Spending More on Overdraft Fees? You’re Not the Only One

It’s no secret that big banks are getting richer off the backs of everyday people. What’s different now is that we know just how much richer.

According to a new report from the economics research firm Moebs Services, banks made a record-setting $34.3 billion in 2017 alone. That’s more than $100 per year for every last man, woman, and child in the United States. It seems especially unfair since 75% of the people paying these fees already have problems paying their monthly bills, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts study.

About now you may be wondering how you can avoid troublesome overdraft fees. Read on to learn about these fees and how to pocket more of your hard-earned cash.

Overdraft Fee Rules Have Been Changing

Remember the 2008 financial crisis? One of the byproducts of that chaos was that banks needed to start asking for your permission to enroll you in overdraft protection services. They instead billed you for this service – in the way of fees.

Asking for your permission first was supposed to make the banking process more transparent. But, banks found sneaky ways to get around it, such as by not fully explaining your options and getting you to sign on the dotted line while you filled out a barrage of paperwork necessary to open your bank account (do you remember consenting?).

Overdraft Fees Have Been Increasing

Overdraft fees are on the rise. Back in 2000 when the Backstreet Boys were still a thing, big banks charged a median overdraft fee of $18, according to Moebs Services. If that price kept pace with inflation, today’s price should be $25. Instead, it’s $30, meaning that banks are charging more than their fair share.

Even credit unions—which are usually lauded as being more consumer-friendly—are charging increased overdraft fees. Again, back in the year 2000, most credit unions were charging a median overdraft fee of just $15, three dollars less than banks. If credit unions kept pace with inflation they should be charging $20.86 per overdraft, but instead, they are charging a median fee of $29—almost double what they were charging 18 years ago.

One glimmer of hope is that the economists from Moebs Services believe that the rise in overdraft fees has currently peaked at around $30. Of course, only time will tell.

How to Avoid Overdraft Fees

Even though overdraft fees can be a hairy trap when you’re least able to deal with these sneaky charges, there’s good news: overdraft fees are entirely avoidable. You just need to be prepared. Here are some options to steer clear of these fees altogether:

Look for a Bank That Doesn’t Charge Overdraft Fees

Believe it or not, it is possible to find a bank that doesn’t charge any overdraft fees. Because these fees add up, it can be well worth your time to switch to a fee-free bank. In addition, Chime Bank also processes your direct deposit paycheck two days earlier than most banks, which can be especially helpful during those tricky times when you’re still living paycheck-to-paycheck and most likely to incur overdraft fees.

Opt Out of Overdraft Coverage

Did you know that you can actually opt out of overdraft coverage at any time? If you didn’t know this, you’re not alone: 70% of banking customers weren’t aware of this either, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts study. This means that any purchases you make that will overdraw your account will be declined. You won’t be charged for that purchase and you won’t be slapped with an overdraft fee.

Yet beware, this still isn’t a foolproof, fee-free option. If you pay for something with insufficient funds in your account, you may have to pay a non-sufficient fund (NSF) fee. Luckily, debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals aren’t subject to this tricky fee; those purchases will just be declined outright with no NSF fee.

On the other hand, if you write a check and don’t have sufficient funds to cover that transaction, banks can charge you an NSF. You can also get dinged for making a recurring electronic payment that results in a negative balance.

Keep a Close Eye on Your Budget and Checking Account

One of the most common ways people end up with overdraft fees is when they write checks and forget to reconcile their spending with their budget. Either that or they forget to check on their checking account balance altogether.

To avoid falling into this trap, it’s a good idea to both keep tabs on your checking account and update your budget every few days.

Always Carry Extra Cash or a Credit Card in Your Wallet

If you’re out and about, try to carry extra cash or a credit card for emergencies. By using your credit card, for example, you can pay off the charges in full so that you won’t owe any interest charges. At least this way you won’t be staring at overdraft or NSF fees if you inadvertently pay for something without enough funds in your bank account.

Hold Onto Your Money

Just remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Even though Americans are paying more in overdraft fees than any time since 2009, this doesn’t mean that you need to fall prey to these charges. You can instead follow these tips to avoid overdraft fees. You can also switch to bank that will never charge you fees. After all, it’s your money and you deserve to keep it.

 

 

Easy Ways to Stretch Your Household Budget (Without Sacrificing Convenience)

It’s no secret that stretching your family budget can go a long way.

Yet, when you think about cutting expenses, you may dread the thought of giving up lattes, foregoing dining out to eat at home, and negotiating lower rates for your Internet service. More importantly, cutting out your favorite things may not work long-term.

So, we’ve come up with other ways to save money. Check out these 6 ways to stretch your household budget.

Grocery Services

Buying groceries online is convenient and can also save you money.

For starters, when you shop for food online, you won’t have to deal with the temptation of walking through the store and picking up items that weren’t on your list. Plus, as you add food items to your virtual cart, you’ll see your total charges increasing – instead of waiting to hear the damage report at the checkout counter. This way, you can always remove items if you know you’re spending too much.

