Tag: Giving


Should You Donate to Charity If You Are in Credit Card Debt?

By Due.com
December 18, 2018

Donating to charities and nonprofits is one of the most fulfilling uses of your money, but should you hand over your hard earned dollars to a nonprofit if you have big debt? Probably not. Let’s take a look at why, how you can have a greater long-term impact, and other ways to contribute outside of your checkbook so you can put your finances first.

Why credit card debt should keep you from donating

Finance experts often argue about whether or not any type of debt could be considered “good debt,” but there is a nearly universal agreement that credit card debt is bad for consumers. If you have credit card debt, you’re likely paying upwards of 20% APR on your balance.

If you have an $8,000 credit card balance with a 20% interest rate, that means you will pay around $1,600 per year in credit card interest. When you have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars per year in high-interest payments, you should not be giving generously to a religious organization or anywhere else.

If someone from your church pressures you to give up to 10% of your income when you can’t afford it, they don’t really have your best interest in mind. They have their own interests at heart. While writing a check to your church may give you a warm fuzzy feeling, it just puts you in more debt!

Turning around debt so you can make regular donations

If you don’t have any debt and want to donate to a favorite cause, that’s wonderful! If you do have debt, you should focus on getting out of debt so you can confidently contribute to a meaningful cause.

When you have credit card debt, you generally have to make big interest payments in addition to your efforts to pay off your balance. If you give $100 per month to charity, that is $100 per month you could use for your debt freedom efforts. Each month, that $100 could get you closer and closer to a debt-free lifestyle.

Once you have your debt paid off, you may find you have enough to easily donate to your comfort level without the struggles you had before. After all, you no longer have any interest or principal payments due. That credit card payment of hundreds of dollars per month can turn into a combination of savings and charitable contributions that better align with your long-term financial goals.

Giving is good, but be careful

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett started a movement of more than a dozen billionaires who have pledged to give away at least half of their wealth. These philanthropists are great inspiration for all of us non-billionaires, but we need to take a more pragmatic approach to giving.

I personally give to a few causes, including religious ones, but I have never had any credit card debt. In the days I had student loans and car loans, I was not in the habit of donating to any nonprofits or charities. These days, however, I only have a mortgage. That allows me to give to my favorite organizations without adding extra financial strain to my family.

Tithing is a common practice at churches around the world. The worth tithing comes from the same root as a tenth, or 10%, of your income. If you have credit card debt, donating 10% of your income is very irresponsible.

When you board a commercial flight, the flight attendants remind you that “you should always put your oxygen mask on yourself before helping others.” If you are unconscious, you can’t help anyone else let alone yourself. With your money, it works the exact same way. Credit card debt is the same thing as a depressurized cabin. If you can’t afford to pay off your debt, you can’t afford to take care of anyone else.

With the right financial discipline, you can turn around financial struggles and get your donations underway. But always be sure to pay off your high-interest debt before giving away money to others.

This article originally appeared on Due.com


How to Spend Your Money Based on the Love Languages

By Melanie Lockert
December 3, 2018

We all prefer to give and receive love in different ways. However, this isn’t always apparent, and can result in conflicts.

Have you ever received a gift — and it’s nice, but not necessarily how you would show love and appreciation? This can make the gift-giver feel bad and you feel unsatisfied. For situations like this, it’s helpful to know your love language, as well as the love languages of those you care about.

Read on to learn more about the language of love, and how you can spend your money based on someone else’s love language.

What are the love languages?

The book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman outlines five different “love languages” that express how we prefer to receive love. These languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Knowing your love language (take this free quiz to find out or get the book) can help you communicate how you prefer to receive love. It can also help you do a better job of showing others that you love them.

According to the book and the many quizzes you can take online, everyone has a primary and secondary love language. For example, my primary love language is acts of service and my secondary love language is words of affirmation.

Whether it’s gifts for the holiday season, your anniversary or birthday, there are specific things that you can spend money on that can relate to a person’s love language. Zeroing in on this language can help you purchase appropriate gifts and show the recipients that you love them in the ways they prefer to be shown love.

Words of affirmation

The words of affirmation love language is all about using the power of words to affirm someone else. Simply stated, it’s a way to show people you love them through your words.

For example, someone with this love language appreciates a nice card with a handwritten inscription. So, make sure the card and your written message is thoughtful and personal. A book can also be a good choice. Inside the cover of the book, write a note about why the book is special and why it’s a good fit for the recipient.

Another idea for a gift is artwork or decorative signs with empowering or loving phrases. Something like “You make this house a home.” Remember, the power of words should be at the forefront of these gifts.

Quality time

In today’s frantic and busy world, it seems our attention is always divided. Someone with quality time as a love language wants your undivided attention and to spend time with you in a meaningful way.

