Tag: Pop Culture

 

Halloween Costumes From Your Favorite Books

Do store-bought Halloween costume prices send you screaming in fear? If so, the DIY route might be for you.

By now you may be thinking: How can you scare up a unique and affordable costume? Luckily, we’ve got a bright idea for you: Dress up as your favorite literary figure. This will make you look smart and boost your savings – double win!

Here are 14 affordable, literary-inspired costume ideas, broken down by categories. Book lovers everywhere can now rejoice!

Well-Loved Children’s Books

An excellent children’s book never goes out of style. These kid-lit faves make perfect costume choices:

1. The mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff.

This one is easy as the main thing you need to imitate the lovable mouse from Numeroff’s series is a pair of overalls. You can then make mouse ears by gluing grey paper or felt semi-circles to a headband. If you have long hair you can also put your hair into two top buns for ears. Then, make a giant cookie with construction paper or carry around a bag of cookies.

You can also make it a family affair by dressing up as characters from the author’s other books. For example, you can dress as a pig and take along a box of pancake mix, or dress up as a dog carrying donuts.

2. Camilla Cream from A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon.

Camilla Cream is plagued with rainbow stripes after trying too hard to fit in with her peers. To create your own Camilla Cream, you’ll need to cover your face, neck, and arms with different colored paint stripes (make sure you get body paint!) From there, wear a black dress or shirt to make your rainbow skin pop.

3. Amelia Bedelia from Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish.

If you don’t have a maid’s costume hanging around, a black dress and rectangle-shaped piece of white lace will do. Adorn a black hat with faux daisies and then seal the deal by carrying around a fake chicken or a string of green beans.

4. Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.

For this easy costume, all you need to do is draw a creative scene with purple marker on a white shirt. Then, walk around holding the purple crayon. Nailed it!

5. Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole.

Ah, Ms. Frizzle: The science teacher we all wish we had! To transform into Ms. Frizzle, all you need to do is tease your hair or wear a big, bright orange wig. Then, pick a science theme and tape pictures relating to that theme to a dress and leggings.

YA Favorites

Young adult books may be promoted as a teenage category, but let’s be honest. You probably geek out on the following characters more than your younger cousins. Take a look:

6. Harry Potter from the namesake Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

Did you really think we could put this list together and leave off Harry Potter? The classic circle glasses, lightning scar, and stick wand can all be yours for an affordable price. You can even use a black graduation robe (check the thrift store or borrow one from a recent grad). Voila! You’re Harry Potter!

7. Count Olaf and others from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.

You can expect more love for your Lemony Snicket-inspired costumes this year thanks to the Netflix mini-series. There are so many interesting characters to choose from. For example, slap on a mustache and wrap a stuffed snake around your shoulders to become Uncle Monty.

Of course, Count Olaf provides enough costume ideas himself. For bonus points, don’t forget to sing out: “I’m handsome and I’m talented and love your bank account.”

8. Characters from The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.

Yes, you can become Katniss by rocking a bow and arrow as well as a dress that looks like fire. However, dressing up as Effie Trinket is where the real fun is at. From her ever-changing wigs and outlandish outfits, there are many looks to choose from. May the odds be ever in your favor.

9. Become an Ugly from The Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.

For this costume idea, focus your efforts on your makeup with a flash tattoo from the Uglies trilogy. Tally Youngblood’s tattoo may be the most fun to replicate. She has Celtic swirls above her eye.

Adult Books

Love to read? Take a look at a few of our favorite literary costume ideas – inspired by popular adult books.

10. Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

Can you be any cooler than Lisbeth Salander? Luckily you can become her by coloring your hair black (if it’s not already black naturally) and slicking it back. Then, dress in black skinnies and a black jacket, and don’t go light on the fake tattoos, piercings, and metal jewelry.

11. Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Can’t choose between awesome period clothing and zombie makeup? You can have both if you dress as the undead Jane Bennet. Splatter red paint over a white regent-style dress, pin up your hair, and paint on your zombie face. You’re good to go!

12. Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is another classic series with so much costume inspiration to draw from. Frodo Baggins may be the easiest and cheapest to pull off. You’ll need a brown cape, a ring on a chain, and furry feet. For the cape, you can tie brown cloth or a brown towel over your shoulders. For furry feet, glue sections of a wig to flip-flops.

13. Fifty Shades of Grey from the namesake book Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.

This costume is always good for a laugh. All you have to do is dress in grey tones and attach grey paint swatches to your outfit. Handcuffs are optional.

14. The old man from The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

For this literary-inspired costume, you can take a trip into your dad or grandfather’s closet for some fashion choices. Add a white wig, facial hair and cane. You are now a literary genius. You’re welcome.

Be Inspired by Your Favorite Books

If none of these ideas suit your fancy, then be inspired by your favorite book. Look for ways to dress up as the title character. Or, if the book’s main characters have been overdone, try going for another character. Whatever you do, have fun with it. And, remember: By being a little creative, you’ll save a lot of money. What’s not to like about that? Happy Halloween!

 

Is an iPhone Worth Going into Debt?

An iPhone is a common purchase for people all over the world. Around 223 million Americans have a smartphone, and 43% (around 96 million) have an iPhone, according to Statista. The fall 2018 iPhone lineup includes a flagship iPhone XS Max with a top $1,449 price tag. That is a ton of money for a phone! But a recent study found that a large percentage of Americans would happily go into debt for a new iPhone. Do you think an iPhone is worth going into debt for? Let’s take a look at the hard numbers to decide.

