Tag: Budgeting

 

How to Ball on a Budget When You Go Out

By Arianna Stern
June 10, 2019

Links to external websites are not managed by Chime or The Bancorp Bank.


Let’s say you get a call from a close friend. She just got a promotion at work, and she’s inviting you to a trendy Thai restaurant to celebrate. You love Thai food and want to go, but there’s one problem: Your budget’s looking pretty tight this month.

Thankfully, you can still go out without compromising your savings. For example, you can decide how much you can spend and then adjust your budget accordingly.

“If you know that in the summer, you tend to go out more and spend more money, then make room for that in your budget and cut back in other areas to accommodate that,” says Jamila Souffrant, certified financial education instructor and founder of the blog and podcast Journey to Launch.

For instance, you can cut the cable cord and ditch your meal box subscription, leaving more wiggle room for nights out, concerts and movies. To help you get started, we’ve rounded up some tips for saving money on just about any outing. Take a look.

At a Sporting Event

If you’re dying to see the Chicago Bulls (or your own favorite team), you can make it happen without breaking the bank. Souffrant recommends buying your tickets in-person from the box office to avoid service fees from online ticketers.

You can also pick games that aren’t super expensive. For example, maybe go on a work night when it’s less crowded and you can more easily score cheaper tickets. Typically, games during the week are less costly than Friday, Saturday, or Sunday games.

On the day of the big game, be sure to eat before you leave home to avoid paying the markup at the snack counter. Your belly and your bank account will feel fuller.

At a Movie

Sometimes, it’s good to catch a summer blockbuster on the big screen and swoon over your favorite actors. Just be sure to steer clear of the overpriced movie theater concession stand.

“Definitely do not buy any of the snacks or drinks in the movie theater. I know it’s tempting, but eat before you go and/or bring your own snacks,” says Souffrant.

Souffrant also recommends looking for discounted tickets or deals on sites like Groupon or the theaters’ own website. You can also go to a weekend matinee and head out to dinner afterwards – instead of the other way around.

By planning in advance, you can enjoy buzzworthy movies and save money at the same time.

At a Concert

Hanging out with friends at concerts is part of summer fun. But to save money, it’s important that you try to buy tickets at the box office in advance, says Souffrant.

Why? You’ll typically get the lowest price, she says.

Even if you can’t manage to score inexpensive tickets (some of us are Beyoncé fans), you can find other ways to save when you consider the costs of the whole night. Souffrant suggests carpooling or even taking public transportation to the event.

If your concert-going night involves multiple destinations, you may want to turn on push notifications from your bank. You’ll get an alert each time you use your debit card, which may be the reality check you need to curb your spending.

Lastly, look for free concerts in your city. While you might not be able to attend a Beyonce concert for free, there are plenty of other bands and music festivals that offer free concerts.

At a Restaurant

Back to the friends-at-a-Thai-restaurant example: When you’re going out to eat, it can help to speak up about your financial goals.

“If you’re on a budget or you’re trying to save money, don’t keep it to yourself,” says Souffrant.

When you explain your intentions at the start of a night out or before you arrive at the restaurant, your friends will be more likely to understand when you choose to pay only for what you ate and drank.

“I would avoid splitting (the check) equally. That can get expensive if you’re trying to be conscious but they’re not,” says Souffrant.

If you do decide to split the bill, try using Chime’s Pay Friends feature.

At a Bar or Nightclub

If you can avoid a cover charge by getting to your favorite spot before a certain time, then do it, Souffrant says.

You and your friends can also do research in advance to see which local watering holes have special offers or discount nights. Lastly, consider nursing one drink or sticking to water to save money on the bar tab. This way you can still enjoy a night out with friends without overspending.

At an Exercise Class

If your friends are veteran yogis or distance runners, they may have guest passes to a gym or fitness studio that they can share with you, Souffrant suggests.

“You can also just try out the good old park,” she says.

Besides being healthy, workouts at the park are totally free.

“Go together, take a run, take a walk. Use the environment for your own workouts and outside activities.”

Save Money and Have Fun

The tips above make one thing clear: You can meet your savings goals without becoming a hermit.

One final pro tip: Try automating your savings. If you use a Chime Visa Debit Card, for example, every time you use it to purchase concert or movie tickets, or pay your restaurant bill, your transaction will be rounded up to the nearest dollar. And, that round up amount will be automatically deposited into your Chime Savings Account. This way, you’ll save money while you’re out enjoying yourself!

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How to Plan for Your Car Maintenance on a Budget

By Lindsay VanSomeren
June 5, 2019

If you’ve ever owned a car, chances are you’re pretty familiar with the sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach when your car starts acting funny.

Since most of us aren’t auto mechanics, that weird sound or odd behavior could mean a fix that costs anywhere from just a few dollars to a few thousand dollars. Sometimes it even seems like you’re taking one step forward with your bank account only to take two steps back when a car repair derails your budget.

Thus, it’s no wonder car maintenance is especially stressful. But, there’s also good news: You can save up for these events. You don’t need to let them catch you by surprise. Read on to learn more.

