degree can mean landing a job with a higher salary, which can help you save more money. The downside is that it can mean more student loans, so you need to weigh the financial pros and cons first.

“If you’re a nurse considering an advanced degree, think about the specific ways higher education will actually pad your pockets,” Huber says.

“Aimlessly pursuing a BSN, MSN or other advanced nursing degree is the recipe for a lot of debt without the potential payday down the road to justify the expense.”

Before you make a decision on grad school, spend time researching median nursing salaries in your state. Then, consider how you’ll pay for a degree.

Pro tip: Ask if your employer offers tuition reimbursement or student loan forgiveness as this can really help.

Start a side hustle to save more money

A side hustle can boost your income, giving you more money to save. And it’s an alternative to piling up more student loan debt if you’re considering going back to school to earn an advanced nursing degree.

“Starting a business takes less discipline than nursing school,” says David Sanchez, a registered nurse who runs two side businesses. But, he says, running a side gig requires more passion, personal sacrifice and willingness to take risks.

If you’re thinking about launching a side hustle to supplement your nursing salary, first ask yourself how much time you can put into it. You may only be able to dedicate a few hours a week if you’re working long rotations.

Then, brainstorm ideas for things you can do in your spare time to make extra money. For example, if you’re a good writer you can try freelancing for medical blogs or websites. Or you might want to do something that’s not nursing-related, like dog-sitting or selling on Etsy.

Pro tip: Pick something you can make time for, something you’ll enjoy and something that will help you earn more money.

You can indeed save money on a nurse’s salary

If you’re a nurse, finding ways to save money can be challenging but it’s not impossible.

These tips can give you a good starting place to help you increase your savings. Are you ready to give saving more money a try?

 

How much should you save for your vacation?

What’s your dream vacation?

Maybe it’s sitting on the beach sipping mai tais and watching the sun go down. Or maybe you’re a bit more adventurous and would prefer renting a van and driving around Iceland’s Ring Road.

No matter what your vacation preferences, one thing is likely the same: Your trip will cost you a pretty penny. Luckily, that’s what savings accounts are for. But how much should you save up for a vacation? And what’s the best way to save?

To answer these questions, we’ll show you how to create your own DIY savings plan so that no matter where your wanderlust takes you, you’ll have enough money in your bank account to get you there and back.

Step 1: Create a Target Savings Goal

Guessing and pulling a random number out of thin air is an easy way you can come up with a target savings goal. But it’s also one that’s likely to leave you disappointed, since you might run out of cash before your vacation ends. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a gorgeous exotic location but having no money to do anything.

Instead, try this approach:

Tally Up Your Vacation Costs

This will require a bit of research on your part (but honestly, isn’t scoping out all of the opportunities part of the fun?)

In particular, take some time to tally up the total cost of the following things for the duration of your vacation:

  • Round-trip airfare
  • Hotel
  • Food
  • Souvenirs
  • Trips, tours, and admission prices

Step 2: Create a Working Savings Plan

Now that you’ve got a target in mind, great. Now, what do you do? Create a savings plan, of course.

Here’s how to do it:

Tally up the number of months between now and when you’ll be leaving for your vacation. Then, divide your target savings goal by that number of months.

This leaves you with the exact amount of money you need to save each month between now and when you leave.

Curious to see how this works? Let’s look at an example.

Example: Next Year’s Trip to New Zealand

Let’s say you want to go on a two-week tour of New Zealand next year. You do some research and come up with the following numbers:

  • Airfare: $1,100
  • Hotel: $150 (per day)
  • Food: $50 (per day)
  • Souvenirs: $200
  • Trips, tours, and admissions: $100 (per day)

The total cost of this trip is $5,500. If you want to go on this trip in 12 months, you’ll need to save up $458.33 per month to have enough cash for the trip.

Step 3: Re-evaluate Your Plan

So far, we’ve just created a working plan. Chances are, you’re probably shocked by how much you need to save — that’s normal, don’t worry!

There are a few things you can do to revise the plan so it fits your finances:

  • Adjust your monthly budget: Look for expenses you can easily cut out, such as dining out, subscription boxes, etc. This will free up more money each month so that you can divert it to your vacation fund instead.
  • Start side hustling: Side hustling is the easiest way to boost your income. Each extra dollar that comes in is a dollar closer to your travel goals.
  • Change your travel plans: Look over your travel plans. Is there any way you can lower your expenses by perhaps staying at cheaper hotels or eating out less? This will reduce the cost of your vacation as a whole. Alternatively, you could push your vacation further out into the future, so that you have to save less each month.

Example: Final Plan for Next Year’s Trip to New Zealand

Maybe you decide there’s no way in heck you can afford to save $458.33 per month. No worries — you can still go!