The cost of an annual new iPhone

Apple fanatics line up every time a new iPhone comes out to get the latest and greatest from their favorite phone manufacturer. Many consumers are excited about the new iPhone XR with a $749 price tag, giving it a better price point for the average consumer. If you were to buy one of these every fall for ten years, you would pay $7,490 for phones in a decade.

If you were to invest that $749 every year at a 5% rate of return, you would have about $10,000 at the end of ten years. The full opportunity cost of a new iPhone is a lot bigger than the price tag. That is why it is important to keep in mind that a phone can last more than 12 months. Your phone should last at least two years. I’m getting ready to upgrade my 35-month-old Android phone (which cost a lot less than an iPhone) when it turns 3 next month. (My phone is the same age as my oldest child!)

Who would go into debt for a phone?

Just to be clear for iPeople out there: both in the US and worldwide, Android phones are more popular and generally more affordable. You don’t have to buy a $1,000 phone. You certainly should not buy an expensive phone on a credit card. If buying a new phone would put you into debt (or greater debt), you have more important things to spend your money on.

In its 2018 Credit Score survey, WalletHub asked a lot of questions about phones. For someone who lives a relatively thrifty lifestyle, I was shocked to see how many people think it is worthwhile to go into a debt for an iPhone. Nearly 28 million people say an iPhone is worth going into debt. 5x more millennials felt this way than Baby Boomers.

Even more shocking, 19% would rather have an unlimited data phone plan than an excellent credit score and 44% of millennials think their phone has a bigger impact on their life than their credit score. It looks like millennials have a lot to learn about credit and money!

Good credit and well-managed finances make a smartphone more affordable. But in no way is one particular model of phone a need. Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses, friends, or Kardashians. Just focus on costs, features, and needs. That should lead you to make the right financial decision when it comes time to replace your mini pocket computer that also makes phone calls.

Make smart money choices with an iPhone and beyond

Whether you are in the market for a new smartphone or something else, let your budget be your guide. Your personal finances are too important to let any one purchase or want, particularly a luxury or a vice, dictate how you spend.

On the flip side, many people can afford an iPhone within their means without worry. If that sounds like you, and you would rather have an iPhone, you can certainly buy one. Just don’t put this type of purchase on a credit card unless you can pay it off in full before your next statement is due. If you put a $1,000 purchase on a credit card with 20% interest and pay $50 per month toward the debt, you’ll pay $226 in interest, about 25% of the cost of the phone, in interest expense.

The moral of the story: focus on your budget and long-term goals first. Phones are not as important as your financial well being.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

Hygge Hacks for Healthy Finances

Have you ever heard of hygge?

The concept of hygge has been around for centuries, but it has recently resurfaced as a popular lifestyle trend. In fact, the word hygge was on the short-list for Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2016.

So, what does hygge mean? While it can’t be directly translated into English, this well-known word in Denmark loosely means “coziness.” It’s the practice of slowing down and prioritizing time spent with the ones you care about and doing more of the things you love the most. Incorporating hygge into your life can help you find more joy, but it can also improve your finances.

Read on to learn more about how practicing hygge can help you can spend less, save more, and prioritize your financial future.

Does hygge lead to happiness?

Hygge is a Danish concept (pronounced hoo-ga). According to Visit Denmark’s website, hygge is described as “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.” Visit Denmark goes on to say: “The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Cozying up with a loved one for a movie – that’s hygge, too. And there’s nothing more hygge than sitting around with friends and family, discussing the big and small things in life. Perhaps hygge explains why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world.”

And they must be onto something. Denmark has been named one of the happiest countries in the world for the last four years, according to studies done by the World Happiness report.

So, it certainly doesn’t hurt to incorporate some hygge into your daily life.

What does hygge have to do with your finances?

The concept of hygge means trying to find joy in the little things in life – and usually those things are cheap or even free.

You don’t need a fancy lifestyle in order to be happy. You don’t need an enormous house, expensive cars, or luxury vacations to find joy or peace. You can find hygge by slowing down, taking in the moment, and spending more time doing the things you truly love.

How to embrace the concept of hygge this year

There are dozens of ways you can incorporate hygge into your life – for free. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Stay in instead of going out

You can have just as much fun spending an evening at home as you can going out to a fancy and expensive restaurant. So, try having a hygge-ful evening by lighting the fireplace, baking some cookies and reading a book.

By staying in, you won’t just sneak in your fill of hygge, but you could save a good chunk of change simply by not going out on the town.

  • Give hygge-related gifts

Gifts can not only be expensive, but can often be forgotten after a year or two. Maybe it’s time for you to give the folks you care about the gift of hygge.

Gifts like candles, cozy socks, books, and gourmet coffee make great gifts and these presents also give the gift of well, presence. These gifts won’t break your budget and your loved ones will also get the chance to incorporate hygge into their lives.

  • Enjoy a home-cooked meal

What could be more hygge than a home-cooked meal? By cooking at home more often, you’ll get to regularly enjoy the benefits of hygge.

Not only can you eat dinner in your favorite and most comfortable clothing, but you can create a warm and inviting ambiance by lighting candles and dimming the lights. As if this isn’t enough, you’ll save a boatload of cash.

So, instead of going out, invite your friends and family over for a home-cooked meal. Or, lower the cost and increase the hygge even more by hosting a potluck, where everyone can bring over their favorite, home-cooked dishes to share.