For quality time folks, consider booking a weekend getaway — with no screens. This means no phones. No computers. Just the two of you. If it’s a friend or family member, go out for dinner or to a botanical garden and catch up. Make sure you carve out the time — so that you’re not rushing or feeling like you have to check your phone.

You can always make more money but you can’t make more time. Time is a finite resource we all have, so for people whose love language is quality time, give them the gift of your presence and time.

Receiving gifts

Another love language is receiving gifts. For these people, receiving gifts is the way they prefer to be shown love. If you know someone in your life who has this love language, don’t shortchange them when it comes to birthdays, holidays, etc.

As you get older, gifts can fall to the wayside, and you may only buy gifts for kids. That’s okay, but not if someone’s love language is receiving gifts!

If your loved one has this love language, spend your money on a gift that is important to him. Buy something that is special and has significance in your relationship. Pay attention to any hints this person may drop. Really zero in on a gift that is meaningful.

Once you’ve selected something special, wrap it up and don’t forget the card. The whole spectacle of getting a wrapped gift, unwrapping it, and enjoying it is part of the process. For these people, a gift card won’t do and a little effort goes a long way.

Acts of service

This is my primary love language and can be quite different from something like receiving gifts. In fact, once I learned my love language, I understood why lavish gifts didn’t impress me. It’s not because I’m a jerk. It’s because that’s not how I prefer to be shown love.

I prefer acts of service. For people with this love language, it’s all about the nice things that you can do to serve them. How can you help out? How can you make their life better or easier?

For example, consider booking a housecleaner or some other service that directly frees up your loved one’s time. Consider making a nice homemade meal and do all the planning and preparing. You can also book a babysitter or indulge in a savory and extravagant Postmates order. Or, perhaps create coupons for your loved ones like “good for doing the dishes” or “complimentary babysitting services”. The key to satisfying this love language is to really focus on how you can serve the person.

For me, I much prefer this to material gifts. It frees up mental space, time, and even the emotional labor of planning and doing everything myself.

Physical touch

If someone’s love language is physical touch, she prefers to be shown love through physical touch and intimacy.

For these people, a good gift may be a massage or a manicure. Another option may be to clear the schedule completely and just cuddle in bed watching Netflix with some hot cocoa. You can also consider a getaway for some much-needed alone time. Additionally, getting items that have a nice texture like silk pajamas, a velvety soft robe or cozy slippers could all be good options.

It’s important for those with this love language to feel loved through the power of touch. So if your partner has this love language, holding hands, kissing, cuddling, etc. isn’t just an extension of your relationship, it’s how they receive love from you. So even just a simple hug and kiss goodbye before you leave for work can make a huge difference in their day.

Getting the right gift for your loved one

When you spend money on someone else, you want that person to be happy, right?

By learning the five languages of love, you’ll be able to hone in on the particular languages that your loved ones relate to. And, by understanding these love languages, you’ll be on your way to giving meaningful gifts and showing just how much you care.


Make These 3 Money Moves to Protect Your Family in 2020

By Rachel Slifka
November 28, 2018

With a new year comes new goals. A new year is also an ideal time to reevaluate your financial situation. Whether you are looking to pay off debt, increase your savings, or create a new budget, there are plenty of ways to improve your financial situation in 2019.

But here’s an often overlooked financial consideration that you should take into account: insurance. Security is absolutely priceless, and you never know when tragedy can strike. Are you and your family prepared?

As we move toward 2019, take the time to research insurance options to protect you and your family, To get started, here are three essential money moves to position yourself for potential emergencies and life challenges.

1. Get term life insurance

No matter who you are or what your financial situation is, life insurance is important.

According to the Life Happens 2018 Barometer survey, over 35 percent of households would feel financial impact within one month if the primary wage earner passed away. But, according to the same survey, only three in five people have their own life insurance policy or a policy through their job.

And that’s not all. According to the Life Insurance and Market Research Association, it appears that even those who do have life insurance feel insecure with their overall coverage level. Nearly 40 percent of Americans state that they wish their spouse or significant other had more life insurance coverage. In addition, more than half of married millennials would like more life insurance coverage for their spouses or partners, according to the same survey.

Where to start? Think about purchasing term life insurance. This type of insurance is relatively inexpensive for most families. It’s also easy to understand. In a nutshell, term life insurance provides coverage for an agreed-upon period – or term – of time. For example, if you should pass away during your policy period, your insurance company pays out the benefit to your designated beneficiaries. With term life insurance, you choose how long you want your policy to last. Common term lengths are 10, 20, or 30 years. Also important to note: Once the term is over, the policy expires. Yet, for an affordable price, term life insurance provides peace of mind and a financial security blanket for your family.