How much should you budget for car maintenance?

Here’s the thing. You know car maintenance and repair expenses are going to happen. So, why not save up for them in advance?

First, though, it’s a good idea to know how much to save. Aside from all of the other expenses of owning a car (insurance, registration, etc.), you’ll need to plan for two big things: regular car maintenance and car repairs.

Regular car maintenance includes getting things done like oil changes, new tires, batteries, brake pads, etc. Car repairs include replacing things as your car ages, such as CV joints and head gaskets. This also includes the unexpected repairs that can result from things like your transmission kicking the bucket.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average single person spent $794 on car maintenance and repairs in 2017. This means that it’s a good idea to save up at least $66 per month — ideally more, so that you’re prepared in case a big repair is needed, such as rebuilding your car’s engine or transmission.

Of course, it’s a good idea to consider other factors as well. If you have an older car, for example, you might want to consider saving more. If you live in a snowy area that requires you to put on snow tires in the winter and all-season tires in the spring, summer and fall, that can increase your costs as well.

Another good place to check out is Edmunds’ Cost of Car Ownership, which allows you to look up average estimated yearly costs for repairs and maintenance for your specific vehicle.

How to Save for Car Maintenance

Now that you understand how much you need to save, how do you actually do it? Here are two top tips.

  • Set Up Chime’s Automatic Savings

Did you know that you can set up your savings automatically with Chime? You can round up each of your purchases to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference into your Savings Account.

But for our purposes here, Chime’s automatic savings payday feature is probably the best. Each time you get paid, you can set up an automatic deposit for a specific amount. You can even set up a separate savings account just for car maintenance and repair costs, and withdraw money as you need it.

So, for example, if you want to save $100 per month for car maintenance and repairs and you get paid bi-weekly, you can set it up so that you deposit $50 into your savings account each time you get paid. This way, you don’t even need to think about it — it just happens automatically.

  • Set Up a Sinking Fund Line Item in Your Budget

Another option is to keep a separate line item in your budget as a sinking fund. In this case you set aside however much you want to save per month ($100 for example) on paper, in your budget.

The actual money can stay in your checking account if you wish, or you can move it over to your savings account. Either way, the idea is to have a certain dollar amount in your bank account reserved just for car maintenance and repairs.

Don’t Let Car Maintenance Catch You By Surprise

You’re already familiar with the scary feeling when your car breaks down.

Now, picture this: You can set aside money each month so that the next time your car needs maintenance or repairs, you have plenty of money just ready and waiting to be spent for that exact purpose. It’s like an extra layer of security. It’s an amazing feeling to feel ready and prepared to spend money, rather than be stressed out about it.

So, are you ready to start saving money for car maintenance and working toward that happier feeling? We’ll help you get there!

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How to Buy Groceries for One Person

By Erica Gellerman
June 3, 2019

Links to external websites are not managed by Chime or The Bancorp Bank.


Grocery shopping for one is a struggle.

I should know. Some weeks I’d buy too much food – only to throw away 70% of it at the end of the week. Other weeks I’d make one meal and begrudgingly eat it every single day. Not ideal. Yup, it took me years to master the art of buying food when I was a household of one.

Yet, wasting money on groceries isn’t just a problem that plagues the solo shopper. The average family of four wastes $1,600 per year on uneaten food. And, Americans waste nearly one pound of food per person, per day. That adds up to $165 billion of food that goes uneaten.

While food waste is a problem for a number of reasons, it can be a big problem for your bank account. Ever wonder how much money you could you be saving?

Luckily, we’ve got you covered with some easy ways to shop smarter and avoid food waste.

Get into the planning

You’ve heard this before, for good reason. Meal planning is the key to not buying more than you need.

But meal planning can also be more difficult when you’re planning meals for one. That’s because recipes rarely have a serving size of one. You’ll typically see recipes for family meals serving upwards of four people.

So, when you’re meal planning, opt for food items that you know will freeze well. And, if you you don’t want to be stuck eating the same thing all week, make sure it’s something that you can easily pop into the freezer and enjoy eating later. For ideas, take a look at this list of 33 meals that freeze well.

Another clever idea is to pick two or more recipes that use the same core ingredients. Brianne Bell, a registered dietician and food blogger, suggests doing this to avoid eating the same meal all week. For example, she buys a whole chicken and roasts it. For her first meal, she’ll eat roast chicken. Next, she’ll shred the remaining chicken to use in salads and sandwiches for the rest of the week. Planning meals around the main ingredient of chicken ensures nothing is wasted.

Utilize your freezer

Before you head to the fresh produce section of your grocery store, take a stroll down the frozen food aisle. The produce you’ll find there contains roughly the same level of vitamins and minerals as fresh fruits and veggies, making this a healthy and smart option for the solo shopper. Relying on frozen produce also means you’ll never have to throw away a sad carrot again.

If you do end up with fresh food that you’re not going to eat before it spoils, Bell suggests freezing it before it goes bad. And you know how frustrating it is when you just need a few basil leaves for a recipe but you have to buy a large bunch? Bell advises throwing those in the freezer as well. Just chop them up, put them into an ice cube tray, cover with oil and freeze.

