Tag: Seasonal

 

Summer Side Hustles to Try This Year

It’s almost summer! This means BBQs, beach days, and road trips. Yet, summer isn’t all fun and games. It’s also a great time to make more money.

Whether you decide to get a temp job or strike out on your own with a new side hustle, now is the perfect opportunity to put extra cash toward your money goals. To help get your wheels rolling, check out these eight side hustle ideas.

1. Real Estate Agent Assistant

Spring and summer are the busy seasons for real estate agents, especially if you live in a region with a hot housing market. Many agents need extra help with listings, and this includes taking photos of houses and shopping for personalized thank-you gifts for clients. At the same time, agents may not have the budget or need for a full-time employee. That’s where you come in.

Perhaps you can become a freelance personal assistant to a local real estate agent. Don’t be shy. Start pounding the pavement, meet with real estate agents, and let them know what you can bring to the table.

2. Social Media Manager

Admit it. You already spend too much time on Instagram and Snapchat. Why not get paid for your social media usage? Restaurants and stores need people with good communication skills to increase their online presence. So, create a sample account to show local businesses how you can help them gain more traction with social media.

You can charge an hourly rate or offer a flat rate package that includes a set of curated images, posting ideas and content creation. For an extra weekly charge, you can even manage the company’s social media accounts daily.

3. Manager for Airbnb Hosts

Did you know that you don’t actually have to own a rental to profit from Airbnb’s popularity? Instead, you can become a property manager for Airbnb hosts in your area.

Many Airbnb hosts rent out their home on the side but still have a busy life to maintain too. Summer months might also be the time that hosts want to do some traveling on their own, without stressing out about their own guests.

You, in turn, can be the reliable person that can fill in the gap for them. As part of the deal, you can also offer to clean the rentals between guest stays, do lawn care or welcome guests. You can even offer to improve their listings with better photos and descriptions.

4. Summer Program Instructor

Have you thought about becoming a swim instructor or teaching kids yoga classes? Perhaps you can offer children’s art or drama classes?

Summer is a great time to get your creative juices going and teach kids classes. If you haven’t taught swimming in years or you want to learn a new skill, the American RedCross offers a Water Safety Instructor’s Course in many areas. This course prepares you to teach preschoolers and children, as well as ‘Parent and Me’ aquatic classes. You can charge $25-35 for an hour of one-on-one swim lessons or charge $300 upfront for a package of 10 swim lessons.

When it comes to yoga, this may be easier than teaching swimming because you don’t need a pool and can run classes at a local park or even in a backyard. And don’t worry if you’ve never taught yoga before. You can hook up with a company like Pretzel Kids yoga, which offers an affordable online training course enabling you to start teaching children’s yoga classes immediately. Pretzel Kids teachers can earn $40 to $100 a class, depending on where you live and how many children are enrolled in your classes, says Pretzel Kids founder Robyn Parets.

“Some of our Pretzel Kids teachers also run mini-camps for a week or even three days during the summer. The best part: You can pick a summer week when you’re around and even bring along your own kids. It’s a lucrative and flexible way to earn extra cash doing something to enrich kids’ lives,” says Parets.

5. A Sitter for All Needs

Once school is out for the summer, many parents are desperate for affordable day care.

Have you considered becoming a babysitter? Even if you are only free nights and weekends, you can still pick up regular gigs when parents need a date night. If you become a child’s favorite sitter, you might even get invited on vacation.

Pet sitting and house sitting are also in-demand during the summer months. Many people prefer in-home pet sitting to boarding their animals, especially if they have more than one fur baby. For an easy way to make more money, check out Rover.com to apply for local house or pet sitting gigs.

6. Teach Kids Online

Companies like VIPKid hire online instructors to teach English to children in China. The virtual one-on-one teachings pay up to $22 an hour. To be a teacher, you need a bachelor’s degree and to pass the application process.

You can also look into other online teaching opportunities at companies like Outschool, which hires independent contractors to teach all sorts of classes for kids via video conference calls. With Outschool, you have to go through an approval process and then you can set your own hours and rates.

7. Garden and Lawn Care

We know, mowing lawns is the ultimate cliche of summer jobs, but it is for good reason. Taking care of your lawn is harder in the summer when plants and weeds grow faster.

So, try offering extra services that a regular gardener does not do, such as dog poop removal, palm tree trimming and patio power washing.

You can even skip the monthly service all together for a one-time charge. Call it the “Take a Week Off” special, offering individuals an hour of garden care for $25.

8. RV Prep and Cleaning

Hitting the open road is a summer favorite for many families. Yet, prepping the RV and cleaning it after the trip is something many wish they didn’t have to do.

You, however, can profit off of this common pain point with your own RV service business. To boot, advertising this type of business door-to-door is easy, since most of your potential customers will have their RV parked on the side of their homes.

Get Your Side Hustle On

Now that we’ve given you eight great ideas to make extra money this summer, it’s time for you to get started!

And here’s one final pro tip to level up your income: If your employer offers direct deposit, you can get paid early with Chime. Even without direct deposit, you can still manage your side hustle paychecks with Chime and automate your income. Simply transfer 10% of your paycheck into a separate account every time you get paid. This way you can reach your money goals with ease.

 

Best Money Advice from Dads

For better or worse, your parents were likely your first money role models.