Online grocery delivery services like Amazon Fresh, Instacart, and Google Express all have garnered great reviews, but they come with monthly fees. So, if you shop at a local Walmart, Meijer, Kroger or other regional supermarket chain, find out if your store offers a free grocery pick-up service. This way, you can order and pay for your items online. From there, you can schedule a time to go to the store and pick up your groceries curbside.

Switch Your Cell Phone Provider

If your phone bill is outrageously high each month, you don’t have to ditch your phone entirely to get it under control. It may be time to look into switching to a prepaid phone service, which is often cheaper than a contract service provider.

Republic Wireless is a prepaid company that I’ve been using for three years. Their plans start at $15 per month and come with unlimited talk and text. You can also choose how much you want to pay based on the amount of data you need on a monthly basis. Plus, you can keep your smartphone if it’s compatible or use one of Republic’s Motorola or Samsung smartphones.

Other affordable prepaid phone services include Straight Talk and Boost Mobile, both of which are compatible with iPhones. As an added bonus, Boost Mobile offers affordable family plans with unlimited data, so the whole family can stay connected.

Amazon Subscribe and Save

If you shop frequently on Amazon, you may have heard about the company’s Subscribe and Save program. It allows you to choose from thousands of products and set up recurring deliveries for these items automatically within a one to six-month time frame.

This is an ideal service to use for toiletries and household items. Plus, when you sign up to receive at least five items in one month, you’ll unlock up to 15% in savings for your merchandise – on top of Amazon’s current discounts and free shipping. To make your shopping experience more convenient, Amazon sends a reminder email days before your next shipment will go out. This way you can review everything and make any necessary changes.

Baby Reward Programs

If you’re a parent, you know how expensive it is to run a household with children.

Registering with diaper and baby product companies is a sure-fire way for you to get samples, coupons, and other freebies. For example, Huggies provides coupons and discounts on diapers via its website, while Pampers has a rewards program that allows you to earn points for purchases. You can then redeem your points for free diapers and other baby products.

If you’re looking to save on other baby items, the Honest Company has subscription bundles for diapers and wipes, as well as formula and other necessities. You can automatically order product bundles every four to six weeks and cancel at any time.

Kids on the way? You can still save! If you’re expecting, consider setting up a registry with Target. This will net you more than $50 in free items, including samples of diapers and wipes, breastfeeding storage bags, diaper rash cream, and other products from top brands like Honest and Pampers.

Online Consignment Shops

Shopping for gently-used clothing is often more affordable than going to department stores and paying full price. At the same time, shopping at thrift stores can be a time suck as it can take hours to find what you’re looking for.

This is why you may want to try out online consignment shops instead. This way, you can find the used clothing you need quickly, pay a fraction of the retail price, and have the items delivered to your door.

ThredUp is one of the top online consignment shops specializing in women’s and children’s clothing, shoes, handbags and accessories. ThredUp buys gently-used clothing and resells the merchandise on its site. So, while you’re shopping, you may also want to consider making some extra money by decluttering and selling some of your unwanted clothes.

Switch to a Bank With Lower Fees

An easy way to stretch your household budget is to check on your bank fees to see if you’re incurring any unnecessary charges.

It’s important to find a bank that offers a free checking account, free ATM withdrawals, and overdraft protection. If your current bank is costing you in fees, you can easily switch to a bank with no hidden fees and save money.

Saving Isn’t Always a Hassle

Saving money and stretching your dollars doesn’t always have to be a penny-pinching hassle.

To get a jump-start, go over your budget and identify the areas where you’re spending the most money. Then, start using some of these free tools to effortlessly cut back on your spending.

 

Does the 20% Savings Rule Actually Work?

When it comes to saving money, experts often suggest saving at least 20% of your income. While this may be a good financial rule of thumb, it doesn’t work for everyone.

To figure out whether the 20% savings rule is the best option for you, it’s first important to understand more about this method of saving money. From there, you can decide whether it’s right for you. To learn more, read on.

A Quick Review of the 50/20/30 Rule 

The 50/20/30 rule is a minimalist-style budgeting tool that refers to how much of your take-home pay you should save and how much you need to allocate for expenses and other goals.

The rule simply states that 50% of your income should be devoted to essential expenses like housing, food, and utilities. Another 30% should go toward discretionary spending on the fun stuff. This leaves 20% for your savings, which can be earmarked into a savings account,  an emergency fund, and a retirement account.

Is 20% Always the Right Amount to Save?

I know what you may be thinking. While it sounds pretty simple, saving 20% of your income can be unreasonable it you’re just starting out or trying to make ends meet.

For this reason, 20% isn’t always the magic number. If saving this amount is out of your reach, then start with a lesser amount. The most important thing is that you start somewhere and save a set amount of money that works for you.

I can remember how awful I felt when I was laid off from my job during the Great Recession and was forced to stop contributing to my retirement accounts. At the time, I had no other choice. I could either continue to invest for my future or I use that money to buy groceries. Fortunately, I knew that this time in my life would pass, and that I would be able to get a handle on my finances and start saving again. I was right. As time went by, I was able to increase my savings rate until it exceeded my original savings goals.

With this in mind, remember that the 20% savings rule is really just a rule of thumb.

Does the 20% Savings Rule Work?

