Know Your Worth: Personal Finances for the LGBTQIA Community

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

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

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

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

Start a side hustle

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

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

Start college planning early

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

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

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

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

Learn about healthcare options

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

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

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

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

Make saving for retirement a priority

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

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

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

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

Financial education is key

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

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

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

 

Millennial Moms: Have You Ever Wanted To Fire Your Family?

Seems harsh, but I admit that I have felt that way.  Here is the scene: It’s 7 p.m. and I’m dragging home from an exhausting day at the office and looking forward to sharing a meal with my family.  I had prepared the meatloaf at 11 p.m. the night before and left it in the fridge along with a salad and fruit. I walked in and my husband was watching the game, the kids are on their own screens and the meatloaf never made it into the oven, much less onto the table. 

The first words I heard in chorus were; “Hey, Mom we are hungry, where’s dinner?”  The second were; “Mom, by the way, I am having the lacrosse team over for dinner tomorrow night, I forgot to tell you.” My daughter then chimed in to announce that the cat caught and killed a squirrel that is lying on the rug (about 2 feet from my husband) and she doesn’t want to touch it because it is ‘gross’; Mom, can’t you?”

Before my head blew off, the first response I could muster was, “Really?”  (I have to admit, that the next thought was, “Am I allowed to fire my family?”) Let’s start at the beginning: The lack of understanding that a meatloaf has to be cooked and served is baffling enough, but an additional surprise that 20 kids will be coming over for dinner when I had an important board meeting the next morning that I had to prepare for, was all too much for me. (Don’t get me started on the dead squirrel that looked an awful like my prone-husband who was wearing his furry slippers.)

My face got red, and I had a flashback to work and thought about one of my staff possibly ever saying, “We didn’t do anything today because we weren’t sure what you wanted, so we just waited for you to tell us. And oh, the boss stopped by last week to tell us that we needed the presentation for the VC meeting tomorrow, but I guess we forgot to tell you.”  Words like; “You’re fired!”, popped to mind. 

Why Does Work Work, But Home Doesn’t?

Do feel like you are locked in a rut a home; an endless process?   It shouldn’t.  At home, you handle more personnel changes than the Talent Director of a Fortune 500 company.  Last year, your employee pool included a stubborn two-year-old; this year, they have been replaced by an energetic and inquiring three-year-old.  That sulky sixteen-year-old you were close to locking out of the house seems to have grown up of their own accord; suddenly, your team has been augmented by an intelligent and responsible seventeen-year-old, and you realize it’ll break your heart when they leave the firm next year to head off to college.

We hear a lot about all the different hats women wear, all the different job descriptions we have at home: accountant, buildings and grounds chief, chauffer, cleaning person, comptroller, IT specialist, daycare worker, fashion consultant, guidance counselor, judge, veterinarian, health care provider; I can go on. But it’s all a little condescending, isn’t it?  We don’t need to invent all those different made-up titles to make us understand that being a mom is a varied and challenging job.

The main reason work seems easier is that at work, we clearly articulate our: mission, goals, strategy, tactics for execution, timeframes and deadlines…shall I go on?  Your staff would never leave a meeting without a clear sense of their roles and responsibilities. 

At home, we operate on the understanding that, “We all love each other and are sensitive to each others needs and ‘obviously’ things will just happen out of love and mutual respect.” In this scenario above, I just assumed that since I had made the dinner and left it in the fridge, and that I was coming home late, that obviously my husband and kids would know how to put the meatloaf in the oven…and obviously, a surprise that 20 kids will be coming over for dinner the next night was a bad thing to forget to tell me, and OBVIOUSLY, if your father is lying right there, he can get rid of the dead squirrel…you did not have to wait for Mom!”

The “obviously’s” are the exact point.  Things like that are never taken for granted in the workplace, the way they are at home. 

Mom, Inc.

We would like to think that the big news in the workplace over the past couple of decades has been the emergence of women as a significant force.  And many of these women are moms. As women, we have had the opportunity to show what we can do, and we’ve done it.  We’ve made the workplace a different place, a better place. We are educated, motivated, and street-smart. Women are taking the world by storm.  Seventy-one percent of women with kids work outside of the home.  We have been incredibly successful at work; however, we have not necessarily translated that success to managing our households. But you can do it.

Process vs. Project

Here’s another significant change that has occurred in the workplace over the past couple of decades:  modern management strategy has moved from a process-oriented workplace to a project-oriented workplace.

Work used to be built around a process.  Big manufacturing companies make the same thing — cars, steel girders, stuffed panda bears — and people, in one way or another, were plugged into that process.  They did the same job day after day. At home, the “process” meant you lived in the same house, in the same neighborhood, and with the same neighbors.  It meant you didn’t get divorced. Well, those days are gone forever. 

