Tag: Seasonal

 

10 Minutes For 10 Days: Easy Ways to Prep for the New Year Financially

The new year is a great time to get a fresh start. And while you’re making a pact to get back into a morning yoga routine or to cut down on the carbs, don’t forget to also prep your finances for the new year.

It’s not as hard as you think to turn your money situation from a frowny face emoji to a muscle arm emoji. Here are 10 ways you can shape up your finances for the new year in just 10 minutes a day:

Auto Save

I’m a huge fan of the “set it and forget it” approach, and autosaving is my Number 1 favorite money tactic. With minimal effort, you can set it once and you’re golden.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t save as much as you’d like. Even automatically saving five dollars a week into your emergency fund adds up to $260 in a year. Double that to $10 a week, and you’ll have $570 buckaroos. Not too shabby!

Make a Date With Your Spending Plan

Check yourself before you wreck yourself—with your budget, that is. It’s important to remember that your budget is a living, breathing thing. It changes as your money situation evolves, and what worked last year may not work next year.

Did your income change from switching jobs? Did you have to move? Are you spending more money on quality groceries? You get the picture.

Case in point: This was my year of “forced upgrades.” I moved and bought a new car. In turn, my monthly expenses went up, and I had to make changes to my spending plan.

Time Your Bill Payments With Paydays

If you are member of the gig economy, and get several paychecks at different times of the month from different gigs, staying on top of your bills can be challenging.

To ease the cray, time your payments so they sync up with when you get paid. For instance, if you get paid from a particular gig on the 10th of each month and your cell phone bill is due on the 15th, sync up that payment with your cell phone bill. If you’re a Chime Member, you can get paid early – making it easier to pay bills earlier as well. All you need to do is set up direct deposit with at least one employer.

Turn On Alerts

By setting alerts on your credit cards, you’ll get notified if a transaction exceeds a set amount, or if a payment was made online instead of in-person. This can help you keep your spending in check, as well as keep you informed of any fishy activity on your cards.

Check Your Net Worth

It’s easy to get caught up in the illusion of wealth—flashy cars, designer clothes and McMansions. But true wealth can be boiled down to one thing: your net worth. You can determine your net worth by adding up the amount of money you have in the bank, as well as the value of your car, house and any investments. Subtract your debt from this amount and you now know your net worth.

An easy way to track your net worth is to use a money management app. Just poke around the Apple Store or Google Play and you’ll find no shortage of free apps to help you track how many Benjamins you’re stacking.

Prioritize Your Money Goals

You likely have some of these financial goals—paying off your debt, saving for an emergency fund and saving up to buy a house.

If you’re like me and have a gazillion goals, it’s best to prioritize them. This way you can focus your efforts and yield greater results. For 2019, for example, I’ll prioritize bolstering my retirement, saving for my first home, and socking cash away for my personal projects.

Link Up with a Money Accounta-Buddy

Teaming up with a buddy to help keep you accountable with your money goals is super helpful. This may mean hopping on a Google Hangout with a friend once a month to keep each other in check, or having casual conversations in person.

What works for me is to just chat about money. I am lucky to have a handful of money accounta-buddies, and we talk about everything from paying off debt, to saving for retirement, to any issues that arise. Talking about money with trusted pals is cathartic. And it feels good to know you’re not suffering alone.

Link Up a New Habit to an Old One

The majority of our actions are rooted in habits, so try forming a new habit by linking it to an existing one. For instance, if you meditate for a few minutes every day, commit to checking your recent transactions or net worth right after that.

Figure Out an Easy Win or Big Win

To make progress on your money situation, you can either focus on an easy win or a big win. An easy win is something that will give you a boost in the beginning, while a big win will help you make greater strides.

For instance, if a money goal for 2019 is to cut back on your expenses, an easy win would be to lower your cell phone bill. You only have to negotiate once and then enjoy a lower bill. A big win would be to cut back on your food expenses. While it requires more work to lower your grocery bills, this can help you net greater savings.

Look for Forgotten Money

This is one of my favorite feel-good money tactics. In-between wading through your debt load and coming up with a plan to bolster your emergency fund, finding forgotten money gives you  a psychological lift.

To start, look in places where you may have forgotten money stashed away, like funds in a savings account you once opened but haven’t used, contributions to a retirement account through a former employer, coins in your “spare change” jar, or even cashback credit card rewards.

The Best Time to Start Is Now

There’s no time like the present to begin improving your money sitch. Using the 10 suggestions here, you can spend just 10 minutes a day taking positive actions. Just remember: No matter how many financial mistakes you made in the past, you can make changes for the better starting right now. What are you waiting for?

 

How to Throw Your First New Year’s Eve Party on a Budget

As the year winds down, you may be ready to ring in the new one with a bangin’ celebration. What better way to do that than by hosting a party at your place? Except there’s one little wrinkle in your plans: You don’t have a lot of cash to spend.

Not to worry. You can still throw an amazing New Year’s Eve party, even with a tiny budget. Take a look at these 6 tips to help you pull off a successful soireé.

Create a Dedicated Party Account

Keeping track of your spending over the holidays can get crazy and having a separate bank account just for party purchases can make it easier.

“If you know you’re going to be hosting a party for the new year, start a party fund as soon as possible,” says Jacob Lunduski, financial industry analyst for Credit Card Insider.

You can easily do that with a Chime Spending or Savings Account. It takes less than 5 minutes to open a free bank account with Chime. You can fund your account by setting up a direct deposit through your employer or transferring money from an existing bank account. From there, you can manage your account through the Chime mobile app.

Once your account is open, you’ll need to add something to it.