Yes, the 20% rule works – at least for the most part. If it didn’t work, financial experts would not continue to praise its simplicity. So, if possible for you, it’s a good idea to start saving 20% of your income today.

The bottom line: if you can consistently devote 20% of your income to savings over the long-term (think: decades), you’ll have a better shot of retiring comfortably.

But, just because the 20% rule works, keep in mind what was discussed above: it may not work for you. If your financial situation is less than stellar due to debt or other unfortunate circumstances, you may need to find an alternate route to a healthy financial future. If you think you need another savings method, take a look at the helpful tips below:

  • Create a budget. To start saving whatever you can, it’s a smart idea to first figure out how much money is coming in and going out each month. To do this effectively, we suggest tracking your expenses and creating a budget. This way you can identify areas where you can trim the financial fat, freeing up funds to save. For instance, if you track your expenses and realize you’ve been spending an average of $400 in restaurants for the past three months, you’ve just identified something you can significantly cut back on. Not only is cooking at home good for your waistline, but it’s good for your bottom line. And that’s a win-win.
  • Automate your savings. Life can easily get in the way when it comes to saving money. Too often than not, the end of the month rolls around and you realize you didn’t set anything aside for savings. To help get around this, try making saving money automatic. In fact, Chime makes it simple with its Automatic Savings feature. Here’s how it works: each time you use your Chime debit card, your transaction is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the round up amount is deposited into your Chime Savings account. Plus, you can set up your account to automatically transfer 10% of each paycheck into your savings account. This makes saving money a no brainer!

Start Saving Money Now

There you have it: an explanation of the 20% savings rule, why it’s so popular, and what you can do if you need other savings options. Remember, there is more than one route to a healthy financial future. Are you ready to start saving more money today?

 

How to Find the Right Emergency Fund Formula For You

Did you know that only about 39 percent of Americans had enough money in savings to cover a $1,000 emergency?  According to that same survey, another 19 percent of respondents planned to pay for their emergencies with a credit card.

It may seem obvious, but to avoid going into more debt, you should have an emergency fund.

Yet, regardless of whether you’re fresh out of school or in the middle of your career, starting an emergency fund from scratch can be a bit daunting. You may be wondering how much you should be saving each month or whether you need to aim for a certain amount. To help you sort it all out, take a look at our basic primer on the ins and outs of saving enough into your emergency fund.

What is an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is a bank account that is set up to help cover large, unexpected expenses. This can include car repairs, medical bills, or living expenses in the event of a job loss. An emergency fund is almost always kept in a separate savings account and the money is typically off-limits unless you need it for a true emergency.

How much should I save?

There are a myriad of opinions on how much you should have in your emergency fund at any given time. Some experts recommend setting aside at least three to six months worth of living expenses. But it may work better for you to start small – with a dollar figure that you can achieve. Here are a couple of different strategies to help you start saving:

Aim to save $1,000 and go from there

In this case, think of your emergency fund in terms of saving up a certain goal. This will help you stay motivated. Some financial experts, including Dave Ramsey, suggest starting with a goal of $1,000. To stay accountable, you can create a line item in your budget to help you earmark funds toward this monetary goal.

To help you save up even faster, you can try automating. With a Chime bank account, this is easy as you can save money automatically. For example, each time you make a transaction with your Chime Visa Debit card, the amount will be rounded up to the nearest dollar. That round up amount is then deposited into your Savings Account. Taking things a step further, you can elect to automatically move 10 percent of each paycheck straight into your Chime Savings Account.

Use the 3/6/9 rule

Once you’ve banked your first $1,000 into a designated emergency fund, you may want to try saving, even more, using Learnvest’s 3/6/9 rule. This rule helps you determine how much to save based on your particular situation.

For example, saving three months worth of your take-home pay may be the ideal amount to sock away if you’re a single renter with a steady paycheck. However, if you’re a married homeowner with children and you and your spouse both work, you should probably aim to save up to six months of the higher earner’s take-home pay.

But what if you or your spouse is self-employed? While some months may be lucrative, other months may be more of a struggle. If this is the case, then it likely makes the most sense to save nine months worth of your average take-home pay. Simply put, the more volatile and unstable your income, the more you should be saving to help give you peace of mind.

Calculating a precise amount for your emergency fund

Interested in figuring out exactly how much you need to have in your emergency fund? You may want to check out this formula from a Money Under 30 blogger, as reported in U.S. News & World Report.

This takes into account four factors: your monthly expenses, your income volatility, your income commutability (how long it would take you to find a similar job if you lose your job), and the amount you have currently saved up. Here’s a breakdown of how to figure out your job volatility and income commutability.

  • Job volatility. To find your personal income volatility “score”, you’ll need to look at your last 12 months of income and hone in on your highest and lowest earning months. Let’s assume you earned $6,000 in your most lucrative month and $2,000 in your slowest month. You would then use this formula to figure out your volatility number: $6,000 (highest) – $2,000 (lowest) = $4,000. Then, take the $4,000 and divide it by your lowest earning month. So, this would be $4,000 divided by $2,000 = 2. Voila! Your income volatility number is 2.
  • Income commutability. To zero in on this figure, you’ll need to take the total years you’ve been working and multiply that number by .5. After that, you’ll add in another .5 for every $10,000 you earn over $40,000 each year. So, if you earn $40,000, you’d add 0. If you earn $50,000 you’ll add .5. If you earn $60,000 you’d add 1 and so on.