While freezing is a great option for the times when you do end up with more than you need, not everything freezes well. The Kitchn breaks down the foods that don’t freeze well. So, if you’ve stocked up on cucumbers and lettuce, don’t plan on relying on your freezer to help you with the excess.

Shop differently

I used to steer clear of the salad bar in a grocery store, assuming that it’s always going to be the most expensive option. But more often than not I’d get to the end of the week and find a half-eaten bag of spinach that I needed to throw away.

Turns out, the salad bar and bulk food aisle may hold the keys to your shopping for one success, says Mary Weidner co-founder of meal planning app Strongr Fastr. Rather than picking up a bag of spinach when you only need a little, the salad bar and the bulk food aisle may be your best bet.

“Just last week, I bought some spinach, quinoa, spices, dried berries, olives, and sliced nuts- all in the exact quantities I needed for about $3.50. And had no food waste for the week,” says Weidner.

But don’t stop there. If you need some meat, food blogger and recipe writer Jim Mumford suggests that you head to the butcher counter to get the exact amount you need, rather than picking up the family-sized pre-packaged meat.

“Most pre-packaged meat is well over a pound, and not ideal for one or two meals. The butcher at the counter is willing and happy to cut something down, even a roast or a tenderloin,” says Mumford.

If you want to skip the hassle of the store altogether, Bell advises that fruit and vegetable deliveries can be a smart option. Oftentimes, you can get just get what you need delivered straight to your door.

Make it social

Need to buy something that you definitely won’t eat all on your own (like that loaf of bread)? Get a little help from a friend. Figure out the things you both need to buy and split it. As a bonus, you can use this strategy to take advantage of the buy one, get one offers you see in some grocery stores.

If you’re really feeling social — and have a friend with similar food preferences — why not split groceries and cook some main meals together? If you’re making a recipe that serves four, you won’t have to worry about whether it freezes well or whether you’ll be able to handle eating it all week. You’ll each end up with two servings and have some fun while cooking.

Are you ready to solo shop?

Shopping for one can be a little tricky. But, by following these tried-and-true tips, you’ll be on your way to saving money without wasting food. Are you ready to take a new approach to shopping for groceries?

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How to Save on Child Care

By Jeanne Lee
May 23, 2019

Raising a child is becoming increasingly expensive, making it difficult for parents who need to work, run errands or enjoy a date night once in a while. Between nanny salaries, day care center fees and other forms of care, annual child care costs are putting severe financial strain on many families.

Two-parent households are paying an average 10.6% of their median income for just one child’s care, according to a 2018 report from Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit advocacy group. For single parents, it’s more dire: care costs consumed between 27% and 91% of their median income, according to the report. That’s way over the benchmark for affordability set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of 7%.

Costs average between $9,000 and $9,600 a year for all types of child care, but many families pay much more, according to the Child Care Aware of America report. If you are looking for ways to save, here are 10 ideas to help you lower the high cost of care for your little ones.

Want to learn more about financially preparing for a baby? Check out our guide.

1. Claim your child & dependent care tax credit

The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit allows you to deduct child care expenses for children under age 13 while you are working or looking for work. You can deduct up to $3,000 for one child or $6,000 for multiple children. You’ll get a percentage of the amount paid back as a tax credit, with the percentage based on your income.

You may be able to deduct the cost of some kids’ activities, like day camp, if they enabled you to go to work, according to the IRS.

2. Contribute to a dependent care FSA

“There’s no question that one of the best tools out there for parents to utilize is dependent care flexible spending plans,” says Robert Greenman, lead advisor at Vista Capital Partners.

Check to see if your job offers a dependent care flexible spending arrangement. You can stock up to $5,000 a year pretax to use for child care expenses. That’s like getting a discount equal to your marginal tax rate.

“[H]aving $5,000 a year to pay for child care pre-tax is better than nothing at all,” says Greenman.

3. Apply for state child care vouchers

Low-income families may be eligible for assistance from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. These funds are distributed through state programs. To qualify, you generally must be a parent or caregiver for a child under 13 and be using child care services to go to work, job training or school.

Look for programs in your state using ChildCare.gov’s online state resource locator.

4. Use military family subsidies

Military families often have particular child care needs, due to deployments and the need to accommodate parents’ service duties. Military bases typically have day care centers that charge according to the family’s total income.

There are also a variety of federal child care subsidies for each branch of military service and the Department of Defence. For example, the Army provides income-based subsidies to cover the difference in cost between civilian child care and on-base care, when on-base care isn’t available. Find information specific to your branch of service at Child Care Aware of America.

5. Consider a nanny share

Nannies are the most expensive form of child care, costing an average of $580 a week or more than $30,000 a year, according to Care.com.

But there are ways to get a better deal. One solution is a nanny-share, when two or more families pool their kids together and chip in for a single nanny to watch them all.

“It’s simple and extremely cost effective,” says Randy Bruns, senior financial planner at Model Wealth.