While I don’t recall my dad distilling any particular nuggets of wisdom on the topic, his actions preceded his words. For one thing, he was the ultimate cheapskate. We would only dine out on “Kids Eat Free Tuesdays”, and our go-to spots for quality time were the neighborhood park and local library.

One year, after spending $100 on an “Adventure Girl” bike for my birthday – complete with a safari-pattern frame, and pink and baby blue streamers dripping from the handlebars – my dad muttered after we left Toys R’ Us, “Nothing is free.”

The apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

As a self-described “frugalista,” I still enjoy a good bargain and have trouble parting with my money. In honor of Father’s Day, here’s a round-up of the best money advice from dads:

Know your numbers

It’s easy to let your money management slide when you’ve long neglected your finances, or when your money situation isn’t exactly where you would like it. Michael H.’s (that’s his blog pseudonym) dad helped him understand the basics of cash flow management by teaching him about income and expenses.

His dad helped him create spreadsheets, and always made sure that his numbers were balanced. “It was a tedious task at the time, but the lesson was invaluable,” says Michael, the founder of Financially Alert.

Michael wants to teach his children that money is merely a tool – nothing more, nothing less.

“I don’t want them to be afraid of it, and I also don’t want them to feel entitled to it,” he says.

“It’s a fine balance of teaching them the value of a dollar through hard work, saving and investing, and giving to those less fortunate.”

How to apply this to your own money situation: Check your bank balance. You can easily do this by logging into your bank account, or by way of a money management app. Know how much is coming in and how much you’re spending each month. There’s nothing like being blindsided by a low bank account balance.

The best way to double your money

When Logan Allec was around eight years old, his dad asked him, “Would you rather have $1,000,000 or a penny doubled for 30 days?”

Even though he was just a youngster, he instinctively went with the cool million. But his dad then demonstrated how a penny doubled for 30 days would actually yield more money.

“The morale was that you want to multiply your money and not just go for the quick wins,” says Allec, CPA and founder of Money Done Right.

“Since I’ve been making money, I’m also looking for ways to multiply my pennies,” he says.

“A lot of the frugal decisions I’ve made in my life trace back to this mentality: Would I rather spend my pennies on some item or experience, or would I rather invest them so that they can multiply and make me rich?”

How to apply this to your own money situation: Find ways to save so you can grow your money. For instance, drum up tactics to help you save on your living expenses. Or, learn how to negotiate to earn more money on the job. For easy, no-brainer savings, open a bank account with no fees.

Pay yourself first

The best money lesson Mike Pearson’s dad ever taught him was to pay himself first. For instance, every time you receive a paycheck at work, the first 15 to 20 percent should go into either a savings account, retirement account – or both. That’s right: You should pay yourself before paying your rent, car loan, cell phone bill, or what have you.

Now that Pearson’s a dad himself to two young kids, he wants to teach them to automatically invest in the stock market once they get their first “real” job out of college.

“The magic of compound interest is real,” says Pearson, the founder of Credit Takeoff.

“If you start investing 15 percent of your paycheck into a 401(k) for your entire working life, paycheck after paycheck, you will retire a multi-millionaire – simply because of automatic savings and compound interest.”

How to apply this to your own money situation: Before you pay your bills and debt, stash some money aside for your savings and retirement. To set aside money toward your future goals,  create an account and set up automatic savings. Even saving a dollar a day adds up to $365 a year. Save two bucks a day and you’ll have $730 in a year.

Don’t treat your paycheck like a cash advance

When Kristin Larsen was in college, she had a job working at a clothing store. Truth be told, she took the job mainly to snag an employee discount. Instead of receiving a paycheck and then making a purchase as a separate transaction, Larsen had the option to have her purchases come directly out of her paycheck.

“That wasn’t very smart as I barely broke even with each paycheck,” says Larsen, who is the founder of Believe in a Budget.

“Once my dad caught wind and took a look at my earnings and spending, he told me it was time to find another job.”

Bottom line: Don’t treat your paycheck like cash advance. It’ll be gone by the time you receive it.

How to apply this to your own money situation: If you’re a Chime Bank member, the “Save When I Get Paid” feature can help you sock away some money before all that money goes toward your living expenses. If you have direct deposit set up with Chime, you can even get a bit of an actual advance up to two days before your payday.

Parting Advice

Whether your dad gave you sound financial advice or not, pay attention to your money matters. This way you can take steps to improve your situation and reach your financial goals.

 

Should You Get a Summer Job?

Ah summertime. With vacations, beach days, and backyard barbecues on the mind, you’re probably not thinking about getting a summer job. But whether you’re a teacher with summers off, a student on break, or you just want to save some money, summer is an ideal time to look for extra work.

Here are four reasons why you should get a summer job.

1. You can take advantage of seasonal work

Summertime boasts a plethora of seasonal jobs that aren’t available any other time of year. This is excellent news because it means a lot of employers are hiring just for the summer. It’s also great news for you as you won’t have to stress about giving your notice after only a few months. You can simply work for a short time and bank the extra cash.

As an added bonus, there is generally less competition for these jobs since they are only guaranteed for a season. Some seasonal opportunities include working in retail, lifeguarding, tourism, and landscaping – just to name a few.

