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7 Eviction Moratorium FAQs for Renters, Landlords

If you’re behind on your rent because of the coronavirus pandemic, you just got extra time to catch up. During his first day in office, President Joe Biden extended an order that bars most landlords from pursuing evictions through the end of March 2021.

With millions of people at risk of eviction, housing advocates have argued that a large wave of homelessness could worsen the spread by crowding shelters and forcing people into cramped living spaces.

7 Eviction Moratorium FAQs: What Renters and Landlords Should Know

President Donald Trump initially passed the order through the Centers for Disease Control in response back in August. Before Biden ordered the extension, the moratorium was set to end Jan. 31, 2021. We’ve compiled what we know about the latest order into this eviction moratorium FAQ.

1. How do I know if I qualify for the eviction moratorium?

To qualify, you’ll have to sign a sworn declaration affirming that:

  • You’ve tried to obtain government assistance for your rent or housing payments.
  • You earned no more than $99,000 in 2020 if you’re a single tax filer or $198,000 if you’re married filing jointly. You could also qualify if you weren’t required to file taxes in 2019 or if you received a coronavirus stimulus check. (The income limits for the first stimulus checks were the same as the moratorium limits.)
  • You’ve been unable to pay the rent because you lost your job, income or work hours, or you’ve had significant medical expenses.
  • You’ve made your best attempt to make partial payments that are as close to the full payment as possible.
  • The eviction would either leave you homeless or force you into close quarters or a shared living situation.

2. What should I do if my landlord is threatening to evict me?

Print out this declaration form, fill it out and give it to your landlord or whoever owns the property you live in. Note that the form still cites Jan. 31, rather than March 31, as the date the moratorium ends. Each adult covered by the lease should print out their own form. You don’t need to send a copy to the federal government.

3. Does this mean my back rent is forgiven?

No, no, NO. We cannot stress that point enough. Any unpaid rent you owe will continue to accrue. In fact, the order explicitly states that it doesn’t preclude landlords from charging fees, penalties and interest as the result of missed payments.

If your rent is $1,000 a month and you last paid in August, you should expect to owe $7,000 in back rent for September through March, plus whatever fees and interest your landlord tacks on AND April’s rent when April 2021 rolls around.

4. Does the order provide money for rental assistance?

No. The order simply delays eviction proceedings for another two months. It doesn’t offer financial assistance for renters or landlords. However, the stimulus bill that became law in December included $25 billion in emergency rental assistance.

The assistance will be administered by state and local governments. Renters may be eligible if their household income is less than 80% of the area median income, they’ve been impacted financially by COVID-19 and they’re at risk of losing their home. Money can be used for back rent and utility payments, as well as future payments.

To apply or get more information, you’ll need to contact your local housing agency. Figuring which agency to connect with can get complicated. If you’re not sure what agency to contact, try calling the 211 helpline for direction.

5. I’m a landlord who lives off of rental income. What does this order mean for me?

The order doesn’t include financial assistance, however, you could be eligible for a piece of the $25 billion of rental relief. Check with your local housing agency for more information.

Landlords can still pursue evictions, back rent, fees and interest once the moratorium ends. But the order also makes it clear that landlords who violate it could face hefty penalties.

An individual who violates the order could face a fine of up to $100,000, a year in jail or both — and that’s if the eviction doesn’t result in death. If a death does occur, the possible fine goes up to $250,000, in addition to the possibility of a year in jail.

Organizations that violate face a fee of up to $200,000 in cases that don’t involve death, or up to $500,000 for cases where a death occurs.

6. What if I live in a motel?

You’re not covered under the order. The moratorium only applies to tenants covered under a lease. It explicitly states that those living in hotels, motels and other temporary housing are excluded.

In this case, we strongly suggest calling the 211 helpline, which can connect you with local housing resources.

7. Are there any circumstances in which a tenant can still be evicted?

Yes. You can still be evicted for reasons other than not paying. Engaging in criminal activity on the property, threatening other tenants and causing property damage are all still grounds for eviction.

FROM THE DEBT FORUM
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What to Do if You’re Behind on Rent

If you’re behind on rent, you need to treat this as a temporary reprieve to get a plan in place. Don’t wait until March to make your action plan.

Your first step is to try negotiating with your landlord. They may be willing to accept partial payments or waive fees, particularly if you can show them that you’ll be able to resume on-time payments.

Take a hard look at all your bills. Your food, health care and shelter are your top priorities. We’d advise paying your rent unless doing so means going hungry or without medication. Stop making credit card and loan payments if you must. You’ll still owe that rent come April. It will be a lot easier to recover from falling behind on credit cards than losing your housing.