As an example, let’s assume you’ve been employed for 10 years and earn $60,000. You would then use this formula to figure out your income commutability: 10 (years worked) multiplied by .5 = 5. Then take 5 and add the amount that represents how much you earn over $40,000. In this case that would be $60,000 – $40,000 = $20,000. So that would be 5 + 1 = 6. And there you go. Your income commutability would be 6.

With these figures at your fingertips, you can now figure out how much you should have in your emergency fund by plugging your numbers into the following formula: (Minimum monthly expenses multiplied by income volatility multiplied by income commutability) – existing savings = your ideal emergency fund amount.

For example, let’s assume your minimum monthly expenses are $3,000 and you currently have $4,000 in your emergency fund. Using the income volatility and commutability figures from above, you’d plug the numbers in here to figure out your ideal emergency fund: $3,000 (minimum monthly expenses ) multiplied by 1 (income volatility) multiplied by 6 (income commutability) = $18,000. Then take $18,000 and subtract how much you currently have in your emergency fund. So this would be $18,000 – $4,000 = $14,000. This means you should aim to save $14,000 into your emergency fund.

What’s the right amount?

With a lot of different advice floating around, it’s hard to determine the best method for calculating how much to save into your emergency fund. The most important thing is to start saving as soon as possible. This way, you’ll have funds available when you need the money the most.

 

How to Save Money on a Teacher’s Salary

If you’re a teacher, you probably understand what it’s like to work hard without earning a high salary.

No matter how dedicated you are to improving the lives of children, it’s sometimes a struggle to make ends meet, let alone invest in your own future. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, the highest paid teachers earn anywhere from 40k/year to almost 100k/year. Depending on where you live, this can make it difficult to pay off your own student loans, buy classroom supplies, and save money – especially when you may only get paid for nine months out of the year.

Fortunately for you, if you’re smart about managing your money, you can still reach your financial goals, even without a high salary. In recognition of National Teacher Day, take a look at our 7 savvy strategies teachers can use to save more money.

Infographic Credit: U.S. News

1. Complete a Master’s Degree or Extra Certifications

If you are interested in continuing your education, you may be able to get a master’s degree for free or for an affordable fee. And, depending on the district where you teach, having a master’s degree may mean a higher salary for you. In some cases, even earning a specific certification can lead to higher pay.

Better yet, your school district may have a list of available courses that you can take advantage of. If not, you can also scout around on your own. You may be surprised at the number of classes and courses you can take to both enhance your skills and salary. If you’re a Texas middle school math or science teacher, for example, you may be able to get a free online education master’s degree from the University of Houston. So, it’s worth it to do your homework!

2. Volunteer for Extra Responsibilities

In addition to chasing more credentials, you may want to take on some extra responsibilities at your school. Things like being a class advisor to a student club, coaching extra-curricular sports teams, or tutoring during after-school hours may yield some extra money – above and beyond your salary. Since every school operates differently, if you’re interested in these opportunities, talk to your school’s administrators to find out how you can step up to the plate.

3. Avoid Lifestyle Inflation

Avoiding lifestyle inflation is a sound financial strategy for everyone, especially teachers.

Don’t believe me? Imagine this: You just graduated with your teaching degree and landed your first job, so you treat yourself to a new car because you deserve it. To go along with that new car, you sign a lease for a nice apartment with a spare bedroom you can use to store all of your stuff. Then, you plan a vacation to celebrate the next chapter of your life. Sounds pretty normal, doesn’t it?

But, let’s back up for a minute. This kind of carefree spending can easily get out of hand. Instead, why not spend less and save money by keeping the car you drove in college, moving in with a roommate to save on rent, and skipping vacation until you have enough cash to pay for it. By optimizing the major financial decisions in your life, you stand to save big bucks over the long term.

4. Automate Your Savings

One of the easiest ways to start saving money is to make it automatic. For instance, if you have a Chime bank account, every time you use your Chime Visa® debit card, the transaction is rounded up to the nearest dollar. That rounded up amount is then deposited into a savings account. Cha-ching!

It doesn’t stop there. As a Chime member, you can also start paying yourself first by earmarking 10% of each paycheck into your Savings account. This is particularly important for teachers who are sometimes only paid for 21 pay periods. Other times, teachers get paid for 26 pay periods, even if they only work for nine months of the year, says Vicki Cook, a 29-year teaching veteran and co-founder of Women Who Money.

“For those who struggle creating (and sticking to a budget), the 26 pay period option helps them receive a steady paycheck all summer long. If that isn’t an option, setting up a consistent auto-withdrawal from each paycheck to a separate summer savings account can work well,” says Cook.

5. Take on a Side Hustle

Talking about saving up for the summer months, why not take on a summer job or start a hustle to supplement your teaching income?

For example, you can use your teaching experience to offer tutoring services or even teach classes online. You can also earn money doing something completely different than teaching, like selling jewelry on Etsy or driving for Uber. The point is: you’ve got the summer off. Why not earn some extra cash?

