Tag: planning

Does Your Small Business Need a Blog? Blog Writing Services Can Help

If you have a business, the next step to taking it further is to build and grow a connection with your customers. Simply providing a service or product is no longer enough. In a world that is always moving and full of change, people crave meaningful interactions. And that need extends to the products and services they use. Customers want to be surrounded by things they can identify with. If a business with great products or services is also able to provide some kind of added value for someone, that person is more likely to become a loyal patron. 

As a business owner, providing that added value can feel like a huge task. This is where the value of blog writing services can really shine. Not only can these services create more connections between you and your customers, but they can also make your life easier through a smoother workflow. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started.

What are my goals?

Ultimately, you probably hope to increase your sales. However, modern consumers expect personal connections. Set a goal for providing helpful facts that engage new readers. Establish a goal regarding how many new readers left comments on your blog. Consumers are more likely to complete sales when they feel that you hope to improve their lives. 

Do I even need a blog?

Yes. According to studies conducted by the Pew Research Center, people regularly turn to blogs and internet articles instead of using their televisions for news and information.

How can I connect with customers?

A blog allows businesses to connect with customers in many ways. Blogs provide answers to consumers' questions. They make your brand seem approachable and friendly. Blogs encourage readers to interact with your company and maintain meaningful connections. In addition to providing a blog, reach out through social media to invite readers to visit your website. 

Who are my current customers?

If you aren't sure about the needs, motivations, and concerns of your existing customers, it will be easy to miss out on meaningful connections. As you respond to comments on your blog posts or on your social media sites, you'll learn more about the needs that drive sales. While copywriters will spend time researching your current customers, it's also helpful for you to develop relationships with them.

Who is the target audience?

Who benefits most from the goods or services you offer? These people are your target audience. Take a look at the demographics of your existing customers to identify the new audience you want to attract. Remember to focus on how your offerings can improve the lives of your existing customers to understand how to attract people from your target audience. 

How busy is my schedule?

Building and maintaining a blog with a consistent schedule takes a lot of work. Some people make the mistake of underestimating the time commitment that goes into planning, design, and content creation. When your workday is already pushing beyond the 9-to-5 schedule, you don't really have time to produce consistent, fresh content. 

There are a lot of potentially great blogs out there that consist of just one or two posts … last updated eight months ago. If you want to have a blog that builds and sustains an audience, a consistent schedule is critical. Without a schedule, it can sometimes be impossible to ensure posts are written and content keeps flowing. If you have loyal followers and you disappear for several months, you may very well be forgotten! Using blog writing services makes this a non-issue. When someone else writes your content, you can tend to your life and work without having to worry about losing customers.

Can copywriters really represent my voice?

The task of finding someone to accurately portray your company should not be taken lightly. After all, writing in a business or brand's voice is a critical part of the copywriting process.

It is equally important to understand the value of professional copywriters. There are many factors involved in the process of creating great copy that leads to increased sales, and copywriters must understand and use these strategies. With research into your subject and your target consumers, talented copywriters can represent your voice. 

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

How to Find My Citibank Routing Number

Are you looking for your Citibank routing number? It’s quite easy and simple. Below is how to find it.

If you’re sending or receiving money to friends and family members using your Citibank account, you need to make sure you’re having the right routing number.

CIT Bank Savings Rates: How Much Can You Earn

What is my Citibank routing number?

In brief, the Citibank routing number is a nine-digit number that the bank uses to identify themselves. Citibank routing number is sometimes known as ABA numbers, check routing numbers or routing transit numbers.

You need your routing numbers for several reasons. For instance, you need it for:

  • To set up direct deposit
  • For ACH payments;
  • To transfer funds between accounts at different banks;
  • For bill payments;
  • To receive government benefits;
  • To receive tax refunds;
  • For wire transfers;
  • To have payments like paycheck deposited into your account.
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Citibank Routing Number For Each State

Citibank routing number is different for each state.  So, it’s important to know it. But your Citibank routing number is associated in the state you opened your bank account.

So, if you have moved to Illinois for example, but you had opened Citibank account in New York, your routing number is associated in New York.

It is as simple as that.