“Consider putting aside a small amount from each paycheck towards your party,” Lunduski says.

He says budgeting $20 to $50 per payday is a good rule of thumb to follow, depending on how big of an event you’re planning.

Nail Down the Guest List Early

A party isn’t a party without guests and as you plan your New Year’s Eve blowout, think about who you’d like to invite. You might want to call up everyone you know but that can add to the cost. On the other hand, capping the guest list at a certain number can help you manage your costs.

Another tip: Clue in your invitees and tell them you’re planning a party. “Ask them to tentatively RSVP whether they can make it or not,” Lunduski says.

“This will give you a general idea of how much food, seating and alcohol people will need, and the cost associated.”

This step is important for planning your budget. For example, if you have $300 to spend and you want to invite 30 people, that breaks down to $10 you can spend per person. Paring the guest list back to 20 people bumps your per-person spend up to $15. You can then decide how that $15 should be divvied up between food, alcohol and other party supplies.

Buy in Bulk (and Ask for a Deal)

If you’re planning to hit a party supply store or shop online for cups, plates, napkins or even wine, buying in bulk can be a money saver. Finance expert and founder of Fiscal Nerd Stacy Caprio says getting to know your local party suppliers can work in your favor if you’re able to negotiate a bulk discount.

“Often, the owner of a small shop or business will be happy to accommodate a loyal customer as well as encourage bulk purchases, since that can be the bread and butter of their business,” she says.

“This makes them more willing to give you a discount when you ask.”

Consider BYOB or Potluck to Save on Food and Drinks

Food and alcohol can eat up a big chunk of your party budget. Greg Jenkins, partner and co-founder of event planning company Bravo Productions, says you can make party planning less stressful — and less expensive — by asking guests to contribute something for dinner and drinks.

For example, you might supply beer and cocktail mixers but ask attendees to bring a dish or a bottle of wine for everyone to share. If you’re planning to prepare food, Jenkins says it’s always better to keep it simple.

“Sit down dinners cost more to host,” he says. Even with just appetizers, you could overspend if you let the menu get away from you. So, stick with basic, inexpensive choices like ham sliders and mini desserts. Most importantly, “don’t waste money on things guests won’t eat,” Jenkins says.

Repurpose and Reuse Party Items Whenever Possible

Your first New Year’s Eve party is a big deal and while you may be tempted to go all out, your wallet will thank you if you think practically instead. Repurposing things you have around the house for your party or thinking about how the items you’re purchasing can be useful beyond New Year’s Eve can help you make smarter buying decisions.

For instance, say your favorite grocery store is running a sale on wine. If you drink wine year-round or if wine is something you can gift to friends and family, stocking up on it while it’s on sale might be a good move.

Also, consider what you plan to do for decorations to make the party complete. Jenkins says you can save money by using things you already have around the house. Fitted sheets, for example, can double as tablecloths. Or, you can leave up holiday decorations and lights and think about adding in some inexpensive paper streamers or confetti to capture the party mood. If you don’t have any twinkle lights handy, candles can create a similar effect.

If you’re planning to buy plastic or paper plates, cups, party hats, whistles or similar items, you can scoop those up at a dollar store. Stick with solid colors instead of ones that have “New Year’s Eve” printed on them and stash away any extras to reuse for your next party. If you need an extra table or chairs for seating, check your local thrift stores for low-cost finds.

Serve Up Affordable Entertainment

While you’re waiting for the clock to countdown to midnight, you’ll need to keep your guests entertained. Since it’s your first New Year’s Eve party, hiring a band may not be feasible, but there are still plenty of ways to enjoy yourself as the hours tick by.

For example, you could set up a DIY photo booth for your guests. You just need a plain sheet or a curtain for the backdrop, some party props and a camera. The props may be things you’ve already purchased — think silly glasses, paper top hats, bead necklaces and noisemakers. Toss everything in a shoebox or a plastic bin and let your guests snap away.

Other low-key, low-cost options include board games, cards, charades or taking turns sharing your New Year’s resolutions. If you’re stumped for suggestions, poll your guests to see what inexpensive ideas they have for the big night.

All the New Year’s Eve Fun, Without the Financial Hangover

While you still may need to spend something on your first New Year’s Eve party, you don’t need to spend everything.

The more you plan your spending ahead of time and follow these 6 tips, the easier it is to keep your budget locked down. And when the ball drops, you can enjoy the moment knowing that you won’t be starting the new year off with money regrets.

 

6 Year-End Money Moves: Salary vs. Hourly

It’s that time of year again – the time when everyone focuses on the holidays. This includes buying gifts, planning holiday travel and preparing for all those holiday parties.

Yet, this is also the time of year when you can easily let things fall to the wayside, including your own finances and career. So, before you let yourself get carried away with holiday spending, it’s time to take an inward look at your own money matters.

A good place to start is to answer this question: Are you paid by the hour or are you salaried? The answer to this question is important because how — and when — you earn your money can make a big difference in the year-end financial actions you take. For example, if you are a salaried employee, you may already have company-sponsored insurance and a retirement plan in place. If you are hourly, however, you may have to set up your own retirement account and purchase insurance. On the other hand, if you work an hourly job, you may have the opportunity to earn extra money by working overtime hours.

So, with one month left to go in 2018, take a look at these 6 financial housekeeping moves for salaried versus hourly employees.

Contribute to a Retirement Plan

Regularly saving money in a retirement plan is one of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself for retirement. And one of the best ways to do that is by contributing to a 401(k), a tax-deferred retirement plan offered by many employers.

You’ll often hear about 401(k) plans coming with a “company match.” Matching contributions are when your employer will deposit a dollar amount or certain percentage into your retirement plan. It’s basically free money from your job – which you can get just for contributing to your retirement account.