To find jobs near you, it’s pretty easy to ask around, join neighborhood Facebook groups or and post what you’re looking for on NextDoor. Chances are, you’ll get a few referrals in a matter of minutes! Or, you can check out SummerJobs.com to find employers near you.

2. You’ll earn extra cash

Who wouldn’t benefit from some extra cash?

While a simple, seasonal job might not make you rich, it can certainly help you achieve your financial goals faster.

Want to pay off debt? Consider a summer job. Start an emergency fund? Save for a trip? Then you should definitely consider seasonal work.

Better yet, if you have other income from your primary job, you can stash away what you earn from your summer gig. Even an extra $200 a week can add up – helping you save $1600 in just eight weeks! That’s plenty of dough to kickstart your savings goals.

3. You’ll give your days structure

Maybe an abundance of free time isn’t for you. Or, perhaps you can use some structure this summer. Either way, a summer job can provide you an opportunity to fill your time and earn money.

Because let’s face it: There are only so many days you can sit at home before you become bored out of your mind. Summer can feel incredibly long if you don’t have anything planned. So, take advantage of your downtime and earn some money while you’re at it.

And, if you’re pushing your kids to find a summer job, this is an excellent opportunity to teach them about budgeting, saving, and time management. You can even open a mobile bank account and teach your teens how to track income and expenses while on the go.

4. You’ll learn new skills and have some fun

If you have ever wanted to try out a new career, then a summer job is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Maybe you want to take a break from teaching and work in tourism this summer. Or, perhaps you want to land an internship before heading back to grad school. Or, if you’re an entrepreneur at heart, then you can use this summer to launch your business.

There are hundreds of new skills you can learn by shaking up your routine and trying out a new summer job. Whether it’s customer service, billing, manual labor, or coaching, get out there and try something new.

Are there drawbacks to a summer job?

Of course, there are plenty of instances where a summer job may not be worth it.

For example, when you have a summer job, you lose out on time you could be spending on other things, like traveling, home improvement projects, or lazy summer days at home with your kids. A secondary summer job can also add a layer of stress to your life if you already work a demanding 9 to 5 job.

So, before you jump into a summer job, weigh the pros and cons. Just remember: While a summer job isn’t for everyone, if you have the luxury of free time this summer and can use the extra money, then why not? Besides, a summer job can be just what you need to bolster your financial goals.

 

Family Vacations on a Budget

Everyone loves to get away from time to time.

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

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

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

1. Minneapolis, Minnesota

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

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

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

2. Washington, D.C.

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

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

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

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

3. Daytona Beach, Florida

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

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

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

4. Lake Tahoe, California

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

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

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

5. Yellowstone, Wyoming

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

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

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

6. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

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

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

Research is Key

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

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

 

What To Do Now That You’re Broke From Coachella

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It was worth it.

You paid a steep price to make all of your Childish Gambino-Grande-Solange dreams come true. And witnessing Idris Elba fulfill his lifelong dream of scoring the Coachella DJ gig. Well, that was priceless!

Yes, the three-day music festival event may have drained your bank account – at least that’s how you felt in the moment.

Now, however, the music has faded away and it’s time to start saving money again and get your finances back on track. But how do you do this?

Luckily for you, we’ve put together a four step guide to shoring up your financial situation. And, if you play your budgeting cards right, you may even have enough cash for your 2020 Coachella trip. Read on to learn more.

1. Assess the Damage

It’s time to look reality in the face. How much debt did you rack up to pay for Coachella? How much money do you have left in your bank account?

To get started, calculate all the expenses you will need to cover from now until payday. Get real about your financial situation. You may have to cancel after work drinks or eat dinner at your parents’ house three times this week. But, whatever you do, don’t get behind on your bills.

The faster you get back on track, the better.

2. Create a Bare-Bones Budget

A bare-bones budget is your old budget with all of the extra perks stripped away.

Basically, you can include money for groceries, but don’t you dare think about that Cloud Macchiato from Starbucks. You had your fun, now it’s time to get back to adulting. Plus, you only have to live with a minimalistic budget until your bank account is back in the black.

Make a list of essential, non-negotiable expenses, such as your rent/mortgage, car payment and insurance. These bills get priority. Next, write down all of your other expenses. What can you cut out temporarily, like eating out or your Hulu subscription?

Get creative with flexible expenses like groceries. Make a game of it. What new meals can you come up with from leftover food in your pantry? Adjusting your meal plan to feature cheap staples like rice and beans can cut your food bill for the month as well. Other quick ways to save over the next month or two include:

  • No shopping other than groceries
  • Use cash for groceries. No backup payments to save you at check-out
  • Cut or pause all subscriptions, like Netflix, your gym membership and Prime
  • Carpool or rely on public transportation to save on gas
  • No eating out
  • Minimize utility usage – i.e. shorter showers and shutting lights off
  • Return anything you recently bought that is still returnable

3. Get Extra Money Fast

Now is the time to sell anything and everything that you no longer need. You can list small, valuable items on eBay to make shipping easier. Large items can be sold through local marketplaces, like Craigslist and OfferUp. You can sell the rest of your stuff by holding a yard sale.

Here’s another idea to raise cash fast: See if you can put in a few extra hours at work or pick up more shifts. Try offering babysitting, dog walking or cleaning services to family, friends and neighbors.