  • Decorate with frugal, hygge decor

With winter just around the corner, now is the perfect time to invoke a sense of coziness in your home and practice hygge while you’re at it. Fortunately, home decor doesn’t have to be pricey – there are plenty of frugal ways to liven up your home.

You can decorate with candles, family photos and plants. From there, get creative. These items are easy to find, don’t cost much money, and up the hygge level of your home.

Prioritize time with family and friends

The bottom line: the idea behind hygge is to spend time doing more of the things that are truly important to you.

As you can see by the examples here, you don’t have to plan extravagant get-togethers or even leave the house in order to enjoy time with your loved ones. In fact, most people can claim that the best memories spent with family or friends are the times spent just sitting around, catching up at home.

Now it’s your turn to up your hygge ante. So, invite guests over, crack open a bottle, and enjoy shared plates around the fireplace this winter. By doing so, you’ll save money while creating memories that will last a lifetime.

 

What is Paid Off?

You know the student loan debt crisis has reached a new level of insanity when a new television game show is designed to help borrowers pay off their college debt.

TruTV’s “Paid Off,” airing on Tuesdays at 10/9 central, aims to help contestants win money to pay down their student loan debt faster. Perhaps this is a good time for the new game show as, according to Student Loan Hero, the average student loan balance for Class of 2017 graduates hit $39,400.

Read on to learn more about the show and find out how you can better manage your own student debt.

How “Paid Off” Works

The trailer for the first season of “Paid Off” includes hopeful contestants sharing their student loan balances and answering Family Feud-style questions. Other episodes feature other questions of different styles.

There are four total rounds, three of which pit contestants against each other. The final round offers one contestant a chance to eliminate his student loan debt entirely. In that round, the contestant must answer eight questions correctly in under a minute. However, it isn’t an all-or-nothing prize. Instead, the contestant gets credit for each correct answer.

Those who don’t make it to the final round don’t leave empty-handed, though. The first and second contestant eliminated receives $1,000 and $2,000, respectively. According to Forbes, the makers of the game show hope to give away roughly $500,000 during its inaugural season to over 60 student loan borrowers.

As with any game show, contestants are required to pay taxes on their winnings, even if they use the earnings to repay debt.

How Effective Will “Paid Off” Be?

Handing out half a million dollars to help student loan borrowers will undoubtedly make a difference for each person who wins money on the show.

But, unfortunately, that amount barely scratches the surface. Americans carry more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, according to March 2018 data from the Federal Reserve. So, while the game show does some good, college students and graduates need other solutions to fix the growing problem.

What’s more, incoming freshmen typically don’t get a crash course in student loans or how to use them wisely. The idea of getting what they need today and putting off payment for later is appealing. And, once you graduate, it’s not always easy to get relief. For instance, it’s virtually impossible to discharge student loans in a bankruptcy.

Three Smart Tips on Taking out Student Loans

When planning for college, it’s important to reduce your reliance on student debt. You can do this by looking at ways to graduate without borrowing a ton of money. Read on for three smart options.

Reconsider Your School Choice

You don’t need to attend a college with a household name to enjoy a long and lucrative career. Once you’re a few years into your career, your work record will likely speak louder than your degree. As such, you may be better off attending a less expensive school with a good track record than spending more for a degree that might not offer much more value in the long-run.

Learn About How Student Loans Work

There’s no college class that explores the ins and outs of student loans, but you can find out more about them on your own.

There’s a wealth of information online about student loans, including federal and private student loan options. If you still have questions, set up an appointment with a school’s financial aid office to get the answers you need.

Remember, you may be making student loan payments for as long as 30 years after you graduate, so it’s imperative that you understand what you’re getting yourself into from the start.

Consider Student Loans as a Last Resort

Instead of looking to student loans first, consider other ways you can pay for college. Here are just a few ideas:

Scholarships: Websites like Scholarships.com and Cappex.com can match you with thousands of scholarship opportunities. If you apply for a bunch of scholarships, you may get some cash that you won’t have to pay back.

Grants: Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year before the school year starts. This form helps the U.S. Department of Education determine how much financial aid your family is eligible for.

Also, check to see if the schools you’re interested in offer grants for your major.

Part- or full-time work: By working just 15 hours a week and earning nine dollars an hour, you can earn more than $28,000 in a four year period.

Even after taxes, this can make a huge difference in your need for student loans. If you can manage to work more hours or get a better-paying job, you could reduce your dependence on student loans even more.

Paying Off Your Student Loans Without the Help of a Game Show

If you’ve already graduated and are trying to figure out how to pay down your student loans, winning a game show sounds like an easy solution. But unless you’re fortunate enough to get on the show and win the cash, you’re on your own. Here are some ideas to pay off your loans faster:

Look Into Loan Forgiveness Programs

If you have federal student loans, you may qualify for one or more loan forgiveness programs. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, for example, requires you to work for 10 years for a government agency or eligible nonprofit organization.

Keep in mind that these programs have strict requirements and you typically need to commit to a specific number of years of service. But if that’s already part of your career plan, you could be well on your way.

Consider Refinancing Your Student Loans

The lower your interest rate, the more you can save on interest over the life of your loans. Several student loan refinancing companies offer low fixed and variable interest rates that can make it easier to pay down your debt.

Just keep in mind that if you refinance federal student loans, you lose access to income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness options.