Too Many Hats For Mom

For all of our skill and ambition and qualities, it still seems that many Millennial women find themselves mired in the same routine that their mothers and grandmothers established.  Too many of them have not changed the way they manage their households, and too many of them will continue to see an increasing divergence between their sense of accomplishment in the workplace and the same sense at home.

It doesn’t have to happen.  A generation of women has conquered the world of business in spite of having a small number of role models.  We did it with courage and perseverance, and we have become the mentors and role models for the younger women who have followed us.  But who are Millennials to look to for our role models at home?

They don’t have to look any farther than themselves in their business lives.

Today, business strategy centers on goals rather than routines.  Here is how it works.  Once you’ve identified a goal, you create a project to meet that goal. Achieving a goal means figuring out a strategy.  You might need some experts for the team that aren’t from your company, so you go out and bring them in for this project – you outsource

Now, outsource at home, too.  Really decide, “What Matters Profoundly.”  If making that meatloaf at 11 p.m. doesn’t fall into that category, find one of the many food delivery services that will make it easy for you.  Do the same with any of the menial tasks that are taking you away from the quality time with your family.

The next step is to set up the “To Do” list of responsibilities for your family. The list does not just specify “Who Does What Job”, but it outlines specific instructions of when and how each task will be done.  (The same way you would create the “Follow up” from a business meeting. For example, “Todd will put the delivered meatloaf in a pan in the oven at 6:30 p.m. at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and put the salad and fruit on the table.”  Rotate the chores so that everyone learns the various life skills necessary to run a household.  Then, just like at work, when the project is finished, you critique it, you hone the rough edges, and you go on to something new—new projects, new teams, new strategies, all connected to an overall master plan for the organization, but each one with its challenges and rewards. The reward is not monetary at home, the reward is one of having your home run more joyfully with less stress!

Naturally, as CEO of the household, it’s our responsibility to make sure everything gets done, either by delegating or by doing it ourselves. It’s not making up a bunch of fake job descriptions that will make the difference in building our self-esteem, in giving us a sense of purpose, it is about creating a work environment at home that will just as fulfilling as our work environment at work.  It’s understanding the nature of work and the nature of management, and learning how to identify, plan, prioritize, and manage projects.

So, after all is said and done and planned and executed, on this Mother’s Day, just remember the sage words of Mildred Vermont, the American businesswoman, “Being a mother is one of the highest salaried jobs…since the payment is pure love.”

 

12 Budget-Friendly Activities for Spring

Apart from affecting your mood, the changing seasons can also influence your purchasing decisions – big time. However, with some proper planning, you can keep your spending habits under control regardless of whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall.

With that in mind, springtime ushers in warmer weather and outdoor activities. If you’re on the hunt for budget-friendly activities, check out our top 12 suggestions:

1. Get active

There are many ways to become your healthiest self without breaking the bank. As the weather warms up, consider ditching the gym membership in favor of outdoor workouts like hiking, jogging and swimming (if you have access to a free community pool or nearby body of water). Also, depending on how long your commute is, you can think about biking or walking to work during the spring (and summer, too).

2. Volunteer your time

You don’t always have to shell out big charitable donations in order to give back. In fact, one of the most valuable things you can do is donate is your time. Now that spring has sprung, it’s time to emerge from your hibernation and seek out these opportunities. For example, why not check out your town’s Salvation Army, church or library to see if they are in need of volunteers? Or register with Volunteer Match to find a local cause to get involved with.

3. Relax

It is so important to invest in your mental health and spring provides many therapeutic activities that don’t cost a thing. Every day, pencil in a few minutes to listen to the birds singing, enjoy the rain or take in the beautiful spring blooms. You can even go for a walk in a local park or discover nearby hiking trails. These activities are simple but may help relieve stress and boost your mood.

4. Enjoy nature

Piggybacking off the last point, Sami Womack from A Sunny Side Up Life says that “especially in the spring, I’d recommend that everyone find something to do that involves nature.” To save even more money, Womack suggests packing a picnic lunch so you don’t have to go out to eat after your exploration.

5. Work on your garden

For the past few years, my husband and I have really enjoyed building a vegetable garden. It costs us around $50 (dirt, fertilizer and seeds.) This is relatively inexpensive for several months’ worth of fresh, delicious tomatoes, zucchini, kale, peppers and cucumbers! This is also an excellent way to reduce our grocery budget, plus we always have extra produce on hand that we can gift our friends whenever they host a BBQ.

6. Play board games

Unfortunately, not all spring days are nice enough to spend outdoors. With this in mind, you’ll need a few ideas to occupy your time when you’re stuck indoors on a rainy day. My favorite tip is to choose board games that can teach you money lessons, like Monopoly.

