Tag: Budgeting

 

7 Ways to Build Wealth in 10 Minutes or Less

By Jackie Lam
July 18, 2019

 

 

 

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5 Ways to Manage Your Side Hustle Finances

By Kim Galeta
July 10, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

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Wealthy Habits I Learned From Being Low-Income

By Jackie Lam
July 4, 2019

I grew up relatively poor. While I never felt deprived — there was always food on the table and we took the occasional summer trip to a local water park — the fact remains: For several years, we lived in subsidized housing in a Los Angeles suburb.

I received free lunches at school, my family collected cans for change, and we shopped at day-old bakeries. I wore hand-me-downs from older, well-to-do cousins and spent summers in the stacks at the local library. We eventually moved to a middle-class neighborhood when I was 12, but much of the “poor person” mentality stayed with me well into adulthood.

While it’s still a work in progress, I had to make some mindset changes to work toward a wealth-building mentality. Here are some “poor” habits and beliefs I learned to break:

Wealth is a look

When we learn that someone makes six-figures or that he drives a fancy car, we automatically think he’s rich.

But being wealthy isn’t about dining in the finest restaurants or appearing like you have money. For example, when a relative of mine started wearing luxury brands and bought a new set of wheels, it was easy to assume that this person had fallen into money. Yet, when you pull back the hood, you might discover that appearances can be deceiving. In fact, that person may be living well above his means, and have mounting credit card and student loan debt. I’ve even heard stories about folks who buy new cars but can’t afford to keep the lights on at home.

It’s important to understand that wealth is much more than appearances. It boils down to your net worth. It’s how much money you have sitting in the bank and invested. So even if you’re shopping at thrift stores, you might be discreetly wealthy.

To get started building wealth: See where you’re at money-wise. Track your spending, and determine how much cash is coming in. From there, figure out how much is going out each month. You’ll also want to see how much debt you owe, and how much you have sitting in the bank and invested in your retirement accounts. You can use a money-saving app or money management platform to see your entire financial picture.

Having money means you’re a bad person

I grew up believing that only greedy people had money. And if you had wealth, you were inherently shrewd, extremely calculating, or a downright cheat.

It took me a long time to understand that having money didn’t automatically make you a member of the “Bad Persons Club.” At the end of the day, moola is a tool, a resource. Nothing more, nothing less. It can help you live a comfortable life and do positive things.

To start building wealth: Understand that money doesn’t change who you are. It merely amplifies your current self. If you grew up with a “poor is the noble, honest” way mentality, it may take some time for you to become a more money-minded person.

You win at the money game by cutting coupons

My mom was the type to drive to three different supermarkets to save a buck on produce. She would also carefully scour her receipts and if she found even a 10 cent discrepancy, we would drive across town so she could contest the transaction.

I adopted a lot of these frugal habits until this hit me: You can only save so much, but your earning potential is unlimited. For instance: I didn’t really start to save until I job-hopped and was earning $10,000 more a year. Because I didn’t change my lifestyle or boost any expenses, I was able to ramp up my savings faster.

These days I still enjoy hunting around for a deal, but will only do so if it’s easy (like not spending on stupid bank fees) and worthwhile. Otherwise, I’m fine spending an extra buck if it saves me time or mental energy.

To start building wealth: Focus on your earning potential. Whether it’s continuing education, expanding your client base, or working toward getting a raise at work, learn how to grow your money.

You get rich overnight

We oftentimes hear stories of that athlete or singer who got discovered and amassed wealth in a short amount of time. It’s an alluring myth, and one that continues to pervade our culture.

That belief certainly extended to my family. I grew up thinking that to be rich, you had to earn a six-figure salary, get a huge promotion, or win the lottery. But growing your money requires know-how.

To start building wealth: Start small, and start today. The earlier you begin saving and investing, the more time you have for your money to grow. For starters, you can automate your savings. Challenge yourself to saving five dollars a week, or $25 a month. The important thing is to get into the habit.

Exchanging time for money

I was also taught that you need to exchange time for money. If you’re not working 40-plus hours a week, you’re lazy. Along the same lines, to be busy means you’re making money. What’s more, I grew up thinking you should stick to your day job, where you’ll get small, incremental raises each year.

I now know that you can grow your money by finding ways to pull in passive income. This can mean creating a digital product, or earning royalties from content you create.

To start building wealth: Put on your creativity cap and think of ways you can make money in your sleep. See how you can earn more for the same amount of work.

Income is a stat, wealth is a habit

When you change your beliefs, mindset and habits, your money situation will begin to change as well.

This may be corny but it’s true: A basic understanding of what true wealth is, combined with a shift in your money mindset, will help you tap into your true financial potential. Are you ready to shed some false money beliefs and adopt positive financial habits?