Devote every penny you earn towards debt payoff and balancing your budget. This is not the time to reward yourself with extra splurges.

4. Save for Next Time

Already making future Coachella plans? Money.com estimates that festival costs about $2,347. Start saving now by putting $200 into savings each month if possible. Automatic savings makes this part a cinch.

If you’re a Chime member, you can take advantage of automated savings in two ways. First, you can choose to have 10 percent of your paycheck automatically transferred on to your Chime Savings Account. Secondly, you can have every purchase you make on your Chime Visa® Debit Card rounded up to the nearest dollar. The round up amounts are automatically transferred to your Chime Savings Account. Cha-ching.

Plan Before You Splurge

Life without trips and adventures is kind of blah. And, while Coachella may have put you in a tough spot financially, hopefully it was a wonderful experience that you’ll remember for years to come.

You can have the best of both worlds, though. Every new adventure or splurge doesn’t need to derail your budget. By following the guide above, you can effectively plan and save for Coachella, as well as other fun experiences.

Are you ready to start saving and budgeting so that you can achieve your financial goals and treat yourself to special events?

 

How to Be Financially Productive in the Winter

If you live in many parts of the country, the winter seems to drag on. Instead of weekends at the beach or picnics in the park, you may be stuck inside, huddled in front of a fire and binging on yet another Netflix series.

But why not use these cold days to be financially productive? To help you figure out ways to improve your finances during the winter, take a look at these four tried-and-true tips.

1. Organize your taxes

Before you let out a long groan, we’re right there with you: Preparing your taxes is no fun. But, wouldn’t you rather be doing this now – when it’s dark by 6 pm and freezing outside – than in April when you could be having fun in the sun?

So, take the time now to organize your necessary tax forms, fill out a tax organizer, itemize any tax deductions, and figure out how much you can contribute to a retirement plan. If you have a salaried job and received a W-2 form, your tax prep may be pretty straightforward. But if you have a side hustle or are self-employed, your tax organization may take a bit longer. The key here is: Don’t wait until April 14 to file your taxes by the April 15 deadline. Besides, if you get ahead of the game, you can get your refund sooner.

Pro tip: Open a Chime bank account and get your tax refund via direct deposit. All you have to do is select “direct deposit” on your online tax return software and fill in your Chime Spending Account and routing number. As soon as your refund is automatically deposited into your account, you’ll receive a text alert and email from Chime. Cha-ching!

2. Audit your bank account and find ways to save

I don’t know about you, but I am much more eager to be out of the house when the weather is warm. So, what to do on a day when you just don’t feel like braving the harsh weather? Audit your bank account and see where you can save money. This way you’ll have more cash for a summer road trip, your emergency fund or your other savings goals.

Start by spending an hour on a cold winter day and looking through your monthly spending for the past three months (or elect to audit just the past month or some other time frame.) Take a close look at what you’re spending money on and where you’re spending it. Even if you think you know exactly how you spend your cash, you’ll be surprised by what you discover.

Here are a couple of examples of what I found on a recent bank account audit: My cable bill had crept up for the past three months, my spending on groceries seemed out of whack, and I still had my husband on my gym membership even though he never goes.

It was time to do something about this. So, I ended up switching from my cable provider to a fiber-optic network (long story short: we can’t cut the cable or fiber optic cord entirely because my husband won’t give up his local sports channels.) This will save us $50 a month right off the bat. Not only that but the new provider threw in a free year of Amazon Prime, Amazon Echo and two $50 Visa gift cards. Score!

As for the high grocery bills, I decided to try a meal delivery service with a discount code for $80 off the first month. I loved it so much much that I’m now paying the regular $55 a week for three meals a week. But, get this: I was spending $600 a month on groceries for my husband and I. That is now reduced to $250 a month. Add to that $220 per month for the meal service. This means our monthly grocery nut is now $470 a month, a $130 savings each month! Plus, cooking at home is now easier and more convenient, so we don’t order takeout or go out to dinner nearly as frequently. And you guessed it: This saves us even more money.

Lastly, I called my gym and removed my husband from my membership, saving me $30 a month. That’s what I call easy money in the bank.

The takeaway: You can find ways to save money on a cold winter day – simply by spending an hour auditing your bank account.

3. Budget better

Is your budget working for you? If not, don’t give up. There are lots of budgeting methods and the one you’re using now may not be a good fit for you.

What to do? Spend an afternoon researching different types of budgeting methods, including the 50/30/20 budget, the envelope method, and the zero-based budget. Figure out whether a different kind of budget would work better for your spending and savings habits. Factor in whether you need to save more money into an emergency fund or free up cash to pay down your debt. Think of this time of year as a great opportunity to dive in and make any necessary changes to your budgeting method.

4. Automate your savings

By now you’ve probably heard a thing or two about the benefits of automating. But are you taking advantage of this?

If not, sit down and implement simple financial changes that will allow you to automate your money, enabling you to save more cash without even thinking about it. For example, now may be a good time to switch to a bank that will help you level up your savings account. If you’re a Chime member, for instance, all of your purchases on your debit card can be rounded up to the nearest dollar. And this round up amount is then automatically deposited into your Savings account. On top of this, Chime will automatically deposit 10% of your paycheck into your Chime Savings account.