7. Visit a farm or petting zoo

Visiting a zoo or an aquarium can get pricey. However, many local farms offer free tours and other activities that you can enjoy while the weather is nice. For example, I live pretty close to Pennsylvania and found this petting zoo that offers free admission. Others may charge a $1 admission price and that’s hard to beat.

8. Take in free festivals

Start visiting your city’s website and follow your local municipality on social media to learn about free events such as festivals and outdoor concerts. This also offers an excellent opportunity to meet people if you’re new to town. For example, New Brunswick, N.J. is the closest metro area to me and the Official Tourism Website of New Jersey gives an up-to-date listing of fun local events to consider.

9. Explore your city

Alli Rosenblum‎ from FinancialliFocused says one of her favorite low cost things to do in the spring is to play tourist in her own city. She says this is a great time to “learn the history of your city/state or even check out some local artists.” Rosenblum suggests starting with your city’s free visitor’s guide. Why? Even though you’re a local, you may find a treasure trove of budget-friendly ideas that are new to you.

10. Take up kite flying

I’ll be honest: it’s been many years since I even thought about flying a kite. But a friend recently let me know that this activity is high on her spring to-do list. She even plans to make her own kite from scratch so that this outdoor activity is even more affordable.

11. Spruce up your home

Spring is the perfect time to take on some DIY home improvement projects, declutter your closets and deep clean your abode. You can also take the fun outside and tidy up your yard or even help clean up a local park.

12. Host a yard sale

One of my favorite ways to raise some extra cash is to throw a yard sale. Think of this as another great seasonal side hustle, as well as a fantastic way to spring clean your house! Better yet, funds raised through a yard sale can help you build up your emergency fund, pay off debt or plan your next girls’ trip.

Three Bonus Tips for Spring

While you’re out enjoying the weather with the activities above, here are three more cost-saving strategies that will help you keep more cash in your pockets this spring.

1. Spring Clean Your Budget

It’s always worth it to revisit your budget every few months to make sure that you are still on the right track with your financial goals. This spring, take the opportunity to analyze your expenses for the past three months and identify a few areas for improvement. For example, you might consider saving money by canceling subscriptions you no longer use and negotiating utilities to lower your monthly costs.

2. Turn the Heat Off

Depending on where you live, now might be a good time to switch off the heat, open up the windows and watch your energy bill shrink.

3. Get Ready for Summer

Sinking funds are my secret tool for handling upcoming expenditures, especially in the summer when you may travel more than usual. What’s a sinking fund? This is specific fund that helps you save for a particular goal, like an upcoming vacation or major home repair. For example, you can anticipate expenses ahead of time and then allocate money to a certain fund with each paycheck. This way, the money will be waiting for you when you need it.

Better yet, you can build up your sinking funds by automating your savings. Chime makes it easy for you do this by helping you to save as soon as you get paid. If you open a Chime bank account and select Automatic Savings, Chime will automatically transfer 10% of every paycheck directly into your savings account. Another awesome Chime benefit is that you can save every time you spend. Chime actually rounds up each transaction made with your Chime debit card to the nearest dollar and transfers the round up amount directly into your Chime Savings account.

And there you have it: by automating and planning ahead, you’ll be on your way to saving for your summertime adventures!

With that, we wish you a happy and healthy budget-friendly spring!

 

Tax Professional or DIY? Here’s How to Choose

The thought of filing taxes on your own can be daunting. At the same time, hiring a professional accountant comes at a price: around $273 of your potential refund.

But, with the availability of low-cost online options – like TurboTax and TaxAct – you may still be wondering if hiring a tax professional makes the most sense for you. To help decide which way to go when filing your taxes, here are a few questions you should ask yourself.

Have you experienced any life changes this year?

Major life changes can definitely be a reason to seek out the help of a professional tax preparer as these events have the potential to complicate the tax filing process. Here are a few lifestyle shifts that may prompt you to hire an accountant:

  • You had a baby. While it’s fairly easy to input the child tax credit on regular tax software, if you had a baby within the last year, you may want to seek out a professional to help you figure out possible medical deductions pertaining to your child’s birth. You may also be able to deduct childcare costs.
  • You moved. Whether you moved across the street or across the country, if your relocation involved the purchase or sale of a home, you may want to get in touch with a tax professional to make sure you’ll benefit from possible tax breaks.
  • You earned more money. If your income spiked significantly in the past year (especially if you made over $250,000), you may benefit from the help of a professional. Why? Taxes often get more complicated as your income rises, and a professional who understands the tax code can often help out.

Do I feel confident doing my own taxes?