Bruns said he knows a family that cut their costs by 25% by teaming up with a neighboring family with a baby of about the same age. They share a nanny for around $18 an hour, while the usual rate was $12 for a single child, he said. This type of situation can be a win-win if you find a compatible family.

6. Host an au pair

If you want live-in child care, consider the advantages of hosting an au pair — particularly for families with several kids. An au pair is a young person from another country who comes to the U.S. through a government-regulated cultural exchange program, to live with a family and care for their children.

Average fees for au pairs run $390 a week, according to Care.com, about 30% less than for the average for nannies. In addition, an au pair can expand the horizons of the whole family in intangible ways, exposing children to foreign language and culture. You can be matched with an au pair through an agency that vets applicants and provides child care training.

Curious about which states are the best for raising a family? Check out our Family Friendly Index.

7. Get a jump-start on day care

Day care costs an average of $211 per week for one infant about $10,000 a year, according to Care.com, though prices range widely. Chances are the good, affordable day cares in your area will fill up quickly.

To get a spot in a desirable day care, particularly in big cities where demand is high, start researching and signing up for waitlists before your baby is even born.

In competitive markets, like Seattle and Washington, D.C., parents have reported paying “wait-list fees” of $50 to $100. With thousands of dollars at stake, it might be worth it to save your place in line for an affordable day care as early as possible.

8. Consider church-based day cares

A local church might run a top-notch day care that is considerably less expensive than commercial options. Some churches have reported surging demand for their well-established nursery schools and preschool programs, with even non-religious parents signing up.

Secular families may find a church-based day care to be a feasible option, especially in the case of a program that has been well-respected in the community for decades.

9. Research in-home day cares

Some children and parents really enjoy the cozy setting of home-based day cares, which are often smaller and less expensive than day care centers. Family care centers charge an average of $195 a week to look after your child in the professional care provider’s home. That’s about 8% less than for day care centers, but your savings could be even greater.

Before you visit a provider, you can look up the licensing requirements for home care in your state at ChildCare.gov, so you’ll have a better idea what questions to ask. Recommendations from other parents who have used the service can be valuable in helping you make your decision.

10. Start or join a babysitting co-op

Babysitters charge a national average of $16 an hour, according to Care.com. Going out for dinner and a show could easily mean $80 spent on child care. If your friends are experiencing similar pains, consider organizing an informal babysitting co-op. Get a group of willing parents together, large or small, and set up some ground rules.

It could be that all the kids gather in one family’s house each Friday night on a rotating schedule, while the other parents get a night off. Or each time you babysit for four hours you receive a credit for four hours of babysitting at a later date. Choose your co-op partners wisely and communicate with them clearly, so each member gets to enjoy some free babysitting.

No matter how you manage child care, you need to stay on top of your finances. The easiest way is with a budget — we’ve got an downloadable one for parents here.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.com.

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How to Save Money on a Nurse’s Salary

By Rebecca Lake
May 16, 2019

Nurses perform a valuable service in hospitals, doctor’s offices, schools and other places where on-site medical care is needed.

Being a nurse often means long hours in a high stress job. In return, registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $71,730, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That sounds good, right? After all, it’s more than the median household income of $61,372.

But, there’s more to the story. Namely, 76% of nurses owe undergraduate student loans, while 69% owe graduate school loans. Among nurses who attended graduate school and used loans to finance their education, the majority owe between $40,000 and $54,999.

When you couple this student debt with other bills that go along with a nurse’s daily life, saving money can be a struggle.

So, in honor of National Nurses Day, we’ve put together a how-to guide to saving more money on a nurse’s salary. Take a look.

Set up direct deposit into a savings account

Your employer might offer direct deposit for your paycheck, which is great for convenience. But if you’re dumping all your money into your checking account, consider funneling some of that into a separate savings account each payday.

“Savings accounts are good for nurses because unexpected expenses can really obstruct financial plans,” says Sandy Griffin, a licensed practical nurse and quality assurance coordinator at Hospice of South Louisiana.

“Money set aside in a savings account can cover these expenses, plus provide for your future,” she says.

Griffin says saving money in a retirement account through your job is also a no-brainer. At the very least, you should be contributing enough to get the company match. Otherwise, you could miss out on free money. That’s a mistake 25% of workers make.

Pro tip: Setting up direct deposit into your savings account can keep you on track so you don’t spend the money right away. To determine how much to save, go over your monthly expenses to see if there’s anything you can trim down. Also, pick a set percentage or dollar amount you’d like to save regularly. It doesn’t have to be much to start. The key is to commit to saving consistently.

Be savvy about shopping for nursing supplies

As a nurse, there are certain things you need. Scrubs and quality footwear, for instance, can be big out of pocket costs if your employer doesn’t offer any reimbursement.

Griffin offers some tips for saving money on these items:

  • Comparison shop to find the best prices
  • Wait for sales to buy
  • Buy in bulk as much as possible

You can also look for coupons and promo codes online through sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com. Using a cash rewards credit card to pay for uniforms can also save you money. The trick is to pay your balance in full to avoid interest charges.

