Tag: savings

 

CD or Savings Account: Which One Is Better?

By Rebecca Lake
June 15, 2020

Saving money is an important step in reaching your financial goals. But there’s an important question to consider: What’s the best place to keep your savings?

Two of the most common options for saving money are certificates of deposit (CD accounts) and savings accounts. Both of these can help you grow your money. 

So, which one is better: a CD or a savings account? Well, this depends on how much interest you hope to earn and your time frame for saving. Read on to learn more. 

What is a certificate of deposit?

Certificates of deposit are time deposits. When you open a CD account, you’re committing to saving money in that account for a set amount of time. 

While your money is in the CD, it matures – meaning it earns interest. This is also called the maturity period. 

CDs typically offer fixed interest rates so you can calculate beforehand how much interest you’ll earn over the CD term, which can be as short as 28 or 30 days or as long as five years. Just be aware: If you take money out of a CD before it matures, you can be charged an early withdrawal penalty. This penalty is typically a percentage of the interest earned. 

Benefits of opening a CD account

CD accounts can be a good option if you’re looking for higher interest rates on your savings. As a general rule, the longer the CD term, the higher your APY or annual percentage yield (although sometimes banks offer special short-term CDs with a high APY). 

Keeping your money in a CD vs. savings account makes sense if you don’t need the cash right away. So, for example, if you’re planning to buy a home in the next two years, you might use a CD with a high APY to stash away your down payment fund. Or, you might use a CD to save up money so you can buy a car with cash. 

CD accounts can also be FDIC-insured. This means your money is protected up to a certain amount.

How savings accounts work

Savings accounts also let you earn interest on your money. But, they tend to be more flexible than CDs. 

Depending on the type of savings account, your interest rate might apply to all balances or be tiered – with higher balances earning a higher yield. 

Unlike a CD, however, your money isn’t locked into a savings account for a set time period. And, you can withdraw money from savings without facing an early withdrawal penalty. Just keep in mind that federal regulations limit you to six withdrawals from a savings account each month. If you go over that limit, your bank can charge an excess withdrawal penalty. 

Some other perks to savings accounts include ATM access to your savings at some bank accounts. You can also set up direct deposit into your savings account to grow your balance automatically. Opting for a savings account with no hidden fees is another way to help you hold onto more of your money.  

Like CDs, savings accounts can also be FDIC-insured. 

Benefits of opening a savings account

When you compare interest rates and minimum deposits for CDs vs. savings accounts, a CD account can potentially offer a higher APY. But sometimes CDs require a large amount of money, while it’s possible to open a savings account with a tiny amount. For example, you might need $500 or $1,000 to open a CD, but only $1 to open a high-yield savings account online. 

Savings accounts can also be a good option for holding money that you might need right away. For instance, it makes more sense to keep your emergency fund in a savings account vs. a CD since you can access it without a penalty. 

Are there any downsides to a CD vs. savings account?

Since CDs and savings accounts aren’t exactly the same, it’s natural that they have strengths and weaknesses. 

When it comes to interest rates, savings accounts can earn you a higher rate in some situations. For instance, if rates go up, banks can increase the APY for savings accounts. If you’re locked into a CD, however, the APY stays the same until the maturity term expires. 

On the flip side, a CD can be a better choice for your money if rates are dropping. For example, if you have a CD at a higher rate than savings accounts, you’ll still earn that rate even if interest rates fall. 

As CDs mature, you can also decide whether to withdraw your initial deposit with the interest or roll it into a new CD. 

How to open a CD or savings account

Opening a CD vs. savings account is a fairly similar process. Many bank accounts allow you to open either one online. You’ll just need to give the financial institution your personal information, decide how much you want to deposit initially, and make the deposit. 

Ultimately, it’s your decision whether to open a savings account or CD. So, remember to compare CDs and savings accounts at different banks. And, think about your goals and how soon you’ll need the money. From there, you’ll be able to find the best place to park your money. 

 

5 Ways to Dominate the 52-Week Savings Challenge in 2020

By Kim Galeta
January 13, 2020

Among Americans who made New Year’s resolutions for 2020, nearly half (49 percent) listed saving money as a top priority, according to a YouGov poll

Whether your goal is to create a rainy day fund, pay for your dream vacation or upgrade your car, a savings challenge is a great way to stay motivated throughout the year. 

With this in mind, did you know that the 52-week savings challenge can help you save up to $1,378 by Christmas?

If you want to boost your bank account and get closer to your money goals, take a look at how to get started with the savings challenge.

5 Ways to Dominate the Savings Challenge in 2020

Take Small Steps Daily

If saving almost $1,400 this year sounds like a big task, that’s because it is. But the good news is that with the 52-week saving challenge, you can take it one week at a time, making it much easier to accomplish.  

Here’s how the 52-week savings challenge works:

  • During the first week of the year, you’ll save one dollar. 
  • During the second week, you’ll save two dollars. 
  • During the third week, you’ll save three dollars. 

Get the idea? 

If you keep adding a dollar to each week of the year, by the last week of the year, you’ll be sending $52 to your savings account for a total of $1,378.

Don’t Be Afraid to Personalize It

The great part about this savings challenge is that you can make it your own! 

If you have an aggressive savings goal that you want to hit this year, you can consider doubling the challenge and saving two dollars in the first week of the year until you get to $104 in week 52 – for a total of $2,756. Or, you could consider reversing the order of the weeks so that you save less as the year progresses. 

The best method is the one that will keep you motivated. 

Get Visual With it

Seeing your progress is one of the best ways to stay excited about your goals. 

To help you stay on course, we’ve put together a printable chart for you to track your savings every single week throughout this challenge. You can post it to your vision board or better yet, share it on social media to stay accountable.