Here is a table of the Citibank routing number by each state:

State Citibank Routing Number
Citibank Northern California (CA) 321171184
Citibank Delaware 31100209
Citibank Illinois (IL) 271070801
Citibank Nevada 322271724/ 322271779/ 321070007
Citibank New York (NY) 21000089
Citibank Texas (TX) 113193532
Citibank Washington DC 254070116
Citibank Connecticut 221172610
Citibank Florida 266086554
Citibank Maryland 52002166
Citibank New Jersey (NJ) 21272655
Citibank South Dakota 21000089
Citibank Virginia 254070116
Citibank California, Southern 322271724
If your state is not included in here, call Citibank at 800-374-9700 for assistance.

Citibank routing number to make ACH Transfers

To make an ACH transfer, you’re going to have to choose the Citibank routing number for your particular state.

For example, if you live in Florida, then you will use the Citibank routing number for Florida which is 266086554. If you live in another state, look at the ACH routing number for your particular state in the table above.

Citibank routing numbers for Wire Transfers

Wire transfers are a quicker way to send money than an ACH transfer. However, there is going to be a fee.

If you’re making a domestic wire transfer, however, you will need to use the routing number in your state, see the table above.

To make domestic wire transfers, and in addition to the routing number, you will also need the following:

  • The name of of the person whom you’re making the transfer to;
  • The name and address of the person’s bank;
  • The person’s account number as well as the routing number.

For international wire transfers, you will need both the Citibank routing number in your state and a SWIFT Code: CITIUS33. SWIFT stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

In addition, you will need the following to make an international wire transfer:

  • The name of of the person whom you’re making the transfer to;
  • The name and address of the person’s bank;
  • The person’s account number
  • Purpose of the payment; and 
  • The currency being sent

Where to find your routing number?

So, you want to know where to get your routing number from Citibank? Here’s where to get it:

Your Citibank personal check

You can find your Citibank routing number on the bottom left-corner of a check. However, note the routing number on your check might be different than the routing number for a wire transfer. So, before you’re making a transaction, make sure you check with your bank to get the accurate routing number.

Learn How to Write A Check.

Citibank routing number on this page

We have listed the routing numbers for each state on the table above for ACH transfers. We have also listed the routing number for domestic and international wire transfers.

Your Bank statements

You can find your routing number as well on your monthly bank statements.

Citibank online

Your can find your routing number online by simply going into online banking. 

On the Federal Reserve website

You can look up your routing number on the Federal Reserve website. 

Customer service

Lastly, you can always call customer service at 800-374-9700: to get your routing number. It’s available 24 hour a day, 7 days a week. However, note that you will have to provide some details to identify yourself.

Which routing number to use?

Depending on your financial transactions, you will need to use different routing numbers.

Domestic ACH Transfer

For domestic transfers, use the ABA routing number from your state (see the table above).

For Domestic Wire Transfer

Use the Citibank domestic wire transfer number in your state in the table above.

For international wire transfers

Use your state routing number: and the SWIFT code: CITIUS33

Citibank routing number: bottom lime

In conclusion, if you have a Citibank account, you’ll likely need to your routing number. You will need to set up direct deposit, to set up automatic payments, or to wire transfer. So, it’s important to know it and keep it handy. Also, make sure you verify the number before you make a transaction. If you miss one digit or get one digit wrong, your money can go somewhere else.

Related:

  • Wells Fargo Routing Number
  • How to Find Your Well Fargo Routing Number for Texas

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions about your finances, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
  • Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
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CIT Bank CDs 0.75% APY 1 Year CD Term Review
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The post How to Find My Citibank Routing Number appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

7 Things to Know About Giving (or Getting) a Car for Graduation

If you're planning to buy a car for the new grad in your life, here's some advice on making the right choice.

Behind every diploma bestowed at high school and college graduations is a lot of hard work. And for some lucky grads, that hard work gets rewarded with a milestone gift: their own car. If you’re planning to buy a car for the new grad in your life, we’ve got some advice on making the right choice. And if you’re the recipient, we’ll share a few tips to help you drive into the future with confidence.