TIP: Check out Ladder

If you don’t currently have term life insurance, there many ways to purchase it, including through life insurance companies and insurance comparison sites. One option is the term life insurance company Ladder. Ladder makes life insurance easy because you can apply for it directly online without having to deal with insurance brokers. Ladder offers life insurance at affordable rates with a price lock guarantee. And, best of all, it only takes five minutes to apply to get insured!

2. Purchase renters or homeowners insurance

Tragedy can strike home at any time. Are you prepared?

You never know when a pipe could unexpectedly break, or your neighbor sets off the sprinkler system in your apartment building, ruining everything. Be prepared and protect yourself and your loved ones by getting homeowners or renters insurance today.

TIP: Check out Lemonade

For starters, check out Lemonade, a new type of renters and homeowners insurance that prides itself on transparent payment options and quick payment of claims. Renters insurance rates start at just $5 per month, and $25 a month for homeowners insurance. Plus, any money that you pay that doesn’t get funneled into claims will be donated to a charity of your choice. Pretty sweet (no lemonade pun intended!)

Lemonade currently offers renters, condo, and homeowners insurance in New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Arizona, Michigan, Connecticut, and Washington D.C. They offer renters and condo insurance in Texas and Rhode Island, and renters insurance only  in Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Arkansas. Additional states and coverages are rolling out every year.

3. Don’t forget auto insurance

Bad things happen to car owners all of the time – and it can cost you an arm and a leg, even if you are not at fault. Even one small accident, like getting rear-ended, can cost you thousands of dollars if you don’t have the appropriate insurance.

Fortunately, car insurance can put your mind at ease during or after an accident. It can also be expensive. In fact, the average annual cost of car insurance paid in the United States was more than $941 in 2018, according to a study by ValuePenguin. And, depending on where you live, your state could be one of the more costly ones. Louisiana takes the medal for the state with the highest car insurance rate, costing insured residents an average of $152 a month. That’s $1,824 a year – ouch!

TIP: Check out Root

Luckily, insurance companies like Root are on a mission to make car insurance more cost-effective. Instead of just basing your rate on your driving record, Root uses an app to track your driving. Your real-time driving habits then determine your rate. If you are a responsible driver, you’ll receive a better quote. Because of this, you can save as much as 52 percent on car insurance with Root.

Give yourself the gift of security

You certainly can’t put a price-tag on security. You also shouldn’t have to spend a ton of dough to feel financially stable. So, this year, save money and protect yourself and your loved ones by making sure you have insurance.


How to Host a Frugal (But Fabulous) Friendsgiving

By Chonce Maddox
October 29, 2018

Family time is a given when celebrating Thanksgiving. Yet, while it can be great to see your relatives, Thanksgiving is all about togetherness and being grateful for everyone and everything in your life.

This means your friends, too. Make way for the rise of “Friendsgiving,” a Thanksgiving celebration with your chosen family – your close friends. If this is the year for you to host a Friendsgiving celebration, take a look at our tips for how to host a frugal but fabulous dinner fit for a king.

Make It a Potluck

The easiest way to save on your Friendsgiving dinner is to have everyone bring a dish to pass around. This way you won’t have to go through the trouble and expense of buying and preparing everything yourself.

Instead, send out a guest list and when people confirm, ask them to bring a particular type of dish. Tia Chambers, a blogger at Financially Fit and Fab loves potluck-style Friendsgiving dinners because it helps everyone save money by splitting costs with money transfer apps.

“I’ve participated in a few Friendsgivings before and they’ve all been potluck style where the host provides the main dish,” says Chambers.

Take Advantage of Food Discounts

Depending on how many people you’re having at your Friendsgiving dinner, food costs can still add up – even if you split your menu items with other people.

One thing you can do to stay within budget is take advantage of food discounts and deals around Thanksgiving. Start by saving coupons and comparing deals found in the local store circulars that come in the mail. You can also use apps like Flipp and GroceryIQ to find the best deals at stores in your neighborhood. Keep in mind that some grocery stores even offer BOGO deals on turkey and ham.

One year for Thanksgiving, for example, I was able to buy a turkey and get a whole ham for free. Of course, there were some weight and brand restrictions, but it was still a decent-sized turkey for the price (with a free ham to boot).

Another tip: If you are enrolled in a rewards program through your grocery store, see if you can get a free or discounted turkey or ham for Friendsgiving. For example, Weis Markets offers holiday rewards for Thanksgiving foods.

Send E-vites Instead of Printed Invitations

Unless it’s a wedding or baby shower, there’s really no reason to wow your friends with fancy paper invites. It takes time to design them, and money to print and ship them.

Instead, opt for free digital invitations that you can send via email or through social media This way, friends can easily respond or RSVP for the event. Facebook, for example, has a great events feature where you can create a custom private or public event and invite others.

