Category: Credit 101

The Ultimate Guide to Using a Cash Budget

The post The Ultimate Guide to Using a Cash Budget appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

There are many types of budgets you can try.  A quick Google search will show you lots of options – including the cash envelope budget.  If you say it will not work for you, it means you did not try doing it the right way.

cash envelope budget system

Whether you are getting out of debt or not, you can probably use some help in making sure you control your spending. Contrary to what many people say, the best way to do this is to use cash.  If you are trying to get out of debt, this is the next step you need to follow!  The cash envelope system is an important step to your debt paydown plan.

Ask many financial experts such as Dave Ramsey or Clark Howard and they will agree that using cash is an important factor in controlling your spending. And it is not a system only for people trying to get out of debt, but everyone as it really makes you think more about your spending.

If you are just learning about budgeting, you will want to check out our page — How to Budget. There, you will learn everything you want to know about budgets and budgeting.

 

HOW TO USE THE CASH BUDGET

WHY A CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM?

Cash is King!!  I say this all of the time because I genuinely believe this.  When I bring up using cash, the first rebuttal I get is “If I have cash, I spend it far too easily.”  Sorry, I don’t buy it.  The main reason that people fail on a cash budget is a lack of tracking what they spend and assigning it a task.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The truth is that when you use cash, you spend more wisely. ” quote=”The truth is that when you use cash, you spend more wisely. “]

When you have only $200 for groceries, and you also know that it must last for two weeks.  It forces you to think twice before you buy that extra item.  A cash budget never lets you overspend because once the money is gone – it’s gone.

 

CASH ENVELOPE CATEGORIES

Getting started using the envelope system for budgeting is pretty simple.  To begin, look at your budget.  The following are cash envelope categories you should consider using:

  • Groceries
  • Clothing
  • Dining Out
  • Hair Cuts/ Beauty
  • Doctor Visits
  • Random Spending (which is your spend as you want – only if you can afford it)
  • Medicine
  • Doctor/Dentist Visits

You will notice that I didn’t include gasoline on my list.  The reason I didn’t is that most people won’t overspend at the pump.  Most of us just fill up our tanks and go about our merry way.  You also don’t drive around and burn fuel or decide to fuel up because your neighbor did.  It is on your budget but is not one you where you will overspend. Not only that, it is usually much more convenient to pay at the pump.

 

PRINTABLE DIY CASH ENVELOPE TEMPLATE

When it comes to using the cash envelope system, you can purchase one such as that sold by Dave Ramsey or you can just use the envelopes in your desk drawer.  I’ve even got a cash envelope template you can use as well (purchase HERE for $2.99).

 

HOW MUCH CASH DO I NEED?

Once you have your categories, you have to determine how much cash you need for each group.  You will figure the amount based on your pay period.

For example, if payday is every two weeks, take the total monthly grocery budgeted amount and divide it by 2.  You will then know how much money you will need for each of the two pay periods for that month.  It is important you have a budget that works (including using budget printables as needed).

Next, review, each category you will use cash for and figure up the amount you will need.  Once you have done that, you will also want to figure out how many of each denomination of bill you will need.  List the total amount, by denomination, on a piece of paper.  Take that, along with a check from your account for the amount, to the bank.  You will make a withdrawal and then split up the cash into each envelope.

 

HOW TO USE THE DAVE RAMSEY ENVELOPE SYSTEM

Sometimes, it is easier to understand something if you can see it in action.  Follow this simple cash budget example to see how it works.

 

START WITH YOUR REGULAR BUDGET

Let’s say you bring home $2,500 per month. You have completed your written budget and have items such as your mortgage, utilities, food, dining out, debts and other expenses.  Most of your expenses are paid with a check or electronic transfer. Those are not the categories to consider for your cash budget.  Instead, look at those items that you don’t pay for all at once, but rather over time.

These are the items that will work best if you use cash.  In this case, you will include groceries, clothing, random spending, doctor visits and dining out.  (We don’t include fuel because there is never a chance you will overspend on fuel).