Ben Huber, BSN, RN and co-founder of finance blog DollarSprout, says you should plan for these costs and save throughout the year.

“Employers generally won’t provide a subsidy or stipend for uniforms or other healthcare-related clothing,” Huber says.

Pro tip: If you’re going through a pair of scrubs and/or shoes every few months, “it may be wise to consider stashing away a few hundred dollars each year in a fund specifically for uniform replacement.”

Meal plan on the job (and off)

When you’re working crazy hours as a nurse, fitting in regular meal breaks isn’t always easy. Huber says it’s tempting to hit the vending machines when you get a craving, especially if you work in a high-stress environment. He has a simple solution for curbing impulse eating while you’re at work.

“Sit down for meals prior to coming on shift and pre-pack the meals you plan to eat,” Huber says.

Pro tip: You can save more money by planning out meals and snacks for the week or the month. Base your meals around what’s on sale each week at the grocery store. Shop with a list and stick to it. And consider using money-saving apps like Ibotta to earn cash back on your supermarket trips.

Consider whether grad school is worth the investment

Getting an advanced degree can mean landing a job with a higher salary, which can help you save more money. The downside is that it can mean more student loans, so you need to weigh the financial pros and cons first.

“If you’re a nurse considering an advanced degree, think about the specific ways higher education will actually pad your pockets,” Huber says.

“Aimlessly pursuing a BSN, MSN or other advanced nursing degree is the recipe for a lot of debt without the potential payday down the road to justify the expense.”

Before you make a decision on grad school, spend time researching median nursing salaries in your state. Then, consider how you’ll pay for a degree.

Pro tip: Ask if your employer offers tuition reimbursement or student loan forgiveness as this can really help.

Start a side hustle to save more money

A side hustle can boost your income, giving you more money to save. And it’s an alternative to piling up more student loan debt if you’re considering going back to school to earn an advanced nursing degree.

“Starting a business takes less discipline than nursing school,” says David Sanchez, a registered nurse who runs two side businesses. But, he says, running a side gig requires more passion, personal sacrifice and willingness to take risks.

If you’re thinking about launching a side hustle to supplement your nursing salary, first ask yourself how much time you can put into it. You may only be able to dedicate a few hours a week if you’re working long rotations.

Then, brainstorm ideas for things you can do in your spare time to make extra money. For example, if you’re a good writer you can try freelancing for medical blogs or websites. Or you might want to do something that’s not nursing-related, like dog-sitting or selling on Etsy.

Pro tip: Pick something you can make time for, something you’ll enjoy and something that will help you earn more money.

You can indeed save money on a nurse’s salary

If you’re a nurse, finding ways to save money can be challenging but it’s not impossible.

These tips can give you a good starting place to help you increase your savings. Are you ready to give saving more money a try?

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How much should you save for your vacation?

By Lindsay VanSomeren
May 15, 2019

What’s your dream vacation?

Maybe it’s sitting on the beach sipping mai tais and watching the sun go down. Or maybe you’re a bit more adventurous and would prefer renting a van and driving around Iceland’s Ring Road.

No matter what your vacation preferences, one thing is likely the same: Your trip will cost you a pretty penny. Luckily, that’s what savings accounts are for. But how much should you save up for a vacation? And what’s the best way to save?

To answer these questions, we’ll show you how to create your own DIY savings plan so that no matter where your wanderlust takes you, you’ll have enough money in your bank account to get you there and back.

Step 1: Create a Target Savings Goal

Guessing and pulling a random number out of thin air is an easy way you can come up with a target savings goal. But it’s also one that’s likely to leave you disappointed, since you might run out of cash before your vacation ends. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a gorgeous exotic location but having no money to do anything.

Instead, try this approach:

Tally Up Your Vacation Costs

This will require a bit of research on your part (but honestly, isn’t scoping out all of the opportunities part of the fun?)

In particular, take some time to tally up the total cost of the following things for the duration of your vacation:

  • Round-trip airfare
  • Hotel
  • Food
  • Souvenirs
  • Trips, tours, and admission prices

Step 2: Create a Working Savings Plan

Now that you’ve got a target in mind, great. Now, what do you do? Create a savings plan, of course.

Here’s how to do it:

Tally up the number of months between now and when you’ll be leaving for your vacation. Then, divide your target savings goal by that number of months.

This leaves you with the exact amount of money you need to save each month between now and when you leave.

Curious to see how this works? Let’s look at an example.

Example: Next Year’s Trip to New Zealand

Let’s say you want to go on a two-week tour of New Zealand next year. You do some research and come up with the following numbers:

  • Airfare: $1,100
  • Hotel: $150 (per day)
  • Food: $50 (per day)
  • Souvenirs: $200
  • Trips, tours, and admissions: $100 (per day)

The total cost of this trip is $5,500. If you want to go on this trip in 12 months, you’ll need to save up $458.33 per month to have enough cash for the trip.

Step 3: Re-evaluate Your Plan

So far, we’ve just created a working plan. Chances are, you’re probably shocked by how much you need to save — that’s normal, don’t worry!