 

Set Weekly Reminders

Jackie Jones, founder of Sugar and Money, set weekly reminders to help her save $1,275 in 2019. 

“I made sure to schedule the drafts to my savings account the day after payday Thursdays to stay on target with the challenge,” Jones explains. 

In the end, she used some of her savings to ensure she had a debt-free Christmas. The rest went toward medical expenses.  

Just Keep Going 

Let’s face it: there will be some weeks where unexpected expenses might prevent you from saving as much as you planned. If you have to miss a week because of a real financial emergency, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, just double up your savings goals for the next week. 

You can also find new ways to cut back, like trying out a no-spend weekend, working overtime or ramping up your side hustle earnings

You’ve got this! 

Bonus: Put Your Savings on Autopilot

Trying out a savings challenge is a great way to build healthy financial habits this year. But if you really want to boost your savings account and get even closer to achieving your financial goals, we recommend automating your savings

Join the Savings Club

With these tips in mind, you’re now ready to join our savings streak and watch your bank account (and your motivation) grow! Happy New Year!

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5 Steps to Automate Your Savings

By Susan Shain
January 6, 2020

We’re all busy: with partners, pets, kids, friends, jobs, dishes, laundry… the list goes on. And at the bottom of that list, for many of us, is saving money

With so many competing demands on our time, attention, and wallet, it’s hard to prioritize our future selves.

What’s the solution? Not having to think about saving money. In other words, automating your savings.

“It brings another level of accountability, because we don’t have to remind ourselves each paycheck to save [money],” says investment advisor Peter Campbell.

“Oftentimes if we don’t intentionally automate our savings, we lose track of where our money went and end up not saving at all.”

Here’s why automating your savings is such a good idea, followed by how you can get started today.

Why you should automate your savings

Automating your savings is often called “paying yourself first.” 

While it might sound a little strange, the concept makes sense: Instead of buying gas and groceries and pizza when you get paid (and therefore paying Exxon and Trader Joe’s and Papa John’s), you first funnel a certain amount into your savings accounts (therefore prioritizing YOU and your financial goals). 

Thanks to technology, implementing this strategy is easier than ever. You can create automatic transfers from your checking to your savings accounts on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis. 

This strategy has many benefits — here are three: 

  • It takes the pain out of budgeting: When you know your savings goals are automatically being met, you don’t need to agonize over whether you should splurge on that fancy coffee today. “Automated savings are key because they allow you to entirely avoid budgeting,” says Mike Morton, a financial advisor.  “You can save toward your long-term spending goals automatically each month, and whatever is left in your everyday checking account is yours to freely spend!”
  • It eliminates the human element: We like spending money, we get tired, we make mistakes — in other words, we’re human. “We face countless decisions every minute of every day, and we can end up suffering from decision fatigue,” says Eric Roberge, a certified financial planner.  “That’s when we start making poor decisions because we’ve used up our available mental bandwidth… By removing the need to decide to transfer money to savings, you make it much easier to accomplish your goals.”
  • It curbs lifestyle inflation: It happens to so many of us: As we earn more, we spend more — leading to that phenomenon known as “I have no clue what happened to that recent raise.” Automatically saving a percentage of your income can help prevent this. That’s why Jeremy Suarez, a managing partner at Tomoro, urges consumers to flip the traditional paradigm (earn, pay expenses, save what’s left) to one that puts your future first: earn, save what you can, spend what’s left.

Convinced about the power of auto saving? Follow these 5 steps to put it into action.

1. Open multiple accounts

Although everyone’s situation is different, most people should have at least the following four financial “buckets.” We recommend opening a separate account for each one, as that will make your finances easier to automate. 

  1. Spending and bills (checking account): Your checking account should be your main spending account. After depositing your paycheck, you’ll transfer a portion to your other accounts below (that’s right: pay yourself first!), and then use the remainder to cover bills and discretionary expenses. 
  2. Emergency fund (high-yield savings account): This ultra-important account protects you when the unexpected happens. It’s wise to house this money at a completely separate bank, so you won’t be tempted to spend it. Once you’ve saved at least three to six months of living expenses, let the money sit (and hope you’ll never need to use it). Use a high-yield savings account to accrue interest over time. 
  3. Long-term goals (investment account): When we say long-term goals, we’re really talking about retirement. Even if it seems far away, remember that starting early is key. So, save for retirement in an individual retirement account (IRA) or 401(k), so you can maximize your returns over the next several decades. 
  4. Short-term goals (high-yield savings account or money market fund): Wanna buy a house? Or a new-to-you car? Earmark this account for goals that are two to five years away. Use a high-yield savings account or money market fund to earn interest while you’re saving up.

When Caroline Vencil and her husband decided to buy a house, they were living on his paycheck alone, which amounted to $17,000 per year. To save for their down payment, they opened a savings account at a new bank, and automatically transferred money into it each week. 

“I started with $25, thinking it would be tough. And when it barely went noticed, I increased it by $5 at a time until it felt uncomfortable,” Vencil says.

The Vencils saved their down payment of $3,200 in less than a year. 

“Automating my savings actually changed my life,” she says. 

2. Determine your contributions

How much you funnel toward each of the above accounts will depend completely on your earnings and your goals.

Your next step is creating a savings plan. What do you want to achieve? What can you afford to save? 

When Lauren Mochizuki became a nurse’s assistant, she asked her employer to automatically transfer 15% of every paycheck into her 401(k). 

“I completely forgot about it until two years later,” she says. 

“I looked up the balance to find that I had over $20,000 saved!” 

Let’s say you bring home $2,000 per month after taxes and health insurance. Your rent and other set bills (like credit card debt, car insurance, utilities, and student loans) amount to $1,150 per month. 