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How to Get Fit on a Budget: Frugal Ways You Can Crush Your Fitness Goals

By Rebecca Lake
July 3, 2019

Warmer weather can provide some serious motivation to work on your beach body – or at least get in better shape.

But, between the cost of gym memberships, workout clothes and equipment, getting fit can be a budget-buster. Fortunately, there are countless low-cost and free alternatives to help you get in shape while saving money. Take a look:

Use Technology to Access Free Exercise

One of the best ways to get fit for free might be right in the palm of your hand. Smartphones and fitness gadgets offer affordable ways to work out and monitor your health without requiring you to spend a lot of money. Here are three ways to use tech to your advantage as you pursue a healthier lifestyle:

1. Work Out at Home With YouTube Exercise Channels

YouTube isn’t just for watching cat videos. There are a variety of channels dedicated exclusively to fitness and exercise that can help you get fit. You can even create a customized workout routine using free exercise videos without having to pay the high fees associated with hiring a personal trainer.

For example, there are channels featuring free online exercise videos for yoga, pilates, kettlebells, kickboxing, cardio – even spinning if you have a stationary bike. Some channels are led by everyday people who are fitness enthusiasts but others feature certified fitness trainers and experts. You can experiment with different workout techniques to see what works for you, without spending a dime.

2. Download Fitness Apps for Training, Tracking and Accountability

One of the best ways to stay motivated when you’re new to working out is to keep track of your progress. There are apps you can download to your mobile device to help you track your daily workouts, keep tabs on your diet and monitor your vitals. Some are free, while others may offer a basic version at no cost but require you to upgrade to the premium version to unlock extra features.

The upside of this, however, is that the price you pay to download a premium fitness app may be far less than what you’d pay for a monthly gym membership. If you’re looking for some affordable fitness app recommendations, check these out:

  • MyFitnessPal – MyFitnessPal allows you to keep a daily food log, tracking calories and nutritional content for everything you eat. This free app also lets you track your calories burned through exercise. If you want a more in-depth analysis of your diet, you can pay $9.99/month or $49.99/year for the premium version.
  • Noom – Noom is a paid fitness app that’s designed for people who have specific weight loss goals they’re trying to achieve. It offers personalized weight loss coaching for $199/year. You can also pay monthly but that’s the more expensive option.
  • Gixo – The Gixo app features on-demand workout routines led by personal trainers and fitness instructors. You can start using the app on a free trial basis, then pay $14.99/month if you agree to be billed yearly.

3. Buy a Cheap Fitness Tracker to Monitor Workout Goals

Wearables can also help you make progress with getting fit when you’re trying to be frugal. These devices track can track your heart rate, sleep patterns, the number of steps you take, blood pressure and other vital signs at any given moment.

Wearables can also be a motivator for people who like to have a visual for how well they’re doing when it comes to improving their health.

In terms of cost, there’s a lot of variety with plenty of affordable options to choose from. It’s possible to find wearables for under $100; just be sure to research the features and read the reviews before you buy. Also, check to see whether a wearable syncs up with your favorite fitness app, since some offer that feature.

Get Fit For Free with What You Have on Hand

If you’re planning to work out around the house, you don’t necessarily need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on equipment. You may find that you have everything you need already – if you’re willing to get creative with your workout choices. Try these two home gym ideas on the cheap:

1. DIY Your Exercise Equipment and Home Gym

Forget spending money on kettlebells or weights.

All you may need to work out your muscles and get fit for free are a couple of gallons of milk or some heavy canned goods. Once you’re ready to move on from weight training, look for other cheap and easy ways to get a workout around the house.

For example, you could try running up and down the stairs if you live in a two-story house or using a chair to do step-up exercises, dips or incline push-ups. Jogging in place is another option. Doing wall push-ups is yet another option. The point is: If you’re trying to figure out how to get fit on a budget, try using what you have to work with – for free.

2. Use Your Bodyweight

Bodyweight exercises are another option for a free workout and they can be highly effective in helping you get in shape. These exercises use your own body weight for resistance, and no hand weights or kettlebells are required. Plus, this costs you zero and you have the flexibility to get creative with your workouts and target the areas that are troubling you most.

Some examples of bodyweight exercises you can do at home for free include:

  • Burpees
  • Squats and jump squats
  • Push-ups
  • Lunges
  • Planks
  • Step-ups
  • Dips
  • Jumping jacks

Start with one or two exercises as you learn the basics, then build on your bodyweight routine from there as you get more comfortable.

Find Creative Ways to Move as Much as Possible

If you don’t have time to create a set bodyweight routine or create your own DIY gym equipment at home, you can still work on getting fit for free just by increasing how often you move.

You likely have multiple chances throughout the day or weak to get the blood flowing and potentially break a sweat, which can help promote better health.

