You have all kinds of financial goals you want to achieve, but where should you begin? There are so many different aspects of money management that it can be difficult to find a starting point when trying to achieve financial success. If you’re feeling lost and overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Progress can be made in tiny, manageable steps. Here’s are 16 small things you can do right now to improve your overall financial health. (See also: These 13 Numbers Are Crucial to Understanding Your Finances)
1. Create a household budget
The biggest step toward effective money management is making a household budget. You first need to figure out exactly how much money comes in each month. Once you have that number, organize your budget in order of financial priorities: essential living expenses, contributions to retirement savings, repaying debt, and any entertainment or lifestyle costs. Having a clear picture of exactly how much is coming in and going out every month is key to reaching your financial goals.
2. Calculate your net worth
Simply put, your net worth is the total of your assets minus your debts and liabilities. You’re left with a positive or negative number. If the number is positive, you’re on the up and up. If the number is negative — which is especially common for young people just starting out — you’ll need to keep chipping away at debt.
Remember that certain assets, like your home, count on both sides of the ledger. While you may have mortgage debt, it is secured by the resale value of your home. (See also: 10 Ways to Increase Your Net Worth This Year)
3. Review your credit reports
Your credit history determines your creditworthiness, including the interest rates you pay on loans and credit cards. It can also affect your employment opportunities and living options. Every 12 months, you can check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) for free at annualcreditreport.com. It may also be a good idea to request one report from one bureau every four months, so you can keep an eye on your credit throughout the year without paying for it.
Regularly checking your credit report will help you stay on top of every account in your name and can alert you to fraudulent activity.
4. Check your credit score
Your FICO score can range from 300-850. The higher the score, the better. Keep in mind that two of the most important factors that go into making up your credit score are your payment history, specifically negative information, and how much debt you’re carrying: the type of debts, and how much available credit you have at any given time. (See also: How to Boost Your Credit Score in Just 30 Days)
5. Set a monthly savings amount
Transferring a set amount of money to a savings account at the same time you pay your other monthly bills helps ensure that you’re regularly and intentionally saving money for the future. Waiting to see if you have any money left over after paying for all your other discretionary lifestyle expenses can lead to uneven amounts or no savings at all.
6. Make minimum payments on all debts
The first step to maintaining a good credit standing is to avoid making late payments. Build your minimum debt reduction payments into your budget. Then, look for any extra money you can put toward paying down debt principal. (See also: The Fastest Way to Pay Off $10,000 in Credit Card Debt)
7. Increase your retirement saving rate by 1 percent
Your retirement savings and saving rate are the most important determinants of your overall financial success. Strive to save 15 percent of your income for most of your career for retirement, and that includes any employer match you may receive. If you’re not saving that amount yet, plan ahead for ways you can reach that goal. For example, increase your saving rate every time you get a bonus or raise.
8. Open an IRA
An IRA is an easy and accessible retirement savings vehicle that anyone with earned income can access (although you can’t contribute to a traditional IRA past age 70½). Unlike an employer-sponsored account, like a 401(k), an IRA gives you access to unlimited investment choices and is not attached to any particular employer. (See also: Stop Believing These 5 Myths About IRAs)
9. Update your account beneficiaries
Certain assets, like retirement accounts and insurance policies, have their own beneficiary designations and will be distributed based on who you have listed on those documents — not necessarily according to your estate planning documents. Review these every year and whenever you have a major life event, like a marriage.
10. Review your employer benefits
The monetary value of your employment includes your salary in addition to any other employer-provided benefits. Consider these extras part of your wealth-building tools and review them on a yearly basis. For example, a Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) can help pay for current health care expenses through your employer and a Health Savings Account (HSA) can help you pay for medical expenses now and in retirement. (See also: 8 Myths About Health Savings Accounts — Debunked!)
11. Review your W-4
The W-4 form you filled out when you first started your job dictates how much your employer withholds for taxes — and you can make changes to it. If you get a refund at tax time, adjusting your tax withholdings can be an easy way to increase your take-home pay. Also, remember to review this form when you have a major life event, like a marriage or after the birth of a child. (See also: Are You Withholding the Right Amount of Taxes from Your Paycheck?)
12. Ponder your need for life insurance
In general, if someone is dependent upon your income, then you may need a life insurance policy. When determining how much insurance you need, consider protecting assets and paying off all outstanding debts, as well as retirement and college costs. (See also: 15 Surprising Insurance Policies You Might Need)
13. Check your FDIC insurance coverage
First, make sure that the banking institutions you use are FDIC insured. For credit unions, you’ll want to confirm it’s a National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) federally-covered institution. Federal deposit insurance protects up to $250,000 of your deposits for each type of bank account you have. To determine your account coverage at a single bank or various banks, visit FDIC.gov.
14. Check your Social Security statements
Set up an online account at SSA.gov to confirm your work and income history and to get an idea of what types of benefits, if any, you’re entitled to — including retirement and disability.
15. Set one financial goal to achieve it by the end of the year
An important part of financial success is recognizing where you need to focus your energy in terms of certain financial goals, like having a fully funded emergency account, for example.
If you’re overwhelmed by trying to simultaneously work on reaching all of your goals, pick one that you can focus on and achieve it by the end of the year. Examples include paying off a credit card, contributing to an IRA, or saving $500.
16. Take a one-month spending break
Unfortunately, you can never take a break from paying your bills, but you do have complete control over how you spend your discretionary income. And that may be the only way to make some progress toward some of your savings goals. Try trimming some of your lifestyle expenses for just one month to cushion your checking or savings account. You could start by bringing your own lunch to work every day or meal-planning for the week to keep your grocery bill lower and forgo eating out. (See also: How a Simple "Do Not Buy" List Keeps Money in Your Pocket)
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This article is from Alicia Rose Hudnett of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:
5 Money Moves to Make Before You Turn 40
7 Important Money Moves to Make in the New Year, According to Financial Advisors
The Pros and Cons of Paying Off Your Debt Early
5 Things Keeping You From a Life of Financial Independence
I am asked all the time whether I think it was worth it to go to college as a real estate investor and real estate broker. I got my degree in business with an emphasis in finance. I think the degree helped me and I am glad I went to college but I don’t think … Read more
Sound money management is an important part of a solid financial strategy. Youâll want to have some of your money set for retirement in a traditional or Roth IRA. Still, other money might be saved for your kidsâ college, a down payment on a house or other longer-term goals. And then you might have an emergency fund as well as a checking account that you use to pay your monthly bills and expenses. Each of these buckets of money can be in a different kind of account. In this article, weâll look at some of the best checking accounts.
What makes a good checking account
Before we look at some of the best checking accounts, itâs a good idea to talk about what makes for a good checking account. A checking account is an account that you would typically use to pay your ongoing monthly expenses. It is more and more rare to actually write paper checks, and instead, you would typically use a debit card or cashless payment account linked to your checking account.Â
With a checking account, some features to look for include no monthly or maintenance fees, a low minimum amount to open an account, the rate at which they pay interest, and any account opening bonus they might offer. The interest rate that checking and savings accounts pay is tied to the federal funds rate and usually varies over time. As of 2020, the interest rates are quite low, and many checking and savings accounts do not pay any interest at all. Also keep in mind that even if your account pays you 1% interest, youâre still losing money to inflation. So you wouldnât want to keep any long-term investment money in a checking or savings account.
With all that being said, letâs take a look at some of the top checking accounts available.
Discover Cashback Debit
Discoverâs checking account offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month, which is one of the few debit cards that offer a reward on ongoing purchases. The Discover Cashback Debit account also comes with no monthly maintenance or other fees, no fees to withdraw at over 60,000 ATMs worldwide and no fees for insufficient funds.