You may be great with a budget and managing your money, but taxes are an entirely different beast. If you have a simple return with only your W-2 information to input, you may be ok filing on your own. But, if you started up a new business or have a side hustle in addition to your job, it may be worth the peace of mind to hire a professional.

Also, if you’re going through the free filing process and find that you’re second guessing yourself, it’s time to outsource your taxes. Keep in mind that working with a pro can help you find deductions you never knew existed — like the ability to deduct home office space used to run your side hustle or moving expenses incurred for a new job.

Am I ready to deal with the IRS?

If you are filing solo, even if you feel certain you did everything right, there is no guarantee that you won’t get audited by the IRS. The audit process can be time consuming, nerve-wracking, and costly. Also, if you’re the one preparing your taxes, you’re on the hook should an auditor come calling.

If a tax professional prepares your taxes, this person or firm will be required to defend your return to the IRS. Instead of you, your accountant will be the contact person required to answer questions posed by the IRS, even though you’ll ultimately be on the hook for any amount owed. For this reason alone, hiring an accountant may be worth it.

How much time do I have?

The average time it takes to complete a tax return, according to the Washington Post, is about 13 hours. If you’re already strapped for time, you may want to consider outsourcing this work. And, if you do want to prepare your taxes on your own, make sure you get organized early and set aside plenty of time to file before the April 17th deadline.

Make a decision and start planning

The earlier you plan for tax season, the better off you’ll be. Weigh the pros and cons now to help you decide whether to file alone or hire a professional. And, one final tip: make sure you sign up now for a Chime account. This way, you can get your tax refund deposited directly into your account. Better yet, you’ll get your refund in three weeks rather than waiting for two months.

 

8 Things You Need to Do in the New Year to Set Yourself Up for Financial Success

The holidays are behind us and it’s time to look ahead to the new year. You may have already given some thought to your New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you want to lose weight or travel more. Or, maybe you want to reach new financial goals.

Achieving financial success doesn’t have to be difficult. But, it does take a solid plan and dedication. Is 2018 going to be the year you get ahead and perhaps save more money? If so, read on and make sure you follow these 8 tips to get started down the right path.

Become a goal setter

Having defined goals can make a difference in all aspects of your life. It’s nearly impossible to attain anything when you don’t have a clear idea about what your end goal is. So, make sure you define your goals and break them into bite-sized pieces. For example, perhaps you want to increase your contribution to your retirement account or pay off your credit card debt. While becoming financially successful is the big picture goal, it may take many smaller steps to get there.

Change the way you think about money

If you want to make a real change with your finances, it starts with the way you approach money. This often means dropping the excuses and making a change in your life. According to an American Psychological Association study, 71 percent of adults report money as a major stress in their lives. This doesn’t need to be the case.

Instead, prioritize what is most important to you. Do you need a brand new iPhone or will an older model work? Do you need to buy a new pair of shoes or will the shoes you have last a little longer? The less you spend each month, the more opportunity you have to save.

Budget, budget, budget

Everything starts with a budget. It’s crucial to understand how much money is coming in each month and how much is being spent. Without this information, you’ll be in the dark when it comes to your financial state. But, once you have your budget set, you’ll have a better idea how much you can save each month.

To get going, pick a budgeting tool to help make the process easier. Now, get to work. Before you know it, budgeting will be a normal part of your routine each month.

Build an emergency fund

One of the best things you can do to protect your finances is to build an emergency fund.  Ideally, you should have anywhere from three to six months worth of expenses available in your rainy day fund. This will provide you with a cushion to fall back on in case of a job loss or another serious strain on your finances.

For a starting goal, aim to save $1,000 as quickly as possible. While you should work within your budget, the faster you save, the faster you’ll reach a sense of financial security. Once you’ve saved the first $1,000, you can try saving even more.

Chime can help you speed up the saving process with its automatic savings feature. Each transaction you make with your Chime card is rounded up to the nearest dollar. The rounded up amount is then transferred to your savings account. In addition, you can also elect to have 10 percent of every paycheck automatically moved into your savings account.

Set up automatic transfers to your retirement accounts

If you have a workplace 401(k), there’s a good chance your contributions are already deducted automatically from your paycheck. However, if your primary retirement account is an IRA or another type of retirement plan, you’re in charge of your own contributions. When income is tight, this is one of the easiest items to cut from your budget. Instead, set up automatic contributions. This way you are always paying yourself first.

Make sure your bills are set to autopay

One of the worst ways to get stuck paying late fees is to forget about paying a bill. Setting up autopay on things like your mortgage, utility bills, insurance, cable, and Internet will help eliminate this concern. Just make sure you check in periodically to ensure that the correct amounts are being deducted.

