Fall means dreams of pumpkin spice lattes, turkey dinners and a cozy holiday season just around the corner. Here are four ways to make sure you’re financially well-equipped for the last stretch of the year.
1. Winterize your home: Save energy, save cash
As temperatures drop, home heating bills rise. But properly sealing and insulating a house can save an average of about 11% a year on energy costs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Keep your expenses to a minimum by sealing gaps and cracks in windows and doors with weatherstripping or caulk. Clean and inspect your furnace to ensure it’s running as efficiently as possible. Also consider increasing your insulation. Though your wallet will take a hit for the season, you’ll probably get more than your money’s worth in a few years.
2. Start your holiday gift hunt
We all know that the sale to beat all sales — Black Friday — comes on the heels of Thanksgiving. But don’t forget about the little guys: Columbus Day and Veterans Day usually mean smaller but still significant discounts. As the year winds toward its close, expect sales on appliances, cookware, clothing and electronics. Beat the winter rush and get started on your holiday shopping.
3. Traveling in December? Book your trip now
If you’re flying for the holidays, now is the time to book if you haven’t already. Follow your favorite airlines on Twitter or Facebook, or sign up for their email announcements for deals. This is also a great time to cash in your travel credit card miles, especially if your earned perks are due to expire at the end of the year.
4. Check your flexible spending account balance
If you’ve been putting money aside in a health care flexible spending account, or FSA, make sure you spend it before your money effectively disappears at year’s end. Book yourself a dentist or eye appointment, or get an annual physical.
And check with your company to see whether there’s any wiggle room. Your employer might allow you to roll over up to $500 to the next year or give you a few months’ grace period.
With a little planning in the fall, you can save enough money to get through the long (and often pricey) holiday season that’s just ahead.
© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved
With the total student loan debt in the United States hovering around a mind-blowing $1.23 trillion, it’s important to be smart about budgeting and managing your money while you’re in school so you’re not one of the 43 million Americans drowning in student loan debt.
Creating and managing a budget isn’t the most fun in the world, but it’s not as much of a hassle as you might think, either. Plus, it’ll help you stay on track during school and avoid graduating with heaps of debt.
For starters, you’ll want to figure out whether you want to track your budget per month, per academic semester (or year), or per calendar year. Once you’ve chosen a timeframe for your budget, you’ll want to decide what tool or tools you want to use to track it. You could go old school with pen and paper, or you might opt for using a computer spreadsheet, or maybe your phone is your life and you’d prefer to use a budgeting app. Georgia’s Own BALANCE Financial Fitness program offers free resources to help with budgeting, and we’ve also created an budgeting spreadsheet to help you track your income and expenses (download it for free here). I personally love Mint – it’s simple to use, secure, and automatically updates all of my accounts in one place. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a tool you’re comfortable with and one you’ll actually use.
Here’s what you’ll need to create your budget:
- Your income: Be sure to include all sources of income, including wages, any financial aid refund, and any contributions from family.
- Your expenses: Expenses include fixed expenses like your cell phone or rent, as well as variable expenses such as dining out or gas for your car (if you have one). For your initial budget, you may have to estimate some expenses until you have a better idea of how much you spend on that category.
The next step is adding up your income and your expenses so you can balance your budget. To do this, you’ll subtract your total monthly expenses from your total monthly income. The goal is to have a positive balance, meaning you’re earning more than you’re spending. If you have money left over each month, you can save it or even start paying on your student loans (if you have any), since they do accrue interest while you’re in school. (Read more about why paying on your loans while in school is a good idea).
If your balance is negative, you’re spending more than you’re earning and need to adjust your budget. You can cut back on expenses or find a way to supplement your income, such as getting a second job.
Now that you’ve created and balanced your budget, there are two more important steps in maintaining that budget:
- Review your budget monthly – doing so will help you stay ahead and avoid surprises.
- If you make a spending mistake, don’t dwell on it. Next time you’re tempted to make an impulse purchase, ask yourself if you really need that item and if so, can you afford it?
Developing good financial habits in college (or earlier) not only helps you cut down on student loan and credit card debt acquired throughout school, but also helps sets you up for success later on in life. Trust me – things like credit scores and savings accounts may seem trivial now, but it’s a lot easier to start off strong than to find yourself in heaps of debt after school and trying to correct mistakes that could have easily been avoided.
Most teenagers probably won’t leap at the prospect of learning about personal finance on their own. That’s why it’s important to take the time to teach them smart money management. To get the conversation started, here are seven topics worth discussing to help your teen avoid costly financial missteps in the future.
Encourage your teen to get a job
Preaching about the value of a hard-earned dollar isn’t quite as effective as encouraging your child to get a job. By working for their money, teenagers are likely to begin thinking critically about how they spend it, which is a good habit to pick up at an early age. If your child is too young for a job, you could provide a weekly allowance for helping around the house.