Another thing you might want to do with your e-vite is include a sign-up sheet so guests can know which foods and items to bring to the potluck. This can help people avoid overspending or buying too much of the same thing.

“For my first Friendsgiving, we didn’t have a sign-up sheet so we ended up with four variations of mac and cheese,” Chambers cautions.

DIY Your Decor Using What You Have

If you want to decorate your home for the occasion, consider going the DIY route or just making use of items you already have on hand.

Financial writer Lindsay VanSomeren recalls when a friend of hers did this for her frugal Friendsgiving.

“My friend invited us to a Friendsgiving when I lived in Colorado. We were all students (or recent grads) who were broke, so we didn’t have much to spend. My friend got decorations from outside like pine needles, cool twigs, pine cones, etc. and used them to decorate the space. It was nice and festive for the gathering,” says VanSomeren.

For some decoration ideas, just look outside. Pine cones, for example, can be used to create beautiful table centerpieces and other decor for your Friendsgiving event.

Keep It Simple and Delegate

When it comes to your Friendsgiving, you don’t want to be the party host who is so overwhelmed that you can’t even enjoy your own event. So, keep things simple so that you can pull off a frugal Friendsgiving.

Cut yourself a break by delegating tasks to your friends (it is Friendsgiving, afterall). If each person has one dish to bring and one additional task to handle, you can focus on being the host with the most (or hostess with the mostess).

Final Word

After you have a solid plan and budget set, focus on enjoying the evening with good food and great company. And just think: The money you’ve saved on your Friendsgiving feast can be added to your savings account for your Christmas spending. Now that’s worthy of a celebration!


Want to Give Back? Here Are Some Ideas for Giving Tuesday

By Ashley Eneriz
October 21, 2018

You’ve probably found yourself in this predicament: You want to do more to give back in your community, but the holidays can swallow up your time and savings.

Luckily, you can take advantage of the upcoming Giving Tuesday on November 27 to shake off some of that holiday guilt.  What, exactly, is Giving Tuesday? It’s a global movement, now in its seventh year, that encourages individuals and companies to donate their time and money to worthy causes and organizations.

The #GivingTuesday movement raised $274 million online with more than 150 countries participating in 2017. While this day may only come around once a year, the positive effects last a lot longer. Chime, for example, is participating in the Pledge 1% movement whereby businesses pledge to give back 1% of equity, profit, product, and/or employee time for their communities. Case in point: Chime volunteers assembled 1,300 boxes of non-perishables for the senior community in San Francisco.

Will you join us in making a difference? Take a look at 7 ways you can give back in honor of Giving Tuesday.

1. Shop Smarter

Torn between using your bank account to help humanity and buy gifts for your family? Good news! You don’t have to choose. You can purchase gifts that kick a portion of the price back to charities. For example, Uncommon Goods sells unique gifts from local artisans and gives one dollar of each purchase back to charity. For affordable options, just search the “under $25” gift section for gifts ranging from coffee blends to herb gardens to unusual toys.

2. Donate Money

Interested in giving money to local charities but not sure where to give? To start, think about how you’d best like to make a difference. For example, if you love books and want to spread literacy, a contribution to Worldreader helps fund digital book distribution. Or, if you want your hard-earned dough to help Hurricane Florence victims, The American Red Cross makes donating effortless.

Try forgoing a daily latte or fast food runs and instead donate the money. Your waistline will thank you too.

3. Volunteer

If you don’t have extra money to donate at this time, no worries. You can still make an impact by giving your time. Check your city’s website, the local library or community center to find out about upcoming volunteer opportunities.

Another pro tip: Search VolunteerMatch to find volunteer opportunities that fit your interests and talents. For example, computer pros can discover ways to put their tech skills to use, while animal lovers can volunteer to care for Fido while he waits for adoption.

4. Give Blood

While needles may make you squeamish, donating blood is an easy and impactful way to give back. The whole process takes less than an hour.

The American Red Cross reports that the U.S. needs blood every two seconds. One donation can potentially save three lives.

5. Be a Good Neighbor

Look around. Sometimes the greatest needs are right in front of you. For example, perhaps you can bring in trash cans for busy families or elderly neighbors. Or, ask a new mom in your apartment building if you can bring her a meal or babysit.

Don’t know your neighbors? Now might be a good time to become acquainted. Make a goal to bring a plate or package of cookies to one neighbor’s home and introduce yourself.

6. Small Acts of Kindness

This is an easy and inexpensive way to give back.

If your day starts with a morning coffee run, pay for the coffee for the person behind you in line. Here are a couple of other ideas: Leave a simple note saying, “You are amazing. Have a good day!” on someone’s car, or buy lunch for your co-worker who is too busy to eat.

