Tag Archives: finance

Trick Yourself into Saving More Money

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While you may not have gotten a raise, you can still save more money if you introduce smart saving habits into your daily lifestyle. Being able to save really just means you take a closer look at the ways you manage and spend your money, then find avenues for putting cash away. Creating rules to follow and developing smart habits will change the way you think about your cash flow, and can be a great way to trick yourself into saving more money.

Use Cash

Striving to use only cash will cause you to force yourself to pay closer attention to how much money you really spend every time you go out, to the grocery store or clothes shopping. The trick is to put your plastic away so you feel like you don’t even have it to use. You may also want to consider removing your credit cards from easy pay and 1-Click settings from your online accounts to make it harder to make purchases. You might be surprised at how much less you want an item you see online when the added difficulty of typing in your 16-digit credit card number is in your way.

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Check Your Credit Card Statement Every Month

Your credit usage may have run away from you because you are like the thousands of other people who do not check their credit card statement every month. Looking at how much money you spend and the places you spend it is a good way to make yourself think about your choices in a more deliberate manner. Seeing that you spent $80 at the bar instead of the $40 you planned may shock you into being a little more careful next weekend, or realizing you spend half of your paycheck on new threads may encourage you to create a budget for your wardrobe.

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Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Attorney Leslie Tayne who writes for Fox Businesses advises you wait five days before making a big purchase. While that hot tub sale is enticing, give yourself five days to ponder whether a hot tub purchase is really in line with saving for your kids’ college tuition. Thinking about what you want to buy is a great way to prevent yourself from spending too lavishly on items you don’t need. A bonus benefit of waiting to buy something is that it gives you a chance to find a better deal, whether you look online or in competitors’ stores.

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Ignore Extra Income

Even though your surprise income may look like it has “jet-ski” written all over it, try instead to imagine it saying “Save me!” and put it away into an account you don’t use immediately. Tayne advises that you only rely on the money you make regularly to make big purchases. That means you should take that big fat tax refund or even the $10 you found in the parking lot and put it toward debt or into a savings account. Extra income is anything outside of the realm of your weekly or monthly income, including cash you make from selling your unneeded wares, (like diamonds that you sell with us!) By putting that extra cash away, you’ll never be tempted to dump it down the drain on something you don’t need. The unexpected kind of money is best spent by not spending it at all.

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Automate Everything

Investopedia advises against taking care of your financial business on a day-by-day basis. Instead, get your employer to deposit portions of your paycheck not only into your checking account, but into your savings account and IRA as well. In addition, set up your credit cards to pay off the balance each month, not just the minimum. A penny paid off is a penny and a half earned in the credit world, because each time your balance equals zero, that means you don’t have to pay annoying off bank fees later in life.

Saving money is really just about changing the way you look at money. If you don’t let it burn a hole in your pocket and instead let it burn a hole in your debt or build your savings, you’ll be on your way to securing a bright financial future in no time.

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How to Choose the Best Credit Card

Consider something called "e-mail."
Consider something called “e-mail.”

Getting mail was exciting when you were a kid because it was usually something fun like a present or an invitation. And as an adult, sometimes it probably feels like you got accepted to Hogwarts when you open your mailbox, so many letters fly out.  The child inside you gets excited but soon you realize they’re all emblazoned with the Bank of America, Discover, or Citi emblem, not the Hogwarts seal. As a grown up, sometimes it seems like the only people who send mail anymore are the multitude of banks vying for your application for a new credit card account and the occasional magazine company that really, really misses you. When your junk mail reaches the point of utter chaos, it can be so overwhelming that you end up throwing it all away or making a hasty, uninformed decision when you need new credit.

But don’t let the inundation of information overwhelm you, nor the disappointment that you still are not a wizard in training. Whether you’re a first time borrower or a seasoned veteran at getting late notices, it’s a good idea to compare what’s out there to select the best credit card for your needs.

House of Credit Cards
House of Credit Cards

Below is an overview the basic types of credit cards you can choose from based on the benefits each one offers.

Low Interest: The focus of a low interest card is to make it easier to carry a balance from one month to the next without having to make continuous balance transfers or open new lines of credit. A lower interest rate will result in lower fees each month while you pay off your card or accrue new debt that you plan to pay off later. The interest rate on these cards sometimes increases after a promotional period, which makes them useful for balance transfers or short term hardships.

"I found this card in the food court at the mall!"
“I found this card in the food court at the mall!”

Balance Transfer: Balance transfer cards can help you pay down a credit balance that you have been carrying. Many balance transfer cards have a promotional period during which the interest is at zero or low percentage rate. Balance transfer cards are popular for people who want to consolidate their debt in order to make their payments easier or lower, as well as people who have one credit card with a high balance and a high interest rate. With balance transfer cards, there is usually a one-time balance transfer fee added to the total balance.