Work to reduce your debt

Americans have more credit card debt than ever before. In June 2017 this debt amounted to more than $1.021 trillion. If you are contributing to this staggering figure, then you should make paying off your debt a priority. Once your debt is gone, you can use the extra money in your budget to start creating wealth.

Plan a financial date night

Don’t attack your financial goals alone. Involve your significant other or a friend. Talk about your goals and what you plan to achieve. Then, make sure you celebrate the win because you earned it.

Final words: you can achieve financial success

As you can see with the steps above, achieving financial success doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to be willing to work hard, set goals, and make changes in your life. Are you ready to make 2018 the year you hit your financial goals?

 

Do You Really Need to Set Goals for a New Year?

As we move into the final weeks of the year, there’s a good chance you’re looking ahead to next year and trying to figure out what goals to set.

While I love goal-setting, and I’m usually working on at least one area of my life, I’m not sure you really need to set goals for a new year each year.

In fact, one of the reasons 2016 was so great was because I chose not to set goals. I had an amazing year. The fact that 2017 has — in many ways — been a disaster is a completely different story. But I did learn through a year of no resolutions that sometimes you need a break from the constant push to move on to the next thing.

If you are struggling and not sure how to set goals for the coming year, here are some ideas of what you can try instead:

Enjoy a Year of Exploration

I loved 2016 because I used it as a year of exploration. Rather than trying to set goals or change my life, I instead tried to figure out what I wanted in my life. To that end I:

  • Volunteered
  • Tried different business ideas
  • Spent more time with my son
  • Traveled
  • Experimented with my schedule

The idea wasn’t to try to force myself into something. Instead, coming off a divorce and a cross-country move, I wanted to figure out how to make my life work. Additionally, I wanted to think about how I want things to look going forward.

Staying away from the goals helped do that. At the end of it, I had a pretty good idea of the kind of life I wanted — and some ideas on how to adjust my life in a way to allow me to create that life.

Work on One Area of Your Life

Rather than a laundry list of resolutions that encompass all areas of your life, consider focusing on one area of your life during the coming year.

You don’t even need to set specific goals right now around that area of your life. Instead, identify a part of your life where you could improve. It could be parenting, business, health, money management, spirituality, or anything else.

Start the year by considering what it is you’d like to see in your life in that one area. Take a few weeks to examine your current situation to see if it meshes with your expectations or values.

Once you’ve done that, you can figure out if there are some things you can do to improve. Start working on that improvement little by little. You have the rest of the year to make gradual changes that stick.

There’s nothing wrong if you want to set goals for the new year. However, if you are getting tired of goals that feel like they are forcing you down a path, consider adjusting how you approach life and self-improvement. Use this year as a chance to reflect and grow. Think of it as a step in your journey and go from there.

 

9 Ways to Host While On a Holiday Budget

Growing up in a family where we hosted everything from birthday parties to Christmas gatherings to Fourth of July barbecues, it’s just in my DNA to host parties.

The problem? Hosting a party can get ridiculously expensive – particularly when you’re trying to budget and for an upcoming holiday.

Over the years, however, I’ve learned how you can host a party on the cheap that’s still top-notch.

Find out how by following these 9 tips.

1. Create your budget.

Thanks to this handy party budget estimator from Evite, you can calculate the cost of food, drinks, decorations, venue, and entertainment for your upcoming party so that you don’t overspend.

If you do go over budget, then think about whittling down your guest list or looking for cheaper food, drink, and decoration alternatives so that you can reduce the cost of the party.

As with any budget you create, make sure that you stick to it.

2. Pick a theme.

Before you start buying food, drinks, and decorations, settle on a theme. This will help guide you in setting the budget I just mentioned since you’ll know exactly what you need to purchase for the party.

If the theme is too expensive to pull-off, then look for another theme that’s not as pricey.

Another perk of picking a theme is that you may find a ton of DIY ideas on Pinterest or Instagram, which could potentially save you a ton of money in decorations or entertainment.

3. Go green.

Unless it’s for a more formal event, like a wedding, there’s really no reason to send out paper invitations – especially when you can send out invites digitally on Facebook or Evite for free.

The same is true with paper and plastic plates, silverware, and glasses. Washing them may be a hassle, but using the dinnerware that you already own cuts out this unnecessary expense. Besides, real dinnerware makes you party seem a bit more eloquent.

4. Skip the big meal.

I honestly enjoy dinner parties. But, they can get real expensive. Instead of having a traditional sit-down dinner, just offer hors d’oeuvres or appetizers, such as cheese/charcuterie plates, veggies, and bread bowls. Usually, these ingredients are inexpensive or can be bought in bulk.

Just remember, make your presentation unique and appealing based on your theme, as opposed to the ordinary and humdrum. If the presentation looks amazing, your guests won’t even know that you didn’t spend a whole lot dough on food.