CapitalOne 360 Checking
The CapitalOne 360 Checking account has no account minimums or fees. It currently offers a 0.10% APY on balances, though you can also open a no-fee CapitalOne 360 Performance Savings account which offers 0.65% APY as of the time of this writing. CapitalOne also has thousands of branch offices nationwide, so you can do your banking online or in-person. The CapitalOne 360 Checking account offers three different options if you happen to overdraft your account – Auto-Decline, Next Day Grace and Free Savings Transfer.
Fidelity Cash Management Account
Fidelityâs Cash Management Account also offers no account fees or minimum balances. It also reimburses ATM fees nationwide, though only offers 0.01% APY on account balances. Fidelity makes it easy to transfer money between your checking account, savings accounts and any retirement accounts you have with Fidelity. Plus, the Fidelity Rewards Visa offers 2% cash back on all purchases, which you can redeem into your Fidelity Cash Management Account or any other Fidelity account.
Wealthfront Cash Account
Wealthfrontâs Cash Account offers a high-interest checking account (0.35% APY as of this writing) with no fees. And Wealthfrontâs convenient account dashboard lets you easily move money between your checking account and any investment or retirement accounts that you have with them. They also offer a service where you can get access to your paycheck up to two days early if you direct deposit into your Wealthfront Cash Account
HSBC Premier Checking
HSBCâs Premier Checking account also offers no fee on ATMs nationwide or for everyday banking transactions, but does charge a monthly maintenance fee if you donât have at least $75,000 in combined accounts or direct deposits of at least $5,000 monthly. They are currently offering a promotion where you can earn 3% as a welcome bonus, up to $600. Youâll get 3% on qualifying direct deposits, up to $100 per month, for the first six months of having your account.
Chase Total Checking
Chase Total Checking is currently offering a welcome bonus of $200 when you open a new account and have a direct deposit made to your account in the first 90 days. Chase Total Checking is currently paying an interest rate of only 0.01% APY. Also, there is a $12 monthly maintenance fee which can be avoided if you either:
Have direct deposits totaling $500 or more
Have a balance at the beginning of each day of $1,500 or more
Have an average beginning day balance of $5,000 or more in any combination of all of your Chase accounts
The post Best Checking Accounts 2020 appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Mia, 35 and her husband Luke, 36, earn a combined $200,000 per year. But after paying their mortgage and rental property loan, as well as car and student loans, child care, and other living expenses, the Los Angeles couple has a difficult time socking away money in savings.
They do have about $10,000 in a rainy day account, which could cover their expenses for about one month. But adding to the account has been proving difficult.
Luke feels confident that if they ever run into a serious financial bind, they could always take advantage of their low-interest home equity line of credit. But Mia isnât comfortable with that route. Sheâd prefer to have more cash on hand.
A bit more background on the couple and where they stand financially:
Luke recently transitioned to a new job as a government attorney, which he loves, but it also meant taking a 50% pay cut. Thatâs impacted their ability to spend and save as comfortably in recent months. It was an unexpected opportunity for which the couple wasnât financially prepared.
Mia and Luke would like an objective look at their finances to discover ways to reduce spending, increase saving and possibly find new revenue streams. âIâd love to figure out a side-hustle, so that I can eventually leave my job and spend more time with the kiddos,â says Mia, who works in marketing. Other goals including affording a new car in a couple of years and remodeling their primary residence.
Hereâs a closer look at their finances:
Combined salaries: $200,000 per year
Net rental income: $6,000 per year
Car and student loan debt. $13,000 combined at 2%
Mortgage at primary residence $845,000 at 3.625%
Mortgage at rental property $537,000 at 3.5%
HELOC on primary residence: $200,000 (have not used any of this credit)
Mia: contributes about $1,000 total each month, including a company match
Luke: contributes about $1,000 total each month, including a company match
Emergency Savings: $10,000
College Savings: The couple has 529 college savings funds for both of their children. They allocate their cash back rewards from credit cards towards these accounts. Currently they have about $10,000 saved for their 4-year old and $5,000 saved for their 1-year old child.
Top Monthly Spending Categories:
Primary residence mortgage: $4,000
Primary residence property tax: $1,100
Childcare: $1,900 (daycare for both children, 3 days per week. Grandmother watches other 2 days per week)
Food (Groceries/Eating Out): $800
Car and student loan payments: $450
From my point of view, I think the biggest hole in Mia and Lukeâs finances is their rainy day savings bucket. Relying on a HELOC to cover an unexpected cost is not really an ideal plan. In theory, the money can be used to cover expenses and the interest rate would probably be far lower than the rate on a credit card. But in reality, tapping a HELOC means falling further into debt. They do have $10,000 saved, which is good. But itâs not great.
If not for an emergency, the savings can allow them to achieve other goals. The couple mentioned wanting to buy a car in a couple years. This will probably require a down payment. Having cash can also assist with renovating their home.
Here are my top three recommendations:
Transfer Rental Income Towards Savings
Their previous residence is now a rental property. It nets them about $500 per month. The couple is using this money to pad their living expenses. Can they, instead, move this into their savings account for the next few years? The way I see it, they should have a proper six month cushion in savings to tide them over in an emergency and/or if they need money to address their goals. This rental income isnât going to get them to this 6-month reserve too quickly, but itâs a start.
Carve Out Another $500 for Savings
While I donât have a detailed breakdown of all of the familyâs monthly expenses, I can bet that they can pare their expenses to save an additional $300 to $500. A few dinners out, some unplanned purchases at the grocery store (because you took the kids) and a couple monthly subscription plans can easily add up to $500 in one month. Whenever I want to save more, I schedule money to transfer out of my checking and into savings at the top of the month. I do this automatically and only spend whatever money I have left. Iâd suggest doing this for the first month and seeing how it feels. Do you really notice the money is gone? If yes, revisit some of your recurring costs and decide on trade-offs. If Lukeâs salary has decreased by 50% then the couple needs to make some modifications to their spending. The math, otherwise, wonât add up.
Can Mia Adjust Her Work Structure?
Mia is interested in a side hustle, too, to bring in extra income (which I highly recommend). Sites like tutor.com, care.com, taskrabbit.com and others can help you find quick work within her preferred time frame. In the meantime, can she and her husband find ways to adjust their work hours or commute, which saves gas, time and money?
Miaâs commute to work is one hour each way. Thatâs ten hours per week stuck in a car. And my guess is that while Miaâs driving, sheâs paying for daycare, for at least some of those hours. Could she work from home one or two days per week to reduce her time in traffic, as well as her child care costs?
Bottom line: When Lukeâs income dropped by 50%, the couple didnât adjust spending. It may help to take pen to paper and imagine they were building their budget for the first time. Take all of their expenses off the table and rebuild the budget and lifestyle to better align with their adjusted income. Start with the absolute needs first: housing, insurance, food. And really scrutinize all other expenditures. Unless itâs an absolute need that they can easily afford it, consider shutting it off until theyâve reached a 6-month savings pad.
The post We Earn $200,000 and Canât Save. Help! appeared first on MintLife Blog.
If you’re a busy individual and have no time for the day-to-day management of your money, you may need to consult a financial consultant.
Beyond being busy, however, there are major turning points in your life where working with a financial consultant is absolutely necessary.
For instance, if you’re approaching retirement, you’ll have to figure out how much money you need to live during your non-working years.
So what is a financial consultant? And what do financial consultants do? In this article, we’ll run you through situations where financial consulting makes sense.
We’ll show you where you can get a financial consultant that is ethical and who will act in your best interest, etc.