Get connected with local resources now. When you’re facing homelessness, the best resources are available at the local level. Calling that 211 helpline now, even though you’re not on the brink of eviction, is a good starting point. They can also connect you with local food pantries, which could free up some money to put toward rent.

Reach out to family and friends. If you know someone with a spare room who might be willing to let you move in, now is the time to start talking — provided, of course, that the living situation wouldn’t put you at increased risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Pay whatever you can. Every dollar you can put toward rent is a dollar that you won’t owe in April, so pay as much as you can toward your rent, even if you can’t afford the full amount. If you do find yourself facing eviction, showing that you made a good-faith effort to pay can only help your case.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

100 Birthday Freebies ~~ Celebrate WIth Free Stuff in 2021!

Become a Flathead and receive a free dessert for your birthday. You’ll also get a free Tijuana Trio when you sign up.
Kendra Scott offers a 50% birthday discount on one fashion jewelry or color bar item. It also offers a 25% discount on fine jewelry, sterling silver jewelry or gold vermeil jewelry. You can also get 25% off a home goods item. Find out more information here.
Members of the Kohl’s Rewards program get a “special birthday gift.”
Join the Wiener Lovers’ Club, and get a free coupon each year on your birthday, plus a free chili dog for joining.

100 Places to Get Birthday Freebies

Join Chick-fil-A One to get a “birthday reward.”

A&W All American Food

Join the Uno Insider’s Club, and receive a free dessert on your birthday, as well as a free appetizer with an entree purchase when you join.

ABC Liquor

Sign up for the Zax Club and get a free Big Zax Snak on your birthday, plus a free sandwich meal for signing up.

AMC Theatres

Join the Eclub, and get a free coffee and pastry on your birthday. You’ll also get a travel mug and daily discounts on coffee just for signing up.

Anthropologie

Sign up for Club Baja to get a “special offer” on your birthday.

Applebee’s

Get a free meal on your birthday when you join the bd’s Rewards eClub, plus get a coupon just for signing up.

Arby’s

My Best Buy members get a “birthday gift.”

Au Bon Pain

As a member of the Anthro Loyalty program, you will get a “special treat to celebrate your birthday.”

Auntie Anne’s

Join Fudgie Fanatics to receive a free treat for your birthday. You can get a small soft serve birthday cone, take off any cake (except for a small square) or take off any sheet cake.

Aveda

Receive a free cupcake (make that a baker’s dozen if you’re a Red Velvet tier member) for your birthday when you join Sprinkles Perks.

Baja Fresh

Sign up for the Friends and Benefits loyalty program to get “birthday gifts.”

bareMinerals

Sign up for Blazin’ Rewards to get free birthday wings during your birth month.

Baskin Robbins

Sign up for Firehouse Rewards for a free medium sub on your birthday or in the six days that follow it.

Banana Republic

Get a free Big Deal Combo meal on your big day by joining the ‘Q Crew, plus a coupon just for joining.

bd’s Mongolian Grill

Join the Planet Smoothie Club and receive a free smoothie for your birthday.

Benihana’s

Sign up for ABC Liquor Access to get a “birthday gift.”

Best Buy

Get a free root beer float on your birthday by joining the Mug Club.

Big Boy

Sign up for Hard Rock Rewards to get an “annual birthday offer” from the cafe and shops.

BJ’s Brewhouse

Sign up for the Pita Pit Rewards Club and receive a free pita on your birthday.

Black Angus Steakhouse

Get a BOGO breakfast, brunch or lunch for your birthday as a member of the Sun EClub.

Bojangles’

Sign up for a Pinkcard or download the app, and receive a free yogurt on your birthday.

Bruegger’s Bagels

Join the eClub, and get off the purchase of two entrees, plus two free slices of pie, the choice of a free “Marie’s Magnificent Six” or a free slice of pie with the purchase of an entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a special dine-in offer for signing up. The company also sends special offers for your wedding anniversary and allows you to add family members so they can get birthday rewards.

Buca di Beppo

You need to spend to join Aveda’s loyalty rewards program, but you’ll receive a birthday gift valued at , as well as double points for your next Aveda purchase.

The sign of Buffalo Wild Wings is photographed.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Be sure to check out our Swagbucks review for how to get the most out of Swagbucks.

Carvel

Get a BOGO coupon for your birthday by signing up for the My Cold Stone Club. You’ll also get a BOGO coupon just for signing up!