5. Stick with a signature drink.

Just like food, you have to provide your guests with drinks. The problem is that having a full bar is extremely expensive. Don’t spend hundreds of dollars on a variety of alcohol. Instead, come up with a signature cocktail that matches your theme. This way you’re only purchasing one or two types of alcohol.

If you do want to have more of selection, then buy your alcohol in bulk or at places like Trader Joe’s where decent bottles of wine can be found for under $10. Of course, there’s also the classic BYOB option.

6. Keep entertainment and decorations simple.

You can’t host a party without entertainment. Thankfully, you can entertain your guests on the cheap thanks to music apps like Apple Radio, Spotify, and Pandora where can make playlists for the theme or holiday.

Besides background music, you can play cards or board games, have dance-offs, or have a pool party. You can even purchase or rent a karaoke machine for under $200 if that’s your thing.

For smaller gatherings, you could have a movie marathon, video game challenge, or under $20 gift exchanges.

If there are kids at the party, set up an area where they can color and do simple crafts. You can even hire a neighborhood babysitter to help with this — and they usually have great ideas of their own. It also wouldn’t hurt if there are kid-friendly movies and games available.

Besides entertainment, keep your decorations simple. Look for DIY decoration ideas on Pinterest, shop at dollar stores, and keep the bulk of your decorations in areas where there’s going to be the most amount of traffic.

7. Ask your guests to pitch in.

Most quests don’t have the nerve to show-up empty-handed – even if you tell them not to bring anything. To make life easier, and keep your expenses low, ask your specific friends to bring their favorite drinks or signature dishes.

If planned correctly, and planned ahead, this should take care of at least some of the appetizers, snacks, desserts, and drinks from your budget.

You can also throw a potluck dinner. If you’re not a fan of that term, then call it a “recipe exchange” party.

8. Party during the day.

Nighttime parties are the norm. But, they can get pretty expensive when guests expect plenty of food and drinks – which sometimes can extend into the wee hours of the morning.

Instead, consider throwing a party during the day, like a brunch, barbecue, pool party, or game day gathering.

While you still have to provide food and drinks, these items are often less expensive, you can make a ton of pancakes relatively cheap, for instance. Also, since it’s during the day, your guests are less likely to drink as much,

9. Throw a progressive dinner party.

If you do want to have a dinner party, then ask your friends, family, or neighbors if they would be interested in throwing a progressive party dinner together. Instead of one person playing host, the dinner party is divided by 3 to 5 different people.

For example, guests would first come to your home for hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. After about 45 minutes or so, everyone would go to your best friend’s house for appetizers, followed by their neighbor for a dinner course, and then another friend’s home for dessert and after dinner drinks.

This is also a great, “get to know the new neighbors,” party.

The logistics can sometimes be a problem, so this only works if everyone is in close proximity, but it’s a unique party idea for your inner circle where the expense and responsibility of hosting doesn’t fall just on you.

 

Why You Need To Make Your New Year’s Budget Resolutions NOW

With the holidays right around the corner, you may be focused on what potluck dish you are bringing to the next Christmas party, who you need to buy presents for, and how to keep your travel plans running smoothly. We get it, there’s a lot on your plate this time of year.

While staying on budget for the holidays should definitely be high on your priority list, it shouldn’t be your only priority. In fact, now is the perfect time to take a step back and think about how you want your bank account to look after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is behind you. Here are our top 5 tips to get your finances in shape as you head into the new year.

1. Look at last year’s Christmas budget 

If your holiday budget isn’t set in stone, take a look at your spending during previous years. Also, look at your credit card statements and bank accounts to see where you may have gone astray. Do you always forget to budget in enough for holiday meals? Do you go overboard on stockings and stuffers at the last minute? Do you need a little more wiggle room than you normally give yourself? Try to pinpoint where you may need to spend a bit more this year before you blow through your budget. Asking yourself key questions and researching your past spending habits can keep you on track while you’re in the midst of seasonal celebrations. More importantly, fixing these problem areas before you overspend can help you start the new year off on the right foot.

2. Factor in saving up for fun stuff

We all want to save more, invest responsibly, knock out debt, and cut back on unnecessary expenses. However, when you approach financial resolutions with a mindset that you can’t spend or save up for anything fun, you may lose the inspiration to save at all.

To avoid this, try shifting your focus to the fun stuff. For example, think about where you want to travel or consider a big ticket item that you really want to buy. From here, you can start setting up savings goals to move you closer to your target. You’ll still need to think about your 401(k) and emergency fund, but if you get psyched up for your bucket list purchases first, you’ll get in better financial shape overall.