“Perhaps the worst financial mistake someone can make is turning down free money,” says Robert Johnson, a professor of finance at Creighton University.

“If one doesn’t contribute enough in a 401(k) plan that has a company match, one is basically turning down free money.”

Here’s how you can maximize your investments if you have an hourly or salaried job.

Salary:

  • Max out your allowable retirement account contributions by adjusting your limits through your employer or investment portal.
  • If you’re already spreading yourself too thin financially, aim to contribute as much as you can to your 401(k) to get the maximum company match.

Hourly and self-employed:

Review Your Insurance Policies

“As the year comes to a close, it’s important to review insurance policies to make sure your coverage still fits your life,” says Lingwe Wang, co-founder of life insurance provider Ethos.

Take a look at the suggestions below.

Salary (and hourly, where applicable):

  • Thoroughly review your insurance policies, to include health, auto, homeowners and life – particularly if you anticipate a major life change in the upcoming year, like a marriage, birth or relocation.
  • Open new policies and close old ones. Make this move by determining if you may need more or less coverage, depending on your individual situation.
  • Monitor insurance rates. Keep an eye on insurance rates all year, but make sure you conduct a full scale review at the end of each year.
  • Pay attention to your deductibles. Here’s a good example: “If you have an expensive (medical) procedure coming up, and have reached or nearly reached your deductible, you could consider scheduling the procedure this year, rather than next, to maximize your benefits,” says Kevin Gallegos, senior vice president of client enrollment for Freedom Debt Relief.

Hourly/contract/self-employed:

  • Pick a plan. Now is the time to select the health insurance coverage right for you. Open enrollment for healthcare coverage on the health insurance marketplace lasts from November 1 to December 15. Make sure you don’t miss this window!

Utilize an FSA (if applicable)

A Flexible Spending Account, or FSA for short, is a tax-exempt way to save money to pay for certain qualifying medical expenses that may not be covered by your health insurance. This may include prescription medications, co-payments, or even portions of your deductible.

Salary:

If you’ve been making deposits into an employer-sponsored FSA plan, start using those dollars. According to HealthCare.gov, you’ll generally need to spend your FSA funds within your plan year. So, if you started coverage at the time of open enrollment, this leaves just two short months before the money you’ve socked away goes to waste.

“There is still time to make relevant purchases to use the money,” says Gallegos.

“Many kinds of products and services apply, so if it’s too late for a doctor’s appointment, determine if you need other qualifying items.”

Hourly/contract:

If you don’t have an FSA in place, now is the time to open one for more flexibility within your health insurance coverage. You’re allowed to deposit up to $2,650 per year, per employer, into an account.

Check Your Credit Report

Ensuring your credit is in good standing is important no matter whether you’re salaried or hourly.

With that, make a habit of checking your credit report at least once a year, and now is a great time to start. Your credit report is available for free at annualcreditreport.com and by reviewing your report, you’ll be able to spot signs of identity theft, which can adversely affect your report and credit score.

If you find anything that looks suspicious or errant — such as a loan listed as delinquent that you paid off, an unfamiliar looking credit account, incorrect spellings or dollar amounts, or other information that’s amiss  — you can dispute your findings with the three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.

Checking your credit report gives you the security and control you need over your financial situation, regardless of your employment status: full-time, part-time, salaried, hourly or contract.

Prep Your Taxes

Before you know it, the holidays will be over, a new year will have begun, and tax time will be here. April 15, 2019 is the next deadline for filing taxes, so make sure you prepare ahead of time.

Salary and hourly:

  • Check your tax withholdings. “Depending on your preference and your salary, some tax withholdings are better than others,” notes McCall Robison, chief editor of Best Company.

“Look at this year’s finances and tax withholdings, and determine if your current tax withholding is working with your budget. If not, you may want to change your tax withholding choice to better work with your financial situation.”

Hourly only:

  • Calculate any extra pay you earned throughout the year. For example, if you worked overtime or earned tips, include that in your total annual income. To learn more about how to report tips on your tax return, you may want to access IRS Form 4070.

Build Your Budget

Salaried and hourly employees may be paid differently, but making an effort to start a budget or make changes to improve your current budget is a great way for everyone to save money.

“Take into account your budget for the current year and think of where you could improve,” advises Robison.

“Did you eat out too much this year? Are there some bills you could cut down on? Do an expense audit, making a list of all of your bills and other expenses, and see where you can improve next year. This will give you a great start in the new year.”

A Fresh Financial Beginning at the End of the Year

The end of the year is an opportunity to make positive financial changes in the upcoming year. No matter what kind of work you do, how much you’re paid, how you’re paid, or what your unique work situation is, this is the time to make some smart money moves.

 

6 Steps to Enjoying a Debt-Free Holiday Season

The holidays can be an exciting time. ‘Tis the season to enjoy family get-togethers, time off from work, meaningful gift exchanges and more.

Yet, the holiday season can cost money – a lot of money. Indeed, you’re not alone if you worry about overspending. The average American racks up more than $1,000 in holiday debt each year.

Luckily, there are 6 steps you can take to enjoy a debt-free holiday season. Take a look:

1. Develop a Realistic Spending Plan

Your first step should be to develop a spending plan for the holidays, also known as a budget. By knowing how much you can spend, you can then set realistic expectations.

To start, list out all of the expenses you’ll incur over the next few weeks, and figure out how much you’re likely to spend on your holiday gifts. Once you know your limit, it’s time to start saving automatically. I’ll share some of the most creative budgeting methods below.