Chevys Fresh Mex

Be sure to join Habit Burger Grill’s CharClub to enjoy a free Charburger on your birthday.

Chick-fil-A

If you’re a Raving Fan eClub member, you can enjoy a regular-size premium shake for your birthday, plus you’ll get two free grilled chicken tacos when you sign up.

Chili’s

Krispy Kreme Rewards members receive a free Original Glazed Dozen. You’ll also get a free doughnut when you sign up.

Chipotle

Receive a birthday gift when you sign up for JCPenney Rewards. If you are not a JCPenney credit card member, you must have earned points within the last 21 months.

Cinnabon

Get a birthday beverage or food item as a member of Starbucks Rewards.

Cold Stone Creamery

Join the YOMO Club, and get free yogurt on your birthday.

Columbia

Make sure you’re a member of the Waffle House Regulars Club to receive a free waffle on your birthday. You’ll also get free hashbrowns when you sign up.

Container Store

Sign up for My Harkins Rewards and receive a birthday coupon to use at the concessions.

Culver’s

Get a free Italian ice on your birthday when you download Rita’s Ice App.

The exterior of a CVS is photographed in Florida.

CVS Pharmacy

Challenge yourself to score as many birthday freebies as possible and make the celebration — and savings — last all month!

Del Taco

So get busy now and enjoy the free birthday stuff as it rolls in on your big day.

Denny’s

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW)

As a member of the Godiva Rewards Club, you’ll get a free birthday chocolate offer every year.

Dippin’ Dots

These restaurants and retailers will provide you with free treats for your birthday. Be sure to sign up in advance.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Most of these places require you to sign up for their email list or join their rewards club at least seven days before your birthday.

Edible Arrangements

Join Premier Rewards Plus and get a free Pizookie for your birthday. What’s that? It’s a big, warm cookie smothered in ice cream… yum. What’s even better is you don’t have to wait for your birthday – you’ll also get a free Pizookie just for signing up.

Einstein Bros. Bagels

Become an AMC Stubs Insider to get a free large popcorn during your birthday month. If you’re a Premiere or A-List member, you’ll also get a free large fountain drink.

Famous Dave’s

When you become a BFF Club member, you’ll receive a free birthday sundae.

Famous Footwear

Sign up for TCBY emails, and receive your first 3 ounces free on your birthday.

Firehouse Subs

Register for the Chef’s Table, and you’ll get a birthday certificate.

First Watch

Create an account, join the Birthday Club, and get a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday.

Friendly’s

Opt into the Birthday Club when you subscribe to Old Navy’s emails to get a “free birthday gift.”

Godiva

As a member of So Connected, you’ll get a choice of a free burger or a free garden bar entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer for signing up.

Habit Burger Grill

Get free Dippin’ Dots for your birthday when you join the Dot Crazy! Email Club.

Harkins Theatres

Sign up for Denny’s Rewards program online or via the mobile app. You’ll get 20% off your next visit, plus a free stack of buttermilk pancakes on your birthday when you order online at Dennys.com.

Hard Rock

Get a free dessert for your birthday when you join My Chili’s Rewards Club, plus get free chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage with every visit!

Hooters

Email club members get a free birthday entree, plus off just for joining.

Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar

Hooray! It’s your birthday!

IHOP

When you sign up to receive Banana Republic’s emails, you can opt to also get a “birthday gift.”

Sign up for MyHop and get free pancakes on your birthday. You’ll also get free pancakes on the anniversary of your sign-up.

J. Crew Factory

The last thing you should do is pay for stuff. So we’ve put together a list of 100 places where you can get birthday freebies, updated for 2021.

JCPenney

Enjoy a “birthday surprise” when you sign up for the My Red Lobster Rewards program.

A woman smiles as she holds up a drink and a sub she got for free from Jersey Mike's Subs.

Jersey Mike’s Subs

Sign up for My Wei Rewards and choose from these birthday freebies: crab wontons, traditional edamame, vegetable spring rolls or pork egg roll. The reward will automatically appear in your app seven days prior to your birthday.

Kendra Scott

Joining the I Love Big Boy email club gets you a free meal on your birthday.

Kohl’s

Members of the MyPerkins Club receive a free Magnificent Seven meal on their birthdays. The meal includes two eggs, any way you like, plus two smoked bacon strips and three buttermilk pancakes. Plus you’ll get a 20% off coupon for signing up. You will also be able to add your children ages 12 and under so they can get birthday rewards, too.

Krispy Kreme

As a member of the ExtraCare Beauty Club, you’ll get “birthday gifts with beauty surprises,” as well as 10% off for joining.