In this example, we will only use cash for these items:

MONTHLY BUDGET

Groceries – $500
Clothing – $100
Random Spending – $80
Doctor – $50
Dining Out – $100

DETERMINE HOW MUCH CASH YOU NEED PER PAYCHECK

As you can see, the budget above is based on your monthly income.  Since you are paid every two weeks, that means your take-home pay is $1,250 twice a month.  You only need enough money to cover half of each of these categories.  Your spending for each will look like this for each pay period:

MONTHLY BUDGET DIVIDED FOR BI-WEEKLY PAY

Groceries – $250
Clothing – $50
Random Spending – $40
Doctor – $25
Dining Out – $50
Total cash needed:  $415 per pay period

Now that you see what you have budgeted to spend on each category each pay period, you need to determine how many bills of each denomination you will need to get from the bank.

 

KNOWING HOW MUCH CASH YOU NEED FOR A CASH SYSTEM

Using the same cash budget example above, here is how you will do that:

Groceries – $250 —- 3 $50 bills, 5 $20 bills
Clothing – $50 — 2 $20 bills, 1 $10 bill
Random spending – $40 —- 2 $20 bills
Doctor – $25 —- 1 $20 bill, 1 $5 bill
Dining Out – $50 —- 2 $20 bills, 1 $10 bill

You need to get this cash from the bank.  You can’t use the ATM as it will spit out only $20s and $10s and will not give you the correct number of bills.  Make a note to hand to the teller that shows how to break down the cash:

3 $50 bills
12 $20 bills
2 $10 bills
1 $5 bill

Write a check for $415, payable to “CASH” and take it, along with your slip of paper to your bank.  The teller will cash the check and give you the bills you need.

 

FILL YOUR CASH ENVELOPES

When you get home with your cash, it is time to add it to each envelope.  Find the one for each category listed above.  Pull the cash from the bank envelope and split it into each envelope, per the list above.  Add the amount of the deposit to the front of the envelope, adding to any amounts that may be left from the prior pay period.

 

USING THE CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM

Once you have your cash and your envelopes, it is time to put them to work.  The only – and I mean only – way that this will work is if you track every. Single. Transaction.  I am not joking.  Doing this can help you stay on track, and you also have to account for everything you spend.

For example, shop as usual at the grocery store.  If your total is $20.17, you will pay with the cash from your groceries envelope.  Place any cash you get back into the envelope and then deduct your purchase from the balance.  So, if you had $100 and spent $20.17, the new total cash you have left will be $79.83.

The printable cash envelope template above includes lines on the envelope, so you have a place to track your balance.  If you use your own, add it to the outside or keep a slip of paper inside.

Make sure you track every purchase. You can always see how much money you have left and where it was spent.  It helps you monitor your spending at a glance.  Once the cash is gone  – you are done spending money.

USING THE VIRTUAL CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM

I also get that sometimes, cash is just something you can’t do. You need (or just really prefer) using your debit or credit card instead. Is there a way you can apply this method when you spend using plastic?

Of course!

Rather than get paper money to put into your envelopes, you can use either a virtual envelope or paper tracking to monitor your spending.

Virtual envelope systems, such as ProActive, help you monitor and control your spending but allow you the convenience of using your credit or debit card.  Rather than paying with cash, you swipe but know how much you have left to spend on each category in your budget.

If you would rather opt for something that is free, you can print out cashless envelopes instead.  They work in the same fashion as cash envelopes.  You still write down the amount you have to spend on each form and as you shop, you keep track.  When you are out of “money” according to your envelope tally, you are done shopping.

You can read even more and get started with different ways to use the envelope method even if you don’t use cash.

 

HOW TO USE A CASH METHOD WHEN SHOPPING ONLINE

So, what if you don’t shop in the store, but rather, make purchases online, how would that work with a cash budget?  Can you even do that?  Yes, you can.  You just have to handle it a little differently.

The first option is to leave some of the money you normally get in cash, in your account.  For example, if you spend $100 every paycheck through online purchases, get $100 less in cash.  You can still account for it by using cashless envelopes instead.  That way, you still monitor your spending and don’t blow your budget.

The other option is to still get all of the cash you normally need.  Then, if you buy something online, head to the bank and re-deposit that back into your account.  You still get the full benefit of using cash and seeing the money come out of your envelopes.

You still can use cash when you shop online, you just have to make some adjustments.