Of note, hiring a financial consultant is not cheap. A fee-only financial advisor can charge you anywhere from $75 to $300 per hour. If your situation is simple, you may not need to hire one.
However, hiring a financial consultant in the situations discussed below is worth the cost.
Related: 5 Mistakes People Make When Hiring A Financial Advisor
What is a financial consultant?
A financial consultant is another name for financial advisor. They can advise you on a variety of money subjects.
They can help you make informed decisions about managing your investments and help you navigate complex money situations.
Moreover, a financial consultant can help you come up with financial goals such as saving for retirement, property investing and help you achieve those goals.
To get you started, here’s how to choose a financial advisor.
5 Reasons You Need To Hire A Financial Consultant:
1. You have a lot of credit card debt.
Having a lot of credit card debt not only can cause you severe emotional distress, it can also negatively impact your ability to get a loan (personal loan or home loan).
For instance, if you see 50 percent of your income is going towards paying your credit card debt, then you need professional help to manage debt. Your best option is to find a financial consultant.
Luckily, the SmartAsset’s matching tool is free and it helps you find a financial consultant in your area in just under 5 minutes. Get started now.
2. You are on the verge of bankruptcy.
If you have way too much debt and can’t seem to pay it off within a reasonable time, another option for you is to file for bankruptcy.
Although bankruptcy will free you from most of your debts, avoid that option if you can.
One reason is because it can have a long, negative impact on your credit file. Once you go bankrupt, the bankruptcy will be on your credit report for a long time.
Working with a financial consultant can help you come up with different strategies. They may advise you to consider debt consolidation, which can significantly lower interest rates.
Speak with the Right Financial Advisor
You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals. Find one who meets your needs with SmartAssetâs free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
3. You’re ready to invest in the stock market.
If you’re thinking about investing in the stock market, then the need for a financial consultant is greater. Investing in the stock market has the potential of making you wealthy.
But with great returns come great risks. The stock market is volatile. The price of stock can be $55 today, and drops to $5 the next day.
So, investing in the stock market can be very intimidating. And if you’re a beginner investor and unsure about the process, it is wise to chat with a financial advisor to see if they can benefit you.
A financial consultant can help build an investment portfolio and help manage your investments.
4. You’re starting a family.
If you’re just got married seeking a financial consultant is very important. A financial advisor can help you figure out whether you should combine your finances, file taxes jointly or separately.
You also need to think about life insurance as well, in case of death of one spouse. And if you’re thinking of having kids, you need to think about saving for college to ensure the kids’ future.
Turning the job over to a financial consultant can save you a lot of money in the long wrong and is worth the cost.
Related: Do I Need A Financial Advisor?
5. You’re just irresponsible with money.
If you make emotionally based financial decisions all of the time, you’re buying things without planning for them, you may be irresponsible financially and therefore need professional advice.
If you’re spending money on expensive items when you could be planning and saving for retirement, then you may need a financial consultant.
You may find yourself having trouble saving money. Then it may make sense to speak with a financial advisor.
Speak with the Right Financial Advisor For You
You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAssetâs free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
The post 5 Reasons You Need To Hire A Financial Consultant appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
You just learned of the passing of a loved one. During this stressful and emotionally taxing time, you also find out that you’re receiving an inheritance. While you’re grateful for the unexpected windfall, knowing what to do with an inheritance can bring its own share of stress.
While the amounts vary greatly, the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances reports that an average of roughly 1.7 million households receive an inheritance each year. First words of wisdomâresist the urge to spend it all at once. According to a study funded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one-third of people who receive an inheritance spend all of itâand even dip into other savingsâin the first two years.
Not me, you say? Still, you might be asking, “What should I do with my inheritance money?” Follow these four steps to help you make smart decisions with your newfound wealth:
1. Take time to grieve your loss
Deciding what to do with an inheritance can bring with it mixed emotions: a sense of reprieve for this unexpected financial gain and sadness for the loss of a loved one, says Robert Pagliarini, certified financial planner and president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors.
During this time, you might feel confused, upset and overwhelmed. âA large inheritance that pushes you out of your financial comfort zone can create anxiety about how to best manage the money,” Pagliarini says. As an inheritor, Pagliarini adds that you may feel the need to be extra careful with the funds; even though you know it is your money, it could feel borrowed.
The last thing you want to do when deciding what to do with an inheritance is make financial decisions under an emotional haze. Avoid making any drastic moves right away, such as quitting your job or selling your home. Some experts suggest giving yourself a six-month buffer before using any of your inheritance, using the time instead to develop a financial plan. While you are thinking about things to do with an inheritance, you can park any funds in a high-yield savings account or certificate of deposit.
âA large inheritance that pushes you out of your financial comfort zone can create anxiety about how to best manage the money.â
2. Know what you’re inheriting
Before you determine the things to do with an inheritance, you need to know what you’re getting. Certified financial planner and wealth manager Alex Caswell says how you use your inheritance will largely depend on its source. Typically, Caswell says an inheritance will come in the form of assets from one of three places:
Real estate, such as a house or property. As Caswell explains, if you receive assets from real estate, you will transfer them into your name. As the inheritor, you can choose what to do with the assetsâtypically sell, rent or live in them.
A trust account, a legal arrangement through which funds are held by a third party (the trustee) for the benefit of another party (the beneficiary), which may be an individual or a group. The creator of the trust is known as a grantor. âIf someone inherits assets through a trust, the trust documents will stipulate how these assets will be distributed and who ultimately decides how they are to be invested,” Caswell says. In some cases, the assets get distributed outright to you; in other instances, the trust stays intact and you get paid in installments.
A retirement account, such as an IRA, Roth IRA or 401(k). These accounts can be distributed in one lump sum, however, there may be requirements related to the amount of a distribution and the cadence of distributions.
When considering things to do with an inheritance, know that inherited assets can be designated as Transfer on Death (TOD) or beneficiary deeds (in the case of real estate), which means the assets can be transferred to beneficiaries without the often lengthy probate process. An individual may also bequeath cash or valuables, like jewelry or family heirlooms, as well as life insurance or stock certificates.
Caswell says if your inheritance comes in the form of investment assets, such as stocks or mutual funds, you’ll want to think of them as part of your own financial picture. âAll too often, we see individuals end up treating inherited assets as a living extension of their passed relative,” Caswell says. Consider how the investments can be used to support your financial goals when thinking about things to do when you get an inheritance.
An average of roughly 1.7 million households receive an inheritance each year.
3. Plan what to do with your financial gain
Just like doing your household budgeting, it’s important to “assign” your inheritance to specific purposes or goals, says Pacifica Wealth Advisors’ Pagliarini. Depending on your financial situation, the simple concepts of save, spend and give may be a good place to start when deciding on things to do when you get an inheritance:
Bolster your emergency fund: You should have at least three to six months of living expenses saved up to avoid unexpected financial shocks, such as job loss, car repairs or medical expenses. If you don’t and you’re deciding what things to do with an inheritance, consider parking some cash in this bucket.
Save for big goals: Now could be a good time to boost your long-term savings goals and pay it forward. Things to do when you get an inheritance could include putting money toward a child’s college fund or getting your retirement savings on track.
Tackle debt: If you’re evaluating what to do with an inheritance, high-interest debt is something you could consider paying off. Spending on debt repayment can help you save on hefty interest charges.
Reduce or pay off your mortgage: Getting closer to paying off your homeâor paying it off entirelyâcan also save you in interest and significantly lower your monthly expenses. Allocating cash here is a win-win.
Enjoy a little bit of it: It’s okay to use a portion of your inheritance on something you enjoy or find rewarding. Planning a vacation, investing in more education or paying for a big purchase could be good moves.