2. Shop Around for Deals

When doing your holiday shopping, be sure to compare stores and prices to find the best deals. Shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday can help you save so long as you don’t go overboard.

You can also use coupons and look for BOGO deals. And, don’t forget to take advantage of stores that offer price matching. Give yourself enough time to comparison shop by starting early. This way, you won’t feel rushed to buy the first thing you see.

If you see items you want to buy but don’t have enough cash, find out if the store offers a layaway service, This way you can pay as you get paid instead of charging your purchases immediately. Pro tip: If you set up direct deposit with Chime, you can get paid earlier, freeing up more immediate cash for you.

3. Pay for Everything with Cash

Forget about credit card reward points or cash back, particularly if you’re afraid you’ll get into holiday debt. In some cases, it’s just not worth it.

Instead of using a credit card for your holiday purchases, use the cash you set aside according to your budget. When you pay for all your holiday expenses in cash, it’s basically impossible to overspend and get into debt.

You can even try using the cash envelope budgeting method by assigning each category in your budget an envelope that you’ll fill with a designated amount of cash. Once an envelope is empty, that’s it. You’ll need to stop spending in that area. This budget does come with some drawbacks as you won’t be able to shop online and you’ll need to be organized so that you don’t misplace your envelopes filled with cash.

In the long-run, however, the envelope budget forces you to slow down when shopping and spend more mindfully.

4. DIY Hidden Costs

It’s easy to overspend on seemingly hidden things like decorations, greeting cards, white elephant gifts and party food. Instead of spending cashola, go the DIY route.

For starters, you can make your own holiday decor with craft supplies or dollar store items. I went to my local dollar store the other day and found everything from wreaths, ornaments, table decor, holiday lights, and more  – all for a buck each.

When it comes to making your own greeting cards, you can design them online using a free program called Canva. Rather than buying baked goods, you can also bake some of your favorite treats for cheap. Lastly, if you’re doing a gift exchange, you can always DIY gifts – whether it involves making homemade candles and bath bombs, or creating custom artwork.

5. Earn Extra Money

Once you’ve created a budget and have limited your holiday spending as much as possible, it may be time to start earning some extra money.

If finances are tight around this time of year, you can find more wiggle room by starting a side hustle or seeing if your can work overtime at your job. If you’re looking for something easy that pays quickly, you can drive for Uber or Lyft, deliver groceries with Instacart, babysit or pet sit, shovel snow, rent a room out in your home, design logos on Fiverr, or clean homes. These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

The key is to look for opportunities that you can start ASAP. This way you’ll be more apt to earn enough money to meet your holiday spending needs.

6. Focus on Experiences

The holiday season is not just about having and spending money. It’s also about showing gratitude, spending time with loved ones, and having positive experiences.

When you focus on experiences over money, you’ll be more likely to avoid overspending and going into debt during this time of year. And here’s the best part: Experiences can be free. For example, you can trade in a day of shopping for a day of binge-watching holiday movies while eating Christmas cookies and sipping hot cocoa. Or, you can drive around your neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, go sledding in the snow, or find a free local event to attend.

The Holidays Don’t Have to Be a Debt Sentence

Don’t sentence yourself to debt over the holidays. It’s not worth it and you have plenty of inexpensive ways to have fun, give gifts and enjoy the season. If you need inspiration, just turn to these 6 steps to a debt-free holiday season.

 

Why You Should Spend With Your Debit Card vs. Credit Card This Holiday Season

The holiday season is approaching and you know what that means — spending money. Whether it’s buying gifts for loved ones or booking flights to travel home, the holiday season typically means a spike in spending for many of us.

And, because you may spend more than at other times of the year, you’re probably going to use credit cards. But, did you know that while credit cards offer some cool rewards like cash back, using your debit card is often a wiser choice? Read on to learn why.

1. You spend only what you have

Everyone wants to think they’re responsible with credit and only buy what they can afford. Well, a lot of people are wrong. According to a 2017 study by Magnify Money, 68 percent of consumers attributed their holiday debt to credit cards.

Of the consumers surveyed, 44 percent racked up more than $1,000 and five percent accumulated more than $5,000 in credit card balances. More disturbing is the fact that half of those consumers noted that it will take more than three months to pay off the debt they accrued during the holidays. That’s more than a quarter of the entire year!

When you use a debit card, however, you spend only what you have in your bank account. And, this helps you become more mindful and realistic about your budget. Using a debit card during the holiday season can also help you avoid fees and that dreaded holiday credit card debt.

2. You don’t have to worry about making another payment

The holiday season can make the most organized person run around like a headless chicken. Everyone’s schedule seems packed to the brim and there’s always something else added to the to-do list (Think: “Buy white elephant gift for the company party.”)

When you’re so busy, some of your normal day-to-day duties can fall to the wayside. And, if you don’t have auto-pay set up, you can potentially miss a credit card payment. Another common problem during the busy holiday season: You say you’ll “do it later” and then when you remember to pay your bill, it’s late.

When you use a debit card, however, you don’t have to add anything else to your to-do list – including making yet another payment. The money comes straight from your bank account and you don’t have to do a thing.

3. A debit card is free to use

One of the biggest perks with using credit cards is the rewards, like cash-back and airline miles. But oftentime the best rewards cards come with an annual fee and the conversion on the rewards isn’t as great as you think. In many cases, miles are literally worth about a penny per mile or less.

So, you may actually be spending your money on an annual fee, high interest rates, late fees, and more – without getting much in return.

Here’s where debit cards take center stage. Debit cards are free and can help you avoid debt.

4. Your debit card can help you save

At Chime, we’re all about helping you save money when you spend money. It’s all about balance. Am I right?