Boost Your Cash Flow

Whether or not you choose one of the other options we’ve discussed, cutting back on other expenses and earning more income is a straightforward way to save money to eliminate your student loan debt.

If you have a hard time saving, consider getting help from an app or savings tool. Chime’s automatic savings program works by rounding up every transaction you make with your Chime Visa debit card to the nearest dollar. The round up amount is transferred to your Chime savings account. This kind of savings tool can help you set aside more money for debt repayment without even thinking about it.

Next Steps

Depending on where you are in your student journey, there are ways to reduce how much student loan debt you take on or to eliminate that debt more quickly.

As you consider these tips, the important thing is that you have a plan. The sooner you get rid of student loan debt in your life, the easier it will be to achieve your other financial goals. That’s what we call winning the game.

 

What Crazy Rich Asians Gets Right About Money

If you haven’t noticed the buzz surrounding the new movie Crazy Rich Asians, you must be living under a rock. The rom-com, which topped the box office in its opening weekend August 17-19, earned a cool $25.3 million.

While the film is more about social status and class than wealth, there are a handful of money lessons that can be gleaned. Sure, most of us don’t have Chinese boyfriends who are secretly part of the one percent in Singapore. And you may not be competing against women who want to wed your beau just because he’s Mr. Money Bags.

That being said, here are some golden lessons about wealth and money from Crazy Rich Asians:

1. Wealth is Glamorized

Across the board, wealth seems to be presented in a similar fashion: high living, fine clothes, expensive getaways, and socialite dinners. Sure, never having to check your balance with your bank app and worry about paying your rent on time must be nice.

While the Youngs are part of Chinese old money, anyone who has amassed a certain amount of wealth is expected to show it off.

Here’s the thing: this espouses an outdated notion of what it means to be wealthy. Notions of what it means to be rich tends to fall along the lines of what we see on Beverly Hills Housewives and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

But modern-day billionaires may be sporting hoodies and jeans (i.e. Mark Zuckerberg), living in humble abodes (i.e. Warren Buffet), and using money for humanitarian efforts (i.e. Bill and Melinda Gates). And let’s not forget that mo’ money does equate to mo’ problems. And yes, while money issues may be preferred problems, they are challenges nonetheless.

2. It Can Be Hard to Detect Wealth

While the lead character Nick Young (Henry Golding) is part of the ultra-wealthy set, he was raised to keep a low profile and not flaunt his money. It’s funny, because, as I mentioned above, we tend to equate wealth as something that’s obvious and external: flashy cars, nightly dinners at five-star restaurants, and eye candy at yacht parties.

But all flashiness aside, there are a lot of people who choose not to show off their wealth. In fact, your neighbor may be a “millionaire next door.” In other words, your neighbor may be someone who has tons of money in the bank (maybe in an account that has low or no fees), but lives in middle-class neighborhood and cavorts around town in a minivan instead of a Porsche.

3. What True Wealth Means

While the one percent can certainly afford to live a lavish lifestyle and have gobs of money stashed away in the bank, wealth can be boiled down to one thing: your net worth. In essence, this is the amount of money you have in assets, investments, and in cash in the bank.

So while there are those who live a seemingly “wealthy lifestyle,” others may be house poor or have a negative bank balance.

If you want to truly be wealthy, work on paying off your debt, save where you can, focus on earning more, and most important—save those beans! (Auto-transfer your savings, anyone?) And when you see a positive balance, that’s when you know you’re on track to growing your money.

4. Money Can’t Buy You Love… But…

The film’s tagline is as follows: “Money can’t buy love, but it can definitely complicate things.” Nick loves Rachel regardless of her social status. And while money can’t buy you affection, commitment, and all those warm fuzzy moments we humans crave and cherish, it can afford you a lot of things. It can give you a sense of security, options, and above all else: the ability to live your best life.

5. Money Can Complicate Things

While CRA depicts how social status and wealth can complicate personal matters, money can certainly complicate things for any relationship. In the film, there are many ways money complicates the relationship between Rachel, Nick and their respective families. For starters, Nick’s mom disapproves of Rachel, primarily because she doesn’t come from money. Rachel also finds herself up against a bevy of socialites who would love to marry Nick.

Having more money means you’ll need to spend more time making decisions about your money. Sure, it’s a champagne problem to have, but it will require time and mental energy to allocate your resources accordingly.

6. It Helps to Be Honest With Your Money Situation

While Nick remained humble and did a great job not flashing his wealth, when the #truthbomb did drop that he was ultra-wealthy, he put Rachel in a bit of tailspin. Once again, while most of us probably won’t be faced with this problem, it’s important to be honest with your significant other about your money matters. How much debt do you have? What are your spending patterns? What are your spending vices? What would you like your future to look like, and how will you get there?

Financial infidelity, which is when you hide a huge money secret, is a form of betrayal. This is when you hide a money secret, such as a bank account, major debt, or made a mondo purchase behind your partner’s back.

Be Crazy Rich About Financial Knowledge

Crazy Rich Asians is a moving and fun film that delves deep into notions of wealth and social class. And while you may not relate to being ultra wealthy, you can certainly drum up your own definition of what it means to be rich, and carve your own path toward wealth.

 

Low-Cost Summer Date Ideas

Fact: Dating is expensive. Wining and dining, paying for dating apps and other hidden costs can take a hit on your wallet. If you’re not minding your spending, you may end up on a Tinder date at Taco Bell.