Here’s how you might automate the rest of the money on a monthly basis: 

  • $500 remains in your checking account to cover groceries, gas, and other variable expenses
  • $150 transfers to a high-yield savings account for your emergency fund
  • $150 transfers to an IRA or 401(k) for retirement
  • $50 transfers to a second high-yield savings account for short-term goals

With this plan, you’d be saving 17.5% of your take-home income each and every month — without lifting a finger! 

If you have an irregular income, this will obviously be much more challenging. But you can still open each account, and set up small transfers that won’t be likely to cause an overdraft. 

Then, if you have a good week, you can funnel the extra money toward your highest priority: perhaps paying down credit card debt or bolstering your emergency fund. 

The most important thing is to get into the habit of paying yourself first. That way, when you get a raise or eliminate a bill, you can seamlessly increase the amount you’re saving. 

“For those struggling to get started, don’t be afraid to contribute 1% of your income with the goal of increasing it down the line,” says R.J. Weiss, a certified financial planner and founder of The Ways to Wealth.

3. Set up your transfers

If your employer offers direct deposit, this is easy: Just ask if you can split your paycheck among different bank accounts. 

That’s what John Pham of The Money Ninja did. 

“I opened a new bank account specifically for an emergency fund. Then, through my employer, I changed my paycheck’s direct deposit settings to transfer 5% of my salary to that bank account. It was out of sight and out of mind. Now, it has enough for me to pay my expenses for six months,” says Pham.

Alternatively, you can open an online bank account that does the leg work for you: Chime, for example, lets you automatically send a certain percentage of each paycheck into your savings account. 

Don’t have direct deposit? You can still schedule automatic transfers for a few days after you usually cash your paycheck, or on a particular day at the beginning of each month. 

4. Round up the change

Another smart way to automate your savings is to sign up for a bank account that allows you to save each time you swipe. 

Not to toot our own horn again, but at Chime, you have the option to round up each debit card transaction, helping you save money without thinking about it. 

Say you make a purchase for $4.75 — we’ll take 25 cents from your Spending Account and deposit it into your Automatic Savings Account. The money will add up over time, without you even noticing it’s gone.

5. Slowly increase your contributions 

Once you’ve set up your automatic transfers, your future is basically on auto-pilot. All you need to do is check your accounts regularly — perhaps every week, then eventually every month — to make sure everything’s running smoothly. 

You should also try to increase your contributions over time. If you get a raise (go, you!) and start making $200 extra per month, don’t just boost your spending; boost your savings, too. Making conscious efforts to increase the amount you’re paying yourself will dramatically increase your financial security. 

In conclusion, Morton, the financial advisor, says: “We underestimate the mental drain of having to make decisions on how to spend, what to spend on, and how much to save. Why revisit that each and every month? Save yourself the time and mental effort and automate your savings.”

Ready to start? Sign up for a free Chime account today. 

 

Kick Off the New Year with A Savings Streak

By Gisele Goes
December 26, 2019

Let’s be real: Most people are not very good at keeping their New Year’s resolutions. In fact, a study published on ResearchGate showed that less than 10% of people ever fulfill their New Year’s resolutions!

We don’t want you to start 2020 with goals that sound good, but are unrealistic. We want to help you find a healthy rhythm of financial habits, so that you can reach your savings goals slowly, over the course of the year.

Why should I start saving?

 The majority of Americans have a hard time saving money. (Not spending! 🤑) In fact, a Federal Reserve survey found that 40% of Americans have less than $400 saved up in the bank. We can’t predict the future, but a Savings Account can help you be prepared for it! 

  1. Reach your goals faster

Whether you’re dreaming of a new car or a vacation, our Automatic Savings features can help you [save more/put more money away] every day, without even thinking about it. 

  1. Stay ahead of the unexpected

We all run into those expenses out of left field—like a flat tire, or a cracked phone screen. When life catches you off guard, an emergency fund can help you be 10 steps ahead.

What’s a Savings Streak?

streak definition

You know when your favorite sports team is on fire and keep winning, game after game?

Instead of scoring points, a Savings Streak is when you save money for several days (or weeks!) in a row. It’s not about how much you save, it’s about building a new money habit that works with your lifestyle. And sticking to it every single day.

How it works

savings streak checklist

We’re here to help you find your rhythm, and gradually reach your goals in 2020. Follow these 4 simple steps to hit your Savings Streak:

Step 1: Set your intention

The intentions you put in will guide your rhythm all year, so take your time with this.

Step 2: Design your system

Customize the perfect combination of features that work for your lifestyle. 

Step 3: Find your rhythm

After it’s all set up, give yourself time to build good habits and get in the groove. 

Step 4: Hold yourself accountable

Share your Savings Streak with a friend who will help keep you on track.  

What to expect

We’re here to help you every step of the way. Each week in January, we’ll share updates to help you make the most of your Savings Streak. 

Week 1 (January 1-7)

Share your intention with the world in our social media sweepstakes. 

Week 2 (January 8-15)

Learn how to take advantage of our Automatic Savings features.

Week 3 (January 16-23)

Join our Savings Challenge to nail that new rhythm once and for all.

Week 4 (January 24-31)

Refer your friends and keep track of your progress together for the rest of the year.

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What Is a High-Yield Savings Account? And How Do You Get One?

By Susan Shain
November 25, 2019

Have you ever checked how much interest you’re earning on the money in your bank account? If you did, you’d probably be shocked — and not in a good way. 

That’s because, when it comes to traditional savings accounts, you’re hardly earning any interest at all. The national average annual percentage yield, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), is just 0.09%. 

Translation: If you had $1,000 in savings, you’d earn a measly 90 cents in interest over the course of an entire year. (And you would still need a couch-cushion dime to order off the dollar menu!) 

Lately, however, that’s changing. More and more banks have introduced “high-yield savings accounts” that feature exponentially better rates. 