What to Consider If You’re Giving a Car to a New Grad

You’re so proud of your new grad for all their hard work that you’ve decided to shell out for a set of wheels to carry them on to their next adventures. Whether you’re getting your grad started with a well-loved (read: used) older car you bought from a neighbor or you’re splurging for a brand-new ride with all the bells and whistles, it’s important for you, the buyer, to take a moment to consider the realities of this major purchase — and of the needs of its soon-to-be owner.

1. Consider Total Cost of Ownership When Choosing a Car

First, let’s talk money. The car you buy should fit into your own budget, of course. But you also have to consider the total cost — including ongoing costs — of the car. Here are some things to think about.

Gas: If, for example, your child will be driving the car back and forth between home and an out-of-state university, would they (or you, if you’re footing the gas bill) be burdened by the costs of a gas-guzzling vehicle? If so, a fuel-efficient car might be a better option.

Insurance: This is the most expensive consideration after the vehicle itself. Neil Richardson, licensed insurance agent and adviser for The Zebra, says to keep insurance in mind right from the start as you shop for cars. If insurance is an afterthought when you’ve already purchased the car, you could be in for some unpleasant surprises. Further, the car you select will affect your insurance premium if your grad will be on your insurance policy (more on this below).

Maintenance: Consider the expenses related to repairing or replacing parts on the vehicle if it’s damaged in some way. Foreign car repairs may be much more expensive than domestic, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Further, new cars may include manufacturer warranties or maintenance as part of your package, but if your grad is savvy with tools or has an interest in cars, they can take care of plenty of at-home car maintenance issues.

2. Prioritize Safety & Utility

When car shopping, safety should stay top of mind. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks the safest cars in different categories, from minis to large pickup trucks.

Also think about where and how much your recipient will be driving. If they’re headed for college or a new job in a crowded city, they’ll need a car that fits cramped streets and narrow parking spaces. A new college grad with a quick commute will appreciate a different kind of car than one whose new job requires them to be a road warrior.

3. Insure it

If your gift recipient is a high school grad who lives at your residence, they may get lower premiums if they stay on your policy, but whether that’s possible depends on your situation. If they’re headed to an in-state college or university, they can stay on your insurance policy as long as their primary residence is still your home address, Richardson says. Students leaving the state for college, though, may have to get coverage on their own, as rates are dependent on where the driver lives and “garages” the vehicle.

Remember that if your new grad is on your insurance policy, you could be held liable for damage they cause in an accident. For this reason, Richardson says it’s generally a good idea to go beyond the state-required minimums in liability coverage.

4. Get Your Paperwork in Order

Getting close to a decision? Before you seal the deal, prepare for some extra paperwork. Whether you’re heading to the dealer or buying a car privately, you’ll need to be prepared with the right documentation, such as the recipient’s driver’s license and current insurance, an IRS cash-reporting form and a security report. (Questions? Read more details about each of these documents.)

If You’re a New Grad Who’s Been Gifted a Car

So now you’re the proud owner of a new diploma and a car. Sweet! Take a moment to savor the payoffs for your hard work and generosity of your gift giver.

Once you’ve posted lots of photos of your new ride, you might be thinking about all the new freedom your car gives you or how you’re going to upgrade the stereo system. But there are some other things you need to keep in mind when it comes to how this car will affect your life. Nail down these details and you’ll be well on your way to acing this whole “#adulting” thing.

1. Know the Impact on Your Wallet

Even if you aren’t making payments on your new vehicle, a car can still have a huge impact on your wallet. (Here’s how car insurance affects your credit.) How much will you need to budget for gas, parking, insurance, registration and regular maintenance? Your folks or your generous benefactor may be picking up some of these expenses for you, at least in the short term. Be sure to establish clearly with others about who’s paying what and check in regularly to make sure necessary expenses related to your car are taken care of.

2. Your Insurance History Starts Now

We know that dealing with auto insurance for the first time is complicated, so it’s extra important to be clear on how your policy works, whether it’s in your name or you are on your parents’ policy for now. If you’re a registered driver of a registered vehicle, your insurance history starts now (even if you’re not paying for it), and a clean driving record and demonstrated history of continuous insurance coverage will mean huge savings on your insurance in the future.