The good news? There are plenty of ways to paint the town red with potential mates during the summer months – without going broke. Here are some of our favorite ways to date on the cheap without skimping on the fun:

Go on a Mission Date

No, we’re not talking about a tour of Junipero Serra’s Catholic historic missions in California. A mission date is when you pick a fun focus for your outing and roll with it. For instance, find the best ice cream in your respective ‘hoods, go on a local tour of book shops, or hunt for the best three dollar taco in town.

Taking the “mission date” one step further, I enjoy a good “mission-based staycation” in the summer. For instance, you can check out the best public pools in Los Angeles, or go on a hike that’s under five miles.

People Watch

This isn’t as creepy as it sounds. Okay, maybe just a little. My friend Andrew Watt, a screenwriter, loves to just grab some coffee on a date and sit on a park bench. It’s quite pleasant to scope out the scene. After all, people watching – or just shooting the hay over some coffee or hot dogs – can help you get to know each other.

Find Free Entertainment in Town

You don’t have to attend an epic music festival like Coachella to have a blast. City-sponsored movies and concerts in the park, street festivals, and free museum days are a plenty in the summer. My partner and I love going to art openings. We can chat it up with interesting folks, and catch up with fellow art scene peeps. Plus, there’s usually free booze and snacks to boot.

You can find listings of such activities by scouring the arts and entertainment section of your favorite online publication. While this may be a tad easier if you live in a bustling city, you can also find free local activities on your city’s website.

Take Advantage of Your Library Perks

Okay, so the library may not be the first thing that pops up when you think of things to do when you’re trying to woo someone. But these days your library isn’t just a place to check out books. Libraries are more like resource centers where you can access loads of free entertainment and even attend interesting lectures.

Namely, your local branch can hook you up with movie streaming services, and sometimes even passes to museums. The Los Angeles Public Library, for example, offers Kanopy, a free movie streaming service, to its card-carrying members. In turn, it’s an inexpensive way to cozy up with your date for a movie night in.

Be Shutterbugs Together

Got a bit of a shutterbug in you? All you need is a bit of imagination and a smartphone. You’ll then be tottering off with your date for a fun outing snapping pics. I’ve had photographer friends take photos of cool patterns and textures for design projects, or scour sites such as Atlas Obscura for new terrain to explore.

Host a Chaos Cooking Party (for Two)

As they say, the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach. My fellow freelance writer pal, Louis DeNicola, has hosted chaos cooking parties for his pals. If you’re like me and hate buying a bunch of ingredients for a single meal, shop in your pantry instead. See what kind of dishes you can cobble together from existing foodstuffs in your kitchen.

Have leftover brown rice from last night’s Chinese takeout? Mix it with some eggs and onions, and you’ve got yourself some fried rice. Or, if you have some more exotic ingredients – I have a variety of Indian spices and chickpea flour in my cupboards – you can concoct a unique dish.

Picnic in the Park

Head over to the local sandwich shop or combine the delicacies from your chaos cooking party (see above) into a picnic lunch. Dust off that large blanket that’s been sitting in your closet and enjoy some quality time outdoors. It’s a romantic way to languish on a summer day without having to pay for a pricey meal at a fancy restaurant.

Go on a Rummage Hunt

I love me a good “rummage” date. Not only do you get to bond with someone over cool deals, but you’re also getting some of your shopping done. Whether it’s looking for pieces for an art project, inexpensive frames to spruce up your apartment, or vinyl to add to your record collection, scouring thrift shops, swap meets and yard sales makes for a super inexpensive date.

Play Hooky

While you may not want to go all out and do it Ferris Bueller style and call in sick, you could both schedule a weekday off. You’ll be able to take advantage of happy hours and dining during lunch instead of dinner. There will also be fewer crowds wherever you decide to venture. Plus, there’s the added thrill of having fun while everyone else is slaving away at work.

Pick Your Summertime Fun

Besides helping you save, these low-cost activities can also help you suss out whether your date is cool with your frugal ways. Plus, he or she can flex money-saving muscles as well. And, don’t forget: set aside a budget for love.

 

Know Your Worth: Personal Finances for the LGBTQIA Community

Did you know that the purchasing power of the LGBTQIA community is almost $1 trillion? Yet at the same time, there are a lot of financial challenges that people in these communities face.

“We often tell people that the fundamentals of money aren’t different for queer people but the nuances and concerns are unique,” says John Schneider, who blogs with his husband David Auten at Debt Free Guys.

“This means that, to the extent that we can, queer people must be more vigilant with our money management, avoid debt as much as possible, diversify income streams, work harder, save and invest more.”

Here at Chime, we’d like to celebrate Pride Month by featuring some of the financial challenges facing the queer community. On that note, we’ve compiled specific steps queer people can take to improve their finances. Take a look:

Start a side hustle

As crazy as it sounds, it’s still legal to fire someone on the basis of their sexual orientation in 28 states. Trans people can even be fired legally on the basis of their gender in 30 states. Even worse, three states (Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina) have gone in the complete opposite direction and passed laws banning local anti-discrimination laws from being passed.

While we can work to pressure politicians to change laws, Schneider and Auten also suggest supporting groups like Out Leadership, which promotes LQBT+ people at higher echelons of the private sector. In the meantime, queer people can help buffer themselves against possible job loss (and earn more income) by starting up side hustles.