Chill out

We get it: Winter can be miserable. But instead of complaining about the weather, you can turn those cold, snowy days into financial opportunities. By following the four tips here, you’ll be able to get your tax refund sooner, create a budget that works, and find new ways to save money. And just think: Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the spring with less financial stress!

 

14 Budget-Friendly Valentine’s Day Date Ideas That Don’t Suck

For the first few years of our relationship, my husband and I never thought twice about going out for a five-star meal on Valentine’s Day. It was just the thing to do. After all, the average American spends more than $140 on this holiday.

Yet, here was the problem: We couldn’t afford those dinners, especially with piling up credit card charges, burdensome student loans payments and hefty car notes. So, we started celebrating Valentine’s Day on a budget and we actually enjoyed ourselves just as much (if not more) because we had to get creative.

Although we have now paid off our consumer debt, we decided to keep up our thrifty Valentine’s Day tradition. This way we can focus on our other money goals for this year and beyond.

If you’re also looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day on a budget, check out these 14 date ideas that won’t make you look like a cheapskate:

For the Romantics At Heart

Cook together.
This is a popular at-home date night recommendation but it can be stressful if you wait until the last minute to figure out your menu. Instead, consider testing out a meal delivery service or check out Instacart, which I find to be a huge time (and therefore money saver).

At-home spa night.
While you may not have the hands of a massage therapist, you can easily recreate a calming, spa-like atmosphere right in your own home. Budget-friendly tip: Shop your hall closet for candles, aromatherapy oils and other at-home spa essentials. In the end, you may only need to spend money on rose petals to turn this idea into the most romantic Valentine’s Day ever.

Create a scavenger hunt.
It’s time to put your Pinterest skills to good use with this Valentine’s Day activity. Showcase your thoughtfulness by including riddles that incorporate memories from milestone events like your first date. Your grand finale (final clue) doesn’t have to be expensive either. It can be home cooked dinner by the fireplace, picture of the two of you or a picnic lunch.

Bury a time capsule.
Fill a box with keepsakes that represent both you and your SO, write a sweet note to your future selves and bury it. Hint: You can repurpose almost anything such as a shoebox for your time capsule instead of going out and buying something new.

Scrapbook together.

Pour a glass of wine and get ready to enjoy a trip down memory lane with your person. I also love that this sweet date night idea can double as a great way to get rid of clutter and turn it into cash (not very romantic, I know, but it is a tip worth sharing).

Treat your SO to breakfast in bed.

When was the last time you made your partner breakfast in bed? Or maybe a better question is: Have you ever made your partner breakfast? Be sure to include a sweet handwritten note when you surprise your SO with this thoughtful gesture!

At-home movie night with a twist.
Borrow a projector or even use a large television screen to create a romantic outdoor or indoor movie theater experience without breaking the bank.

For the Outdoorsy Couple

Cozy bonfire date.

My husband recently spent five dollars on a fire pit at a garage sale and we can’t wait to test it out on Valentine’s Day. I already have the marshmallows and hot cocoa mix added to our grocery list!

Sledding.

If you want to have some real fun on Valentine’s Day then add this winter activity to your to-do list. Cuddle up with a warm beverage once you’re finished acting like a big kid with your favorite human.

Winter hike.

Yes, this is a thing! Just be sure to check out these safety tips before embarking on your adventure.

For the Couple Who Doesn’t Like At-Home Date Nights

Dessert-only date.

Fill up on dinner at home and save the spending for a delicious sweet treat. Scout out a nice ice cream parlor or a quaint bakery in a cute nearby town. End the night with a romantic walk.

Trivia night.

If you and your partner are competitive then this could be the perfect date night that costs less than $25. Plus, you may even win some money when all is said and done!

Choose lunch over dinner.
Eating lunch out is less expensive than dinner. Plain and simple. For instance, Money Crashers notes that at the Cheesecake Factory, “Dinner entrees range in price from $11 to $30 [while] lunch specials cost between $9 and $14.” If you skip dessert and take it easy on the beverages, you won’t have to spend more than $50.

For the Couple Who Thinks Outside of the Box

Don’t celebrate at all.

If your main reason for celebrating Valentine’s Day is that everyone else is, then it may be time to reconsider your approach. I spoke with one couple who doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day at all.

Ellie from EllieMondelli.com says, “It’s very simple for us — we view this holiday as yet another excuse to spend money. It doesn’t fit in with any of our goals, so we don’t celebrate it.”

This type of discipline has enabled the Mondelli’s to pay off their mortgage before she turned 30!

 

21 Fun Things To Do In The Winter That Won’t Break The Bank

Winter can drag on – but you don’t have to let it get you down. In fact, even if you’re daydreaming about a tropical vacation, backyard barbeques, and other summertime activities, you don’t have to stay stuck inside.

There are plenty of ways to get out of the house and enjoy the winter – all while spending very little cash. Here are 21 fun activities you can do this winter that won’t bust your budget.

1. Go museum hopping

Museums are a great escape for the whole family. Whether you’re into art, music, history, or science, you can find a museum for almost everything.

Better yet, going to museums can be affordable. For instance, in Seattle, you can get free access to many of the city’s local museums through your city library card, which is also free. And you can always check out deal sites like Groupon to see if there are any discounted rates available in your area.

2. Find an indoor pool

Dreaming of summertime? A trip to the local indoor pool may be just what you need.