Donate funds to charity: Thinking about your loved one’s causes or your own can continue legacy goals and provide tax benefits.
4. Don’t get tripped up on taxes
When deciding what to do with an inheritance, taxes will need to be considered. “It is extremely important to be aware of all tax ramifications of any decision around inherited assets,” Caswell says. You could be required to pay a capital gains tax if you sell the gift (like property) that was passed down to you, for example. Also, depending on where you live, your inherited money could be taxed. In addition to federal estate taxes, several U.S. states impose an inheritance tax and/or an estate tax.
Since every situation is unique and tax laws can change, when considering things to do with an inheritance, consult a financial advisor or tax professional for guidance.
Make your windfall count
Receiving an inheritance has the potential to change your financial picture for good. When thinking about the things to do when you get an inheritance, be sure to give yourself ample time to grieve and to understand all of your options. Don’t be afraid to lean on the experts to get up to speed on any tax and legal implications you need to consider.
Planning can go a long way toward making the right decisions concerning your newfound wealth. Being responsible with your inheritance not only helps ensure your financial future, but will also honor your loved one’s legacy.
The post 4 Smart Things to Do When You Get an Inheritance appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
When most parents offer to fund their childâs tuition, itâs with the expectation that their financial circumstances will remain relatively unchanged. Even with minor dips in income or temporary periods of unemployment, a solid plan will likely see the child through to graduation.
Unfortunately, what these plans donât tend to account for is a global pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy and job market.
Now, many parents of college-age children are finding themselves struggling to stay afloat – much less afford college tuition. This leaves their children who were previously planning to graduate college with little or no debt in an uncomfortable position.
So if youâre a student suddenly stuck with the bill for your college expenses, what can you do? Read below for some strategies to help you stay on track.
Contact the University
Your first step is to contact the university and let them know that your financial situation has changed. You may have to write something that explains how your parentâs income has decreased.
Many students think the federal government is responsible for doling out aid to students, but federal aid is actually distributed directly by the schools themselves. In other words, your university is the only institution with the authority to provide additional help. If they decide not to extend any more loans or grants, youâre out of luck.
Ask your advisor if there are any scholarships you can apply for. Make sure to ask both about general university scholarships and department-specific scholarships if youâve already declared a major. If you have a good relationship with a professor, contact them for suggestions on where to find more scholarship opportunities.
Some colleges also have emergency grants they provide to students. Contact the financial aid office and ask how to apply for these.
Try to Graduate Early
Graduating early can save you thousands or even tens of thousands in tuition and room and board expenses. Plus, the sooner you graduate, the sooner you can get a job and start repaying your student loans.
Ask your advisor if graduating early is possible for you. It may require taking more classes per semester than you planned on and being strategic about the courses you sign up for.
Fill out the FAFSA
If your parents have never filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because they paid for your college in full, now is the time for them to complete it. The FAFSA is what colleges use to determine eligibility for both need-based and merit-based aid. Most schools require the FAFSA to hand out scholarships and work-study assignments.
Because the FAFSA uses income information from a previous tax return, it wonât show if your parents have recently lost their jobs or been furloughed. However, once you file the FAFSA, you can send a note to your university explaining your current situation.
Make sure to explain this to your parents if they think filing the FAFSA is a waste of time. Some schools wonât even provide merit-based scholarships to students who havenât filled out the FAFSA.
Get a Job
If you donât already have a job, now is the time to get one. Look at online bulletin boards to see what opportunities are available around campus. Check on job listing sites like Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn. Make sure you have a well-crafted resume and cover letter.
Try to think outside the box. If youâre a talented graphic designer, start a freelance business and look for clients on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. If youâre a fluent Spanish speaker, start tutoring other students. Look for jobs where you can study when things are slow or that provide food while youâre working.
Ask anyone you know for suggestions, including former and current professors, older students and advisors. If you had a job back home, contact your old boss. Because so many people are working remotely these days, they may be willing to hire you even if youâre in a different city.
It may be too late to apply for a Resident Advisor (RA) position now but consider it as an option for next year. An RA lives in the dorms and receives free or discounted room and board in exchange for monitoring the students, answering their questions, conducting regular inspections and other duties.
Take Out Private Loans
If you still need more money after youâve maxed out your federal student loans and applied for more scholarships, private student loans may be the next best option.
Private student loans usually have higher interest rates and fewer repayment and forgiveness options than federal loans. In 2020, the interest rate for federal undergraduate student loans was 2.75% while the rate for private student loans varied from 3.53% to 14.50%.
Private lenders have higher loan limits than the federal government and will usually lend the cost of tuition minus any financial aid. For example, if your tuition costs $35,000 a year and federal loans and scholarships cover $10,000 a year, a private lender will offer you $25,000 annually.
Taking out private loans should be a last resort because the rates are so high, and thereâs little recourse if you graduate and canât find a job. Using private loans may be fine if you only have a semester or two left before you graduate, but freshmen should be hesitant about using this strategy.
Consider Transferring to a Less Expensive School
Before resorting to private student loans to fund your education, consider transferring to a less expensive university. The average tuition cost at a public in-state university was $10,440 for the 2019-2020 school year. The cost at an out-of-state public university was $26,820, and the cost at a private college was $36,880.
If you can transfer to a public college and move back home, you can save on both tuition and housing.
Switching to a different college may sound like a drastic step, but it might be necessary if the alternative is borrowing $100,000 in student loans. Remember, no one knows how long this pandemic and recession will last, so itâs better to be conservative.
The post My Parents Can’t Afford College Anymore – What Should I Do? appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Nobody wants to pay off student loans longer than they have to, yet far too many people are stuck in lengthy repayment plans that seem like theyâll never end. While income-driven repayment plans backed by the federal government ask you to pay down loans for 20 to 25 years before leading to loan forgiveness, even the âstandardâ repayment plan for federal loans lasts for a full ten years. No matter how you cut it, thatâs a long time!
With that in mind, you should know that itâs possible to pay off student loans faster if you are willing to think outside the box and forge your own path along the way. However, not all early repayment plans will work for every borrower, so itâs important to think through how to pay off student loans faster in a way that helps you reach your goals in a common sense way.
One strategy many borrowers use to pay off student loans faster is refinancing loans with a different lender. Not only do some student loan refinancing companies offer lower interest rates and flexible repayment terms, but you could even earn a cash bonus just for signing up.
Compare Refinance Rates
9 Ways to Pay Down Student Debt Faster
The sooner you can pay off all your student loans, the quicker you can move on with your life. Here are some strategies to consider that can help you pay off your student loans much faster than a traditional repayment plan allows.
What You’ll Learn
Make More Than the Minimum Monthly Payment
Try the Debt Snowball
Refinance with a Private Lender
Enroll in Autopay to Score a Lower Interest Rate
Make Payments While Youâre in School
Live Like a Poor Student
Earn Money On the Side
Throw All âFound Moneyâ Toward Your Student Loans
Ask Your Boss for Help
Make More Than the Minimum Monthly Payment
The minimum payment on your student loans is the absolute minimum amount youâre supposed to pay, but thereâs nobody stopping you from paying more. And, if you make extra payments the right way, you could easily pay down the principal of your student loans at a faster pace.
Unfortunately, many student loan servicing companies wonât automatically apply extra payments you make toward your loan principal. Instead, theyâll use any payment overages to âpay aheadâ on your loans and continue making the next monthâs payments as well as the prepaid interest for future months.
If you decide to pay extra toward your student loans, youâll need to specify that you want overage payments to go toward the principal of your balance. You can do this over the phone or by written message when you mail in your monthly student loan payment, but make sure you donât forget.
