Tag: Seasonal

 

18 Ways to Earn Money Online This Summer

If you need extra cash to pay down debt or save money, there are plenty of ways to earn money online. From automating your bank account to selling your photos through an app, it’s possible to boost your cash flow without ever leaving your couch.

To help you find the best options available to earn more money, we’ve put together a list of 18 ways to boost your savings. Take a look:

1. Open a new bank account

Switching banks can sound like a daunting task. But many banks offer bonuses to people who sign up for an account, set up direct deposit and use their debit card. Some of these perks can add up to hundreds of dollars a year.

Chime’s Automatic Savings program, for example, connects your savings account to your debit card. Every time you use the card, Chime rounds up the transaction to the nearest dollar and transfers the round up amount directly into your savings account. Cha-ching!

2. Use a cash-back website

Sites like Topcashback, Ebates and Swagbucks offer cash back when you use their shopping portals to shop at your favorite retailers. Ebates and Swagbucks even have browser extensions that notify you if you’re eligible to score cash back on a site you’re visiting. Some stores offer upwards of 10% back.

3. Get rid of your stuff

Unless you’re a staunch minimalist, you likely have unused items lying around. Why not sell your stuff on sites and apps like Craigslist, OfferUp, eBay and Facebook Marketplace. Wouldn’t you rather get paid for those books you’ve already read?

4. Sell your photos

Are you an amateur or budding photographer? You may be happy to find out that you can actually turn your photos into cash. Foap is an app that allows you to get paid for the pictures you take on your phone.

Just upload your images, and if a brand, agency or individual wants to buy your photo, you’ll get paid five dollars through the app. There’s no limit to how many times you can license the same photo.

5. Lose weight

Shedding a few pounds isn’t always easy, but earning cash to do so can be an extra motivator. HealthyWage and DietBet are two websites that reward you for betting on yourself. If you achieve your goal, you get paid.

Here’s how it works. You track your weight throughout each challenge and work toward a specific goal. How much you earn typically depends on the type of challenge you choose, the amount you contribute to the pot at the beginning, and how many other people achieve their goals.

6. Go grocery shopping

Clipping coupons can be time-consuming. Why not use an app to save money on groceries instead?

Ibotta, for example, is a cash-back app that offers rebates on various items and products at your local grocery store. All you have to do is choose which products in the app to buy, then take a picture of your receipt after you’re done shopping.

7. Find unclaimed money

It may sound unbelievable, but it’s possible that you’re owed hundreds or even thousands of dollars. You may have refunds from various merchants, old savings accounts and other sources. You may have completely forgot that you even had these accounts in the first place.

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators is an organization which maintains a database of unclaimed money for individuals in each state. To see if you’ve left money on the table somewhere, visit Unclaimed.org. Check your current state of residence as well as other places you’ve lived to make sure you don’t miss anything. If you find missed money that belongs to you, you’ll need to answer some questions to prove your identity. You’ll then provide your current contact information and voila, a check will arrive in the mail.

8. Shop for a new car insurance policy

If you’re a good driver, a 2017 NerdWallet report shows that you could save $416.52 per year by shopping around for car insurance. Wow.

Where to start? Compare at least three or four car insurance companies to see if you can get a better deal than what you’re currently paying. Also, call your current insurer to see if it’s willing to match the lower rates you find elsewhere. Make it a habit of negotiating and seeking lower auto insurance rates once a year.

9. Get rid of unwanted gift cards

From time to time, we all get gift cards to retailers we would never shop at. Instead of letting these unwanted gift cards gather dust, sell them online through websites like Raise or Gift Card Granny. Depending on the brand, you can get up to 80% or 90% of the card’s face value in cash.

10. Get crafty

Do you like to make beaded jewelry, handcrafted ceramic pots or anything else that’s artsy? Etsy is a popular website for people with a talent for crafts. If you have been thinking about selling your wares online, why not just do it?

Your earnings can vary depending on the quality and demand for your products, but it’s possible to earn some serious extra dough from your hobby.

11. Rent out a room

Got a spare bedroom in your house? Why not turn it into cash? Airbnb and VRBO allow just about anyone to rent out a room, a couch or their entire home to travelers looking to save on accommodations.

This option is best if you live in a popular tourist destination or major city, and you’ll have to be comfortable with having strangers stay in your place. But it’s possible to earn hundreds if not thousands of dollars a month. As an example of how much you can earn, a quick search on Airbnb for a private room in Chicago yielded an average rental rate of $109 per night.

12. Lend your money to others

Investing in the stock market can be risky, especially if you’re a newbie investor. Instead, consider investing in people by lending some of your cash and earning interest.