Here’s what you need to know about these newfangled accounts, plus how to find the right one for you. 

What Is a High-Yield Savings Account?

High-yield savings accounts are similar to traditional savings accounts, with one major difference: They offer a much higher annual percentage yield (APY). 

Your account’s APY differs from its interest rate because it also considers the frequency of compounding (when you earn interest on your interest). Most savings accounts compound daily or monthly.

Simply put, APY is what you’ll earn each year: A $100 account with 1% APY, for instance, would close out the year with $101. The higher the APY, the more money you’ll earn.

Whereas most traditional savings accounts have APYs of less than a tenth of a percent, the new cadre of high-yield savings accounts offer APYs of 2% or more — a 20-fold increase. 

Savings Variable Rate Definition

It’s important to note that APYs aren’t fixed. So even if you sign up for a savings account touting a 2.5% APY today, it could drop tomorrow. This is why you should monitor your statements carefully to stay on top of APY fluctuations. 

Why You Should Care About High-Yield Savings Accounts

Although it might sound like just a few percentage points, a slightly higher APY can make a big difference over time. 

Let’s say you’ve managed to set aside $10,000 for your emergency fund (#nailedit). Since you want the money to be easily accessible, you’ve decided to keep it in a savings account.

Here’s the problem: You’re not sure which type of savings account you should put your cash into. A traditional account at your old-school bank? Or a high-yield account at an online-only upstart?  

Let’s take a look at the numbers. 

If your interest compounded daily for 10 years, here’s how much you’d accrue: 

  • Traditional Savings Account (0.09% APY) = $90 
  • High-yield Savings Account  (1.6% APY) = $11,720  

How Do High-Yield Savings Accounts Work? 

High-yield savings accounts work just like traditional savings accounts: You deposit money, earn interest, then withdraw the money when you need it. 

Due to federal regulations, you can only withdraw money up to six times per month — but that’s true for all types of savings accounts. 

When you sign up for a high-yield savings account, the only real differences in your experience will be A) a higher APY, and B) a lack of physical branches. You’ll find most high-yield savings accounts at online-only banks, which have less overhead and can pass along the savings to you. 

High Yield Savings Vs. CD Vs. Money Market

High-Yield Savings vs. CDs 

When you put money into a high-yield savings account, you can withdraw it whenever you’d like. 

But when you put money into a certificate of deposit (CD), you’re committing to keeping it there for a certain amount of time — somewhere between several months and five years. If you need to withdraw the money early, you’ll likely have to pay a penalty.

In the past, CDs had exponentially higher APYs than savings accounts — which was what made them attractive. When compared to high-yield savings accounts, however, CDs aren’t all that impressive. 

So, unless you’re positive you won’t need your money for a while (or are looking for a reason to lock it up), we’d recommend high-yield savings accounts instead. 

High-Yield Savings vs. Money Market Funds & Accounts

Rather than simply earning interest from your bank, money market funds and accounts invest in highly-liquid, low-risk instruments such as CDs and U.S. Treasuries. 

  • Money market accounts generally come with slightly higher returns than high-yield savings accounts, and, like most savings accounts, are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000.
  • Money market funds are slightly riskier, with a potential for higher returns — and are not backed by the FDIC.

Though money market funds have historically generated higher returns (more risk = more reward), Lawrence Solomon, a certified financial planner with Mercer Advisors, says that’s not been the case of late. 

“Ironically, right now you can actually get better yields on savings and money market accounts than you can with money market funds,” says Solomon.

How to Use High-Yield Savings Accounts 

According to Peter M. Ferriello, a certified financial planner with Mollot & Hardy, Inc. Wealth Advisors, high-yield savings accounts are best “for those looking to keep funds in cash, possibly for use as their emergency fund, as they will receive a higher rate of return than they would in their checking account.”

To create your emergency fund, set up an automatic transfer from your checking account. Every week, two weeks, or month, transfer a set amount until you’ve amassed enough money to cover three to six months of expenses. 

Then, start funneling any additional savings — for retirement, your children’s education, etc. — into investment accounts that earn a higher return. Don’t be like the average millennial, who holds 65% of their assets in cash (ie: savings accounts), and is missing out on significant returns in the long-run. 

“The real rate of return on cash has not kept pace with the long-term rate of inflation,” says Solomon. 

So, for long-term goals, he recommends investing in the market, where you can “grow your money faster than inflation is shrinking it.” 

How to Choose a High-Yield Savings Account

Although choosing a high-yield savings account isn’t much different than choosing any other bank account, here are three things to keep an eye out for: 

    • Balance or spend requirements: Some banks require you to open your account with a certain balance, maintain a minimum monthly balance, set up direct deposit, or spend a certain amount each month. Before signing up, make sure you can meet these requirements. Better yet, look for a bank account that doesn’t have any requirements – like Chime!
    • Fees: To help them account for their increased APYs, some banks with high-yield savings accounts charge monthly maintenance fees. Since fees of any kind are lame, we always recommend looking for a fee-free bank
    • Insurance: Your chosen bank should be backed by the FDIC. (Some high-yield savings accounts have come under fire for not being FDIC-insured.)

If you’re not sure which to choose, just listen to Riley Poppy, a certified financial planner with Ignite Financial Planning: “I tell my clients to follow four basic rules when choosing an account: safe, liquid, free, and competitive yield.” 

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How to Lower your Utility Bills

By Rebecca Lake
October 14, 2019

Whether you rent or own, looking for tips on how to lower utility bills might be at the top of your budgeting to-do list

According to ApartmentList, the typical renter spends around $100 to $150 per month on utilities. For homeowners, the average monthly cost climbs to around $320

If you’re trying to save money or pay down debt, then cutting utility costs can help free up some much-needed extra cash. 

Take a look at these tips to help you lower your utility costs.