Longhorn Steakhouse

Beauty Insiders are eligible to choose a free makeup or skin care gift for their birthday.

Marie Callender’s

Join the Nothing Bundt Cakes eClub and get a free Bundtlet on your birthday.

Moe’s Southwest Grill

Sign up for the Subway MyWay Rewards program and the sandwich-making company will give you “something special” on your birthday.

Nothing Bundt Cakes

Members of the Greater Rewards program get a “birthday gift” in addition to a welcome gift from the sportswear and outdoor gear retailer.

Old Navy

Download the Pretzel Perks app, and get a free pretzel on your birthday.

Olive Garden

Members of the eClub get a free entree on their birthday, as well as a free appetizer for signing up.

On the Border

Join the Famous Nation and get a free dessert with a value of up to .00 for your birthday.

Pandora

Sign up for Rockin’ Rewards and get a coupon for a free birthday burrito, plus a free cup of queso just for signing up.

Pei Wei

Join the Prime Club to get a free steak dinner on your first birthday as a member.

Perkins

Get 10 free boneless birthday wings when you sign up for Hootclub. You’ll also get off your first purchase of or more when you sign up.

Pinkberry

As a birthday reward, “you’ll receive a Swag Up for a 55 SB credit when you redeem your next gift card.”

Pita Pit

Members of World Market Rewards get a “surprise offer” on their birthday, plus a 15% coupon for signing up.

Pizza Hut

Join the Hut Rewards program to get a “birthday reward.”

Planet Smoothie

Register for the Red Robin Royalty Program, and get a free birthday burger.

A person selects a movie from a red box.

Redbox

Enjoy a free sundae on your birthday when you sign up for MyCulver’s. You’ll also get a BOGO value basket when you sign up.

Red Lobster

Download the Tropical Smoothie Cafe app to be eligible for a birthday reward. What you get depends on your loyalty tier, but it ranges from a reward to a free menu item.

Red Robin

Join the free DSW VIP Club to get a birthday reward. You’ll also get on your birthday if you spend 0 annually as a VIP Gold member, and you’ll get if you spend 0 annually as a VIP Elite member.

Rita’s

Famously You Rewards members get a birthday cash reward.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Sign up for Arby’s emails and get a free milkshake and curly fries on your birthday when you buy any sandwich. You’ll also get a free small fries and small soft drink when you sign up.

Ruby Tuesday

Get a complimentary dessert on your birthday by signing up for the eClub. You’ll get a free dessert or appetizer when you sign up.

Sephora

Members of Club Fondue will get a “birthday voucher.”

Sbarro

Members of the Bruegger’s Bagels eClub will enjoy a “free treat” on their birthday, as well as a free bagel and cream cheese just for signing up.

Sonny’s BBQ

Join the POP! (Perfectly Organized Perks) program to get a birthday gift.

Sprinkles

Sign up for the email club, and get off when you spend at least . You’ll also get a free appetizer when you sign up.

Iced coffees from Starbucks sit on a table outside.

Starbucks

Join Edible Rewards and receive a free 12-count chocolate dipped fruit box (valued at .99) during your birthday month. You’ll also get a coupon for signing up (valid for 30 days).

Subway

Become a member of the Slice Society to get a birthday surprise. You’ll also get a free New York slice when you buy a beverage after signing up.

Swagbucks

Join the Chipotle rewards program to get free chips and guacamole on your birthday when you make a purchase of or more. When you sign up and make your first purchase, you’ll also get free chips and a choice of guacamole, queso blanco or salsa.

Pro Tip
Get a free birthday sub when you sign up for the email club.

TCBY

Sign up for Redbox Perks and receive a free birthday rental (it must be used within 60 days). You’ll also get a free one-night rental for signing up (that offer is valid for two weeks).

Texas Roadhouse

As an Ultamate Rewards member, you’ll get an offer for extra bonus points on all purchases during your birthday month.

FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

The Melting Pot

Sign up for the email club, and get a free dessert on your birthday.

The Spaghetti Warehouse

Subscribe to Club Cinnabon to get a free iced coffee on your birthday and a free order of BonBites for signing up.

Tijuana Flats

Get a free egg sandwich with a purchase on your birthday when you join the Shmear Society — not totally free, but hey, you’ll need something to help wash that sandwich down. You’ll have 14 days to claim your reward.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

When you sign up for Factory First, you’ll get an extra 20% off and free shipping on your birthday. You’ll also get an extra 15% off your first purchase after signing up.