If you’re looking for ideas to move creatively, here are a few you can try:

  • Take walks on your lunch break
  • Jog around your neighborhood (challenge level – jog through a local park or nature area that has varied terrain)
  • Play fetch with your dog if you have one
  • Bike where you need to go instead of driving
  • Get outside and do some yard work
  • Deep clean the house from top to bottom

Invest in Low-Cost Workout Equipment and Fitness Apparel

If you’re working out at home, here’s another tip for how to get fit on a budget: Stick with inexpensive workout clothing and equipment.

Think jump ropes, low-cost resistance bands, yoga mats, small hand weights and exercise balls. Save money by checking for sales and buying generic brands instead of pricey name brands. You can also use cash back apps and coupon codes to shop.

Also, consider what you can buy used instead of new to save money. You may find bargains on workout equipment or workout clothes by checking local yard sales, deal groups on Facebooks or consignment shops.

Find a Free or Low-Cost Fitness Community

One last cheap fitness tip: Consider joining a fitness community in your local area that offers free or low-cost membership.

For instance, your county parks and recreation department might sponsor an adult sports league that you can join for a small fee. Or, your local college might open up the gym or swimming pool to non-students for a minimal membership fee.

You can also look for local workout and fitness clubs. For example, if you’re a hiking enthusiast, there may be a local meetup group that hikes together. You can join a group like this without paying anything. This can also be a great way to connect with other people who are fitness-focused, while staying accountable to your health goals.

How Will You Save Money and Get Fit Frugally?

As you can see by all the tips here, it’s possible to get fit while also keeping your finances in good shape. Are you ready to get fit on a budget this summer?

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How to Throw an Epic Fourth of July Party for $100

By Michelle Jackson
June 29, 2019

There is nothing more ubiquitous in American culture than a big July 4th party.

In fact, 86% of Americans plan to celebrate Independence Day this year. They also plan to spend a total of $6.7 billion on food items, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The most popular July 4th activity for 61% of those surveyed? Cookouts, barbecues and picnics. And, according to the NRF, the average cost per person for a July 4th BBQ is expected to hit $73.33 in 2019.

What does this mean for you? It means that a typical July 4th celebration can quickly bust your budget if you’re not careful. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep your quintessential red, white and blue celebration affordable. In fact, you can actually save money and throw an awesome bash for $100. Take a look at 6 ways to do this.

1. Be Selective with Your Guest List

Keep your holiday cookout cozy by inviting a small number of people. This immediately lowers the overall expenses for your event.

Here’s a tip to help keep your party guest list from getting out of hand: Send out same day invitations to some extra folks. Many of your friends may have already said “yes” to another party invitation so if they say “no” to yours, they’ll never know that your goal is to keep your number of attendees low.

2. Host a Potluck

Hold a potluck and ask your party guests to pitch in and bring a dish. This keeps your food expenses low while allowing your friends to do their part.

A couple of tips to make your next holiday potluck fabulous:

·      Create a Google doc and have attendees share what they’re bringing. This way you won’t end up with duplicate dishes.

·      Run a contest to see who brings the most tasty dish. The winner gets bragging rights for the next year.

·      Be clear with your guests about what you’re providing as the host. If you’re providing all of the alcoholic drinks, for example, you can ask your guests to bring seltzer water or lemonade instead.

If you’re still a little nervous about hosting your first potluck party, check out Apartment Guide’s tips.

3. Use a Savings App

Couponing sometimes feels like a hassle. Instead, strategize your savings with your favorite savings apps such as Ibotta or Checkout 51. Then, double up with savings from your favorite grocer’s discounts.

Here’s how this works:

·      Create a list of items that you will provide for your July 4th holiday event.

·      Quickly check each app to see if you can save on that item.

If you’ve earned cash back from your savings app, use that cash towards your party expenses.

4. Borrow a Grill and Other Supplies

No grill? No blender? No worries. Fight the urge to buy new appliances in order to make your event happen.

Instead, ask your neighbors or friends if you can borrow a grill, a blender or BBQ supplies. If you think you’ll continue using these appliances or items, perhaps you can compare costs and purchase them on sale. This way you’ll also have them on hand for future parties.

5. Grocery Shop Your Pantry

Before heading to the grocery store, shop your pantry. Spend some time looking at the ingredients that are already in your home. Make simple dishes with those ingredients. If you’re short on inspiration head over to Pinterest to search for ideas.

6. Watch Fireworks as a Group

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, Americans spent $885 Billion on fireworks in 2017.

Instead of purchasing fireworks, you can instead spend nothing on pyrotechnics and instead head out as a group to see a local fireworks show. Check the following places for more information on fireworks displays in your area.

·      Your city’s website

·      Professional sports teams websites. An example of this is the Colorado Rockies in Denver, Colorado. The Colorado Rockies typically have a fireworks show if they’re playing in town July 3rd or July 4th. The great thing about this display is that you don’t have to attend the game in order to enjoy it.