There are a few things you can do to revise the plan so it fits your finances:

  • Adjust your monthly budget: Look for expenses you can easily cut out, such as dining out, subscription boxes, etc. This will free up more money each month so that you can divert it to your vacation fund instead.
  • Start side hustling: Side hustling is the easiest way to boost your income. Each extra dollar that comes in is a dollar closer to your travel goals.
  • Change your travel plans: Look over your travel plans. Is there any way you can lower your expenses by perhaps staying at cheaper hotels or eating out less? This will reduce the cost of your vacation as a whole. Alternatively, you could push your vacation further out into the future, so that you have to save less each month.

Example: Final Plan for Next Year’s Trip to New Zealand

Maybe you decide there’s no way in heck you can afford to save $458.33 per month. No worries — you can still go!

After looking at the three options listed above, you can make the following changes:

  • Cut your $25/month box subscription and cut $150/month from your dining out budget. This frees up $175 per month to go towards your New Zealand trip.
  • Start a side hustle and earn an extra $200 per month.
  • Opt for staying in backpackers’ hostels instead, for $50 per night. This frees up $1,400 from your target savings goal.

With these changes, you now only need to save $4,100, or $341.67 per month. You’ve also freed up $175 per month from your budget, and are earning an extra $200 per month for a net amount of $375 extra per month. Now, you’re able to save up enough for your trip!

Step 4: Put Your Savings on Autopilot

Now that you know how much your vacation will cost and how much to save each month, it’s time to put that plan into action.

Sure, you can try to remember to set aside money each month into your savings account. But, we promise you that something will get in the way and you’ll likely forget (just like that time you put your car keys in the fridge and couldn’t find them later).

Instead, put your savings on autopilot. You can use Chime Bank’s automatic savings feature to do this for you. In this case, you can set up your bank account to withdraw the money after each paycheck.

All you have to do is count up the number of paychecks between now and when you leave on your trip, divide your target savings goal by that number, and voila! You can set up your account to withdraw that amount from each paycheck so that it’s entirely on autopilot.

Are you ready to travel?

If you follow this four-step guide, all you’ll have to worry about is remembering your camera and deciding which fun activities you’ll do once you’re on your vacation.

Bon voyage!

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How to Save Money on a Gym Membership

By Robyn Parets
May 10, 2019

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You could say that I’m a gym rat.

Over the years, I’ve belonged to high-end fitness centers, community recreation facilities, yoga and barre studios, boutique cardio centers, outdoor boot camps – you name it. I’ve also worked out with personal trainers and tried out just about every new fitness class imaginable.

What I won’t do is work out on my own. Sure, I’ll get in my 10,000 steps (as long as it’s not freezing outside), but I simply can’t motivate myself to exercise with an app or use fitness equipment in my home. Yup, I’m the one who used my former elliptical machine as a clothes hanger.

And, while fitness memberships can be expensive, I need to belong to a gym to stay accountable to my own health and wellness.

If this sounds like you too, here are four ways to save money and determine whether a gym membership is worth the price.

1. Shop around

As I mentioned above, I’ve been to my fair share of gyms. They are not all equal. Prices and facilities can be like comparing night and day.

Notably, even bargain gym membership prices can vary drastically. A Boston YMCA, for example, costs about $54 a month, while a Planet Fitness bare-bones membership costs $10 a month. So, do your research and find a gym membership that fits within your budget. If all you want is a no-frills fitness center with ample equipment, Planet Fitness may be a good solution for you.

2. Look for deals

I am the queen of fitness deals. If I can find a bargain work-out to save money, I’m in. Here are my two favorite savings hacks:

  • Sign up for a Groupon account. You will get bombarded with emails offering deals to gyms and boutique fitness studios. Yoga, Pilates and group training programs constantly offer unbeatable prices for class packages. So, this is a great way to try out studios for a rock-bottom price. Last year, for example, I scored a deal to a new cardio gym and this winter, I bought a 10-class Groupon to a new barre studio – for less than half the normal price.
  • Many fitness centers offer trial weeks or even one month free. If there’s a fitness center you’ve been eyeing, why not take it for a test drive before forking over your hard-earned cash? L.A. Fitness, for example, offers five-day workout passes but if you have a friend who is a member, the gym will extend a two-week pass. And, remember, everything is negotiable and if you are seriously about joining, you may be able to get even a longer trial period. L.A. Fitness has clubs located in many states and offers an array of group fitness classes, as well as other wellness services. If you do join, you can do so for as low as $24.99 a month.

3. Make sure you like the gym or fitness program

These days there are gyms and then there are other gyms. Huh?

As mentioned above, you can join a regular fitness center with all sorts of equipment and classes, or you can join a small gym or boutique fitness studio. But, before joining any gym, try it before you buy it (this is where steps #1 and #2 above come in handy).

Full disclosure: I know a thing or two about this. I owned a yoga studio for 12 years and often students bought passes, came once, and never set foot in the studio again. It baffled me to see them waste their money, but yoga just wasn’t their thing. The bottom line: Make sure you like the facilities or classes offered at your gym. This way you’re more likely to stick with it.