Ulta Beauty

Members of the Pandora Club get a 15% discount during their birthday month. This offer can only be used one time and is valid on regular-priced jewelry only.

Uniqlo

You’ll receive a free pasta after signing up, as well as a birthday gift for joining the eClub.

Uno Pizzeria & Grill

Join Club Cantina and get free queso on your birthday, and just for signing up.

Waffle House

Download the Uniqlo app to get a birthday coupon during your birthday month.

Wienerschnitzel

Join the Warehouse Club, and get a free meal on your birthday, plus a free appetizer with an entree purchase for becoming a member of the club.

World Market

Get a free Bo-Berry Biscuit with a purchase on your birthday as a member of the Bojangles’ eClub.

Yogurt Mountain

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.

Zaxby’s

Get a free beverage on your birthday by signing up for the DD Perks Rewards Program.

Who doesn’t love getting something for nothing? Visit The Penny Hoarder Shop to see what freebies are available.

Sign up for the email club and you’ll get a free appetizer or a sidekick of ribs on your birthday.
As a member of the Longhorn Steakhouse’s eClub, you’ll get “special offers and coupons” on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer when you sign up.

How to Set Financial Goals: A Simple, Step-By-Step Guide

Saving money is all well and good in theory.

It’s pretty hard to argue against having more money in the bank.

But what are you saving for? If you don’t have solid financial goals, all those hoarded pennies might end up in limbo when they could be put to good use.

Figuring out where your money should go might seem daunting, but it’s actually a lot of fun.

You get to analyze your own priorities and decide exactly what to do with your hard-earned cash.

But to make the most of your money, follow a few best practices while setting your goals.

After all, even if something seems like exactly what you want right now, it might not be in future-you’s best interest. And you’re playing the long game… that’s why they’re called goals!

What to Do Before You Start Writing Your Financial Goals

To help keep you from financial goals like “buy the coolest toys and cars,” which could easily get you deeply into debt while you watch your credit score plummet, we’ve compiled this guide.

It’ll help you set goals and create smart priorities for your money. That way, however you decide to spend your truly discretionary income, you won’t leave the 10-years-from-now version of you in the lurch.

First Thing’s First: How Much Money Do You Have?

You can’t decide on your short- or long-term financial goals if you don’t know how much money you have or where it’s going.

And if you’re operating without a budget, it can be easy to run out of money well before you run out of expenses — even if you know exactly how much is in your paycheck.

So sit down and take a good, hard look at all of your financial info.

A ton of great digital apps can help you do this — here are our favorite budgeting apps — but it can be as simple as a spreadsheet or even a good, old-fashioned piece of paper. It just takes two steps:

  1. Figure out how much money you have. It might be in checking or savings accounts, including long-term accounts like IRAs. Or, it might be wrapped up in investments or physical assets, like your paid-off car.
  2. Assess any debts you have. Do you keep a revolving credit card balance? Do you pay a mortgage each month? Are your student loans still hanging around?

Take the full amount of money you owe and subtract it from the total amount you have, which you discovered in step one. The difference between the two is your net worth. That’s the total amount of money you have to your name.

If it seems like a lot, cool. Hang tight and don’t let it burn a hole in your pocket. We’re not done yet.

If it seems like… not a lot, well, you can fix that. Keep reading.

A woman creates a monthly budget while sitting on her bed. The sheets are white with a floral pattern on them. This story is about how to set up financial goals.

Create a Budget

Once you’ve learned your net worth, you need to start thinking about a working budget.

This will essentially be a document with your total monthly income at the top and a list of all the expenses you need to pay for every month.

And I do mean all of the expenses — even that $4.99 recurring monthly payment for your student-discounted Spotify account definitely counts.

Your expenses probably include rent, electricity, cable or internet, a cell phone plan, various insurance policies, groceries, gas and transportation. It also includes categories like charitable giving, entertainment and travel.

Pro Tip

Print out the last two or three months of statements from your credit and debit cards and categorize every expense. You can often find ways to save by discovering patterns in your spending habits.

It’ll depend on your individual case — for instance, I totally have “wine” as a budget line item.

See? It’s all about priorities.

Need to go back to basics? Here’s our guide on how to budget.

Start by listing how much you actually spent in each category last month. Subtract your total expenses from your total income. The difference should be equal to the amount of money left sitting in your bank account at month’s end.

It’s also the money you can use toward your long-term financial goals.

Want the number to be bigger? Go back through your budget and figure out where you can afford to make cuts. Maybe you can ditch the cable bill and decide between Netflix or Hulu, or replace a takeout lunch with a packed one.