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Save on Heating and Cooling

Running the A/C all summer and the heat all winter can take a toll on your wallet but here are some ways to keep more cash in your pocket. 

1. Invest in a smart thermostat: Smart thermostats can be set to adjust temperature automatically, based on a schedule you set. 

“When you can set your thermostat for waking, leaving, returning and sleep you should be able to consistently set a lower temp during the times when you don’t need to keep your home warmer,” says Ryan Guina, founder of The Military Wallet and Cash Money Life

According to Energy Star, a programmable thermostat can save you up to 10% per year in energy costs. 

2. Use ceiling fans: Ceiling fans can help redistribute warm or cold air throughout your home, meaning your thermostat doesn’t have to work as hard and your electric bill shrinks. They can also take the pressure off your HVAC system, which can help it last longer so you don’t have to replace it as often.

3. Seal leaks around windows and doors : Caulking leaks around windows and doors is a quick fix that can cost $30 or less and save you anywhere from 10% to 20% on energy costs

It makes no sense to crank the heat or AC when your home has air leaks, which is pretty much the same as throwing money out the window,” says Michael Outar, owner of Savebly

4. Heat and cool strategically: According to Brian Stoddard, director at Homewares Insider, the best strategy for managing utility costs is to avoid heating or cooling unused rooms.

“Firmly shut the doors and make sure there’s no draft or a possibility of the heat or air-conditioned air spreading inside them,” he says.  You can also close off vents in those rooms and close blinds to prevent air from escaping. 

5. Service your system regularly: A simple strategy for how to lower utility bills is to make sure your heating and cooling unit is in good working order. Changing the air filters monthly, clearing away leaves or other debris from around the outside unit, and servicing your HVAC system in the spring and fall can help keep it running efficiently. 

6. Choose energy-efficient upgrades: Heating and cooling systems aren’t built to last forever and if it’s time to replace yours, choose your new model wisely. “Air conditioners, particularly older ones, can use a significant amount of energy,” says Glenn Wiseman, sales manager at Top Hat Home Comfort Services

“Energy Star estimates you can save 20% on cooling costs by replacing your central AC unit if it’s more than 10 years old.” 

Save on Electricity Bills

Wondering how to cut an electric bill in half? Or at the very least, spend less on powering your apartment or home? Give these money-saving measures a try. 

1. Trade out old lightbulbs: A simple way to save money on your light bill is to simply switch to energy-saving light bulbs, Outar says.

“It’s an upfront investment that will save you money for years to come.” 

2. Make sure to turn your lights off: Remember how your mom always told you to shut off the lights when leaving a room? The same principle applies now.  “If you want to save on your electrical bills, turn off your lights! If you’re not home, nothing should be on,”  says Ashley Peeling, regional marketing manager at CLV Group

Another bonus tip: Always unplug your phone or laptop once it’s done charging. 

3. Lower the temperature on the water heater: If your hot water heater is powered by electricity, you could save a few dollars on your bill by reducing the temperature. This means less power is used to heat the water in the tank. Another option is to choose a tankless hot water heater instead, which can be 24% to 34% more energy-efficient than a traditional hot water heater. 

4.Check the temperature on the refrigerator : Setting your fridge temp too low can cause it to work overtime, running up your electric bill in the process. Instead, set the temp to the ideal range of 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit

 

Water Bill Savings Tips

Water keeps your dishes and clothes clean, not to mention keeping you hydrated. But, it can eat up a chunk of your utility budget. 

So, last but not least, let’s take a look at how to save money on a water bill. 

1. Take shorter showers: Baths can be a water-waster but so can showers if you’re lounging under the stream for 10, 20 or 30 minutes at a time. A simple fix for how to save money on water bills?  “Take shorter showers and don’t let the water run while you’re either brushing your teeth or shaving,” Peeling says. 

2. Cut water use in the kitchen: If you normally do dishes in the sink with the water running, turn off the tap and consider using the dishwasher instead. Make sure you’re running full loads so you’re minimizing water use as much as possible. 

3. Opt for low-flow fixtures faucets: Leaving your faucet or showerhead running can waste water, even when you’re taking a shower at lightning speed. Opting for low-flow fixtures is more efficient. 

“They use less water than traditional faucets and showerheads, which will save you money,” Outar says. 

4. Batch laundry and skip the hot water cycle: Instead of doing laundry whenever the mood strikes, pick one day a week to clean your clothes. Run full loads only and use high-efficiency detergent, which can help your machine run more efficiently and get your laundry cleaner. And of course, skip the warm or hot water cycle and only wash clothes in cold or cool water instead. 

What Will You Do With the Money You Saved on Utility Bills?

If you’re using these tips to slash your heating, cooling, power or water bills, don’t let the money you’re saving go to waste. Tuck it away in a savings account until you’re ready to use it for one of your financial goals. 

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How to Create a Five-Year Financial Plan

By Rebecca Lake
October 4, 2019

You might have a five year plan in place for your career but what about your money? 

When it comes to setting financial goals – and achieving them – planning can play a big part in your success.

If you’re wondering how to create a plan to manage your money and reach certain financial milestones over the next five years, we’re here to help. 

Here’s what you need to know to create a roadmap to reach your money goals. 

Write Down Specific (but Realistic) Financial Goals

You might already have some money goals in mind but if you don’t, you can kickstart your 5 year plan by setting some. Setting clear goals can help you get organized so you can outline the actionable steps you need to take to pursue them.  

When you’re setting goals for your finances, there are a few rules to follow. For example, it helps to make sure your goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

If you don’t recognize the above points, they spell out a formula for setting “S.M.A.R.T.” goals. The idea is that when you’re setting financial goals, or any other kind of goal, you have a specific target you’re working toward that’s measurable. From there, you can reasonably achieve your goals within a set time frame. 