Start college planning early

“Many queer/gender-non-conforming youth are kicked out of their parents’ house or have to go no-contact with parents that don’t approve of their sexuality or gender expression,” says Lillian Karabaic from the Oh My Dollar podcast/radio show.

“Unfortunately, this means that they often can’t get access to their parents’ income information for the FAFSA,” says Karabaic.

And, because this information is required in order for almost all college students under the age of 24 to receive financial aid or scholarships, many queer young adults end up with substantial student loan debt. In fact, according to a 2018 survey, queer college students graduated with $16,000 more in student loan debt than non-queer people.

What to do? There’s no easy answer but for starters, it’s a good idea for queer people to begin planning for college early.

Learn about healthcare options

We all know that queer people are often systematically discriminated against at their jobs. It turns out that this can come back to haunt you when it comes to healthcare.

“Many same-sex married couples (like many straight couples) rely on one partner’s employer health insurance benefits to cover the other partner and any children,” says Karabaic.

“Unfortunately, this requires folks to disclose their spouse’s gender to their employer, which can result in them getting fired,” she says.

That’s why it’s a good idea for queer people to learn about all the alternatives available to them, such as the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, or community-based support programs.

Make saving for retirement a priority

Most queer people won’t deny that saving for retirement is a priority, according to a 2017 survey. However, for a variety of reasons, it’s harder for most queer people to save as much as the general population.

On average, 40% of the general population has an employer-sponsored retirement account, compared to 35% for LGBT+ people. And, 30% of the general population also has an IRA, while only 18% of LGBT+ people do.

Another factor to consider is that LGBT+ people are more likely to rank themselves as “spenders” rather than “savers” — a factor that comes from data which shows that queer people save 5% less on average than the general population.

Retirement is one of the most difficult things to save for. But if you can prioritize savings and find ways to reach your goals, you can cross retirement worries off of your list.

Financial education is key

Just because someone identifies as queer doesn’t mean she or he will face the same financial challenges as another queer person.

For example, according to one 2009 study, 21% of African-American lesbian couples live in poverty. But if you’re a white lesbian couple? That number drops to just 4%. The bottom line: all queer people face unfair financial challenges in some way or another.

So, if you’re a queer person, you can take action by educating yourself on the particular challenges of your situation and learning how you can counteract it. And, if you’re a straight person, you can help the queer community by listening to what they have to say, supporting political change, and acting as advocates on their behalf. After all, we’re all in this together. By lifting each other up we can all achieve our financial goals, whatever they may be.

 

How FOMO is Costing Millennials More Money

No surprise, but millenials have trouble saving money.

A major culprit? FOMO, apparently.

There’s now proof to back it up. In fact, 39% of millennials spent money they didn’t have, and went into debt to keep up with their peers, according to a recent survey on millennials and social spending. To boot, 27% feel uncomfortable saying “no” if a friend suggests an activity they can’t afford. Of those who admitted going into debt from FOMO, a whopping 73% kept it a secret.

As you can see, social pressure is taking a huge financial toll. Let’s dig a bit deeper, and look at some reasons why millennials are experiencing FOMO:

All Those “Perfect Life” Selfies on Instagram

It’s no small wonder why YOLO and FOMO are inciting bouts of overspending. These days the Joneses aren’t just the next door neighbors with the shiny new toy. You’re probably watching that Instagram influencer with the perfect life that you feel pressured to keep up with.

Photo documentation of dreamy, all-out Sunday brunches, designer fashions, and digs so amazing they’re worthy of a mention in Dwell. You’ll no doubt feel mounting pressure to spend just so you’re not left out.

Epic Outings

Weekend getaways, replete with wine tastings and spa dates, brunches at the newest hipster spot in town, or super pricey music festivals like Coachella are enough to make you want to drop big bucks. You don’t want to feel left out on these exciting social affairs. Next thing you know, you’ll be reaching for your credit card. No bueno.

Plus, after spying on your friends via the gram (see above), Venmo transactions (okay, maybe that’s just me) and group chats on the “next epic outing,” you’ll feel the incessant urge to want to keep up.

Eating Out

Millennials spend nearly half of their money eating out. And while spending more on eating out than on groceries seems to be the overall trend in the U.S., it’s the food outings that can really burn a hole in your pocket. With the swell of food delivery apps and meal delivery services, there are even more ways to blow your budget on food.

So how can you fight FOMO? One of my favorite sayings is “Live like no one else so you can live like no one else.” In other words, if you’re going to win at the YOLO/FOMO game, you’ll need to swim upstream.

Here are some ways you can keep those ugly feelings of missing out to a minimum and live within your means.

  • Suggest Cheaper Alternatives

If you don’t want to full-out decline a social invite, offer up some alternatives, like hosting a potluck. Or instead of that pricey concert, suggest checking out a less-expensive show or movie. My friends and I enjoy hiking, biking, and occasionally pick a brunch spot everyone can afford. You don’t have to be a hermit with zero social life to stick to a budget. You just have to tap into your resourceful, creative self and offer different options.

  • Be the One to Talk About Money

Be brave, and talk about your debt situation. It can be a very casual, “Hey, I’m just letting you know I’m working on paying off my (insert type of debt here), or maybe “Ooo, that X is a little more than I can afford.” Having a budget you need to stick or, or simply not wanting to spend your money on that outing is nothing to be ashamed about.