 

WHY THE CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM WORKS

The reason why the cash envelope system works is pretty simple.  Accountability.

When you have to make yourself accountable for your spending, you are taking control.  It also will help you spend less.  If you only have $100 to spend on dining out over the next two weeks, you think twice about ordering take out three days in a row. When the money is gone – you are done spending!!!

It isn’t entirely about cash.  It is learning self-control.  That is the one thing everyone will gain in going through this process.  It enforces this way of thinking.  You will quickly learn to love using cash, and you will feel more in control of your finances.

Cash also has more emotion attached to it. You don’t think about the consequences of a purchase when you swipe a card.  However, handing over that cold, hard cash sometimes hurts.  You do think about each purchase a bit more.

We’ve been doing this for so long that I don’t know how to shop without my envelopes!   It is routine, and it helps us always know, in a matter of minutes, how much money we have available for the things we need.

The post The Ultimate Guide to Using a Cash Budget appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

7 Budget Friendly Tips for a Room Makeover

Sometimes the need to redecorate a room doesn’t line up with when the budget allows for a full makeover. In those times, it’s good to have a few budget friendly ideas to spruce up the space. These seven tips are things that can be done even when funds are tight.

1 – Rearrange or Swap with Other Rooms

The most budget friendly thing you can do when redecorating is to look for inspiration from the other rooms in your home. Often times, especially in larger homes, there are pieces of furniture and other décor that could be moved from one room to another to make a free update to the space. If you are thinking about updating your master bedroom, consider using pieces from your office, the living room, and even the outside patio. Taking a piece from another room can provide just the change you are craving in the space you want to update.

2 – Paint Furniture

If you found a piece of furniture in another room that can work based on the shape and size, but it doesn’t quite match, consider painting the furniture. This is also a great option for updating old wood furniture that you’ve had in the room for years, or even furniture that you just found at a thrift store or rummage sale. Changing the color of furniture with spray paint is a quick and easy way to give it an entirely new look in less than a day’s time.

When determining if a piece of furniture can be painted, look for pieces that have good structure and very few flaws to the shape. When you paint, gouges and scratches can become more pronounced, so if you find a few imperfections, fill them with wood filler and sand them smooth before painting. If you are painting metal furniture, make sure to sand off any rust spots to ensure the rust doesn’t spread after you complete the makeover.

3 – Paint the Walls

If you want to make a bigger impact in a space, consider investing in a can or two of paint. Many rooms can be completed with one can of paint, but for more drastic color changes (like from white walls to dark blue walls or vise versa), you may need two cans to allow for multiple coats to get the walls fully covered.

If you don’t want to paint the entire room, consider painting an accent wall to give it a pop of color. If you have more time than funds, you can invest a few hours, a quart of paint, and a roll of painters tape into making a design on a wall instead. You might add a single stripe, a chevron stripe, or some free-hand circles around the room. You can get creative with the accent designs to make the room as fun as you want it to be.


4 – Have a Plan

One of the biggest things you can do to keep a makeover project budget friendly is to have a plan and a little patience. Think about it like this: if your car dies and you need a new car, you are at the mercy of the people who are selling cars at that exact time. If you are able to plan ahead on the purchase of your new car, you have significantly more bargaining power because you don’t NEED to purchase it immediately. You can wait for a better price to come along.

The exact same thing is true when it comes to purchases for your home. If you are determined to buy things on a certain day, you are at the mercy of what’s available on that exact day in the shops you can get to. If you’re able to instead plan the project, decide what you are going to look for, and then purchase when you find the items at the right price, you are in a much better position to find bargain pieces.

5 – Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Once you have your budget makeover plan in place, keep your eyes open for the perfect pieces everywhere you possibly can. Tour your neighborhood on the weekends to see if any of the neighbors are selling the perfect pieces on rummage sales. Search Craigslist and online rummage sale sites to catch when the items you need pop up for sale. Walk through thrift stores on a weekly basis and keep your eyes peeled for the perfect used items. And don’t forget to watch the clearance racks at your favorite stores to see what goes on super sale. I personally love walking through Target on the days they mark down their home décor items. It feels like a treasure hunt to find just the right throw pillows or wall art to fit my plan. When the items are on clearance, it’s an even bigger success knowing that I didn’t spend even close to full price on the perfect pieces.