Lindsey Oura, a science teacher for the past 16 years in suburban Boston, knows first-hand how to earn extra money doing something she enjoys.

“Before I had children, I would always work at least one summer job, usually as a camp educator,” says Oura.

When her two children came along, she had her hands full as a mom and a school teacher. But recently, Oura decided to combine two of her passions – teaching and yoga – and take the online Pretzel Kids yoga certification course. Now a Pretzel Kids teacher, Oura is looking forward to earning money teaching kids yoga classes and leading birthday parties this summer.

6. Pack a Lunch

As a teacher, you may be tempted to hit the cafeteria each day for lunch instead of packing your own lunch.

But, believe it or not, you can save loads of dough by brown bagging it. Even if you only spend five dollars a day at the cafeteria, that adds up to $25 a week, $100 a month, or $900-$1,000 a year! Just think of the jump-start you can get on your savings by socking that cash away. Sure, you’ll still have to go to the grocery store to buy sandwich fixings but by shopping wisely, you can even save money at the supermarket.

7. Save for Your Retirement

If you’re eligible for a retirement plan at your school, take advantage of it. And, if you’re not able to invest through your employer, you should still consider opening your own retirement account. It’s never too soon to start saving up for your future.

Final Word

Making a difference in the world each day you go to work is something many people will never experience. So, savor it, make the most of your salary, and enjoy your life.

One final thing: thank you for all you do. Happy National Teacher Day!

 

How Pet Sitting Can Help You Go on Vacation and Put More Money In Your Pocket

Have you ever thought about pet sitting to help you go on a summer vacation?

Well, I’ve done it and it works. Over the past few summers, I went to Chicago to dogsit for some friends. I scored free room and board, and pet sitting allowed me to afford a sweet summer getaway that I couldn’t have swung otherwise. Intrigued? Can you hear the spare change jingling in your pocket from the excitement?

Here’s how you can go about pet or house sitting to save big bucks on travel this summer:

Plan Far in Advance

You’ll want to book a pet sitting gig as far in advance as possible. In fact, year-round professional house and pet sitters like Kelly Hayes-Raitt, author of How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the HouseSit Diva, book up to a year in advance. Securing a gig  ahead of time gives you some breathing room to learn about your clients and iron out all the details before you jump in and show up on the doorstep.

To get going, try visiting sites like Nomador, Workaway, and TrustedHousesitters. You can also check out HouseSitSearch, an aggregator of house sitting search sites.

Pro tip: while you’re figuring out where you’re going, consider renting your place while you’re away. Of course, you’ll want to proceed with caution. If you’re a renter and your lease explicitly states that you cannot sublease your place, don’t do it. You may be subject to eviction. On the other hand, if you own your home, you can check into a short-term vacation rental site like Airbnb and perhaps earn some additional cash.

Lay Out Expectations

Will room and board be covered completely, or will you be expected to pay for utilities and other costs while you’re there?

In my situation – in exchange for caring for a sweet pooch – my pal Dave Fried, a filmmaker, gave me a place to stay and covered my flight from Los Angeles to Chicago (as part of the deal, I paid for my way home). Not only did I have access to a nice kitchen where I could cook and store foodstuff, but I could also work remotely out of Fried’s place (free wifi for the win). While Fried and his partner Greg Slade were kind enough not to charge me for using their water and power, your clients may have a different arrangement in mind. So make sure you ask about all the specifics.

Another thing to consider when you accept a pet sitting or house-sitting gig: will there be roommates or other people in the house when you’re there? If so and you’re ok with this, find out what their schedules are like. Also find out if you’re expected to do additional tasks to help out the roomies. In my situation, Fried was away but Slade, who owns a barbershop, was around while I was there. It was still my sole duty to take care of the dog.

Remember: every situation is different. For example, your clients may also require that you water the houseplants, move the car during street cleaning, and go through their mail and alert them of any scary notices.

Make New Friends and Keep the Old

Make an effort to forge a friendship with the homeowner before you house sit, recommends Hayes-Raitt.

To do this, you can connect through Skype, email correspondence, social media, or phone calls. And, make sure you inquire about local haunts and ask where you can find the best deals on groceries. In other words, get the inside scoop.

Another idea: ask the homeowner to introduce you to one of his friends. This way you’ll have a local you can meet up with and someone nearby to let you know about neighborhood activities and restaurants, says Hayes-Raitt.

I was fortunate to have some friends from L.A. who had moved to Chicago. Plus, former Chicagoans who now live in Los Angeles were kind enough to connect me to some of their Chi-town pals. Their recommendations, combined with poking around the Internet, gave me plenty of ideas for summer fun during my stay. In fact, my friends tipped me off to cheap eats and the best ethnic markets with killer deals on produce. In addition, they told me about free summer concerts, street festivals, and movies in the park. And, in order to save more money while still having fun. I also cooked as much as I could and biked instead of taking public transit.

Hunt for the Best Travel Deals

If you want to continue traveling after your gig, you may want to check into deals that will help you extend your trip. Why not take advantage of your location and see some additional sites or cities?