Try the Debt Snowball
The debt snowball method for getting out of debt is worth considering if you have several different student loan bills to juggle each month. This strategy requires you to make a list of your student loans and each of their balances. From there, youâll start the next month by paying the minimum amount on all your largest loan balances and as much as you can on the smallest balance you have. Over time, youâll continue paying as much as you can toward your smallest balances until theyâre gone, at which point youâll âsnowballâ all your extra payments toward the next smallest debt.
With the debt snowball, youâll slowly pay off your smallest loan balances until you only have the few largest balances left. Eventually, youâll only have one student loan left and youâll pay all the cumulative payments of all the others toward this debt until itâs gone, too.
The benefit of this strategy is the momentum youâll gain as you knock out small balances one at a time. Not only will your balances go down, but youâll have fewer loan payments to make each month as well.
Refinance with a Private Lender
You can also consider refinancing all your student loans into one new one, which has the potential to save you more money than any other strategy on this list. Many private student loan companies offer fixed interest rates as low as 3.50% right now, which is lower than any federal student loans offer. Of course, you do have to have an income and good credit or a cosigner to qualify.
How much can you save by refinancing your student loans? That really depends on how much debt you have, your current interest rate, and your current repayment timeline.
However, letâs say that you have $10,000 in student loans with an APR of 7% and you just started a 10-year repayment plan. In that case, you would pay $121.33 per month for ten years and a total of $4,559 in interest before your loan was paid off.
If you were able to refinance your loans into a new private loan with the same repayment plan at 3.50%, however, you could pay just $96.56 per month for ten years and only $1,587 in interest during that time. Better yet, you could refinance into a new 7-year loan, pay $132.13 per month, fork over only $1,099 in interest during that time, and shave three full years off your repayment timeline.
Compare Refinance Rates
Enroll in Autopay to Score a Lower Interest Rate
Some student loan companies offer discounts to customers who are willing to sign up for automatic payments. This discount is usually around .25% off, but all you have to do is allow your student loan payment to be debited from your checking account automatically each month.
These programs make it easy to stay on track with your student loan payments, and they also ensure you are never late. All you have to do is make sure you have the cash in your account before the date your payment is automatically debited each month.
Make Payments While Youâre in School
If you havenât graduated from college yet, itâs not too early to start preparing for the inevitability of that first student loan payment. Further, it can be extremely smart to make payments while youâre still in school if some of your student loans are unsubsidized.
Whatâs the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized student loans? By and large, the biggest difference is the fact that the federal government pays the interest on subsidized loans while youâre still in college, but they do not extend this benefit to unsubsidized student loans. By making payments on unsubsidized loans while youâre still in school, you can keep student loan interest at bay and keep your loan balances from ballooning until you have a job and can attack your student loan debt with all your might.
Live Like a Poor Student
Itâs tempting to inflate your lifestyle once you graduate from college and start bringing in a paycheck, but this is the opposite of what you should do if your goal is getting out of debt faster. The longer you can live at home with your parents or share an apartment with roommates, the more money you can continue throwing toward your student loans. And, if you can hold off on buying a house or financing a new car, youâll be in even better shape when it comes to destroying your student loan debt at a record pace.
Finance guru Dave Ramsey frequently gives the following advice, which I absolutely agree with:
âLive like no one else now so you can live like no one else later.â
Living the poor student lifestyle for as long as possible is a smart way to pay down debt when youâre first starting out.
If you have roommates, keep them.
If youâre managing to get by on Ramen, keep it up.
Once your student loans are paid off and in your rearview mirror, you can start using your income to pay for the lifestyle you really want.
Earn Money On the Side
If you want to pay your debts down even faster, earning more money is one approach that always works. The key here is making sure you use the extra money you earn to pay off your student loans instead of paying for stuff you donât need.
Weâve shared myriad side hustles here on Good Financial Cents in the past, from 65 side hustles you can do from your kitchen table to ideas on starting an online business. Some of the easiest ways to earn money include driving for Uber or Lyft, starting a blog, or learning an online skill people will pay you for. You could become an online freelance writer or sell your design or data entry skills with a website like Fiverr.com. Heck, you could walk dogs in your spare time or mow peopleâs yards in your neighborhood.
The basic principle is the same no matter what side hustle suits your fancy. Pour as much time or effort into your side hustle as you can, and use all the extra money you earn to pay off your student loans.
Throw All âFound Moneyâ Toward Your Student Loans
If you get any extra money during the course of the year, you should absolutely throw your âfoundâ cash toward your student loans. This can include your tax refund each year, any Christmas bonuses you get from employment, and money you get from working over time. Heck, you can even throw your birthday money at your student loans.
Any extra money you pay toward your loans can be used to reduce the balances of your debts, which in turn lowers the amount of interest you pay over the life of your loan.
Remember that, when it comes to paying off debt, even small amounts of money can add up in a big way. By throwing all found money you come across toward your loans each year, you can expedite your debt payoff process even more.
Ask Your Boss for Help
While asking your boss for help with student loans is a fairly novel concept, it isnât unheard of. Actually, nearly anything is on the table when youâre negotiating your salary or benefits â and sometimes, the key to getting what you really want is just asking for it.
Further, some industries and government agencies have already thought of this option. For example, some government employees can receive up to $10,000 a year towards student debt repayment by accessing the federal governmentâs Student Loan Repayment Program.
Similar programs are also available for nurses and teachers through the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program and Teach for America, which is part of AmeriCorps.
Students who find work in the public sector can also get help with student loans by applying for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
With this option, the federal government will forgive the remaining balance on your Direct Loans provided you have made 120 qualifying payments and remained employed with a qualified employer in the public service sector.
Which strategy made the difference? 3 financial experts weigh in
Plenty of people have used these tips and others to pay off their student loans once and for all. We reached out to several people who have paid off their loans for good to find out how they did it and which strategies they suggest. Hereâs what they said:
Paying Off Student Loans with a Side Hustle
âIn my early 20âs, I was paying a very affordable $160 per month on my $25,000 of student loan debt. It wasnât much to pay and it seemed my balance never decreased. Thatâs one of the reasons I decided to start blogging at 28 years old. After about six months, I started earning extra income from my blog and began sending extra payments toward my student loan.
As my blog income grew, I was able to send chunks of $1,000 to $2,000 pretty regularly in my 30âs and I finally began making a dent in my balance. I made my final student loan payment at 38 years old and it was glorious. Had I not been able to send in extra money, I probably would have been paying student loans into my 50âs.â â Chris Huntley, co-founder of Credit Knocks
Living the Poor Student Lifestyle
âMy wife graduated with over $80,000 of student loan debt, but we managed to pay it all off in just under three years. We had to make sacrifices to pay that much debt off quickly, but we also had other things going for us that made it easier. My wife is a registered nurse and I was an accountant at the time so we earned a reasonable income.
We didn’t have anyone else relying on us so our spending decisions only impacted ourselves. We kept our expenses to the minimum and continued to live like college students to put as much money toward the debt as we could. We bought a small townhouse that resulted in a monthly mortgage payment of only $500.
We had a very limited fun budget and didn’t go on traditional vacations. We refused to buy new furniture (except for much-needed mattress) or go out to eat multiple times per week. Instead, we cooked at home and relied on hand-me-downs or used furniture to get by until the debt was paid off. We also put off decorating and renovating our home unless the cost was minimal and we could do the work ourselves.â â Lance Cothern, founder of Money Manifesto
Earning Money On the Side to Pay Down Debt
âI paid off almost $43,000 in student loan debt in three years. First, I worked full-time during college and that helped minimize expenses. After graduation, I was promoted at my same company, and earned a starting salary of $45,000 per year.