LendingClub and Prosper are top peer-to-peer lending marketplaces that allow you to lend money to people looking to borrow in the form of personal loans. LendingClub claims historical returns of three to eight percent a year and Prosper says you can earn an estimated return of 7.3% on average.

13. Invest your spare change

If you like Chime’s Automatic Savings program mentioned above, you may want to consider Acorns, a micro-investing app. All you have to do is connect your bank account or credit card. Every time you use your card or checking account, Acorns will round up the transaction to the nearest dollar and invest the round up amount in exchange-traded mutual funds.

14. Run errands or do handyman work

If you have spare time and the right skills, you can earn some money on the side through TaskRabbit.

The TaskRabbit website matches people in need of home services with “Taskers” who are eager to help and earn extra cash. You can sign up to offer various services, including grocery shopping, furniture assembly, moving and packing, and general handyman work.

15. Online focus groups

Both large and small companies spend a lot of money doing market and consumer research to get feedback on their products. You can participate in such focus groups online through websites like FocusGroup, Fieldwork and Inspired Opinions.

Keep in mind, however, that some focus groups may require that you attend in person.

16. Test out apps and websites

One of the many ways app and website developers make improvements is by asking consumers for their feedback.

UserTesting pays you to use apps and visit websites, and then offer up your opinions. You’ll complete a few tasks while recording your thoughts as you speak them aloud. You can earn $10 for every 20-minute video you complete, for an hourly rate of $30.

17. Use coupon codes

Online retailers often create coupon codes and promotions to entice shoppers to buy something. But unless you receive every retailer’s e-newsletter, you likely won’t ever hear about these deals.

Luckily, websites like Honey and RetailMeNot offer browser extensions that let you know when a website you’re on has available coupon codes. While you’re technically not earning money through these tools, you’ll keep more of your cash in your wallet.

18. Play with apps on your phone

If you enjoy exploring new apps on your phone, you might as well get paid doing it, right?

AppKarma allows you to earn cash and gift cards just for downloading and playing with different apps on your phone. While you won’t get rich doing this, it may be worth it if you have the time and enjoy trying new apps.

Are you ready to save more cash?

There are countless ways to earn money online and boost your savings. The 18 options listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. As you do your own research, you’re bound to find something that suits your skills, passions and wallet.

 

15 Hidden Summer Expenses to Budget For

Summer is the perfect time to relax — but that doesn’t mean you should get lax with your budget, especially because there are some extra expenses that pop up during the warmer months. Here are 15 expenses you’ll want to think of as you get your budget ready for the summer.

1. Utilities

Your place doesn’t have to feel like a meat locker, but you’ll be boosting the air-conditioning to beat the heat. That said, here are a few ways to lower your AC bill during the summer.

2. Travel fees

There are a lot of different fees you encounter when you’re traveling that you wouldn’t otherwise, like checked baggage fees, skycap or even mobile data fees when you’re out of range. These are all things to think through ahead of time (and some may even be travel fees you don’t need to pay).

3. Banking fees

While we’re talking fees, let’s mention ATM fees and foreign transaction fees. If you travel somewhere where your bank doesn’t have ATMs and you need to get cash, you may get hit with a fee. If your credit card doesn’t waive foreign transaction fees, you’ll want to build that expense into your budget.

You can skip a lot of fees, though. Here are 14 fees you should never pay — and how to avoid them.

4. Sunscreen

Yes, I know we’re supposed to be using sunscreen on the daily, but the amount you use goes up in the summer. The good news is some FSAs will cover sunscreen as long as it’s SPF 15 or greater, so check with your provider to see if you’re eligible.

5. Bug spray

Bye, mosquitos.

6. Barbecue supplies

From propane or charcoal to cleaning brushes, you’ll certainly boost your use of the grill during the summer.

Genius tip: Instead of buying a new set of outdoor cooking tools, see what multi-purpose items you already have in your kitchen.

7. Yard care

Flowers, veggie gardens, lawn and tree care … all sorts of yard work comes with the warmer temps. Plus, everything will need to be watered, boosting your water bill.

Genius tip: If you need to have a landscaper come in, be sure to get several estimates so you don’t overpay. Vet companies online, too, so you know their track record.

8. Gasoline

Packing up and heading out on a road trip will mean you’re boosting the miles on your car, as well as your fuel bill. (A good gas credit card could at least help you net rewards on filling your tank.) Plus, when you’re on the road, you’ll probably spend more on …

9. Convenience store stops

Chips, drinks and other road trip essentials aren’t usually taking up a line item on your budget. But who can have a road trip without ’em?

Genius tip: Stock up on supplies from the grocery store before heading out. They’ll likely be less straining on your budget than gas station items.