Start Saving Now for Next July 4th!

Now that you’re set for this year, it’s time to start saving up for your next July 4th party.

By following the tips above, you now know that you can host a fabulous party on an affordable budget – year after year. Happy 4th of July!

 

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10 Summer BBQ Hacks

By Kim Galeta
June 20, 2019

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With summer just around the corner, grilling outdoors is about to become a weekly staple. And, if you plan to invite folks over for a BBQ on the regular, you may be worried about blowing your budget and dipping into your savings account.

The good news is: With a little advanced planning, you can enjoy the wonderful weather, good company and delicious food without sweating bullets. Just heed these 10 summer BBQ hacks and you’ll be on your way to saving money.

  1. Choose Cheaper Cuts of Meat

    Merilee Speigner, Founder of the Debt Snowball Calculator says that, “chicken drumsticks are one of the best options for BBQing because they are not only inexpensive but they also stay moist because it’s dark meat.” Plus, according to Speigner, “drumsticks are also perfectly casual…people are already expecting ‘messy’ for BBQs!”

  2. Grill More Veggies

    Adding more veggies to the mix can help keep costs low. Vegetables are generally much cheaper during the summer and there’s no shortage of delicious veggie recipes these days. You can add more veggies (or fruit if you prefer) to seafood or meat kebabs and other recipes to make meals stretch further.

  3. Keep the Decor Simple

    Look no further than your local dollar store for affordable party decorations. Of course, if you happen to be good at crafting, Pinterest has no shortage of ideas for creating a festive theme without breaking the bank. If you plan to host a few BBQs this summer, then be sure to recycle or repurpose your decorations for each one.

  4. Stock up on meat during summer sales

    If you already have a membership at a warehouse store such as BJ’s or Costco, then this is a great place to buy meat in bulk at any time of the year. Outside of this, most grocery stores often run promos on BBQ food items throughout the summer, and especially around major holidays. For example, hotdogs, hamburgers and pork ribs are often cheapest during the Fourth of July weekend. You may also consider investing in a chest freezer in order to stock up on meat when prices are more affordable.

  5. Make it BYOB…

    This is not to say that you should have zero alcohol on hand but rather, it indicates that you don’t plan to spend hundreds of dollars on drinks. Plus, your guests can bring their beverage of choice. Creating a signature cocktail, serving homemade iced tea and fruit-infused water are also excellent thirst-quenchers that you can provide that won’t break the budget.

  6. …And/or Potluck Style

    Diana Farmen, a middle school teacher and founder of Diana on a Dime, says that when it comes to budget hacks for summer BBQs, “I always recommend a potluck.” After all, as the saying goes, food always tastes better with company. And, as Farmen says, (a potluck) “cuts down the cost for everyone and allows for a wide variety of dishes.” Another good rule of thumb: Create a group chat so that everyone doesn’t bring the same side dishes.

  7. Ditch the Pre-Made Extras

    “It can be very easy to get sucked into the grocery stores’ BBQ prepped food, but by making it yourself, (you can save a considerable amount of money). For example, “a fruit salad can be made from fruit in season or on sale.” says Farmen. “Take a few minutes to cut them up yourself instead of paying for the convenience of a store prepping it.” The same principle can be applied to pretty much any side such as guacamole!

  8. Take Care of Your Grill

    By properly maintaining your grill, it can last you for many years to come. The good news is that you don’t need to invest a lot to keep your grill in tip top shape, according to Cecilia Paola, a young wife and mother in New Jersey. She says that when it comes to cleaning your grill, “a grill brush with soap and water works perfectly.”

  9. Don’t Go Crazy on Grilling Accessories

    Many of us are guilty of purchasing kitchen gadgets that we never end up using. Avoid going down this same route by investing in three key items to start: a sturdy set of tongs, a good meat thermometer and a grill brush. There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to find the other accessories you need by taking a quick look through your cupboards.

  10. Make Enough For Weekly Meal Prep

    One great way to reduce your per-meal fuel cost is to cook enough leftovers that will last a couple of days. This will also save you time during the week and help you avoid the need to order takeout.

Summer-Proof Your Budget

It’s important to budget for every season since our spending habits change just like the weather. Summer happens to be the second most expensive season – a time when people tend to overspend during longer, warmer days. Creating a separate “summer fun money stash” is a great move if you want to avoid slipping into credit card debt.

And one of the easiest ways to save money for BBQ season is by automating your savings. Chime makes it easy for you to 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 a percentage of every paycheck directly into your savings account.

It’s also important to create a budget for non-fun items that can easily derail your budget during this time of year. Last summer, for example, the AC in my car suddenly stopped working. However, because I had been funding my miscellaneous spending account during the prior few months, handling an unexpected $600 expense was no sweat off my back.