You don’t need to abandon the idea of having a life (and enjoying it), but there are ways to make budgetary adjustments that work for you.

Set the numbers you’re willing to spend in each category, and stick to them.

Congratulations. You’re in control of your money.

Now you can figure out exactly what you want to do with it.

Setting Financial Goals

Before you run off to the cool-expensive-stuff store, hold on a second.

Your financial goals should be (mostly) in this order:

  1. Build an emergency fund.
  2. Pay down debt.
  3. Plan for retirement.
  4. Set short-term and long-term financial goals.

We say “mostly” because it’s ultimately up to you to decide in which order you want to accomplish them.

Many experts suggest making sure you have an emergency fund in place before aggressively going after your debt.

But if you’re hemorrhaging money on sky-high interest charges, you might not have much expendable cash to put toward savings.

That means you’ll pay the interest for a lot longer — and pay a lot more of it — if you wait to pay it down until you have a solid emergency fund saved up.

1. Build an Emergency Fund

Finding money to sock away each month can be tough, but just starting with $10 or $25 of each paycheck can help.

You can make the process a lot easier by automating your savings. Or you can have money from each paycheck automatically sent to a separate account you won’t touch.

You also get to decide the size of your emergency fund, but a good rule of thumb is to accumulate three to six times the total of your monthly living expenses. Good thing your budget is already set up so you know exactly what that number is, right?

You might try to get away with a smaller emergency fund — even $1,000 is a better cushion than nothing. But if you lose your job, you still need to be able to eat and make rent.

2. Pay Down Debt

Now, let’s move on to repaying debt. Why’s it so important, anyway?

Because you’re wasting money on interest charges you could be applying toward your goals instead.

So even though becoming debt-free seems like a big sacrifice right now, you’re doing yourself a huge financial favor in the long run.

There’s lots of great information out there about how to pay off debt, but it’s really a pretty simple operation: You need to put every single penny you can spare toward your debts until they disappear.

One method is known as the debt avalanche method, which involves paying off debt with the highest interest rates first, thereby reducing the overall amount you’ll shell out for interest.

For example, if you have a $1,500 revolving balance on a credit card with a 20% APR, it gets priority over your $14,000, 5%-interest car loan — even though the second number is so much bigger.

Pro Tip

If you’re motivated by quick wins, the debt snowball method may be a good fit for you. It involves paying off one loan balance at a time, starting with the smallest balance first.

Make a list of your debts and (ideally) don’t spend any of your spare money on anything but paying them off until the number after every account reads “$0.” Trust me, the day when you become debt-free will be well worth the effort.

As a bonus, if your credit score could be better, repaying revolving debt will also help you repair it — just in case some of your goals (like buying a home) depend upon your credit report not sucking.

A retired woman floats in a circular floating device in a swimming pool.

3. Plan for Retirement

All right, you’re all set in case of an emergency and you’re living debt-free.

Congratulations! We’re almost done with the hard part, I promise.

But there’s one more very important long-term financial goal you most definitely want to keep in mind: retirement.

Did you know almost half of Americans have absolutely nothing saved so they can one day clock out for the very last time?

And the trouble isn’t brand-new: We’ve been bad enough at saving for retirement over the past few decades that millions of today’s seniors can’t afford to retire.

If you ever want to stop working, you need to save up the money you’ll use for your living expenses.

And you need to start now, while compound interest is still on your side. The younger you are, the more time you have to watch those pennies grow, but don’t fret if you got a late start — here’s how to save for retirement in your 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

If your job offers a 401(k) plan, take advantage of it — especially if your employer will match your contributions! Trust me, the sting of losing a percentage of your paycheck will hurt way less than having to work into your golden years.

Ideally, you’ll want to find other ways to save for retirement, too. Look into individual retirement arrangements (IRAs) and figure out how much you need to contribute to meet your retirement goals.

Future you will thank you. Heartily. From a hammock.

FROM THE BUDGETING FORUM
Starting a budget
S
A reminder NOT to spend.
Jobelle Collie
Grocery Shopping – How far away is your usual store?
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Budgeting 101
Ashley Allen
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4. Set Short-Term and Long-Term Financial Goals (the Fun Part!)

Is everything in order? Amazing!

You’re in awesome financial shape — and you’ve made it to the fun part of this post.

Consider the funds you have left — and those you’ll continue to earn — after taking care of all the financial goals above. Now think: What do you want to do with your money?

What experiences or things can your money buy to significantly increase your quality of life and happiness?