While you’re at it, remember to look up from your routine to notice life around you and think about how you can make a small difference in someone’s day.

7. Be the Motivator

You don’t need to do #GivingTuesday alone. Recruit your friends, family, or co-workers to make the day more fun. Run a marathon for charity together. Serve food in a group at a local shelter. 

Helping out is contagious. When you motivate others to participate, you stay encouraged too. By getting together with friends or colleagues, you also get to catch up during the busy season and connect on a deeper level.

Why not chat about what’s new in your life while assembling necessities for those in need? Or get to know a co-worker better while wrapping presents for underprivileged children.

Why #GivingTuesday?

We get it: You are busy and stressed about the upcoming the holidays. How in the world are you supposed to find the extra time or funds to participate in #GivingTuesday? It’s not easy, but it will be worth it. Think of this globally-celebrated day as a way to take a breather from your to-do list.

And remember: Helping someone else is not only good for the community. It’s good for you. It allows you to take a pause in your daily life and experience the joy of a more connected world.


How 5 Millennials Really Spend for the Holidays

By Gemma Hartley
November 22, 2017

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

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

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

Sami Lynn, 32

Annual Holiday Budget: $0

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

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

Meghan O’Dea, 31

Annual Holiday Budget: $200

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

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

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

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

Lisa Bryant, 23

Annual Holiday Budget: $500

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

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

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

Alaina Leary, 24

Annual Holiday Budget: $800-$1000

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

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

Colleen Stinchcombe, 26

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

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

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

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

How Should You Budget For The Holidays?

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


Here’s How to Decide How Much to Spend on Christmas Gifts

By Sean Bryant
November 20, 2017

With Christmas right around the corner, you may be finding yourself already stressed about your gift list. Are you going to have the time to buy everything? And most importantly, can you afford to buy for everyone on your list?

According to a survey done by T. Rowe Price, 64 percent of American parents admit to spending too much over the holidays. Nine percent of them dipped into emergency funds, and seven percent went as far as raiding their 401(k) or IRA accounts to pay off their holiday debts.

What happens in the weeks leading up to Christmas that cause you to spend too much? Why do these months bust your budget? For starters, a barrage of advertisements sometimes entices you to spend more than you want. You may also fall into the trap of comparing how much you spend to others in your inner and outer circles.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid spending more than you should. Read on to learn more.

Create a Plan to Rein in Holiday Spending

It feels good to give gifts. But, spending money that you don’t have will end up hurting you in the long run. To help you decide how much you can afford to spend, start by creating a budget and then commit to it. In the end, you and your wallet will be happy that you did. This may sound pretty obvious, but with two-thirds of Americans not having a budget at all, you’re not alone if you find yourself trying to curb your spending at this time of the year.

For starters, sit down and actually create a budget that works for you. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it needs to include all fixed expenses so that you can determine your disposable income. Keep in mind that saving and investing are also considered fixed expenses. If you notice that you simply don’t have much money left in your budget for holiday gifts, don’t fret. Hold a family meeting and be transparent about your financial state. From there, you can come up with a plan on how to enjoy Christmas without spending money on costly items. The last thing you want to do is put yourself into debt on your credit card or rick racking up overdraft fees with your bank.

Enlist Help

In order to prevent overspending and blowing right through your budget, it’s important to hold yourself accountable. The easiest way to do this is to enlist the help of a friend. Pick someone that you trust, someone who is a straight-shooter. Remember: the person you choose will be the one helping you stick to your budget so you don’t go overboard.

If you’re like most people, you’ll probably want to skip this step. Instead, you’ll just divvy out some cash and try to rely on your own discipline. While this may work, finding an accountability partner often works far better than going it alone.

Now It’s Time for Sensible Spending

After determining how much you can afford to spend, it’s now time to get down to the nitty-gritty: what you’ll buy, who you’ll buy for, and how much you’ll spend in total.

For starters, come up with your total spending limit based on roughly 80% of what’s in your budget. So, if you can afford $500, spend $400 instead. This will allow you a little leeway in case something comes up during the month.

Here’s where a lot of us get into trouble. Say you decide to spend $50 per recipient because that’s the amount that you factored into your budget. But, when you set out to shop, you may fall prey to the “perfect gift” scenario. For example, if you see a potential gift that costs $54.99, you may think the extra $5 is no big deal. However, now you may feel obligated to up your limit from $50 to $55 on everyone else’s gift as well. Before you know it, you’re over budget.

To reduce costs, you can simply stick to your original budget, or perhaps spend even less per person and invite your friends over for a holiday potluck dinner and game night. Chances are everyone will have a blast – without spending a lot of money.