10. Parking

While we’re talking driving, once you get to your destination, you’ll need to leave your car somewhere and that can be costly. Some hotels offer free parking to guests, while others don’t, so this may be a factor in choosing where you stay.

11. Car rental insurance

If you’re renting a car when you get to your destination, you’ll want auto insurance. That said, it’s a good idea to check ahead of time to see if you already have coverage, as your personal insurance policy or even your credit card often covers you.

12. Activities for the kids

The kids will need things to do during the day when they’re out of school but also when you’re traveling. Every summer, my Mom had new travel games or books for me for the long car rides to the lake. Whether you’re driving or flying, you’ll probably wind up buying something for the kids to do while traveling.

13. Beach rentals

Many resorts or beaches offer umbrellas, chairs or cabanas for a fee. The fee is usually pretty reasonable, and worth it if you can’t bring your own supplies, whether because you’re coming from far away or because the resort won’t allow it. Be sure to ask what the charge is, though, so you can compare apples to apples when deciding what hotel provides the best value.

14. Tipping

Being away from home often means going to restaurants or getting delivery and, unless you’re going to a Danny Meyer style restaurant, you’ll need to add in a tip. Also think about tips for maid services in hotel rooms and cruise ship gratuities when setting your vacation budget.

15. Wardrobe

Goodbye, boots and sweaters. Hello, flip flops and tank tops! Stick to the essentials and comparison-shop for must-have apparel so you don’t overspend.

Not everything you do during the season will cost more. In fact, here are 50 things you can get for free this summer.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.

 

How to Make Money With Your Car This Summer

If you have a car, you likely use it to get from one place to the next. And, while you may feel lucky to have your own wheels, that car may cost you a pretty penny to maintain and insure.

But, what if you used your car to actually help you make more money on the side and pay for your gas and maintenance bills? This would turn your car into more of an investment and a solid income stream, right? Well, you’re in luck. You can now make money with your car. Here are a few ways you can do so – starting this summer.

Drive for Uber or Lyft

Becoming an Uber or Lyft driver is a popular side hustle opportunity. The demand for rideshare drivers is high and will remain so as long as people keep using rideshare apps to get around. I should know – my husband is an Uber and Lyft driver.

I love that you can choose your own hours and earn a flexible income. In my husband’s case, he works long and varying hours at his full-time job so he could not commit to a second job with fixed hours. Initially, he stayed up late a few nights a week driving for Uber. After a while, he started driving for Lyft too and the extra income has helped him pay off his car loan early. It has also helped us save for vacations and pay off other debts.

How much you earn driving for Uber or Lyft will depend on which city you’re driving in, the time of day you operate (drivers tend to make a little more during rush hour times), and how often you drive. Uber and Lyft pay via direct deposit weekly so it’s ideal to have a bank account that makes it easy and painless to set up direct deposit payments.

Uber Eats

If driving people around makes you a little nervous, you can try driving for Uber Eats. Uber Eats partners with local restaurants so customers can order food on the app and drivers like you can use your car to deliver the food order.

While the average Uber driver can expect to make $20+ per hour, Uber Eats drivers make around eight to $12 per hour after factoring in vehicle expenses. They earn less than Uber drivers because Uber Eats trips are generally shorter. Also, Uber is more popular than Uber Eats currently, so Uber drivers have a greater opportunity to increase earnings. Regardless, both are great ways to make money simply by driving around in your car.

Make Deliveries with Amazon and Other Sites

With Amazon being the biggest online retailer to date, it’s no surprise that the company ships a ton of packages each day.

You can cash in on this by delivering Amazon packages in your local area. The program is called Amazon Flex and delivery drivers can make $18 to $24 per hour. Like Uber, you can set your own schedule by working as little or as much as you want. Amazon Flex is available in over 50 cities so far and they are adding more all the time.

Another delivery option you may want to consider is delivering food orders with Postmates (very similar to Uber Eats) or becoming a tasker for TaskRabbit.

TaskRabbit allows you to find small odds jobs you enjoy at the pay rate you choose. Taskers are paid to deliver items, run errands, help move furniture, perform handyman work, and more. What I love about this option is that you can decide how much you get paid per task. You just need to register online, attend an orientation in your city and start making money.

Advertise

If you drive your car a lot, you can make money by placing ads on it. Some companies will pay you hundreds per month to drive around with their ads on your car.

Carvertise is one of the best sites to use to place ads on your car for extra money. Another good site is Wrapify. How much you earn depends on whether you wrap your entire car or showcase a partial ad. According to Wrapify, you can earn around $84 to $140 per month just by wrapping a panel around your car, and $264 to $452 by wrapping your full car with an ad.