And here’s another important pro-tip: If you join a gym and don’t go, cancel your membership right away. No need to waste money you could be saving or using toward a gym membership elsewhere.

4. Determine your priorities and adjust your budget accordingly

Here’s the deal: You can join the cheapest gym in town and never go. This is wasted money. Period.

But, what if you invest in a pricey gym and you go every day? And, what if that gym also offers a cafe with high-speed WiFi, child care, a pool, spa and more?

The point here is this: If you are getting value out of your gym membership, this is better than spending less money on a fitness center that you don’t use at all. For example, after scoring several gym deals for the past year, I joined Lifetime Fitness, an upscale fitness and lifestyle center where membership prices vary depending on where you live. Memberships in Indiana, for example, start at $39 a month if you’re 26 or under. In the Boston area, memberships start at $139 a month. Yikes.

But, hear me out. I joined the club a month ago and have been there almost every day. Not only do I take the group training classes, but I enjoy the yoga and the myriad of other fitness offerings there. Plus, my new gym has a spacious, light-filled cafe with free high-speed WiFi. So, I often take a class and then plant myself in the cafe, where I sip a protein smoothie and get a jump on my work day.

Better yet, I canceled my co-working membership which was costing me $250 a month. I get more done in the gym cafe and canceling my workspace membership allowed me to free up money in my budget to afford my ideal fitness membership.

The result: I’m actually saving money while getting in shape. It’s a win-win!

Are you ready to join a gym?

While gym memberships can be pricey, the cost of your wellness can be, well, priceless. By following these four tried-and-true tips, you’ll be on your way to finding the best gym for you, saving money, and getting value out of your fitness club membership.

Are you ready to hit your fitness and savings goals? We thought so!

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9 Money Goals You Should Have

By Rachel Slifka
May 9, 2019

Regardless of whether you live paycheck-to-paycheck or have plenty of wiggle room in your budget, it’s important to have money goals in order to pay off debt, increase your income, and save more money.

When it comes to finances, however, it’s confusing to figure out where to start. So, to help you get a jump-start on setting financial benchmarks, take a look at nine money goals to practice for the rest of your life.

1. Get Out of Debt

Getting out of debt seems like an incredibly daunting task, yet this is one of the best things you can do to maximize your money.

To start clawing your way out of debt, it’s best to set specific goals. For example, you can perhaps make double car payments until your car loan is paid off, or put an extra 25% towards your mortgage each month.

2. Save for an Emergency

Of course, you never want to deal with an emergency, such as losing a source of income or paying for an unexpected medical expense. But, unfortunately, emergencies happen, and you should make sure you’re prepared.

To do this, set up a specific bank account for your emergency fund. How much you save for emergencies is dependent on your current income and expenses. In general, it’s a good idea to have at least three to six months worth of normal expenses saved up for unexpected expenses. If you can stash away even more, then do it!

3. Invest for Retirement

This may sound like a broken record, but seriously, it is never too early to start saving for retirement. It’s estimated that millennials will need to save more than one million dollars to have a comfortable retirement.

If you haven’t started saving for retirement yet, start now. If you work for a company that offers an employer-sponsored retirement plan, get on board. Some companies even match your contribution, up to a certain percent.

If a company retirement plan isn’t an option for you, start an individual retirement account (IRA) and make regular contributions.

4. Spend Less

Everyone can use more money. And the easiest way to stash away more cash is to spend less. To do this, it’s important to be conscious of what you spend your money on. This way you can cut out unnecessary expenditures.

For example, you can pack a lunch the night before work so that you aren’t tempted to eat out the next day. Or, you can quit buying your morning coffee at expensive coffee houses and make coffee at home. You can also take advantage of sales, coupons, rewards, and promo codes so that you can avoid paying full price for your everyday items.

5. Increase Your Income

This one can be a bit scary for many people. Increasing your income generally means you’ve got to be bold and go for something bigger. Even the slightest pay raise or a new side hustle can give you some flexibility financially.

If you can do this, you’ll have more money to use on your goals like paying off debt, giving to charities, and breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

So, consider looking for a new higher-paying job, asking for a raise, or launching that side hustle you’ve been dreaming about! If you’re still not sure how to earn extra money, there are endless, easy ways. The most common way is to get a part-time gig like driving for Uber or Lyft. This way you can set your own hours. To earn some side cash for smaller goals, try cashback credit cards or apps like Ibotta to earn extra money on everyday purchases.

6. Increase Your Insurance

Increasing coverage on your insurance can save you loads of money later on. The key is to make sure you have enough insurance in the event that you have to use it.

Bottom line, you don’t want to be left with a huge financial burden because you don’t have enough insurance, so work with an insurance agent to make sure you have the proper coverage.

7. Save for your Dreams

I don’t know about you, but I have lots of dreams that just so happen to be expensive. Specifically: I want to travel the world and own my dream home.

Although saving for your dreams may not seem like a top priority compared to other money goals, it is still important. So, even if you have to start small, start saving for your dreams right now. You owe it to yourself.

8. Break the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle

Living paycheck-to-paycheck makes it harder to dig yourself out of financial emergencies.