However, while working, I was also side hustling and earning extra money. My main side gig was buying things to resell on eBay. At my peak, I was making a profit of about $2,000 per month. I would also do off jobs, and I started my blog, The College Investor.
Between my day job and side hustle earnings, I was able to knock out my student loans in a short amount of time.â â Robert Farrington, co-founder of The College Investor
The Bottom Line
Thereâs no reason to pay off your student loans any longer than you have to. Any of the tips on this list could help you get out of debt faster, and itâs even possible to use more than one of these tips to annihilate your debts at lightning fast speed.
As the nationâs total student loan debt levels continue to rise, we all have to take responsibility for ourselves. Let the numbers fall where they may; itâs up to us to find ways to get our finances straight â and if that process includes paying off student loans the hard way, so be it.
Just remember, youâve got a wealth of tools at your disposal.
Using everything from debt calculators to budgeting tools, you can dream up dozens of ways to get out of debt faster, and most importantly, smarter.
With student loan debt levels at an all-time high, youâre going to need all the help you can get.
The post How To Pay Off Student Loans Faster Than Ever appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
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Take a moment. Think about being your best self â living your best life.
What do you really want to do with your life? Raise a happy family? Travel the world? Buy a nice house? Start your own business?
Reality check: To accomplish any of those things, youâre going to need to know how to save money.
Unfortunately, Americans are bad at saving money, and weâre getting worse. Thanks to rising costs, stagnant salaries and student loan debt, weâre saving less than ever.
Table of ContentsÂ
Step 1: Develop Savings Goals and Strategies
Step 2: Pick Budgeting and Debt Repayment Methods
Step 3: Choose a Financial Institution and Accounts
Step 4: Automate Your Finances
Step 5: Establish a Budget-Conscious Lifestyle
Step 6: Make More Money
Here Are Our Best Tips to Save Money
Are you ready to actually start saving money? What youâre reading is a step-by-step guide on how to do it â how to come up with savings strategies, choose a budgeting method, pick the right financial institution, automate your finances and live a budget-conscious lifestyle.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee and buckle up. Itâs time to get serious about this.
Step 1: Develop Savings Goals and Strategies
Youâre probably asking yourself, âHow much should I save?â
Your first move is to set specific savings goals for yourself â emphasis on specific. Naming your goals will make them more real to you. Itâll help you resist the temptation to spend your money on other stuff.
Think Long Term and Short Term
What exactly do you want to save money for? How much will you need to save? And what do you need to save for first? Think short- and long-term:
Short-term: Save for a real vacation or nice holiday gifts. But first, save enough to have a decent emergency fund â three to six monthsâ worth of living expenses, in case you run into an unexpected car-repair bill or lose your job, for example.
Long-term: This involves big-picture thinking. Here, youâre saving money for things like your childrenâs college fund or for your retirement plan.
Analyze Your Income
How much can you realistically save for these goals, now that youâre making them a priority?
Write down your income and expenses â all of your expenses, from utility bills to your Netflix subscription.Â There are probably more ways to save money than you realize. Donât forget your student loans or credit card debt. Make sure you know what youâre spending in every budget category. Pay special attention to what youâre spending on non-essentials, such as eating out.
An easy way to automate this process is to use Trim, a little bot thatâll keep track of all your transactions.
Connect your checking account, credit card and savings account for a big-picture look at your spending habits. Then, take a closer look by checking out each of your transactions. Set alerts thatâll let you know when bills are due, when youâve hit a spending cap or when youâve (hopefully not) overdrafted. This will help you stick with your savings plan.
Check in on Your Credit
Do your own credit check. Keeping tabs on your credit score and your credit reports can help guide you to a financially healthier life â especially if you use a free credit-monitoring service like Credit Sesame. It gives you personalized suggestions for improving your credit.
The better your credit, the better off youâll be when youâre getting a home or car loan. Credit Sesame can estimate how big a mortgage you might qualify for, for example.
Hereâs our ultimate guide to using Credit Sesame.
Step 2: Pick Budgeting and Debt Repayment Methods
Itâs time to start making a monthly budget and sticking to it â especially if you have debt.
This way, you can put savings right into your budget. Itâs never an afterthought.
Here are five different budgeting methods. We canât tell you which one to choose. Be honest with yourself, and choose the one you think is most likely to work for you. This is how to save money on a tight budget.
The 50/30/20 Rule
This one was popularized by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a bankruptcy expert, and her business-executive daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi.
Split your income into three spending categories: 50% goes to essential bills and monthly expenses, 20% toward financial goals and 30% to personal spending (all the stuff you like to spend money on but donât really need). Put the money earmarked for your financial goals into a separate savings account.
Good for: People who worry they wonât have a life if theyâre on a budget. Hereâs our complete guide to 50/30/20 budgeting.
So-called envelope budgeting is traditionally a cash-only budget. Every month, you use cash for different categories of spending, and you keep that cash for each category in separate envelopes â labeled for groceries, housing, phone, etc.
Prefer plastic? Hereâs our review of Mvelopes, an app that lets you digitize this method.
Good for: People who know they need help with self-control. If thereâs nothing left in one envelope toward the end of the month, thereâs no more money to spend on that category, period.
Hereâs how you draw up this budget: Your income minus your expenses (including savings) equals zero. This way, you have to justify every expense.
Good for: People who need a simple, straightforward method that accounts for every dollar. Hereâs our guide to the zero-based budget.
This debt-repayment method helps you budget when you have debt. Pay off your debts with the highest interest rates first â most likely your credit cards. Doing that can save you a lot of money over time.
Good for: People with a lot of credit card debt. Credit cards generally charge you higher interest than other lenders do. Learn more about the debt avalanche method here.
Money management guru Dave Ramsey champions the debt snowball method of debt repayment. Pay off your debts with the smallest balances first. This allows you to eliminate debts from your list faster, which can motivate you to keep going.
Good for: People who owe a lot of different kinds of debts â credit cards, student loans, etc. â and who need motivation. Hereâs how to use the debt snowball method to eliminate debt.
FROM THE DEBT FORUM
Eviction on credit report
Helping Covid-19 Victims
Struggling to pay debt or going bankrupt
Can’t afford car loan
See more in Debt or ask a money question
Step 3: Choose a Financial Institution and Accounts
You might be thinking, I already have a bank. And of course you do. If youâre like most of us, youâve had the same bank for years.
Most people donât give this a second thought. They figure itâs too inconvenient to switch. But itâs worth shopping around for a better option, because where you bank can make a real difference in how much you save.
What to Look for in a Bank Account
Does your checking account pay you interest? What are the fees like? What other perks does it offer?
Did you know the biggest U.S. banks are collecting more than $6 billion a year in overdraft and ATM fees?
Maybe itâs time to try another financial institution. Weâve found some great online bank accounts to help you avoid fees and get features you wonât find with the brick-and-mortar banks.
Hereâs one example: Thereâs a mobile baking app calledÂ Varo Money.
The FDIC reports that the average savings account pays a paltry .08% APY*, but when you open an online checking and savings account with Varo, it will pay you more than 20 times that amount on your savings account.Â
We know opening a new bank account isnât exactly everyoneâs idea of fun, but Varo makes it easy. You can open an account with just a penny, and more than 750,000 people have already signed up.
Oh, and there are no monthly fees.Â
Want more options? Hereâs our ultimate guide to help you choose the right account.
To free up more money for savings, try to spend less paying interest on your debts â especially if you have high-interest credit card debt.
These days, credit card interest rates often climb north of 20%. How can you avoid paying all that interest? Your best bet is to cut back on your expenses and pay off your balance as soon as you realistically can.