With this in mind, check out Chime’s round-up savings program, where every time you use your debit card, we round-up the purchase to the nearest dollar and put it into your Savings Account. This way you can effortlessly save and know that you’re being financially responsible at the same time.

5. Stop fraud instantly

There are no two ways about it: Fraud can be rampant during the holiday season. A lot of credit card enthusiasts think this is a solid reason to use credit over debit.

But, your debit card can offer protections that are similar to your credit card. For example, if you suspect any fraudulent uses on your Chime card or your card goes missing, you can simply go into the app and immediately put a halt on purchases by disabling transactions. No need to stay on a long customer service line (who wants to talk on the phone?!) and no need for lengthy emails. Just put a stop to it, now.

Not only that, but Chime alerts you any time you use your debit card. So, if your debit card get into the wrong hands, you’ll know right away.

Bottom line

The holiday season should be a time of joy and fun, not stress and debt.

Using debit instead of credit can help you keep your spending in check, plus you’ll have one less thing to worry about. So, this holiday season: Try spending only what you have and enjoy the season with family and friends. It sure beats worrying about money!

 

Money Manners: Should you Stage a Money Intervention for Your Family?

Talking about money with trusted pals and your boo may be hard enough. But, envisioning a holiday sit-down for a mature pow-wow with your family over finances? Well, that may feel like a far-fetched, unicorn scenario.

But, what should you do if you have a relative who is royally screwing up his finances, especially if you know this mess may have a ripple effect on other loved ones? You may need to step in and intervene.

Take a look at our tips for determining whether you should stage a money intervention with the fam bam during the holidays, and our shortlist on how to proceed.

Assess the Gravity of the Situation

Communicating about money matters is well, extremely complicated. Add to the mix deep-rooted resentment, history and family dynamics, and you may feel like you’re precariously tip-toeing over landmines.

To gauge whether you should set up a money intervention, figure out exactly how serious the matter is. Is someone committing an act of financial infidelity, such as running up credit card debt, hiding bank accounts, or keeping a huge sum of student loan debt under wraps from a significant other? Or, maybe you have a teenage cousin who has no idea how to manage her finances and constantly spends everything she has. This can turn ugly once she hits college.

If it’s a serious matter, think about what would happen if nobody stepped in to intervene. If doing nothing can lead to debilitating, long-term consequences, a money intervention may be in order.

Figure Out If It’s Appropriate to Stage an Intervention

On the flipside, let’s say your sister has been complaining about how her money habits don’t align with her boyfriend’s. Perhaps she’s a saver and he never puts enough in a savings account. This would perhaps be considered a minor “flare-ups” and may be better handled between the two of them. While you feel inclined—or may have even been asked —to have a “little talk” with the couple, it may heighten feelings of tension and cause resentment.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries around the types of money matters you’re comfortable discussing with your relatives. And, perhaps you can simply suggest resources or a money management app that can help them with some of the issues they’re facing. Maybe this is all that’s needed to point your family members in the right direction.

Determine If You’re the Right Person

Let’s say that you’ve looked at the facts at hand, and determined that a money intervention is appropriate. If that’s a given, it’s time to decide whether you are the right person to facilitate this type of discussion.

Ideally, the facilitator should be an unbiased person who can remain calm throughout the intervention. Maybe a family friend who knows both parties would better suited. Or, you may want to bring in an experienced, trained professional, such as a financial therapist. Someone like this has no emotional ties to your family and may be the best person for the job.

If you’re the one handling the intervention, here are a few dos and don’ts to get started:

Don’t: Make Assumptions

Most of the time you only know one side of the story. For example, you may only hear from your Uncle Bill about how his wife Jane neglects to pay the bills on time. But to be fair, you may not have gotten wind from your Aunt Jane that Bill is no money saint, either.

It’s tough to do, but leave your assumptions at the door. Go into the situation with an open mind, and get the facts and details from everyone involved. If you take an unbiased, balanced perspective, you can then stage a more effective intervention.

Do: Time It Well

Just like it’s a major faux paus to ask for a loan during someone’s birthday party (yes, I’ve been guilty of this), a holiday gathering is not be the best time to stage a money intervention.

Instead, choose a time that works for everyone involved, and pick a private space so you can discreetly discuss touchy matters.

While the holidays are one of the few times during the year when all your family members may be in the same place, avoid discussing money matters over the dinner table. If you must have an intervention the day of a holiday gathering, schedule it before or after the festivities in a separate location.

Don’t: Go for the Jugular

While you may know what the main issue is, consider starting out by having a general conversation about money. This can lead into deep-seated matters, such as financial infidelity, debts that have remained long unpaid, issues with gambling or bouts of overspending.

The key here is to harbor healthy and respectful communication. Otherwise, it can escalate into a shouting match and reflexive rounds of pointing and blaming.

Do: Defer to a Professional If Necessary

As I mentioned above, it may be easier to bring in a pro, such as a licensed therapist or maybe even a money coach who works with couples or groups.

A money intervention can cause tension, and dredge up deep-seated, bad feelings. Without proper training, a well-intended conversation can quickly go south.

Handle the Situation Gently

When trying to decide whether staging a money intervention is appropriate and necessary, just keep this in mind: For every action, there is a reaction.

Do your best to create a safe space before bringing out the elephant in the room. And whatever you do, tread with care. If executed properly, facilitating a family financial intervention can shift your family’s money situation in a positive direction. It can also foster deeper communication and trust.

 

How to Avoid Black Friday Fails

It’s no surprise that heavy-duty spending over the holidays is a major budget-buster. In fact, in 2017, Americans racked up an average of over $1,000 in holiday debt, according to a survey by MagnifyMoney.