Now that you’ve learned how to take the heat off your summer budget, it’s time to fire up the grill and make the most out of the next few months!

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How to Quit Your Food Delivery Addiction

By Chonce Maddox
June 19, 2019

Have a food delivery addiction? There’s no denying that restaurants offering a delivery service provide lots of convenience to busy people who don’t have the time or energy to cook.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Millennials are three times as likely to use food delivery apps as their parents. That’s partially what’s fueling the online food delivery market, which is projected to grow from $17 billion to more than $24 billion by 2023.

To boot, new delivery app services like DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats have taken it to the next level. With these apps, you can quickly order meals from your phone to be delivered to you at work, home, or anywhere else.

Unfortunately, the food delivery habit adds up. And, spending regularly with food delivery apps can definitely negatively impact your savings account.

If you’re tired of eating up all your money (literally) with food delivery apps, here’s what you can do to quit your food delivery addiction.

Actually Visualize What Your Spending

One thing you can do to motivate yourself to quit is to actually look at what you’re spending. Track what you spent on food delivery apps over the past 90 days and add up the total. You may be shocked by the numbers you see.

For example, Uber Eats charges a flat rate fee which is usually under $5. However, sometimes they tack on a ‘busy fee’ during high volume times. Postmates, on the other hand, charges a $5.99 delivery fee (which is reduced to $3.99 for partner restaurants) for orders under $20. These noticeable fees add up each time you place an order.

Once you add up what you’re spending, you can actually see what your food delivery addiction is costing you. Then, think about your annual salary or hourly rate at work and compare it to your food delivery purchases. How many hours did you have to work just to be able to afford all that takeout? What else could you have done with the money instead?

Delete the Apps

It may be tough, but you might want to go cold turkey and delete all your apps at once.

You can still dine out occasionally to make the transition smoother. This way, you can indulge a little but you’ll be actually be leaving your house for the social experience of dining out. Better yet, you’ll skip out on the hefty delivery fees.

Plan Your Weekend Meals

Let’s face it, most people feel the urge to dine out and order food on weekends. Maybe you have a busy schedule or perhaps you just want to relax.

Instead, try meal planning in advance so you feel prepared and don’t resort to using delivery apps. Prepare a simple breakfast like oatmeal and fruit, or homemade avocado toast and eggs before you head out for the day.

If you’ll be out all day, consider packing a lunch to bring with you. You can also buy snacks in bulk at stores like Costco to help curb your appetite between meals.

Lastly, consider preparing a delicious batch meal (multiple servings) to enjoy for dinner over the next few nights so you won’t have to cook. It only takes an extra hour to meal plan for busy days during the week but the savings are worth it.

Pay Yourself First

Do you have other financial goals that you need to reach? I’m sure your main desire isn’t to spend a ton of money on food delivery each week, right?

To start, narrow down what you really want to do with your money and then, start paying yourself first to save up.

For example, if you’ve always wanted to take a tropical vacation, start saving money whenever you get paid. If your dream has always been to remodel your kitchen, pay yourself first and set aside money for this project each month.

These goals are fun, exciting, and motivate you to pay yourself first. I love this concept because it ensures that you will be able to afford your most important expenses. From there, you can budget with whatever is left. If you still want to dine out or order food occasionally, you can do so without feeling like you’re overspending and neglecting what’s important.

Prepare Freezer Meals for Emergencies

We all have those situations where it’s been a busy day and there’s no plan set for dinner. In the past, you may have resorted to ordering food on Grubhub or Postmates.

Instead, prepare some emergency meals in advance to stick in the freezer. The ‘freezer cooking’ trend is huge on Pinterest and you can find tons of recipes and meal ideas to prep.

Imagine the convenience of being able to pull a healthy meal out of the freezer to warm up for dinner. It will only take minutes and save you tons of money over time.

Don’t Fall For the Convenience Factor

Food delivery is an expensive addiction to have. To break this habit, you’ll have to be motivated and consider how much it is costing you.

So, think about purchases you’d have to push off or smart financial moves you couldn’t make due to your excessive take-out habits. With this in mind, you’re more apt to consider deleting your food delivery apps or at least cutting down and trying some of the alternatives mentioned above.

Are you ready to try ditching your food delivery habit? Give it a go. Your savings account will thank you (and possibly your waistline too!)

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Reset Your Money Habits With a Spending Cleanse

By Erica Gellerman
June 18, 2019

Bad habits have a way of creeping into your life when you’re not paying attention. Maybe you have a screen addiction that you just can’t quit, or you have a habit of procrastinating that leaves you scrambling all the time.

Or maybe you have spending habits that leave your bank account in bad shape at the end of each month. Whereas fixing bad financial habits can take focus and willpower, sometimes you need to take a more extreme approach. This is where a spending cleanse comes into play.