3. Think about your long-term financial goals 

Instead of getting overwhelmed by long-term goals and crunching numbers, try to put aside the financial worry and dream about what you want your life to look like. What sort of future do you envision for yourself and your family? Maybe you want to buy a house with a big backyard so you can finally have a dog. Maybe you’d like to retire early and devote your life to humanitarian work.

Once you have your big picture in mind, you can start working backwards to figure out how much that dream will cost and how you can achieve it. Remember: it’s fine if your dreams shift and change over time. Gaining financial security along the way will benefit you no matter what.

4. Set up your automatic savings now 

Once you have financial goals in sight, protect them by setting up automatic savings. With a Chime bank account, for example, every purchase you make on your debit card will be rounded up. Chime’s round-up savings account is an easy way to save money every time you spend money. You can also sign up for Chime’s “Save when I get paid” feature, which automatically puts a portion of your paycheck into savings as soon as you receive it. This ensures that you’re paying your future self first.

Valuing your goals is a surefire way to guarantee success. If you leave your savings goals until the end of the month, chances are high that you will run out of money or an “emergency” will crop up that derails your opportunity to save. By designating your savings to a separate account, it automatically becomes more sacred and untouchable.

5. Create new healthy habits

When it comes to making financially responsible decisions, it can be an uphill battle. If you’re stuck in bad money habits, like overspending or not budgeting, forming new habits can be hard. But, you still should aim for new healthy financial habits.

Maybe this means leaving your credit card at home and only shopping with your debit card or cash. Maybe you need an accountability partner to motivate you to stick to the path you’ve chosen. Or, perhaps you need to treat yourself when you complete certain milestones. Different methods work for different people. The most important thing is that you develop habits that will help you get ahead.

There’s no time like the present

It may seem like overkill to add something else onto your to-do list when you’re in the midst of making holiday lists, but budgeting for the new year now can save you heartache later. By getting a jump on your priorities and ending the year on a strong note, you’ll enter 2018 focused and ready to tackle your finances head-on.

 

5 Resolutions to Get Your Finances in Order for the New Year

The New Year is the perfect time to reflect on your life and how you can make positive financial changes. In fact, according to a survey by Statistic Brain, making financial decisions is the third most popular resolution people make.

Yet, considering how difficult it is to stick to New Year’s resolutions, it’s important to commit to those that will make a meaningful impact. Here are 5 ideas to consider.

1. Stop comparing yourself with others

It can be hard to see your friends drive nicer cars and own bigger houses than you. As a result, you might be thinking that they make more money than you and you need to keep up.

But in reality, it’s quite possible that your friends are broke, stretched so thin by debt that they’re barely treading water. In other words, appearances aren’t always evidence of stability and happiness.

If you’re going to compare yourself to anyone, look in the mirror. Think about what you accomplished financially over the past year and set goals to make better progress in the new year.

2. Start automating your savings

Roughly a third of Americans don’t have any short-term savings, according to the 2017 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Even if you are saving, setting more money aside for your financial goals can help you reach them more quickly. For starters, you can try automating your savings.

There are two ways to do this. First, sign up for Chime Bank’s Automatic Savings program. Simply use your Chime Visa® debit card for everyday purchases, and Chime will round up the transaction to the nearest dollar and transfer the difference to your savings account. The program also allows you to automatically set aside 10% of each paycheck in savings as soon as you get paid.

The second way is to set up automatic transfers at the beginning of every month from checking to savings. Doing this at the beginning of each month makes that amount money unavailable to spend. This means you’ll need to learn how to live on the rest – while watching your savings account grow.

3. Add another percent to your retirement contributions

Long-term savings is just as important as short-term savings. If you have an employer retirement plan — for example, a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan — your contributions are typically based on a percentage of your income.

For example, if you earn $60,000 a year and contribute 5%, your monthly contribution is $300. But, if you up your contribution to 6% this year, this amount goes up to $360. That’s not a big increase, but it can make a huge difference down the road as your retirement account balance compounds with interest.

4. Reinvent your gift-giving

A 2014 survey by Eventbrite found that 72% of Millennials prefer spending money on experiences than material things. As a result, aligning your gift-giving in the new year to focus more on experiential giving can help improve your relationships.

In many cases, this won’t even require that you spend more money on gifts. And, if you’re going to spend the money anyway, you might as well make it more meaningful. For example, instead of buying my dad gifts for Father’s Day and his birthday this year, my brothers and I decided to take him pheasant hunting. That time together with his boys meant more to my dad than any item we could have bought him.

5. Spend more on food

Spending more money isn’t your typical New Year’s resolution, but in this case, spending more in the short-term can help you save in the long-run.

Healthy food typically costs more, but all the fat, sugar and additives in processed foods can cause health problems down the road. Because spending more on fruits, vegetables and other whole foods can help you prevent major health issues in the future, consider it as an investment with favorable returns.