As you write out your money goals, focus on the realistic part and really think about what you can do in the next five years. For example, maybe you can’t bank $1 million on your current salary. But, you could start a side hustle or angle for a promotion at work to increase your income so you can save an extra $5,000 or $10,000 a year. 

Keeping your goals realistic and tied directly to your current financial situation can help you avoid getting frustrated and throwing in the towel. When your goal is challenging but still within reach, it’s much more motivating to keep pushing forward, especially if you can see yourself making progress month over month or year over year. 

Once you’ve honed in on some specific goals, break them down even more. So, say you want to save $5,000 a year for the next five years. That’s a big number to start with but if you break it down monthly, it comes out to $416 and change. If you divide it up weekly, it’s $96.15. And daily, it’s just under $14.

Saving at $14 a day may not seem as intimidating as saving $5,000 a year. You can take that smaller number and look at different ways to cut back on spending or increase your income daily, weekly and monthly to hit your goal. 

What Should Your Financial Plan Look Like? Four Factors to Consider

Personal financial planning is just that – personal. 

Your five year financial plan may be completely different from your best friend’s or sibling’s. So, as you create your plan, keep in mind that it should be tailored to fit you and your financial circumstances.

If you’re not sure what to include, there are some guidelines you can follow. For example, there are four key questions to focus on. Take a look:

1. How Much Debt Will You Pay Off in Five Years?

If you’re carrying debt – whether this includes student loans, credit cards, a car loan or a personal loan – you may be in a hurry to pay it off. After all, it’s easy to get discouraged if you’re constantly thinking about how your debt is keeping you from getting ahead financially. 

Yet, when shaping your 5 year plan, you have to think about how much debt you can realistically pay off over that time period. The other side of the coin is thinking about which debts you want to get rid of first. 

Here’s where it’s helpful to look at the emotional versus financial cost of debt. Say you have $10,000 in credit card debt and $10,000 in student loans. The credit card debt carries a 17% APR versus 7% on the student loans. 

The credit card debt is costing you more financially, but the student loans can take a mental toll on you if you’ve been paying them down for several years. You may be fed up and ready to wipe them out. 

Looking at your debt through that lens can help you shape your financial plan and debt repayment strategy. If you want to get rid of the highest interest debt first, for example, you might choose the debt avalanche method. On the other hand, the debt snowball method could help you get a quick win by paying off your lowest balance debt first. 

Either method can help you pay off your debt over the next five years. Crunching the numbers can help you decide which makes the most sense, based on your budget and other financial goals.

2. Will You Incur Any New Debt Over the Next Five Years?

While you may be focused on getting rid of your high-interest credit card debt or knocking out student loans, it’s also important to consider whether you’ll add to your debt load while working your five year plan. 

For example, you may decide to get a car loan to purchase a new car. Or you may venture into home ownership, which would require you to take on a mortgage loan.

Those goals may be just as important to you as paying off debt. The key is finding a way to include them in your financial plan. That might mean rethinking your budget to find extra money you can save, while still keeping up with your debt repayment. 

If saving money for a down payment on a home is a goal, for example, look at what you can do to make that easier. Using direct deposit to automatically send part of your paycheck to your Chime savings account, for instance, can help you grow your money without having to think about it. 

3. Will You Be Making More Money?

Ideally, what you’re taking home in your paychecks now will be higher five years down the road. You may get a promotion or pay raise, move to a new company that offers a higher salary or start a profitable side hustle that brings in some extra income. 

The upside of that is that you should have more money to put toward debt, add to cash savings or get started with saving for retirement. The downside is that you may face more temptation to spend once you start earning more. 

Accounting for higher income in your 5 year plan can help you make the most of those extra dollars instead of giving into lifestyle inflation. A good way to stay on track with this is to review your budget monthly and yearly to see how your expenses, savings and debt payoff amounts change over time. 

You can then compare that to your income the previous year and your expected income next year. For instance, say your total annual income is $60,000. You spend $55,000 of that but you know that next year you’ll get a 2% raise, putting an extra $1,200 in your pocket before taxes. 

You could then add that money into your financial planning efforts, based on how you prioritize your goals. 

Likewise, if paying off debt is most important, you could put all of that extra cash toward what you owe. On the other hand, if you’re balancing saving with debt, you might do a 60/40 or 50/50 split instead. 

4. How Much Will You Save in Five Years?

Saving is a pretty broad term and while it’s good to stash money away, those dollars should have a purpose. As you’re handling your personal financial planning to-do list, think about which savings goals matter most. 

That might include:

  • Creating or growing your emergency savings fund. 
  • Setting money aside to buy a home. 
  • Putting money into an IRA for retirement. 
  • Saving money so you can become a digital nomad and travel the world.
  • Building a cash cushion so you and your spouse can start a family.
  • Creating a startup fund so you can eventually start your own business. 

If you have multiple savings goals, prioritizing them can help you decide where to put your dollars first. Out of these examples, putting money into emergency savings and a retirement account are two biggies. An emergency fund can help you cover unexpected expenses, without having to borrow money. 

With retirement savings, it’s best to start putting money aside as soon as possible. That’s because when you invest money in an IRA or in your 401(k) at work, you can cash in on the power of compounding interest. Essentially, this is the interest you earn on your interest. The longer your money has to grow and compound, the bigger your nest egg can be by the time you’re ready to retire. So, if you haven’t started saving for retirement yet, there’s literally no time to waste. 

As you size up your savings goals, consider how much you can afford to allocate to each one over the next five years. Go back to your budget and income expectations to make sure those goals are realistic. And if you can’t save for everything at once, prioritize what’s most important to your financial health first and start from there. When you reach that savings goal, cross it off your list and continue working your way down. 