6 – Change Light Fixtures

If you are handy, or you have a friend who is familiar with electrical wiring, you may want to consider changing out the light fixtures in your home to quickly update the space. Having light fixtures that are decades old often means that they are in an outdated style or finish, which can make the entire space look out of date. By swapping them out with an eye catching light fixture that you found on sale or at a thrift store, you can make a big impact change in that one item. One of my favorite stores to check for items like light fixtures is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Many cities and towns that have a Habitat for Humanity program also have a Restore where they sell good quality home fixtures that have been removed from homes that were remodeled. It is a store where one man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure.

7 – Change Flooring

The final tip is definitely more hands-on, but can make a large impact in a room if you have just a little bit more money to spend and a weekend’s worth of time. Changing the flooring in a room can create a big change for not as much money as you are probably imagining.

Laminate flooring has come a long way in the last 5 years, and you can now buy a variety of great looking laminate flooring for less than $1/square foot. This lightweight, easy to install flooring can be printed with images of wood, stone, or other designs to give your room a totally new feel. Considering most bedrooms in homes are close to 12’ x 12’, that means you could change the flooring in a room for under $150.

If that is outside your budget, you still have options. Consider getting a large area rug to anchor the room. These are typically available at stores like Ross and Home Goods for $50 or less. Not only can they add a pop of color to your floor, but you can move them into new rooms if you ever feel like rearranging in the future.

Having a strict budget shouldn’t keep you from having a space that you love. For under $200 there are a number of quick changes you can make to your home. Mix and match a few ideas and you’ll be surprised at how quickly a little time and a few dollars can change the feel of your home.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

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“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

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If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

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“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Get Car Insurance Starting At $22/Month With Smart Financial

Get car insurance quotes through a website called Smart Financial, and you could be paying insider-level rates as low as $22 a month.

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

How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay on Your Credit Report?

A young African American woman sits at her desk with her laptop in front of her as she looks off to the side.

Your credit report offers valuable insight into your financial history and affects most of your financial future. Everything from whether you get approved for a mortgage to what your credit card interest rate will be balances on your credit score.

Negative information on your credit report can be detrimental for years. Wonder how long hard inquiries stay on your credit report? It’s not always clear how long inquiries and other negative information stays on your credit report and affects your score. The length and severity vary, but here are four common types of inquiries and how long they affect your credit score.

1. How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay on My Credit Report?

What is a hard inquiry?

Hard inquiries are created every time your credit report is accessed by a business when you apply for a line of credit. For example, when you apply for a car loan, mortgage, student loan or credit card, your credit receives a hard inquiry.

How long do hard inquiries stay on your report?

Inquiries remain on your credit reports for 24 months. However, hard inquiries impact your score for only the first 12 months. After that, they have no impact on your score.

How much do hard inquiries affect your credit score?

New credit—including inquiries and any new credit accounts—make up just 10% of your FICO score. A single inquiry typically only drops your credit score by three to five points. As long as you apply for credit only when you need it, this is one of the lesser hits to worry about.

It is important to consider the perception associated with numerous hard inquiries, though. Even if your credit score can take a few hits and remain good or excellent, perception can matter. If a lender pulls your history and sees you’re running up a string of inquiries, they may wonder why. It can look like you’re desperate for credit but not getting approved by lenders, which isn’t an ideal look on your credit report.

2. How Long Do Credit Accounts Stay on My Credit Report?

What is a credit account?

Credit accounts refer to all of the accounts for which you hold credit, including credit cards, mortgages and car loans. Credit scoring models like to see a healthy balance to the types of credit accounts you have and can manage effectively. Negative information on a credit account includes late or missing payments.

How long does negative credit account information stay on your report?

Negative account information, such as a late payment, can stay on your credit report for seven years from the date it was first reported as late. If you close the account, the entire account typically will be removed from your report after seven years. If the account remains open, the negative information should be removed after seven years while the rest of the account information stays on your report.

Positive information, on the other hand, remains on your credit report indefinitely. If you close the account, positive information typically stays on your report for 10 years past the closing date.