Cash Back: Cash back cards give you cash in return for making purchases on your credit card and paying off the balance. Cash back cards reward people who are dedicated to paying off their balance each month and the reward can go toward the balance itself or be redeemed in a checking account or a check. Cash back cards often offer special promotions with particular restaurants or retailers, as well as higher cash back percentages in certain categories. Cash back cards are popular for people who like to charge most things on a credit card, but are good at paying off the balance each month.

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“I’d like to purchase twelve thongs, please.”

Rewards Points: Points cards are similar to cash back cards, except the account holder get points in return for purchases instead of cash. The points can usually be used toward purchases through an exclusive shopping site for cardholders or converted to payments on your credit balance. Some points can be converted to cash. Some points cards offer hotel or airline rewards points, which often offer bonuses for purchasing travel during various times or give a large amount of points to new card holders. Points can be used for free airline tickets or even free hotel stays.

Whether you’re an avid traveler, a lover of saving money, or a fan of getting rewarded for your diligence, you have choices that will suit your spending style and your financial needs. Most banks offer multiple cards, so it may be a good idea to choose the card type that fits your lifestyle first, then compare each bank’s offerings to choose one that makes sense for your financial goals.

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“You ruined my credit…why am I smiling??”

 

Dealing With Money after Divorce

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People can sometimes get nasty during divorce, and you might see sides of your former partner’s personality that you never thought you’d have to deal with. A lot of that nastiness arises during discussions of money and the valuables you once owned together, things people sometimes feel possessive about during the divorce negotiations. If you’re going through a divorce, it’s never too early to analyze your investments and create a financial plan and budget for your future. But before you think about the future, you have to think about the past and protect any wealth you have already worked hard to acquire.

Here are a few facets of your financial situation that are important to think about as you move forward with your life:

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Bank Accounts: According to DailyFinance.com, one of the first things you should do once you are divorced is ensure that you have all your own bank accounts, whether that means opening up entirely new accounts or simply ensuring your existing accounts are in your name only. If you don’t have one already, getting a credit card in your own name should be considered paramount, especially to help you adjust in the short term. If you have an outstanding balance on a joint credit card that you are unable to pay off immediately, you can call the credit card company to tell them not to allow any future payments on the card.

Insurance: Married couples often receive insurance discounts, so it makes sense to combine contracts at first, but after divorce, things can get confusing. For your health insurance, under a COBRA plan, you have the right to coverage if you are legally separated, but not if you are divorced. Other insurance policies to examine include homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, car insurance, and life insurance.

Beneficiaries: Evaluate your named beneficiaries to make sure none of them are your ex-spouse or his or her family members. While it might not seem like an immediate concern, changing the beneficiaries on your 401(k) and your IRA is one of those tasks that often gets put on the back-burner during the chaos that is divorce paperwork and the emotional rollercoaster you’ll be riding.

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Safety: Having a safety account is always a good idea; especially during divorce proceedings. This isn’t a hidden, secret Swiss account that you can use when you run away, it’s simply an account you can add to and withdraw from without having to worry whether your former partner is partaking in what belongs to you.

Taxes: First, keep in mind that a 50/50 split in assets might not be 50/50 after taxes are evaluated. Speak with a tax professional to ensure you are getting a fair deal in the settlement, and remember, when tax season rolls around, you and your ex may still be on the same side for that particular challenge. Be sure to keep copies of everything related to major purchases and finances, even if you are not sure whether they still have anything to do with you. That way, when it’s tax time, you’ll have all of your bases covered should an issue arise.

Other Income: In addition to accounts that directly involve money you already have, consider the value of indirect sources of money—whether that involves income or anticipated savings. Some commonly overlooked concerns include insurance that was paid for ahead of time, tax refunds, and even frequent flyer points.

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Bills: On the flipside, you and your former spouse probably have several joint billing accounts that you pay into monthly, quarterly, or yearly. Look through your records for memberships, subscriptions, and even items that often are forgotten, like EZPass or your state’s toll payment provider. Some people prepay for items out of joint accounts before filing for divorce, while others may simply not worry about future liability, leaving the responsibility on you.

Divorce proceedings are often tedious, and losing that part of your life can be painful, but staying in charge of your financial future is a great way to create some security in your life. Protect yourself from unfortunate financial surprises by looking into what might seem like tiny details before they become big problems.

The Ups and Downs of Doing a Balance Transfer

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So you’ve gotten yourself into some credit card debt and you’re feeling a little overwhelmed about how to get out of it. It seems like every time you look at your balance, it’s gone up way more than you expected because of those pesky interest charges, and you’re beginning to wonder whether you’ll ever be able to get it back to zero.

But then, a beacon of hope arrives in the mail. Your bank is telling you that you can put a stop to those interest charges—at least for a little while—by putting all of that debt somewhere else. Or, maybe a new bank is telling you to bring your debt over to them by opening an entirely new account. Whether or not you should take advantage of one of those balance transfer offers depends upon the current state of your credit and the merits of the offer itself.