Start by using the right credit card for you, based on your situation and needs. Would you prefer a card that gives you cash back or travel incentives, a balance-transfer card, or a card thatâll help you build credit?
Also consider paying off your high-interest debt with a low-interest personal loan. Itâs easier than you might think. Go window-shopping at an online marketplace for personal loans. Here are some weâve test-driven for you:
AmOneÂ allows you to compare rates side-by-side from multiple lenders who are competing against each other for your business. Itâs best for borrowers who have good credit scores and just want to consolidate their debt.
Fiona is also a marketplace but allows you to borrow more money and borrow it for a longer period of time â if thatâs what you want to do.
Upstart tends to be helpful for recent grads, who have a young credit history and a mound of student debt. It can help you find a loan without relying on only your conventional credit score.
Step 4: Automate Your Finances
Thatâs right. Weâre deep into the 21st century, here, so make technology do the work for you.
The best ways to save include automation. Youâll save time, and time is money. Here are a few money-management steps you can take today to ensure you wonât have to think about money for more than a few minutes every month.Â
Automate Bill Pay
Most bills are paid online now, reports the Credit Union Times. But you can take it a step further. Set it up so youâll receive and pay all of your bills online through your bank. That simplifies things so youâll never miss a payment.
Hereâs how: Go to your bankâs online bill-pay feature. Enter all the companies that bill you, and the account numbers for each. Arrange to receive e-bills from whichever billers will do that.
You can also have your bank send digital payments to individuals (like a landlord).
Whatever you need done financially, thereâs an app for that. Weâve put several to the test.
Digit is an automated savings platform that calculates how much money you can save. Hereâs our review of Digit.
Long Game Savings combines online games and saving money.
Also, see whether your bank offers automatic savings transfers that will move money from your checking account to your savings account each month.
You donât have to be Warren Buffett to be an investor. You donât even have to follow the stock market, read The Wall Street Journal or watch CNBC.
You can take advantage of these apps offering easy, automatic ways to start investing â the âset it and forget itâ method. Theyâre useful for tricking your brain into saving more. Youâll do it without even realizing youâre doing it.
Stash lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000. Bonus: Penny Hoarders get $5 just for signing up!
Acorns connects to your checking account, credit and debit cards to save your digital change. It automatically rounds up purchases with your connected cards and invests the digital change into your chosen portfolio. Bonus: Penny Hoarders get $5 just for signing up! Read our full review of Acorns here.
Blooom is a company that offers a free âhealth check-upâ for your 401(k). Then, for only $10 a month (Penny Hoarders get the first month free!), itâll optimize and manage your retirement savings for you. See how Blooom helped one Penny Hoarder make the most of her 401(k).
You can automate your budget, too. Thereâs an app for that. Actually, weâve found several.
Charlie is a money-saving penguin who lives in your SMS text messages or Facebook Messenger (your choice, though Charlie is more fun and reliable on Messenger). He helps you save money through things like making sure youâre getting the best deals around (ahem, overpaying $24 a month on that cell phone bill?).
Mint lets you see all your accounts, cards, bills and investments in one place.
Medean for iOS ranks your finances based on how they stack up to those of people of similar age, income, location and gender. It calls itself a âhealth index for your finances,â and helps assess your situation and find ways to save money.
MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app. You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.
Step 5: Establish a Budget-Conscious Lifestyle
Hereâs the harsh reality: To save more money, youâll need to spend less money. (Or make more money, but weâll get to that next.)
That doesnât mean you have to live like a monk. Nor do you have to survive on ramen noodles and the dollar menu, wear scuffed shoes and patchy clothes, or cut your own hair with hedge clippers.
You just have to be smart and strategic. Here are some of our best tips to help you spend less:
Save Money Around the House
Your home is your castle. But castles are so, like, expensive. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to save money around the house.
Your priciest purchases â like appliances and furniture â are a natural place to look for savings. Try repairing your appliances instead of replacing them. And hereâs a good list of other tricks for saving on furniture and appliances.
The cost of cooling, heating and lighting your home is massive. Try installing thermal curtains and a programmable thermostat. Or check out these creative, energy-saving ways to slash your utility bills.
Find Free Entertainment
Entertainment can cost an arm and a leg. But hey, we have to live, right? So do it for free! Next time youâre planning a night out, take advantage of one of these free date nights or group outings.
If youâre going to stay in, cut the cord. More and more people are doing this, because their cable bill has gotten so expensive.
If youâre thinking of switching to an online streaming service and youâre wondering which would be best, weâve got you covered with our comparison of Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu. We compared costs, type of content, number of available titles and more.
You also should reconsider that gym membership if youâre not really using it.
Cut Your Food Budget
Groceries are a huge part of everyoneâs budget, so theyâre a big target for savings. Next time youâre putting together your shopping list, make sure to check out our favorite tricks to save money at the grocery store:
Look for free printable coupons.
Compare your local grocery prices using this worksheet.
Ibotta pays you cash back on purchases if you take pictures of your grocery store receipts. Plus, youâll get a $10 bonus for signing up!
Scan grocery storesâ websites for deals and hit more than one store.
Not loving the supermarket? Nearly 70% of us say we spend too much on take-out or going out to eat. Hereâs how to save money at restaurants, too.
Find out If Youâre Wasting Money on Insurance
Buying insurance can be confusing and overwhelming, because there are so many options.
Hereâs how to find affordable insurance:
For Your Car: Auto Insurance
Here are the blunt facts about how to get lower car insurance premiums: Have fewer accidents, get fewer traffic tickets and boost your credit score.
Automotive experts also gave us the following tips:
Buy a used car.
Participate in your insurerâs safe-driving program.
Shop around for better rates. One easy way is The Zebra, a car insurance search engine that compares your options from more than 200 providers in less than 60 seconds. Hereâs how one guy is saving $360 this year on car insurance because of The Zebra.
For Yourself: Health Insurance
Letâs face it: Health insurance can be confusing and intimidating.
If youâre buying insurance for yourself, start with the federal health insurance marketplace at Healthcare.gov to see whether you qualify for any discounts or assistance.
Finding affordable health care coverage is a huge challenge for freelancers. Hereâs how to get covered if youâre self-employed.
For Your Family: Life Insurance
Life insurance pays your dependents a set amount of money if you die. Whether to buy it is a judgment call.
Life insurance is considered more important if youâre married or have children. You might also want a basic policy that would pay off your funeral, mortgage or other debt.
Youâll probably be asked to choose between two options: term or universal life insurance. If youâre like most of us, youâll choose term â the simplest, cheapest and most popular kind of life insurance policy.
To help you save money and navigate this complicated industry, modern companies are updating the old model:
Policygenius is an online-only platform that offers instant quotes from top carriers to help you make a quicker decision.Â Once you choose a life insurance company, you can apply right online, and a Policygenius rep will give you a quick call to ask a few follow-up questions.
Haven Life can insure you quickly based just on the health information you provide online.
Ethos can get you term life insurance in less than 10 minutes â with no medical exam â for coverage up to $1 million. Ethos offers a digital application, and customer service is available if you have questions.
Step 6: Make More Money
How can you increase your income? Itâs easier to save money if youâre bringing in more money to begin with.
Here are a couple of simple ways to make extra cash at home:
Share Your Opinion
You wonât get rich taking surveys, but if youâre just vegging out on the couch, why not click a couple buttons and earn a few bucks? Weâve tried a lot of paid survey sites, and two of the best weâve found are My PointsÂ andÂ InboxDollars.
Clear Your Closets
Sell your old stuff! Use the Decluttr app to get paid for your old DVDs, Blu-Rays, CDs, video games, gaming consoles and phones.