Create Year-to-Year Check-Ins to Help Accomplish Your Finance Goals

One thing to keep in mind about financial planning is that your five year plan isn’t necessarily set in stone. 

It’s good to revisit your plan at least once a year to review your written financial goals and make sure you’re still on track to reach them. If you need to make a few tweaks because of a life change or career change, don’t panic. And don’t stress out if you aren’t able to hit every goal exactly to a tee. Ultimately, creating a 5 year plan is about building a strong foundation of personal finance skills to help you create a brighter financial future. 

 

What’s the Difference Between a Checking and Savings Account?

By Jackie Lam
September 27, 2019

If you’re opening a bank account, you might be scratching your head wondering: What’s the difference between a checking and savings account? And do I need both? 

Perhaps you are like some people (*raises hand*), and you once thought a checking and savings account were one and the same thing.

Yet, while these two types of accounts may be similar, they also have some key differences.

In this guide, we’ll go over the benefits and downsides of each type of bank account. We’ll then examine the differences between the two. Lastly, we’ll break down how having both bank accounts can help you with your money goals.

What is a checking account?

Checking accounts are also known as “transaction accounts” because they’re designed for just that: taking money out and putting it in. In other words, a checking account is where you keep money for your day-to-day spending.

Here’s what checking accounts are typically used for: 

  • Receive or send cash through a payment platform (aka Venmo, Cash app)  
  • Deposit your paychecks
  • Set up automatic payments for your bills 
  • To send checks 

You may be wondering: Does a debit card go along with a checking or savings account?

The answer: A debit card is typically linked to your checking account. So, when you use your debit card to pay for groceries or take money out of an ATM, that money is coming from your checking account. 

The pros of a checking account:

You can freely make unlimited deposits and withdrawals as money in a checking account is very liquid. Plus, if you have bills to pay, you would generally pay for them using funds in your checking account. 

The cons of a checking account: 

Checking accounts aren’t really the best place to keep your money for the long-term. Why? Checking accounts don’t always pay interest. 

What is interest, you ask? It’s what your bank pays you for holding onto your money. If a checking account does pay interest, the APY (annual percentage yield) tends to be tiny.

 

What is a savings account? 

A savings account is where you stash money to save up for future goals.

Whereas money in a checking account is meant to be fluid and moves in and out of your account frequently, you’d keep money in a savings account for longer periods of time. You may even use your savings account to save for a rainy day or pay for unexpected expenses. 

The pros of a savings account:

Savings accounts are a safe way to stash your money. They can also be an easy way for you to “hide” money from yourself so you don’t spend it. Having a savings account can also hold you accountable for your future goals, like saving enough money for a vacation, new car, etc.

Plus, you can typically earn some interest (more than you would in a checking account).

The cons of a savings account: 

Whereas checking accounts offer unlimited transactions, savings account often have restrictions on the number of transactions you can make. That’s due to a regulation from the Federal Reserve, which limits withdrawals or transfers in your savings account or money market to six a month. 

You also typically won’t earn as much in interest as you would in an investment account, such as a 401(k) or IRA. According to the FDIC, the average interest rate for savings accounts was 0.09% in August 2019. And while some online banks and high-yield accounts offer a higher interest rate, they also usually require higher minimum amounts. 

Money market accounts and certificates of deposits (CDs) also usually offer higher interest rates than savings accounts. They tend to have higher minimum deposits and other requirements. For instance, a CD requires you lock in the money for an agreed-upon period of time, such as 12 months, 18 months, and so forth. If you withdraw your money preemptively, you’ll be dinged with a penalty.

What is the difference between a checking and savings account? 

Now that you understand what both checking and savings accounts are, you can likely see why you can use both of them.

For example, you can pull money from your checking account to make purchases, pay bills, and pay back your friend for last week’s dinner — that sort of thing. Your savings account, on the other hand, is where you keep money for a longer period of time. 

When you have both a checking and a savings account, you can easily auto-save money so it goes from your checking to savings account. On the flip-side, if the unexpected happens and you need access to your money in a pinch, you can easily transfer money from your savings to your checking account. 

Unlike investment accounts, the FDIC insures money in each checking, savings, money market and certificate of deposit account up to $250,000 per depositor, per bank. 

What should you look for when you’re shopping for a checking and savings account?

When determining the best accounts for you, here are a few key things you should carefully consider:

1. Fees

Banks make their money in a number of ways. And one of them is through charging fees. 

Common fees for checking accounts include the following:

  • ATM fees

If you’re taking money out of an ATM outside your bank’s network, you’ll typically be charged a fee of anywhere from $2 to $4. Note that sometimes a bank might charge an ATM fee that’s in-network. It just depends on the bank.

  • Overdraft fees

If you don’t have enough money in your account for a transaction, you might be dinged with an overdraft fee. Overdraft fees typically are $35 per transaction. Whereas there might be a cap on how many overdraft fees you can incur in a given day, this cap can be anywhere from four to six a day. 

  • Monthly fees

If you don’t maintain the minimum amount in your account, you might be charged a monthly fee. Some banks waive the monthly checking fee if you set up direct deposit. 

  • Foreign transaction fees

If you’re traveling out of the country and use your debit card, you might be charged a fee for each transaction. It’s typically 3% of each transaction.

  • Card replacement fee

If you lose your debit card, the bank might charge a fee to send you a new one. This could range anywhere from five dollar to $25 a card. 

 

Common fees for savings accounts include:

  • Monthly maintenance fees

Sometimes you can avoid checking account fees by maintaining a minimum balance or setting up automatic transfers, making a minimum number of transactions in a given month, or having multiple accounts with the same bank. 

  • Overdraft fees

You might be able to avoid an overdraft fee if you have overdraft protection. However, this oftentimes comes with a fee. And even if you have overdraft protection, you might be charged a fee, but just a lower one.