How much do credit accounts affect your credit?

Your credit mix accounts for 10% of your credit score. A healthy mix means more points. The age of your credit accounts also impacts your score, accounting for 15% of the score. If you don’t have many credit accounts or if you close your accounts, it could negatively affect your credit score.

Payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score, and making payments on time is the most important factor in determining your credit score. A single late payment can drop a good score by as much as 90 to 110 points.

Most lenders don’t report missed payments until accounts are more than 30 days past due, so if you can catch the missing payment in enough time, you might not notice a hit at all. Other lenders will let one late payment slide, especially if you’ve been a loyal customer for many years and have a good excuse for why you missed it.

3. How Long Do Collection Accounts Stay on My Credit Report?

What is a collection account?

When you fall behind on making payments on an account, your debt could end up in the collection’s department of that company. The creditor may also sell your debt to a collection agency, which reports it as a collection account. At this point, the original creditor that sold the debt should not continue to report a balance owed, but you should watch out for duplicate collection accounts.

How long will collection accounts stay on your report?

Collection accounts remain open for seven years plus 180 days from the date the account was delinquent. After that time, it must be removed regardless of when it was paid or when it was placed for collection.

How much do collection accounts affect your credit?

Understanding how collection accounts can affect your credit score is tricky. The most important factor that will affect your credit score when it comes to collections is how recently the collections occurred—the more recent the collection, the lower the score. Multiple collection accounts can also lower your score. Unfortunately, settling or removing a collection may not impact your score positively.

While there’s no way to tell exactly how much a collection account will affect your credit score, it is one of the higher penalties. The best course of action is to avoid having accounts sent to collection in the first place.

4. How Long Do Bankruptcies Stay on My Credit Report?

What are bankruptcies?

Bankruptcies are proceedings that let you restructure debt you have no way of paying. Depending on the type of bankruptcy you file, you may pay a portion of some of your debt back via a plan. Once your bankruptcy is over, outstanding debts are considered discharged and no longer owed.

How long do bankruptcies stay on your report?

Chapter 7, 11 and 12 bankruptcies stay on your credit report for 10 years from the date filed. Completed Chapter 13 bankruptcies are usually removed after seven years from the filing date.

How much do bankruptcies affect your credit?

In the aftermath of a bankruptcy, your score is likely to drop dramatically. However, the purpose of bankruptcy is to provide a last-resort option for restructuring your financial life. By making strong financial decisions during and after your bankruptcy, you can work on bringing your score back up.

How long do inquiries stay on your credit report? As you can see above, it depends. And the impact each has to your score is variable.

But one truth remains. Negative items on your credit report do impact your score. You can’t afford to ignore these items, especially since some may not even be accurate. Sign up for your free Credit Report Card today. You can check your credit, get a better grip on your credit report and learn how to get the most from your credit score. 

Sign up for your free Credit Report Card today >>

The post How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay on Your Credit Report? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How to Set a Realistic Budget for Christmas Shopping

The post How to Set a Realistic Budget for Christmas Shopping appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

INSIDE: Christmas shopping can easily get out of hand. Learn how to set a Christmas budget so you can make it a great one without doing into debt.

You need a budget, especially at Christmas. Here’s how to set a Christmas budget for your family that works!

To set a Christmas budget, decide what you can afford to spend this Christmas

Knowing how to set a Christmas budget comes down to what you can comfortably afford. How much money do you make per month? Now subtract all your expenses? How much is left over? How much of the leftovers do you feel comfortable putting towards gifts? 

There’s no magic number for exactly how much you should spend on Christmas. Each family has a different budget and different circumstances. But, be reasonable. Don’t go into debt in order to buy gifts.  

Once you’ve come up with a number that is right for you, write it down and stick to it. If you want to buy a family member something special but it’s over budget, then either wait for it to go on sale or come up with a new plan. And don’t be so hard on yourself.

Avoid falling for the “perfect Christmas myth.” Your kids will be okay if they don’t get every single thing on their list. Don’t go over budget because you’re trying to make the holidays perfect. And it’s never a bad idea to teach your kids about a holiday budget.

  • Pro tip: You can still have a magical Christmas on a budget — get our tips on How to Do Christmas on a Budget.