You might plan to travel more, take time off work to spend with family or drive the hottest new Porsche.

Maybe you want to have a six-course meal at the finest restaurant in the world or work your way through an extensive list of exotic and expensive wines. (OK, I’ll stop projecting.)

No matter your goals, it’s helpful to categorize them by how long they’ll take to save for.

Make a list of the goals you want to achieve with your money and which category they fall into. Then you can figure out how to prioritize your savings for each objective.

For example, some of my goals have included:

  • Short-term financial goal: Save spending money for a trip overseas.
  • Medium-term financial goal: Pay off my car within a year, or sell it — and its onerous loan — and buy an older car I can own free and clear.
  • Long-term financial goal: Buy a house I can use as a home base and increase my income by renting it out while I travel. This will probably take me through the rest of my 20s.

By writing down my short- and long-term financial goals and approximately how long I expect it will take to achieve each, I can figure out what to research and how aggressively I need to plan for each goal.

It also offers me the opportunity to see what I prioritize — and to revise those priorities if I see fit.

Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Budgeting for Beginners: These 5 Steps Will Help You Get Started

Setting up a budget is challenging. Doing it forces you to face your spending habits and then work to change them.

But when you decide to make a budget, it means you’re serious about your money. Maybe you even have some financial goals in mind.

The end result will bring you peace of mind. But if you’re creating a budget for the first time, remember that budgets will vary by individual and family. It’s important to set up a budget that’s a fit for YOU.

Budgeting for Beginners in 5 Painless Steps

Follow these basic steps and tailor them to your needs to create a monthly budget that will set you up for financial success.

Step 1: Set a Financial Goal

First thing’s first: Why do you want a budget?

Your reason will be your anchor and incentive as you create a budget, and it will help you stick to it.

Set a short-term or long-term goal. It can be to pay off debts like student loans, credit cards or a mortgage, or to save for retirement, an emergency fund, a new car, a home down payment or a vacation.

For example, creating a budget is a must for many people trying to buy their first home. But it shouldn’t stop there. Once you’ve bought a home, keep sticking to a budget in order to pay off debt and give yourself some wiggle room for unexpected expenses.

Once one goal is complete, you can move on to another and personalize your budget to fit whatever your needs are.

Step 2: Log Your Income, Expenses and Savings

You’ll want to use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or another budget template to track all of your monthly expenses and spending. List out each expense line by line. This list is the foundation for your monthly budget.

Tally Your Monthly Income

Review your pay stubs and determine how much money you and anyone else in your household take home every month. Include any passive income, rental income, child support payments or side gigs.

If your income varies, estimate as best as you can, or use the average of your income for the past three months.

Make a List of Your Mandatory Monthly Expenses

Start with:

  1. Rent or mortgage payment.
  2. Living expenses like utilities (electric, gas and water bills), internet and phone.
  3. Car payment and transportation costs.
  4. Insurance (car, life, health).
  5. Child care.
  6. Groceries.
  7. Debt repayments for things like credit cards, student loans, medical debt, etc.

Anything that will result in a late fee for not paying goes in this category.

List Non-Essential Monthly and Irregular Expenses

Non-essential expenses include entertainment, coffee, subscription and streaming services, memberships, cable TV, gifts, dining out and miscellaneous items.

Don’t forget to account for expenses you don’t incur every month, such as annual fees, taxes, car registration, oil changes and one-time charges. Add them to the month in which they usually occur OR tally up all of your irregular expenses for the year and divide by 12 so you can work them into your monthly budget.

Pro Tip

Review all of your bank account statements for the past 12 months to make sure you don’t miss periodic expenses like quarterly insurance premiums.

A woman with a dog reviews financial docements spread out on the floor.

Don’t Forget Your Savings

Be sure to include a line item for savings in your monthly budget. Use it for those short- or long-term savings goals, building up an emergency fund or investments.

Figure out how much you can afford — no matter how big or small. If you get direct deposit, saving can be simplified with an automated paycheck deduction. Something as little as $10 a week adds up to over $500 in a year.

Step 3: Adjust Your Expenses to Match Your Income

Now, what does your monthly budget look like so far?

Are you living within your income, or spending more money than you make? Either way, it’s time to make some adjustments to meet your goals.

How to Cut Your Expenses

If you are overspending each month, don’t panic. This is a great opportunity to evaluate areas to save money now that you have itemized your spending. Truthfully, this is the exact reason you created a budget!

Here are some ways you can save money each month:

Cut optional outings like happy hours and eating out. Even cutting a $4 daily purchase on weekdays will add up to over $1,000 a year.