Enjoy the Season

Now that you have a plan in place to spend sensibly, it’s time to focus on what’s really important: spending time with people you care about, exchanging thoughtful gifts and experiences, and celebrating good times. ‘Tis the season to create lasting memories without busting your holiday budget.


This is Why You Should Add Disaster Relief Donations to Your Budget Next Year

By Paul Sisolak
November 14, 2017

Two massive earthquakes hit Mexico. Wildfires raged across Northern California. Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey swept through Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas. Indeed, 2017 has seen more than its share of high-profile natural disasters, impacting thousands of people in the wake of the destruction.

What can you do to help these people rebuild, repair and recover? You can donate, even if your wallet can’t afford it. Here are some tips on how to make room in your 2018 budget for charitable giving.

How much should you donate?

Many people choose to donate 10 percent of their income. This is the amount used in faith-based giving, also known as “tithing.” But don’t succumb to the pressure of this exact percentage. Donating should make you feel good, not broke.

Look at your current budget to see what you can comfortably donate to disaster relief organizations or non-profits. Budgeting for charitable giving is a form of saving money, but this can be difficult if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. If 10 percent is too much for you, perhaps consider donating five percent, or even two percent of your current income.

To help you free up money to donate, you can start by paying yourself first, a budgeting method that helps you set aside money for savings before paying your bills. This will help you pinpoint the amount you can donate on a regular basis – before making any changes to your spending habits. An added bonus: this helps you get your finances in better shape.

Find ways to free up money

Donating money may entail mining your budget for extra dollars. It doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself financially. Starting a spending diet is one good way to trim a few dollars here and there, giving you funds to donate. You may also want to consider trimming down on day-to-day expenses, even if it means giving up your daily latte fix.

“Donating after a natural disaster is all about giving what you can, so the easiest way to budget for this selfless donation is to go without something or a few somethings that are frivolous,” says budget blogger McKinzie Pack. “For instance, go without that morning coffee stop and put that amount into your donation fund, or swap a few restaurant or take-out meals for a homemade lunch or dinner.”

If making these sacrifices saves you $30 a week, that’s roughly $120 a month, or $1,440 a year. To help you pare down or modify your expenses, consider these additional approaches:

  • Reduce cable, Internet or cell phone costs by downgrading to cheaper plans. This allows you to cut back without having to eliminate services altogether.
  • Shop on sale, or opt for generic/store brand products when you can. A few dollars here and there can add to your donations budget. Says Andrei Vasilescu, co-founder of DontPayFull.com: “To help disaster-afflicted people, you can easily reduce your shopping expenses by 10 percent. This small 10 percent of your shopping budget can save priceless lives. Shopping for a bit less expensive gift items this year will save that extra amount without any extra effort.”
  • Pay it forward to give it back. Going the extra mile and putting more money towards your existing debt will not only help you get out of debt faster, but you’ll have more available cash to donate to your charity of choice. That’s right, the faster you pay off your debt, the faster you’ll have more money. A win-win.

Generate dough for donations

Another way to generate more money to donate is to earn extra cash from a side job or part-time gig.

Marsha Jaramillo set up her own business venture with donations in mind. “I run an online business that brings in extra income,” she says. “From the monthly revenue, I set aside a certain amount each month that automatically goes to the organization of my choice.”

Jaramillo has run four Etsy.com shops for the last nine years, giving her extra money to earmark towards charitable donations.

Save by second nature

When it comes to paying yourself first, this is easiest when you can accomplish this without thinking about it.

To help you get going, we recommend using Chime’s Automatic Savings features as the perfect vehicle to drive your donation funding. Every time you spend, Chime automatically rounds up the transaction and deposits the roundup amount into your Savings account. You can also enable Chime’s Save When I Get Paid feature, which automatically moves a percentage of your paycheck directly into your Savings Account.

Automating your savings guarantees that the money will go towards your intended goals – without you having to think about it. “When you need it, you can give a sizeable amount without having to take away from your other bills,” says Robyn Goldfarb of the blog A Dime Saved. “It’s a good habit to get into, putting aside some of every check for others. It helps build feelings of giving, empathy, and gratitude for what you have.”

Choose your cause

There are a host of local, national and global organizations in need of donations and contributions. Pick one close to your heart and your values.

Perhaps you want to donate to an organization on the ground providing medical services, like the American Red Cross, or maybe you want to donate to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is seeking homes for animals displaced by Hurricane Maria. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is another great resource to learn about organizations helping those affected by recent disasters.

“You have to be really generous and strict at the same time to set your mind to save for others who have lost everything,” says Vasilescu. “If you really feel for the people struck by disasters, saving for them will seem less difficult.”