Some brands will require you to drive a certain number of miles during the ad campaign. This makes it a great opportunity for someone who already drives a lot or commutes to work daily. What I love about this opportunity is that the ads are easy to remove when the campaign is over. This way you can keep making money with other ads.

Rent Out Your Car

Say you don’t drive your car a lot but still want to make money with it. Consider renting your car out to others for some quick and extra cash. This is a good idea if you work from home and don’t use your car much or have a two-car household.

Turo is a car sharing company that lets you rent out your car while you’re not using it. Turo makes it easy and even offers liability insurance. Better yet, you can choose which days you want to make your car available and set your own daily price.

Owning a Car Has Its Perks

While some may say it’s cheaper to go without a car, there are tons of extra income opportunities when you do have a vehicle. By using the options above, you can use your car to make extra money to help you pay off debt, boost your savings, start investing or fund a large purchase in cash.

Wondering if any of these extra income ideas are worth it? Try one out for a week or so and see for yourself. You may find a low-effort way to make extra money for the long-term.

 

Budgeting for Summer Vacation

School bells are ringing for the last time this school year. Kids and their families are looking forward to a great summer season filled with warm weather, fun activities, and maybe even a vacation. But that summer vacation may be more expensive than many can afford.

Recent data from Bankrate shows that nearly one-quarter of Americans will skip a vacation this summer due to financial reasons, while roughly another quarter are skipping out due to a demanding work schedule and other family obligations. If you do want to make a summer vacation a reality, it is important to focus on your budget to make it happen.

The cost of a summer vacation

Vacations are not cheap, but they don’t have to cost so much they are not attainable. If you want to take your family of four on a vacation, you’ll spend around $1,000 to $5,000 depending on your accommodations, travel, meals, and activities. But keep in mind you have a lot of control here.

A summer road trip is one of the cheaper ways to get out of town. If you bring a cooler and plan out meals, camp some of the time, only pick hotels with free breakfast, and stick with lower cost attractions, you can enjoy a trip filled with wonderful memories on a tight budget. Depending on your destination and planning, this could easily come in below a $1,000 total cost.

Taking the family to Hawaii or Europe, on the other hand, is rarely an inexpensive proposition. You can expect expensive airfare, hotels, and food to easily surpass $1,000 per traveler depending on how long you travel and the quality of accommodations.

If you live paycheck to paycheck, coming up with even $100 for a home repair is a struggle, let alone $4,000 to take the family to Europe. But money isn’t the only thing holding people back from vacations.

Competing priorities

The Bankrate data said that among those skipping the summer vacation, half said money is the main factor. But for 25%, family responsibilities were the contributing factor. Another 22% can’t take time off from work.

While many employers offer paid time off, a huge number of employees skip taking those days or leave a large number unused. A study from Glassdoor found that half of vacation days go unused and two-thirds of Americans work while on vacation anyway.

For entrepreneurs like us, getting away may be a pipedream. Do as much as possible ahead of time so you can avoid plugging in while away. And putting a vacation auto-away message on can help you avoid the guilt of not responding to emails quickly while away.

Create an automatic vacation savings fund

If you do want to take a vacation but find money is holding you back, consider creating a dedicated vacation savings account. You can put cash in from your direct deposit or a recurring transfer from checking without even thinking about it!

To take it a step further, consider apps like Qapital that can help you put money away on a schedule or based on some fun, automated actions. A few months ago I put $1 into my savings fund every time Donald Trump put out a new message on Twitter, as an example of what is possible for automatic savings.

This can be a simple setup or something more complex. It’s up to you to decide the best path to success.

Don’t forget travel hacking

If you want to supercharge your travel opportunities without going crazy on costs, remember that you can earn valuable miles and points for travel rewards from your credit cards and other sources.

I started travel hacking nearly a decade ago, and it has brought me huge rewards. I’ve been able to visit England, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Canada, Israel, and destinations all over the United States for pennies on the dollar. For example, a few years ago I took my then girlfriend (now wife) to my cousin’s wedding near Tel Aviv. We paid about $150 each round-trip for our flights.

I just booked a July 4th trip to visit my family in Denver, also with miles and points. Flights for three of us plus a lap child cost about $33 out-of-pocket. About two weeks later I’m off on a solo trip to Chicago and Philadelphia for an all-in cash cost of less than $20.

Make your dream vacation a reality

Vacations are an amazing way to see the world and spend time with the people you love most, but don’t let the cost keep you from going or send you into debt. By using smart budgeting and travel hacking techniques, your affordable vacation may be just around the corner.


This article originally appeared on Due.com.

 

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.

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