After looking at the three options listed above, you can make the following changes:

  • Cut your $25/month box subscription and cut $150/month from your dining out budget. This frees up $175 per month to go towards your New Zealand trip.
  • Start a side hustle and earn an extra $200 per month.
  • Opt for staying in backpackers’ hostels instead, for $50 per night. This frees up $1,400 from your target savings goal.

With these changes, you now only need to save $4,100, or $341.67 per month. You’ve also freed up $175 per month from your budget, and are earning an extra $200 per month for a net amount of $375 extra per month. Now, you’re able to save up enough for your trip!

Step 4: Put Your Savings on Autopilot

Now that you know how much your vacation will cost and how much to save each month, it’s time to put that plan into action.

Sure, you can try to remember to set aside money each month into your savings account. But, we promise you that something will get in the way and you’ll likely forget (just like that time you put your car keys in the fridge and couldn’t find them later).

Instead, put your savings on autopilot. You can use Chime Bank’s automatic savings feature to do this for you. In this case, you can set up your bank account to withdraw the money after each paycheck.

All you have to do is count up the number of paychecks between now and when you leave on your trip, divide your target savings goal by that number, and voila! You can set up your account to withdraw that amount from each paycheck so that it’s entirely on autopilot.

Are you ready to travel?

If you follow this four-step guide, all you’ll have to worry about is remembering your camera and deciding which fun activities you’ll do once you’re on your vacation.

Bon voyage!

 

How to Plan a Getaway With Friends That Works for Everyone’s Budget

Summer is right around the corner. This means vacation may be on your mind.

For many, a vacation entails traveling with a group, perhaps family or friends. As you may already know, group travel can be tricky, especially when people have their own  preferences and budgets. At the same time, a successful group vacation can be filled with fun memories and experiences.

If you’re ready to plan a getaway with friends, here are five tips to help you save money, create a budget for everyone, and make your summer vacation a positive experience.

1. Consider Your Travel and Destination Options

The first step when planning a group trip involves choosing where you want to go and how you’ll get there.

So, include everyone in a brainstorming session to gather opinions and vote on a destination. Consider factors like the cost of accommodations in the area and the types of tourist attractions you’d all like to visit. You’ll also want to consider how you’ll get there. Will you fly, take a train or bus, or perhaps drive?

2. Create a Budget that Works for Everyone

Once you’ve narrowed down where you’ll go and how you’ll get there, start to develop a budget that works for everyone.

Decide which expenses will need to be split among the group, along with how much you can individually afford to pay. For example, if you plan to drive, you may want to include an estimate of how much the fuel will cost, along with the price of a rental car.

If you’re flying, everyone can cover the price of their own plane ticket, but maybe you can search for airline deals so the airfare doesn’t exceed a certain amount.

Don’t forget to include budget categories for meals and lodging. Also, take into account hidden expenses like transportation during the trip and foreign transaction fees. What’s that? If you’re going to a different country, you may be hit with foreign transaction fees when you use your debit or credit card to make purchases.

Pro tip: You can avoid foreign transaction fees with a Chime bank account. Chime doesn’t charge any fees. This means you’ll have more vacay spending money.

3. Start Saving in Advance

Once you have a good idea of how much the trip will cost, you can start saving up for it. Figure out how far away your trip is and then break up the amount you need so you can make bi-weekly or monthly transfers to a specific savings account.

For example, if you’re taking a group trip in four months and need $1,500, you can plan to save $400 a month or $200 each paycheck if you get paid bi-weekly. You can even automate your savings so that the money is out of sight, out of mind. When it comes time for your vacation, the money will be ready and waiting for you.

Keep in mind that unexpected costs can come up during your trip, so it may be wise to save a little extra if you can.

4. Look for Fun and Affordable Things to Do

You don’t have to plan your group trip out by the hour, but it can be helpful to gather a list of activities and attractions to enjoy while you’re away.

You can also check to see if there are any deals available for specific activities. For instance, maybe you can catch a free museum or discounted boat ride on a certain day of the week. Or, perhaps a local restaurant has good ratings and provides bigger portions for less money. Some cities even have tourist packages where you can bundle a few popular activities together for one price.

Make sure you let everyone know about these options ahead of time so no one feels stretched financially during the trip.

5. Split Costs and Responsibilities

The great thing about traveling with a group is that you can split costs and responsibilities. Definitely take advantage of this when planning your group getaway.

For example, you can split Uber rides through the app, split up the cost of groceries, and use group discounts or Groupons for activities and outings. Depending on the size of your group, you may be able to spend less by renting a villa for the week instead of separate hotel rooms. You can also transfer money to pay each other easily with the Pay Friends payment app feature connected to your Chime Spending Account.