If your budget is lower than you want it to be, consider ways you can make more money for Christmas.

Our best tips for staying on budget this Christmas

In order to set a Christmas budget and stick with it, try these tips…

Keep gift-giving simple 

When it comes to my extended family we’ve been doing Secret Santa style gift swaps for years. Not only does this reduce the amount of money that you need to spend, but it also reduces the stress of trying to come up with a thoughtful gift for every uncle and cousin that you only see twice a year. 

Make a list and stick to it

Once you’ve decided on a gift-giving strategy then you’ll know exactly who to need to buy gifts for. Create a list of names and determine how much you can budget for each person. Based on your list you can start brainstorming gifts that align with your budget. 

Give experiences, not things 

If you’re having trouble deciding what to give people for Christmas remember, give experiences, not things. Experiences are more meaningful then things and the memories you create from a good experience can truly last a lifetime. Passes to a museum, amusement park, or a gift card to a fantastic restaurant are great gift ideas. 

How to save money on Christmas gifts to stay on budget 

Between gift-giving and holiday entertaining, Christmas can get expensive. That’s why you set a Christmas budget to begin with. But, in addition, here are some gift-giving tips to help you stay on budget:

Follow the four gift rule

When it comes to the act of gift-giving, keep it simple. There are a ton of super fun gift-giving strategies that allow you to celebrate the tradition of giving without spending a fortune. My kids are still young but we’ve started practicing the four gift rule which is: 

  • Something you want
  • Something you need
  • Something you’ll wear
  • Something you’ll read

This is a great strategy to help keep you on budget while shopping for Christmas gifts. 

Give a gift card

Yes, you can argue that a gift card doesn’t qualify as a super thoughtful or meaningful gift. All I know is that I would prefer a gift card over an ugly sweater or smelly candle. Also, gift cards are a great way to stay on budget. All you have to do is pick an amount, or assign an amount that fits your budget. No waiting for a sale and no overspending necessary. 

Give a homemade gift for Christmas

Are you super artistic, an excellent baker, or a woodworking genius? Then consider giving a homemade gift to help you save money and stick to your Christmas budget.

There’s a reason why online marketplaces like Etsy are so popular. It’s because there’s a demand for beautiful homemade products. However, if the extent of your creativity involves a glue stick, macaroni, and glitter then perhaps this is not the budget-saving tip for you!

Advantages of shopping for Christmas all year 

If you’re a planner, this strategy could work for you. Although it’s strange to start to think about Christmas shopping in March or April, there are a lot of advantages when it comes to Christmas shopping all year, as opposed to saving it all for November or December. So, start celebrating Christmas in July and reap some of the financial and emotional benefits.

If you can wrap your head around the idea of shopping for Christmas gifts all year long then there are quite a few major advantages to doing it this way: 

It’s easier to stick to your Christmas budget

Can you even imagine the Christmas holidays without last-minute panic shopping? Even if you set a Christmas budget, it can easily get blown away when that happens.

When you break up your Christmas shopping over several months or even an entire year, you can make a plan. You can shop for items when you know they’re on sale, and you can take some time to save for things before making a purchase. This can help you avoid going into a ton of debt at Christmas time. 

According to a report by Statista titled, “U.S. Christmas Season,” the average American expects to spend $846 on Christmas gifts. If this seems accurate for you, then divide this by twelve months and you can set a ballpark budget of $70.50 per month. 

Early shopping means you can avoid the crowds 

While 64% of U.S. consumers purchase gifts online, many of us also find ourselves in a mall during the holidays. And, in my personal opinion, there is nothing worse than a crowded mall at Christmas. Everyone seems to be grumpy, in a rush, and deplete of holiday cheer. No thank you. 

It can result in more thoughtful Christmas gifts 

When you have a list of people you need to buy gifts for and months to do it you can take the time to come up with more thoughtful gifts. This is opposed to the regular last-minute shopping sprees where you are trying to think of something, anything that would make a decent present for your nephew or second cousin. 

It can make the holidays less stressful 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have some time to relax around the holidays? How would it feel to sit down with a warm coffee or a nice glass of wine on December 23rd instead of searching for last-minute Christmas gifts in a crowded store?