A spending cleanse is designed to help you get a handle on your spending habits. During your spending cleanse you’ll set a period of time when you give yourself a spending limit or curb your spending altogether. It can last for any amount of time and you can decide your spending rules. For example, you might decide to stop eating out during your cleanse. Or you may decide to completely forgo all unnecessary spending. While you’re at it, you’ll become more aware of your spending habits and where you currently spend too much. As a bonus, you’ll probably save money.

If you’re ready to save extra cash and kick your bad financial habits to the curb, here are six steps to set you up for success. Take a look:

1. Decide why you want to cleanse

A spending cleanse is going to be difficult. But a great way to keep you motivated is to remind yourself why you’re doing it. Maybe you want to escape the paycheck to paycheck cycle and start building up your savings. Or, maybe you want to finally understand where your money is disappearing to each month. If you can get clear on why you want to cleanse, you can more readily stay the course.

2. Set a length of time

Next, it’s time to decide how long you want your cleanse to last. Ideally, it will last at least a few days. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, try a few weeks or a full month. Choose the length and the timing that works for you. Don’t plan to start this cleanse when it’s going to be really hard to complete. You’ll want to steer clear of any obligations that you’ve already committed to like travel or attending a wedding. For example, if you’re going on a weekend trip, that’s clearly not the right time to stop spending money.

Take out your calendar, pick your start and end dates, and set yourself up for success.

3. What are you giving up?

You can choose what you want to give up during your spending cleanse. You may decide that you really want to get your eating out habit under control, so you’ll stop dining out. Maybe you want to ditch your car and taxis and ride your bike for the entire cleanse. Or, you may want to go all in and only spend money on things that you truly need, like food, transportation to work, and your bills.

Whatever you choose, set rules for yourself. If you’ve decided to only spend money on the things you truly need, make sure you define what that looks like. For example, you need to eat so spending on groceries counts as a need. But buying lunch out? You may want to skip that.

4. Spend cash only

Once you’ve set your cleanse timeline and decided what you can and can’t spend money on, you’re ready to dive in! A good tip here: Use cash. Why? Spending money is easier to do when you’re just swiping your card and studies show that people spend more when using a credit card. Because you’re trying to be more aware of your money habits, using cash will help you be even more in tune with your spending during the cleanse.

So, head to the ATM, pull out some cash, and get started.

5. Track what you spend…and what you don’t spend

Tracking your spending will help you see exactly how much you spend on things like gas, groceries, and non-essential things. You may realize that some of your small expenses really add up over time.

For example, if you’re pulling out a sandwich you’ve packed for lunch when you’d usually spend seven dollars at the deli down the street, make a note of that. If your friend asks you to meet for drinks but you suggest a hike instead, write that down. These are all instances where you could be spending money, but you’re not. Once your cleanse is over, you may find that it’s easy to stay with these alternatives rather than go back to your old ways.

6. Pay attention to how you feel

As you stop spending money, pay attention to whether you really miss the things that you’ve cut out. How do you feel about making coffee at home rather than stopping for your daily lattes? Does it make you feel good to sock away extra money towards bigger things, like a vacation, paying off debt, or funding your emergency savings?

Decide what to add back in

Congratulations! You’ve just made it through your spending cleanse. But don’t rush right back to your old habits just yet.

Now that you’re more aware of your spending habits, it’s time to determine how you can continue saving money.

Maybe you’ve kicked your coffee habit and you have no intention of going back to dropping $25 a week at Starbucks. Or, maybe taking the bus instead of an Uber really isn’t so bad. Remember: The goal of a spending cleanse is to help you make some long-term changes. So, maybe it’s time to break up with your bad financial habits for once and for all!

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7 Financial Moves to Make Before Your First Child

By Chonce Maddox
June 14, 2019

Starting a family can be an exciting milestone. Yet, once you have your first child, your life as you know it will certainly change.

Your finances are bound to change as well since you’ll now be spending more money. Research shows that American parents will spend $233,610 on average to raise a child from birth to 17 years old. This figure includes costs ranging from housing and food, to medical expenses and child care.

The key is to focus on preparing financially for your new bundle of joy so that you don’t get in over your head – financially speaking, of course.

Here are 6 key financial moves to make before your first child arrives.

1. Create a New Budget

You may already have a budget in place, but it’s time to update it to accommodate your growing family. Consider how some of your goals and expenses will change once you have your first child. Will you have to consider childcare costs or increase expenses in other areas?

You may even want to cut or reduce some expenses that no longer seem necessary, like eating out several times a week. Be honest about the changes you’ll need to make financially and develop a realistic budget so you can plan your spending once the baby arrives.

2. Have an Income Plan for Maternity Leave

It’s likely that having a baby will affect your household income and either you or your partner may want to take some time off work once the baby is born.