Do your research

When you decide to donate, it’s also important that you research organizations before giving away your money. While it may feel good to spontaneously make a donation, scammers exist, so it’s best to exercise caution first. These tips from the Better Business Bureau will help you better evaluate if a charity is right for you. For example, the BBB notes that you should be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims.

A final word

Regardless of where you choose to donate, if you follow our tips, you may find that you can afford to donate more than you think. With some effort, discipline and generosity, any donation — no matter how big or small — can make a difference.


11 Experiences You Can Gift This Holiday Season

By Sean Bryant
November 8, 2017

Americans enjoy buying things. We also love keeping things, even when we aren’t using them.

This is evident when you take a look at the self-storage industry where revenues are approaching $40 billion per year. By many standards, we already have too much stuff. This is no surprise because, as humans, we are in the constant pursuit of happiness. When we get something new, it brings temporary happiness until we become complacent and need to buy a new “thing” to stimulate happiness again.

With the gift-giving holiday season fast approaching, what can we do to curb this cycle?  The answer: give the gift of experiences. Instead of giving your loved one’s stuff they don’t need, you can give them an experience that provides lasting happiness and fond memories.

And, while your loved ones are enjoying the experience, you may also save money. A win-win. Read on to learn about our top experiential gift ideas, broken down by the most affordable to those that might require saving up your hard earned dollars.

Lower Cost Experience Gifts

  • Gift Certificates: These are especially beneficial when you’re giving a gift certificate to a movie theater or a theme park. The recipient will enjoy the experience and create lasting memories. You can typically decide how much you want to spend, especially if you purchase a gift card.
  • Memberships: Memberships to skate parks, gyms, performing arts theaters, museums, or clubs can offer the added benefit of hooking your loved one on a new healthy hobby.
  • Quality Time: If you simply can’t afford to buy an experience, perhaps you can gift someone with your time or skills. For example, if you’re a writer, you can offer to help a friend write a new website bio. You can even create your own homemade gift certificate for a service. Your friend will appreciate both the creativity, thought and, of course, your skills.

Mid-Range Gifts of Experiences

  • A Night or Day Out: Give the gift of an amazing experience, such as a night on the town or a day-trip to a favorite or new hiking spot. Whatever you decide upon, be creative and choose an experience that you think the recipient will always remember and appreciate.
  • A Weekend Away: Short trips don’t have to break the budget. For example, you can use your credit card rewards to book a hotel near a ski resort and spend a day or two on the slopes.
  • A Hot Air Balloon Ride: If you live close to somewhere that offers balloon rides, you will never forget your trip to the clouds. Many hot air balloon experiences include brunch, pictures, and more. If you’re on a tight budget, be sure to check for deals on sites like Groupon.

Luxury Experiences You Can Give

  • Caribbean Cruise: Most cruises are all-inclusive, so once you’ve paid for it, you won’t typically incur heavy duty expenses once you’ve set sail. But you still have to get there. You can either save up for the experience or perhaps even offset the cost of the trip by using rewards points for your air travel.
  • Cultural Food Experiences: You can give the experience of a food or drink tour no matter where you are. San Diego is known for microbreweries, New Orleans for Cajun cuisine, and the Northeast for everything lobster.
  • European Tour: One of the best ways to learn about the world is to experience it! Choose an area, plan a trip, and give the gift of discovering new ways of living.

Pick the Value of Your Experience

  • Sports Tickets: Regardless of whether you choose a weekend baseball game or season tickets to the recipient’s favorite football team, you can decide how much to spend on this one. No matter what you choose, sports fans simply love this gift.
  • Investments: This is a great option for young children. They may not appreciate it now, but they will when they grow up. Whether it’s a college savings account, whole life insurance, or a funded savings account, investing in the future is always a good idea.

Spend Money on Happiness

As the saying goes, money doesn’t make you happy. But the truth is: spending money the right way can actually make you happy.

Spending on experiences is one such way to bring about happiness. From the everyday bonding over lunch and a trip to the museum to a once-in-a-lifetime cruise around the world, experiences provide happiness and memories that last a lifetime. Give it a shot.


Should You Make Charitable Contributions When You’re Drowning In Debt?

By Kim Galeta
August 3, 2017

While millennials get an unwarranted bad rap for being lazy, they don’t usually get called generous. But, millennials are part of a truly giving generation. In fact, a recent survey showed that 84% of millennials made charitable donations in 2014.

Indeed, if you’re a millennial, you likely already donate to a cause you believe in. At the very least, you’ve probably thought about which nonprofit organization you’d like to support. This brings us to an important question: Is it a good idea to be charitable if you’re saddled with thousands of dollars in debt? As with any other money decision, your answer should depend on your personal circumstances and preferences. But know this — if you have a penchant to give, there are many creative ways to do so without getting into more debt or hurting your plans to achieve the debt-free dream. Read on to learn more.