To do this, try checking for bargains on flights to nearby cities, or discounted bus fare on Megabus or Wanderu. After one of my trips to Chicago, I then visited Ann Arbor, Michigan. For future Chicago dog sitting stints, I’m planning to trek over to Madison and Milwaukee, as well as Minneapolis.

It’ll Still Cost You, So Budget Accordingly

Even though my lovely Chi-town pals hooked me up with a bike, I was still a “tourist” and spent a fair share of moola. After checking my bank account statements, I indeed spent more on weekend bike rides, dining out, and touring local haunts than I would have spent at home. So, make sure you budget for your trip and save up some extra cash.

Pro tip: if you’re a Chime member, it’s a good idea to enroll in Automatic Savings. When you do this, Chime will round up every transaction you make on your Chime debit card and deposit the round up amount into your Savings account. This way you can start socking cash away now – without even thinking about it.

Try a No-Spend Weekend

After realizing I spent more than usual while dog sitting, I committed to spending zero “new” cash for an entire weekend once I got home.

This meant taking advantage of free entertainment, such as movies in the park and art openings. I also dug into my wallet and found an unused gift card. Score! All told, my no-spend weekend helped me reset and stick to my budget.

Ready to Pack Your Bags?

Scoring a summer house or pet sitting gig can indeed help you save loads on your travels, while giving you the opportunity to take a low-cost vacation. Just keep in mind that creating a budget and saving your pennies in advance will give you some extra spending money while you’re away. Are you ready to book your first house sitting gig?

 

How to Save Money on Clothes and Still Stay Fashionable

It’s important to feel good about the way you dress, but that doesn’t mean you should blow your budget to stay fashionable.

Nonetheless, buying clothes can take a big bite out of your budget. In fact, the average American spends about $150 per month on clothing. It might not sound like a lot, but that’s nearly $2,000 per year.

Let’s get real: if that $150 was invested in a retirement account every month and earned 6% interest for 20 years, it would have grown to nearly $70,000. And, even if you earned zero interest and simply saved that $150 a month for one single year, you’d have $1,800 in your bank account. Yikes. So, how can you buy some fashionable threads while still saving money?

To help you find a balance between trendy and broke, we’ve compiled a list of 4 ways to stay fashionable on a dime. Read on to learn more.

1. Shop Your Closet (and Your Friends’ Closets!)

Instead of heading to the store to do your clothes shopping, try heading to your own closet. It might sound counterintuitive, but the truth is that most Americans only wear 20% of the clothes they own.

In other words, take yourself on a shopping date…in your own closet.

“Get creative. Spend an afternoon going through your entire closet and trying to find new ways to mix and match or restyle what you already have,” says Kali Hawlk, a 28-year-old money expert at Going Beyond Wealth in Boston, Massachusetts.

“I’ve generated some of my favorite outfits this way,” she says.

But what if you finish shopping in your closet and are less than impressed with the results? It’s time for the second step: shop your friends’ closets. Like you, your friends are probably tired of wasting money on clothes they rarely (or never) wear.

“If you can, share clothes with your friends. It makes it easier on your whole group if you know you can borrow that trendy blazer or cute dress for a certain occasion, and they can borrow from you instead of buying something new,” says Hawlk.

If you’ve never shared clothes with your friends before or feel awkward about talking about money with your friends, don’t worry. The easiest way to introduce the idea is to offer up an item of your own. The next time a friend is stressed about what to wear to a job interview or first date, offer her a dress from your closet. Chances are that she will return the favor and, just like that, you’ve started shopping in each other’s closets.

2. Do Research…and Then Wait

Here’s the truth: stores are designed to overwhelm and trick consumers into spending more money. The fluorescent lighting, loud music and abundance of options can make it hard to focus on what you actually want or need.

When Hawlk realized she was feeling overstimulated every time she entered a clothing store, she decided to make strategic changes.

“I used to end up randomly grabbing pieces that don’t coordinate with the rest of my wardrobe or match my style—and I always ended up regretting those purchases. Now, I try to spend time browsing fashion blogs and Instagram accounts to find pieces and styles I like, and then I make a note of it or save it to Pinterest. I try to set that aside for a while and come back to it later. It helps me rethink what I really want, and what truly reflects my style. Then, I start searching for pieces that are similar to the ones I liked and saved.”

As Hawlk explains, the key to saving money while still getting the clothes you want is to research and then let it simmer. Here’s how you can implement this:

  1. Get inspired by browsing online.
  2. Save the pieces you like or create a fashion mood board.
  3. Close your computer tabs and walk away.
  4. Check back on your mood board a few days (or weeks) later.
  5. If you still want or need the pieces, begin the shopping search.

3. Use Apps to Buy Second-hand Clothing

So, what’s the best way to find the clothing you want to purchase? Shop on used clothing apps. Apps like ThredUp, Poshmark and Tradesy allow people to sell gently used clothing items to other app users. This means you can snag some great deals.

“My all-time favorite way to stay fashionable without breaking my budget is with used clothing apps. It’s like a giant, organized, online Goodwill where you can search for exactly what you want. You can get just about anything, from high-end brands to brand-new-with-tags clothes from places like Target for a fraction of the retail price. I always browse the site first before heading to a store,” says Hawlk.