The bottom line

As you’re planning your money resolutions for the new year, it’s essential that you choose ones that are realistic and you’re excited about. Otherwise, they’ll likely fall by the wayside within a month or two.

Since every person’s financial situation is different, it’s possible that not all of these resolutions are a good fit. Know yourself and your needs, and avoid pushing yourself too hard. As you plan your money resolutions carefully, you’ll be more likely to keep them and establish healthy financial habits for life.

 

How 5 Millennials Really Spend for the Holidays

The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends. But the joy of the season often comes with its share of stress. Namely, you may be worried about how you’ll afford all this holiday spending.

Budgeting for the holidays is no easy task, and unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for handling money during this time of year. There are so many factors to take into account: who should you buy gifts for, how much should you spend, and how should you factor in spending without going into debt. Since money is such a taboo subject and you may want to buy whatever you want, it can be hard to cap your holiday spending.

Although we don’t recommend comparing yourself to others, it can sometimes be helpful to learn from those who find themselves in a similar spending quandary. So, we asked five millennials to discuss how they spend and budget during the holidays. Their answers may surprise you:

Sami Lynn, 32

Annual Holiday Budget: $0

While most people find themselves with a spending hangover after the holidays, this isn’t the case for Lynn, a medical consultant from Oklahoma City. She generally doesn’t celebrate the holidays at all, opting instead to either work or take vacation during that time. She budgets 10 percent of her income for travel, and uses it during the holidays. While she may buy presents for a few close friends, she takes that out of her regular budget rather than saving up for months in advance. She wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I’m not in touch with my family so it’s mostly about myself, my critters and my friends,” says Lynn.

Meghan O’Dea, 31

Annual Holiday Budget: $200

Instead of going all out in December, O’Dea of Chattanooga, Tennessee keeps her holidays low key with immediate family and then celebrates Christmas in July with extended family. A scholarship program coordinator, O’Dea admits that neither of these approaches is considered “traditional.”

Her immediate family members exchange books and stockings on Christmas. In July, her extended family takes a beach vacation. During this time, each relative picks a Secret Santa and buys a gift for one person.

When it comes to spending for Christmas, O’Dea sets aside $200 to buy gifts. She picks out presents that she knows her family will love throughout the year. This way the cost is spread out and she can work within her budget to buy meaningful gifts.

“We love focusing on books and food. It makes the nebulous week in-between Christmas and New Year’s extra cozy. Eating leftover Yorkshire pudding and cracking open a new book with some eggnog is the best part of Christmas.”

Lisa Bryant, 23

Annual Holiday Budget: $500

Bryant, an engineer from Sparks, Nevada, typically spends the holidays with either her family or her fiance’s family. She focuses on spending time together over everything else. She spends around $500, mostly on gifts with some money left over for decorations. Since her IRA company allows her to skip a monthly contribution, she skips December and uses this extra cash for the holidays.

Generally, this frees up enough money to buy one big gift for her fiance, plus presents for her parents and a few close friends. She also tries to give one hand-made gift per year and uses her holiday budget to pay for supplies.

“I’m usually pretty good at spending within my means.”

Alaina Leary, 24

Annual Holiday Budget: $800-$1000

Leary, a freelance editor from Boston, saves up for Christmas all year long but ramps up those savings starting each summer. Between family gatherings, “Friendsmas”, and lots of winter-themed fun, there is a lot to take into account when budgeting. Generally, Leary uses about $500 of her holiday funds to buy gifts for her partner, close friends, dad, and cousins. The remaining $300-$500 in her budget is earmarked for experiences. Some of Leary’s favorite holiday experiences include a weekend away with her partner in Maine, a long sleigh ride, and dining out after watching Boston’s annual tree lighting ceremony.

“I budget my money for experiences over gifts, because I’d rather spend time with people than spend money on them.”

Colleen Stinchcombe, 26

Annual Holiday Budget: No limit but $75 per person cap

Stinchcombe, a writer and editor from Phoenix, usually spends the holidays at her house with her family. She asks everyone to agree to a $75 spending cap. While that cap may seem high, this works for Stinchcombe as she budgets for this annual gathering and only buys for her immediate family and maybe a couple of close friends. Instead of saving throughout the year, she sets aside money that she would ordinarily spend on herself for things like eating out, new clothes and other unnecessary items.

She says her gifting style is to give as she would like to receive. With this in mind, Stinchcombe chooses gifts that her family and friend would otherwise buy for themselves.

“I’m not a fan of holiday gift-giving as something extravagant.”

How Should You Budget For The Holidays?

As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for how you should spend money during the holidays. The most important thing is to take stock of your priorities and your bank account, and find a happy medium this holiday season.