You can also sell nearly anything through the Letgo app. Just snap a photo of your item and set up a listing in about 30 seconds. If you have more free time, try selling items on Craigslist or eBay.
Find a Side Gig
For our best ideas to boost your bottom line, check out the following:
Unique ways to make money at home.
How to make extra money online.
How to earn passive income.
The Penny Hoarderâs continually updated page on open work-from-home jobs.
Mike Brassfield (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Heâs slowly getting better about saving money.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
How many times have you made a number of New Yearâs resolutions â only to forget about them long before spring?
The trick to making New Yearâs resolutions is to choose those that are actually doable. And a good place to start is with your finances.
To explore feasible financial moves that are easy to stick to, we got advice from Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride, CFA.
Use these tips to set yourself up for financial success in 2021.
10 financial resolutions for 2021
Set financial goals
Create or freshen up your budget
Check your progress on paying down debt
Review your credit card benefits and reward offers
Review your asset allocation and rebalance your portfolio
Consider converting your traditional IRA to a Roth
Review your beneficiaries
Review your savings
Check your credit report
Continue to educate yourself
1. Set financial goals
Before you dive into your finances, make sure you know what you hope to accomplish this year. According to Women & Financial Wellness: Beyond the Bottom Line from Merrill Lynch, âSeventy-seven percent of women say they see money in terms of what it can do for their families.â By figuring out what is most important to you, you can create specific priorities and goals.
Do you hope to pay off your credit cards or are you saving for a down payment on a house? Or do you see yourself purchasing a new car this year? Map out your goals so itâs easier to see why you need to create a budget.
2. Create or freshen up your budget
Youâve heard that you need to create a budget a million times. Why? Because itâs one of the healthiest financial moves youâll ever make.
Particularly after 2020, when many faced unemployment, 2021 is a good time to figure out where your money is going by tracking your spending against a budget.
âMake a monthly budget for 2021 and resolve to track your spending against it throughout the year,â McBride said. âAny month you spend less than budgeted, transfer the difference into savings.â
As daunting as it may seem, a budget will provide long-term benefits, both financial and mental.
Mint, Goodbudget and You Need a Budget (YNAB) are all good options. But whichever tool you pick, make sure to:
Give your money a purpose by bucketing it into specific funds or accounts.
Be patient as you settle into a budgeting routine.
Schedule a âmoney meetingâ with yourself every month and examine your spending, make tweaks and congratulate yourself for the work youâve done.
See related: How to create a budget that works for you
3. Check your progress on paying down debt
McBride congratulates those who have made steady progress in paying down their debt and recommends making a plan to pay it down in 2021 (if youâve stalled a bit in 2020).
You can temporarily cut your expenses and throw that money toward your debt, or, if you have high-interest debt, consider debt consolidation, McBride said.
A nonprofit credit counseling agency can set you up with a debt management plan that will even likely lower your interest rate.
In addition, you might want to pick up a side hustle and use that money to pay down your debt.
TheÂ average credit card interest rate is still around 16%, and thatâs still a high rate, particularly if you carry a balance.
âCredit card debt is the most expensive debt most households have, so put some urgency behind the efforts to get these balances paid off,â McBride said. âPaying down a 16% credit card balance is a risk-free return of 16% â at a time when savings accounts and government bonds pay less than 1%.â
There are many strategies you can use to pay off your credit card debt, but a good guideline is to first pay off the debt with the highest interest rate.
See related: How to pay off credit card debt â 3 best strategies
4. Review your credit card benefits and reward offers
Credit card issuers have responded toward consumer spending changes as a result of the pandemic by adding new benefits and rewards bonusesÂ to their credit card products.
Donât miss out on those perks, such as extra cash back on groceries and food deliveries, streaming services and more.
See related: Best cash back credit cards
5. Review your asset allocation and rebalance your portfolio
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The stock market has been particularly volatile in 2020 so you should review your mix of investments in 2021.
âTaking the opportunity to rebalance back to your intended mix of stocks, bonds, cash and alternative investments means lightening up on things that have done well while adding to asset classes that have lagged,â McBride said. âThis also enforces the discipline of âbuying lowâ and âselling high.ââ
âTravelers have been largely sidelined in 2020, but credit card rewards have very much been on the move,â McBride said. âCheck your cards and make sure youâre aware of category spending payouts that have changed and are using the right card for those expenditures.â
See related: Investing tips for women: Overcoming financial setbacks for future success
6. Consider converting your traditional IRA to a Roth
If you lost income in 2020, McBride suggested maybe taking advantage of your lower tax bracket to convert some of your traditional IRA into aÂ Roth IRA.
âBe advised that converting will trigger taxes on any contributions not already taxed, so be sure to consult your tax adviser,â McBride cautioned.
If you earn too much to contribute to a Roth IRA, consider a âback-doorâ Roth conversion.
âIf youâre unable to contribute to a Roth IRA directly because of your income, you may benefit from contributing to a traditional IRA, then converting the funds to a Roth IRA,â McBride says.
âIf you have an existing traditional IRA, be sure to consult your tax adviser about the tax implications before converting anything,â he added.
7. Review your beneficiaries
Many people designate beneficiaries and forget about it but itâs important that your assets go to whom you want, so review yours for 2021. McBride said to keep in mind that beneficiaries trump wills, so make sure the two documents are aligned in their directives.
âIf you havenât looked at it in a while or especially if there has been a change in family dynamics such as a marriage or divorce,Â review the beneficiary designationÂ on your life insurance and retirement accounts to make sure it reflects your current intentions,â McBride said.
8. Review your savings
Having savings is important in the event of an emergency. If you had to exhaust your savings during 2020, youâre not alone. But in 2021, make a plan to replenish and grow your savings account.
âAdd up the amount youâve contributed to your retirement accounts, 529 college savings plans, savings accounts and other investment accounts and subtract out any withdrawals taken during the year.â McBride said.
How much emergency fund should I have?
9. Check your credit report
You should check your credit report routinely to see if there are any mistakes on it that happen to be affecting your credit score â or, worst-case scenario, to see if youâve been the victim of identity theft.
âRegularly checking your credit report is a great way to spot errors or evidence of identity theft,â McBride said. âKnowing what is on your credit report and that everything is correct is important when going to apply for a loan, rent an apartment or even changing insurance carriers.â
AnnualCreditReport.com provides consumers with a free credit report annually, so make sure you take advantage of that in 2021 so you can catch (and fix) any errors early.
See related: Credit cards that offer free credit scores
10. Continue to educate yourself
Learn the ins and outs of your own financial picture – even as it relates to the fine print. Find places where you can make tweaks or by gaining a better understanding of your taxable income, your investments, your insurance products, etc.
Some great financial literature to get you started includes âClever Girl Finance: Ditch debt, save money and build real wealthâ by Bola Sokunbi, the founder of Clever Girl Finance and a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI). The book is an accessible personal finance book written specifically for women.
Another piece of literature worth looking into is âLive Richer Challenge: Learn how to budget, save, get out of debt, improve your credit and invest in 36 daysâ (which comes with accompanying resources) by Tiffany Aliche, better known as The Budgetnista. An award-winning teacher of financial education, Aliche has been featured on “Queer Eye” and, through her company, has created a financial movement that has helped over 800,000 women worldwide collectively save more than $100 million.
Free resources are also available to you as you make your way through your personal finance journey. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers tools and resources to help women bridge issues like the wage gap.
As you make your way through 2021, donât put too much pressure on yourself when it comes to your finances. Use the tools available to you and make a plan that you can easily follow. By adding personal finances to your 2021 resolutions, youâre setting yourself up for success!