Help your teen set a budget
Once your teen starts earning money, explain how to set a budget. Consider explaining the difference between essential and nonessential expenses, providing examples from your own life.
Set financial goals together
Since creating a budget isn’t the most exciting activity, introducing the idea of saving up for a fun purchase might reinvigorate your teen. Putting away money every month requires discipline and is a great skill to practice at an early age by regularly stashing away some cash for a new smartphone, for example. Crunch the numbers with your child to determine how much needs to be saved each month to hit the savings goal by a certain date.
Help your teen sign up for a checking and savings account
So money doesn’t have to be stashed under their mattress, sign your teenager up for a checking and savings account. Although you’ll need to co-own the account if your child is under 18, your teen can have an active role in managing it. Just know that you’ll have to foot the bill if any fees, such as overdrafts, are incurred.
Encourage responsible credit card use
Although your child won’t be able to get a credit card before turning 21, anyone can be set up as an authorized user on your plastic at any age. Make sure to implement rules regarding when your teen can use the card, and make it abundantly clear that your credit score will take a hit if your card is maxed out.
Take your teen shopping
It can be tempting to overspend on name-brand products. To help your teen fight those initial instincts, shop together and explore the wonders of coupons, sales and store brand items. This should underscore the notion that popular products don’t always have to be the go-to option, which can save your child a lot of money over the years.
Teach your teen about compound interest
When it comes to saving money, compound interest is a person’s best friend. Teaching your child about the many benefits of compound interest should encourage contribution to a 401(k) plan in a future full-time job.
© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The weekends spent mowing the lawn or grilling out on the patio will soon start to fade, but if you’re in need for a new grill or mower, now is the time to make those purchases. Many items like these will start to go on sale and could end up saving you hundreds if you’re smart. Take a look at a few items you should purchase now instead of waiting until next year:
Vehicles – As dealerships get ready for the 2016 models to come onto their lot, prices for 2015 models will drop drastically. Plus some may offer incentives like cash-back.
Grills – With the weather cooling off, there will be less grilling to be done. With stores getting ready to put the newer models out, you can score major discounts on the older models.
Household Appliances – As with many other items, old models of refrigerators and dishwashers must be cleared out to make room for new inventory.
Lawn Mowers – Lawn mowers take up a lot of space so in order to get them off the floors, retailers will cut the prices tremendously.
Patio Furniture – People begin to spend more time indoors so you may see some 50% discounts as retailers start to make room for winter merchandise.
Though you may be looking to save money this fall, spending right now on any of these big ticket items could save you big in the long run.
Source: MSN Money, Forbes
It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of giving and spend way more than you intend. This year, make a commitment to shop wisely.
Make a list and set spending limits
It’s important to set limits. Consider what you have and how much you can afford to spend. Some people find it helpful to put together a list. An effective list requires detail – what you intend to buy, for whom, where you’ll get it, and the top price you are willing to pay. Include gifts, decorations and cards, special food and drink, and travel expenses. Total the cost. If it exceeds your spending limit, return to the list and scale back until you break even.
Choose a payment method
Cash is fine for inexpensive items, but it’s a good idea to use plastic for the bulk of your purchases. All forms of plastic provide detailed statements so you can easily monitor your spending, and credit cards come with valuable consumer laws that protect you against billing errors and unsatisfactory items. Use the cash you’ve allotted for holiday spending to pay balances in full when the bill comes in.
Now stick to your list and limit!
Even the best-laid plans can evaporate once you enter the chaos of a mall in full holiday swing. Take your shopping list with you and stick to it! Don’t let guilt inspire you to overspend. An extra trinket or two won’t make someone love you more.
Make the most of this season by taking the time to plan, staying true to your financial limit, using the best payment method, and practicing wise shopping techniques!
Source: BALANCE Financial Fitness
The big game is approaching this weekend and if history has anything to tell us, we will all be watching. According to television ratings service, Nielsen, roughly 7 out of 10 households in the U.S. watched last year’s game. Though many are tuned in on Sunday for the game, the main thing on a lot of people’s minds isn’t the actual game itself. These days, the commercials and halftime shows are the most anticipated and talked about components to the day. Either way, chances are you’ll be throwing or attending a party to enjoy the pageantry of the day with friends. So if you’re tuned in to watch some football between two great teams or if you’d rather catch the commercials, these two tips will help you make the big game a bit easier on the wallet if you decide to host or attend a gathering.
- Make it a team effort. If you’re hosting, it’s okay for you to ask your guests to bring their favorite dish or beverage. After all, you’re the one who has spent time cleaning and are letting people come into your home. Don’t nominate yourself to be in charge of everything. If you’re the guest, offer to bring something with you – I’m sure the hosts will be happy to let you!
- Buy generic. Name brand chips and sodas can get pricey, especially if you’re buying in large quantities. Opt for the store brands to save a few dollars! For decorations and party supplies, head to the dollar store. There’s no need for the expensive team logo items.