If you’re in college, you can start building your insurance record by staying on your parents’ or legal guardians’ policies if they OK it. According to Richardson, as long as the parents’ address is still the primary residence of the student, on-campus housing is considered temporary since students have to leave at the end of each semester, so students can still be covered on their parents’ policy. Once they move off campus to a more permanent situation, i.e., a house or apartment, then they will need their own coverage. (Here are the states where your credit score really matters for car insurance coverage. No matter where you live, it’s a good idea to know where your credit stands — you can find out for free on Credit.com.)

If you’re not in college and you’ve moved away from your parents or guardians altogether and no longer share an address, you’ll have to have your own policy.

3. Keep That Car in Tip-Top Shape

Finally, regular preventive car maintenance will probably be the last thing on your mind as you adjust to college life or settle into a new job. So go ahead and set some reminders in your calendar to take care of oil changes, wiper fluid and other routine maintenance for your car. You’ll prolong the life of the car and make it less likely that problems will pop up just when you don’t need them — like on your Spring Break trip or on the way to a job interview.

Car not in your budget for a graduation gift? Consider these eight graduation gifts your kids will actually use. 

Image: kali9

The post 7 Things to Know About Giving (or Getting) a Car for Graduation appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

The sad thing about cars is that like boats and diamond rings, they’re depreciating assets. As soon as you drive yours off the lot, it immediately begins losing value. Some people are lucky enough to live somewhere with a reliable public transportation system. And others can bike to work. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, however, a car isn’t something you can put off buying.

Check out our investment calculator. 

If you’re preparing to purchase a new or used vehicle, you might be wondering, how much should I spend on a car? We’ll answer that question and reveal ways to make sure you’re not overpaying when you buy your vehicle.

The True Cost of Buying a Car

Next to buying a house, buying a car is likely one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. And if you want a quality vehicle that isn’t going to break down, you’re probably going to have to pay a pretty penny for a new ride. The average cost of a brand new car was about $33,543 in 2015, compared to $18,800 for a used one.

When you buy a car, of course, you’re paying for more than just the vehicle itself. Besides the fee you’ll pay for completing a car sales contract (known as a documentation fee), you might have to pay sales tax. Then there are license and registration fees, which vary by state. In Georgia, for example, you’ll pay a $20 registration fee every year versus the $101 that drivers pay annually in Illinois.

The amount you pay up front for a car can rise by 10% or more when you add taxes and fees into the equation. And if you need a car loan, you might have to put 10% down to get a used car and 20% down to get a new vehicle. If you decide to roll the sales tax and fees into the loan, you’ll cough up even more money over time because interest will accrue.

Once the car is in your possession, you’ll have to pay for insurance, car payments, parking fees, gasoline and whatever other costs come up. In a 2015 study, AAA found that a standard sedan cost Americans $8,698 annually, on average. As convenient as having your own car might be, it’ll be a huge investment.

Related Article: The True Cost of Cheaper Gas

How Much Should I Pay?

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

The exact amount that you should spend on a car might change depending on who you ask. Some experts recommend that car-buyers follow the 36% rule associated with the debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Your DTI represents the percentage of your monthly gross income that’s used to pay off debts. According to the 36% rule, it isn’t wise to spend more than 36% of your income on loan payments, including car payments.

Another rule of thumb says that drivers should spend no more than 15% of their monthly take-home pay on car expenses. So under that guideline, if your net pay is $3,500 a month, it’s best to avoid spending more than $525 on car costs.

That 15% cap, however, only applies to consumers who aren’t paying off any loans besides a mortgage. Since most Americans have some other form of debt – whether it’s credit card debt or student loans that they need to pay off – that rule isn’t so useful. As a result, other financial advisors suggest that car buyers refrain from purchasing vehicles that cost more than half of their annual salaries. That means that if you’re making $50,000 a year, it isn’t a good idea to buy a car that costs more than $25,000.

How to Buy a Car Without Busting Your Budget

If you’re trying to figure out how to make your first car purchase happen, know that you can do it even if your finances are currently in disarray. If you look at a website like Kelley Blue Book before visiting a dealership, you’ll have a better idea of what different makes and models cost. From there, you can set a goal and work towards reaching it by saving more and keeping your excess spending to a minimum.