And, perhaps the biggest contributor to this debt hangover is Black Friday. While seemingly innocuous, if you’re not careful, going overboard with end-of-year deals can put a serious dent in your bank account. Plus, you run the risk of spending more than you can afford or buying something you simply don’t need.

Take it from us: Going on a sales-fueled spending spree during Black Friday isn’t the best way to kick off the holidays. Here are some ways to avoid Black Friday fails:

Check the Money in Your Account

I personally avoid Black Friday like the plague. There’s no better sale than not spending money in the first place. But I get it. Let’s say you’ve been holding out for that shiny new laptop or gadget all year long. Black Friday or its equally evil cousin, Cyber Monday, may be the best time to purchase it.

If you must spend on these deal days, start by checking on how much money is sitting in your bank account—and how much you can safely spend. Look for surprise pockets of savings, such as money you have stashed away in your automatic savings account via a mobile banking app, or cash you’ve put into a savings goal bucket on your money saving app.

Stick to a List

Just like sticking to a list while grocery shopping can help you stay within your budget, you’ll want to create a shopping list before Black Friday. Otherwise you’ll be lured by the mountain of promotional emails landing in your inbox.

If it helps, make two separate lists: items you’ll purchase for gifts, as well things you’d like to buy for yourself.

Create a Budget

Next, gauge how much you can reasonably spend on Black Friday. Will you be purchasing stuff just for you, or for holiday gifts?

Figure out how much you have available to spend over the holidays. And don’t forget to factor in your expenses like holiday-related travel, attire for holiday work parties, gift wrap, gift cards, food for gatherings, and presents.

Do Your Research

Before you click “buy” during Black Friday or Cyber Monday, make sure you’re actually getting a good deal.

A lot of retailers may use “anchoring,” which shows the discounted price against the actual price. This gives consumer the illusion that an item is a bargain, when in fact it isn’t. To avoid bogus deals, do a bit of price comparison beforehand. There are a handful of price comparison websites, like PriceGrabber and Cyber Monday, that can help you find the best price for practically any item in existence. You may discover that the “killer mega Black Friday deal” you’re excited about isn’t actually netting you the best price. Bottom line: Shop smart.

Figure Out the Value Add

If you’re buying something for yourself, make sure the item adds value to your life in some way. This way you’re not spending money frivolously.

My partner said it best when he said that commitments are easy to fall into, but hard to get out of. And whether you like it or not, you have a commitment to the stuff you buy. So, let’s say that you buy a guitar at a huge discount. Once you do this, you’re held accountable for playing that thing. Or else you’ll just hear a nagging voice inside your head whispering “you should probably pick up that guitar.” That’s a slight mental anguish you’re probably better off not dealing with in the first place.

Figure Out the Cost-Use Ratio

When I’m quibbling over whether to buy something or not, I figure out how many times I need to use that item for it to be worth the price. For instance, let’s take a $50 pair of shoes purchased last year as an example. In my book, if I wore those shoes at least 10 times, they would have paid for themselves.

While there’s no perfect science to this, it’s important that you place a value on your item and make sure it’s worth purchasing to begin with. For instance, I could care less how many times I use a dish sponge before it goes into the trash. But for high-value items? I care. I spent $300 on a pair of boots last year. While this seems pricey, I wear them practically everyday. I got my money’s worth.

Don’t Waste Your Time

Time is money. And what’s more important, your precious time is a finite resource. You could be spending your time side hustling, with the fam bam, or having a leisurely, “do-nothing” afternoon.

So, if you see an inexpensive item you want to buy, just do it and don’t feel stressed out or guilty about it. Why shop around for a better price on two dollar dish towels? Um, not worth it.

Avoid Major Fallout

To avoid major Black Friday fails, you just need a little forethought and prep work. Sure, spending is a lot of fun, but you need boundaries – otherwise you may suffer from a regrettable case of holiday debt hangover once sale season subsides.

Instead, take a look at the tips here and shop wisely. You’ll be surprised by how much money you’ll save when you just make a few simple changes.

 

Tips to Curb Overspending on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

The deals. The doorbusters. The catchy television commercials and ads that land in your email.

Yup, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are among the biggest shopping events of the year. According to a Coinstar survey released last year, at least 30% of Americans plan to shop on Black Friday or take advantage of holiday deals and 70% expect to go over budget.

So, how can you avoid getting lured in by all these offers? Take a look at our top 5 ways to avoid overspending on these two major spending holidays:

Stick to Your List

Holiday wish lists aren’t just meant for kids to tell Santa what they want. The whole family should be making these lists as this will help you control who you are buying for and how much you’ll spend.

You can also refer to your list when scanning ads for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as this will help you resist the urge to make extra impulse purchases. If you stick to your list and plan your shopping trips carefully, you’ll be more likely to spend less overall.

Keep Up with Your Transactions

If you’re using a debit card to shop, it’s a good idea to track your transactions as this will help hold you accountable. It’s easier to blow your budget when you spend freely and don’t really keep up with where your money is going.

If you’ve ever had a busy and expensive weekend, you can probably relate. Say you went out of town and splurged a little. If you didn’t check your bank account to review your transactions, you had zero accountability for your mini spending spree. The same thing can happen with holiday spending. It’s easy to make one too many purchases on Black Friday or Cyber Money.

Here’s a pro tip: Instead of manually logging into your account to check your balance and review your transaction history, Chime can send you instant transaction alerts whenever you use your Chime debit card – attached to your free bank account. This way, you can stay motivated and stick to your spending plan.

In addition, if you have mobile banking with Chime, you can easily see your account balance simply by using the Chime app.