Consider pulling the plug on cable TV or a subscription service. The average cost of cable is $1,284 a year, so if you cut the cord and switch to a streaming service, you could save at least $50 a month.

Fine-tune your grocery bill and practice meal prepping. You’ll save money by planning and prepping recipes for the week that use many of the same ingredients. Use the circulars to see what’s on sale, and plan your meals around those sales.

Make homemade gifts for family and friends. Special occasions and holidays happen constantly and can get expensive. Honing in on thoughtful and homemade gifts like framed pictures, magnets and ornaments costs more time and less money.

Consolidate credit cards or transfer high-interest balances. You can consolidate multiple credit card payments into one and lower the amount of interest you’re paying every month by applying for a debt consolidation loan or by taking advantage of a 0% balance-transfer credit card offer. The sooner you pay off that principal balance, the sooner you’ll be out of debt.

Refinance loans. Refinancing your mortgage, student loan or car loan can lower your interest rates and cut your monthly payments. You could save significantly if you’ve improved your credit since you got the original loan.

Get a new quote for car insurance to lower monthly payments. Use a free online service to shop around for new quotes based on your needs. A $20 savings every month is $20 that can go toward savings or debt repayments.

Start small and see how big of a wave it makes.

Oh, and don’t forget to remind yourself of your financial goal when you’re craving Starbucks at 3 p.m. But remember that it’s OK to treat yourself — occasionally.

A couple organize tax-related paperwork.

What to Do With Your Extra Cash

If you have money left over after paying for your monthly expenses, prioritize building an emergency fund if you don’t have one.

Having an emergency fund is often what makes it possible to stick to a budget. Because when an unexpected expense crops up, like a broken appliance or a big car repair, you won’t have to borrow money to cover it.

When you do dip into that emergency fund, immediately start building it up again.

Otherwise, you can use any extra money outside your expenses to reach your financial goals.

Here are four questions to ask yourself before dipping into your emergency fund..

Step 4: Choose a Budgeting Method

You have your income, expenses and spending spelled out in a monthly budget, but how do you act on it? Trying out a budgeting method helps manage your money and accommodates your lifestyle.

Living on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or splurges, and fortunately many budgeting methods account for those things. Here are a few to consider:

  • The Envelope System is a cash-based budgeting system that works well for overspenders. It curbs excess spending on debit and credit cards because you’re forced to withdraw cash and place it into pre-labeled envelopes for your variable expenses (like groceries and clothing) instead of pulling out that plastic. 
  • The 50/20/30 Method is for those with more financial flexibility and who can pay all their bills with 50% of their income. You apply 50% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 30% to personal spending (vacations, coffee, entertainment). This way, you can have fun and save at the same time. Because your basic needs can only account for 50% of your income, it’s typically not a good fit for those living paycheck to paycheck.
  • The 60/20/20 Budget uses the same concept as the 50/20/30, except you apply 60% of your income to living expenses, 20% toward savings and/or debt reduction, and 20% to personal spending. It’s a good fit for fans of the 50/20/30 Method who need to devote more of their incomes to living costs.
  • The Zero-Based Budget makes you account for all of your income. You budget for your expenses and bills, and then assign any extra money toward your goals. The strict system is good for people trying to pay off debt as fast as possible. It’s also beneficial for those living to paycheck to paycheck.
A hand writes financial-related labels on envelopes.

Budgeting Apps

Another money management option is to use a budgeting app. Apps can help you organize and access your personal finances on the go and can alert you of finance charges, late fees and bill payment due dates. Many also offer free credit score monitoring.

FROM THE BUDGETING FORUM
Starting a budget
S
A reminder NOT to spend.
Jobelle Collie
Grocery Shopping – How far away is your usual store?
F
Budgeting 101
Ashley Allen
See more in Budgeting or ask a money question

Step 5: Follow Through

Budgeting becomes super easy once you get in the groove, but you can’t set it and forget it. You should review your budget monthly to monitor your expenses and spending and adjust accordingly. Review checking and savings account statements for any irregularities even if you set bills to autopay.

Even if your income increases, try to prioritize saving the extra money. That will help you avoid lifestyle inflation, which happens when your spending increases as your income rises.

The thrill of being debt-free or finally having enough money to travel might even inspire you to seek out other financial opportunities or advice. For example, if you’re looking for professional help, set up a consultation with a certified financial planner who can assist you with long-term goals like retirement and savings plans.

Related: How to Budget: The Ultimate Guide

Stephanie Bolling is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com