Avoid Impulse Giving

A new study from Fidelity Charitable found that 71 percent of millennial women give to charity “in the moment.” This makes me feel proud to know that we are such a passionate generation. At the same, impulse giving can be viewed as a form of impulse spending and this can bust your budget – especially when you’re already strapped for cash.

A good rule of thumb is to come up with set times to make charitable contributions throughout the year and stick to them. I like to give weekly at church and donate a larger amount around Christmas. Since I’m still on my journey toward debt freedom, I’ve also limited my impulse giving to in-kind donations. For example, I participate in social sharing and volunteering my time (more on this one later).

In order to figure out your own giving breakdown, be sure to evaluate charitable giving against your other money priorities.

Get Your Money Priorities in Order

The purpose of creating a list of priorities is to rank your financial goals in order of importance. Once you’re clear on your priorities, you will be more likely to devise a plan to achieve your goals. For example, your list of financial goals for the next 12 months could look something like: paying off 50% of your student loans, moving out of your parents’ house and giving to two charitable causes.

These events don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to pay off all of your debt before you can start planning to move out on your own or begin donating to your favorite charities.

To get going, start with priority number one, such as paying off debt. With the debt snowball method, as soon as your smallest debt is paid off, use the freed-up money to tackle your next debt even faster. Alternatively, you could choose the debt avalanche approach where you focus on paying off the highest interest-bearing debt first.

Now that you have an action plan for your financial obligations, you can tweak your budget to determine how much of your income you can use to pay down your debt and how much you can allocate to other priorities that are important to you. When it comes to charitable giving, the good news is that you don’t have to give a lot to make an impact.

Most Nonprofits are Powered by Small Donations

Most nonprofits run on the cumulative effect of small donations and appreciate all contributions, regardless of the size. America’s Charities noted in a recent survey that “If the individuals who donated $10, $25, and $52 each decided that their donation wasn’t enough to make a difference, the 2015 pledge results for [one] particular nonprofit could easily have been $100,000 or $200,000 less…”

One simple way to free up funds for donating is to save up all your change each week. Or better yet, put out a change jar at your job if your employer will allow it.

You can also put your Chime bank account rewards to good use. If you enroll in the automatic savings program, Chime rounds up each purchase you make to the nearest dollar and places this amount in your savings account. On average, if you swipe your debit card twice a day every day for a year, you’ll have about $400 in your savings account.

You can easily donate this money to your charity of choice when #GivingTuesday rolls around.

Your Time Can Be Just as Valuable as Your Money

One of the most valuable things you can donate is your time. By volunteering with an organization, you may get the chance to work directly with individuals who are in need. Opportunities like this allow you to take a look at your own circumstances and practice gratitude more often.

On top of this, you could possibly pick up some new skills along the way which may be valuable as you seek to take your career to the next level.

Not sure where to start? Check out your town’s Salvation Army, church or library to see if they are in need of volunteers. Or register with Volunteer Match to find a local cause to get involved with.

Ask Your Employer to Help

In addition to these options, you can also check out your company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy to see how your employer can get involved. Most organizations will match employee contributions dollar-for-dollar while others will even triple or quadruple these amounts.

Some corporations also offer volunteer grant programs, which means they provide monetary donations to organizations where employees volunteer on a consistent basis. You’ll typically need to provide a time sheet confirming the hours you volunteered before your company will send in a donation. For example, a company could offer a $250 payment to a nonprofit for every 15 hours that you volunteer. This is an impressive opportunity because you can donate your time and raise money on behalf of your favorite cause.

Charitable Giving is a Smart Tax Move

Apart from the altruistic reasons of being a do-gooder, charitable giving also yields benefits come tax season. In addition to monetary contributions, many organizations also accept physical goods, such as clothing, furniture or canned food. However, before stopping by a charity with a car full of stuff you’re no longer using, check to see if the organization accepts in-kind donations. Also, remember to ask whether your contribution is tax deductible and make sure to get a receipt.

According to the IRS, you can generally deduct anywhere from 20% to 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). However, if you choose to take the standardized deduction, you won’t be able to deduct any charitable contributions.

Be Careful Who You Give to

Before you give to an organization, check to see if it has been properly vetted. There are many scams out there that claim to be legitimate yet they are actually fronts to fund personal coffers. Sites like GuideStar, GreatNonprofits, and Charity Navigator are helpful because they provide independent reviews on various nonprofits. Charity Watch also provides details on how organizations actually use the funds you donate, ensuring that you make the most intelligent giving decision possible.

Armed with these guidelines, it’s time for you to flex your altruistic muscles and see how charitable giving opens doors for those in need. You may be surprised to find your sense of purpose without breaking the bank or sacrificing your debt-free dreams.

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