But here’s the deal—apps like these can be overwhelming. There are thousands of items listed in one place. In order to use an app effectively and not fall into the trap of wasting money on regrettable purchases, be sure to do your research ahead of time and know exactly what you’re looking for.

4. Dig Deeper

Fashion is important, but it’s also important to feel confident. After all, confidence is the best accessory.

“Do some deep work to better understand yourself and what you truly value,” says Hawlk.

After she started dressing in a way that fit her personality, Hawlk says she didn’t feel the need to shop as much. And when you don’t shop as often, you save money.

Striking the Perfect Balance

As you know, clothes are an integral (and non-negotiable!) part of life. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel your best, and a curated, comfortable wardrobe can help. Luckily, you don’t need to break your budget to make it happen. By following the tips above, you can have the best of both worlds—a closet filled with clothes you love and a bank account with money.

 

How I Kickstarted My First Emergency Fund

If your car breaks down or you lose your job tomorrow, do you have anything to fall back on? What if you get sick and can’t work for an extended period of time?

No one wants to think about these unfortunate events, but emergencies happen and this can mean unexpected expenses. If you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck and ready to become more financially stable, you should build a solid emergency fund.

An emergency fund acts as your first line of defense when you’re faced with unplanned and urgent expenses. Financial experts recommend saving anywhere from three to six months worth of expenses, which can be difficult and take some time. If you’re currently in debt, financial guru Dave Ramsey recommends saving at least $1,000. With that said, more than a quarter of all Americans have no emergency fund and more than half don’t have enough money saved up to cover a $500 expense.

Want to make sure you’re able to pay for your unexpected expenses? Read on to learn more.

The Importance Of Having Emergency Savings During Debt Payoff

When I was waist deep in debt and eager to pay it all off, I knew I needed to build a small emergency fund first. Why? Because if a random expense popped up, I wouldn’t have to incur more debt to pay for it.

An emergency fund also protects your cash flow and allows you to keep making debt payments. This, in turn, helps you work toward your other financial goals.

How much you decide to save is totally up to your needs and preferences. The best thing you can do is break down your big savings goal into bite-sized pieces. For example, I truly wanted a $10,000 emergency fund but decided to challenge myself to save one-quarter of that amount, which still made me feel comfortable during my debt payoff. I achieved this goal.

I established a $2,500 emergency fund during my first year of serious debt repayment. I did this in just four months. How? I did one thing that I recommend you do as well. I started paying myself first.

Start Paying Yourself First

Building an emergency fund fast is no easy feat, but when you commit to paying yourself first, it becomes more manageable. Not only that but you’ll be more likely to get the results you crave. It worked for me and it can work for you too.

The concept of paying yourself first is simple and refers to sending money straight to personal or retirement savings as soon as you get paid. Think about the first thing you do when you receive your paycheck. Do you pay all your bills? Or, do you go out for a nice dinner or buy something you want? You may think that you’re doing these things to take care of yourself, but you’re actually depleting your own funds by trading your money for unnecessary resources and services. Instead, you can keep more of your money in your possession by paying yourself first. After that, you can feed your emergency fund, save for retirement, and contribute to other savings accounts.

Many people claim they don’t have enough money to save and can’t afford to build an emergency fund. When you pay yourself first, however, that excuse goes right out the window because you’re prioritizing your own personal savings over other expenses. Before I started paying myself first, I would spend money on everything under the sun when I got paid. Then I would wonder why I had no money left to set aside in a savings account at the end of the month.

I realized my process was flawed and I would never reach my emergency fund goal this way. Instead, I set up automatic transfers to a high-yield savings account every two weeks on the same day I got paid from my job. Automating essentially meant my money was out of sight, out of mind while I effortlessly grew my account each month.

Next Steps

Once you commit to the idea of paying yourself first to grow your emergency fund, set a clear goal based on your needs. For example, how much do you wish to save and how long do you expect it to take?

Also, make sure you consider lowering your expenses, especially if you’re not used to prioritizing savings. Odds are, you will have to adjust your lifestyle and give up some expenditures in order to save more money. While you’re at it, don’t forget about increasing your income. I got a side hustle to help me build my emergency savings and pay off debt faster.

Commit to YOU

While you’re building your emergency fund and paying off your debt, keep in mind that having extra income won’t solve all your problems. You’ve got to take the first step: pay yourself first.

If you don’t do this, you run the risk of mismanaging the extra money you make, making impulse purchases and inflating your lifestyle. But, if you commit to yourself, you’ll develop a solid emergency fund faster as failure or procrastination isn’t an option.

Are you ready to grow your emergency fund by paying yourself first?

 

How to Start a Side Hustle to Save More Money

For most of us, saving money is hard.

In fact, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, according to a survey by GOBankingRates. Saving money can be particularly challenging for millennials who are often saddled with student loan debt and just starting out in their careers. Even if you have a great job, you still might not earn enough money to save for your goals, like buying a house or starting an emergency fund.