For supplies, be sure to ask around to see if anyone in the group has the item before you purchase it. For example, someone can bring a cooler if you’re planning a road trip or camping getaway, whereas you can all bring some snacks to share.

Stretch Your Dollar While Enjoying a Group Getaway

Budgeting for travel doesn’t mean you have to penny-pinch or forego having memorable experiences with your besties.

It all comes down to researching your trip ahead of time and working together to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the costs. From there, you can start saving early, take advantage of group deals, and split costs. Are you ready to plan your summer vacation?

 

Family Vacations on a Budget

Everyone loves to get away from time to time.

But here’s the problem: Vacations can be expensive, especially for a family on a budget. To drive this home, it’s estimated that 212 vacation days are forfeited annually in America, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Do you want to let your vacation days go unused this year? I bet not. And, believe it or not, it’s possible to save money and create a family budget that will allow you to take that much-needed vacation.

To help you plan your family trip on a budget, we’ve put together a list of six fabulous places to go that won’t bust your bank account. Some of these U.S. destinations may surprise you. Take a look:

1. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis is one of my favorite American cities. It’s pro-green with a bit of a hipster vibe and wonderful art. It also boasts The Mall of America, the world’s largest mall. This is ideal for the kiddos, especially if it’s pouring rain.

Besides every store imaginable, the mall has an aquarium and an amusement park. Yet, if you don’t want to pay for these attractions, you can spend days simply window shopping or going back-to-school shopping.

Minneapolis also has plenty of other free things to do, like the Weisman Art Museum, Basilica of Saint Mary Tours, Como Zoo, and Minnehaha Park.

2. Washington, D.C.

If you think Minneapolis has lots of free activities, you’re in for a real treat if you go to Washington, D.C.!

It’s almost hard to find activities that you have to pay for as most attractions are free for U.S. citizens. Smithsonian museums (yes, plural)? Free. U.S Capitol tours? Free. White House tours? Free. National Mall? Free.

Just be sure to request tickets for certain things like the Capitol and White House well ahead of time – you do need tickets in advance for security reasons.

Most of the attractions in the nation’s capitol are clumped together, but if you need to travel around the city, you can hop on the train. And, there are plenty of affordable places to stay in D.C., including The Arc Hotel. Another option is to stay in a nearby city, like Alexandria, Virginia.

3. Daytona Beach, Florida

There’s just something about a beach vacation that unravels a world of stress. Daytona Beach is a perfect place to let the worries of the world melt away.

A great and affordable place to stay is the Holiday Inn Resort. Kids under 12 eat free at the restaurant, which will save you tons of money on dining. Plus, it’s right on the ocean, but also has a pool onsite if you want to avoid all that sand.

Daytona Beach itself is 23 miles long and offers many different activities. Aside from the beach, other attractions in Daytona include the Ponce Inlet where Florida’s tallest lighthouse stands and the Daytona Boardwalk and Pier.

4. Lake Tahoe, California

This time we’re headed over to the West Coast.

Lake Tahoe is the perfect place for a family vacation. The beauty alone is worth the trip (and free). The beaches, such as Kings Beach State Recreation Area, are generally free to access or in some cases, there is a small fee. The must-do activity in Tahoe is Emerald Bay State Park, which is free to access, although you can pay for add-on tours.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, The 7 Seas Inn has free WiFi, breakfast, and parking. You can even bring your pet if you’d like. It also offers a free private beach. Another budget friendly option is the Tahoe Resort Hotel. This hotel has a “deals” tab on the website so that  you can check out promo rates. If you take advantage of the midweek savings deal, you can save 15%!

5. Yellowstone, Wyoming

Yellowstone is massive and you can spend plenty of time just exploring the national park itself. It’s actually in three states, though the majority is located in Wyoming.

Yellowstone, the first national park in the United States, is free to enter and explore on your own – just make sure to visit the eruption of Old Faithful. You can also fish, bicycle, and discover Yellowstone via water. The park even features special activities for kids!

While there are plenty of hotels options near Yellowstone, the most popular and cost-effective way to lodge is by camping!

6. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Rounding out our list of family vacations on a budget is Wisconsin Dells, also known as the Waterpark Capital of the World.

The Dells offer both indoor and outdoor water parks so you can enjoy them any time of the year. There are several waterpark resorts to stay at as well, including Great Wolf Lodge. Free kids’ activities at Great Wolf include character appearances, a pajama party, and morning activities before the water park opens. Other resorts, such as Kalahari Resort, also include an array of free and low-cost family activities.

Research is Key

Something to remember when searching for a budget-friendly family vacation: Always do your research. Make sure you compare your options to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Familiarize yourself with the cheapest time of the year to travel so that you can maximize your savings, and be on a lookout for sales or Groupons for hotels and activities at your destination.

Are you ready to start planning a family vacation on a budget? Summer fun is waiting!

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