To avoid being dinged with fees, look carefully at the minimum requirements to avoid monthly fees, or look for a bank that doesn’t charge any fees whatsoever. 

  • Minimum balances

Depending on your bank, there might be a minimum balance to open an account. If you don’t maintain this minimum balance, you might incur a fee. 

2. Convenience

Now that we’ve covered all the fees you might have, it’s time to take convenience into account when choosing a bank.

For starters, check the bank’s network of ATMs and see where you can withdraw money from a fee-free ATM. Also, do some poking around to see how their customer service fares. Is it easy to get a hold of someone? Are they helpful once you get someone on the line or via chat?

If you’d prefer a brick and mortar bank, check on the hours and make sure the bank is open at convenient times. And regardless of whether you bank at a local branch or an online bank, make sure they have an intuitive and easy-to-use app. This way you can do all your banking – from requesting checks to paying bills to splitting a bill with friends – from the palm of your hand.  

How to open a checking or savings account

Whether you’re opening an account online or with a brick-and-mortar bank, you’ll need to supply personal information such as your name, address, and date of birth. You’ll also need to provide an ID number, like your Social Security Number. 

If you have questions about the bank’s services or opening an account, reach out to the bank to talk to someone in customer service. 

And here’s a final pro tip: Want to avoid unnecessary fees? Chime is on a mission to change banking, with no hidden fees.  

 

What is a Sinking Fund and Why do You Need it?

By Erica Gellerman
September 18, 2019

When I first started budgeting, sticking to my monthly spending amount was tough. 

I’d start the month thinking I had a great budget and would only spend a certain amount. But by mid-month, I’d fall off track. Car insurance was due! I needed to buy a birthday gift for my Mom! Things that I needed to pay for were constantly catching me by surprise. As a result, I’d blow my budget more often than not. 

The frustrating part was that I had failed to plan for known expenses.

After my many failed budgeting attempts, I heard about a sinking fund, a type of savings account that you use to set aside money to save for something in the future. I immediately began using a sinking fund for a couple of things, and eventually began using it to automatically save for just about everything.

Not only has a sinking fund helped me stop blowing through my budget each month, but it’s also helped me become more thoughtful and proactive with how I spend and save my money. 

What is a sinking fund?

A sinking fund lets you set aside a little bit of money each month to help prepare you for an expense. Sinking funds can be used for things like: Christmas presents, travel, a new car, or an irregular bill.

Some examples of uses for sinking funds:

  • Attending weddings
  • Buying a new car
  • Paying insurance bills
  • Making property tax payments

When you’re transferring a little bit of money into a sinking account monthly, you’re prepared for times when you have to make the bigger cash outlays. 

Why is a sinking fund important?

No matter how well you plan out your monthly expenses, if you’re not factoring in known, irregular expenses, you’ll be totally unprepared when you’ve got to come up with the cash. This can leave you reaching for your credit card every year at Christmas and starting off the New Year in debt. The average American racks up over $1,000 in debt during the holidays

But what if you were able to set aside $50, $75, or $100 each month to save for the holidays? You’re now suddenly much more in control of your spending and not risking your financial health to buy presents. 

Aside from helping you prepare for things like excess holiday spending, a sinking fund can help you dream big when it comes to your money goals. Want to buy a new car and pay cash? Want to take your family on a special and memorable summer vacation? A sinking fund can help you do these things. 

Sinking fund vs emergency fund: what’s the difference?

If you put money into an emergency fund, you might wonder if that’s really different than setting aside money in a sinking fund account. Yes, it is! Money in an emergency fund is to be used for emergencies only — like your car breaking down or losing your job. It’s a bad habit to withdraw money from your emergency fund for non-emergencies. When a real emergency strikes, you’ll be happy to have that cash set aside. 

Money in a sinking fund is used for known expenses like car insurance, vacations, or holiday gifts. You can spend that money without worry or guilt because you’ve planned and saved for it. 

Sinking fund examples

How does this actually work? Let’s say you have three things that you’ve decided to save for with a sinking fund: car insurance, Christmas gifts, and summer vacation. 

For each expense, list out how much it will cost and when you’ll need the money:

  • Car insurance: $600 bill due in six months
  • Christmas gifts: $750 saved in three months
  • Summer vacation: $1,200 saved in 10 months

Next, break each expense into the monthly amount you need to save:

  • Car insurance: $100 per month
  • Christmas gifts: $250 per month
  • Summer vacation: $120 per month

Once you have that calculated, include those expenses in your monthly budget and set up a monthly automatic transfer to your sinking fund. 

How to create your own sinking fund

You’re hopefully now sold on how great a sinking fund is. And it gets even better because it’s easy to start your own sinking fund. Here are the steps you’ll want to take:

  • Open a bank account specifically for your sinking fund. You’ll want to keep this money separate from your other accounts so you know exactly how much you have available to spend. 
  • Make a list of all the things you want and need to save for, as well as how much they cost. Think about things you have to pay for (taxes, insurance) and the things you’re excited to spend money on (vacations, a new car, holiday spending).
  • For each item, figure out the date when you’ll need the money. 
  • Calculate how much you need to save each month to have enough saved by the time you need it.
  • Set up monthly automatic transfers to move money into your sinking fund account. And yes, you really do need to make these transfers automatic

Are you ready to start a sinking fund? 

If you find yourself constantly unprepared when irregular expenses pop up and reaching for your credit card, it’s time to start a sinking fund. 

While it’s a little extra work up front to set up your transfers, it’s worth it in the long run. To start your sinking fund, check out the Chime app that makes mobile banking easier.  And you can use the automatic savings feature to reach your sinking fund goals even faster.

Now that you know how to get started, what are you excited to save for? 

 

 

How to Save Money from Your Salary

By Rebecca Lake
September 16, 2019

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