So, how can you increase your earnings potential right now so you can save more money? Starting a side business from scratch is one possibility. However, this might not be realistic when you take into account your demanding job and limited funds. But, as the saying goes: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Actually, there are 5 ways. Read on to learn how you can take advantage of the sharing and gig economies and start saving money right away:

1. Rent out a spare room on Airbnb.

This, of course, means you have a spare room in your apartment or house. If you do, consider fixing it up with some nice yet inexpensive decor (Target to the rescue!) and posting it on Airbnb. If you don’t have a spare room and live with roommates, you can still get creative by staying elsewhere and renting out your own room a few nights a month. I know you might dread this, but staying in your parents’ basement isn’t such a bad idea either if you’re only taking up residence there every other weekend and this translates into a few hundred bucks a month. Not so shabby.

2. Rent your car.

If you have a car and don’t use it much, consider listing it on Turo. According to Turo, if your car is worth $20,000 and you rent it out via the platform 15 days a month, you could earn $6,501 a year.

3. Hang out with four-legged friends.

If you’ve considered starting a dog walking business but you don’t have the time to market yourself, Rover and Dogvacay might offer the perfect solutions. These two apps allow you to list your hours of availability, set your rates and voila! – you’re in business. If you live in a dog-friendly house or apartment, you can even host dogs when their owners are on vacation and start your own hotel for dogs.

4. You’re in the driver’s seat.

Yup, driving for ridesharing services is an easy way to make some extra cash. Some good options: Uber, Lyft or Safr, which recently launched in Boston. Redefining ridesharing for women, Safr aims to provide safe transportation and job opportunities for women. According to the Safr website, it also pays more than other driving apps. If you don’t want to drive people around, what about food? More than 100,000 people are already signed up on Postmates to deliver – among other things – take-out meals from local restaurants to hungry patrons. According to Postmates, drivers can earn more than $25 an hour and set their own schedules.

5. Turn your skills and talents into fast cash.

If you enjoy doing household tasks and consider yourself a jack of all trades, you might consider signing on to TaskRabbit to offer house cleaning, furniture assembly, handyman or other services. You set your rates and choose to work hours that fit your schedule. As another option: If you do a bit of research, you might find a specialty app that will help you score side gigs. For example, I teach yoga and recently signed up for a new app called EasyPose. I entered in the types of yoga I teach and my availability. Students use the app to hire instructors who will come to their homes to teach private yoga sessions. Within a day, I had my first client.

As you can see, if you want to earn extra money to jumpstart your savings, you’ve got plenty of options. Yet, regardless of what type of gig works best for you, it’s important to keep your eye on your savings goals. To do this, it’s a good idea to stash away all of your earnings from your new side hustle into a savings account. Think of it this way: If you were able to get by on your full-time income before, anything extra is gravy.

If you find it hard to resist the temptation to spend your newfound income, here’s another tip: Automate your savings. Automating makes it easy for you to save without thinking about it. For example, with a Chime account, you’ll save money every time you use your Chime Visa Debit card to make a purchase. That’s right. When you use your card, your transaction will be rounded up to the nearest dollar and that rounded up amount will be transferred into your savings account. If you use your debit card twice a day on average, you’ll save about $400 a year.

Between automating and earning more money with a new side gig, your savings goals are now within reach. Are you ready to start manifesting more money today?

 

Introducing Automatic Savings, a New Way to Bank With Chime That Pays You to Save

We started Chime with a simple mission: to help our members save money, form healthy financial habits and get ahead without a lot of hard work. Today, we’re pleased to announce a major milestone in accomplishing that mission by introducing an interesting-bearing Savings Account that helps members save simply by using their Chime Visa® Debit Card. We call it Automatic Savings and helps you build your savings without thinking about it.

Sounds too good to be true? To get started, simply open a Chime Spending Account and Savings Account online or through the mobile app. Once approved for a Savings Account, turn on Automatic Savings. Here’s how it works:

  • Use your Chime card to pay bills and make everyday purchases.
  • We’ll round up each purchase you make to the nearest dollar and transfer the round-up from your Spending Account to your Savings Account.

We’re excited to offer this new way for our members to take small steps toward a regular savings habit. As we found in our recent Millennial Money Mindset Report, 93% of young adults believe setting aside money for savings is important, yet 40% aren’t doing it. As a Chime member with a Savings Account and Automatic Savings, you can put your savings on autopilot, get rewarded when you spend and get rewarded when you save.

Today we’re also announcing a number of new additions to your Chime Spending Account:

  • Pay bills with direct debit.
    Pay your rent, mortgage, credit card or student loan payments electronically by providing your Chime Account and bank routing and account numbers to your biller.
  • Cash-back category-wide rewards.
    Groceries. Restaurants. Utilities. We’re introducing new category-wide rewards that give you instant cash back when you use your Chime card at any retailer in a given category.
  • No Monthly fees and fee-free ATMs.
    We’ve eliminated the Account Maintenance Fee for dormant accounts, and ATM transactions are now fee-free for all members at over 24,000 MoneyPass® locations.

We’re excited to offer our members even more rewarding ways to bank with Chime, and there’s much more to come. We look forward to hearing your feedback, and if you’re not already a member, you can sign up here.  

Chris Britt, Chime Founder & CEO