Only Choose One Day to Shop

Is it just me, or does Black Friday and Cyber Monday seem to last for several days? Originally, these events took place on one day. Now, Cyber Monday has turned into Cyber Week and Black Friday often starts the night of Thanksgiving and carries into the weekend.

I’ve seen some retailers offer special deals each day of the week to entice customers to come back and keep shopping. This is a marketing trick and if you play along, you’ll give yourself more opportunities to overspend.

Instead, choose only one day to do the bulk of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. Get what you need, then put your money away. When you’re done shopping, unsubscribe from email lists, skip commercials, and avoid all the buzz for the remainder of day (or week).

Compare Deals

Retailer loyalty may or may not be the most important thing when shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Many stores offer the same products – possibly even from the same brand.

This means you should compare pricing to make sure you get the best deal. As an example, when I bought a PlayStation 4 for my son on Black Friday last year, I saw the same exact item at three different stores. I chose to purchase it at the retailer with the lowest price. If I didn’t shop around first, I would have spent money unnecessarily.

Some stores even price match in an attempt to beat out competitors’ deals. So, make sure you check to see if the store you prefer has a price matching policy.

Aside from prioritizing the best price offer, you can also consider other aspects of the deal that may save you money. For example, some purchases comes with a mail-in rebate, whereas some stores offer gift cards with certain purchases.

Don’t Buy Something Just Because It’s On Sale

It can feel great to score a deal, but you only truly win if you need the item or were specifically looking to buy something in particular. There’s no point in buying something just because it’s on sale.

It’s tempting when you come across deals that seem like they’re unbeatable, but try to shop and spend mindfully while sticking to your values.

Take a page from my book: When you come across a great deal for something not on your list, ask yourself how you’ll feel about that item in 30 to 90 days. Would it end up stuffed in the corner of your house somewhere? In other words, do you really need to spend the money on that item?

If you truly feel like purchasing something, see if you can swap it out with something else on your list so you’re not overspending.

You Can Still Get Great Deals Without Going Over Budget

Holiday spending can be great as long as you have full control over your spending habits. Even with all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, it’s important to get clear on what you want and spend wisely. With this in mind, you won’t move into the new year with added debt – or guilt.

 

5 Shopping Apps That Will Save You More Money Than Black Friday Deals

When it comes to saving money on purchases, Black Friday is like a national holiday. Prices are slashed and some of the best deals around are offered to eager consumers.

But can you save money like this year-round? Since we don’t think you should have to wait for one day a year to get the best deals, we’ve scoured the web to find the top shopping apps to save you money. Check out our 5 favs:

1. Zebit

Looking for the best prices on electronics? Interested in great financing offers to help you pay for your deals? Zebit may be your best money-saving sidekick. Here’s how Zebit works: You sign up and provide information on your employment and income. Once approved, you can access up to $2,500 in interest-free financing to shop at the Zebit marketplace. There is no credit score required and Zebit promises 0% interest on your purchases — forever.

At Zebit you can shop for items like TVs, laptops, headphones, video games, cameras and more. And that’s just their electronic section! Considering the fact that some electronic purchases are expensive, Zebit is a great way to pay over time without added interest costs. So, if an item is $500, you pay $500. Say goodbye to interest and hello to savings!

2. Poshmark

Finding affordable and fashionable clothes can seem like a shot in the dark. But, with Poshmark, this can be your new reality. Poshmark is an e-commerce platform where listers sell their personal used items that may just be hanging around in their closets. In turn, you can score some serious savings. For example, you can shop for a ton of different clothing and accessory brands with prices that are up to 70 percent off. You might score a great deal from a fashion brand like Louis Vuitton, Coach, Michael Kors and more. Think of it as your designer-style-on-a-budget app.

And if you’re like me and need a little fashion help, there are recommendations that are catered to you by stylists. You can download the shopping app and save money, all while also shopping for your next hot outfit. The benefits of using Poshmark include payment protection and fast shipping.

3. Honey

Have you ever shopped online and then hours later you find a discount code for the thing you just bought? Ugh. It’s frustrating to say the least. But you’re in luck: With Honey on your side, you don’t have to leave anything to chance. Honey is a shopping app that shows you automatic coupons to help you save money. Just download the Google Chrome extension and watch the savings come in! It’s free to install and when you’re shopping, Honey instantly applies any coupons and adds them to your cart. There’s literally nothing else you need to do. Honey does all the heavy lifting and saves you money automatically.

4. Ebates

Now you know that using Honey can help you get automatic discounts on your purchases. But, did you also know that using Ebates can earn you cash-back on your purchases? That’s right.

I have used the Ebates Google Chrome extension for a couple of years and every few months, I get a little PayPal payment from Ebates. The way it works is that each store offers a certain amount of cash back. About once a quarter, Ebates sends out a payment. It’s great! Ebates works with companies like Groupon, Macy’s, Amazon and others. The one thing to be aware of is that you do need to press the “activate cash back” button in the right-hand corner of your browser once Ebates alerts you that there’s a cash back opportunity. This way you’ll get the cash back credit!

5. RetailMeNot

RetailMeNot is another shopping app that can help you save money. The great thing about RetailMeNot is that it allows you to save money in different categories. For example, you can save at top stores like Fashion Nova, Old Navy, and more. But you can also check for other online codes, printable coupons and free shipping. In addition, RetailMeNot has an interesting strategy where you can buy retail gift cards at a discount and then use those gift cards through their portal and stack up even more coupons! It’s savings on savings!