Check out your local school, gym, or YMCA to see if there is an indoor pool near you. While gyms often require a monthly membership in order to join and use the facilities, you may find other local pools that offer an open swim hour for a small fee.

3. Go sledding

Instead of avoiding the snow and the cold, dive right into it with some old fashioned sledding! What could be better?

You can find sleds at your local hardware store or supermarket, but you can also find cheaper DIY alternatives. For instance, pool toys, such as a tube floatie, or even a trash can lid often work just as well.

4. Volunteer

Perhaps the best way to get over your winter woes is to dedicate your time and energy to helping others. Plus, volunteering is free, and it’s a great way to get involved with your community.

To find charitable organizations near you, check out VolunteerMatch.org, which will evaluate your interests and help you find opportunities that interest you.

5. Bake some sweet treats

Baking is the perfect cozy-day activity when the weather is indeed frightful. So, stay inside and warm your home with a good, old-fashioned baking day.

To find inspiration for your baking adventures, check out this list of classic baking recipes from Taste of Home.

6. Take an art class

Take advantage of the abundance of indoor time by focusing on hobbies you’ve always dreamed about starting. Why not take an art class?

You can either sign up for local, in-person classes or you can find free options online. One great way to start learning the basics of any skill is to find lessons on YouTube. Nothing is better than free!

7. Read books

Is there anything more comfy than curling up with a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book on a cold winter’s day?

Dust off those old books you have laying around and crack them open. Of course, you can always hit up your local library as well. Or, you can check out ThriftBooks, which sells deeply discounted, gently used books.

8. Do household projects

Have a long household to-do list? Use the winter season to get caught up on indoor projects.

Whether you want to paint a room, or tackle a kitchen remodeling project, take the time to do it this winter. Not only can you stay warm inside, but you can cross these items off your to-do list before the weather changes and you want to spend more time outside.

9. Try painting

Do you have an artistic gift? Even if you don’t, painting is an excellent hobby to test out. Anything can be considered art – all you have to do is start.

Painting canvases is an affordable and fun hobby. Plus, you can use the finished product to decorate your house, saving big bucks on home decor. To stock up on supplies, you can hit up your local art store, or shop at discounted supply stores online, such as JerrysArtarama.com.

10. Get organized

Have clutter hanging around your household? Dedicate some time this winter to organizing.

If you only have a few minutes, start by organizing a single drawer or cupboard. If you have more time, commit to organizing an entire room. Toss any old documents or broken objects and donate the rest. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel when you don’t have to stare into cluttered kitchen cabinets!

11. Attend a fitness class

Winter blues have you feeling a bit down? Blast away the wintertime sadness by boosting your endorphins. A workout class is an excellent way to meet people, try a new activity, and boost your mood.

Not sure which class is right for you? Try using ClassPass, which is available in major cities. With ClassPass, you pay a monthly fee which allows you to try out classes in various fitness studios. If you aren’t sure whether to do yoga, cycle, or weightlift, ClassPass is an ideal solution.

12. Plan a summer vacation

Well, there’s no shame in admitting that winter just isn’t your favorite season. If you’re more of a summer-lovin’ kind of individual, then take this time to plan your dream vacation.

Whether you prefer to escape to a tropical island or backpack across Europe, planning a trip when it’s cold outside can be just the escape you need.

13. Bust out the board games

Board games may be old school, but they are reliable – and fun. Games are also a cheap way to kill some time.

Even if you don’t have classic board games in your house, you can always borrow them or download free game apps on your smartphone or tablet. Need some ideas to get started? Check out this huge list of iPhone games from TechRadar.

14. Go ice skating

Enjoy the winter with some family-friendly ice skating. Whether you are an expert skater or can barely stand up on your blades, you can surely have a good laugh and a memorable time. To rent skates, you can expect to pay around $15 to $20.

15. Clean out your home

Bored and stuck inside? Take advantage of the slower season and clean your house.

Host a neighborhood garage sale to get rid of the items you no longer need. Anything else can either be donated or sold online through sites like OfferUp and LetGo.

16. Visit friend and relatives

Most of us are guilty of not visiting family or friends often enough. So, if you have relatives or friends nearby, take time this winter to schedule a visit and catch up.

17. Take a winter hike

Hiking isn’t just for summer. There are plenty of winter hikes to take advantage of – if you have the right gear, that is.

Check out your local area to see if there are any winter-friendly hikes near you. The key is to find a hike in a lower elevation (where it isn’t super cold) that is well maintained and not too steep. Make sure you gear up with your hiking boots, winter coat, hats and gloves.

18. Plan a movie day

When the weather takes a turn for the worst, stay put and enjoy a movie day inside.

You can pick a winter classic or another movie of your choice. Whether you prefer action, romantic-comedies or another genre, a movie day is a great way to enjoy a day inside this winter.

19. Start your side gig

This winter season is an excellent time to start earning some extra cash on the side. Take this time to think about what you want to do for your side gig. Whether you’re dreaming of starting a blog, an online retail business, or something else, it’s time to get your creative juices flowing.

20. Try winter photography

Photography isn’t just a summertime activity. The snow and long winter days can make for some ideal photos.

So take your camera, trek out into the snow, and shoot some cool nature photos. For some inspiration, check out these tips from Outdoor Photographer.