There’s nothing wrong with saying you can’t afford to do something. Frugal shaming is just as terrible as debt shaming. In turn, being the one to start a convo about money could lead to your friends throwing you a sympathy bone. Plus, but it may inspire a few friends to open up as well.

  • Create an “Outings” Account

As you can imagine, it’s not the fixed expenses – rent, utilities, streaming subscriptions –  that can eat into your budget. It’s your discretionary spending, or expenses that change each month. We’re talking about eating out, concerts, movies, and filling up your gas tank.

Instead of lumping all my spending into one account, I designate a certain amount to what I call an “outings” account, which is money budgeted purely for social outings. I also earmark a certain amount to an account for necessities like transportation, household items, and groceries.

Why’s the reasoning behind this method? Well, it’s far easier to control how much I spend on groceries than going out to dinner with friends and family. By having a separate amount for social spending, I can also keep better track of how much is going out each month. If FOMO is getting the best of my budget, I can then curb my spending before it gets out of hand.

  • Pay Yourself First

If you’re concerned you may spend too much due to FOMO, consider setting up an auto transfer to save a portion of each paycheck. If you’re a Chime member, you can take advantage of Chime’s Automatic Savings feature, allowing you to effortlessly save 10% of each paycheck. Chime also helps you save by rounding up each purchase you make on your debit card and depositing it into your Savings Account. Cha-ching!

Final Word

If not kept in check, FOMO can have serious financial repercussions. Yet, if you’re mindful of your spending and resist the urge to cave in to social pressure, you can set yourself up for financial success and actually save more money. Are you ready to get started?

 

 

6 Real-Life Money Lessons You Can Learn From Monopoly

When I was growing up, my favorite board game was Monopoly. Recently, I decided to re-explore the game with my nieces and nephews. And, wow! I realize now just how many life lessons can be learned from this classic game.

For starters, Monopoly is a game of strategy that offers ways to manage your money while teaching you about building a secure financial future. And trust me, you can learn a lot about how to get ahead financially by playing Monopoly.

Thinking about dusting off your childhood Monopoly game? While you’re at it, here are my top 6 real-life money lessons from this timeless board game:

1. Start saving early

When playing Monopoly, if you don’t begin investing early, you’ll be forced out of the game sooner rather than later. Why? Because the bulk of your cash will be spent paying out rent to those smart enough to buy property early on.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Start Investing as Soon as Possible

With the burden of student loan debt, high living costs and wages that aren’t keeping pace, you may think it’s impossible to start investing now. But, here’s the truth: even stashing away a few dollars a week will add up to a nice nest egg over time – due to the magic of compound interest.

What’s compound interest? This is when interest accumulates on the interest you’ve already earned on your money. So, investing now in your future self will result in greater wealth down the line.

Let’s take a look at a quick example of this with a “$250 a month strategy,” which assumes an 8% average annual investment return. Take a look at how an investment of $250 a month would grow, starting at the following ages:

  • Age 25: You’ll accumulate $878,570 by age 65
  • Age 35: You’ll accumulate $375,073 by age 65
  • Age 45: You’ll accumulate $148,236 by age 65

Your next question may be: But what if I don’t have any money to begin investing right now? That’s ok! As the saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” As a first step, check to see if your employer sponsors a 401(k) retirement plan with a matching contribution. Once you find out the percentage your employer will match, ensure that you contribute at least that amount (otherwise, you’ll be throwing away free money).

Next, let technology help you automate the process of growing your money! Apps like Acorns are perfect for first-time investors who may not have a ton of extra money. By automating, you can invest even your spare change into well-diversified portfolios.

2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

You won’t win a game of Monopoly if you only invest in a single property, even if you load it up with all the cute little green houses that (fake) money can buy. The best game players purchase multiple properties, preferably at least one from each color group. This increases the chances of collecting rent across the board.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Diversify Your Assets

If you’re new to investing, it might be difficult to properly diversify your portfolio across different asset classes. However, there are ways to get started. For example, perhaps you can consider investing in mutual funds, which offer diversification benefits because they hold dozens or even hundreds of investments. Overall, when it comes to investing, it’s important to do your own research. At the same time, there’s no shame in asking for help from a financial expert or even a friend well-versed in financial matters. You can search for a fee-based financial advisor here.

3. Plan for the unexpected

Even though it’s important to start buying properties as soon as possible in the game, you still need to have a cash buffer when unexpected expenses pop up. As soon as I get my money from the banker at the beginning of the game, I stash $300 under my side of the board. This comes in handy whenever I have to pay taxes or rent to another player later on.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Always have a rainy day fund.

We all need to have extra funds available for emergencies like medical expenses, car trouble or home repairs. One of the easiest ways to build up your emergency fund quickly is to automate your savings. Chime makes it easy for you do this by helping you to save as soon as you get paid. If you open a Chime bank account and select Automatic Savings, Chime will automatically transfer 10% of every paycheck directly into your savings account.

4. Generate passive income

In Monopoly, nothing is sweeter than owning a hotel. Why? Hotel ownership is a winning strategy because it means you can charge the highest rent when someone lands on one of your squares.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Start earning passive income while you sleep

We all have skills and talents that can be packaged into a product that generates passive income. For example, perhaps you can create an online course and sell it or start a YouTube channel chronicling your fitness journey. Maybe you can even rent out a room in your apartment or house.