We recommend that you use the RetailMeNot Google Chrome extension to make sure you never miss a savings opportunity. With RetailMeNot, you can save on all sorts of purchases, even prescriptions! Because this app offers a little bit of everything, it is considered a powerhouse in the shopping app community.

Bottom line

There’s no excuse not to save money using these 5 shopping apps. These apps make it easier than ever find deals and never miss an opportunity to save some cash. So, are you ready to start saving money right now instead of waiting for Black Friday to roll around? We thought so.

 

6 Money Lessons Your Parents Taught You That Were Plain Wrong

Earlier this year, my partner and I were at the tide pools at a beach in Southern California. As we peered into the shallow pools with burgeoning ocean flora and fauna, we were joined by a mom and her two kids.

“Look at the clams!” she said, examining a cluster of shelled sea creatures on the side of a rock. “They’re mussels, not clams!” my partner said, correcting her.

The point of this story: Parents try to educate their kids, yet sometimes they inadvertently steer them wrong. And, whether you like it or not, your parents served as your first role models when it came to life and money lessons. As a result, you may have picked up some incorrect money messages from your parents and other family members. As you grew up, these money lessons became ingrained in you and may have turned into not-so-healthy money habits.

Take a look at some common money lessons that you may have learned from your parents – and why they need to be debunked right now.

Talking About Money Is Taboo

Growing up, Alex Whitehouse learned that money is private and personal, and therefore considered to be a taboo topic.

Reality Check: By all means it’s important to discuss money matters. That’s how we learn how to make better decisions.

“I had to learn about money through trial and error,” says Whitehouse, the founder of FinHealthy.com. “I made mistakes and had to dig myself out of debt, repair my credit, and learn to save.”

Talking about money helps you develop a better relationship with your money. It also helps foster honest communication with those you love.

“Discussing personal finance with friends, relatives, and colleagues can help you learn and avoid mistakes. It helps you become comfortable and confident in your finances, and it can inspire others to do the same.” says Whitehouse.

We Were Poor, and You Will Be Too

Maybe your parents had the attitude that they were never rich, and this means you’ll never be wealthy either. Perhaps they think life is an endless grind, and it’s pointless to dream about wealth and financial independence.

For Jaime Donovan, this came as a surprise because her parents taught her a lot of things about money —how to write a check, open a savings account and save for emergencies. They also taught her how to pay for used or new cars with cash, and how to avoid debt.

Reality Check: Donovan wishes her parents went beyond the basics and taught her that it’s absolutely possible to build wealth.

“For some reason, in their minds, they thought that it was impossible to become wealthy,” says Donovan, a blogger at Young Modern Money.

“I’m happy to say that they’ve changed their attitude about this, but it took years for them to come to an understanding that normal people can build wealth.”

Yes, normal people can certainly build wealth. It starts with understanding what wealth is and that building wealth is about growing your net worth, not accumulating material possessions. More importantly, financial independence is not just about how much money you earn, but what you do with that money.

Money Is a Source of Pain

Perhaps your mom told you that nobody likes their job, and that earning money would be a grind.

This was the case for Evan Sutherland. “With all the bills and all the expenses that come up, my parents taught me that it’s going to feel as though you can never make enough money,” says Sutherland, co-founder of Budgeting Couple.

Reality Check: When Sutherland and his wife started out together and began earning an income, they were pleasantly surprised by how simple money was to manage.

“We always had enough money to pay the bills and buy the things we wanted,” says Sutherland. “How? We used a budget to spend less than we earned, every month. By spending less than we earned, we never experienced money stress, we were happy to pay our bills, and we loved spending money!”

I experienced the same thing. When I started making my own money and learned to create a spending plan, I turned frugality into a fun game. I also used apps to help me track and save money, experiencing very few problems saving a portion of my paychecks.

Never Spend More Than You Need To

My father is the ultimate cheapster. And while he definitely has no problem socking away money, he still buys the absolute cheapest item on the list. No matter what it is. No matter how much joy a fancier option might bring him.

Reality Check: “Sometimes it makes sense to spend the least,” says Jim Wang, the founder of Wallet Hacks. On the other hand: “Sometimes it makes sense to pay more for higher quality, better service, or some other reason outside the item itself.”

I would gladly pay more for a set of tires, and this past year I splurged in a pricey pair of leather boots, trench coat, and so forth. But these are items I value, use a lot, and really enjoy. And I was able to afford each of them.

Talking About Money Is Impolite

It’s imperative to talk about money. You talk about money when you ask for a discount, or when you ask for a raise at work. And you talk about it when you budget with your spouse.

You can also do this when you set financial goals by sharing those goals with others – maybe even asking people you care about to hold you accountable.

Reality Check: You know what is impolite? When you don’t talk about money. Because when you don’t learn about financial problems that your friends and family are dealing with, how can you help them? And, if you’re a freelancer or work for yourself, how do you know what’s considered a competitive rate from clients if you don’t discuss this with colleagues in the same field?

No Need to Worry About Your Credit Score

Maybe your parents were cash-focused and told you to pay your bills on time and everything will be fine. Or, perhaps they told you to keep a balance on your credit cards in order to build credit, or that closing a card won’t impact your score (the truth: it really depends).

Reality Check: Yikes. Sure you won’t have to worry about your credit score if you pay for everything in cash. Otherwise, your credit score is a huge part of your life as a consumer. You’ll need a solid score to finance a car or house, get the best terms and rates on credit cards, or to get financing for a new business endeavor.

Be Your Own Money Teacher

While your parents had the best intentions, it’s important to be your own money teacher. By understanding these money myths, you can start to form healthy money habits and reach your financial goals. Remember: It’s your life, not your parents’. Are you ready to create your own successful money story?

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