21. Relax

There’s no shame in simply relaxing. Enjoy the darker days by spending ample time relaxing and recharging. Take plenty of time for self-care, too. Now is a great time to get in shape, eat right, and start other healthy habits.

Chime has your back this winter

Winter can feel endless, but with some frugal planning, you don’t have to fret. One easy way to kick off your budget-friendly winter activities is to open a no-fee savings account. For example, an online Chime account will help you save money easily – and automatically.

Are you ready to enjoy the winter season and save big bucks at the same time? We thought so.

 

6 Budgeting Habits to Ditch In the New Year

Are you planning to make any New Year’s resolutions once January rolls around?

The most popular resolutions for 2018 revolved around getting fit, falling in love and making better financial decisions, according to financial news site 24/7 Wall St. If improving your finances is on your to-do list, it’s a great time to start fresh, complete with new set of budgeting habits. In fact, even if you think you’ve got budgeting nailed down, there’s likely at least one thing you can improve on.

Take a look at 6 budget behaviors that you may want to reset in the new year.

1. Not keeping a budget at all

A budget can only work for you if you actually have one. According to a survey by Debt.com, 30 percent of Americans don’t keep a budget, even though 92 percent of people surveyed agreed that everyone needs one.

“A big budgeting mistake is not creating one,” says financial coach and author Karen Beth Ford.

Making a budget for the new year simply means adding up your monthly expenses, then subtracting the total from your monthly income. You can easily track spending through the Chime mobile banking app. You’ll even get an alert each time there’s a new debit transaction.

Making your first budget can help you get a better grip on where your money is going. Once you do that, you can begin fine-tuning where and how you spend. And when making your first budget, be thorough and include every expense.

“Another budgeting mistake is forgetting to put something in the budget,” Ford says.

2. Using the wrong budgeting system

There are lots of ways to keep a budget. You can write it out by hand, record your expenses in a spreadsheet, buy a fancy budgeting software program, keep a budget calendar, try the cash envelope system or use a free budgeting app. Each one has pros and cons but what matters most is finding a budgeting method that works for you.

If you’ve been using the same budget for a while, ask yourself if it’s still meeting your needs. If not, consider taking another budget system for a test drive in the new year. You may want to try more than one budgeting system. This way, you can learn what you like or don’t like about each one.

3. Ignoring lifestyle creep

Lifestyle creep can blow a big hole in your budget if you’re not paying attention. If you aren’t in the habit of checking your budget regularly, “review the past year’s budget and make sure it still fits with your current cash flow,” says Beverly Harzog, a consumer finance analyst and credit card expert at U.S. News & World Report.

Consider how big changes – such as a pay raise at work or a move to a more expensive neighborhood – have impacted how much money you have coming in and going out each month. And look at the smaller changes too. Something like switching to a more expensive shampoo brand can affect your spending and overall budget.

“Life circumstances sometimes change fast, so every quarter, review your budget and see if you can find any expenses you can eliminate or downsize,” Harzog says.

4. Setting unrealistic budget expectations

Not being realistic with your spending or your money goals can backfire, says Olga Kirshenbaum, financial coach and owner of Rags to Riches Consulting.

“Setting aggressive goals for paying down debt or building savings can leave you with less cash than you actually need to get by until the next paycheck,” Kirshenbaum says. “You’re going to feel like you’re failing by not meeting your expectations and needing to borrow from yourself to get by.”

If your expectations don’t line up with what you can actually achieve with your budget, you may just be setting yourself up for failure, Kirshenbaum says. She says that if you fail because your goals aren’t realistic, you may be more likely to abandon your budget altogether.

Review your goals for the past year to see how much progress you’ve made, then think about how you can shape them in the new year. Your financial goals should be a motivator to take action, not a source of stress.

5. Not building savings into your budget

Sometimes, life throws you a curveball and when that happens, your budget may need to roll with your punches. Not leaving room in your budget for the occasional blip is another bad habit to abandon in the new year.

“If your budget has no wiggle room, you’re going to be in deep trouble the first time your car breaks down or you have an unexpected medical bill,” says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot.

Skirboll says there’s an easy solution: Add a line item for savings into your budget. You can simplify your saving efforts further by setting up an automatic transfer from checking to savings each payday to build your emergency cushion.

You can also set up automatic savings deposits with the Chime banking app. Each time you use your Chime Visa Debit card to make a purchase, the transaction is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is transferred to your Chime savings account.

6. Missing your bill due dates

Paying your bills past the due date can hurt your budget if this triggers a late fee. Even worse, this can damage your credit score, especially if you’re paying credit cards or loans late.

“If you have a habit of being sloppy with credit card payments, then be sure you get a grip on this in the new year,” Harzog says.

When you’re paying on time each month, you can dodge costly late fees and keep your credit score intact. Harzog says a good credit score can help you rack up savings in the new year on loans, car insurance and health insurance, all of which can funnel money back into your budget.

Budgeting Practice Makes Perfect

Getting used to new budgeting habits isn’t always easy, especially if you’re making big changes. On average, it takes 66 days for a new habit to become fully formed. So, as you start working on new budget habits to ring in the new year, remember to give them time to sink in and become part of your normal budget routine.

 

8 Healthy Habits to Establish an Awesome Money Saving Plan

New year, new you.