To break this cycle, try living below your means and essentially pretending you make less money than you do. Save what is leftover each month and stash it away. It’s a good idea to be strict about your budget and even use a financial planning app to help you track what you spend. This way you’ll be more apt to stay on track and not overspend.

9. Plan to Give Back

Giving back is a wise idea as you can help other people achieve their dreams. Plus, giving to charities can provide a financial benefit to you – come tax season.

If you don’t have extra cash to donate, no worries. Donate your time and resources. For example, you can volunteer at an animal shelter, donate unwanted items to homeless shelters, or tutor underserved children.

Start Today!

Committing to these nine money goals can be an important part of your financial life, helping you form healthy habits, earn and save more money, and even give back to your community. So, what do you say? Are you ready to stop making excuses and start smashing those money goals?

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How to Plan a Getaway With Friends That Works for Everyone’s Budget

By Chonce Maddox
May 8, 2019

Summer is right around the corner. This means vacation may be on your mind.

For many, a vacation entails traveling with a group, perhaps family or friends. As you may already know, group travel can be tricky, especially when people have their own  preferences and budgets. At the same time, a successful group vacation can be filled with fun memories and experiences.

If you’re ready to plan a getaway with friends, here are five tips to help you save money, create a budget for everyone, and make your summer vacation a positive experience.

1. Consider Your Travel and Destination Options

The first step when planning a group trip involves choosing where you want to go and how you’ll get there.

So, include everyone in a brainstorming session to gather opinions and vote on a destination. Consider factors like the cost of accommodations in the area and the types of tourist attractions you’d all like to visit. You’ll also want to consider how you’ll get there. Will you fly, take a train or bus, or perhaps drive?

2. Create a Budget that Works for Everyone

Once you’ve narrowed down where you’ll go and how you’ll get there, start to develop a budget that works for everyone.

Decide which expenses will need to be split among the group, along with how much you can individually afford to pay. For example, if you plan to drive, you may want to include an estimate of how much the fuel will cost, along with the price of a rental car.

If you’re flying, everyone can cover the price of their own plane ticket, but maybe you can search for airline deals so the airfare doesn’t exceed a certain amount.

Don’t forget to include budget categories for meals and lodging. Also, take into account hidden expenses like transportation during the trip and foreign transaction fees. What’s that? If you’re going to a different country, you may be hit with foreign transaction fees when you use your debit or credit card to make purchases.

Pro tip: You can avoid foreign transaction fees with a Chime bank account. Chime doesn’t charge any fees. This means you’ll have more vacay spending money.

3. Start Saving in Advance

Once you have a good idea of how much the trip will cost, you can start saving up for it. Figure out how far away your trip is and then break up the amount you need so you can make bi-weekly or monthly transfers to a specific savings account.

For example, if you’re taking a group trip in four months and need $1,500, you can plan to save $400 a month or $200 each paycheck if you get paid bi-weekly. You can even automate your savings so that the money is out of sight, out of mind. When it comes time for your vacation, the money will be ready and waiting for you.

Keep in mind that unexpected costs can come up during your trip, so it may be wise to save a little extra if you can.

4. Look for Fun and Affordable Things to Do

You don’t have to plan your group trip out by the hour, but it can be helpful to gather a list of activities and attractions to enjoy while you’re away.

You can also check to see if there are any deals available for specific activities. For instance, maybe you can catch a free museum or discounted boat ride on a certain day of the week. Or, perhaps a local restaurant has good ratings and provides bigger portions for less money. Some cities even have tourist packages where you can bundle a few popular activities together for one price.

Make sure you let everyone know about these options ahead of time so no one feels stretched financially during the trip.

5. Split Costs and Responsibilities

The great thing about traveling with a group is that you can split costs and responsibilities. Definitely take advantage of this when planning your group getaway.

For example, you can split Uber rides through the app, split up the cost of groceries, and use group discounts or Groupons for activities and outings. Depending on the size of your group, you may be able to spend less by renting a villa for the week instead of separate hotel rooms. You can also transfer money to pay each other easily with the Pay Friends payment app feature connected to your Chime Spending Account.

For supplies, be sure to ask around to see if anyone in the group has the item before you purchase it. For example, someone can bring a cooler if you’re planning a road trip or camping getaway, whereas you can all bring some snacks to share.

Stretch Your Dollar While Enjoying a Group Getaway

Budgeting for travel doesn’t mean you have to penny-pinch or forego having memorable experiences with your besties.

It all comes down to researching your trip ahead of time and working together to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the costs. From there, you can start saving early, take advantage of group deals, and split costs. Are you ready to plan your summer vacation?

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Family Vacations on a Budget

By Rachel Slifka
May 7, 2019

Everyone loves to get away from time to time.

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

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

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

1. Minneapolis, Minnesota

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

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

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

2. Washington, D.C.

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

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

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

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

3. Daytona Beach, Florida

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

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

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

4. Lake Tahoe, California

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

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

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

5. Yellowstone, Wyoming

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

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

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

6. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

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

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

Research is Key

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

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

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