Once you find a car you like (and that you can afford), you can save money by challenging or cutting out certain fees. For example, you can lower or bypass dealer fees for shipping and anti-theft systems. If you’re planning on getting an extended warranty, you can shop around and see if there’s another company offering a better deal on it than your car manufacturer.

Meeting with more than one dealer and comparing offers can also improve your chances of being able to find a vehicle within your price range. So can timing your purchase so that you’re buying a car when a salesperson is more open to negotiating, like near the end of a sales quarter.

Try out our budget calculator.

If you need financing, it’s important to make sure you’re not getting saddled with a car loan that’ll take a decade to pay off. Long-term car loans are becoming more common. In 2015, the average new car loan had a term of 67 months versus the 62 months needed to cover the average used car loan.

The longer your loan term, however, the more interest you’ll pay. And the harder it’ll be to trade in your car in the future, especially if the amount of the loan surpasses the car’s value. That’s why some experts suggest that buyers get loans that they can pay off in four years or less.

The Takeaway

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

How much should you spend on a car? Only you can decide that after reviewing your budget and figuring out if you can pay for the various expenses that go along with owning a car.

Keep in mind that getting a new or used car will likely involve taking on more debt. If you can’t make at least minimum payments on the debt you already have, it might be a good idea to get a part-time job or concentrate on saving so you won’t have to take out a huge loan.

Update: Have more financial questions? SmartAsset can help. So many people reached out to us looking for tax and long-term financial planning help, we started our own matching service to help you find a financial advisor. The SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Eva Katalin Kondoros, ©iStock.com/michaeljung, ©iStock.com/Antonio_Diaz

The post How Much Should I Spend on a Car? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

A Cozy New Rug Collection

Hello friends! Praise be, the election is over and I just marked my birthday over the weekend – my official holiday season milestone. Whenever the calendar passes November 8, I feel like I can finally turn 100% of my attention to all things holiday. Obviously, the holidays are going to look and feel very different than years past. Perhaps instead of the holiday season, we should start referring to the next few months as the hunker down season. Because that’s what holidays in the time of Covid are going to require of us. But I’m not entirely mad about the idea of holing up at home. I’ll take a very valid excuse to look for ways to make my home as cozy, comforting, and beautiful as possible.

Enter the new rug collection from Beni Rugs, designed by my style soul twin, Colin King.

A Cozy New Rug Collection on Apartment 34A Cozy New Rug Collection on Apartment 34

Called the Shape of Color, this new rug collection offers eleven Moroccan style rugs. Each rug features shocks of color inspired by Tangier and Marrakech. The hues are deeply saturated in simple geometric shapes or big bold stripes.

A Cozy New Rug Collection on Apartment 34A Cozy New Rug Collection on Apartment 34

While I typically eschew color, rugs are a wonderful spot to inject something fresh into a room. I used a bold colored rug in my own living room. The particularly nice thing about a rug – it’s an easy way to reenergize a space without really having to change anything else.

A Cozy New Rug Collection on Apartment 34A Cozy New Rug Collection on Apartment 34 A Cozy New Rug Collection on Apartment 34 A Cozy New Rug Collection on Apartment 34

There are a few secrets to picking out a rug. First, you want to think about size. A common mistake is getting a rug that is too small. You want all (or nearly all) your furniture in a space to sit on your rug. That helps a room feel anchored and like everything is working together. A too-small rug will actually make a small space feel even smaller!

Next, you want to think about foot traffic. If you’re looking to put a rug in a high foot traffic area, you’ll want to ensure any rug you select will withstand an onslaught of dirt and use.

Finally, when adding a colorful rug to your space you don’t need to “match your decor. You just want to keep everything in the same design family. Do you decorate with mostly warm colors or cooler tones? That will help you pick your colors.



 

If you’re looking to upgrade the coziness of your home before the holidays hit, I definitely think one of these rugs would be a great way to do it. I’m already debating which one I might add to our house. I do have a home office refresh in the works! If I pick out one of these rugs – I’ll be sure to share.

How are you planning on sprucing up your spaces for the holidays?

images c/o beni rugs

The post A Cozy New Rug Collection appeared first on Apartment34.