A new year is also the perfect time for new money habits. As it turns out, your habits are a major part of your daily life. In fact, 40 to 45 percent of what you do is based on habit formation. But, here’s the good news: Once you form a good money habit, you’re more likely to stay with it. The tough part? It takes time and effort for a habit to stick—66 days, to be exact.

To get you started on drumming up an awesome plan to save your moola, here are 8 healthy money habits to form:

Track Your Spending

These days it’s super easy to track your spending. There are a handful of free apps to help you manage and save your money. The nifty part is that you can track your spending by the day, week or month. You can also break it down by categories.

I recently looked through my transactions and discovered that I was eating way more junk than I thought. While these sorts of reality checks aren’t always fun, they’re an important first step to turning your money situation around.

Your Inflow Needs to Be Greater Than Your Outflow

Back in my 20s, my pal “Dumpster Diving” Dave Fried told me that you need to treat your money like a business. Your cash inflow needs to be greater than the outflow. Mind you, Fried  wasn’t the richest guy. He worked minimum wage at a screenprinting shop, and his finest luxuries were bowling and cheap beer. But he never carried debt and lived within his means.

The takeaway: If you find your credit card debt increasing every month and you’re spending more than your paycheck, take a close look at what’s going on. From there, you can commit to some long-lasting changes.

Automate as Much as You Can

This is by far my fav healthy money habit. That’s because it’s easy and you only have to do it once. Then you can sit back and relax.

If you enjoy a steady paycheck, you can automate all your bills, savings goals and investments. If you’re a Chime member, you can even set up autosave to sock away a portion of your paycheck.

While I’m a freelancer, I’ve made a point to get a month ahead. I set all my bills and some of my savings goals on autopilot. This way I’ll have enough in my bank account to get through the following month.

Spend Only What You Have

Easier said than done, right? To start, leave the credit cards at home and clear out any “saved” items in the online shopping carts of your favorite retailers. Instead of whipping out your credit card, opt to take cash out of the ATM.

It also helps to separate what you can spend on discretionary expenses—eating out, groceries, shopping, personal items and entertainment. I actually have a debit card just for variable spending, and check in on my balance every few days to make sure I’m on track. For instance, if you can afford to spend $1,000 a month on discretionary stuff, transfer just that amount to a separate debit card, or take out $250 a week in cash. Try it for a week and see how it goes.

Link Specific Income Flow to Savings

In our modern side hustling era, it’s important to remember to save any extra money you earn from your gigs. To help you out, you can try syncing up different income streams to your savings goals.

Let’s say you make money from an ebook, pet sitting, and driving for a ride share company. Any cash you don’t need for your living expenses can go toward your savings goals. For instance, money made from your ebook can go toward your vacay fund, earnings from pet sitting toward your debt, and rideshare income can be socked away into your emergency fund.

Try the WOOP Approach

Besides being fun to say, WOOP is a strategy that is a hybrid of two existing habit-forming tactics. WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. It’ s also known as MCII, which stands for Mental Contrasting, Implementation Intention. Here’s how it works:

First off, pick a behavior that’s hard to change yet doable to achieve. For instance, blowing a good chunk on fine dining and drinks the Friday you get paid or exercising for 10 minutes first thing each morning. Then, imagine an awesome-sauce future where you’ve achieved the desired outcome. For example, having a robust rainy day fund or making serious headway on paying off your debt.

Secondly, consider what currently gets in the way of achieving this goal. For instance, if you’re having trouble holding on to your paycheck, it may be because you love going out a lot and lack willpower. If you have trouble doing those yoga stretches or burpees first thing in the morning, maybe it’s because you feel crunched for time.

The second part of WOOP encompasses simple statements or motivating mantras that help you tackle the obstacle. This will help you push through the obstacle and stay on track.

Pay Attention to Somatic Knowledge

It’s important to be cognizant of what you experience and feel in your body. By paying attention to your natural responses to situations and triggers, you’ll gain powerful knowledge that will help inform your decisions.

For example, how do you feel the morning after spending a quarter of your paycheck at the bar? Or what flurry of emotions do you feel when you see something you really want in a store window?

As someone who struggles constantly with scarcity mentality about my money, I feel a bit of hesitation and dread when I spend more than a certain amount on a single item. While logically I know it’s the right purchase and I can afford it, my body tenses up.

The long and short of it: By paying attention to your body’s response to different money situations, you’ll gain a greater understanding of your relationship with your money, and how you can go about making changes.

Come Up With Specific Money Goals

Sure, you want to be “better with your money” in the new year. But what, specifically, does that mean?

For me, I have ambitious retirement goals. Retirement may feel like light years away, but I know it’s important to get a jump on it. So, I’ve assigned a desired amount I want to save each month to hit my goal for the year. That nitty-gritty specificity helps me take action, see my progress and stay motivated.

A pro tip: Be sure to name your savings accounts for desired goals. For instance, instead of just “savings account 2,” label it “Hawaii 2019.” This is another way to stay motivated to hit your savings goals.

Small Steps, Major Changes

There’s no better way to kick-start the new year than to focus on bettering your financial situation. By following these 8 healthy habits, you’ll have an easier time achieving money happiness and hitting your financial goals. In turn, you’ll feel less stressed out and in greater control. And that’s something worth celebrating!

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