5. Practice discipline

Although we discussed the importance of buying properties, this doesn’t mean you should purchase every single property you land on. Being thoughtful and strategic with your hard-earned Monopoly money will go a long way if you want to be the last player standing.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Go on a fiscal fast

If you’ve been overspending lately, then it might be time for a fiscal fast. This is like going on a diet, but for your finances. The idea of a fiscal fast is to completely eliminate all non-essential spending – like coffee runs – for a specific period of time, such as seven days. The key to success is to transfer all the money you would have spent during the weekend or month into a savings account. I’ve done seven fiscal fasts in the past year and a half. Each time I’ve saved between $250 and $300. This helped me get rid of my credit card debt a lot quicker.

6. Negotiate like a pro

If you’re a Monopoly geek like me then you know that sometimes you have to trade property just to stay in the game. And, depending on who the other players are, you may have to step up your negotiation skills in order to make a mutually beneficial deal.

Real-Life Money Lesson: Use your negotiating skills to ask for a higher salary

You may be uncomfortable asking for a raise because you don’t want to come across as being too pushy. Or, perhaps you don’t want to face being turned down. In fact, only 37 percent of millennials have ever asked for a raise, according to PayScale.

But, did you know that the odds of receiving a pay upgrade are actually in your favor? A 2015 study published in Time Magazine showed that 44 percent of people who asked for a raise got the amount they wanted, while 31 percent got less than they asked for. This means that three out of four people who asked for a raise actually got it!

Final Thoughts

Although you never really know what “chance” card life may deal you, it’s important to face your money obstacles head on. And, armed with these money lessons from Monopoly, you’ll learn some key tools to effectively handle your finances, navigate money challenges, and hopefully come out a winner!

 

5 Money Lessons I Learned from Mean Girls

Happy National Mean Girls Day!

In case you’re unfamiliar, October 3rd is an unofficial holiday commemorating the anniversary of the 2004 cult classic and all the life lessons it taught us. This year is extra special, though, because Mean Girls is making its way to Broadway.

And, in honor of the milestone, I am excited to take this opportunity to share with you 5 money lessons I learned from Mean Girls:

Don’t worry about keeping up with the Plastics

We can’t talk about Mean Girls without mentioning the Plastics, AKA the “it girls” at North Shore High School (NSHS). The Plastics are made up of Regina George, Gretchen Wieners, Karen Smith and later, Cady Heron. Responsible for catch phrases like “you can’t sit with us” and “on Wednesdays we wear pink;” you either hated the Plastics or secretly tried to be just like them…or a combination of both.

Money Lesson: Financial anxiety is the number one stressor for Americans. And, making money decisions to please others or keep up appearances can have serious consequences. In some cases, you may find yourself overspending every month and not being able to pay your bills on time or even creating a cycle of debt that becomes difficult to overcome.

The good news is that once you realize that money doesn’t buy happiness, you can start to prioritize your financial goals. You can also figure out the best budget for you, based on your personality type.

It’s time to come to terms with reality

When Janis tells Cady that she’s, “Plastic. Cold, shiny, hard plastic,” it turns out to be exactly the wake-up call she needed to address her own behavior. As the movie wraps up, Cady soon begins to “suck the poison out of her life.” Dramatic, I know.

Money Lesson: This point is particularly personal as someone who lived in debt denial a few years ago. I didn’t even know exactly how much I owed because, at times, it felt much easier to avoid or ignore the fact that my second biggest monthly payment happened to be servicing debt.

But one day I decided to add up all my debt: student loans, credit cards and a car loan. This exercise turned out to be much more freeing than I could have imagined. By coming face to face with the $50,000 elephant in the room, I was able to devise a plan to create the lifestyle of my dreams a lot quicker than I ever imagined.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question

Okay, so maybe when Regina asked if “butter is a carb” she was pushing it a bit. But seriously, don’t be afraid to ask questions because this is one of the best ways to learn.

Money Lesson: The same principle can be applied to beefing up our financial knowledge. Be sure to do your own research and ask questions when it comes to making big decisions such as opening your first bank account after college. If you need more help, you can also consider reaching out to a fee-based financial advisor who can help you create a roadmap for your financial future.

Always have a backup plan

Remember when Cady and the Plastics performed at the talent show and the radio stopped working? Fortunately, instead of running off the stage, Cady got the entire room to join her in signing an impromptu rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Easy enough.

But what happens when unexpected events pop up that are much more serious? Examples include things like trips to the emergency room, car repairs or even a sudden layoff.

Money Lesson: With an emergency fund, you won’t have to worry about how you’ll handle these surprise expenses. A good rule of thumb is to save three to six months of living expenses in your emergency fund. Your fund should also be kept separate from your regular checking or even your regular savings account.

Try not to obsess

As you might have already realized, Regina was paranoid about her weight. So much so that it seemed to consume her thoughts each day – pun intended. In the long run though, her obsession over being the so-called perfect size did more harm than good.

Regina opted for crash diets instead of developing healthy habits like eating balanced meals or exercising regularly and her plan soon backfired.

Money Lesson: Just like making solid choices for your physical health, creating healthy financial routines will help you set the stage for long-term success. Not sure where to start? Automating your savings is one of the easiest habits to implement. In fact, with a Chime bank account, you can save money with every paystub by automatically direct 10% of your paycheck into your savings account. Putting your savings on autopilot removes the guesswork and gives you peace of mind when it comes to your finances.

And how fetch is that?

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