For starters, decide what your circumstances will look like when the baby arrives and how that may affect your income. If you’re expecting an income decrease, you can prepare for it by working extra hours or side hustling to bring in more money before your little one arrives.

Remember: Your new budget will help you determine how much you’ll need, and you can always cut expenses and save up in advance to accommodate the changes.

3. Build Your Emergency Fund

It’s no secret that kids cost quite a bit of money – nearly a quarter of a million dollars to be exact, according to the USDA. That’s why it’s always best to beef up your emergency fund.

For example, you’ll likely be spending more money on planned expenses like food, clothing, diapers, baby gear, and possibly childcare. However, there are a ton of additional expenses that could pop up like unplanned doctor’s visits, travel costs, and extracurricular activities.

If you plan to take maternity leave, factor in extra costs you’ll incur during this time as well, such as medical bills, household expenses, and purchasing baby gear and supplies.

To help you get a jump on this, start saving up money ahead of time. If you are currently saving 10% of your income, for example, perhaps you can double or triple that amount so your emergency fund can grow exponentially. Having at least three to six months of expenses saved is a great starting point.

Final tip: Make it automatic so some money is transferred to savings as soon as you get paid.

4. Start Buying Supplies and Gear Early

Once the baby’s arrival is just a few months away, start buying supplies and gear so you can stock up. You may even want to plan your baby shower a little earlier so you can know what you’ll need to buy before delivery time.

For example, you can budget for larger expenses like a crib and car seat and pick up less costly items like diapers, wipes, and clothes each time you get paid. This way, you’ll spread out your purchases so you don’t have to buy everything at once.

5. Anticipate Medical Costs

Having a baby is costly whether you have health insurance or not. U.S. hospital deliveries cost around $3,500 per stay. When you add in pre-natal and post-delivery care, you could be looking at an overall cost of $8,802, according to Parents.com.

To better prepare, factor in the strong chance that you may have medical bills and will need to add your baby to your insurance coverage (typically within 30 days of birth).

Make sure you know what your health insurance deductibles and copays are for labor and delivery. As the due date nears, you can also start looking for a pediatrician in your insurance network.

6. Increase Your Life Insurance Coverage

When you have a child, you become completely responsible for his or her care.

So, it’s a wise idea to help cover those expenses in the unfortunate event that you are no longer around. To do this, it’s a good idea to consider life insurance, or upgrading your current policy.

There are two types of life insurance: term which is temporarily and whole life which is permanent. Term life insurance is more affordable and you can get quotes online from sites like PolicyGenius and NerdWallet.

“It’s important to start thinking about upgrading your life insurance policy when you’re pregnant and some insurance companies will even let you increase coverage at this stage,” says Sa El, founder of Simply Insurance.

“Aside from increasing your coverage, you can also purchase a life insurance policy for your child. The best thing about purchasing life insurance early is that the rates will be the lowest since age is a huge risk factor.”

El also recommends calculating your insurance needs beforehand.

“Life Happens has a good calculator that you can use to figure out your insurance needs. You will have to consider current expenses like housing and debt, along with future expenses like college costs, in order to determine your insurable need so don’t skip this step,” he says.

7. Minimize Debt

Let’s face it. Being in debt can hold you back. Debt payments eat up your disposable income and can likely cause a new parent to stress out over money.

So, before you have your first child, try to minimize your debt and pay off most (if not all) of your accounts. By getting rid of these liabilities, you’ll free up more money to spend on other areas of your budget. Having less debt will also enable you to save more.

Enjoy Parenting Without All the Financial Stress

Worrying about money is never fun, especially when you’re adding a new baby to your family. This is why it’s important to make these seven key financial moves. This way, you can focus on raising your new baby while you thrive financially.

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How to Save Money and Budget in Your 20s and 30s

By Jackie Lam
June 12, 2019

When I moved out of my mom’s house when I was at 23, my greatest fear was having to move back home – again.

In turn, I did everything I could to stretch my $1,800 a month take-home pay. By being frugal, taking on side hustles, and saving as much as possible, I was able to both squeak by and save money each every month. It was no easy feat, but it was doable. Remember: You don’t have to live in a van to budget wisely and save moneyEven small steps can help, like switching to a bank that doesn’t charge unnecessary fees and negotiating for a lower Internet bill.

Fast forward to the present. Now that I’m in my 30s, I know that my budgeting, frugality and hard-core money-saving ways paid off. Still, there’s so much I wish I’d known about managing money 10 years ago.

To up your budgeting game and start saving money in your 20s and 30s, read on. Your future self will thank you. 

 4 smart money tips for your 20s

Let’s face it: Adulting is hard, especially when you’re just starting out. These 4 tactics for budgeting and saving money will help guide you through your 20s in style.