When you shop for Christmas all year round, you don’t need to be at the mall searching for a parking spot with everyone else. You can take some time to relax and really get into the holiday spirit. 

You can go into the new year on a financial high note

It’s all fun and games in December but January can be a real bummer if you overspend during the holidays. When you shop for Christmas gifts all year, you can start January on a high note and focus on achieving all of your New Year’s resolutions rather than waiting for your scary holiday credit card bill.  

Don’t forget to budget for each family member’s Christmas gift 

If you like the idea of shopping for Christmas gifts throughout the year, then it’s a good idea to still set a Christmas budget. Just as you can overspend during the last-minute Christmas rush, you can also overspend on Christmas when you’re shopping throughout the year if you don’t have a plan.  

Remember what Christmas is really about

This Christmas give yourself the gift of more time, less stress, and less debt by shopping for holiday gifts all year long! This strategy will give you the ability to focus on the things that really make the holidays special — the people, the traditions, and the memories! 

And that brings us to Christmas dinner! Discover how to create a budget for Christmas dinner too!

–By Jessica Martel 

The post How to Set a Realistic Budget for Christmas Shopping appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

Pros & Cons of Joining Greek Life

When college freshmen step foot on campus, they may go to an activity fair and see members of sororities and fraternities encouraging recruits to join. They might want to know that becoming part of Greek life can have its upsides and downsides.

Whether or not students decide to let their Greek flag fly depends on their personality, their specific situation, and their goals while they are in school. Some may find Greek life incredibly enriching, and others could decide it’s a waste of their time.

By learning what Greek life is all about, students can add that decision to their freshman checklist for the new year.

What Is Greek Life in College?

Greek life is made up of communities of students who live together, volunteer for different organizations, pursue networking opportunities, and much more. The communities consist of sororities for women and fraternities for men.

Sororities and fraternities may have various objectives, but overall they exist so that students can make meaningful connections with one another, develop leadership skills, and give back.

More than 10% of college students are members of sororities and fraternities, and these societies have 10 million-plus alumni members, according to StateUniversity.com.

Students who are interested in becoming members must apply and then go through an initiation process. Once accepted, they will live with their sorority or fraternity, usually in a house on campus, and participate in activities like sports, dances, parties, and community service opportunities.

Sorority and fraternity names consist of two or three Greek letters, like Phi Kappa Theta, Sigma Pi, or Delta Zeta, a nod to the first U.S. Greek letter society, Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary as a literary, debating, and social club.

Many students only know about sororities and fraternities from pop culture references like “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Animal House,” “Legally Blonde,” and “Old School,” which depict a perennial party.

While that is certainly true in some instances—and fraternities have come under fire for their alcohol use and hazing rituals—Greek life can be much more meaningful and beneficial than these portrayals.

Upsides of Greek Life

It isn’t all shenanigans and keggers, and maybe not even a drop in some frats and sororities. Here are some perks.

Friends

When new students first get to college, they may not know where to turn to make connections. If they become part of a sorority or fraternity, they could make many new friends right away, bond with them through different activities and social events, and remain friends for life.

Networking Opportunities

Students will also have the chance to network with their new peers. When they’re searching for internships or jobs, these connections can prove to be highly valuable.

Plus, if a job hunter lists their sorority or fraternity on a resume and a recruiter is a Greek life alumnus, that could open up a conversation and make a candidate stand out.

Possibly Cheaper Housing

Living in college dorms can be incredibly pricey. The price of room and board at public schools approaches $9,000 on average, and tops $10,000 at private schools, according to MyCollegeGuide.org.

If students are sharing a house with many members of a sorority or fraternity, they could save money.

They may also save money by having access to a full kitchen, where they can make meals instead of purchasing a meal plan or eating at restaurants all the time.

Development of Leadership Skills

Sororities and fraternities need leaders who will come up with ideas for activities, pilot volunteering efforts, and recruit members.

If members step up and decide they want to become leaders, then they are taking on new responsibilities and developing crucial skills that will be valuable when they graduate from college and start to look for jobs.

Volunteering Opportunities

Fraternities and sororities are focused on philanthropy.

Students can participate in different volunteer projects with their fellow Greek life members and contribute to making the world a better place.