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If you’re interested in opening a new card, one of the negative sides is that, even though the direct mail letter may make it seem like you can basically call them and the card will appear in your hand, you still have to apply for the new line of credit. Because of that, the process can take time and you risk being denied. Daily Finance advises against applying for several lines of credit at a time because it will work against your credit score, decreasing your chances of actually getting a new credit line. However, if you are approved, your credit score could increase because your credit utilization rate (or your credit-to-debt ratio) will improve.

Using an existing line of credit may be a great way to consolidate your debt as well, especially if you already opened a new line of credit in order to complete a balance transfer in the past. CreditCards.com shares the important reminder that you may not be able to open a new line of credit because creditors could see you as a risk if you continue to carry a balance even after getting new credit. Being seen as a risk would make it harder for you to get different types of credit, such as loans for cars or a home.

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Regardless of whether you need to open a new account or are considering using an existing line of credit, make sure to read the fine print to find out how much it will cost. Every balance transfer will have a fee associated with it, regardless of the bank or the newness of your account, but some balance transfer offers have lower fees than others. Another consideration is the length of the zero or low interest rate promotion: some give you 18 months to pay off the amount, while others give you 24 months. USA Today makes an important point for debtors: creditors have no legal obligation to remind you of the end of your promotional rate, so it’s important to be diligent about paying off the entire amount in time or be prepared for the appearance of interest charges when the promotional rate expires.

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In addition to enjoying a lower interest rate on your debt, you’ll have the added benefit of easier, streamlined payments. If you have found yourself confused by due dates and bill cycle closing dates, this may be a very real perk to help you get back on top of your debt. The phrase “consolidating debt” sounds a lot fancier than it really is: all it means is that you put all of your debt in the same account, typically using a method like a balance transfer. But, keep in mind that many balance transfer offers have a limit on the amount of debts you can transfer.

If you do a balance transfer, be careful not to forget about the debt or only pay the minimum just because you are enjoying a zero percent interest promotion. Make regular payments and remember, if you have zero debt, you won’t have to worry about finding a card with zero interest!

Manage Your Money From Your Phone

Great Money-Managing Apps
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If money worries are keeping you up at night, or if the mounds of bills and receipts or even URLs, log-ins, and passwords you try to keep organized are driving you bonkers, you may need to turn to your phone for help. Apple’s trademarked advertising slogan, “There’s an app for that,” has a place in the world of personal finance as well as in the world of fun.

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While having an app for each of your banks and credit unions is a good idea for individual accounts, you can also manage all of your accounts in one place with financial management apps like Mint, Level Money, Check, and LearnVest. CNET associate editor Sarah Mitroff reviewed several great money management apps, each with slightly different features. Check, for example, which is free on both iOS and Android, allows you to pay bills without having go to each bill pay website. While the app is free, some functions are only available if you pay a fee.

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Mint and Level Money are both good for monitoring your bills and expenses, both of which will actively help you stay on track with notifications and emails to let you know how well you are doing. With this type of app, you give the app permission to connect with your bank accounts and other financial accounts, and it monitors those you’ve added. Mint is helpful for people with more expansive financial portfolios, including 401(k)s, loans, and IRAs. It constantly updates in real time, so you can see where each expense fits into your budget.

DailyWorth, a website dedicated to talking about personal finance, reviewed Mvelopes, another app that links to your bank accounts, but asks you to set your own budgeting goals. While Mint and Level Money focus on your net worth, Mvelopes lets you focus on your daily cash flow.

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Safety is key with BillGuard, another app that will monitor your bills, but it is better for people who are concerned about fraud activity or incorrect charges on your account than for people who aim to focus on their budget.

If you are not comfortable with connecting your bank accounts directly to a third party app, something like Expensify, with which you manually enter your payments and expenses, may be more suitable for your needs. PocketExpense also lets you monitor your expenses without having to link your bank accounts. You can enter expenses manually to monitor how much you spend, where you spend it, and when. The app then breaks down expenditures by category that you can visualize using a chart generator within the app. GoodBudget is another free app that helps people who budget based on income and outgoing expenses by using “envelopes” for changing elements of your budget, like holiday expenses and vacation savings.

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In addition to budgeting apps, you can take better control of your money situation with other apps that deal with your finances in different ways. DigitalTrends.com magazine recommends using apps like Slice, which help avid shoppers monitor their habits, or Credit Karma Mobile, which monitors not only credit scores, but things that may affect your credit score. SavedPlus is a great way to help you passively save money by automatically moving an allotted percentage of the amount you spend from your checking to your savings account.

In addition to tracking spending on your own, sometimes you have to track the expenditures of the group you’re with. For that, Tricount can help you out by splitting up the expenses for you. If you only need to pay someone one time, Google Wallet, Venmo, and SquareCash are all apps that allow you to pay another person directly using only their e-mail address. Venmo even allows you to pay with credit cards, but takes a three percent transaction fee.

With the proper use of these apps, you hardly need a financial planner to help you get on top of your money situation and begin to have a realistic view of your incoming cash and outgoing expenses. Help secure your financial future from your phone or tablet with these apps that feature attractive interfaces.  They are way more fun to use than a paper-and-pen expense book, and definitely better than a spreadsheet.

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