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Source: apartment34.com

Seven things college freshmen don’t need — and ten they do

This article originally appeared on NerdWalletThose ubiquitous checklists of “dorm room essentials” for college freshmen are filled with items that will be ditched by the end of first semester.

Some parents “go to the store and grab a list like they did when their kids were in elementary and high school and just go straight down the list,” says Lisa Heffernan, mother of three sons and a college-shopping veteran. Or they buy things they only wish their students will use (looking at you, cleaning products).

You can safely skip about 70% of things on those lists, estimates Asha Dornfest, the author of Parent Hacks and mother of a rising college sophomore who’s home for the summer.

What Not to Buy or Bring

Freshmen really need just two things, says Heffernan, co-founder of the blog Grown and Flown: a good mattress topper and a laptop.

Here are seven items you can skip:

  • Printer. Don’t waste desk space or, worse, store it under the bed; printers are plentiful on campus.
  • TV. Students may watch on laptops or on TVs in common areas or in someone else’s room. Bonus: Your teen gets out and meets others.
  • Speakers. Small spaces don’t require powerful speakers; earphones may be a good idea and respectful of roommates.
  • Car. Some colleges bar freshmen from having cars on campus or limit their parking. You also may save on insurance by keeping the car at home.
  • Luggage. If you bring it, you must store it. Heffernan suggests collapsible blue Ikea storage bags with zippers.
  • Toiletries to last until May. Bulk buying may save money, but you need storage space.
  • Duplicates of anything provided by the college, such as a lamp, wastebasket, desk chair or dresser.

Items left behind when students pack for the summer are telling. Luke Jones, director of housing and residence life at Boise State University, sees unopened food — a lot of ramen and candy — and stuffed animals and mirrors.

Jones says many students regret bringing high school T-shirts and memorabilia and some of their clothes (dorm closets typically are tiny).

What Can You Buy, Then?

Before you shop, find out what the college forbids (candles, space heaters, electric blankets and halogen lights are common). Have your student check with assigned roommates about appliances (who’s bringing a fridge or microwave?) and color scheme if they want to set one. Know the dimensions of the room and the size of the bed. And most of all, know your budget. Not everything has to be brand new.

Ten things — besides the all-important mattress topper and laptop — that many students consider dorm room essentials include:

  • One or two fitted sheets in the correct bed size, plus pillowcases. Heffernan says most students don’t use top sheets.
  • Comforter or duvet with washable cover.
  • Towels in a distinctive pattern or light enough for labeling with laundry marker, plus shower sandals.
  • Power cord with surge protector and USB ports.
  • Basic first aid kit.
  • Easy-to-use storage. If it’s a lot of work to get something out, your student won’t, Heffernan says.
  • Cleaning wipes. Students might not touch products that require multiple steps, but they might use wipes, according to Heffernan.
  • Reading pillow with back support for studying in bed.
  • Area rug. Floors are often hard and cold.
  • Comfort items. Dornfest says it could be a blanket or a picture of the dog — something from home that will make the space a bit more personal.

Afraid you’ll forget something important? You might, Heffernan says. But chances are, you or your student can order it online and get it delivered. Consider doing this with some items simply to avoid the hassle of bringing them yourself, and remember that “dorm necessities” often go on sale once school starts.

Do a Reality Check

If you or your student still want to replicate the rooms you’ve seen on Instagram and Pinterest, think about how the room will actually be used.

Once your son or daughter moves in, the room will never look like that again. Opt for sturdy items and be realistic. Will throw pillows make the place look more homey and inviting, or will they be tossed on the floor until parents’ weekend?

Dornfest, a co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, offers a compelling reason not to make things too comfortable. “A freshman needs to be encouraged to get out of the dorm room,” she says. “Anything that pulls you into campus life can be good.”

She’s not advocating a monk-like environment, but rather one that encourages breaking out of routines. College should be a time to try new things and meet people from different backgrounds. Dornfest advises making the bed as comfortable as possible and keeping a few reminders of home. The ideal dorm room is more launch pad than cocoon.

More from Nerdwallet

  • Budgeting for College Students
  • How to Build Credit at 18
  • How to Choose a Student Credit Card

The article 7 Things College Freshmen Don’t Need — and 10 They Do originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Source: getrichslowly.org