Not to mention, this will look good on a resume because it shows that a student is passionate about certain causes and wants to do their part to improve the lives of others.

Potential Downsides of Greek Life

Like a toga, Greek life isn’t a good look for everyone. Here are some possible cons.

Cost

Joining a fraternity or sorority could cost thousands of dollars , and monthly dues can range from $20 to more than $200.

Local and national chapter fees are not always covered in the regular monthly dues.

And if fraternities or sororities get into trouble, members could be fined as well.

Reputation

Fraternities and sororities have gotten a bad rap from movies and TV.

Worse, students have died in hazing accidents throughout the years, leading colleges to take administrative action against fraternities especially.

Some fraternities and sororities do emphasize parties and drinking, which is all fun and games until someone begins to flunk out, becomes addicted, is involved in an assault, or is injured.

It’s best, of course, to socialize responsibly and always make academic studies the priority.

Time Commitment

Because Greek life involves so many events, and members are expected to participate, joining a sorority or fraternity means a huge time commitment.

Spending too much time on Greek life activities and not enough on studying or working at internships could have a negative impact on a student’s future.

Determining Whether or Not to Join Greek Life

Joining a fraternity or a sorority can be a great decision, especially for freshmen who may not know anyone on campus. If they are a part of Greek life, then they will stay busy, make friends, network, and contribute.

On the flipside, if they are in a campus family that is constantly throwing parties and not interested in enriching members’ lives in a meaningful way, then joining wouldn’t be a good idea.

If students don’t have the money to join or are scrambling to pay for college in general, then that’s another issue.

A private student loan can fill the gaps in the cost of attendance. Interest rates, repayment plans, and fees vary by lender. It’s best to shop around and compare.

The Takeaway

A sorority or fraternity can provide camaraderie and enduring connections, and enhance a call for service and leadership. It can also be time consuming, expensive, and distracting. Greek life isn’t for everyone, but some will find it a life-changing college choice.

Look into a no-fee private student loan from SoFi.



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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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7 Tricks to Cut Down Your Electricity Bill

Tip 1: Pull the Plug on Appliances

Even when you’re not using appliances, they still continue to use energy. So pull the plug when you’re done with the blender, toaster, food processor, and even your television—everything except appliances that need constant power to preserve a special setting.

Tip 2: Insulate Your Outlets

Did you know that you could be losing warm (or cold) air through your electrical outlets? We placed some fireproof foam insulation under our outlet covers and switch plates, and were able to save several dollars a month on our utility bill.

Tip 3: Turn off Unused Electronics

One of the easiest ways to save money on electricity is to turn off electronics when you’re not using them. To make it easier, get a power strip like the SmartStrip, which powers down devices based on the device’s usage. For example, when you switch off your computer, the SmartStrip will cut the power to your monitor, printer, and scanner as well.

Tip 4: Use Lighter Paint

If you’re trying to decide between deep or baby blue for your walls, you should know that lighter colors of paint well help you use less energy, as they reflect the light and heat in a room better than darker hues.

Tip 5: Be a Night Owl

You may not realize that most electric companies charge more for power during the day than at night. Contact your local utility to find out whether this is the case in your area. If it is, make sure to do all your laundry, dishwashing, internet surfing, and other power-intensive tasks during off-peak hours. We noticed the difference on our electric bill, and you will, too.

Tip 6: Use Jars for Heaters

Here’s a neat trick for keeping your house warm without spending a cent in the fall and spring: Pour water into mason jars or glasses (we use cleaned-out salsa jars with their labels removed), and line them up along your windowsill. During the day, the sun will warm the water, which will gently warm any air getting through your window at night. To make the jars even more decorative, add ribbons and bows, or add food coloring to the water for some pretty windowsill reflections.

Tip 7: Watch Out for Cordless Phones

Especially if it’s an older model, your cordless phone can use a lot of electricity. Keep your energy bills down by making sure you dim the lights on the display (if possible), and by not cranking up the volume, which can force the phone’s amplifier to work twice as hard.

Get more great tips on our podcast by subscribing on iTunes or Stitcher! You can also sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our daily tips!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

By January 18, 2021.    Credit 101  ,