1. Salary is important, but don’t forget about job benefits

You might not be making as much money as you’d like right out of college. But salary isn’t the only measure you should consider when evaluating a job.

Take a look at the entire compensation and benefits package. This includes health insurance, disability, and life insurance benefits, plus employee perks (like free gym memberships), and whether your employer offers a 401(k) match. Also consider this: Will there be opportunities to learn new skills, work with a mentor, or move up the corporate ladder?

I consider learning on the job as an added benefit. For instance, when I worked in the communications department for an entertainment labor union, my boss subsidized courses I took in graphic design and copyediting. These skills ended up being crucial to my future job opportunities and earning potential.

While I was fortunate as a 20-something to have steady jobs with robust benefits, I worked in niche industries without much room for growth. Looking back, I wish I’d spent even more time focused on growing my paycheck and my career potential.

2. Save money the new-fashioned way: automation

In your 20s, it’s not surprising that you may be stressed out about your money situation. That’s why one of my favorite money-saving hacks is to automate your finances.

You can automate your savings for an emergency fund, for a car, or for investment in a retirement account. If you’re a Chime Member, consider opting into the Save When I Get Paid feature.

And yes, while you have decades before you retire, the earlier you begin to save for this goal, the better. Why is that? Two things: time in the market and the magic of compound interest. Let’s say you begin saving $250 a month starting at the age of 25. You keep it up for 40 years until you’re 65. According to Investor.gov, if you earn an average of seven percent interest, you’ll have earned just shy of $600,000.

While I opened an IRA in my early 20s, I put in $100 and then stopped. Imagine how much I would have if I had continued putting money into it! And for one of my jobs, I failed to opt into the matching 401(k) plan until a year after I started. That’s money I left on the table. 

The takeaway: If you automate your savings, you’re essentially budgeting without having to think about it. You’ll be glad you did.

3. Track, manage, and reduce your daily spending

It doesn’t matter how much you earn: You can always get into the habit of saving. To start, try cutting back. Limit yourself to one restaurant meal per week. Try a no-spend Sunday. Or use a money management app to track your spending to see what your vices are.

After having a few spend-happy months this year, I’m focusing on two major problem areas for a month: food and clothes. When it comes to food, instead of overstocking my fridge, I’ve started checking my pantry before I head to the market. This helps me plan out my meals, stick to a weekly food budget, and cook in batches. As for clothes, now I wait 30 days before purchasing something I have my eye on.

4. Start paying off student loans and other debts

Sure, you wish your debt could just disappear yesterday. And while it’s tempting to ignore your student loans, credit card statements, car loan, or healthcare bills, you’re going to have to pay them off eventually. No matter what type of debt you have, your first step is to determine exactly how much money you owe, to whom, and what the interest rates are.

Next, come up with a debt repayment plan to help you budget, how much you can reasonably afford to pay off each month. After that, commit to making regular, timely payments.  Not only will this keep you on track to paying off your debts with as little accumulated interest as possible, it’ll also help you get the highest credit score you can manage.

3 smart money tips for your 30s

Whether it feels like a graduation or a funeral, the transition into your 30s means reevaluating career goals, income, and outstanding debts. But don’t worry: A few simple practices will put you on the path to sustainable financial health.

1. Make more money

While in your 20s, you were laying the groundwork to save money and invest. In your 30s, however, you’ll want to start thinking about growing your money.

There’s no single way to approach this. It depends on your personal situation, existing resources, and lifestyle preferences. For example, perhaps you want to buy your first home, or get serious about investing in the stock market. This is your time to make decisions to grow your money.

Although you can only cut so much of your living expenses, you can increase your earning potential. For example, it wasn’t until I job-hopped that I started making more money.  Another major wealth-building move for me was when I turned my side hustle of freelance writing and copyediting into a full-time gig.

2. Pay off your student loans & credit cards for good 

“Good debt” is loosely defined as debt for valuable assets that can grow over time. Traditional examples of good debt include a mortgage on a home or a business loan. “Bad debt” is anything that loses value over time, or has a high-interest rate, which can eat into your savings. “Bad debt” is normally thought of as credit card debt, student loans, and personal loans.

However, there are a lot of gray areas. Credit card debt can be a good thing. If you have a balance, but pay it off in full each pay cycle, this can boost your credit.

Live the life you can actually afford

As my friend Kristin Wong, author of “Get Money” likes to say, there’s a difference between living the life you can afford, and living the life you want.

As you continue to build wealth and establish your career, you may view your thirties as a time when you can abandon the responsible habits you spent your 20s, but it’s important not to slip into old ways. Make sure you continue saving money and assessing your income and spending habits, that way you can continue onto the next decade with an even greater feeling of financial freedom.

The perks of financial wellness are many — freedom from money stress, the resources, and knowledge to grow your money, and the ability to live your best life.

 

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